My Own Understanding

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A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a word game app called Wordscapes. The levels consist of a crossword grid at the top of the screen and a circle of letters (between 5 and 7, so far) at the bottom. The object of the game is to create words out of the letters within the circle and earn points and coins toward future games. I’ll confess—I’m hooked!

The game is an excellent exercise for the brain and acts as a refresher course for both spelling and vocabulary. As a writer, it’s perfect for me. Once I introduced it to Jason, he was equally intrigued. It’s now become one of our favorite things to do in our quiet time together.

My biggest problem with the game is that I lean on my own understanding. I get an idea in my mind of what I think a word is, and when it doesn’t work, I get frustrated. I see a five-letter word and falsely assume it must end in the letter “e.” Why do I think that? I don’t know, but once I do, I can’t seem to make myself explore other options.

The other thing that trips me up is when words begin with vowels. I’ll go through every combination of letters I can think of to figure out the next word, but in my attempts, I neglect to try words that begin with a vowel. I’m getting better about keeping this in mind, but it’s still a struggle.

I do the same thing in life. I get ideas of how I think things should be, and when they don’t work out the way I expect, I fall apart. I make plans, but I do not allow God to lead, so I act in my own understanding, and things become stressful and messy. I’ve learned with my word game that things go much smoother if I don’t have any preconceived notions. If I relax and enjoy the game, it’s actually enjoyable, not frustrating. However, if I try to force things to be the way I expect, I’m headed for disappointment.

I’m learning the same thing in my life, but it seems to be a slow process. I know my spiritual walk will be smoother if I allow God to direct my steps instead of taking the lead myself, but putting that knowledge into action is difficult for me. The planner in me wants to know what’s coming. The control freak in me desires to see things done her own way. And the worrier in me seems to think she knows what’s best. But the warrior in me knows the truth.

God knows our tendency to try to control things and to act in our own strength. I believe that’s why Proverbs 3:5-6 are in the Bible. They serve as our reminder that the puzzle of life is much more enjoyable if we leave the pieces in His hands and trust Him to guide us along the way. He has all the answers. He knows every bend in the road and what’s around every corner. He sees the beginning from the end and cherishes every chance to show us how much He loves us.

It’s time for us to let go of the illusion of control. We don’t know what the future holds, and we would be better off if we didn’t manipulate things to work in our favor. Yes, friends, we need to let God be God. He’s much better at solving puzzles than we will ever be.  

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6

The Bend in the Road

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Sometimes we come to life’s crossroads and view what we think is the end, 
But God has a much wider vision, and He knows it’s only a bend.
The road will go on and get smoother, and after we’ve stopped for a rest, 
The path that lies hidden beyond us is often the part that is best.
So rest and relax and grow stronger; let go and let God share your load, 
And have faith in a brighter tomorrow; you’ve just come to a bend in the road.
— Helen Steiner Rice

A bend in the road.  Scary thought, isn't it?  I mean the road has been rough enough, but now there's a bend too?  A bend that we can't see beyond.  A bend that could be hiding any number of possibilities from our view.  A bend that could change everything, and let's face it--change frightens us.  

I'm reminded of a roller coaster.  I love the crazy things.  Big hills?  Bring it on.  Twisty turns?  That's the way I like it.  Corkscrew loops?  Oh, yeah!  Pitch black?  Um, now wait a minute.  Yes, you've discovered my weakness--I'm scared of the dark.  Well, not really, but a roller coaster that I would enjoy in the light has the tendency to bring me to the brink of terror in the dark.  I don't mind the hills, the corkscrews, the twists and the turns. . .as long as I know they're coming.  In the darkness, I can't see, so I don't know what to expect.  And somehow, that uneasiness of the unknown turns my adrenalin rush into genuine fear.

The unknown has a way of doing that, doesn't it?  That's why those bends in the road cause such anxiety.  But could it be that we're missing something?  Could it be that we're so worked up about the unknown and the path that is hidden from view that we're missing one of the biggest results of a bend in the road?  We know that God has a purpose for everything.  He doesn't place bends in the road for no reason, and I think one of those reasons is to make us slow down.

Think about it, when we're driving and we come up to a bend in the road, what do we do?  We hit the brakes, right?  Most of us (and I say "most" because I've seen some drivers that might not qualify for this statement) wouldn't dream of hitting that bend at our current speed.  That speed is meant for straightaways, not for curves.  So, out of good sense and a desire to stay safe, we slow down and take the bend at a reduced speed.

Perhaps that is all God is trying to do with our current bends in the road.  He wants us to slow down.  He desires for us to be still.  He longs for us to take some time to just be.  It is during those times that we can feel His closeness and hear His voice.  How many times have we missed it because there's too much to do, because we were simply speeding through life?

I know there's a lot to do.  Trust me, I understand.  But may I remind you that "Be still and know that I am God" is not a request or suggestion?  It's a command.  How many of us are heeding it?

Are you facing a bend in the road?  Is that sense of uneasiness getting out of control?  Take it easy.  God is working all things for your good, so whatever is waiting around the bend is a good thing.  In the meantime, slow down and enjoy the ride.  After all, the Driver has it under control

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
— Psalm 46:10

Embracing the Past

One of my favorite songs of all times is God’s Been Good, but there’s one phrase in the chorus that always gives me pause. The line goes, “Though I’ve had my share of hard times, I wouldn’t change them if I could.” That’s quite a bold statement and one I’m not sure I’m able to declare honestly. When I think back on my past mistakes, I long to go back and set things right, to erase the hurt caused by those mistakes. 

I’m reminded of The Flash, a show I’m watching on Netflix. Normally, I’m not much of a comic book or superhero fan, but something about this show intrigues me. Without giving too much of the plot away, I will provide you with an overview. Barry Allen is a young man who has experienced much heartache in his life and now has the opportunity to show the world he has not let his past define him or make him into something evil. Instead, he spends his days fighting crime and helping others who feel lost and alone.

One day, however, after facing another tragic loss, Barry decides he’s tired of being the victim and takes matters into his own hands by going back in time and preventing some of his life’s greatest heartaches. For a while, Barry is happy with the changes in the new timeline he has created, but soon he realizes those changes came at a high cost. He thought that undoing the wrongs that had been done to him would fix his life, but he never imagined what he would lose in the process. After trying to repair the timeline, a wise mentor reminds Barry they aren't God and teaches him that every decision and every change becomes a part of a new world, and things can never be the same.

I get where Barry was coming from. Sometimes, I think of how awesome it would be to go back in time and erase my past mistakes and the heartaches I’ve experienced. But if I did that, things would never be the same. I wouldn’t be me. While some things may be better, others could be worse. There’s no telling what would be affected by righting my wrongs or undoing past hardships. And honestly, I’m not willing to risk it, even if it were possible. I’d hate to wake up in a life where I had my health but not my husband or where I was a famous, best-selling author but had rejected Christ. 

The fact is, this life is mine—both the good and the bad. And instead of trying to erase my past, I need to embrace it because it has molded me into who I am today—a person with a sincere desire to serve God and to trust Him for my every need. I wouldn’t be who I am today had it not been for the things of my past. Yes, some events were painful, but, as the song says, “Through it all, God’s been good.”

Today, perhaps you are plagued by the sins of your past or burdened by tragedies faced in your earlier life. No matter how horrible those things were, please don’t try to erase them. Embrace them instead. Notice I said embrace them not dwell on them.  There is a difference. Dwelling on them leads to self-pity and discouragement whereas embracing them leads to growth and acceptance of who you are and how you arrived at your current state.  

So embrace those past experiences. Count them as lessons learned and steppingstones to get you to where you are today. As a former pastor once said, “God can take a crooked stick and draw a straight line.” Likewise, God can take a painful and shameful past and use it to shape you into something beautiful. Won’t you allow him to show you how?

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
— Jeremiah 29:11