I got to have a surprise lunch with my mother today. And it was nice. Really nice. We ate in a really cool old tavern with really good food just a mile and a half from our house. It’s been on the same corner in the same small town for over 200 years. I’ve been there once, just a few weeks ago, and she’s never been. (That has me thinking about all the things around me that have been there forever, but which I’ve never enjoyed. Although that’s probably a post for a different day.)
We had a great conversation and got to talking about the fact that I’m unemployed. Again. She sweetly pointed out, as only a mother can, that I’ve been here before. This is not my first time at the Unemployment Rodeo. She’s right. And she’s wrong. Yes, I have a Last Time, but I also have a This Time.
Last Time was hard. Last Time was incredibly painful. Last Time was terrifying. And Last Time, it was all my fault.
Last Time, I was angry, bitter, resentful and just generally miserable. But that was Last Time.
This Time is different.
On Tuesday afternoon, I was introduced to this prayer. The first time I read it, I had no words to describe how it impacted me. It’s so comprehensive. It’s so powerful. It’s so scary. (What if God answered every part of this prayer every day I prayed it? Would I even be able to handle the things He did in my life? Mind blowing!)
As I started to work through this prayer this morning, I didn’t get far. The second sentence says this:
I honor you as my sovereign Lord, and I surrender every aspect of my life totally and completely to you.
That stopped me in my tracks. I sat there at the kitchen counter for a very long time mulling over those words. I thought about everything I’ve been reading lately about the sovereignty of God (I’m on a bit of a Calvinist kick at the moment). The words of Piper, Pink, Edwards, and Stedman floated around in my head.
Do I believe God is sovereign? Do I believe He has ordained each of my days?
And if I do believe that, have I surrendered every aspect of my life totally and completely to Him? Because if I believe He is sovereign, and I haven’t surrendered to Him, I’m fighting against an unbeatable force.
Then I started thinking about Last Time and This Time and how they are so very different. Unlike Last Time, This Time, as I wait for God to work out details, make decisions clear and move a mountain or two, I’m at peace.
This Time, I have chosen to trust in God’s goodness no matter how long it lasts, or what the outcome ends up being.
This Time, I’m taking regular time to rest because I recognize how exhausting this journey is and will continue to be until it ends.
This Time, I’m using my time wisely – serving others, studying Scripture very deeply, working on some new friendships.
This Time I’m happy. This Time, I’m able to rejoice in the Lord (most of the time – hey, I’m still human…).
It has been said that we often repeat experiences because God is giving us the chance to do it right. True or not, it kind of makes sense. God sometimes uses trials to sanctify us, to help us grow, and to make us more like Christ. If, as we’re going through a trial we instead become angry, bitter and resentful, it would make sense that God would graciously let us try again. After all, He’s all about His glory, and anger, bitterness and resentment do not bring Him glory (shocking, I know).
The mercy and grace of God allows do-overs. The mercy and grace of God ordains do-overs. Because God loves us and wants us to be more and more like His Son, He gives us opportunities to move toward that goal. If we mess up and move in the wrong direction, because He is merciful and gracious, He lets us try again.
When we find ourselves faced with the same types of difficult circumstances over and over again, it can feel like God is picking on us. But what if He was using those do-overs to bring us to a place of joyful, complete and total surrender to Him and His will? What if those do-overs are a manifestation of His love and care for us?
How would we look at our trials differently if we truly believed that God is sovereign, that He loves us and that He only wants what’s best for us? Would we see do-overs as a chance to trust Him more?
That’s the approach I’m choosing to take This Time. How about you?
[Sidenote: This post reminds me of one of my least favorite movies and I find that pretty hilarious. : ) ]