While visiting the amazing country of Tanzania earlier this year I noticed some very distinct differences in the attitude the people had while going about their daily life. These are people with very little creature comforts, they have what they need and they are very grateful for that. I watched closely as they praised God for letting them meet us, they praise him for the meal on their plate, they praised him for the health of their family. As the days went on we noticed that things don’t always go the way you want in Africa. The 3 atm’s in the area may not work, the road ahead may be filled with elephants and you can’t get home after a very long day, until they decide to move. The people didn’t gripe and whinge, they laughed, “T.I.A” they would say which means “This Is Africa!” And everyone breaks into laughter when they here this.
The people also showed me how considerate they are towards each other. One guy who served us at one of the lodges told us he had saved enough from tips and planned to buy his daughter a new bike, but his neighbour had had a tough year. So he put off buying his daughter the bike because he didn’t want to rub his good fortune in his neighbours face. He told us it wouldn’t make him happy to know his happiness may cause his neighbour to be unhappy. It touched me deeply, and I wondered when we came to think our plan is what makes us happy?
When I got home to western society I saw how irritable and lacking in tolerance and gratitude we are as a culture and it saddened me deeply. We have more than we can ever need, and yet we are wasteful and we take the simple things in life for granted. Many of us get extremely angry over the small stuff, it’s as if we planned our whole day to perfection, expecting things to go exactly that way, and surely enough as the day goes on things go wrong, someone may cut us off in traffic, the kids spill their milk in the car, there is a long line at the checkout, someone finished an ingredient we needed for dinner, and we hadn’t planned for any of this. So by the end of the day we are miserable and wrung out, reactive and aggressive, not grateful, not peaceful.
I caught myself mid-flight as I overreacted to an annoyance and I stopped myself, I couldn’t believe how badly I handled a small trivial hiccup in my day. I caught myself again when my daughter showed me a broken usb filled with pictures from our trip, the horror in my voice at the sight of the usb was a complete shock to my daughter and myself. It wasn’t holding the only copy of the photos, we can afford to buy another one, we have a car to go get another one if we want. What a silly thing to get horrified over! I had an epiphany.
If we stopped spending so much time planning our day to precision and we factored in the things that are sure to go wrong, just like they do in Africa, “T.I.A”, then maybe we wouldn’t be so uptight. We would be able to cope when we face inconveniences, when the unexpected grates on our tolerance. If we watch ourselves closely we may recognise when we are trying so hard to control the people and the situations around us in order to try and prevent our anger. Then we can make a decision, to aim all that control towards our anger so that the people and the life around us don’t have to be perfect, and so we can be grateful for the fact that all our needs are met.
Precious metals are refined in the furnace, and yet we spend so much time being angry at the heat that is actually meant to help us improve. Isn’t it time we paid attention and changed the direction of what we try to control?
Lord help us change the aim of our control, and keep this as our goal. Amen!
One thing that has consistently blown my mind, since inviting God to guide my steps towards Him, to influence my heart and my life, is His always reliable and impeccably PERFECT timing!
I was once at an appointment for some treatment relating to my car accident, I had not been working for a number of years and money was tight. I had to pay quite a large amount upfront for this treatment and then take my receipt to Medicare to claim the subsidy that I would be reimbursed. My specialist was running late and my treatment took longer than usual. I had much less time than expected and I had to pop into the Medicare office to collect my refund, grab a few items from the shops and get back in time to pick up my children from school.
I rushed through the doors of the Medicare office, punched in to receive my number in the queue, I was ticket number 142 and the ticket they were serving was 79. I had quite a wait. So rather than waste precious time, I took my ticket and nipped across the road to get those few items I needed. I knew I had quite a while to kill so I took my time looking around to try and make sure I got everything I needed. I forgot for a moment my impending ticket number. All of a sudden it dawned on me that I should get back to Medicare before they called my number.
So I hurriedly headed for the checkout and wouldn’t you know it, two queues. I picked the shortest line and began waiting impatiently, worrying that surely by now my number would be close and I knew if I missed my number I would not have time to line up again. My feet were shifting restlessly as the lady in front of me started to load her items from her basket onto the counter. I couldn’t tell if she was being painstakingly slow on purpose, but my I felt my heart-rate rise with each item. Then came the dreaded price challenge, “I’m sure that was only $2.95 not $3.95” the lady contested. My heart clenched in my chest, heat began to rise up my neck and over my face. I was sure I would not be getting back my $150 refund today and I knew I needed it for fuel for the week. I knew I couldn’t get back here til next week at least…. I knew I needed the money for fuel to get back at all! I was just about to offer to pay the $1 difference to save her from taking up more time by sending the clerk to investigate, when I remembered my relationship with the Almighty and felt a sense of peace rise from within me.
The words “Trust God’s Timing” filled my thoughts. I recalled all the times I had trusted God previously when He had performed miracles in my life. I took a deep breath and relaxed. I made a conscious effort to stop my anxious thoughts and to believe that whatever happened would be just how He planned it.
The clerk came back, the lady was on her way and my sale was finalised (finally), yet I was peaceful. I strolled towards the Medicare office, my thoughts only on God’s power and love for me.
The doors parted and my eyes locked on the flashing ticket number being served….. 141. It clicked over to 142 right in front of my eyes and I walked straight up to the counter, beaming from ear to ear! The feeling of protection and faith that washed over me is indescribable. I wanted to shout and tell the whole room filled with people what had just transpired within my heart and mind, and then been confirmed in the physical.
I don’t believe there are words that can convey how miraculous, or how numerous, or how meticulously specific encounters like this have been in my life. Even if I manage to explain the main segments you must understand that there are too many elements to the puzzle that I cannot possibly recall all of them, pieces that evidence just how perfectly perfect the timing of each incident actually is. It is beyond me and my understanding, it is not knowledge that convicts me of these truths, it feels impossible to try to explain. We must make ourselves into the smallest of the small, and wide eyed to the enormity of things that exist beyond our understanding.
So lets open our hearts and our minds, remove all the barriers that lock us into our comfortable explainable comprehension, and believe for a moment that The Creator of the Universe, The One True God, The Most Omnipotent Being, The one who LOVES us regardless of our constant decrepitude, knows exactly where we will be, precisely what we will think, specifically which direction our heart will lean. He knows and has timed it all for us to experience a tiny shred of His capabilities, if only we play our part in meeting Him there.
No matter how much time passes between occurrences of these precisely perfect coincidences, one factor is always required, and that is my heartfelt recognition of His omnipotence and my complete trust in Him.
I must admit I am the weak link in this equation, I am so often a captive of my own desire to control, of my own fears, of my own doubt, that I forget to meet Him on that stable place of faith. However every single time I look for Him with a willing heart, I find exactly what I need to feel His presence, to know He is right next to me, to know which direction to step towards, or if standing still in the moment is His divine request.
I can testify that EVERY SINGLE TIME I have given the timing over to God He has blown my mind. Over and over again! He has not once, not ever, failed to meet me in the midst of my trust in Him.
Keep an eye out on this blog as I share more of these types of experiences. I have written others on this subject Here and Here, Here and Here and Here. I hope they bless you all as much as they have me.
I used to believe that I was dead right about the way I assessed my emotions. I used them as platforms from which to bounce. I saw good emotions as reasons to smile, laugh and brag, and I saw negative emotions as an unacceptable state that I wanted to give away to anyone who would listen. I wanted to avoid and control negative feelings. I believed I was addressing everything and never “swept it under a rug”. I told myself this was healthy.
Realistically I was catapulting from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, and stability was so rare I could barely recognise it enough to know I needed it. Truth be told, I used emotions as an excuse to be reckless in my pursuit of happiness. I thought life owed me happiness, I knew no different. I believed my pain wouldn’t stop unless I focused on it, gave it credit and tried to find a way to stop it. Little did I know, I was adding fuel to the unstable emotional fire.
It was very difficult to firstly accept this mindset and then change it.
It is important to understand that emotions are powerful catalysts to another dimension. A dimension where an alien can easily take control of our ship if we fail to handle these inner enemies with caution.
When we become aware of the destructive nature of emotional instability, we are on our way to laying a new foundation from which to bounce through life.
Try looking at emotions as an ocean, high waves and low, ripples that can carry on for miles, sometimes intense and sometimes peaceful but always temporary.
Acknowledge how you feel, and why, recall the evidence of past destructive tendencies, and remind yourself, “I am not to be trusted to make good choices right now”. Just like standing under an impending wave, keep your head down (lay low, try to engage with the world as little as possible), allow the waves to crash or wash over you and give it as much time is needed until the wave has passed. You may actually be surprised how much more quickly the emotions lose intensity once you learn to ride them out this way. Once it is safe to lift your head you will see how much more clearly you can think. A clear head space is vital for preventing the mess that is often left in the wake of uncontrolled emotions.
We can’t control emotions by stopping them or avoiding them, but we can control how much damage they cause us by controlling ourselves during those waves. Thanks be to God, I have noticed that I can manage the lows much better than I used to, and find long-lasting peace in the present, without all the emotions that only seemed to create temporary happiness.
When I was a young single Mum, before I began deepening my relationship with God, I found myself bouncing from one relationship to another. I was hunting desperately for that one man who would fulfill my dreams of a united family, and a stable home for me and my daughter, a nice yard with a fence where she could play, and maybe a dog. You know the ‘typical’ family life, a life I had been dreaming of since my parents split up when I was a young girl.
I was in a relationship with a man, we did not live together, and after 2 years I was frustrated. I had pinned so many hopes on him, hoping he would want the same things as me. No matter how much I forced discussions about our future he always seemed to change the subject, or speak in vague riddles. Eventually, after long talks with my Dad about life, love, faith and dreams, I began to accept the truth. In reality this man and I were looking for different things, and I was so hell-bent on controlling my life and those in it, that I had given God no room to take the wheel and steer my life in a better direction.
Dad’s talks gave me a new perspective. I needed to let go of my rigid dreams and allow God to bring His dreams into my life.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jer 29:11 (ESV)
I ended my 2 year relationship and took some time to sit quietly with God, I promised to truly give up my pursuit of that one dream I had been in search of. I committed my life into God’s hands, and rather than the physical ways I had been intimate before, I began to develop intimacy with my Heavenly Father instead.
Within a few months everything changed. A good friend invited my Dad, myself and my Daughter, to rent his house, it had a nice yard and even a dog. I now had my Dad as a stable influence in our life and a dear friend who completed the household. I found myself rushing home from work to spend time at home, something I had no recollection of doing for as long as I could remember. Then one day, in an miraculous way, my heart changed. I saw my friend with ‘new eyes’, and an attraction developed. God gave me a number of confirming signs that this was the man He had chosen for me, and I began to expand on the love I had for my friend. The reality of our life together has had higher highs and joy than I had ever envisioned in my previous ‘controlling’ dreams. Of course we have been through some rough times, but I have confidence in God’s dream much more than I ever had in my own, no matter what the future holds God is trustworthy. In all areas of my life I can trust in His loving provision, believing He will have more in store for me than my limited imagination can conceive.
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Prov 19:21 (ESV)
Control is an illusion anyway! If we have faith, we know that God already knows what we are going to do, and what we are going to choose in our daily walk, and He knows what He is going to bring our way in relation to our choices. His Will, will be done after all. If control is in fact an illusion, why not work with God by submitting to His influence over our lives? We have been given free choice, and it is a free choice to choose His way over our own.
Letting go of our own dreams allows Him to bring us a new dream, His Dream.
By using both hands to hold tightly to the steering wheel of my own dream, I had no free hand to accept all that God had in store for me. If we rest this life on an open palm, we allow God to take and to give, then we can experience His blessings for us. I promise that He loves us so very much, and if we give Him the chance, He is faithful to blow our minds with a miraculous reality that only He can create.
‘Control’ is the 4th post in the series ‘Gaining Help from Above’, which I am writing for a friend, who reached out to me in her hour of need. Here are the links to the previous posts in order from the beginning – ‘Connection‘, ‘Accepting an Encounter’, and ‘Security’. Here is the link to the next post. Blessings to you all!