Preaching to the Heart

This month has been a whirlwind. Spring break in Florida with the middle school Campus Life trip was relaxing in a way, but simultaneously emotionally and spiritually draining. Then came the church Easter cantata, Easter, more visa paperwork, and back to school. Teaching full time and taking college classes has proven to be trying, as I continually struggle to understand even the basics of the one class I’m taking. Last weekend, I spent nearly twelve hours working on a term paper covering a topic that I don’t get. This Wednesday, I spent around eight hours writing two more papers for the same class, on topics only increasing in complexity. I have been in school of some sort for over seventeen years of my life and never before has a class created such anguish and confusion. The worst part is that I no longer care what a grammatically based narrative scheme is—I just want to be done with the class! Today, I collected around seventy sophomore research papers to grade, with close to ninety freshman personal narratives due on Monday. Oh, and tomorrow is the Spartan Race with my brother Nathan and some other friends. Did I mention my life is insane?

Amidst the caffeine-hydrated, activity-frenzied spiders building disorganized webs in my mind, a voice cries out desperately for peace and quiet. If it were warm enough and I had time, I would love to just lay quietly in my hammock under the sun’s pleasant rays. In some ways, I love being busy. I get bored and restless if there isn’t something to do. Yet, this longing for rest is more than sleep deprivation. In the stress of preparing for Papua New Guinea, teaching six high school classes (which I love!), volunteering with youth groups, nursing tendonitis in my shoulder, and taking the two hardest college classes of my educational career, I have become exactly like the horse whose problems I was preaching earlier this afternoon.

Dandy is a young Arab-cross gelding with little training and less common sense. As the saying goes, “common sense isn’t all that common.” If its horses we’re talking about, that is most definitely true. Recently, a new owner purchased him and has started taking lessons with me each Friday afternoon to develop her confidence. Tonight it was cool and windy, the perfect recipe for spooky and jumpy. When she mounted, Dandy was full of energy and proceeded to declare his independence by violently opposing every effort to walk him towards one corner of the arena. Eventually, I led his rider to a small success, asked her to dismount, and then mounted Dandy myself.  Strong legs, strong reins, and spurs generally lead to one result when training a horse that is already reacting: more reaction. As I explained to Dandy’s owner, a horse that is reacting is no longer thinking. Thus, when I ask Dandy to do something and he reacts, I will only continue asking until I achieve even the smallest victory. Then, I immediately release the pressure and give him a chance to think and connect the dots: pressure + disobedience = more pressure; pressure + obedience = less pressure / reward. Unfortunately, horses are not the most logical creatures. I proceeded to analyze Dandy’s behavior out loud, relating how Dandy spooks at a rope lying on a barrel because he is only trusting in his own ability to protect himself. If he is ever going to be a steady ride, he must learn that I am smarter than he is, that I will not put him in a dangerous situation, and that he can implicitly trust me. He evidenced this even as I eventually worked him nearer to the barrel, only reluctantly stopping with his side aligned with the barrel—a horse’s defenses are at the front and the back; he is vulnerable to attacks from the side. When I finally stepped off, Dandy was not yet trusting me fully, but he had started to comprehend the connection between resistance and punishment versus submission and reward. His owner stepped back on, and nervously began repeating the process, though in a much less reactionary manner.

Tonight, after grading research papers for over five hours, my brain is virtually shot. Yet, I still chose to take some time to journal before bed. While scrawling my thoughts and praises for the day, I realized that as I had been training Dandy and explaining fundamental principles of training to his owner, I had been preaching to my own heart. My craving for rest evidences my inability to just be still and know that God is God. I claim to trust Him to be who He says He is, and do what He says He will do, but my heart is restless. Perfect trust brings perfect peace.

Thus, my prayers tonight are many. I pray that God would break down my walls of do-it-myself pride, of selfishness and ingratitude. In its place, I desperately need humility and love. Scripture says that love is not proud, it is not self-seeking, and it both patient and kind.

Just this week, the Lord blessed me with a striking picture of this kind of love; love that is born only of Christ. One of the areas where I have struggled to trust God is in finances for my trip to Papua New Guinea. Up until this point, my only pledged monthly support was from my sending church. At 12% support, and with time creeping ever closer to the hopeful departure date, natural worry began to overtake my previous confidence in the provision of God. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a dear mentor and friend contacted me and promised to send me $25 a month while I am in Papua New Guinea. Such a gift would be valued from anyone, but this particular individual lives on complete mission support herself and, like the widow in Scripture who gave her two pence, is giving generously from the little she has. Aside from the sacrifice of the Savior, there is no clearer picture of Christ-centered love, giving sacrificially and freely.

May I too give freely of what the Lord has given to me as evidence of His love working in and through me. To Him be all the glory!

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