Monday, December 13, 2010

The Change I Needed

Back in late October, I went to a ladies' retreat. I went at the invitation of a friend, and because I could visit with my parents.  I like retreats. Some women don't.  I don't always relish the ice-breakers, the crafts, the gift bags, or even the praise music (as you may recall). I go to hear the messages, to dig into the speaker's mind and learn new things about God.

At this retreat, I was slightly dismayed to find that the subject of the weekend was Reading the Bible.  Or as our speaker, Mrs. Drown, called it -- "personal worship."

"Ugh," my heart said.  "Ugh.  My worst sore spot.  The place of constant failure."  I'd given up long ago on being a good girl in my daily devotionals.  Daily?  Haha! Monthly? Nope.  I decided long ago that there were some Christians in this world who were just naturally good at getting up at 6:00, and reading and praying for an hour.  And I was definitely not one of them.

And I'll tell you right now, that at 47 years old, I have finally made the change I needed.  Since that retreat my daily worship, my time alone with God's Word, has finally happened.  I'm amazed at it myself. And I look forward to the time.  My heart is happy and willing.  It's a miracle.

I've waited to write this post.  I wanted to see if it would stick.  And then I wanted to review my notes from the retreat and find out exactly what that woman, Mrs. Drown, told me.  What did she say -- or how did she say it -- that made the difference? Was I just ready? I don't think so.  I think it was she;  she was dogged.  She would give me no outs, no excuses, no comfort.  She was brutal, and that was exactly, exactly what I needed.  Nothing less would do.

So, here it is -- what she told me that brought the change I needed.

Six wrong assumptions that we make about Personal Worship:

1. God's Word is hard to understand -- too hard for me. I shouldn't try.
2. Having Personal Worship is something that should be done by those who are naturally inclined to it.  (Here, she also warned strongly against allowing yourself to be tempted by other reading than Scripture.  It's fine as an extra, but is no substitute in Personal Worship.)
3. Mature believers can coast along, and no longer need daily worship.
4. I don't need to know about God except through what He's shown me in other people.  They are an adequate substitute.
5. I just don't have time, and God understands.  (Ouch.  She was adamant that NO, HE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND OR EXCUSE THIS.  We use this as a salve on our consciences.)
6. Failing to do Personal Worship makes me feel guilty, and legalistic.  I don't want to be a legalist, so I won't worry about it.  Guilt is a bad thing. (Okay, I added this one, my personal favorite and the one I've been using for years.)

That was painful, and as we were all recovering, she took another tack.  She reminded us of the Best Christians We Knew.  You know the ones -- the truly godly people whom you admire, wish you could spend more time with, and aspire to be like.  For me, I thought of a couple I worked with in Iowa.  So dear. So humble (although they'd flatly deny it). Their hearts seemed continuously turned toward God, toward heaven. So, Mrs. Drown listed some characteristics of Christians like these:
1. They have compassion and real love.
2. They're welcoming of diverse people.
3. They're willing to be different.
4. All their work is an offering to God.
5.  They cope with difficulties with apparent ease.
6. They have inner fortitude and tenacity.
7. They have a calm acceptance of life's ups and downs.
8.  They view suffering as a privilege.
9. They're not self-pitying.
10. They're joyful.

AND... Christians like this have three objectives:
1. To glorify God with their lives -- "to make God look as good as He really is"
2. To serve with eternal significance for others
3. To surrender to God at all costs

(And lest you think this woman is all hot air and full of beans, she grew up in the jungle of Ecuador, and her father was murdered there by natives, because he was one who surrendered to God at all costs.)

Then she smacked us with the punch line:

The Key to being this kind of Christian is regular, deep communion with God, away from others and the world, reading the Word and meditating on it.  The key is Personal Worship.

(Sigh.  Thanks a lot, Mrs. Drown.)

Assuming that God only touches a few Christians' lives this way, is really dangerous, she said.  We will never find the key to a close relationship with God.  "The alternative to spiritual discipline in personal worship, is disaster."  When she said this, I was devastated.  I knew it was true, that I had been flirting with disaster in my spiritual life all these years, seeing how far I could go, how much I could get by, without spending much time at all in God's Word myself. Without developing the appetite and desire for it. Telling myself that I was different, that I didn't need it. I was courting disaster.

She said that hearing God's Word + repentance = revival.  I knew I wanted spiritual revival in my own life, in my soul.  I wanted to be like those excellent Christians I knew.  But I wasn't willing to do the discipline necessary to get there.

Failure in this area results in losing our way; we don't admit that life's path is pitch black, and needs constant light. I think I can find the way without that light.  She said this: "We lapse into thinking we don't need the Word. We spiral into loneliness, disappointment in others, feeling unrecognized, lack of compassion, overwhelmed in our service, lose our strength to cope, become weary, lose sight of our purpose, and pity ourselves."

Gulp. I've been at all those places.  I thought it was rather normal. I thought those feelings were just part of the trial God gave me. They're not.  They're avoidable. Read that list again. Do you feel those ways?

That was the Friday evening session.  I'll tell you more later.  If this is an issue that you've battled with, give it your attention.  Do something! The next two sessions will give practical help in how to make a change.

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