What a long weekend it was! We left on Thursday and drove south to visit colleges for our daughter, and then on Friday arrived on our son's college campus to attend his Graduation Ceremony on Saturday. We went from the highs of celebration to the lows of exhaustion, from the highs of the powerful commencement address that stirred our souls, to the lows of the late night packing up of his dorm room. Late, late night.
And then early, early morning we were up to prepare for a long 14 hour drive home that turned into a harrowing 17 hour drive--extended and lengthened due to all the stops along the way to check on four weary travelers in two cars, the one car overloaded with a car-top carrier and bursting out the seams.
I still haven't recovered. In fact, my left eye burst a blood vessel in the white of my eye, so I look as ravaged by stress as I actually feel. And though Safety Bill really took on the whole responsibility of the packing and the driving, I could not shake the Anxiety that rose within me. I hadn't slept well before we took the trip, and I certainly didn't sleep well during the trip.
I'm not sure if sleeplessness precedes an Anxiety Attack or if it's the ultimate outcome of it-- but either way, I was a mess. And I knew I was.
You should have heard my prayers late that night as Bill labored past midnight to get our son packed up before the 9am deadline the next morning. I prayed like a desperate person. I prayed about all the things that were burdening me-- and the trip home was only the tip of the iceberg. Launching a son into the world as a fully functioning adult is no easy thing, for some parents. There were financial burdens (since we were maxed out after four years of college, and now had a daughter heading to college in a year). I felt like a conglomeration of crisis points had converged and been presented to me to suddenly solve. I wasn't thinking rationally, really. And I was conjecturing all the worst case scenarios. And so I prayed frantically and pleadingly. It wasn't a pretty sight, and I certainly don't think it was music to God's ears.
You see, HE was listening to me, alright. But God was concerned about my state of mind and my well-being and He could tell...I was not well. And you see, I'm a reflection of who God is because I'm His child. He's my Heavenly Father. I'm told in Scripture, repeatedly, not to worry, and I'm supposed to know that God cares for my every need.
But the way that I was praying, as the hours got later and my physical reserves depleted themselves, sounded like I was frantically trying to get God's attention. I felt desperate to get a measure of peace, and I couldn't seem to access that promised peace. And so I prayed harder but in reality I might have been doing more pleading than praying. And I'm not so sure that a child pleading for her Father to help is a good reflection on that Father.
GOOD Fathers hear their children, the minute they call. Good Fathers WANT to help their children, and want to alleviate their fears. If you have a good father, people can tell: they look at you and see that you're well cared for, that you have a healthy self-esteem, that you are obviously loved and you know that you are.
Every time you call on your Father, the way you call Him says something about you....and something about Him. Think about that for a minute, because this isn't a judgment statement but rather a statement about reflection.
What do we reflect when we pray? Obviously when we are in trouble, when we are situationally anxious or worried, we won't always immediately express the confidence that we would normally have in God because our adrenaline is coursing through us, and our fight-or-flight response is heightened. But for the most part, if we have learned to trust God, if we have learned to rely upon Him, we should be able to express a measure of that even in our desperate prayers. Because our relationship with our Father is the Constant, and not the variable, our times of crisis-praying should still reflect, in some way, what we know is true about that relationship.
So as I prayed late into the night, that night...I began to hear myself. I heard the frantic tone in my voice ( I pray out loud). I heard the circuitous pleading. I heard the troubled voice of a child who does not know that God is listening, already responding, already deeply involved in her situation.
And I started to pray differently. I began to quote the promises in Scripture. I began to declare Who God says, in His Word, that He IS--not the way that I felt, in that moment, that He was (which was far away, inaccessible, hard to reach). I began to pray differently because I realized I sounded like an abandoned child. I sounded like a child who'd been living on the streets, hand to mouth, without a guardian or protector or Defender. And while I felt like one, in that moment (because Anxiety will run you into Dark, into the Deep Unknown of Despair), still I knew that I had a good heavenly Father--not a bad One, not an incompetent One.
I'm a reflection of Him. I'm a child, and spiritually speaking, though I'm supposed to mature, I still will always be a child in the sense of me belonging to Someone who created me. He's the eternal Father and always will be One. This aspect of our relationship will always be there.
And so every time I pray, how I pray will reflect what our relationship is like, and what kind of a Father I have, what kind of a child I am.
This is no small thing. What kind of a Heavenly Father do you have?? How do you know Him to act towards you? Do you understand His heart's motive? When He is silent, do you think that means He is also uncaring and cold? Your resulting conclusion will reflect what kind of a child you are, and what kind of a father you think God is.
Let me remind you, in case you're going through a crisis, in case you're feeling very anxious or worried or stressed out: God definitely cares about you, and does not want you to feel anxious or worried. He knows that you and I will battle these awful feelings that cause our stomachs to feel sick and our heads to ache and our fingers to tremble--but He does not want you to feel this horrible emotional pain because He does not want you to feel UN-Loved. Loved children are secure. Children who know they are loved feel loved.
What good is it if Somebody loves you- but you don't feel like they love you?? 1 Corinthians 13 begins with "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." I'd like to add, that if you have a Heavenly Father who loves you, but you don't feel love, then you are--in your mind-- an unloved child. And what does that solve? What does that reflect? Unloved children have horrible parents. and children don't get to choose their biological parents, so it's not the child's fault if he or she is not loved by the parent. No child should be un-loved. Maybe the definition of "child" should really be "one who is loved."
And friend, you are loved. You have a Father who is merciful and constant in His watch over you. He tells us, in His word, over and over, not to worry. He does not want us consumed with anxiety. He wants to to be at peace, and to be at peace with Him- because "He himself is our peace" Eph.2:14.
He is our Peace. He is our Father. Call on Him today. Try out the voice of a child who is loved. Start speaking the words of a child who knows he can ask, freely, for help. Try asking boldly, because Your Father loves it when you trust that He is Good.
And when you bump into an old friend who asks you how your Father is doing, tell your friend what you've been learning about your heavenly father (even if they were asking about your human father).
Tell your friend that your Father is doing well...and therefore so are you.