“Time in a Bottle”

Copyright 4/29/13 By Sarah G. Pemberton

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Anybody remember the old commercial where the people supposedly on a diet, eating junk food, suddenly say, “Wow!  I could’ve had a V-8!”?  I had one of those, “Ah-Ha!” revelations today.  I have had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ since the age of nine, have been baptized in the Holy Spirit since age ten, went to an evangelical Christian college, as well as a fabulous seminary, got my M.A. in counseling, have been through much personal therapy, as well as at least 5 different inner healing ministries over the years, have talked up and down and ‘round in circles for years with my husband and other counselors about how to resolve a long-standing, foundational issue in my life – and there the answer stared me in the face all along.  Yet I just saw it this afternoon, as I was praying over this issue for the millionth time.

First, the problem:  I had a mother with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, who ran late to nearly everything her entire life.  I mean, really late, as in missing entire events many times.  She was also a hoarder, and suffered from cycles of depression and anxiety, even being hospitalized for nine months when I was little.  She is now with the Lord, and although I’m grateful to my mom for pointing me to the Him (once she herself finally met Him when I was five) nevertheless, her mental illness issues created a very stressful environment in which to be raised.  Anxiety became such a part of my life that I failed to even recognize the low-level anxiety in which I functioned most of the time – let alone the panic which wrapped me like an octopus, in any kind of a real crisis – until I began in my 20’s to allow God to begin peeling back the layers of the onions in my soul.  Life with Jesus seems to feel like three steps forward, two steps back sometimes.  But He is faithful to carry us forward, if we are faithful to let Him.

For several years, I have pled with the Lord, “Please show me how to live as You did – only doing what the Father is doing, and only saying what the Father is saying.”  (Jn. 5:19-20, 30) That is a tall order, and I have not “arrived” yet; but the goal is a worthy one; and I have become increasingly passionate in this prayer over the years, recognizing it as the core of truly being a disciple of Jesus.  (Php. 3:12)

But I have been so frustrated for years with the stress of trying to pack into 24 hours everything that needs to be done.  My mother never had a clue how to have an efficiently productive day; and much of my childhood was spent feeling angry and resentful at her for making me run late for important commitments.  Meanwhile, my dad was always obsessively early (that alone a recipe for disaster, being married to her), and always angry at her for running him late as well.

So my attitude toward time was one of resentment.  There never seemed to be “enough” time.  Therefore, I spent years praying to learn to forgive my parents’ dysfunctionality for making “time” such a stressful daily reality for me.  With my own daughter, who likes to take life at a leisurely, Third World pace, I have struggled to not superimpose that old resentment onto her, nor my fears of her becoming like my mother.  Yet I have found myself chiding her constantly for not getting things done faster, for being behind schedule.

Oh, I know the Scriptures:  “Which of you by being anxious can add a single minute to his life?” (Mt. 6:27) And “Be anxious for nothing, but in all things, by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God.” (Php. 4:6) – And there are so many more like these.  But somehow I could not seem to get beyond, “Lord, I know anxiety isn’t from You, and I know You want me to walk covered in the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace; but I keep praying the same things with no change in my heart and life!  HELP!!”  I’ve even heard my pastor teach the importance of asking God daily for His blueprint, His heavenly revelation, for how to do His will that day. I’ve asked the Lord for weeks to show me how to do that.

But suddenly, this afternoon, I simply had the inspiration from the Holy Spirit, as if the light were turning on as the words poured out of my mouth:  “Father, I repent of believing the lie that You have not given me enough time to do all that You have called me to do.  I repent of believing that You are putting Herculean tasks upon me, without equipping me to carry them out in Your perfect timing.  Forgive me for making an idol out of the demands of others, or idols of my own choices to spend even one minute of time doing anything which You did not call me to do that day, at that time.  It’s not my time, it’s Your time.  Forgive me for judging You for ‘putting’ me in situations which I actually imposed upon myself, by not waiting to hear Your Voice telling me, each step of my day, how to spend it in Your Presence, and in Your Peace, Wisdom, and Grace.  Forgive me for making an idol out of the fear of not pleasing others, or an idol of self-pity that I’ve had no time for myself.  Others can probably take the word ‘No’ quite graciously, if it is spoken out of resting in Your peace, not out of my excuses, defenses, and fears of failure.  Please forgive me for not trusting Your Sovereignty that there is plenty of room each day for Your will; but help me remember that I will have a stressful, impossible schedule, only if I try to cram Your will around my will, or around someone else’s will; in Jesus Merciful Name.  Amen.”

Then it dawned on me:  “No one can serve two masters.”  (Mt. 6:19-34)  Suddenly, I’m reading the entire second half of that chapter in a whole new light I’ve never seen before.  My faith challenge wasn’t necessarily worry about money. (God taught me to trust Him with that years ago, and my husband and I have seen very good fruit in our lives, from all He has taught us about finances.)  No; my trust issue was anxiety about time itself being innately “unfair” to me.  Pretty self-centered.  Time is not God.  It is merely His servant.  So also must I be, if I am to live in harmony with time, rather than feel at war with it.  All this time, I’d been trying to conquer my anxiety at the wrong source. And only my husband knows how many hours I’ve spent weeping in prayer about this frustration.  I was merely chopping off the leaves, rather than pulling it up by its root.  The root was anger at time itself, and worse – at the God Who gave me this gift.

Today was the most productive day I’d had in years.  Why?  Because I repented of the driving force of anger, which kept me anxious and tired.  Then I just relaxed and followed God’s directions all day.  “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” as Carrie Underwood sings!  It was like Holy Ghost GPS.  I didn’t have to try so hard – just turn when He said turn.  The amazing thing you have to understand is that I’ve taught classes on how to be led by the Spirit, rather than walking according to the flesh.  (Gal. 5)  And there were already areas of my life where I did a fair job of it.  But this was a foundation which I’d simply never examined deeply in my heart.

So it is my hope that if there are areas of your own life where you have felt “stuck,” that God will shine the Light of His Spirit of Truth on those blind spots.  It is truly His Kindness which leads us to repentance.  And one of our greatest weapons in our spiritual arsenal is soaking in His peace regarding everything.  (Eph. 6:15)

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