“How are you today?” An honest question deserves an honest answer so I reply simply, “Well, I haven’t cried since 2 a.m., I accidently got trapped in a parking lot that I couldn’t intentionally get out of, and it’s almost noon so … I’d say I’m definitely on the upswing!”
The truth is, I am overwhelmed. I am tired, but when I close my eyes rest does not come. In the place of rest, I experience intense anxiety. When I finally do fall asleep, my dreams are troubled. But that’s okay because I will wake up around 2 a.m. with a headache. I will inevitably sit and cry until I become fascinated with an infomercial. I will become convinced that I aspire to be a chef and must have those knives! I will doze back off around 3:30 and be ready for work by 6 a.m.
Clearly, I am not experiencing the fruits of the spirit! But I am a Christian, so why is this happening to me? Now is the time for some hardcore self-examination. God search me! It’s much easier to surrender to distractions like throwing yourself more heavily into your work; after all, aren’t a lot of your anxieties about work? It’s also much easier to get lost in an episode of Guys Grocery Games on Food Network than it is to examine scripture late at night. Sometimes, it’s easier to cry into a pillow than into the arms of Christ. To cry out to God is to admit that we don’t have all the answers and, even though in theory we are humble, it is actually very difficult to accept and confess our inadequacies.
For the last several days, I have avoided a tough conversation with God because I have been living, stressing, and breaking in the flesh. THIS IS NOT BIBLICAL! Scripture teaches us that “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25, ESV). I’ve been focused on temporary things and neglecting the eternal! Forgive me JESUS! “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6, ESV).
Let’s return to the answer I gave to my well-intentioned friend when he asked how I was feeling. Did I really get stuck in a parking lot? Yep! I felt like a mouse in a maze! The harder I tried to find my way out, the trickier the situation became. If I had my jeep or the truck, I would have driven through the ditch and gotten out of there! However, I was driving my fuel-efficient sedan and was given a powerful reminder that I am not in control. I finally selected a parking space, stopped my car, and lowered my head and prayed, “God help me with literally everything”. And just like that, I lifted my head and saw the exit to this horrible disaster of a parking lot.
Here’s the truth. Life can take us to terrible parking lots, and we can drive around in confusion and frustration as we wish for the tools to get out quickly. Only when we realize that we are not in control and that we don’t have the necessary drivetrain to get ourselves out of stressful situations do we humble ourselves and let God care for us. Only when we surrender to God can we truly enjoy the fruits of the Spirit which are “… joy, peace, patience…” (Galatians 5:22, ESV). I’m glad my friend called when he did because, by then, I really was on the upswing.