“…Shall I send your son back to the land you came from?” Abraham answered, “Make sure that you don’t send my son back there!” Genesis 24:5b-6
Some places are not worth going back to, no matter how good our intentions might be. That includes places of the heart. It can be disappointing to try and rekindle times gone by. At the very least, it takes us away from living in the here and now. Life continues to move forward.
Reliving old mistakes can make us cringe even though we learned from them and changed our ways long ago. Of course, it is important to mend the fences of our past—when we’re sure we won’t be making matters worse instead of better by doing so-but once done, nothing good can come from returning, time and again to our most regrettable memories.
Returning to old patterns can be counter-productive, too. We left—or were led out of—certain experiences or relationships for a reason. It can be scary trying to develop healthier relationships or lifestyles than we may have been used to. It can be tempting to go back to our old ways, even though we know they’re self-defeating. I heard about a young woman who complained that she always ended up dating the same type of guys, rough types that didn’t treat her very well. Her new friend asked her what she did to meet guys and she said, “I put on lots of eye make-up, my black boots and a short skirt, and go to the biker bar downtown.” Seeking something new out of life may mean letting go of old patterns and haunts. It can be daunting, but we can refuse to go back to the old behaviors while we explore what the here and now has to offer.
Prayer: Lord, keep me from turning back.
Reflection for sharing: What about the past do you find alluring? What does it seem to promise? How can you find that fulfillment in your current circumstances?
Christ existed before all things, and in union with him all things have their proper place. Colossians 1: 17
Did you ever see a mobile hanging over a baby’s crib? That cute menagerie of animals rotates without a hitch because each animal is perfectly spaced from the center around which it revolves. But what if the giraffe decided it wanted to be the center and have the other animals to revolve around it? What would happen if some animals started orbiting around the elephant instead of around the center? The whole system would be thrown off balance. Pieces would bump into each other and get tangled up.
That’s what happens when we act like the center of our world and try and make others get with our plan. Or when—out of genuine but misguided concern for another—we focus so much on what they’re doing or need to be doing that we find ourselves sucked out of our own proper sphere of functioning. We’re much better off when we remember that God is the center of the universe, not us. When people or circumstances aren’t following our plan, it doesn’t mean they aren’t going the way they’re supposed to. Sure, we all forget, but when we catch ourselves colliding with others, we can remind ourselves that when we’re in right alignment with God, we’ll end up being where we’re supposed to be and we can allow the rest to fall into place. Let’s let God be God for today.
Prayer: Lord, keep me centered in You.
Reflection for sharing: What is pulling you off center today? How can you get back to true center?
[God] helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1: 4
Not all advice is good, but when someone’s been through what we’re going through, their advice has credibility. Not only do they know what we’re up against—they’ve come out the other side.
By the same token, the challenges we’ve been through put us in a unique position to help others facing similar challenges. That’s one way God brings good out of anything. The pain of a broken marriage, a chronic illness, or the loss of a loved one doesn’t have to be wasted. It can be put to good use when we stand as living hope that the crisis can be survived and coped with. Our compassion, understanding and concrete suggestions carry more weight since they don’t come from an ivory tower.
No man (or woman) is an island. When we’re at the end of our resources, God gives us what we need to endure—inner strength, a helpful insight, or the comfort and experience of those who have traveled the road before us. We, in turn, can offer that to others. We can balance giving with receiving.
Prayer: Lord, enable me to see how the pain I’ve endured can become a valuable resource.
Reflection for sharing: Today do I need to reach out for help, or share the help I’ve received with someone else?
But these people attack with insults anything they do not understand… Jude: 10a
Have you ever tried desperately to explain yourself to others and not gotten through? Most of us have felt misunderstood and unjustly criticized at one time or another.
It isn’t necessarily that we want others to conform to our point of view—at least, not all the time. Sometimes we just want to know that we’ve been heard and understood. Even if others aren’t convinced, it’s somehow is easier to “agree to disagree” when we’ve been given a fair hearing.
Of course, it’s a two-way street. Sometimes I’m so busy trying to convince the other guy of my position that I don’t take the time or energy to understand his. “Walk a mile in my shoes,” as the saying goes. When we sincerely make an effort to understand a different point of view, we still may not agree with it, but we’re less likely to attack those who hold it. Mutual respect opens the door to true communication.
Prayer: Lord, grant me greater understanding.
Reflection for sharing: When you’ve felt miss-judged, how were you treated? How can this impact your response when you are tempted to judge others?
God in his mercy has given us this work to do, and so we do not become discouraged. 2 Corinthians 4:1
I worked as a supermarket cashier when I was in high school…back when you had to ring up the prices by hand. I was afraid I wouldn’t be quick enough, but I did fine. The hard part was learning how to deal with the public…but I learned to deal with that, too.
Every job I’ve had since then has had its challenges and there have been many opportunities to learn about handling discouragement. Some days I wonder how I ever got the courage to start submitting my writing to publishers. Although I’ve always loved writing, the necessary confidence didn’t come for years and years. Even though it took a long and winding road to get me to do the work I love doing, what else can I call it but God’s mercy? I don’t have to be discouraged if a publisher chooses not to print an article I’ve written or if my blog doesn’t spark as many comments as I’d like. Rejection comes with the job. I don’t have to let it stop me from continuing to give it my best shot.
Maybe you’re facing obstacles, too. We can focus on the job at hand, whatever it is, for today. I have to believe that nothing happens in God’s world by accident. Whatever our work is for today, we can trust that God has a purpose for us.
Prayer: Lord, help me understand Your purpose in giving me the work that is mine today.
Reflection for sharing: How can I see God’s mercy at work in the task at hand?
The Lord is in his holy Temple; let everyone on earth be silent in his presence. Habakkuk 2:20
What else is there to say?
Prayer: Gently breathe in God’s peace. Gently breathe out all else. Shhhhhhh. Listen.
Reflection for sharing: What did you hear in the silence?
At that time Jesus said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth! I thank you because you have shown to the unlearned what you have hidden from the wise and learned.” Matthew 11: 25
As the sign in my dentist’s office says, “Don’t believe everything you think.” No matter what our IQ may be, our thinking is subject to human limitations, tunnel vision, and a host of influences that we may not even be aware of.
How many times have our thoughts come fast and furiously, but gotten us no closer to solving the problem? Just as muscle-bound people are sometimes physically hindered by their own muscularity, maybe people can be thought-bound. By relying too much on our own thoughts, we may lose touch with the other important aspects of our being—emotional, social, physical, spiritual. Knowledge is precious, but if we make an idol out of what we think we know, we may miss out. Even if our facts are accurate, knowing things intellectually is not the same as knowing from direct experience. Writing a term paper about social relationships is not the same as having friends or being in love.
Jesus told us the two most important commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Loving God with our mind is part of that, but only part. We don’t have to pass an IQ test to enter God’s kingdom. We just have to open ourselves to love.
Prayer: Praise to you, Lord, for the wisdom of your unconditional love.
Reflection for sharing: When has over-thinking an issue been counter-productive?
Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Although sometimes I wish there were more hours in the day—I don’t really want longer days, I just want to accomplish more. God often reminds my heart that I have exactly as many hours in a day that everyone else has. I will be able to get done all that I am meant to get done within the 24-hour period at hand. That does NOT guarantee that I will get done all that I want to get done. The truth is, there’ve been days when I finished everything on my to do list, figured I hadn’t put enough on there to begin with, and quickly added more! So it’s safe to say that the problem is not with how long the day is, but with my over-ambitious attitude.
Of course we all have days when circumstances seem to gang up on us, but if that becomes a way of life, we need to stop and look at how we contribute to the pattern. It isn’t always easy to see our part in creating or perpetuating never-ending busy-ness. That’s why it is so helpful to stop, look, and listen to what God offers us—but it seems hardest to do when we need it most! I think it was St. Francis De Sales who said we should pray for half an hour every day unless the day was going to be very busy…on very busy days, we should pray for an hour!
God never asks us to do more than we are able to do and I can’t believe it is His will for us to run ourselves ragged. How effective can we be if we’re worn out? Jesus offers us an ever-available oasis in a sea of activity. To gain perspective, all we have to do is take the time to accept his offer.
Prayer: Lord, help me accept the rest you offer my mind and heart.
Reflection for sharing: How can I create time and space to rest with God—however briefly—today?