Friday, January 21, 2011

"Just"

This week off between jobs I have had a lot of time to read my Bible, pray, connect with friends and think about things that I haven't had time to think about lately. I have noticed this before, but it came to my mind again as I was praying while driving to run some errands (don't worry, I had my eyes open).

What I kept noticing was that I was praying with the word "just" a lot, but not in any way that made sense (i.e. referring to being "guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness" or God's "righteousness" as defined by dictionary.com), but rather I was using it as a qualifier of sorts ("exactly or precisely; only or merely" again by dictionary.com). When I say I was using it as a qualifier, I was saying things like, "Lord, would you just protect them" or "would you just be with them" type of stuff. The frustrating thing is I realized what I was saying in the middle and kept stopping and starting my prayers over or backing up to before the word "just" and skipping over it. I started thinking, do I seriously think God's ever not with people who believe in Him? Or do I think God doesn't know they need protecting? Does using "just" actually communicate to God that this is "exactly, precisely and only" the thing I would like to see Him do in so-and-so's life or in such-and-such situation? If I'm really asking for God to be in control of the situation or meet a person in their needs and help them know His love and comfort, why am I putting the word "just" in front of my heart concerns? There's nothing small about those requests and those are good things to pray about. And God can answer those prayers in whatever ways make sense for His good and His glory. But there's seldom one little thing that is the answer, so "just" doesn't make sense to say.

Without going on in circles, I think you get the point, but I do want to summarize my thoughts in regards to praying with the word "just":
*If I'm praising God for being just and for leading me towards being just in my character, that makes sense and is good.
*If I'm bringing concerns or requests to God in prayer, using "just" both communicates limitation to what I think God can/should do possibly and I think it also minimizes the prayer in making it seem very minor or that it can only be solved by my request (which probably is seldom the case).
*If I really do mean to specify one thing or request, "just" can make sense, but I should probably use it more scarcely than I do.

What do you think of "just"? Why is it that so many Christians use it in prayer? Is it a filler word? Do we really mean to limit the things we're praying about? Is it out of anxiety of praying out loud or distraction of multi-tasking while talking to the Lord? Why has it become the norm to use "just" so often in prayer?

Thoughts welcome :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

So many prayers answered, a page is turned.

The last several months those who know me best have noticed that I haven't quite been myself lately. I contribute a majority of it to some challenging things going on in my work environment and feeling an unrest in myself because of it. My lack of time reading the Bible has been a part of it, too. I have struggled over the last several months to delight myself in the Lord, and be satisfied in Him alone (wanting for the circumstances to change when I said so) and have been... I don't know - out of whack, I guess. I have struggled with believing the best about people and not adding fuel to fires already burning. And I have cried out for God to deliver me (I realize this sounds dramatic, but this was honestly my prayer, "save me a spot where you'd have me to be and deliver me out of this place").

I have found prayer to be an ongoing and increasing part of my everyday life as I used to know it to be. Going to God first with every little (or huge) thing and telling Him how I really feel about it. I have practiced and been taught again and in new ways that I must (whether I like it or not) rely on God's timing and wait for Him. And that He knows what's best for me, whether or not I recognize that my discomfort may be what His best is (as it drives me to Him). I don't always know why things are going on in my life or how God may be using me, but He always knows. I have been learning to rely on Him knowing (which means I may have no clue, and that is contrary to my comfort zone in and of itself). And that it is good for Him to know (and I will know when it's time for me to know).

Because the situations at work had caused a sort of depression in me, I spent some time being sad and frustrated and felt I would never ever measure up to what was expected of me. I felt that no matter how much effort I put in, it wouldn't matter, because if I couldn't do it again tomorrow, I'd hear the gavel fall deeming me not good enough to cut it in a competitive sales environment. I realized (with a little help from some friends) that I was being a bit harsh on myself and had lost perspective of who and what God says I am. And I decided that I wasn't going to allow the sales expectations to define whether or not I was successful. God challenged me to find success in small things: truly caring for people, going out of my way to make someone smile, showing love in a situation when anything else would not be sufficient. And I felt prodded to pursue something else to do for work, something that better fit who God made me to be. While I can sell things with relative ease, I have realized in the last 10 months that a career in retail sales is not what's best for me. God has shown me the gifts he has given me in taking care of the details (administration), loving people (customer service) and serving others (in a supporting role of some sort) I started praying for God to save me a place where I could do those things with out having to do sales too. It was in the fall that I felt this stirring inside of me to get into a different career path and started pursuing it. Praying daily for God to save me a spot and to help me persevere and endure as long as He had me to remain where I was. His faithfulness sustained me every day, and I found joy again in the small things. I learned to not let the weight of my sales goals weigh on my spirit and worked hard to avoid letting the work situations drain the life out of me.

Fast-forward to today. Yesterday was my last day at my old job. What delight in finishing well (which was also something I prayed a lot about)! God provided a wonderful sendoff from my peers and supervisors. I was able to connect with so many of my regular clients and let them know of my leaving (they wished me well too). I believe I saw God answer more prayers than I even realized I prayed. He gave me words to encourage a hurting friend. He reminded me to give recipes to co-workers who had asked for them. He helped me tie up loose ends and even reminded me to change the outgoing voicemail on my old phone number. What a sweet relief the last two weeks were. Working hard to the end was my heart's desire and God granted it to me. Even with allergies/cold slowing me down a bit, I feel I was able to honor the commitment I made. I am so thankful for the support I received from people as I shared about the new adventure in my career and the kind words of appreciation as well.

Now begins a week to be restored in health, mind and spirit. To journal about what I have seen God teach me and do in and through me through the last 6 months specifically (when I felt such unrest, but He allowed me to remain in it). And I begin a new job in a week, taking care of the details (administrative) and loving people (customer service) in a supporting role (serving others) - with out sales goals. Praise God! My new job will have other goals and deadlines and be fast-paced and I'll learn new things and be able to continue to grow in the things God has gifted me in, but I will not have to produce sales in order to see and experience the growth. I am so thankful! God's timing was perfect, continues to be perfect and has caused me to remember again that His Ways are higher than my ways and I do desire to follow Him.

Thank you for a new adventure Lord, and for saving me a spot where you intend me to be, for giving me strength and perseverance and endurance to wait on you, and for delivering me from the place that I felt such unrest in. Thank you for filling me with peace that remains and helping me learn to delight again in You and the small things. You have heard my prayers and you answered me. I thankfully turn the page on what was and look forward to what will be.