November 20, 2013: Getting Through the Storm

~by Louis Templeman

When I read the ancient prayer where I acknowledge “my offenses are many and my misery is great” I feel the echo in my imagination ringing out loud peals of affirmation. When I, later in my morning prayers, align myself with all the “banished children of Eve” here in “this vale of tears” I, once again, acknowledge my need for salvation along with all sinners of the earth. It is a heavy, sometimes nasty feeling to daily affirm my inabilities, my desperate need, my sinfulness and my offenses.

I have been going through a tunnel of fog the last several days. In fact I could actually say it has been going on for a week or two. I haven’t really kept track. It is such a common feeling, this depressive mindset, this mental oppression, that it is easy to get used to it and accommodate it, like an ugly, nasty sister who dogs your every step demanding you take care of her. It’s like an obligation, my assignment to keep this thing alive. It is my duty to be tormented. Yes, it sounds stupid and self- defeating but I have to admit there is a perverse attachment to misery, self-pity and the personal drama of powerlessness.

The ancient prayers are not given to us to encourage this deviant attachment to self-destruction but, to draw us to the power and love of God. When we can truly and humbly accept our nothingness it is then he can become our everything.

I have discovered this peace of embracing God as my everything comes though the struggle of faith and patience. Without faith and without patience there is little realization of God’s peace and promises. This challenge to our walk of faith is not complicated. It may not be easy but it is simple.

Here’s how I do the battle. And, I must add there is really no other option for me. First, I learn to catch the mental oppression, the fear, the worry or other negativity as early as possible and simply verbalize and/or mentally assent (sometimes talking out loud is most effective) that God is good, his mercy is everlasting. Then I remind myself that I am thankful for all things, even this misery because he has promised to work even this to my good. For me, these positive affirmations or confessions are very powerful and very necessary.

I also must remember that my Christian faith is not meant to be a lonely journey of self-seeking or self-fulfillment. I speak with a priest or pastor regularly and openly confess my sins and short comings and receive absolution (or assurance of God’s forgiveness). Sometimes, I will call someone who is special to me and just unburden my heart. I need someone who will challenge me, “Do I hear a whine? Maybe, I should get you some cheese?”

When Jesus faced his mental anguish and feelings of abandonment at Gethsemane he plowed on in faith, trusting in God’s will, and received angelic ministry and strength to do the hard work he was called to do. When the Apostle Paul petitioned God for relief from his “thorn in the flesh” he didn’t get the answer he wanted but he was assured of God’s presence and received the confidence of being in God’s will.

A while back I was speaking with the Holy Spirit and complaining (I suppose) that so much of the Christian life is like walking on water. It can feel scary and uncertain. The Apostles once thought they were about to drown and yet they were doing God’s will. They saw Jesus walking on water and all the while they were convinced they were facing certain death. Jesus led them right into that storm.

The encounter of the storm did not indicate they were outside of God’s will. It was, in fact, part of God’s design for their growth and instruction. It was a graciously orchestrated situation in which the Lord could display his power and love. Nevertheless, it was so intense and so filled with danger that Peter chose to abandon ship to be with Jesus standing on the sea rather than remain on a boat he was sure was soon to sink.

How many times have I endeavored to obey God and patiently, humbly plow on through difficulties only to feel like I was sinking in my own troubled sea of disappointment? The Christian life is often like walking on water but the hand of Christ is always there to lift us up and to save us from going under.

Often the hand of Christ that reaches out to save me is a person. His body is made of many members. If I am in a storm right now (and it seems lately I often am) I may well be surprised by the one God uses to extend me the lifeline. Jesus often has a human face. I cannot choose what face he will show up in, but I can choose to welcome him.

~Louis Templeman

Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D.

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