Life Laboratory

I have been puzzling, struggling, and picking away at a problem for a couple of months.  But life was so busy throughout Advent, I didn’t have the energy or the time to work through it.  I did seem to find snatched moments to stew about it.   Finally in the last week, I’ve gotten some clarity about the issues involved- both the circumstances and my reaction to them.  And ultimately realized that the harder of the two to deal with was my reaction- discoveries about myself, my assumptions, and my needs.

I talked it through with a couple of godly people who are a regular part of my life- pastors/counselors. One provided empathy, understanding and encouragement.  The other challenged me, offered gentle admonishment, then provided some direction. I also talked it through with a couple of trusted lay confidants who were familiar with the circumstances to make sure I was seeing them realistically and to test-drive some solutions to the circumstances I was contemplating. Within a couple of days the solutions took firmer shape and I was ready to move forward with renewed energy.

Today, I also realized how much I had valued the Advent Reader our church was using as a shared congregational tool for preparation and the Advent season’s nurture of my troubled spirit.  It kept me from fixating on resolution of  the problem too soon, before I’d finished both the external and internal analysis/evaluation process.  Sometimes we need to struggle a while, like the butterfly struggling to emerge from the cocoon must do so to force fluid into the wings to strengthen them. Like the chick must struggle to peck it’s way out of the shell to gain strength in muscles that have lain immobile.  God comforts us, even while He allows us to struggle.  Through the struggle we peck away and gain strength to face not only the troubles that we encounter, but sometimes to face even the solutions that will come. Sometimes the solutions and lessons learned are as unexpected and difficult as the troubles that precipitated their need.

I am grateful for those God has placed in my life.  I am grateful for God who loves me enough to let me struggle.  I am even grateful for solutions that are difficult. I am humbled that God would go to all of this trouble, patiently enduring my frustration and distractedness, to continue molding me to be something He could use.  I feel a little like Jacob who wrestled with God. And like Jacob, I didn’t realize that it was God with whom I wrestled.   I thought it was the circumstances.

A book has been sitting on a table in my study area for several months, part of the reading assignment for a ministry residency group in which I am participating.  The group meets this coming week, so I picked up the book this afternoon to begin my reading.  After the first couple of pages, I realized that the author was describing in very clear language the condition that had led to the circumstances with which I had been confronted and which had caused me so much distress in recent months.  I am working through the book with much more interest and expectation for application than I would have when I first purchased it.  Because God has allowed me time in the laboratory.  Now He is providing instruction on the deeper insights and principles that go with the practical experience of the problem and struggling to find the answers. 

An adage about learning had impressed me a few years ago:  “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.”    I have said for the last ten years or so that I am a student of the Holy Spirit.   I pray that I will continue in the School of the Holy Spirit for the rest of my life.  But this school doesn’t follow a schedule or meet in a classroom or grade the student’s work.  There are moments when one just realizes, all of sudden, that class is in session and she doesn’t have the syllabus, just the Textbook, and it’s time to cram!

There is a type of dream that many who’ve experienced college report.  One is hurrying to get to a class for which she has not prepared……either through carelessness or oversight.  Sometimes the dream is more ominous.  The student has failed to attend classes or even purchase the book and is intending to attempt to fake her way through the exam.   Many have felt the panic of such dreams.  I’ve had that recurring dream more than a few times.   It is never resolved.  I always wake up with an unsettled feeling.  It would be so out of character for me- a rule-following, approval seeking, performance driven achiever- to behave in such a way.  So the dream is all the more unsettling.   But that’s a little how the School of the Holy Spirit feels at times!