Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"What I'd Be Like If I Wasn't..."

I came across the following this morning in Kent Annan's book After Shock: Searching For Honest Faith When Your World is Shaken:

"A friend of the writer Henri Nouwen tells the story of someone angry with him, after he was rude once, who confronted him questioning the disconnect between his actions and his faith. Nouwen was heartbroken and said, 'I wonder if (he) ever considered what I would be like if I wasn't a man of prayer."

Oh yes. This was so heartening and strengthening for me to read after yet another Monday where I felt like I failed miserably in so many small, essential ways to be the kind of person, mom, teacher, daughter of Christ that I wanted to be. I don't mean I failed all day, but I felt like I blew it several times in the course of a tired, stressful day. Not patient enough. Not loving enough. Not gentle enough. Not creative and faithful enough.

And sometimes when I have days like that, I am all over myself (inwardly) chastising myself for not being who I'm supposed to be, who I want to be, who I know God wants me to be, and I forget -- I really do forget -- to take stock and think "but who would I have been today if I wasn't a woman of prayer?" What would I have been like if I wasn't a woman of faith who believes that the Holy Spirit nudges me to notice when I've gotten completely off-track, compels me back to the path he wants me on, produces fruit (even on a day when the harvest might seem small) that I could never possibly produce on my own?

Maybe I wasn't as patient as I should have been, could have been, hope to be, long to be. Maybe I wasn't as patient as I might be on another similar day one year from now, or two, or ten. But was I even a smidgen more patient, loving, forgiving, quick to stop wounding words than I might have been a year ago, or two, or ten? Not because life is like a never-ending escalator of up and up progress, but because of Who I belong to?

And what if, the next time a brother or sister isn't patient enough or kind enough or gentle enough with me or with someone else, I stop to consider what they would be like if they weren't people of prayer? What if I stop to reflect that the same patient God whose fingers are shaping my heart is also shaping their heart? That he has, in fact, perhaps already brought them a very long way -- and is still taking them farther into holiness and health?

All these thoughts today, born of that one story about Nouwen, seem to tie into this wonderful post I read from Karen Edmisten last night, on our progress in prayer and how it doesn't happen overnight. She writes:

"I share this because if you are ever discouraged by the fact that you seem to revisit the same sins or the same patterns of behavior repeatedly, I hope you won't despair. Compare yourself to where you were five years ago with the same sin. What about ten years ago? Do you handle it differently? If you're striving to seriously live your faith life, my guess is that you do handle it differently. A particular temptation or inclination might still be there, but you're probably approaching it in new and better ways all the time."

And then she shares about a very useful tool called ARRR prayer (or as she creatively named it, "pirate prayer"). ARRR stands for "Acknowledge, Relate, Receive and Respond." It's one of those small memory devices that goes off over your head like a light-bulb. This is a prayer tool I will definitely use. I hope it blesses you today too -- no matter what sort of day you may be having!


Edna said...

Thanks for sharing the link--I went and read it and really like the ARRR prayer idea. Printed it out so I can remember it. And thanks for the encouragement, too. I think we all have areas where we feel that we are making NO progress :-(. Had one of those days at school today.

Beth said...

Edna, glad you found the encouragement the link both helpful. And sorry you had a hard day too!

I had to chuckle because Tuesday (unlike Monday) was just one of those graced days. Not perfect, but it felt so smooth and easy in comparison to the day before -- and so much easier to note the small graces and dwell in gratitude. Sometimes I wish Tuesdays could happen on Mondays -- except I know Mondays have to happen eventually. :) And whatever day of the week the hard times come, I'm grateful to the Lord for the ways he shapes me through them!