Dear God, I read this blog post from Fred Smith yesterday, and I thought it was great. I even shared it with a couple of friends. Here are some of the highlights for me:
- “Now and then I host what Quakers call a Clearness Committee for an individual working their way through an issue about direction or a decision. This committee is a group of friends who know a person well and the group’s only role is to ask questions. They cannot make statements or prescribe what a person should do. They cannot offer advice based on what they think they would do.”
- “So many of the men and women we consider spiritual giants have suffered from [losing confidence]. Abraham loses confidence in God’s promise of a son. Moses loses confidence immediately and tries to get out of what God has called him to do. Gideon discounts his abilities to fight the Midianites. Elijah hides in a cave. The Samaritan woman slights her worth. Peter denies Christ and despairs. David is discouraged almost as much as he is sure. Solomon despairs of everything, and Job is a whole book about dealing with confidence in God and inexplicable loss.”
- From Oswald Chambers: “In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples went to sleep when they should have stayed awake, and once the realized what they had done it produced despair. The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair. We say, ‘Well, it’s all over and ruined now; what’s the point in trying anymore.’ If we think this kind of despair is an exception, we are mistaken. It is a very ordinary human experience. Whenver we realize we have not taken advantage of a magnificent opportunity, we are apt to sink into despair. But Jesus comes and lovingly says to us, in essence, “Sleep on now. That opportunity is lost forever and you can’t change that. But get up, and let’s go on to the next thing…'”
- “So far, I have found nothing better for those times when I feel I have done something irreversible or lost my confidence. “Get up, and do the next thing.”
First, I love the idea of a “Clearness Committee.” No answers offered. Just questions. As I pondered this yesterday, I wondered how pointed those questions can me. I suppose the spirit of it is that they not be too pointed. Like saying, “Don’t you think you should [fill in the blank]?” That would not be in the spirit. But to ask a friend more general questions that will help her or him see through the “fog of war” could be very powerful. I’m going to try to remember this for future use.
Second, I never thought of some of those biblical characters’ live experiences as being crises of confidence. It makes sense. I’ve just never put that label on it. The Elijah example is the one that’s always struck me as I read it. After such amazing success (calling down fire on the altar and killing Baal’s prophets), he went to such depths of fear. How did this happen? Maybe the question isn’t how can I keep this from happening to me. The better question might be, “When this happens, how do I find my way out?”
Third, the idea of accepting the loss of a missed opportunity. Oh, how many missed opportunities are in my past? How many did I miss today alone (and it’s not even noon). Opportunities to share your presence with a friend. Opportunities to do the right thing with my wife or children. Even big things like job opportunities. Or opportunities to bless someone instead of cursing them. Satan can try to take all of these things and lock me up with them. Destroy me with them. Shame me with them. That’s what he did with Peter after Peter’s denial of Jesus. But Jesus later came along and told Peter to do what’s next (“Feed my sheep”).
Finally, do what’s next. That’s living in the moment. One of the most influential things in my life was when I read C.S. Lewis’s words in the 15th letter of The Screwtape Letters when the one demon tells the other demon to do what it takes to distract his human from the present time, because the present is the one point in time that interfaces with you. The past is full of distraction. The future is full of distraction. But the present is what’s next.
Father, even now, as I sit here at 11:17 on a Sunday morning, show me what’s next. Not what do I need to do this afternoon. What do I need to do at 11:18. That’s what I need from you in this moment and every moment. What’s next? Thank you for the forgiveness you give me to accept the things I cannot change (the past), the courage to change the things I can (the present), and the wisdom to know the difference.
In Jesus’s name I pray,