I imagine that doesn't come as any surprise to you, since you are omniscient. And you made me. But I read something the other day that reflected so accurately how I've been feeling and realisations about myself that I've been having that it amazed me that someone had encapsulated it already. I suppose it really shouldn't surprise me as I don't flatter myself that I am profoundly original and revelatory in any way, certainly not with regard to theology, but it was surprising and reassuring. A bit strange, actually, to read in someone else's words thoughts that I'd had so recently.
What was also interesting was that a friend gave this book to me because it reminded her of me and she thought that it would speak to me. I wonder which pages she looked at! This definitely speaks to me because it speaks about me.
It's a prayer by Eddie Askew in his book of prayers and meditations, called 'A Silence and a Shouting' (Published by The Leprosy Mission International, 1982, London).
This particular prayer is on page 21 and is inspired by Ecclesiastes 3:1-11.
'There is a time for everything
And a season for every activity under heaven...'
Eddie writes about busyness and the pressure of time; the fact that in this passage from Ecclesiastes God is telling us that if there is an appropriate time for everything, then there is clearly an inappropriate time as well. That our work is given to us by God and that we are never in possession of all the facts; only God can see the big picture. That we can only do as much as we can do, do it as well as we can, and then rest and allow God to do the rest. Someone sent me a picture on Facebook the other day. It said, 'Let Go and Let God'.
Here's how Eddie Askew puts it in his prayer.
'Lord, I get so busy.
Sometimes because I want to help.
Sometimes because I can't say no.
Sometimes because I'm flattered to be asked.
And it all adds up to strain, to tiredness,
to not having two minutes to call my own.'
Ooh that sounds familiar. Quite often I want to help; I'm carried along on a wave of enthusiasm and bite off more than I can chew. I've said a few times that if I ever write an autobiography I'll call it, 'It seemed like a good idea at the time'.
Quite often I can't say no, though I'm practicing. I'm flexing my 'I'm sorry, but no' muscles a bit more often lately. Not easy though. Usually accompanied by pangs of guilt and second thoughts.
Flattered to be asked? Oh yes. I'm usually surprised that people think I can contribute to something and if people think I can, then I should oblige, shouldn't I? Last year I took on an important role pretty much for this reason only and I've been oppressed by it all year, dreading the regular commitments and worrying about it until lately I reassessed priorities and resigned. Would that I hadn't said 'yes' in the first place.
'Lord I feel like a mouse in a treadmill.
Rushing around, faster and faster.
Oh yes. I mentioned this some time ago only I think I chose a hamster.
'And the first thing that goes out of the window
No time, Lord, sorry!'
Oh yes again. How often have I lamented recently that I thought when Katy started school this September that I would have more time, and that one of my plans for that new time that I would have would be to spend a regular time with you, Lord? I said that it might not be a daily thing, to start with, but I would definitely find time to sit with you, read, pray and learn to listen. I've been going on about wanting wisdom, wanting to learn to hear your voice and follow your call and then the reality is that Kate has been at Big School for a whole half term and I've just been chasing my tail taking on new commitments and 'yes' to everyone but you.
Eddie has been there. He knows. He told you about this syndrome already, didn't he?
'Lord, it's at times like this when I need you most.
Yet you seem so far away.
Why, Lord? Where have you gone?
Then I hear it, the quiet voice...
...be still and know that I am God.
You are near. You have been all the time.
And I understand
that I can't hear you if I don't listen.
That I will feel alone if I don't give time to you.
I have written the exact same sentiments over the last few posts right here. Lord, what are you saying? What should I do? Guide me! Speak to me! Yet I am moving so fast with so many things in my head that even if you were shouting at me I would still fail to hear you.
On the Quiet Day last week it took me a while to stop, to slow, to reach a place where I could sit next to you and be. The quiet voice. You reminded me of who you were, who I am, and you told me that I needed to slow down. That it was ok to 'be'. More than ok, it is necessary for me. Without it I've felt so lost and confused. Things have closed in on me. My spacious place has become claustrophobic.
The quiet voice. Be still and know...
'Lord, I just thought so much depended on me.
I know the whole works wouldn't end if I took a break,
but it made me feel important.
I need to remember that it's your world, your work.
I'm glad to have a part in it, but it's yours, not mine.
And when I've done what I can,
I can safely leave the rest to you.'
You must be shaking your head when I admit that sometimes I feel as if everything rests on me. Some days I feel as if I'm constantly keeping someone else happy; and rarely that person is you. How absurd it is on so many levels! That I am the only person who can support all the people in my life, that it all depends on little old mixed up me, that the person who comes last in the queue of people I need to keep happy is the Creator of the Universe, the One who made me, died for me and sustains my every breath.
'Lord, still my heart.
Help me cut down the adrenalin.
Give me your peace.'
Amen. Eddie Askew, thankyou. You put it into words. I flicked through the first pages of your book and the Lord spoke to me through you.
Lord, God, forgive me for getting it wrong over and over again. I went to the Quiet Day and loved it; learned a couple of things that meant a lot to me and wrote down what was going to change when I got back. I realised that I need to spend time with you and that it's alright to build time with you into my week. Have I done it?
Nope. Of course, it's half term week, so the children aren't at school, which sort of cuts down the opportunities for peace and quiet even more, and Bryan's been poorly, so that means that I've taken the children out a bit more than I might have, but I suspect that these too are excuses.
I'm sorry for all the times that I think that things depend on me, when they depend on you.
I'm sorry for all the times that you give me a little job to do and I think that I need to do the whole thing.
I'm sorry for all the times that my ego tells me that everything rests on me; that no-one (not even you) can do the thing as well as I can.
I'm sorry that you get so crowded out that you fall off the bottom of my To Do list.
Lord, thank you for your patience with me - that I turn back to you and I'm almost afraid to look up at you because I've let you down again, missed the point again, got it wrong again - and yet instead of impatience and frustration all I see in your face is love. You just open your arms and smile and restore me and give me another chance. And another.
Thankyou that it's never the end, when I get it wrong. You never wash your hands of me, no matter how obtuse I am. You find a way to speak to me even in the vacuum that I leave behind as I rush from one red herring to another. You took me on a Quiet Day and to make sure that you made your point my friend gave me this so that I would be reminded of the lessons I learned on that day and yet failed to act on.
Let it be different, this time, Lord. Help me to change this. Live differently. Let's meet up more regularly.
I know - you're waiting...