Monday, March 17, 2008

Two Sides of the Same Coin -- Hope Chronicles 25

Last night at the bookstore, I was talking to a coworker. I told him that on Saturday I had purchased a hula hoop and that I was teaching one of my cats, Mali, to jump through it. He remarked, "You can't teach a cat tricks." (For photographic proof see Mali doing "up".) I told him that I had, and that Mali had walked through the hoop numerous times and jumped through twice. His response: "Are you sure she just wasn't humoring you?" Maybe, but I'll take it.

Dogs are pack animals and probably do perform out of a desire to please as well as accompanying treats. The only cat that lives in a group is a lion. So, cats are fairly independent. It can be a trick to figure out their motivation and harness it. Our motives in things are often mixed. I think Mali enjoys the interaction as well as the treats....

My parents were always very concerned about appearances. As a result, they belonged to a local church not out of faith but because it looked good. We went on Christmas and Easter and a few other times during the year. But, we weren't what you would call regulars.

The church we went to confirmed kids when they got to the seventh grade. To be confirmed, you had to go to special classes for a year. My parents decided that my twin and I would have to go. (I'm thankful for that because it is one of the ways God drew me to Himself.) However, they didn't want to go with us. So, they took to dropping us off and picking us up and were genuinely surprised we liked it and even asked to go to youth group.

I was extremely shy and quiet. I didn't necessarily mix all that well with the other kids. However, I craved the interaction with the youth leaders. But even this was overshadowed by how quiet I was.

Every Sunday morning all the youth gathered to pray together before heading to Sunday school. About 40 of us stood in a circle and held hands and one or two people prayed. One Sunday Bob came up to me and said, "I'm going to have you pray for us." Fear over rode my normal respect for authority. I told him that I couldn't. He told me that I could. I told him that I couldn't. We went back and forth with this about four times before he turned and walked away.

Everyone circles up. Bob announces, "Amy is going to open us in prayer this morning." Silence. Absolute silence unless you count the sound of my heart. You see we only prayed twice a year at my house -- Thanksgiving and Christmas. And then it was always my dad who said the prayer. So, I had never prayed out loud. Bob announced for a second time that I was going to pray. I was mute and totally crimson. Another youth leader finally jumped in and opened the morning with prayer.

I tell that story not because Bob was a bad guy. Though, I do think his approach was a bit misguided. I tell it more because I took him totally off guard. I still catch people off guard. I bend, bend, bend, bend, SNAP -- they've run into a brick wall. They are always surprised when they suddenly meet resistance.

Some people would call it sheer stubbornness. There is probably some of that in there. But when you're on the same side of the brick wall as me, you're likely to see it as perseverance. Stubbornness and perseverance are, I believe, two sides of the same coin.

I've been thinking about it some the last couple of weeks. Without some perseverance, some stubbornness even, I don't know that I would have survived. There had to be some core of hope willing to hang on to every shred of light that sliced into my darkness.

At other times, I may be my own worst enemy. For example, in the youth group story. Bob pushed. While that wasn't the right thing, my reaction was to swing completely and totally the other direction and never look back. I didn't pray out loud in a group until my sophomore year in college. What sweet times of fellowship did I miss out on all those years?

Even now there is a situation I am trying to make heads or tails of. I guess the question that may shed the light on it is what is the posture of my heart? Is it a hope filled response (perseverance) or a fear filled one (stubbornness)? I'm not sure yet, but it is something to ponder.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I completely get this. I've taken refusal to an extreme and now I finally understand that I began doing it as a defense mechanism.

Now that I am older, I'm more reasonable (so I say), so I call it strong-willed. I have a button that says "I failed submission school."

LOVED this post. I like the way you see practical application of your spiritual growth. The devotions I write have a very similar approach. That's why I call my devotional blog "Pragmatic Communion." I define communion as intimate fellowship and I use the adjective "pragmatic" to explain that my faith isn't emotionally based or wavering in spiritual highs and lows. said...


I think I just missed you on my blog! I think as I put up a new post, you put up a comment. It was weird, like I saw your comment appear. Anyway....I LOVE YOUR BLOG!!!! Lookin' so good:) and I loved your post today. I was a late prayer outlouder terrified me for the longest time. I thought I had to sound all eloquent to pray outloud. I'm so glad I learned that God didn't care about that!

I have not received the book yet, but I forgot to check the mail at work today. I will check 1st thing in the morning. I can't wait to see it and dig into it. You are so sweet to send it to me.


Renee Swope said...

Hi Amy,

LOVE your new look on your blog. Beautiful!

I'll never forget the first time I prayed out loud. I could feel myself blushing and getting hot. I was so glad everyone's eyes were closed!!!

Can't wait to see you in June!

Lelia Chealey said...

Love your new look Amy!
I'm sure you've made up for all those lost years. Thank God He isn't one to keep track of the things we do & don't do!
I'm so glad you're joining me for the YES to GOD blog study! Can't wait for your input!
Blessings my friend!!

Anonymous said...

Last night in youth group, the leader picked someone to pray and that person said he didn't know how. So the leader, said I do this with my little girl.....just repeat after me. So the two of them prayed a prayer out loud. What a good way to get over that speedbump.
I still don't pray out loud very well.! Good thing I know He listens to my inside prayers.