September 26-October 2
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1 Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
2 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
The Lord asks the House of Israel to put on their strength and beautiful garments. He tells them to get off the ground and loose themselves from the bands on their necks. I think His choice of wording here is critical.
Before I delve too deeply into my message, I feel a need to reiterate that Christ is the one who brings salvation. Even if we follow the commandments remarkably well, our obedience doesn’t save us. His atonement saves us.
That being said…look at the wording He chooses to use. Though it is His atonement that saves us, He is telling us to rise up. He didn’t say, “I will come and just give you strength,” or, “I’m going to pick you up.” He is telling us to get our act together.
And I find this significant. Surely there are moments in our lives that He literally just gives us what we need, but there are also a great many moments when He tells us what we need to be doing in order to step up and become like Him. Sometimes He simply reminds us that He already told us how to make our lives easier, and we need to repent.
Resisting His calls
With this next story I’m about to tell, you’re either going to think I’m psycho or you’re going to painfully relate. Either way, take the principle out of it and apply it in your specific circumstances.
Trying to keep up with my own life has not been easy. Between making a grand majority of our food from scratch because of personal health problems to homeschooling to blogging/vlogging to mothering three young kids, it’s safe to say that I often feel as though I’m drowning. There are times when I feel so exhausted and so overwhelmed that I drive myself into a bit of a panic. Regardless of whether it’s self-inflicted, I’m sure a grand majority of people on the planet have felt this “overwhelmed” sensation I speak of.
It got to the point where it was quite literally affecting my health and relationships. I could feel the stress across my shoulders and down my back. I had to consciously unclench my muscles when I got into bed at night. I felt like my body was addicted to adrenaline, and I was scared that if I slowed down, it would surely drown me.
There were plenty of times that I went over my list of priorities; there were probably a million times that I went over my list of priorities, trying desperately to find something to cut out. But alas, there were legitimate reasons for all of them. I started experiencing autoimmune-like symptoms and so I changed my diet and started cooking everything from scratch; I’m talking yogurt, bread, jam, everything. It’s time consuming, but my wrists and elbows are no longer in pain. I originally didn’t want to homeschool but preschool in Virginia is expensive, and it was also an answer to a prayer about wanting to draw closer to my kids purposefully. Blogging and vlogging would seem like the obvious choice to drop and yet, whenever I approach the Lord about being done with it, He tells me no. In fact, last time I asked, He told me to quit asking or I’d get in trouble. So here I am.
Anyway, I was living off pure adrenaline. I was working until 9:30 pm trying to plan homeschool lessons and editing videos before going to the kitchen to catch up on dishes.
Over and over and over and over for a couple of months, the Lord kept whispering that I needed to slow down. I won’t pretend that I took it nicely. I was actually kinda irritable because I felt like He was the one who was dumping it all on me. Sometimes I was a little snarky as I told to let me know when He was alright with me dropping one of my priorities.
Luckily, He was patient with my attitude and continued to remind me. “Slow down.”
I would shoot back with, “Hoooooow? How am I supposed to slow down when it takes me twelve straight hours to get it all done?” Despite my lame rebuttals, I knew deep down what He was wanting me to do. He wanted me to let go of my own timetables. He wanted me to let go of all the pressure I was putting on myself to do everything. He was asking me to get off the ground and pull the bands off my neck.
And so there came a time when I realized that my life was unsustainable (isn’t that just sooooo typical?). He wasn’t taking away any of my responsibilities, but He was asking me to lay down the stress and trust that He could help me do it.
I finally threw my hands up and said, “Fine. We’ll do it your way but if I don’t get my blog in for the week, that’s on You, not me.” He was the one wanting me to do it so I was handing it over to Him. That way if it got messed up, it was His fault.
…I know this is shocking…but my life got easier. And it also got done.
I still work some nights until 9:30 pm, but I’m no longer biting my nails in stress over laying down for twenty minutes. I don’t kick myself for watching a movie with Conner “knowing” that I’m going to regret it the next day because there’s no chance I’ll ever recover from that lost time. Sometimes, my scripture study doesn’t look like a desperate plea for a blog article. Rather, I’ve learned that if I’m studying and feeling the Spirit, I’m probably not doing anything wrong (even if it doesn’t directly contribute to my blog for the week).
There was a period of time after I started my experiment of “letting go” that I was still kinda snarky. I would sit down to study, and if nothing was forthcoming, I would study until I felt reasonably filled and then I would go do something else like play with my daughter or lay down or sit and stare off in space. During my little period of snarkiness, the Lord decided to be clever.
In order to understand how the Lord was being clever, I need you to understand that I’m not really a professional writer. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to fully describe how useless I am at writing these blog articles until He decides it’s time to give me what I’m writing. I studied one scripture block for THREE WEEKS and got absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. I couldn’t type or latch on to any phrase or verse. Nada. Nothing.
And so for my period of snarkiness, the Lord would bring me up to the very last second before giving me what I needed to write and then helping me film it. No joke. Last second. I have to study and write and film during nap time. Friday would come along with nothing written down, and I would be telling the Lord all day, “I’m supposed to film today or the video won’t be done on time for Sunday.” I’d take care of the kids all morning, lay every one down, and then I would miraculously whip out a three page blog article and film it all within a two hour block.
This happened for weeks on end. During the week, my panic levels would start to rise as I rapidly approached my deadline for having my video filmed and edited. I would start to tell myself that I wasn’t working hard enough for it, that I wasn’t devoting sufficient time to it. I would want desperately to fall into those old habits of torturing myself over it. And He would be there to remind me. Listen to Him. Leave it to Him. Take off the stress and set it down; I don’t need it.
He was teaching me until it was finally knocked into my stubborn head that I didn’t need to stress about it. I didn’t have to stretch myself so thin trying to put every ounce of effort into completing all my priorities. He was the one in charge, and I needed to just hand it right on over.
I got so wrapped up in completing all of my righteous priorities that I failed to do them righteously (as in…I wasn’t doing it His way). I kept begging Him to come in and save me, but He wasn’t about to take it away. He knew I could do it. He knew I could take the bands off my own neck if I simply listened to Him.
It took me a while to give in to Him and listen. It took me a while to get off the ground and put off the bands that I had so fully wrapped around my own neck. It took a while to unlearn my habits of stress and anxiety. Sometimes those habits still sneak up on me, and I have to consciously remind myself that it’s all going to work out even if I don’t spend multiple hours in the scriptures.
The bottom line
That was a long way of telling you to arise and let go of bands that you’re holding onto; I’m telling you to listen and do it His way. Follow Him. Don’t just sit there and beg Him to carry you all the time. Follow Him. He probably has something He is trying to tell you just like He was telling me to calm down.
There is a reason the Lord doesn’t always sweep in, save us, and rob us of precious lessons. There are reasons He doesn’t take off the bands we so tightly weave around ourselves. He doesn’t forsake us, but He isn’t going to steal away precious moments of stretching and growing.
There are times when He swoops in and saves. Heaven knows our overall salvation rested completely on His atonement. However, there are also times when He tells us to listen to Him and get up off of the ground on our own.
If there has been something you’ve been resisting and pushing back against, I would recommend doing it. He truly is all-powerful and all-knowing. It’s kinda funny that I have to learn this lesson over and over in different contexts, but I’ll figure it out someday.