The Both/And Balance of Freedom         Part 1 of 2

The Both/And Balance of Freedom Part 1 of 2

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This is the confidence we have in approaching God:
that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
And if we know that He hears us
—whatever we ask—
we know that we have what we asked of him.
1 John 5:14-15 NIV

(FROM THE ADMIN: Thank you for joining us again this week! Before we dive into the following devotion, please note that His Own Heart Ministries has received its official SSL certificate and is now recognized by the World Wide Web as a safe, secure website. This added layer of security gives our members and visitors the ability to browse, interact and share with us in complete confidence and trust.)

Welcome back to our new virtual home. I hope that by now you’ve had a chance to wander through and enjoy the expanded nooks and crannies of our site. Once today’s blog is published, I run the risk of being seen differently by some who read it. You may be one of those “some”, but know upfront that in this spot and at this moment I really don’t care how the scenario appears. This looney, crazed, dazed, oft-confused daughter of the King has lived out said scenario and is gleefully – as she writes this – dancing her happy dance.

That said, if you like animals – specifically cats – you’ll probably smile your way through this post. If, on the other hand, you’re not into animals – specifically cats – cats are not the point here, so read the post anyway.

Because prayer is the point of this post, and our use of it particularly creates a serious and telling aspect of the way we follow Christ as well as the depth of our relationship with him.

The suggestion made in the preceding sentence factors into the heart and soul of our lives, so much so that for the past decade or so it has left me analyzing a theory developed by Eugene Peterson. The church pastor and creator of “The Message” translation of The Bible formally coins his theory neurotic dependencyand uses it to define what is implied as an unhealthy or frail attachment of believers to their Creator. In a commentary used in conjunction with Psalm 131, Peterson expounds on the characteristics of weaned versus un-weaned children, then parallels the two to stages of a follower’s relationship to Christ and weaves into the canvas the theme of humility King David expresses toward God in this psalm.

The commentator makes some reasonable in the article footnoted below; but one of his statements hits me squarely in the heart. [1]

Christian faith,he writes, is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust.

Agreed. But just prior to that statement is this sentence describing the neurotic dependent’s – or in his words – the dishrag saint’sreliance on God:

 We do not have a God who indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies.

Again, agreed, to a point. But my mind – being my mind – wonders whether that statement can be considered from a both/and perspective instead of an and/or declaration. In other words, am I unfair to think there are times when God would allow me some whims andguide my destiny as long as the indulgences fit His will for me? If that’s against His policy, fine, but what constitutes a whim as opposed to, say, a true need? And if what we know to be true is true – that the inspired Word of God cannot by definition contradict itself, how do we resolve the list of passages like 1 John 5:14-15with the commentator’s interpretation of Psalm 131?

I’ll never forget my first introduction to the theory of neurotic dependency because, well, it made me briefly neurotic. I pondered and I panicked and I prayed as I took a mental inventory of my petitions to God over the course of my life; spent the rest of the day chiding myself over all the “pointless whims” I had brought before God in the past week alone.

One of the requests I felt especially stupid for laying at His feet involved the fate of a little gray kitten. Abandoned at just weeks old, she’d somehow ended up on the doorstep of a local church that sponsored a community exercise class. The church nurse and a handful of members set about finding a home for the kitten, and finally an announcement came on a Monday that she’d been adopted to be used as a barnyard cat.

Try as I might, I couldn’t rejoice over the adoption. The injustice – to me – in the situation was that this kitten had spent the past weeks safely within the confines of the church building – food, treats, toys, litterbox, love and, maybe most importantly given the heatwave of that particular summer, air conditioning. The thought of the little bundle of fur being dropped in the unfamiliar heat and environment of a barnyard was unsettling, and that night as I lay in the dark I asked God on the spur on the moment to be with this kitten as she went to her new home. Then I added a this admittedly childish statement: I wish she didn’t have to go there.

A day or so later, Peterson’s commentary surfaced, I felt – well, ok – guilty and ashamed for occupying God with such small matters when big matters like the need for world peace are at an all-time high.

Two days later I went speechless, then couldn’t stop tears of joy when I got news that the four-legged little lady greeted class members when they arrived for at that day’s exercise session. Somehow, the prospective owners didn’t take the kitten; the church at that time had decided to adopt her. Some members had even volunteered to set up and contribute to an account to cover her healthcare, etc.

What ever became of the kitten I don’t know. I only know that in that moment – whim or legitimate request aside:

I felt indulged.

I felt loved.

I felt God.

And I’ve felt those same three things numerous times before and since that incident. Sometimes I’ve felt them in situations so inopportune that it made me laugh. Like a few weeks ago at my dermatologist’s office. The nurse led me to Room 2 and left me there to undress down to my underwear and don that tent of a hospital gown.

You laugh: I know you know the struggle is real. So anyway I scurried to free myself from my clothing and was actually making good time until that one final undergarment refused to cooperate. Knowing from experience that the doctor would bounce through the door at any moment, I knew what I needed to do; but how on earth do you swallow your decency and do something like that, praytell?

To answer the question bluntly, you just do. And so, picturing a host of angels running for their cell phones to video what was – or wasn’t – coming off in that moment, I just did.

Jesus, the doctor’s on her way, so um, this thing’s got to come off, Um, it’d be great if You’d unhook it. I’m, um, sure you don’t normally, um, get asked stuff like this, but…”

Before I finished the sentence, the thing popped open; I flung it from my arms, threw on the tent of a gown and had just taken my seat when the doctor walked in and commented that I looked so relaxed. Let me tell you:

I felt loved.

I felt indulged.

I felt God.

Most recently, I felt these things during the construction of this website. The spiritual nudge to make the move was there; unfortunately, so was the strict, unbreakable budget. With God’s grace and expertise, I had managed after lots of stumbles to get everything working except for one last technical problem that just would not budge. I had a small-yet-powerful team of prayer warriors interceding on my behalf, but time was moving on. After 10 days of failed attempts and weeks of having the blog on hiatus, I finally accepted that I would have to break my budget and get professional website help.

So I ruefully began the process of preparing to register and submit all the forms, but a childlike disappointment ran through my mind: Lord, You’ve brought me this far with the site; I just wish we could finish it. And then I wondered if He had given some instruction or opportunity that I’d missed.

Literally, and I mean literally,as I was about to enter my payment information to the online developer, my phone signaled a new email; I turned momentarily from the online form to read it. The sender made a suggestion of something that may get the site up and going. As it turned out, the suggestion didn’t alleviate the problem but…Within that email message was a key piece of advice that raised one final possibility in my mind. That possibility turned out to be the very fix need for the issue at hand.

And just like the other instances you read here – or the plethora of others I haven’t even mentioned – that thing right there was not me.

That thing right there was love.

That thing right there was indulgence.

That thing right there was God; the same God to Whom we trust our destinies, the One Who is both, and, and all!

[1] See the full text of Peterson’s comment here: David Allan Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 13, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1983), 197.

– Copyright 2018 Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.

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