Sunday, March 9, 2014

Herding marbles

Have you ever had an experience best described as herding marbles?

Dorris called, yesterday. When she wanders up to the nurses’ station and asks confusing questions, they ask her if she would like to call family. 

Dorris: Do you have an extra key to my car?

Me: You do not drive anymore.

Dorris: Then how can I get home?

Me: You are home. You have a room with your clothes, a t.v., and your own bathroom. You don’t have a kitchen because people cook for you.

Dorris: I don’t have a kitchen? Then how do I feed these young men living with me?


Me: Um, if you are talking about your sons, they are both married. I take care of Paul.

Dorris: Well, of course you do, I was talking about the next generation.

In Dorris’ current world, there are two realities: what she sees in the present, and what she sees in her memories. When she thinks of Paul and Karl, they are about elementary age. When she sees Paul in person, she has to remind herself that this is her son. It is as if she lives in the past and the present simultaneously, and the two do not match. 

It must be a bit like herding marbles on a constantly moving table. She just corrals one group of memories and then the realities of the present go careening off the edge. Grab those marbles and others drift away. You just never seem to get anywhere.

Dorris usually finishes her conversations by telling me she trusts me because I have never steered her wrong before. In the end, in a world where she gingerly steps through the present while the past dances around her, that is all she can do – trust.

My church home is going through strategic planning. We are blessed with some dedicated and visionary members who are leading this process. Today, I participated in a well-run focus group to outline a future direction for our church. It felt so good to be with the people in my group; long-time members with a genuine interest in the church and the spreading of God’s word to the world.

Much like Dorris, we gingerly stepped through the meeting while ideas for what needs to be done danced around the room. Some members want to build the sanctuary, others to clear off the debt, and another person suggested the calling of staff member to work with youth.

Here’s the thing: I understand why churches do strategic planning. I understand why churches need to create budgets and deal with debt. I even understand why we need church councils.

Although, truth be told, I will never quite understand voter’s meetings. 

The problem is, I don’t quite remember any amazing thing that ever came from any of these events.  I can think of many amazing things I have seen and heard at church, but none of them can be traced back to plans, or budgets, or meetings, or committees.

The amazing things simply trace back to God.

I get that strategic planning is all part of serving God, knowing your core values, and being good stewards, but, something doesn’t feel quite right.

I know in my personal life, the more I plan, the less I trust. When I pull back on trust, then anxiety rears its ugly head and that only works to crowd out my faith. When this happens, I spend my time herding the marbles of my fears. Just when I think I have something under control, another part of my plan goes careening off the edge.

How can I know God when I am so busy planning, budgeting, worrying, and working? I am too busy looking at my calendar to see Him. I am too busy making plans for my life to trust His plan for me. I am too busy worrying how I will accomplish what I have started to remember that God gave me faith in Him, in His plan, in His will.

My new theme word is OBEY.  God leads me to do the work He sets before me, and trust in His vision of my past, present and future.

It is not my plan to obey so that God will reward me. I know that I cannot obey without the work of the Spirit. This does not leave much for God to reward.

I obey because it keeps me too busy to groan and complain when things don’t go my way.

I obey because it turns my focus from marble herding and toward God. 

I obey because it gives me something to do while I watch His plan unfold.

I obey because I want to hold fast to Him. I want room for the faith He has given me.

I obey because I am God’s child.

I expect amazing things; traced back to God.

You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. (Deuteronomy 13:4, ESV) 

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. (Hebrews 11:8-9, ESV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (I John 5: 1-3, ESV)


Julie Marxhausen said...

Love this and agree wholeheartedly!

Unknown said...

Thank you Kim for continuing to share your experiences. As my mom begins to deal with the slipping away of her aunt's memory, it helps me to pull from your devotions to help my mom remember to trust in God.