Signing on with Michelle tonight over at Graceful for her "Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday" meme and with Jen at Finding Heaven and her soli deo gloria sisterhood:
These reflections are written after an absolutely delightful Mother's Day spent with all three of my children, their significant others and 7 of our 8 fabulous grandchildren. They are written with a sad sigh of frustration at how hard it often is for me to take in the good stuff with which I've been blessed. Too often, I spend far too much energy picking apart my responses/words/thoughts/reactions and then hurling invective at myself. It's amazing to me how quickly such inner negativity can turn a beautiful spring day into a wintry experience. So today, I've been praying my way through some of the same stuff I've been praying my way through for a very long time now! I am happy to report that these stretches are fewer and further apart than they once were and that the remedy suggested here has proven increasingly helpful and true for me.
You’d think the noise on the inside might decrease as you age. After all, a long life is supposed to bring with it some sort of wisdom, right? It seems only fair that there be at least that much recompense for all the assorted insults that come with the advances of time and gravity. I guess I had hoped that by this point in my life, the inner enemy might have calmed down, gotten quieter, responded to a firm word of caution.
It’s been rearing its ugly head big-time in the last few weeks/months. Caught in the betwixt and between of a major life transition, I’ve had many unpleasant visits from that inner critic, parent, authority figure, negative noise - whatever you have learned to name that voice (or voices, as the case may be.) The noise has shown up with alarming regularity and sometimes at the most puzzling points of engagement.
Why are we like this? Bumping between long stretches of mammoth insecurity and occasional periods of unseemly grandiosity. The father of a friend of mine once put it perfectly: “I have met the enemy - and he lives inside my head.”
About 99.9% of the time when I pray with the psalmist those cries of imprecation, of deliverance from the assault of enemies, those cries for justice from those who would wish me harm - 99.9% of the time, I am praying against the noise inside my spirit, not against any flesh and blood foe. (The other .1%? Well, we’ll leave that one alone for today…)
“O God, listen to my complaint.
Do not let my enemies’ threats overwhelm me.
Protect me from the plots of the wicked,
from the scheming of those who do evil.
Sharp tongues are the swords they wield,
bitter words are the arrows they aim.
They shoot from ambush at the innocent,
attacking suddenly and fearlessly.”
“They encourage each other to do evil and plan how to set their traps.
“Who will ever notice?” they ask.
As they plot their crimes, they say
“We have devised the perfect plan!”
Yes, the human heart and mind are cunning.”
Psalm 64:1-6 (NLT)
Doesn’t that sound familiar? Because, really, isn’t that what those voices are like? We speak to ourselves more harshly than we would ever speak to another living soul. Sharp tongues, bitter words shot at ambush suddenly and fearlessly - oh yeah, that feels very familiar. The human heart and mind are indeed cunning. And a big part of that cunning is what happens inside of us when the loud and carping negative voices are ascendant.
Whether what we hear sounds like feelings of total inadequacy (despite evidence of capability and gifting), questioning whether or not we are loved - by God, those closest to us, anyone-at-all-ever (despite faithfulness over time, presence when needed, material blessing above and beyond, sweet cards and notes, periodic phone calls….) - that head-noise is as efficient as a Navy Seal in getting in and around the crevices of our mind and spirit and sniping away at us.
Ah, but here is what I try to remember when the noise reaches deafening levels - the rest of that song of David -
“But God himself will shoot them down.
Suddenly, his arrows will pierce them.
Their own words will be turned against them, destroying them.
All who see it happening will shake their heads in scorn.
Then everyone will stand in awe,
proclaiming the mighty acts of God, realizing all the amazing things he does.
The godly will rejoice in the LORD and find shelter in him.
And those who do what is right will praise him.”
Psalm 64:7-10 (NLT)
Because if we listen very carefully, while firmly telling those inner voices of blame and shame to shut it, we can begin to hear another, softer, kinder and more truthful Voice. The Voice that calls us beloved, the Voice that reminds us who we truly are, the Voice that sings songs of love over us. The Singer is indeed mighty, amazing and wildly able and willing to shoot down the enemy within. Oh, please listen well, listen hard. Lean God’s direction and soak in the comforting, gracious word of the Sheltering One:
“Do not be afraid; for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine…you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.” Isaiah 43:1 & 4b