We made a deal years ago, that stupid sparkly high school journal and I.
Something like: it’ll stay on the shelf, and I’ll always find better things to do.
Not because the memories are terrible, but because I know that what I once thought was noteworthy, oh, so noteworthy, was ridiculous. My pride doesn’t like that the things I toiled over and allowed to consume my prayer were not as important as I thought and, frankly, not worth my time now to read. Of course, the Holy Spirit thought otherwise, and after days of Him prompting me, I finally opened the old abandoned vault.
Immediately, something in my heart clicked.
The Lord loves my embarrassing pages and He loves the me that wrote them. While I’m impatient just to speed through them, He was patient while I was living them. And He’s still patient while I argue and resist His asking me to humbly read.
God is patient with my foolishness, even delights in the feebleness of my best efforts to rise out of it. It’s my weakness that’s endearing to Him.
While my prideful, goal-oriented self just wants to race to the best version of myself, He loves my process that I don’t want to admit that I need.
He’s patient with all my growing, and He wants my growth more than I do!
I flipped a few pages into the journal, and there was a notation from a confession, the first reasonable thing I’d written:
“June 13, 2008
Father said that I maybe need to quiet my life before I can say ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’ Elijah looked for God in the storm, the fire, and the earthquake, but He was in the quiet cave.” (1 Samuel 3:10, 1 Kings 19:11-13)
My wordy entries plunging into anything and everything that filled my days were both an indicator that I had no idea what the priest meant and a perfect illustration of the very “storm” that I now understand he was talking about.
We do get lost in our internal storms when we load unfitting significance onto everything that fills our scopes. A slight breeze becomes in our minds a gust large enough to derail us or an impossibly subtle hint as to vaguely which direction to charge in full force. It’s so easy to get wound up. It is possible to see God in everything, but that doesn’t mean we will see or need to see all of God or all of His work as He does it. I really thought I could see the whole picture, and I had no idea what a wild chase I seemed to be making “faith” into. If you’ve never seen clear skies, you don’t know it’s always storming. It never occurred to me that there was more.
As my gears had been turning and grinding away to form some preview of what the big picture of my life would be, I actually forgot to literally look at “the big picture” and step outside of the fixation on the circumstances immediately in front of me. I hadn’t wrapped my head or my heart around that God would work in me whether or not I decided to take that tough class, go on that weekend trip, or stay in that relationship. That He would teach me what He wanted me to learn on either side of the fork in the road. That whatever was presently in my life could be His angle. I was living like He was limited to my responsiveness.
No wonder it was always storming in my journal.
God can, will, and does work in every part of my life. The combinations of people, circumstances, timing, and responses that He can use to reshape my heart and speak His love to me are infinite.
I had recorded His movements in my heart as if their validity depended on it. As if my eventual forgetting of them would dissolve their effect on me. I wasn’t wrong to think I needed to be attentive to Him, but I subconsciously believed that I would be able to detect any work He did, that if I wasn’t aware of it, it wasn’t happening.
How funny. I don’t know when or how He taught me not to squander my energy trying to keep tabs on Him. He must have done it without me knowing.
Without me knowing.
He didn’t need me worrying over doing my part just right.
So to have a quiet heart doesn’t necessarily mean scratching out all the right things at the right times. It means not getting worked up about what’s in it, how much is in it, what might change, or how God might move because God Himself will draw your map and His route will never disappoint.
You can’t make the journey without Him, and to be with Him is the destination anyway.
Doesn’t that just change everything?
It means full throttle is an option.
When I can truly say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” He speaks.
And it sounds. so. good.
So I let Him drive, and control will never be more satisfying than closeness with Him, the freedom of certain safety in His shotgun seat, or the thrill of His sudden turns.
Internal quietness and clear sky summer days of the heart start when we trust our Lord more than we trust ourselves.
If your heart is not quiet, rejoice for that clamor because it’s a sign that you need more trust and more Jesus. Go after those lies telling you that Jesus Christ is not trustworthy, let Him uproot them, and bask in His peace.
I’m glad that my old journal and I broke our deal today. And just as I’m thanking the Holy Spirit for asking me not to “find better things to do” today, He playfully drops me a one-liner as my roommate looks up from her homework: “Hey, that’s a nice notebook.”
Have a stormy heart? These are gold.
I Believe In Love Fr. Jean C. J. D’Elbee
Searching for and Maintaining Peace Jacques Philippe
Interior Freedom Jacques Philippe