Keith, you write about problems you’ve faced and what you’ve done about them. At this stage in your life, what is the most difficult problem you are trying to face and overcome? And how are you trying to deal with it?
Since I believe that God is in the business of transforming lives, and I have given God permission to transform mine, I have tried to share the kinds of things that I have discovered during the process of God working in my life. A good number of things have changed, but it seems there is always something new—since nobody is perfect. So I’ll share a couple of things I’m dealing with at this 83-year-old time in my life. These two problems are ones I’ve never dealt with in the same way before.
One is facing my own mortality. Andrea and I are in the process of co-authoring a book, which we have been working on for about four and a half years. Our hope is that it will help people not to be so afraid of surrendering their whole futures to God—so they can become the people they may have wanted to be since childhood.
The problem I’m dealing with is that I am old and am getting a little “rickety.” And the spiritual problem that poses for me is to have the faith to trust that I’ll live long enough and have good enough health to finish my part of the book—the basic writing of the complete draft.
The other problem I will share is one that has plagued me since I was a small boy. It has disrupted almost every close relationship I’ve had. But I have never before had the courage to deal with it. And that is my difficulty with being on time.
I can still hear my father’s voice shouting at me when I was in grade school, “If you don’t get in the car in three minutes you are going to walk the four miles to school!” And I can see me running around in circles inside the house trying to find my coat, or my notebook, or my lunch money and finally running out to the car with all of these things in a jumbled wad, clutched to my chest.
If there were space in this blog, I could tell you dozens if not hundreds of times I have walked into church, school, or work late, filled with shame and good excuses.
Much later when I tried to surrender my life to God on a road side in East Texas, I began to deal with my part of issues in all my relationships. But there were issues like being more honest in all my close relationships, not being so judgmental and trying not to control people, events, and outcomes regarding other people’s behavior.
But finally, because of my old age I made some significant life time discoveries that finally led me to be able to hear God telling me that if I’d change a “little” thing or two he’d be able to help me discover some “little” things that would transform my entire life.
About two and a half weeks ago I got the strong feeling that I should deal with the fact that I am almost always late to a meeting I’ve gone to several times a week for the past twenty-five years. I realized that I was doing the same frantic circling, ritualistic “dance”—looking for my wallet, keys, papers I was going to need after the meeting, etc. etc.—every day.
And by the time I started the car I was either already late or had to make several crucial stoplights to make it with what I decided was an acceptable tardiness.
But that morning I committed the matter to God and told him if he’d guide me I’d give it my best try (realizing that I was powerless to do this on my own—after almost 80 years of trying to.)
As I was praying the novel idea came to me: start getting all your things together one half hour before you would have to get in the car to make the meeting. (I realize that you may think I am an idiot, but this is the hardest truth I’ve ever told you.)
Anyway, to my amazement, I was calm as I arrived at the meeting ten minutes early—for the first time in twenty-five years!
When I was on time the second day something happened that was a little shocking to me. As a friend was speaking at the meeting, he happened to glance over at me already sitting in my place sipping my decaf. He stopped in the middle of his talk and said out loud across the room to me: “How in the world did you make it to the meeting on time?” And the room exploded with a roar of spontaneous laughter.
Smiling, I replied, “It was a miracle!” When the laughter broke out again, a thought crossed my mind, “They’ve noticed—all these years!”
So after my friend sat down I told the group about God finally getting through to me about my ubiquitous tardiness, and my growing awareness that this being late everywhere had become a character defect that had inconvenienced and hurt my wife and children, my friends and business associates (although my survival needs had helped me to be somewhat better about being on time to business events such as speaking engagements.)
But I told the group (that day that my friend blew my cover) how it felt inside to trust God enough to tell them what I was trying to do—to break a “small” lifelong habit that had caused so much pain. I added that I had a great deal of fear about telling them because I knew they would raise their eyebrows and/or kid me when I was late again—which I knew would happen sometimes because I’d never been able to deal with this habit.
But I told them in spite of my fear because I had told God that I was willing to have him remove this defect of character because I had finally realized that I am powerless over it.
That was two and a half weeks ago. And I have only been late to one meeting. I got hung up on a business call and by the time the call was over I realized I’d missed half the meeting if I went to it. I prayed about going and decided to go—and not use the valid excuse I had.
Come back next week and I’ll tell you what happened at that meeting—and how agreeing to let God help me change this one sinful and shaming lifelong habit had a ripple effect and brought into my life new courage—courage that I had to find to finish writing the book Andrea and I are writing (the title of which is ironically, The View From Square One.)
Lord, thank you that you can transform our lives, but only if we realize we are powerless to change and ask you to change us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
“Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” – John 16:23-24, NIV
“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks! – John 16:23-24, The Message
To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself? – C S Lewis