I’m not a fan of catch phrases that enter the popular lexicon and then take off into all directions.
Too often they reduce complex emotions or situations into a few words that folks find convenient to banter around in the hopes of sounding wise or “in the know” without any genuine attempt to understand what’s really going on.
But sometimes there IS a phrase that accurately summarizes choices or circumstances and is helpful in guiding a heart in the right direction.
“Do the next right thing” is one of those.
As far as I can tell, it was coined by someone (or many someones) who participated in twelve step programs (think AA) and meant that you don’t give in to the temptation to feed your addiction but instead head to a meeting or rendezvous with a sponsor or other safe person who will help you avoid falling back down the rabbit hole.
Grief is definitely a rabbit hole.
And there are lots of times I need someone or something to distract me from the siren call of despair that would lead me right back down to darkness-even eight and half years later.
So how do I manage to shake it off and move forward? It’s really pretty simple: I do the next right thing.
One day it might be getting up, making coffee and going for my morning walk. Another day it might be taking a shower, getting dressed and heading to a doctor’s appointment.
Most days it’s some form of the regular chores that have outlined my life on this piece of property for the past quarter century-feeding horses, cooking meals, tidying the house, sweeping porches, making necessary phone calls or tracking down some important piece of information we all store in the one location that will most likely be here long after I’m gone.
I’ve written before that just changing my physical position when I feel anxiety creeping up my back and taking hold of my brain can help ward off a full blown panic attack. If I’m sitting, I stand; if standing, I walk; if walking, I sit down. We are complex creatures and the body keeps the score (also a title of an excellent book!).
Feelings aren’t JUST feelings. They are neurotransmitters, muscular contraction, heart rate and blood pressure wrapped up in thoughts.
So when faced with a wall of overwhelming and cascading feelings, I do the next right thing-whatever that may be-and often find it breaks through that wall so I can see a sliver of light.
I follow that light like a candle in a cave until it leads me to a way out of the darkness.
Little by little, decision by decision, I move forward.
We began this journey forty days ago with the idea “Decrease is only holy when its destination is love” (Alicia Britt Chole).
The aim of Lent or any other period of fasting or self-denial is not to thin our waists but to thin our self-reliance and our self-importance to make room for the power and sustaining grace of Jesus-to open our hearts and our souls to His love.
When I force myself to face my own helplessness to sweep away sin, sift through selfishness and sort out bad habits and unholy thoughts I realize how utterly dependent I am on the work Christ wrought on the cross.
Listen, I can’t explain my actions. Here’s why: I am not able to do the things I want; and at the same time, I do the things I despise. 16 If I am doing the things I have already decided not to do, I am agreeing with the law regarding what is good. 17 But now I am no longer the one acting—I’ve lost control—sin has taken up residence in me and is wreaking havoc.18 I know that in me, that is, in my fallen human nature, there is nothing good. I can will myself to do something good, but that does not help me carry it out. 19 I can determine that I am going to do good, but I don’t do it; instead, I end up living out the evil that I decided not to do.
Romans 7: 15-19 VOICE
So today I am celebrating the fact-the historical, spiritual and eternalFACT-that everything necessary for life and liberty and hope and eternal salvation has been accomplished.
Christ has died.
Christ has risen.
Christ will come again.
Dominic is dead. His body lies a mile down the road and six feet under the earth.
But that’s not the end of his story.
His spirit is alive with Christ and one day his body will be resurrected in glory.
And one day-one glorious Day-“every sad thing will come untrue” (Child’s Storybook Bible).
Obedience is not a moment: it is a process connected by countless moments. Jesus neither started nor finished obeying in John 12. Thanks to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and John’s pen, what we witness in John 12 is a deeply significant (but not stand alone) moment in Jesus’ journey of becoming ‘obedient to death-even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:8).
Alicia Britt Chole
One of the things I regret most in life is when I’ve had the opportunity to be honest about my own struggles but refused to share because I thought it was “holier” to act like I never had a hard time taking hold of God’s promises or living out my faith.
Holy is hard.
Being set apart for the purposes and glory of God is going to involve some real wrestling.
But it’s the every day habit of leaning in, taking hold and choosing obedience (along with the Holy Spirit’s enabling power) that will ultimately give me strength to obey and follow even when the path is dark.
Someone said, “Faith is a long obedience in the same direction”.
I love that.
Each day, sometimes each moment, I must choose obedience. It doesn’t come naturally.
I can’t rush it though. I have to bring my confusion, my hurt, my questions to Jesus and allow Him to guide my heart toward understanding (or if not understanding, trust IN SPITE of doubt).
If I try to fake it (prematurely “resolve” the issue) then I’m doomed.
Doubt and fear will surface again and sweep me off the path of obedience if I don’t acknowledge them and deal with them.
So for today, think about what doubts, fears, questions and concerns you’ve been sweeping under the rug.
Drag them into the light and allow the Lord to help you deal with them.
**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**