Thursday, January 01, 2009

Psalm 103 and the Need to Break Away from the Herd

Had some moody moments yesterday. Big group events tend to have that effect on me - everybody else seems so happy, so connected, so, well, I don't know. Suffice it to say it's hard for me to learn or feel comfortable in a room with hundreds of people, especially people I do not know, even when there's great teaching or worship.

Maybe it's like crying - that's something I pretty much do only when I'm alone. And it may be why I don't go to a big church; just can't let my guard down and "enter in." How can people do that? Sit and listen to some speak and be deeply "touched" by the words of someone they don't really know, in a room full of people?

Are any of you like that, unable to get much out of big group events? Why do you suppose that is?

On the other hand, I am quite an extrovert. I love meeting new people - it may be my favorite thing to do - and comfortably strike up conversations between the 'plenary' sessions. A group of 10, 30, even 50 is just fine with me; workshops often "work" for me, and I like to teach and join in group discussions. So I don't stay away from conferences all together.

Anyway, I was feeling blue to think about how many things I had hoped to see come together in 2008 did not. Many of them have been on my "to-do" or "to-hope-for" list for years. I want to (1) accomplish more, and (2) be more of the kind of person God made me to be. And of course those things are rather in conflict. Productivity and character development may be related (you will accomplish better work when you find your niche and fill it with integrity). But busy-ness and personal growth - well, they pull us in opposite directions.

And I may be healthier and happier than I have at times, but guilt and shame and fear and worry are still out there, like scattered clouds that might suddenly take over my whole sky and do, fairly often. Why do I live in bondage, when freedom, peace, or joy are on offer to all?
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Jesus, in Revelation 3:20)
So, while hundreds sang at the top of their lungs as our conference came to a close last night, I reached for my Bible and soaked in the words of one of my favorite psalms... 103. God so =gets= it, doesn't he? It's great to have such a Wonderful Counselor!

Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-

3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children-

18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.

21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.

22 Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.


PN said...

Hey Marti,
Just wanted to tell you that the highlight of my time at Story08 was my time spent with you. Not the 'shop talk' but just praying together and getting to know you other than through your blog and the MC. I have the same discomfort in crowds but, I think, for a different reason. I am uncomfortable when something looks like group-think, even though what they are all proclaiming is true. On the other hand corporate worship is sometimes wonderfully uplifting for me. I can't figure out my own fickleness. Maybe it is more due to my own closeness or lack of it with Jesus. I am one who gets caught up in work, until my lack of connection with God becomes so obviuosly lacking I feel like a hypocrite. So maybe it is time for a resolution? I think I'll be taking an afternoon each month for reflection and study as Jean (or was it you?) recommended. Feel free to hold me accountable. In Christ, Pat

Anonymous said...

It is good to know that you know yourself well enough to be prepared for situations like that and then be able to identify where the emotional drain comes after wards.

I like the way that you put it: God "gets" us. That is the truth.

Marti said...

Pat - thanks!! This was a good way to connect. Yeah, we're a lot alike...I can't figure out me, either. And typically don't know I'm in trouble until after the fact.

Angie - truth is so important! my resolution for the new year is to try to spent more time living in light of it... sniffing out the lies in my life and replacing them with whatever is true (noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy! - phil. 4:8)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I have attended them both a small church and a big church. Actually one of 4,000 members and also one of 11,000 members.

I remember when we first went to the church of 11,000 members. It was so huge that it was almost over whelming. And I am not a social butterfly. So it was hard at first. But what I did know is that we pretty much were called to attend that church. Plus we love the mission calling in that church. So the first thing we did was find a place to hook up with and get some friends. At least we went to church we saw people we knew. In that way a strange city and a big church did not seem so big.

One of the things that I learned that was priceless was how to make friends. It has served us in every area of life. So now when we go to big meetings we are able to introduce ourselves to people and get to know them. So as soon as we get there the first thing we do is make a few friends. That has been my experience.

Marti said...

Thanks, DaRonn! I came to know the Lord at a megachurch and was seldom uncomfortable there - but they were a bunch of pretty mild Presbyterians. When I went to a smaller (but still large) charismatic church in college, sometimes I felt the same way I do at a stadium-type event - surrounded by people who seemed quite involved in what was going on, and with my guard up against being emotionally manipulated - so less able to get involved, myself, whether to worship or learn. Hmmm. Just ornery, perhaps!

You're SO right about learning how to make friends - a valuable skill, great habit, and wonderful antidote to so many other troubles! Isn't meeting new people one of the best gifts we can give ourselves, and others? I learned in my early 20s that if I was feeling lonely or blue, the best thing I could do was to reach out to someone else.