When I came to training this week I was firmly focused on very tactical and technical learning. I usually come to events like this with the mindset of strategic learning. Instead this has been a well of spiritual learning (and healing).
Funny how I go into something thinking I know exactly what I need. My mind is already made up of knowing that I will hear exactly what I expect. In some ways I am wasting my time in this mindset. If I already know what I am going to learn I can just skip it, right? My head was already pulling in this direction before I came to Nashville. Imagine my surprise as I’ve really noticed more focus on spiritual learning (and healing) over the past few days.
There’d already been a small handful of moments in which I’d had lessons along those lines, but today I was hit head on. This morning was our prayer breakfast. Yes, our organization has a beautiful prayer breakfast which is truly 100% and it’s something that I’ve grown to appreciate more and more each year.
Our speaker this morning was Annie F. Downs, an author, podcaster, and speaker who pretty much blew my mind. She shared a couple of stories that really helped me see the world just a little differently, but both in deeply profound ways. Annie walked us through a personal event and tied it back to a story form the Bible that I don’t really remember hearing; the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
I’ll share my own super condensed version of the story to give you context and then get to the good stuff… the specific lessons that hit me so hard today in a wonderful way.
Three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to the idol of a false god that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, commanded all to do. Their faith in God told them they were only to bow to their God. Nebuchadnezzar was obviously very angry and ordered them to be thrown into the fire, specifically the furnace that was so hot that it was used to cast the idol. He chides the three young men and asks them who their god is who will deliver them from his fire. They respond that their God will save them, but even if he doesn’t they are still only serving their God, not his false god. As the guards push them towards the fire the guards die from the fire and the heat. Nebuchadnezzar looks into the furnace to watch their death and sees that their shackles have been burned away. He also sees them completely unscathed by the fire. He also sees a fourth person walking with them in the fire. All three came out of the fire unharmed and unbound. Like I said, this is the super short version, check out Daniel 3 in the Bible of your choice for the full story.
There were several points that Annie made that hit me right in the heart in positive ways.
First off, they didn’t know how the story would end. We have the benefit of being able to read the story and see the way it ends, but they did not. In each of our lives we never have the opportunity to see the end until after it’s come. We can only look backwards to connect the dot, not forwards. We have to trust that we are in a specific situation for a reason and it is our duty to help find the reason.
Next, only the shackles were burned off in the fire. Sometimes we have incredibly difficult challenges and struggles in our lives to face. In those times we must remember that sometimes we need those to burn away what may be holding us back. The struggle or fire may hurt, but it’s in order to help heal us. This is tough because we don’t like pain, but sometimes it has to happen to help us be healed. Think of it as a spiritual band aid being ripped off. Through the pain our healing begins.
Finally, and this line is continuing to haunt my thoughts, “but even if He doesn’t…” Things aren’t always going to turn out as we’d hoped. It doesn’t mean The Big Dude Upstairs doesn’t care about us or or wish us ill will, it’s just that we don’t always have the full vision of the how and why of our life. He gets the big picture because The Big Dude Upstairs is The Big Picture (btw – I can’t help but giggle seeing that the auto type feature of my iPad now follows up the words ‘The Big” with “Dude Upstairs”). Even if God doesn’t do exactly what we’d hoped it doesn’t mean that we should act differently. We should always focus on doing, acting, and loving the way He wants us to, regardless of it may put us in His favor. I need to remember to do the right thing even if He isn’t going to make things better / easier / healed. My faith must grow stronger than asking for a bargain or proof. I know, it’s not all the way fleshed out but that’s one of the reasons I blog… it helps me work stuff out.
After Annie’s presentation and a wonderful rest of the prayer breakfast my heart and brain were both full. My head has been spinning ever since as I think through that story and see so many new facets of it and apply it to so many different aspects of my life.
Another interesting thing along those lines have been several somewhat serendipitous conversations that have also helped me focus on why I do what I do. Not just work, but the way I act in general. How and why do I maintain my optimism and positivity? How much has a mindset of gratitude improved my life? How have I turned my mess (lack of gratitude) into my message?
While I was anticipating technical answers to practical challenges my soul has been filled and renewed with a much more important type of learning, spiritual learning.