The grown-up in me refused to cry. Not there. Not in the middle of the store. Not where everyone could see that my heart was disappointed and confused in a moment when it was supposed to be rejoicing. But the truth was, I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand how, after pouring hundreds of hours into something I believed so firmly was the direction the Lord was leading, this important moment could come to so little.
There is a sense in which you could say that writing a book doesn’t cost anything. [This of course doesn’t include blood, sweat, tears, late nights, early mornings, deadline stress, continuing education, writing hours, research hours, editing hours, layout hours, publication hours, or marketing hours.] You could say that writing a book doesn’t cost anything more than the instruments used to write it.
But writing a book also doesn’t pay anything unless you sell it. That is the stark reality of life.
I have three basic purposes for writing the books I write:
1. To honor the Lord
2. To point people toward Him
3. To help provide for my “family” (My mom and me)
I wish it were possible to write only for the first two reasons, but even writers and missionaries have to eat. We enjoy eating actually, just like everyone else. As this book launch has unfolded, and I have seen money going out and going out and going out and only a little trickling back in here and there, my heart rate has skyrocketed more than once. I’m not usually one to stress over these things, but in this case I had much invested in time, effort, and money—all of which came out of limited stores.
Watching it do so well the first day while it was free and then seeing the activity stop when it went into the paid store was crushing. And then putting enormous effort into planning an event for the book and having a wonderful time, but only seeing 9 books go out the door—I was ready to cry. If it hadn’t been for a friend who met me after the book signing and unwittingly distracted me from the truth, if it hadn’t been for the 12” dandelions in my yard waiting for my attention when I got home, if it hadn’t been for grace—I would have been a mess Saturday night.
Sunday morning, I woke up with a heart crying out to the Lord. “Father,” it said, “how do I walk into my classroom and teach my Sunday School students ‘Take therefore no thought for the morrow’ when my heart is so confused on this matter this morning?”
You see, we’ve been memorizing Matthew 6:24-34 in Sunday School, and it has been awesome watching over the last few months as God has indeed shown that He will provide as we step out and let Him prove Himself. But this moment was not awesome. This moment was overwhelming.
I opened my Bible and began reading through all of the cross-references for the passage. Then I considered the phrase we were going to be starting with that morning: “Take no thought.” What did that really mean? I got out my Strong’s concordance, started digging, and had much to think about by the time I left the house.
Even as the Sunday School hour was starting, my heart was still sorting, still trying to understand, still trying to reconcile where things were. But as we sang the opening song, things started falling into place.
Before I go any farther there are three things, three words, you need to know:
1. μεριμναω (merimnao)– to be anxious about
2. μεριμνα (merimna)– solicitude through the idea of distraction
3. μεριζω (merizo) – to part
Class began with the question, “What does it mean to ‘take no thought’?” Does that mean we aren’t to think about our grocery list? Does that mean we are supposed to get a job but be concerned about doing a good job? Does that mean that we aren’t supposed to look at our children and say, “Oh, you’ve grown out of those clothes, you need new ones”? The children all agreed this wasn’t what this verse was talking about. So what was it talking about?
Well in in it’s simplest form, (merimnao) the phrase “take no thought” means don’t be anxious. This was not a concept the kids had trouble understanding. We’ve all been anxious—anxious about bills, anxious about tests, anxious about work, anxious about whether our friends will like us. And when we become anxious we soon become distracted with care (merimna) because our brains have been “parted” so to speak with all of our worries (merizo).
A dry erase marker was laying on the classroom table. I picked it up, removed the lid, and asked the kids, “What happens if I part this lid from the marker?”
They all just looked at me like, “You’re a teacher and you don’t know that?” And then they said, “It dries out!”
Exactly. It dries out and becomes useless.
At this point, the chalkboard came into play. I’m not an artist, so in real life the following picture looked like a plum with worms:
God has given us one brain, and He wants it to be focused on Him, His Kingdom, and His Righteousness. When we start “taking thought” distraction starts taking residence in our brains, dividing our attention. “I have a problem,” it says, “I have a big problem. I will never find the answer to this problem. I wish I didn’t have this problem.”
Our heart cries out, “God can fix this problem!”
And then our brain throws in that dangerous word. “BUT…I have a problem!”
At this point, we decided that our brains sort of resemble a dog chasing its tail. This is where we see the danger of distraction. Soon the heart, like that marker missing its lid, begins to tire of having to cry out so loud over all the distractions in the brain. Its voice grows quieter. It dries out and dies away. And WE become useless.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. One SLIGHT change can make all the difference.
This is where it must rest. This is when our confidence in Him must be sure. Do we know Him? Have we seen Him work? Have we seen Him prove Himself? Then this is where we must set aside distraction and walk on in the hope of experience. If we haven’t given Himself a chance to prove Himself, then this is the perfect opportunity to begin, to learn of His promises, His faithfulness, and His supply.
Suddenly time was up, class was over, and my heart was at peace. It is still at peace—two days later. Nothing has changed in my circumstances. My focus has just been adjusted.
Where is your focus? Are you allowing cares to bring anxiety, distraction, and division to your pursuit of God, His Kingdom, and His righteousness? Or are you thinking on those things that will keep your heart fixed on God? Put the cap back on the marker. Listen to the truth the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart and rest there. God can fix the problem!