Taming Our Days
By Shelly Esser
I heard someone calling my name from downstairs. “The dog got into the cat box!” That was the last thing I needed to hear in my chaotic morning – in fact, I didn’t have time for anything out of the routine as I rushed about to get myself and four daughters out the door. When I came downstairs it was evident the dog had indeed been in the cat box; cat litter was everywhere! To top it off, one of my daughters forgot her lunch, and my 9-year-old was whining because she was unhappy with her hair and wanted it redone! What was supposed to be a tranquil morning became filled with anxiety and stress. Too often mornings like this are more the norm than the smooth-running ones I envision.
As I was thinking about taming my days, I’ve come to realize that we can put all of our best efforts forth to have tame days, and one thing can immediately send it all out the window. We can get a phone call from a distraught friend who needs us to come over right away, a child gets sick, a ministry project doesn’t go as planned, and the list goes on. Perhaps in all of our efforts to tame our days we’ve become focused on the wrong thing – the outer things. Reflecting on all that went wrong on that dog-in-the-cat-box morning and on the anxiety that was deposited in my heart as a result, I started to realize the taming that’s necessary in our lives has to come in our hearts, not our days. It’s about living an “undisturbed life.” As Oswald Chambers puts it, “It is a peace which comes from looking into His face and realizing His undisturbedness.” Living in such a way that we are untouched inwardly by our outward circumstances. To be at complete peace even though everything around us may be in chaos. John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” The Message says, “That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left – feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” How many times do our days leave us distraught and upset? Plenty. And given the nature of the world we live in and the lives we lead, there will always be things that come along that can trouble us. In fact, I wonder how realistic it is to think we can have tame days in a fallen world? However, the one thing we are promised is peace – Jesus’ parting gift to us. If we don’t let our hearts become troubled and afraid, having the peace of God will automatically tame our days. Nothing can touch us at the center of our spirit. The peace of God is like an anchor to our soul that will quiet our troubled hearts. We can use Day timers, calendars, proven techniques for stress-free living, whatever best helps us lead a balanced life, but without the peace of God dwelling in the deep place in our hearts, all of those efforts are futile.
A Tame Heart
The world tells us that those types of things are how we can find peace in the whirlwind of life, but God says in John that peace is not found in those things, but in a Person. Jesus. “My peace I give you,” Jesus said. “I do not give you as the world gives.” Jesus’ peace is real and is always present and available. Only in Christ can I be at peace when I have a magazine deadline, kids to cart around, and ministry projects all due at the same time. I can enjoy serenity in the midst of crazy schedules, a ringing phone, and the unexpected. I came apart that morning because I was looking to outward circumstances – my carefully crafted morning routine --to tame my day, when what I needed was to tame my heart and to look into Jesus’ undisturbed face so I could face whatever came my way – even the dog in the cat box!
Peace of heart also lies in our perfect resignation to whatever God wills to come into our days. We can have a calmness of spirit only when we learn to surrender our days to Him. From that peaceful taming of heart comes the ability to have patience and tolerance for the things we didn’t plan on. As we put all things in His hands, and offer them beforehand to Him in our hearts, He gives us His peace. Taming our hearts enables us to cease wanting everything in our lives to go as planned and accepting unconditionally whatever God sends. I can’t help but think that God was looking down on my frantic morning just waiting for me to accept the gift He so graciously had provided for me – His peace.
The secret to taming our days lies in taming our hearts and abiding in Christ. Unfortunately I’m a slow learner, but God is patient with me. I’m hoping that the next time the dog gets into the cat box as I’m ready to walk out the door (and I’m sure he will!), my first reaction will be to look into the undisturbed face of Jesus and receive His gift of peace. As my heart is tamed, so will be my days!