The alarm went off and I lay in bed, willing myself to get up.
The familiar feeling of anxiety began to creep up my spine. “Already 6:30?” it whispered. “Your day is wasted because you didn’t get up at 6.”
In my mind’s eye—or maybe I drifted back to sleep and it was a dream—I saw Anne Shirley’s Lake of the Shining Waters, I heard a chorus of fervent hearts singing a new song, and the hope that I could just be weak today filled me. But it didn’t last long.
The kids were a mess this morning. Snot streaming, tears flowing, contrary to the bone. And because I could not easily control them, I started to despair. “The whole day is shot,” I found myself thinking. “It’s only the second day of this stay-at-home-mom thing and I have screwed it up.” I snapped at my daughter and she in turn cried (she has such a tender heart). I eagerly awaited the time when I could be alone so I could text my husband and tell him what a horrible day it was.
Because I “slept in,” time reading the Bible shifted to the mid-morning hour where my children entertain themselves for an hour in their respective rooms. (Worry not, those of you without children—the rooms are childproofed and the kids are well trained to enjoy this hour, too.)
You know how sometimes you randomly come across a verse or a testimony that meets you right where you are, with exactly what you needed to hear, at the exact right moment?
That was today for me. Long before I became Catholic, I was fascinated by the idea that the Church worldwide could be on the same Scripture schedule. I opened the Laudate app that gives me the daily readings from the Lectionary, the schedule of reading the Bible that the Catholic Church worldwide uses. And today, the readings were just about hand-selected for me.
It is a beautiful thing to find one’s self in the story of God.
Today’s Old Testament reading is Judges 6:11-24a. It’s the story of Gideon—are you familiar with it?
Gideon is hiding in the wine press (a big hole in the ground) to thresh his family’s wheat, probably because he is scared. And all of the sudden, the angel of the LORD appears to him out of nowhere and says, “The LORD is with you, O champion!”
I imagine that Gideon might have done a double take, and then turned his head to both sides to see if there was someone else the angel might be addressing down there in the wine press.
Gideon’s answer sounds like me today. I can almost hear him saying what I’m saying, “Oh yeah? If God is with me, why is all this crap happening? I am anxious and the enemy is oppressing me and this day is terrible.”
But the angel of the LORD (who many think is the LORD himself) says, “There is a war to be fought. I’m sending you.”
Gideon replies, “But I’m weak.”
The LORD doesn’t let up. “But I will be with you.”
So Gideon, in true Gideon fashion, asks for a sign. And the meat and unleavened cakes he brings to set before the LORD are consumed by a fire that springs up from the rock where he laid them.
The angel of the LORD disappears and Gideon thinks, “Oh crap. I have just been visited by God and now I have insulted him. I’m gonna die.”
But the LORD speaks to Gideon and answers his fear: “Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.”
And the passage tells us that “Gideon built there an altar to the LORD and called it Yahweh-Shalom,” which means “The LORD is peace.”
In the midst of all this anxiety and being 29 weeks pregnant, I desperately need the LORD to be my peace.
As I read the part about the fire, I offered up my own little weak heart to the Lord and asked Him to send His fire to warm my soul. I heard Him say, like He did to Gideon, “Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.”
What words of peace these are to me. Of course, logically I know that one bad day does not equal dying. But it can feel like it when I’m in the middle of it, right?
Well, if one direct passage of Scripture isn’t enough encouragement, I went on to read the responsorial psalm of the day, taken from Psalm 85. I could hardly believe the kindness of God when I read verse 8…it is the very verse that I have clung to, in the darkest pits of depression caused by anxiety, when I couldn’t even get out of bed for the fear that pressed in on me.
I will hear what God the LORD will speak,
For He will speak peace
To His people and to His saints…
When all the voices in my head are accusing me, asking me to live under shame—the voice of God is speaking peace. I have learned in the past to tune my ear to hear it, but I’ve gotten out of practice.
He is speaking peace to me today.
He says to me, in this pit I am in, “The LORD is with you, O champion! There is a war to fight. I am with you.”
“I’m weak,” I respond.
And He says, “That’s okay. My strength is made perfect in your weakness. It was never about you being strong.”
So I will listen to what He will say, because it is for my good. Psalm 85 continues in its life-giving flow:
Yes, the LORD will give what is good;
And our land will yield its increase.
So I go out today in weakness and confidence, trusting to be led by the One who speaks peace to me.
What is He saying to you?