I Want to Be the Subject

October 18, 2009

I’ve had a little “a ha!” moment in my prayer life lately. I’ve discovered that, even in prayer, I want to be the subject.

Now, I’m not exactly what you’d call a selfish oaf. I do, of course, take care of my family and serve them as best I can. I try to be a good friend to my friends, a good leader to my team, a good team member to my leaders, and an all-round decent guy. While I do make some time for myself (basic introvert recharge), I try to live outside of myself as much as possible.

Some may argue that living outside oneself is a near-impossible task. Years ago, I heard author Donald Miller explain it as well as I’ve ever heard it. To paraphrase, you can view  life as a kind of play. And in that play, I’m the star and everyone in my life is just my supporting cast. It’s not about you; it’s about me.

Don’t believe me? Fine. I’ll prove it. You see, sometimes we have scenes together. You enter the stage, we interact, and then you walk offstage. I know that life is about me because I’m always on stage whether you’re there or not. Life is, therefore, all about me.

Obviously, this is a horrible, prideful, self-focused view of the world. It’s not something I believe, but it certainly is something I keep in mind with every interaction. It makes me more aware of the spotlight, and better yet, it reminds me to step out of the spotlight when I’m standing in someone else’s scene.

What’s struck me lately, however, is how “me-centered” my prayers have become. I dare say there’s a chance your prayers suffer from the same “self as subject” disorder. It has crept into the language I use as I lay my requests before the Lord.

“Lord, let me…”

Sound familiar? I can’t believe how often my prayers start with “Lord, let me.” What a ridiculous prayer. Yet, it’s one we hear every day, or maybe even say every day, without thinking about it. What do I mean when I say this? I’m not asking God to do something, I’m asking God to let me do something.

“Lord, let me get home safe tonight.” That’s not a prayer for God to keep me safe; it’s a prayer focused on my own mad driving skills regardless of any traffic disaster I might encounter.

“Lord, let me feel better tomorrow.” That’s not a prayer for healing; it’s a prayer for my kick-butt antibodies to stomp out an infection.

“Lord, let me be a better father.” That’s not a prayer for God to change my heart; it’s a prayer for me to make myself a better dad.

Whenever I say, “Lord, let me,” I’m not asking God to reveal His awesome power. I’m asking Him to get out of the way of my awesomeness. And that won’t do.

God hears our heart in prayer; some may argue that the words don’t even matter. That may be true; the words may not matter to God. But I swear, the language I use when talking to God matters to me. It shapes me. It focuses me. And sometimes, it focuses me on the wrong things.

So, Lord, don’t let me get home safe. Get me home safe. Don’t let me feel better tomorrow. Heal me. Don’t let me be a better father. Break my pride and fill my heart with more and more servant love for this precious child. Do the work, Lord. You’re better at it than I am. I’d rather have your full power in action than rely only on the most amped-up version of me you can make.

You’re the subject, Lord. Make me content—no, make me wholly fulfilled—as the object, the one joyfully and gratefully receiving your mighty action.


A Father’s Whine

October 6, 2009

I’m busy.

I know, I know. Oh, poor guy. He’s so tired. He’s so busy. He’s got so many important things going on. Waaah. Yes, I feel like a loser complaining about my lack of time. Yes, I feel like a super-powered loser even mentioning my feelings of fatigue and weariness to my wife, the full-time, do-all, supermom. Yes, maybe I’m missing some integral, yet closely guarded, secret to successful fatherhood. Hey, whatever. I just know I’m tired, I don’t have much free time, and my days are melding together like raindrops running down a windshield.

A friend wrote a blog post this week in which he regaled his readers with the incredible story of his ascent into running. He typed out 1,300 words on how he got started, what the training was like, what his thoughts were heading into the race, and even the joy of sharing the accomplishment with his wife. Seriously, it’s a great read whether you like running or not. Take a minute to go read it. Go on. I’ll wait.

What struck me here is that my friend took the time to not only train for a stinking marathon, but that he took the time to describe it in such magnificent detail. He’s a writer, and he writes with excellence. I remember a time when I did, too. But now those days are falling behind, lost in a maze of baby toys, pack-n-plays, dirty diapers, and applesauce-stained ceiling disasters.

How is it that having a baby immediately reduces the hours in your day? Weekends completely vanish for us now. By the time everyone is up, showered, fed, dressed, and ready to go, two-thirds of the day is already gone! Maryalice and I have been early risers our entire married life, but no matter how early we get up these days, the hours just get away from us. I remember once, when I was much younger and, frankly, stupid, I wondered what stay-at-home moms did all day. What a moron. I’m home on weeknights and weekends, and I’m beat. I can’t imagine what my amazing wife must feel being on duty nonstop, 24/7.

Anything new I want to do now requires me to stay up later or get up earlier. The problem is, I’m already up at 4:15am every day! My bedtime and wake time are racing toward each other in some freakish game of chicken. However, there’s no winner in this race; there’s just a tragic crash in the middle.

Wake. Exercise. Shower. Traffic. Work. Traffic. Play with baby. Sit mindlessly on the sofa for an hour. Go to bed. Repeat. I feel like so much is going on around me, but I’m too focused on other things to notice, let alone participate. What a whiner, right? Poor me, the guy with the incredible marriage, amazing daughter, dream job, and great friends. So, of course we need to add in a hearty dose of guilt for feeling so tired and ungrateful. What a mess.

I’m a daddy now. I knew my life would change radically from the quiet, orderly life I once enjoyed. And the truth is, I absolutely LOVE my life. I could not be more excited about my family or more grateful to God for these ridiculous blessings. I suppose that’s what bugs me so much about this sense of weariness. Is it even possible to be blessed to the point of physical exhaustion?

Now is the season in my life where I must learn to say no. No, I may not be able to work out six days a week. No, I may not be able to update this blog a few times a week. No, I can’t do as much freelance writing as I used to. No, I can’t sleep late and no, I can’t stay up late. I’ve got to find the balance between what I have to do, what I want to do, what I need to do, and what I love doing. It’s tough saying no to things I want to do, places I want to go, and stuff I want to buy.

I suppose that’s what the Bible means when it says we are called to put away childish things. I’ve been a child. I’ve enjoyed childish things. Truth be told, I still do fairly often, and that’s okay. But the bottom line is that this is Abby’s time to be a child.  She deserves a father who will make the time for her to be childish, who will provide the kind of home where she can rejoice in her childish ways and infant bliss.

May God forgive this father’s whine. And may He continue to pour out more and more blessings to make me whine all the more.