Centered

Typical daily life in America today is stressful. And hectic. And difficult. And busy.

So many challenges to face. So many schedules to keep. So many demanding people.

Rising gas prices. Rising insurance costs. Rising housing costs.

Mark Schultz captures this way of life well in his song, “Running Just to Catch Myself.”

With all these pressures on us every day, it is easy to give in to stress, anxiety, or fear, and compromise our integrity – to act in ways that do not fit who we really want to be. I’m stressed with a mountain of work, so I yell at my wife. The computer crashed, so I lash out at my child, immediately blaming him. The big deadline is here, so I lie to get through it. The kids are driving me crazy, so I become sarcastic and hurtful with my husband. I don’t like the way things are going at church, so I begin grumbling and gossiping. It’s tax time, and money is really tight – surely the IRS won’t catch this. I’m afraid of getting that intimidating reaction from you-know-who, so I keep quiet when I know I should speak up. I become more concerned with peacekeeping (not the same as peacemaking) than with speaking the truth in love. All compromises that leave us disappointed with the one in the mirror at the end of the day, if we stop to take a look. (Another song, “The Chasing Song” by Andrew Peterson, captures this well for me.)

There is an ancient prayer tradition called “centering.” While there are many variations and methods, it is essentially a means of stilling your mind and spirit, and inviting God to bring you to a place of calm strength. It is a Christian form of meditation. Some will focus on an image that draws them near God. Others will choose one word to repeat over and over. In contrast to other forms of meditation, the goal is not to empty oneself, so much as to be guided by God, held by the Holy Spirit, captivated by Christ. From this centered place of holy strength and calm, one can then face whatever challenges life has in store.

I’d like to get very personal with you, here. Lately, I have found myself increasingly frustrated with others for their lack of courage in the face of pressure situations. I realized this was even beginning to erode my overall sense of compassion and genuine love. Over the last few weeks, it has become clear to me – through seeking God – that I have been frustrated with others for the very trait I most need to work on: lack of courage. I don’t think I would have fully realized this unless I had brought myself to this place of centering before God. And the good news is, I am growing in courage. Finding the courage to say hard things and stand tall, rather than caving in to fear and worry. And I am growing more pleased with the guy in the mirror.

Last night, at a special prayer event at our church, God gave me this short passage as a centering prayer. I share it here with you, because I think many of you can relate. I see it in myself, my family, my friends, my church. A tendency to get off-centered and compromise through fear, anxiety, worry. May this Word empower you to stand in greater integrity, to grow more pleased with the one you see in the mirror. If the words are as haunting and inspiring for you as they are for me, try using them as a centering prayer:

“Be alert. Remain strong in the faith. Have courage, and be strong. Do everything in love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (New Century Version)

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