Sleep is one of those categories I don’t struggle with. We get along very well. So it’s unusual and foreign when I can’t sleep. Last night was one of those nights for me. It was a long, dark night… I couldn’t say my prayers without stopping often to listen to strange noises, or do my nightly study without getting up to go check on things. At one point in the night I heard three taps that sounded like it was on a window close by. Sufficiently spooked, I woke my hubby up to go around the house to make sure we were safe. My state of fear made him become concerned as well. Poor guy- not a fun way to be woken up! He did as I had requested, and everything looked fine. He double checked that all the windows and doors were locked in our house too. When he went back to bed, I went back to attempting my studies. I decided that listening to a talk would be better than trying to read because it would drown out some of the creeks and tapping sounds the house was making (apparently it complains about being wet and cold like I do!) I was able to finish my studies, and I was significantly more calm. Afterwards, while praying I still felt just unsettled enough that I doubted I could fall asleep. In my mind, my attention suddenly flashed to a spot outside where we had hidden a house key. I stopped my prayer, went outside to get the key, came back in and again locked the door behind me. I thanked Heavenly Father for reminding me about this vulnerability and crawled into bed. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The more I thought about it, I realized that the whole thing felt like an ‘object lesson’ of sorts. Stay with me here-
Let’s recount the internal struggle from this event. I get spooked, I let fear of the unknown enter into my heart. The more I focus on it, it starts to consume my ability to tune into things of more value. The more concerned I grow, the more doubtful I become that we are safe and that we are prepared to handle what could happen. I find myself playing a ruthless game of ‘what if’ and it all starts to seem like the worst case scenario could happen at any moment. So, I do my best to protect ourselves against a possible enemy: wake up the tough guy in the house, double check all the doors are locked and windows are secured. Meanwhile, I’ve been watched throughout these hours by God. He knows the end from the beginning. He know that all the strange noises at this time, are not worrisome, but He watches me worry. He watches me tune Him out and tune into my futile fears. He listens to my disruptive prayers. He sends His spirit to try to calm my troubled heart. Humbled enough to realize that I am not stronger than my fears, I find a new way to try to tune out the fears and tune into better things to calm my heart. It works, since I am not only calmer, but enlightened by some of the things I listened to. The fears had been allowed enough place in my mind that they still aren’t quite gone. I pray for help to not feel as vulnerable if there is really nothing to worry about and He answers by sending me a mental picture of an enormous vulnerability- a huge weak spot. He watched me ‘lock down’ the house, knowing that I’ve left the very key, outside my protection, where it could fall into the hands of my enemies if they were looking. It was even hidden only steps away from the lock. (My father in law is literally rolling his eyes and wondering how dumb we could be to leave a key outside. Lol- kinda. I left the key out once when I knew the kids would beat me home that day and would need to get in. It was so convenient I kept it there. Many times it has been used in a pinch but thankfully only by those we trust.) Thinking about the irony of the situation is comical. I know God is more perfect than me, but if I were Him, I’d either be laughing at the situation or totally frustrated by it. I’m making Him watch me attempt to keep a little safer, while leaving the easiest undoing to those efforts hidden in plain sight, for the taking by any. All the while, He knows that the cause of all my worry was due to inclement weather on a new, unsettled house. He didn’t laugh or get upset, He sent His spirit to calm my heart when I was humbled enough to tune back into Him. And He pointed out the key I had forgotten about. I could almost hear Him saying “It’s OK little child, you’re OK. But while you are going about to try to fix possible vulnerabilities, I’ve remembered a pretty significant one you’ve forgotten. Go outside and get your key that will easily unlock all those doors you’ve made sure to lock.”
I immediately went to get the key. It doesn’t matter that there was no threat that night lurking around the perimeter of my home looking for an easy access point (I still am so freaked out after reading how David Mitchell got inside to kidnap Elizabeth Smart! Side note: it’s an amazing book and I do highly recommend it!) I didn’t need to start expecting answers from God to tell me what He knew, even though I could have: “Why are you pointing out the key? Is there a real threat? What does this mean?…” That’s not what my focus should be before I’ll act on the impression. If you’re trying to be safe, and God tells you where you aren’t, just go get the key. No harm done, regardless of whether or not it could have been used for evil that day or the next.
So that was the event (‘object’), now what’s the lesson?
We all get ‘spooked’ from time to time, for varying lengths of time. We let fear enter. Doubts creep in and begin to take root. We lose focus on faith + fact and start to schew reality- what’s happening around us starts to fit into our fear forecast & doubt landscape. Doing this makes our current reality not so true anymore. We turn each ‘noise’ into what we think & fear it could be, until it seems so darn “real” that you can’t do much else than worry & obsess over it. Normal routines are abandoned (think about spiritual routines here too- church going, scripture study, temple and other service). You are in heightened alert mode (not spiritual alertness) to the world around you combined with the fear and doubts inside you. At this point you try to prepare for the worst-case-scenario and put yourself on lock down. You wait (in vain) over your exaggerated imaginations. Everything feels dark and vulnerable. (Or in my case, it’s literal too.)
You feel weak and alone. You recognize that you are incapable of completely safeguarding yourself from an attack. (Unless you’re barring your windows, last I checked glass breaks pretty easily…) Humbling yourself, you turn back to God to help you deal with your fears, doubts, and shortcomings. He gives you ideas on how to be able to hear His words in your current mental/emotional/physical state. He knows you aren’t functioning at your normal and will help you find ways to drown out the noise and calm the concerns. After you’ve started to let your own ideas go, you are able to listen to Him again. And He knows where your key is. He knows what weaknesses that you’ve left in possible enemy territory. He wants you to acknowledge the fact that life is full of unknowns and that we are in a battle of good and bad, right and wrong. He does want us to know that we are surrounded by those with evil intent, as well as those with pure intent. He allows us to feel that to align ourselves to His wisdom. And He is desirous that we don’t safeguard ourselves in vain by leaving the key to our undoing to be used by any looking for it. It would be like a soldier putting on bulletproof armor on every part of the body except over the heart and leaving off the helmet for the head.
There are a million different lessons you could pull from this story. To each reader, your personal application will be different from the next, so I’m not going to spell out what I needed to learn from living through this object lesson. Instead, I’ll leave you with tools to help you unlock your own lessons God would have you learn. The tools are found within asking yourself & God these questions:
- What are my fears? Or, What areas do I find myself full of doubt?
- What am I currently doing about my fears and/or doubts? Do I let them motivate me to a healthy level of preparedness? Or, have I become consumed/obsessed and let it take an unbalanced portion of my thoughts/life?
- What am I tuned into? Do I look to the world to give answers to my concerns and fears? To predict the unknown? Am I tuned into the ‘noise’ or to the Spirit?
- If I’ve allowed myself to become consumed and unbalanced, distracted and alert to the things of the world, how can I let myself begin to drown that out? What things/influences could I cut out that are quickening my fears/doubts? What things/influences could I add back in to help gain a more calm and balanced attitude again?
- Do I recognize the reality of good vs. evil to understand my vital need to heed God’s command to “put on the whole armor of God“?
- While putting on my armor, have I done all the easier things but perhaps failed to protect my weakest points (which often are the hardest/deepest things to work on/fix)? Have I protected my head and my heart? Have I looked to God to expose the whereabouts of my weaknesses?
- Have I heeded Him when He has made me aware of how to fix, cover, or repair the holes (weaknesses/sins/vulnerabilities) in my armor to strengthen my ability to stand strong in my personal battles?
- WHAT IS MY FIGURATIVE KEY?! What is it that I have laying around ready to use by the adversary that would allow easy access inside me? What is it, that if used against me, would cause great damage and harm to my spiritual wellbeing?
I’ve been incredible enlightened by this experience. By asking these questions in humility, and by answering them honestly, I know God has helped to strengthen and protect me. He needs me to trust in Him to be my captain. He will provide the information I need to heed, when and how it’s important in my personal life. When I put on my armor each day, asking for help to be aware of weak areas, I trust I can leave the worrying to Him who knows all and knows what is best. My “obsession” should be doing all that I can to heed His words and keep myself tuned into the spirit who provides individualized guidance. Even, and especially when life goes dark.