When Fear and Avoidance Mean You’re On the Right Track

sometimes your fear tells you that you’re crazy; sometimes it tells you when you’re on the right track. this was an example of the former. read on for discussion of the latter.

So a few months ago I got the impression that I needed to pray for compassion for my husband. I don’t remember exactly how. But I knew it was right because I stopped reading the Bible and writing my prayers for two weeks.

I’d prayed for tons of other specifics for my husband and for our marriage, but never for me to have compassion for him. Because compassion goes beyond understanding, or sympathy, or kindness, or patience, or tenderness, but is all of those wrapped up together with a big dose of “this isn’t about you.” Maybe I’m particularly skilled, but I’m able to pray for and practice all those other things while somehow keeping myself as the center of the emotional landscape.

* Look how understanding I’m being. Aren’t I doing a good job of not adding to his stress although I’m really angry?
* I’m gritting my teeth and acting sympathetic although I’m losing sleep and my general friendliness is suffering.
*  “God, you’re going to have to give me some of your patience and kindness, because I’m all out.”

Compassion is different, which is why I was so afraid. Compassion busts through the self-righteousness that can give this gal a great big Martyr Complex. So after two weeks, I couldn’t avoid my devotional time anymore. Couldn’t avoid the call to compassion. And I wrote/prayed this:

I pray for the thing that has made me avoid coming to this forum: please, Lord, give me compassion to [my husband] — not lack of anger, not sympathy, but compassion. I have no idea what that will look or feel like, but you led me to pray that and I’ve been avoiding it, but no more. Please give me compassion for [him].

The difference it made was startling. And not at all what I expected.

I talked more about the situation that was plaguing us. Yes, more. Before that, I’d been biting my tongue so I wouldn’t make an already stressful situation even worse by constantly bitching about it (although I sure was in the privacy of my own mind).

And why did I talk about it more? Because I wasn’t complaining about my difficulties, I was outraged for him, on his behalf. I won’t go into details, but I will say it involves a work situation, so it’s nothing I have any control over, and my husband doesn’t always feel he has control over, either. But compassion for him gave me the courage to apply my analytical mind to the situation. The topic was no longer ostentatiously ignored, so it no longer kept us captive in its shadow. Compassion for him gave me the courage to shine light on the situation regularly, which helped him talk through some of the issues, which may have helped him take action.

I told him about this recently, although that first prayer for compassion took place 3 months ago. I told him because I’d used the prayer for compassion again. It was 3 a.m., and I was fuming about something (Big Nagging Issue showing its ugly face again), my mind self-righteously whirling, when I asked myself this question: “What would the compassionate view be?” No surprise, it was very different from what I’d been thinking. And led to an utterly different conversation about it in the morning.

He pointed out something later that afternoon: compassion is related to passion, and while passion can be great, unchecked, it can blind us to the other. As a prefix, com means “together; with; jointly.” I so quickly get all heated up and passionate about my point of view, throwing my arguments at him. Compassion forces me to look away from my agenda and look at him. After all, we are in this together, jointly. I’m with him in this struggle. It isn’t me vs. him. It’s us.

Are there any prayers you’re afraid of? Any prayers you’re avoiding? Pray them anyway.

Spread the word:

4 thoughts on “When Fear and Avoidance Mean You’re On the Right Track

  1. I realized over the last week that I’ve been putting LOTS of energy into avoidance. Though I am very discontent over my lack of work that requires consistent use of my gifts, I realized several days ago that I’ve been completely avoiding praying about it. I’ve been avoiding anything that stated my desires for such work, my dreams for such work, my willingness for such work.

    It didn’t take a lot of sleuthing for me to figure out the reason for my avoidance. I’ve endured some pretty significant disappointments in this arena over the last 6 months. The idea of opening myself to MORE disappointment and potential failure felt way too vulnerable. The problem is that the alternative, my own creative stagnation, sucks. All this has left me feeling horribly stuck and rather despairing.

    So a few days ago I committed to praying for opportunity again. Okay, so it’s out there. I barely dare ask. I’m not sure I’m throwing all my weight on this prayer, but I’m doing the best I can. God, I trust; help my lack of trust.

    1. It’s amazing how much work it is to talk to God about what it is that we really, really, really want. And how apologetic we, okay I, am about asking for something like opportunity. And then to ask, and ask for patience and trust and then not really mean it because I believe the sign that God is listening will be that it’ll come so quickly that my token patience and trust will be enough. “God, I trust; help my lack of trust,” is the best prayer any of us can do sometimes, especially after disappointment and repeated rejection. Thank you for your deep and personal response, as usual, friend.

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