The Tiger Within

*Scroll to the bottom to hear me read this post.

This picture has no relation to today's post, but I'm reminding myself--as it was only 12 degrees when I woke up this morning--that the time of beautiful green crickets clinging to open screen doors will come!

This picture has no relation to today’s post, but I’m reminding myself–as it was only 12 degrees when I woke up this morning–that the time of screen doors and beautiful green crickets clinging to them will come!

I sat on his bed to kiss him goodnight and saw it the moment his head turned toward me.

His lips were pinched, his eyes hard.

“What’s the matter, Bud?” I asked.

His voice had an edge as he reminded me that the birthday party we’d talked about a month ago has not yet happened. “You said we might do it this weekend,” he accused.

Never mind that he has just spent more than twenty-four hours with a best friend.

Never mind that we’d never done more to plan the party than simply talk about it.

Never mind that I’d told him several days ago that the party would not happen this weekend—we simply had too much going on.

He was so focused on self that gratitude and perspective—logic, too—had fled.

I could completely identify.

“You’re miserable, aren’t you?” I asked him.

The flat look stayed a second more but then slipped. He nodded.

We prayed together, and I reminded him of all the “never mind’s.” We talked about all the good he’d experienced this weekend, and the things we could be thankful for in that very moment.

Suddenly his small chest rose and fell with a great breath, and he smiled at me.

I smiled back. “It feels good to let it go, doesn’t it?”

I told him then I have the same, awful struggle, and sometimes I imagine SELF (or rather the focus on self) to be like a coiled kitten deep in my gut. When it slumbers, it seems harmless, so I pet it a little, and it raises its head. I continue to stroke it, and it rises higher, higher. Still all seems well, but then it stands on hind legs and hooks its needle-sharp claws into my heart.

And I am overcome.

“Why don’t they see what I’m doing?”

“It wouldn’t hurt them to be just a little grateful!”

“Well, I did that for her. Shouldn’t she do something in return?”

“All I do is clean up (cook/work/drive/do) for everyone else.”

“Don’t they notice all I’m doing?”

“When is someone going to do something nice for ME? When is it MY turn?”

“How is this going to affect me?”

The thoughts bombard, and I can’t stop them. I am miserable in my self-focus, but I’m also powerless to do anything about it. I try to pull the claws from my heart, but as soon as I get one free, another is entangled, and they keep sinking deeper and deeper! I realize what I thought was a harmless kitten is in actuality a tiger, fierce and strong, with not a hint of give in its eyes.

“That’s why we had to pray,” I told my son. “We can’t fight the tiger in our own power. We have to come to Jesus and tell Him we need Him. I have to keep re-learning this very lesson.”

Recently I discovered this song by Audrey Assad (©2013) about this very thing. I’ve been praying it lately. I hope you find it helpful as well.

 

“I Shall Not Want”

From the love of my own comfort;

From the fear of having nothing;

From a life of worldly passions:

Deliver me, oh God.

 

From the need to be understood;

From the need to be accepted;

From the fear of being lonely;

Deliver me, oh God.

Deliver me, oh God.

 

And I shall not want; I shall not want

When I taste your goodness I shall not want.

When I taste your goodness I shall not want.

 

From the fear of serving others;

From the fear of death or trial;

From the fear of humility:

Deliver me, oh God.

Deliver me, oh God.

NOTE: The title link above leads to a video of Assad playing and singing this song.

 

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