Applying George Costanza’s “Opposite technique” to my prayer life

I could say that this picture fits this post because I took a shot of the bottom side of the leaf rather than the  top, but that would be cheesy, right?!

I could say that this picture fits this post because I took a shot of the bottom side of the leaf rather than the top, but that would be cheesy, right?!

Dave and I were Seinfeld junkies in the early years of our marriage. One of our favorite episodes was “The Opposite,” in which Jerry tells perennially down-on-his-luck George that every impulse he has is wrong, and George decides to do the opposite of his impulses. A few minutes later he meets a very attractive woman and tells her, straight up, “My name is George. I’m unemployed, and I live with my parents.” (Usually he said he was an architect [not true].) Amazingly, she agreed to go out with him.

It’s a funny, funny episode (as most of them are), but the reason I bring it up is that I’ve been trying to apply this idea to certain areas of my prayer life lately.

I’ve been practicing “the opposite” technique on my natural impulses of guilt/comparison/criticism.

When I’m reading an article in Voice of the Martyrs (a magazine about the persecuted church) about believers who have lost everything but who are still sharing Jesus’ love with their neighbors, my first impulse is to think, Oh, they’re so much more spiritual than I am. I’m just not strong enough in my faith!

When I hear about people who work for the International Justice Mission, serve in shelters for battered women, deliver Meals on Wheels—you name it—my initial response is, I should be doing more.

When I see a woman who looks like she has it all together, my gut instinct is to compare, and my confidence gets beaten down in the process.

And when I see a woman who’s clearly struggling, deep down in me there’s also a bit of comparison going on—comparison that makes me feel better about myself.

When I’m picking up all the debris my children leave strewn across the floor and every available surface, there’s generally some silent fussing going on. (Sometimes it’s NOT silent!)

I used to read the verse about “praying without ceasing” and think, “How?”

But if I turn all my guilt/comparison/criticism into PRAYER and add to that my daily-sometimes-hourly cries for help, well, then that’s pretty un-ceasing!

So, when I hear the next radio piece about Mary Frances Bowley’s work with survivors of sexual abuse and prostitution, I will not waste my time feeling bad about the work I’m doing or guilty for not doing “more.” Instead I will pray for Mary Frances, for the girls at Wellspring Living’s safe house, for the many staff who work with them, and for those trapped in sex trafficking around the world.

When I am tempted to fuss about the messes my children have made, why not pray for them instead? I may still be frustrated, but I will have lifted my kids up to God as eternal souls.

What a better use of my time and energy!

Now I definitely want to avoid making this rote and mechanical, something I “have” to do, but, honesty, “rote and mechanical” often describes my complaining/comparison/guilt.

It’s simply a default pattern, a harmful one.

I need a new pattern to follow.

From ____________ to prayer.

Thank you, George!

And Jerry, of course!

NOTE: I think this kind of “new” practice/pattern is part of what Scripture refers to as the “renewing of our minds.” Here are a few verses that have to do with our souls and minds becoming “new.” Because these are pretty well-known verses, I looked them up in the Amplified version to make their messages fresh.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

Ephesians 4:22-24 Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; 23 And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], 24 And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness.

 

 

 

Difficult–but please read

A few weeks ago I posted that I had gotten the book The White Umbrella delivered to my Kindle and that I would write about it after I read it. Here goes.

The book is about sex trafficking in the United States: facts/statistics about it, stories about girls/women rescued from it, and testimonies of those who have worked to restore them.

It’s not as dark a book as I expected. The facts are grim; the book doesn’t pretend otherwise and shares the situation through facts, stories, and links to news articles on the subject, but I was surprised by the hope in the book. The author started a ministry, Wellspring Living, that works with rescued sex slaves. These girls have been through trauma that I cannot imagine. I read their stories and thought, “I would be crushed, for the rest of my life!”

So should they, but the girls themselves and those who work with them share story upon story of growth and new life. It may be backwards/forwards and take tons of time and patience, but as these girls encounter the God who wants to make them new, many of them grow.

After I read the book I wrote an email to its publisher, Moody. I shared much of what I wrote above, but I also had a complaint: The book is a call to action, and I WANTED to act after I read it. But since I don’t live in the Atlanta, Georgia, area—where Wellspring Living is located—I can’t really be involved in that ministry, other than by donating. What if I want to get involved right here? Do you have any suggestions?

I received a response from a woman in Moody’s book publicity department. She invited me to a luncheon hosted by Moody Church the following Monday that was about sex trafficking in the Chicago area. The speaker, Frank, is the director of Chicago’s Salvation Army’s PROMISE program (Partnership to Rescue Our Minors from Sexual Exploitation) and has worked with sex trafficking victims for more than 25 years. With the Salvation Army, he recently opened Anne’s Home, which provides long-term residential care for girls rescued from trafficking in Chicago.

So I went. I thought it would be a gathering of a couple hundred people; like they just tacked my name onto a long list: What’s one more?

No.

Under fifty people, and the group included Mary Frances Bowley (the author of The White Umbrella), Mary Welchel (Director of Women’s Ministries at Moody Church and founder of The Christian Working Woman), and an FBI agent who works with sex trafficking.

Everyone else seemed to have a reason to be there. People kept asking me: “So what organization are you with?”

“Um, none.” (Okay, I sounded a little more polished than that!—but probably not much more.)

“Oh, so why are you here?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

I was certainly there to learn—and learn I did, far more than I really wanted to.

I already knew that the FBI’s low estimate is that more than 100,000 children, usually girls, are being forced to do someone else’s sexual bidding. The age range is nine to nineteen; the average age is 11; and the average life expectancy of a girl in forced prostitution is only 7 years.

That doesn’t make you want to read any more, does it?

But I also learned this is no longer just an inner-city problem. Law enforcement agencies in Illinois are reporting an increase in cases involving middle-class suburban children because the kids have access to a computer at home and can be targeted more easily.

I don’t want to bombard you with too much info in this post, so I’ll end here, but in a follow up post, I’ll put tips for identifying children who are being sexually molested and/or trafficked and hotlines you can call if you suspect it. It’s happening far more than we want to think it does, and it’s happening closer than we can imagine. I’ll categorize this post and all follow up posts “Sex Trafficking.”

If you want to do more research, below are two addresses to check out: one is Wellspring Living’s home page, and the other is the PROMISE website.

wellspringliving.org

sapromise.org

Thanks for reading.
Jen