Virtue* Do the Next Thing -cathe laurie

What to do when in a Spiritual Fog

John 5 — Get up take up your bed and walk.

My eyes fluttered open this morning in early November to the stillness that accompanied the grey fog. The only sound was the occasional drip drop of water from the eaves onto the soggy ground.  Outside, my window the house across the street was barely visible. No sign of sun. Underneath the olive tree small beads of water collected on a spider’s web, revealing the lacy design that hung suspended and drooping in the air.

These low clouds blanketed more than just the things I saw, they muffled the noises that normally stirred me awake. I wondered, where were the birds this morning, are they still lingering in their warm nests like me?

There are seasons of the soul as surely as there are seasons of the heart. And today the weather and my heart mirrored a perfect reflection. What good comes from a season like this one? Grey inertia creeping through the neighborhood of my spiritual landscape. Over one year ago, in brilliant daylight I knew such joy, loving and serving the Lord, at times it seemed effortless. But this past year, it’s not the dark night I feared most, for even a dim lamp or flame can bring a cheeriness and warmth. In the darkness each flash, or spark, from heaven is not missed but enhanced. Somehow in darkness, there springs a surprising, sudden strength to resolve and press on.

But what about this “in-between-ess”, this fog that feels like limbo. Caught in this lingering moment of time and space that is not quite pain, not quite pleasure…How do I progress spiritually in such a condition? I’ve learned if you project light directly into the fog, it simply bounces off the fog droplets and reflects in all directions, making it even harder to see. What normally works on a clear dark night won’t work in the fog. But, did you know that fog tends to hover about 12 to 18 inches off the ground and by projecting light in that fog-free pocket, you can illuminate the road a greater distance and see farther ahead.

I need to find my spiritual low beam lights and shine them straight out at bumper level and down, but not higher. Slowing down is so hard to do. But then, I would have missed the jeweled spider web today. So now, I keep my expectations in check; my eyes on the path immediately in front of me, and not rush beyond what the light can reveal.  I go to the word of God, strike the match and light the low beam lamp.

It was at a retreat many years ago I heard Elizabeth Elliot say, “When you don’t know what to do next, simply do the next thing.” If today, dear one you are slowed and silenced in the fog, then know God’s will is not further beyond what the light His Word can reveal. Moment by moment, He will give us grace for the next step. So, make that cup of coffee, open the Word and hear Him speak. And of course, the next thing for me is as simple as unloading the dishwasher and folding the laundry…

Here is the poem which includes the line I heard Elizabeth Elliot quote.

From an old English parsonage down by the sea

There came in the twilight a message to me;

Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,

Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.

And on through the doors the quiet words ring

Like a low inspiration: “Do the next thing.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,

Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.

Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,

Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.

Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,

Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;

Do it reliantly, casting all care;

Do it with reverence, tracing His hand

Who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,

Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,

Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;

In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,

The light of His countenance be thy psalm,

Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.

Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

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Devotions with Emotion

Michael James Stone

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