There is a scene in the movie, What About Bob, that visually depicts my bend toward self-sufficiency. The scene reminds me how ridiculous I look when I forge ahead and neglect to stay checked-in with God. What About God?—and its sequels—could be the title of a cinematic production featuring my ongoing struggle with self-sufficiency.
In the movie, Dr. Leo Marvin tries impatiently to teach his son Sigmund to dive. Siggy is a dark-thinking, fearful boy who exhibits a morbid fascination with death. Despite his father’s persistent instruction, Siggy refuses to dive.
Bob Marley, Dr. Marvin’s multi-phobic new patient, had stalked him to the family’s vacation home. Bob’s actions are not only an egregious violation of the doctor/patient relationship but the acceptance and favor Bob garners from his psychiatrist’s family—particularly Siggy–further ignite the doctor’s ire.
Layered in a life preserver and friendly interest, Bob joins Siggy on the dock and inquires about his sullenness. A conversation ensues in which Siggy explains to Bob his diving dilemma. Siggy is seen leading Bob, also aquaphobic, through the steps and motions of diving. In the process of minimizing Bob’s fear, Siggy overcomes his own fears and manages a successful dive.
Dr. Marvin catches a glimpse of Siggy poised for the dive and bolts out of the house toward the dock. The action in this scene carries more weight than the lines. His short, stiff legs make rapid staccato strides through the yard while his arms pump vigorously to aid in propulsion. He cuts across the lawn, directly through the flower beds and toward the long dock–his face revealing a determined and self-congratulatory expression.
The driven father wants to reap the reward of his relentless diving instructions but Bob is unwittingly threatening Dr. Marvin’s rightful place, robbing him of center stage in this epic event in his son’s life. Dr. Marvin arrives at the dock breathless and urgently declares, “I’ll take it from here!” To the watching family’s dismay, Dr. Marvin’s stiff and sweeping arm unintentionally pushes unsuspecting Bob off the dock and into the lake–an action that siphons importance from Siggy’s momentous dive.
I don’t always say those words but I can sometimes approach life with that phrase as my theme song. Alternate verses include:
I’ve got this!
I know what to do!
I’ll figure it out!
I can fix it!
A wise and well-meaning woman once said to me, “Sherrie, you are a strong and competent woman and it has served you well through the fires of affliction.” As she spoke I politely listened but these soft-spoken words, in one form or another, had become faded with overuse–words I typically dismiss. Her comment hung in the air between us while the fingers of embarrassment took shape and curled around my throat. I felt as though she were responding to some unspoken need she discerned in me to be affirmed or built up. I feared she had perceived me as fishing for a compliment.
After a well-timed moment, she delivered the second line that was both resonatingly truthful and piercingly corrective. “Your strength is your greatest weakness.” I let her words settle into the deeper part of me. She was right! I have had a life-long tendency to work independently. Worse than not readily needing others is keeping God at arm’s length–which is never my intention. I often soldier on long after an inquiry of the Lord would have been more than a good idea. It’s as if my gears are jammed in I’ll take it from here mode.
One of the things I love most about King David is that he was quick to inquire of the Lord. It may just be one of the reasons God calls him a man after His own heart.
When I don’t inquire of the Lord I suffer the consequences of hurried, impulsive missteps. On an intellectual level, I gladly acknowledge that He is the vine and I am merely a branch; I understand that apart from Him I can do nothing.
But my feet don’t always park where my lips live.
In other words, my actions don’t always back up my words. In the whirl of hurried living, I often launch out self-propelled with a good idea, a kind gesture or a well-intended commitment. But when I act, un-directed by God, I find I don’t always have His grace for follow-through. I can find myself in one of two places—either pushing through while dragging behind me the baggage of resentment or regret or quitting altogether.
Friends, can I interject something here?
I don’t think God has a particular preference about which flavored creamer I add to my morning coffee or what color my living room walls should be painted so I don’t inquire of Him about everything. I think, to a great extent, God has said, Okay, go live life, kiddo! There is so much room in our lives for operating at will IF we do so with obedience to His word as our guideline.
I try to consider the following list as a rule of thumb before committing myself or launching out. (I wish I were more consistent at it!)
A good time to inquire of the LORD is when:
Our giftings were not meant to replace our God-dependence.