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Spirit Hunger Workbook
By Gari Meacham
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2012 Gari Meacham
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSession One
HIDING, CONTROLLING, AND MOCHA LATTES
Have you ever felt a gnawing inside, a tug of emotion that lingers with a sense of emptiness even though life seems full? Sometimes it grabs me at night when my mind finally settles after a full day; other times I wake with it—a hope that today will fulfill my heart's desire for something I can't quite name. This gnawing tug of possibility is our Spirit Hunger, the place inside us that longs to connect with God.
I wandered around for years wondering what that yearning was. Why I could achieve certain goals and still feel empty. Why I could be surrounded by people and still feel alone. Even after falling head over heels in love with my Savior Jesus, that wrenching desire can still overtake me like waves crashing on a rocky beach.
After running from, numbing, ignoring, stuffing, and analyzing this desire till I'm blue in the face, I've come to recognize the hunger pains of my spirit—the way it woos me back to the true filling it desires, an authentic and continual dining with God.
VIDEO TEACHING (19 minutes)
Watch the video. The main points are included here for you. Jot down additional notes if you wish.
The tone in many of the psalms is that of desperation, yet often we find ourselves committed but not desperate.
We long for things that make us uniquely women: nurturing; affirmation; to be noticed and heard—but there is a longing at the core of women's lives that bullies itself in front of all other longings: the longing to be in control.
This need for control came from the first woman, Eve. (Genesis 3:6)
What happened in the garden is referred to as a sin issue, but it was also a control issue.
Control has a muzzle. The muzzle to control is trust.
God taught women trust after their exodus from Egypt. In the wilderness they were only able to gather a day's worth of what they needed to sustain their families. They had to trust that God would provide tomorrow what he had today.
Our spirits long to trust God, not control him.
GROUP DISCUSSION (approx. 25 minutes)
Discuss the following questions related to the video you just watched.
1. What's the difference between a committed Christian and a desperate Christian?
2. Donald Miller, author of the book Blue like Jazz, says "The opposite of love is not hate; it's control." How does this definition change your view of control?
3. How were the events in the Garden of Eden not just a sin issue, but a control issue? (See Genesis 3:6.)
4. Gari mentioned the following descriptions in her list "How to Know If You Have Issues with Control." Can you think of others to add to the list?
Won't let anyone help in the kitchen or around the house, but then complains that if she doesn't do the chores, they won't be done right.
Uses nagging as a tool because if she doesn't nag, people won't budge.
Claims she wants a strong husband who leads, but criticizes when he tries to.
Exhausts herself trying to make everyone happy.
Tells other people how to drive, how to do things, and generally makes all the decisions and choices in the household. decisions and choices in the household.
5. How is trusting God a muzzle to control?
6. If our spirits long to trust God—not control him—how can we let go of control and practice trust?
DAY ONE SWEET OR SASSY?
I've never been a coffee drinker. I know that's one step short of sacrilegious in a country that has a Starbucks on every corner, but a few years ago I found a drink that rivals anything I've ever wanted to suck through a straw—sweet tea. It may sound silly, but when I'm crawling into bed at night I actually get excited to drink a big tea the next day. I don't have many habits; as a matter of fact, God has taken me through some achy times exposing behaviors and compulsions that have teased my heart away from him. Thankfully, the sweet tea seems to be okay.
As I think about my physical longing for sweet tea, I'm reminded of what psychologists have known for centuries: Certain longings are universal to humanity. They begin when we are born and carry through our lives until we take our last breath. Much more important than sweet tea (although I may beg to differ some mornings) is our longing for nurture, attention, and affirmation. We long for filling and purpose; we long for intimacy—to be treasured and valued; and sitting at the top of the list is our longing to authentically connect with God.
Although these sound beautiful, like dainty flowers in a vase, we often have no clue what to do with these longings when they beg for attention they don't receive.
How did things get so messed up? When did the longings in our lives turn to hauntings? Why do these longings get tangled with counterfeit fillings?
I believe the answer to these questions can be found in the very first woman to walk the earth—Eve. I've always heard the story of Adam and Eve referred to as the fall of man, but I'd like to call it the devastation of woman, because what happened that day in the garden changed the face of women's hearts and longings forever.
* Please turn to Genesis 3 and read verses 1-6. Write out verse 6 below.
The Bible says that after Eve ate of the fruit, she gave it to her husband and he ate too. There's no time frame given for how quickly he ate, but I have a hunch it wasn't immediate. The truth is Adam knew better, but I think Eve wore him down. Maybe it went something like this: "Adam, try this fruit that I've eaten; it's great!" If he looked at her with a raised eyebrow, I think she went for the nagging approach, "Adam (said with a bit of a whine), you really need to eat this. I'm serious. Eat!" If that didn't work, I think she coyly began to cry, "Why don't you want to do like I've done? Don't you want to share this special moment with me?"
Whether he ate to get her to be quiet, or he just didn't have the spine to stand up to her, control has now bullied its way onto the list of our longings. Prior to the "devastation of woman," the word control had never been uttered. Now it's screaming from the treetops.
* To this day, it seems that women battle for control and men battle being cowards. Do you see any "control" issues lurking in your life? (Just so you know, it can come in the form of nagging, trying to make everyone happy, being bossy, or frantically trying to keep all your ducks in a row!)
I spent many years believing I didn't have a problem with control. I had so many other issues God had to deal with; control just didn't seem to be one of them. Until one day I realized that my issues with control were wrapped in a sweet package with a pretty bow, but were stinky and mildewed when I got them out in the light. Sometimes I feel like I'm two different women—the loving and kind me I'll call Sweet Girl and the controlling, manipulating me I'll call Sassy Pants Girl.
* If you've never considered yourself a Sassy Pants, see if you can relate to some of these characteristics of a controlling woman. Check any that sound like you.
Won't let anyone help in the kitchen or around the house, but then complains that if she doesn't do everything it won't be done right.
Uses nagging as a tool because if she doesn't nag, people won't budge.
Tries relentlessly to have everyone dressed perfect, acting perfect, and living perfect; but when something happens off her script, she yells or breaks down and cries.
Claims she wants a strong husband who leads, but then criticizes when he tries to.
Exhausts herself trying to make everyone happy and put out emotional fires.
Tells other people how to drive or do things; always gives advice and opinions even when they aren't welcome; generally makes all the decisions or choices within the household.
Charmingly says, "Whatever you want ...," but then seethes when the choice isn't what she wants!
* If you're aware of any other ways you attempt to control, note them here.
* A girlfriend of mine once said, "We all have issues with control. We are either controlling, or being controlled." Do you see yourself as a controller, or one being controlled? explain.
I remember one of the first times I experienced being mugged by control. My husband, Bobby, was a fresh face on the New York Yankees roster. After a few stints playing for them and being sent back to the minor leagues, it looked like he was going to be their starting shortstop for a while. So, in a blitz of excitement, I began looking for a place to live. In baseball life, the joke is—if you buy a home somewhere, you're then going to be traded, released, or sent back to the minor leagues. But I had no time for superstitious joking; I wanted a home! After looking at a total of three homes, I proclaimed to Bobby that I had found our dream house. It was formally a chicken farm that had been made over by a couple who spent most of their time sleeping on unfinished floors with spackle smeared over their faces. I fell in love with the place and began to concoct a plan to convince Bobby that we had to have it. After some heavy persuading (controlling), he reluctantly agreed, and we signed the contract. We lived in that house for eight years and, in all honesty, we loved that home; but I have to admit it had many drawbacks that, had I listened or planned more carefully, I could have avoided. Here were a few of our homeowner follies: the entire place had to be rewired (electricians found old gas holders from gas lamps when they opened up the walls); termites were eating away at the roof; the basement was filled with asbestos, and squirrels had chewed their way inside and created a "squirrel condominium" in our attic. Daily, Bobby would trap these hissing varmints with peanut butter spread on bread, and cart the trap off to a local park only to find out they were probably beating him back home with their honing devices set on our attic!
Several years later, as Bobby and I found ourselves sitting on the couch of a counselor talking through some pain that had swelled in our marriage, he mentioned the fact that many years earlier he didn't express his true feelings about that house. Although we had many happy memories there, he felt as if he should have moved us to a warm climate during the baseball off-season so he could keep his skills sharp. My persuasive sassy pants convinced him to buy that home; it makes me wonder how his career may have played out had we lived somewhere else.
Now that I've stepped on all ten of my toes, I promise to stop. But let me end our time today by saying this: control is the ultimate counterfeit of love. It's the secret adulteress to good intent. Like a robber hiding in a dark closet, control ambushes us. It gags us, and then surveys what it can take from our lives without us noticing we've been robbed.
We're going to circle this topic again tomorrow, but you'll be glad to know that control has a muzzle, an off-switch. We'll get to that important truth on Day Three.
GOING DEEPER (OPTIONAL)
For the next six weeks, I'd like to ask you to grab a blank notebook, journal, or your iPad—anything you can use to write out your thoughts and mental meanderings. We talked about how control is the counterfeit of love. I'd like you to go back to the initial longings we discussed at the beginning of Day one and create a list. On one side of your list, name the longings we've discussed; on the other side, name a counterfeit for that longing. I'll show you my list; feel free to change words or add words of your own.
nurture control intimacy distrust purpose bland insecurity discipline laziness or procrastination treasured trampled or ignored
After you've created your list, can you see areas of true longing that are being crushed by counterfeit substitutes? How have these substitutes crept into your life? Are there events that led you to these counterfeit places, or has it been like the slow drip of a faucet? How do you think God can change counterfeit longings to true spirit desires?
DAY TWO HIDING THINGS UNDER TREES
Sometimes I shake my head at the way I think I can hand God my Day-Timer and say, "Here, make it happen." Being married to a professional baseball player has ripped more pages out of my planner than I can recall. After moving forty-seven times in a ten-year span, I finally started to write my plans in pencil rather than scribbling them in permanent marker.
When Bobby and I decided we were ready to have children, it was like the wind of a whistling tornado bowled me over. I was consumed with trying to plan (control) the birth of this new little prince or princess we hoped to conceive. I pulled out a baseball schedule for the next year and plotted a good time to deliver a child. Not in spring training (too inconvenient), not in the middle of the season (we'd probably be in the pennant race), but how about the off-season? The winter months when baseball is dormant seemed the perfect time for our angel to enter this world. I told God about this perfect plan and asked him to come along if he'd like.
Much to my surprise, I got pregnant quickly; but with no regard to my plan, the due date of this baby was precisely in the middle of spring training. After a bit of bristling, I came to terms with the date and settled into dreams of a nursery and sweet gurgles. But after the first signs of spotting, no amount of bed rest could stop the inevitable loss of that sweet child. Bewildered and heartbroken, I asked God why he hadn't followed my plan.
A few months later, we were pregnant again. I was cautiously excited, and after my first visit to the doctor I realized this child's due date, May 26, was during the regular season. However, mid-May arrived and my doctor pushed the due date back to June 6. June came and went—no baby! I was seeing the doctor every day to be monitored for this child that didn't want to leave my womb. We finally welcomed our daughter, Brooke Nicole, to the world on July 3—smack in the middle of a heated pennant race, and almost two months after the date I anticipated her arrival. So much for trying to control God!
If you've ever felt like you've tried to corral God into your way of thinking, planning, or behaving—welcome to the sisterhood, sweet friends. It's comforting to know we're in good company. Many good women in Scripture struggled with control issues. Nothing thrills me more than seeing Bible women who are as messed up as me!
Sarah (originally Sarai) was a godly woman with major control issues. She's one of the few women physically described as gorgeous; married to a prominent man of wealth and stature, Abraham; it looked like they were a couple who had it all. But her heartache came in the form of infertility, and it was through this heartache she learned to trust God. Unfortunately, not before she made some huge mistakes as she tried to "help" God with his promises for her life.
* Please turn to Genesis 16 and read verses 1-3. Note below how long Sarah and Abraham had lived in Canaan.
* After ten years of waiting and praying, what was Sarah's plan to remedy God's delay?
* The end of verse 2 contains a phrase that is "pregnant" with meaning. Please write verse 2 below, and note Abraham's response to Sarah's request.
Why in the world would Abraham agree to this arrangement? After all, wasn't he the one who heard God's promise for an heir with his own ears? Suddenly I'm reminded of the control/coward cycle we saw play out with Adam and Eve. Abraham knows better, but instead of standing as a protector, he lets the controlling whine of his wife dictate the events within his family.
The trouble with control is that whenever we manipulate circumstances to get what we want, it never fills us like we thought it would. Consider Sarah's response to getting what she wanted. Please read verses 4-6 and notice Sarah's sudden change of character.
* With whom is Sarah mad?
Ultimately, she's now mad at her husband, her maid, and God! She's so mad that she's treating Hagar harshly. Hagar, who did nothing but follow Sarah's orders and become pregnant, is now the recipient of rude interaction and hateful drama. Hagar is so distraught that she runs away from the mess and has a powerful encounter with God.
Excerpted from Spirit Hunger Workbook by Gari Meacham Copyright © 2012 by Gari Meacham. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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