Saturday, April 14, 2007

Prison

Fear. Its chains bind us. Imprison us. We may be able to do great things beyond the bars of fear. Do we dare muscle our way out of the cell that confines us?

Lauren is ten. Smart, artistic, driven, gifted…fearful. Her voice shakes when she answers the phone. A stern mask shades her face in a crowd. Tears spill at anything less than perfection.

“Lauren, God has not given us a spirit of fear but one of power and of love. You have so much to offer. Satan knows that and he wraps fear around you to keep you from achieving the great things that God has planned for you.”

Through tears, “I know, Mama. I know. I try. I just get nervous when there are so many people around me. I can’t think!” More tears and snuffling into a soggy tissue.

The issue at hand. Bible Drill. Twenty-four Bible verses. References must be noted. Each verse must be word perfect. Sixty-six books. “Attention. Present Bible. Mark…Thessalonians…Malachi. Start!” 10 seconds of frantic page turning in a quest to find the few pages that make up a book. Step forward. List the books that come before and after the book that has been called. Finding a key passage is even harder. Now zero in on a specific verse in a specific book in ten seconds.

For weeks, Lauren works. “Do not listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 4:12”

“No honey, try again. Do not MERELY listen to the word…James 1:22”

“WAAA! I can’t do it!” Frustration mingles with the tears.

“Try again.”

She pouts. She rages at her imperfections. She tries again and works until the rage melts away.

We go to Chattanooga for a visit. This will be a good test. Lauren will join her old Bible Drill class for practice. Her hands are all thumbs. She cannot find the books in ten seconds. She cannot remember where the key passages are. She cries…in class. She cries on the way home, “It’s hard Mama. I can’t do this!”

“Lauren, yes you can. We’ll focus on finding those books and key passages.”

And we do. Ruth. Leviticus. Judges. Obadiah. Day after day, drill after drill she grows faster…more confident.

The day of the church drill arrives. A few more hours of practice and Lauren will stand IN PUBLIC with twelve other kids. The competition begins. Lauren steps forward for every reference call and completion call. Each reference memorized. Each verse word perfect.

Time for the book calls and key passages. This is hard. My stomach is in knots. I know that the tears will flow if she cannot find her place. She will shut down. She may not be able to go on. I might have to take her home. I can hardly bear to watch.

The instructor calls the book that the children are to find. Lauren’s dark hair bends over her Bible. Her fingers fly to the correct place. Her brown eyes flash and twinkle. She smiles and skips forward after four or five seconds to indicate that she has completed her assignment. Again and again this scene is repeated. She is the first one over the line almost every time. Her face radiates joy and captures the attention of the whole room. (I know this because the whole room came up to tell me this when the competition was finished.)

A perfect score! Fear banished by hard work and preparation.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 This is one of the verses that Lauren needed to memorize for the competition. She did do her best! Hiding verses in your heart IS correctly handling the word of truth! She was a workman who did not need to be ashamed! She will be blessed for a lifetime by the words she has tucked into her mind this year.

Fear. Lauren bent its bars and slipped out between them. May this day be one that she can build on the next time she feels the cell door clanging shut.

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