I would be minding my own business kicking rocks in right field when the trance-piercing voice of Turcotte at short stop would rouse us all back to the reality of our situation: "A little chatter in the outfield!" Then would follow a revived trio of mildly convincing acclamations to the pitcher regarding the unsurpassable wonders of her arm, the inferiority of the hubris opposing her, and exhortations to dispatch the Philistine with three swift strikes.
Now, decades later, I am seeing the relevance of this in the hands of the One who came not only to change my life but to change my day.
"He is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).
Monday morning. It begins, for you as for me, with a quick reorientation to the surroundings: Who am I? Am I OK or not OK? Am I married or single, young or old, ugly or pretty, healthy or sick, in trouble at work? Am I on the outs with anyone?
You feel a complaint coming on: nothing specific, just the default and culturally expected Monday attitude, and instead you choose to say: "This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it."
First temptation down.
Next up, two minutes later, more debriefing from Radio QCRP in stereo: Oh yeah, my son is in jail, my daughter is moving away to California, I am incapable of lasting relationships, there's no money for sclerotherapy, and I can't summon names of movie stars at will anymore. This second seduction is to allow a vague spirit of heaviness to settle like smog in your heart. It does not render you nonfunctional (in fact, most of the world's work is done within that heaviness), just non-joyful.
But you have been striving for that rest God says to strive for (Hebrews 4:11), so you drop and pray something along these lines: "Lord, I trust You with all of this-that You will keep Your promise to work out all things (you pause over "all things") for good to those who love You. And You know I love You." Then you might even hum a little praise song to Him as you're getting dressed, because you remember Ronnie's good advice from Isaiah 61:3 about putting on a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.
Then you look in the mirror and some diabolical night urchin has etched new wrinkles on your forehead while you slept, and done something awful with your neck. But now you are wide awake, removing that advantage from him. And also you are "trained by constant practice" and are no longer "unskilled in the word of righteousness" (Hebrews 5:13), so you have the presence of mind to reply-to God and to yourself:
"Lord, You said what causes quarrels and fights is our passions and covetings (James 4:1-4). Thank You that You did not leave the matter there but immediately gave the solution: 'But He gives more grace' (4:6). I am believing You for grace that is always more than the temptation. Be big in me, Lord! You who 'yearn jealously over the spirit [You have] made to dwell in us' (4:5), replace demonic thinking (3:15) with thinking that is 'pure and peaceable.'"
At the same time your mother calls and needs a ride to the doctor. And you have a split second to sound enthusiastic about the fact that your plans to get a lot done have just sprouted wings and are waving bye-bye. And having become better at this, you review in your mind who God is (in control of all contingencies) and who you are (His servant at His disposal), and you pray with Nehemiah-like speed (Nehemiah 2:4), "Thou knowest, Lord," between her sentence and your sentence.
Three and out.
After the Amalekite raid, "David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him because all the people were bitter in soul. . . . But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God" (1 Samuel 30:6).
And the self-strengthening availed much because the word of God is "spirit" and it is "life" (John 6:63), and transforms us by the renewing of our minds. And now we are back in the game, and walking in freedom. A little less kicking rocks; a little more chatter in the outfield.