Lord, expand my funnel
"Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request."
1 Chronicles 4:10
I have to admit, when The Prayer of Jabez (by Bruce Wilkerson) phenomenon hit years ago, I just wasn't into it. It is not like I have taken a vow of poverty, but something about crying out for a bigger farm (my interpretation of territory) just seemed a bit materialistic. It reeked a bit of false theology. In a rail against the message of the prosperity gospel, I kind of threw Jabez out with the bath water.
Yet in the last month or so, I have prayed this prayer, or a relatively close interpretation of this prayer, dozens of times. Because, in the last month or so, I walked through a season of crazy stress. In the last month or so, my funnel was overwhelmed.
Counselors use all kinds of metaphors to talk about one's ability to handle stress and anxiety without breaking down--some talk of bandwidth or signal strength. Others use more general terms like resources or resiliency factor. I talk about funnels. In my analogy, normal, garden-variety stress (which is a given in every life) flows through our funnels, serving its purpose to prepare or motivate us. At times, however, when stress from all kinds of directions is flowing in, our funnels are overwhelmed. This is when some have anxiety attacks while others lose their tempers, wallets, or wisdom. Last month, my funnel got overwhelmed.
My oldest daughter got married, and a myriad of wedding details needed sorting. My younger daughter moved home from college and could use help finding a place to live and settling into a job. My counseling load picked up, as did my work as an administrator at a Christian school. It seemed like all systems were go, all the time, and all at once. My funnel couldn't seem to keep up with the volume of stress coming in. Then I remembered my friend Jabez and his prayer.
Truly my territory in this world lies in my influence; in the way I communicate the grace of Christ I have found to others. So it made perfect sense to ask God to expand my funnel to meet the greater territory I encountered--200 wedding guests, all kinds of time-sensitive jobs, and dozens of new students and families at school. As I prayed that God would expand my funnel, asking for His hand to be with me just flowed naturally. His hand in the mix would protect me from the harm I have a tendency to cause when I am keyed up. When I am on red-alert my snappy words, impatient attitudes, and controlling compulsions start bubbling up.
Our Lord is so faithful. My version of Jabez' prayer has been answered. Lord, expand my funnel is certainly not the most elegant prayer I have ever recited. But this experience reminds me that my Savior is not at all concerned with elegance. He is good all the time, and will not reject a desperate, authentic plea for help, whatever the wording.