Staying Fascinated

I have an amazing friend who has been dealing with serious, chronic health issues. A few weeks ago, she was giving me an update on her health, and as a way of telling me how she was dealing with it, she said to me, “I’m just telling myself to stay fascinated.” “Stay fascinated,” she said, is her self-designated life phrase.

This woman is a giant in the faith in my eyes, deeply committed to Christ and living out His love in the lives of countless others; I’m keen to learn from women like her, so her sharing of this concept of a “life phrase” caught my attention.

I was also struck by the simplicity of the phrase, and I have since then been thinking quite a lot about it. I’ve shared the idea with my husband and another close friend, and I’ve been trying it out in my own life.

Having a simple phrase to go to when the circumstances of life are “not going our way” is, in my humble opinion, a great idea. Our hearts tend to turn southward when our day turns rocky – certainly mine can – and it takes a concerted effort to bring it back around or to prevent it from going south in the first place. My friend’s phrase “stay fascinated” really is a biblical concept she’s turned into an easily-remembered maxim she can use to remind herself Who is really in charge, Whose plans are being played out in her life, and Who she can trust with the details of her life.

In fact, I believe God’s Word calls us to stay fascinated. In Habakkuk, a short Old Testament book, the prophet starts out by questioning God’s plan for the Israelites. He asks, “How long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (1:2). The Lord responds in this way. “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” (1:5)

Habakkuk questions God, and God responds with something that sounds to me like, “Why don’t you just sit there, watch me and stay fascinated.”

Habakkuk lived, according to my ESV Study Bible notes, prior to the Babylonian invasion of Judah, when Judah was morally and spiritually corrupt, worshipping and offering sacrifices to false gods. Habakkuk’s cries to God for intervention don’t result in a change in Israel’s fortunes; eventually the nation would be punished severely. But by the end of this book, what does change is Habakkuk’s heart, and how he rests in God’s plan for His people.

God Word also calls us to remember Who is really in charge. Proverbs 19:21 says “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” In the Book of James, we are told it is arrogant to even make plans for tomorrow without acknowledging that without God’s blessing, all our plans may fail (James 4:13-16).

When our plans for our afternoon, our weekend, our life or that of our children’s lives don’t turn out the way we plan, do we acknowledge quickly that God’s plans are best and trust what He is doing? I think most of us acknowledge intellectually that it is God Who is in charge. But when our plans fall apart, do our hearts rush to live out that belief?

As I look back at different seasons of my life, here are a few “life phrases” I know I’ve been guilty of employing. Granted, these have followed me into my Christian life after decades of living for myself, but I still recognize them in some of my emotional gut-responses to life even today. See if any of them resonate with you:

  • I don’t deserve this!
  • God, why are you doing this to me?!
  • This is not what I had planned for my day!
  • This isn’t fair!

I certainly didn’t choose these responses intentionally. I didn’t say to myself, “You know, anytime things in my life don’t turn out the way I believe they should, I’m going to stamp my foot and demand to know why God isn’t working with me here.” Those responses above make me sound like I’m eight years old! But absent an intentional commitment to trust God with the details of our lives, don’t we all have similar “life phrases” we default to? Ones that reveal just how selfish the plans of our hearts are?

These are all responses that betray a heart focused on its own kingdom, an individual confident that the plans they have for their lives are what’s best for them, and one whose highest goal is to serve themselves.

Staying fascinated, on the other hand, is a reminder to get our eyes off of ourselves and our foolish little plans, and instead to focus on God, the only One who is really in control. For me, at least, as I have reflected on those two little words, what they recall for me is that it is God’s purpose that will prevail (Isaiah 46:10), and that all of His plans for my life are good and perfect (Romans 8:28) and can be trusted, even when they directly conflict with what I want.

Anyone who knows me very well at all will know that I have little or no tolerance for Internet service that won’t stay up. I can get highly annoyed when my service at home goes up and down and is acting unreliable. Because I stay home with our young son and watch a few other kids as well, I am surrounded by children all day long; e-mail is my favored “connection” with adults in the outside world, and sometimes my only connection. When something like the ability to communicate with my husband is taken from me by unreliable Internet providers, I have historically responded in less-than-loving ways. Last week, our service went down (again), and as I felt my annoyance going up (again), “stay fascinated” also popped into my head. I was reminded that God is in control of every detail of my life (Psalm 139:1-4) and I considered that perhaps there was a reason why He was “forcing” me away from my computer. My service is now back up, and while it never became obvious to me why I “needed” to lose my outside connection, I found my heart responding differently this time, more peacefully accepting the days-long irritation.

That’s a small, silly example, but I share it because our days are made up of dozens and dozens of small opportunities to either respond like our inner eight-year-old, stamping our feet because life isn’t going the way we think it should…or responding in a way that acknowledges our Sovereign Creator. If we begin training our hearts to incline toward God, staying fascinated with what He’s doing in the small details of life, then perhaps when the bigger tragedies of life become our reality, we will respond with a heart that leans hard on God’s abundant love and mercy.

That close friend I told you I shared “stay fascinated” with? Just a couple weeks ago, her four-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and was hospitalized for four days. Instead of celebrating Memorial Day weekend with a barbecue like the rest of America, she and her husband were in the hospital learning the ins and outs of how to give insulin shots to their child and the importance of monitoring every bite of food he takes. I spoke to her within hours of her finding out about her son’s diagnosis, and do you know what she said to me? After asking for prayer, she said, “I don’t know what God has in store for us, but I’m going to stay fascinated.”

What a humbling, Christ-exalting response. I pray that as I learn to stay fascinated with Internet outages, I too am training my heart to rush to that response when harder things come my way.

Habakkuk 3:17-19
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines,
The produce of the olive fail
And the fields yield no food,
The flock be cut off from the fold
And there be no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
He makes me tread on my high places.

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