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Guilty as Charged!

There it was. I couldn’t cut it out of Habakkuk. That’s not playing according to the rules. What could I do with that verse that had just hit me like a ton of bricks and left my stomach knotted up?

"They will be held guilty,
They whose strength is their god."

—Habakkuk 1:11(b)

But I was programmed for strength. You point me in the right direction, and I’ll get there. You give me the necessary instructions, and it will be done and, I might add, done well. My capability was nearly unlimited.

I remember when we were building our house there in Durant, Oklahoma. It was "in the country," two miles out of town. I didn’t mind at all being the only one out at "the lot," hoisting those pinta-treated pecan boards (1x8x12), standing on the ladder, wielding my hammer like a true carpenter should. I wasn’t afraid. (At least no one was going to know it if I was.) I reveled in horsing the felled trees over to the "burn pile." (My muscles compared favorably with the boys.) Finding the baby Copperheads under the board or seeing the "Puff Adders" do their tricks was all in a day’s work. And when the chance came to do some interior brickwork, who volunteered and did a pretty good job of it? You’re right. Anabel.

Bill tells the story of my expertise in "shelf-making." He started it all – but I finished it! I loved the shelves that he started making for the house, and I enthusiastically bragged on the finished product– every putty-filled hole was touched and praised. Then his desire to make shelves began to wane. I wanted one more, but the sweet talk and the flicking of the eyelashes didn’t motivate him. So what did I do? I made the shelf myself. (We still can’t tell whose is whose. Nice play, Anabel.)

Oh, I wasn’t competitive. I wasn’t trying to show Bill up or outdo him in any way. I just tackled things and got them done and, when I did them, they were done right. That is, they were done to meet my standard. My standard, by the way, was perfection.

Strong. From my earliest childhood recollections I was the leader, the captain of the "Red Rover" team, the straight A student. When I was twelve years old I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, but my life-style didn’t change. Another field of endeavor was merely added. Now, I’m being "strong" for God. I am performing perfectly (to the best of my zealous ability) for people, for God and for myself. No one ever saw me when I was not performing… playing my role to the hilt.

High school was a series of successes. I hated every moment of it. Why? Because I have to be this person that I have conjured up, this person that I have created over the years. Oh, it distresses me terribly to lose, to not be elected, to not be the one out in front. It would cause hours of introspection. "Why? Why didn’t they vote for me? Why do they like her better than they do me? Why did I make that error? What could I have done differently? " I lived for and I thrived on awards, accolades, applause, approval. They all spelled "love" to me.

My theology supported my patterns for strength: "God helps those who help themselves." "He gave me a brain, didn’t He? He expects me to do things for myself. " My two "pet phrases" were: "If I can’t do this by myself, I’m certainly not going to ask God to help me." And "How many times is God going to have to bail me out? When am I going to learn to do this on my own?" You do understand of course, that when I got strong enough and could do everything by myself (my goal) I wouldn’t ever need God ("small" error in theology.)

Marriage was a challenge, to put it mildly, but I kept digging for twenty years. Dire financial needs? "I can handle it." A son born with physical imperfections that would require weeks in a strange city in an "out-of-town" hospital? "I can handle it. " A husband who was lusting after other women? "I can handle it. " A broken hip with complications resulting in weeks in the hospital, learning how to handle a wheelchair and walking on crutches? "I can handle it!" A marriage that is by now just short of horrible? "I can handle it." A profoundly retarded child? "I can handle it." Nasty, bad interpersonal tension with in-laws? " I can handle it. I can handle it. I can handle it. I’m strong! "

A person with patterns like mine will be admired. She’ll be appointed to a lot of committees and asked to do some pretty important jobs. Her friends will utter in amazement, "I just don’t see how you do it, Anabel."

But you see, don’t you? Sheer will power energized by the need to accept myself, driven by super-HUMAN strength, not SUPER NATURAL strength. Super natural strength comes from God. Super human strength comes from a human who has mastered strength. Do you understand that this is my unique version of the flesh? Performing. Performing well. My intelligence. My ability. My way. Habakkuk pointed it out to me. I guess he was the only one who had the courage to do it. "Anabel, "your strength is your god."

God. The Divine Being. He is Omnipotent. Omnipresent. Omniscient. Immutable. If I make my strength my god, then by definition I consider my self/ my strength/ my talents/ my abilities:

Omnipotent: all-powerful
Anabel: "I can do it myself. I don’t really need help. Thank you, anyway."

Omnipresent: ever-present
Anabel: "God is distant. But I am here. My strength will suffice. It will never leave me. It is part of me."

Omniscient: all-knowing
Anabel: "Don’t tell me what to do. I know what needs to be done. I can figure this out."

Immutable: unchanging
Anabel: "My strength will not fail me. It is dependable. I’ve always been able to do things well. This will never change."

"They will be held guilty,
They whose strength is their god."  

I don’t want to be "held guilty." I don’t want to be my own god. Besides that, I haven’t been doing too well. I really can’t point to any awards I’ve received lately. No one is applauding for me. I’ve forgotten how to spell "accolades." God knew that. He allowed my I-can-handle-it attitude to be broken. I learned to say, "God, I can’t handle it." Those are such difficult words for a strong performer to utter. But those words released me from a life pattern of being a driven person, of having to "do it my way… all by myself."

No. It was not an "on-the-spot" miracle. In fact, to be very truthful, I’m still working on it, and the learning process began over twenty years ago. You don’t get rid of patterns of thought, behavior and emotions overnight that have been burned into your memory banks over years. It took a long time to build those old, destructive patterns; it will take a long time to build new, constructive patterns and abandon the old ones.

Do you relate? Do you understand? You don’t have to go through the years of stress and failure that I did. You can look at Exhibit A: Me, Anabel. You can say, "Lord, I don’t want to hold on to that super human strength of mine like she did. I want Your strength to be my strength. I want You to face the circumstances of life for me and through me." It’s that easy to enter the "land of beginning" again.

My paraphrase of Psalm 84:5 says it well:

"The man who has come to know that You are his strength is a man who is blessed." (That’s Anabel.)

"The man whose deep desire is to walk in God’s will is a man who is blessed. (There I am again.)

"Difficulties become to him a source where he drinks freely of God’s power, and experiences His touch of refreshment and blessing…much like an invigorating early spring rain.(Incredible… and it’s mine.)

"His strength does not waver. He goes from strength to strength, growing in strength, for it is the Lord’s strength. (I’m learning. That’s why He left me here.)

About the Author

Anabel spent decades teaching in many contexts through Lifetime Guarantee Ministries. She has taught countless others how to have a genuine intimate faith and a sound marriage. She shared from her heart about living from the heart. Lifetime’s beloved founder and mentor passed away November 7, 2010. Her legacy and influence are timeless and priceless.