Philippians. 4:11ff NEB
How can I steady myself when my nervous system is threatened to be overwhelmed like a tsunami sweeping over Catalina Island?
I want to learn what the Apostle Paul indicates he learned in his remarkable statement: whatever my circumstance, I have learned to find resources within myself. His ability to resist impulse and maintain self-control is one of the most fundamental of all psychological skills, according to expert Daniel Coleman. Coleman wrote the best-selling Emotional Intelligence: Why It Matters More Than I.Q. Coleman notes that to stay flexible, wily and think faster than a dark thought or impulse is the height of emotional intelligence.
When Paul was tried and tested, what did he learn to do?
Recognizing his need for strength from Above, he asked Christ to be his anchor. He might have penned these words of My Deep Down Calm:
While sea waves swirl both high and low,
The ocean's fury is unheard below.
Storms create watery walls quite steep,
While the bottom remains calm, the unruffled deep.
While windblown white-tips dance to and fro,
Below the coral rock feels no such foe.
There's a storm coming, but I don't fear it.
I've an ocean-like capacity for depth in my spirit.
Let the serenity of Jesus be in charge of my core,
For He's as immovable as the ocean's floor.
R.S. (inspired by J. P. Noble and W.G.Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness)
Though I exist most of the time on the surface, feeling its storms, deep in my spirit I can still sense the calm of the unruffled deep. If Paul gives me any kind of formula in this passage, it is:
1. Believe I can stay calm inside while the outer storm blows. Not perfect calm, but unruffled
compared to the circumstances. If I don't believe, I'm done before I've even begun.
2. Play down the storm, play up the resources within myself. By staying in the present, I focus on what
I have, not on what I don't have. And resist “awfulizing”, the focus on many possible dark outcomes.
3. Focusing on what I have includes believing in the secret trump card in my pocket: my Higher
Power. He typically waits to save the day, I've learned, at the moment the storm looks darkest.
I still must deal with my destructive impulses. But Jesus slows me down and by being aware of them I can stay flexible and wily, open to finding latent resources within. My calmer mind is better able to look for and find alternative thoughts and behaviors. When I look to Him, Jesus gives me the strength that means the difference between staying in control or shooting myself in the foot. Calm down, Ron. This storm, too, shall pass.
Here's the difference between the surface storm and the bottom of the sea.
Decision for the Day: When anxiety strikes, fortify my self-control, Lord. It's a “fruit of Your Spirit”, not the roar around me.
Paul embodied exemplary emotional and spiritual intelligence. With Christ's help, I can too.
About the Author: Ron Shackelford is a pastor (honorably retired) and licensed marriage and family therapist. He is the author of Married to an Opposite: Making Personality Differences Work For You. Another devotional on this blog by Ron is The Vulnerable Bible
About the title: Two titles suggested themselves when I first read Ron's devotional: Learning Man, which I decided to use. The other was Spiritual Intelligence. I decided to keep the focus on learning since that is the word the Apostle himself used, as also Ron. Spiritual intelligence, however, is a key aspect of 24/7 Christian living and learning is just . In case you're curious about spiritual intelligence, check out Cindy Wiggleworth's SQ21, a model that has been successfully used in corporate settings; Cindy defines spiritual intelligence as the ability to behave with wisdom and compassion, while maintaining inner and outer peace, regardless of the situation. (Intelligence is the ability to behave skilfully in real situations and spiritual intelligence is neither spirituality or religion; it includes the ability to learn and adapt.) Here is a link to an article on Spiritual Intelligence and Transformational Leadership in the discipline of Education (If you follow the link, you wll be able to download a pdf or listen to an mp3 file.) Here is a shorter link to Cindy's article on Spiritual Intelligence in the Huffington Post.