Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Substitution Principle

A few days ago I said I'd be posting an observation a day that I've gleaned from my fast.  Yes, well, best laid plans and all that I'm afraid.  I've had plenty of observations, just haven't had the motivation to sit down and write them out.  Perhaps it's because they show me for who I really am and that's often not very pretty.  Regardless, I'm back on track with one today.

Observation #2 is the substitution principle...when something is removed to create a void, something else comes along to fill it up.  "Duh" you say.  Maybe so, but this is my blog, so work with me here.

I was married for 31 years before the divorce became final a little over a year ago.  Unfortunately, the marriage was never a good one.  A union for all the wrong reasons, there were many cracks in the foundation.  Over the years, those cracks became gaping holes.  The void created by my husband's lack of love and attention was filled with shopping and food.  Things that gave momentary pleasure and seemingly filled the empty spaces in my life, but they were empty too and brought unpleasant consequences with them.  The hollowness in my soul created when his harsh words tore down my dignity and self worth was filled with self doubt and self loathing as the lies took root and grew to fill the darkness - a substitution even more insidious and dangerous to my well-being.

But that was then and this is now.  While it shaped who I was for a very long time, I'm learning through God's grace and patience, that He is the only thing that can truly fill the empty spaces.  I wish I could say "lesson learned" and check it off my list, but I am human and often make the same or similar mistakes many times over in the process.  Trying to purge some of the substitutions is one of the reasons I'm on this 29 day fast.  Idols of various kinds have sprung up in my life like dandelions.  A single, innocuous little yellow flower one monent, the next  it seems to have infiltrated the entire lawn.  Initially, I didn't think of the things I'm fasting from as substitutions for God, but in one way or another, they are.  I look to those other people or things for fulfillment, comfort, worth, satisfaction and a host of others emotions

Sometimes substitutions aren't intrinsically bad, but even the good ones fill the gap in the wrong way.  For example, I mentioned that my divorce was a little over a year ago, however, my husband walked out four years prior.  During that long separation, my grown daughter got her own place in another state.  Then my son began driving and, with his new found freedom, was rarely home.  Suddenly, my house was a very quiet, empty place.  I threw myself into work and church.  If I wasn't home, if I wasn't sitting still, maybe I wouldn't have to be alone with my thoughts.  Work and community outreach became the substitution for family.  Neither of those things were bad in and of themselves - in fact, if you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that I have found a real purpose and calling in leading the outreach ministry at my church.  Still, for a long time, there was no balance. 

I started thinking about the substitution principle a few days ago when a friend said in an email, "I bet you're so productive now that you're not on Facebook!".  I sat at my computer desk and looked around.  A suitcase remained unpacked from more than a week before.  Dust covering the furniture could be written on.  Clothes were folded on the couch but not yet put away.  A pile of ironing sat in a basket in the corner.  Productive?  Not quite hardly.  My mind began to run through all the things I'd done over the past week or so that had kept me from getting things done.  Nothing.  I hadn't gathered paperwork for taxes, hadn't written my community outreach newsletter, hadn't done much housework, hadn't even read many pages in the books I had set aside for this time.  What had filled all those hours I was saving by not being on Facebook?  Television. 

Although I'm not one to watch much TV, I was suddenly in front of it for hours at a time.  Tired, unmotivated, and totally vegged out.  Generally if I take the time to watch a program, I'm multi-tasking - going through mail, clipping coupons, ironing, etc.   But not the past two weeks.  You know the principle - a body in motion tends to stay in motion, but a body at rest tends to stay at rest.  All I had done was swapped a computer screen for a TV screen and it was worse because instead of at least interacting with someone on the other side, I was being fed a steady stream of mind-numbing, unimportant, junk.  One idol swapped for another.

At least I'm beginning to see the time-wasters for what they are.  But what will I do about it?  I intend not to turn on the TV in the first place when I get home.  I can always fill the silence with talking to God.  Never before have I had so much time to pray.  And frankly, I'm going through quite a time of testing on a number of fronts, so never before have I had so much to pray about.  I can also curl up with a Good Book.  It's not a bad thing to pull a novel off the shelf, so long as I've spent some time reading my Bible - don't want to substitute one for the other after all.

One last thought about the substitution principle.  There is good substitution when God's substitution principle is applied.  It's the one in which Jesus died on the cross, taking on my sin, my mistakes, my shame, all my junk that had created a huge void between God and I, and filled it with Himself.  It was the ultimate substitution and the only one I want to fill the empty spaces of my heart, mind and soul.  A void filled with Jesus is one that is filled with peace, love, grace, mercy, strength, and all things good.  John 10:10 says "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  Now that's the kind of substitution I can live with...how about you?


  1. Well said, my friend. Awesome post!!!

  2. Hi Toni - just checking in on you today. Beautiful insights and truth. You are so generous to share from your experiences and I know I'm not alone in benefiting from the wisdom. TV is my issue in these winter months too...I knew it, but sort of let it go until reading these words. Thanks for calling it what it is! I hope and pray you are feeling more of Jesus as you strive to make that space - always a battle I'm afraid! And yet - there is enough of God's grace to cover all of our shortfalls! Hallelujah!

    1. And thank YOU Cathy, since it was your email comment that hit me between the eyes so I could see this truth :) It is always a battle to keep the 'Jesus space' open, but this time is helping me to see that 'failing' at doing that doesn't have to be a permanent state of being. I can dust myself off, and try again.