Friday, May 31, 2013

Wonder what would happen if we quit asking why and started asking what?

It seems like I've always had a boyfriend.  *eye roll*  High school and college were no exceptions.  But it wasn't until college where I started making decisions with my boyfriend that had long-term emotional effects.  Our relationship was tumultuous at best, and we were either together or broken up, together or broken up, together or broken up.  Get the idea?

The day after I graduated from college, I had no choice but to move home with my parents and start looking for a job.  At the time, my college sweetheart had moved away and joined the Army.  And although we still communicated through letters and phone calls, it wasn't a very strong relationship.  But it really never was, you know?  I wanted it to be, but the relationship just never became what I had hoped.  Once home with my parents, I started making a life for myself as best as I could, and that's when I met the man who would change everything.

See?  In college, I never felt strong enough to end the relationship.  My relationship with my boyfriend felt, in a lot of ways, like that song by Pink.  Our relationship was like taking a pill.  Except instead of making me better, it kept making me ill.  Make sense?  That is until I graduated and had no choice but to move out of that college town and away from my circumstances for good.  It was at that point where I started getting my strength back.  My mind became clearer and my heart started to heal.

That's when I met my Beloved.  I really had never been with a guy who "courted" me.  What I mean is...I had never really been pursued by a man.  It wasn't as if I had always attracted losers, although my mother may have a differing opinion.  It's just that I had never met someone who cared about me in a way that he was willing to put his feelings for me out there no matter the risk, no matter the loss.  He made it clear from the beginning how he felt about me, and he spent most of his time making me feel so special and so wanted.  It didn't take long for me to fall deeply in love with him and like the cliché says...the rest is history.

My husband and I will celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary in September.  Since our initial meeting, I have thought many is it that I ended up with someone so wonderful?  I would tell the Lord...I have made so many mistakes in my life, I have spit in the face of God through the awful decisions I've made.  Yet still, He allowed someone so wonderful to come into my life and really show me what it means to be loved, to be woo-ed, to be pursued, to be honored and respected and cherished.  Based on what I know about myself, it is quite easy to feel undeserving of such a wonderful gift.

But listen.  Something I've grown to learn...this is how Jesus works.  He takes delight in giving us the desires of our heart.  And there will never come a time where I will ever deserve any gift He chooses to give me.  He does this because He loves me.  Period.

You know what's interesting?  I recently heard Beth Moore give a devotional on the danger of judgmental-ism and criticism.  She explained that soon after we go through a tough time, and the Lord plucks us out of the pit in which we've created ON OUR OWN, and places our feet firmly on the ground, it takes almost no time for us to become prideful in looking back over our shoulder to see how far we've come.  In almost split time, we forget what the Lord has done.  We forget how far He has brought us.  And it doesn't take long for us to start looking down our noses at the messy lives of the people that surround us.  Oh how quick we are to quit looking up at the Father and instead start looking down at the choices people around us are making.  Even when someone hurts us or offends us, aren't we quick to wallow around in our pain and insecurity?  It doesn't even occur to us that our feelings of offense are strongly rooted in self.  And the pain, the insecurity, and the injustice we feel are sometimes rooted in pride.  Pride, my ugly sin in and of itself.  (*Disclaimer - I am referring to minor offenses here, friends.  Please know I understand many of you have had great injustices done to you in your lifetime...injustices that are too awful to speak of.  I am only referring to those obnoxious daily occurrences that can hinder our moods for no real significant reason.)

No, I don't deserve my wonderful husband.  No, I'll never deserve these precious three children God has entrusted to my husband and me.  I don't even deserve to get the opportunity to wake up each day and breathe in and out on my own.  To just be able to put on clean underwear and have a bed to sleep in and food in my pantry to eat...NO, I will never be deserving of any of it.  But that's not how my God sees things.  There is not one thing that happens to us...not one good thing...not one bad thing...that happens to us by coincidence.  God allows it all to happen.  He may not will it.  But everything that happens in our lives must first pass under the gaze of His eyes and through the approval of His hands.  And because of that, we MUST start looking at our circumstances through the eyes of the Author of Life.  In our fit of asking Him why, we must also ask Him what.  What, Lord?  What is it that You want me to see?

This is so hard to do and even harder to believe, but it is my opinion that God doesn't allow any circumstance to touch our lives that doesn't make us stronger in Him, help us know Him more, and give His Son glory.  I understand how difficult this is to comprehend for those of us who have had real tragedy and real heartbreak to touch our lives.  But I believe it will be in those moments, when life is good and life is hard, where His glory will unfold right before our eyes if we would just take the time to ask Him what, Lord.  What?  It will be then where His mysteries will be revealed.  His sovereignty will be understood.  And in the moments where it doesn't make sense, it won't matter.  Because we will have learned how to trust Him and our lives will surely sing...

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." -Romans 8:28

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Some things never change, but what if they did?

I remember being tortured by a girl my age when I was in junior high.  One day we were great friends and the next day we just...weren't...for no apparent reason.  She simply woke up one morning and decided she didn't want to be my friend anymore and encouraged all of her friends to feel the same way about me, as well.  And so began a summer of torture between my 7th and 8th grade year.  This group of girls took sick pleasure in harassing me, making fun of me, playing practical jokes, and so on and so on.  I can laugh about it now, but truth be told...that was one of the most difficult times of my adolescence.

I remember my mother promising me things would get better.  The older I got, she assured me, the better people would treat me.  She believed with maturity, people would improve their behavior.  And she was right to some extent.  But along the way, I've realized...some things never change.

Little mean girls grow up into adult mean girls.  Jealousy still exists and is probably more prevalent among grown women than any other group.  The pressure to be accepted, to fit in, and to be acknowledged never goes away.  Laughing at others' shortcomings is just too tempting.  Doing whatever it takes, even if it means taking out a friend/co-worker/family member along the way, to rise to the top has become a normal way of life.  And this is just me describing people I know in my sheltered, small-town, Christian, southern life.

Oh sure!  Go ahead and say it's a southern thing.  Go on and try to explain this is a matter just among women.  Try to convince me it's because I live in a small town where no one has anything better to do. 

If only that were true, but it's not.  This is life.  This is the world we live in.

And as a woman facing these issues everyday...can I just say?  I.Am.Tired.  It's just too exhausting for words.  I was so looking forward to this phase of life as a woman where I had hoped I would feel more confident, more sure of myself, more proud of my accomplishments, and less needy of affirmation, attention, and acceptance.

Then, it occurred to me.  I wasn't designed to feel any of those things.  I wasn't made to be popular.  I wasn't created to be famous.  It was never part of the plan for me to achieve what the world wants me to achieve so that I could be boastful of my accolades and awards.  What we find natural to feel and accepting to desire actually goes against the original plan from the beginning all along.

Yes, it's true.  I was created with purpose.  Yes I do, indeed, have a mission to fulfill.  Of course, there is a job lined out for me to achieve.  And the outcome is not a large salary or a perfect body or a brilliant personality.  The reward?

God's Glory.

His glory is my reward.  I was created to love Him, to serve Him, and to honor Him.  Is it no wonder that every issue the world likes to throw my way goes completely against the very reason God created me?  Should it even surprise me that those things in which the world finds natural and accepting totally contradict the purposes and mission of God?

It is my hope that as women, we can lock arms together.  That as women, we can look for ways to build each other up.  That as women, we can decide that enough is enough!  If we can all recognize the importance of our God-given individual purposes...then just think of what we can do for the cause of Christ if we would just decide to do it TOGETHER.  YES, lives would be changed.  This world would look and feel a little better.  But most importantly...

God's glory would be AND is our reward.

Who is with me?