Posted in Faith, Family

Shaken to the core

Recently I had something happen in my life that shook me to my core. 

Normally this type of feeling is spurred on by something happening outside of my control (c’mon ladies…you can nod here), or when I am incapable of understanding something that takes time to process.  It usually involves me processing my faith again at another level, and sometimes it can be pain-inducing.  I can only count on one hand the number of times I’ve been shaken to my core, but it seems to be happening a lot more lately. 

Since last fall’s private retreat, I’ve been on a healing journey with Christ, and He is walking me through some incredibly painful memories, for the purpose of joy and healing, but also to address my issue with lack of trust in Him in certain areas.  And I only have a few sisters in Christ I know of, who welcome these moments of healing and pain, to get to the other side.  I’m not sure we wake up every morning saying, “Bring on the pain!”  We just pray, “Bring on the day, and whatever that means, I’m willing to walk beside you still…”

Being in a stepfamily, there are many opportunities for miscommunication, feelings being hurt, unintentional heartache, and hurt emotions.  I have two stepdaughters.  Both girls are in their teens, are progressing in school and their goals, and we talk about everything under the sun.  Normally… 

Somehow in the commotion of life, I was out of the loop on a planned event that was coming up for them.  It’s not uncommon.  Communication with exes aren’t always the best.  And we’re all human.  But once the event was revealed, I had another obligation the same night and I was unable to attend the event with them.  My issue wasn’t only NOT being able to attend the important event with them, it was how Satan twisted my unavailability to go (and the lack of communication) right to my core lie:

That I don’t matter

Image

I can’t explain how my emotions looked on the surface, but if you have ever seen a two year old’s drawing with no consistency whatsoever, you can imagine how my feelings were that evening.  Not being included on the invite wasn’t the issue.  It was how I slowly got the time and date of the event, from people who weren’t family, and from an email that wasn’t sent to me. 

I wasn’t even included. 

And if you’re a stepparent who cares deeply about the children you’ve grown to love, you want to be present for as much as possible.  Granted there will be times you can’t be, and the kids don’t hold things like that over your head especially when you do attend things with them.  You are putting your time and money into them, even when it’s not received or cared about.  It’s for the greater good, that someday because of something you’ve done/said/contributed to/prayed about/etc., you have made an impact in their life and it’s going to MATTER!  Darn, there’s that word again. 

I don’t know how many people struggle with the negative self-talk that seems to plague so many of us.  But for those of you who are aware of it, the issue becomes when the emotions rise, there’s no way out of the situation, and we just have to roll with it, that we are pushed into the arena of faith.  It wasn’t my first instinct this time.  Lately, I’ve been progressing toward a direction where the moment that initial anger begins to rise, Christ stops it, I calm down, and choose another route.  But the other evening sent me to the dark place. 

Image

The place where all I have around me are hurtful words, hateful stares, and a crooked smile from the one who loves every minute she gets to cause me pain.  And I camped there for a bit.  I couldn’t process.  I couldn’t even hold my hurt back.  I blew up and said stupid remarks that reflected my hurt but came across as attacking words.  I blamed, and I raised my voice.  My family left the house, and I folded laundry.  And then my night began with my planned event that took me from being with the rest of my family.  And as I stood there, putting out food for my guests, I held back tears and started praying.  I have learned that when my emotions get out of control, the best thing to do is take all of it to God.  Holding back from Him was only going to hurt me more. 

So I was honest with Him. I told Him that I was pissed.  That I couldn’t believe that this far into our marriage, that something so little could set me off just right, that I wasn’t able to define the actual hurt, and that I was upset about something out of my control- which is exactly where HE wants me to be.  And then I decided to just let Him take it.  The hurt, the lie, the anger.  And I proceeded to have a fantastic evening.  Instead of festering on the hurt and heartache, I was able to hand it over to the One who died for all of this crazy stupidity anyway. 

I have two lessons learned from this:

ONE: Realize what is really necessary. 

A girlfriend of mine said earlier this week in a prayer meeting that after her mother passed, it gave her a perspective of life, and that a lot of things we prioritize sometimes aren’t really necessary.  Many things don’t really matter other than the time spent with people.  And I was able to witness the truth of her words the very next day.  In the scope of life, one instance of being passed over wasn’t going to define me, or make me feel inadequate in a marriage that I know I am very well loved in.  One instance of not being included didn’t mean that my stepdaughters didn’t want me there, or that the miscommunication was intentional.  If I let Satan win that day, I would’ve believed all of that.

TWO: My reaction matters. 

Emotions fluctuate.  This event was a reminder that sometimes in life, things are beyond my control, and the mark of a Christian is continuing to love through pain, and letting go so God can handle it.  How does my reaction define my heart’s stance on whether or not I am willing to let Christ handle something?  Do I trust God to handle my broken heart?  Do I allow Him to have control when I feel so out of control? 

I think it’s important to realize that life triggers SO MANY DIFFERENT EMOTIONS.  We tend to realize the bad ones because they have an effect on those around us.  There’s always forgiveness, there’s always grace, and there’s always communication that needs to take place so hurting hearts don’t continue to hurt other hearts.  But there’s that first step of admitting it too. 

Image

It’s a beautiful thing to ask God to help us be aware of our emotions, and what sets them off, so we can go to Him to help us handle them.  He gets it.  He’s taken on human flesh so He could experience the pain and heartache that He died for.  God knows the pain that we cause each other, intentionally and unintentionally.  It’s why He came to Earth to die and be resurrected so we could have hope to move past the heartache and hurt.

My cousin once put the crux of the Crucifixion into perspective for me by saying, “Grace, He hung on the cross and bore the sins of the person who was murdered and the murderer, the woman neglected and the adulteress, the person being raped, and the rapist…”  We tend to see things from a judgemental perspective, but the truth is that hurting people hurt people.  Are there victims in situations?  Absolutely.  But acknowledging a hurt, and forgiving it gives us the perspective of Christ.  Hurt happens.  Sometimes intentionally and other times unintentionally.  Either way, we must respond the same.  He died so we could provide the grace to each other.  This life is not all there is.  There is much more planned, and much more to come.  Holding onto hurts will just prevent the growth He is trying to accomplish in us. 

This week, we celebrate the life of Jesus, our Lord who took on every painful moment that has happened, IS happening, and WILL HAPPEN.  He entered into humanity to conquer death and provide LIFE to the fullest.  The same God who walked the Israelites through the desert and provided for them in their impatience and distrust, is the same God who listens to my anger prayers and my cry for stability when my emotions take over.  I was shaken to the core by something so menial, yet HUGE to me, because of my healing journey.  I choose to forgive, to hand it over to Christ, and let Him dispose of it for me. 

He really is LOVE.  He really is GRACE.  He really is FORGIVENESS.  And He really is RISEN!! 

Image

Posted in Faith

Seeing purpose through pain

Fellow Bible readers: How many times do we read passages in the Bible over and over, but just once we seem to read it differently and where there once were just words, suddenly there are intricate jewels that are aimed directly at our hearts?

Gleaning wisdom

While reading a passage from Scripture this morning, my eyes were opened to an incredible characteristic about our Father.

In 2 Peter 3:9, the passage begins, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is PATIENT toward you…”.  I couldn’t even read on. The light bulb went on!

spiritual connection

I want to share with you two revelations I had.

My first thought was the countless times I perceived God as being slow.  Many times in self-righteous anger I had cried out, “What is taking so long?!”  I was also reminded of other times when Christian friends talked about making a difficult decision, but were still undecided because they felt God wasn’t answering their prayer.

We’ve all been there.  Don’t we initially blame God when things don’t happen the way we want them?  But oh when they do–to our unbelieving friends, we proclaim the goodness of God and miracles, answered prayers, yada yada yada…it seems we’re ready to parade Him when the outcome is what we want, not so much when we are told to wait.  We really need to check our hearts and be careful of how we “sell” Jesus.  That is certainly not His intended goal.

Let’s take a look at something about God we may have never noticed before.  In the above passage, it begins with the Lord.  God wrote the Bible using humans. He took the time to speak to all of us and state that He is very aware of our desire for him to “speed things up”.  How do we know this?  He stated how some count His being slow as slowness.  He is not a fool.  We are the created beings.

However, He also clues us into something more detailed about Himself.  He elaborates to say where we consider Him to be slow, it’s not that He’s taking his sweet, old-time delighting in our agony.  He is actually being patient.

So what is so significant about this revelation?  Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s break that down.  What does patience mean?  We’re usually waiting for someone or something, right?  So where we’re becoming impatient and restless, God is being patient…for who?  US!  He isn’t moving or fulfilling requests like a genie because He has a well-developed and thought out plan!  Imagine that!

Are you feeling as humbled as I am now? I can remember so many times that I’ve doubted God heard my cry, but maybe, just maybe He was waiting for ME to do something.  This reminded me of a time that I didn’t understand where my life was headed, and I was getting tired of waiting.

I was twenty-one years old and hating life because I had found out that my boyfriend of two years had allegedly cheated on me with a married friend of ours.  The pain I felt inside was pure anguish.  I uplifted this guy and thought so highly of him.  Maybe it was the “idea” of him, and not his true self that I was worshipping, but nonetheless, the hurt was unbearable.

I was working at an office in Broadview Heights then and I was on a break all by myself in the back of the office, facing the woods. It was snowing outside and I was freezing, but at the time I was a smoker.

I hadn’t had a serious relationship before this man, and in my fear of being alone, I didn’t want to leave him, though I knew I deserved better.  I was scared, because he was five years older than me, and I didn’t have the best self-image.  I figured it would be best to talk it out with him, forgive him and move forward, but the anger of betrayal kept eating at me, and I was afraid I would never be able to trust him again.

Somehow in the midst of trying to think about how to solve my relational conflict, a voice inside me said, “Maybe you should just end it.”  And I knew the voice wasn’t talking about my relationship, but more severely ALL of them….as in, my death.

Then I began to think about it…car accident, slit wrists, etc.  How would I do it?  I can’t even believe that I was entertaining details about how to die, because I knew I could never do it, however facing my boyfriend and our mutual friend was the hardest thing I’d ever faced, and I knew mentally I wasn’t ready for it.  Instead of dealing with the hurt, I wanted OUT.

Bear in mind, I realize the selfishness of these thoughts left no room to consider my parents, siblings, friends, etc.  I wasn’t worried about how my death would affect anyone else. I  just didn’t want to deal with my relationship.  Looking back, it’s absolutely absurd.

And as I was contemplating all of these crazy ideas that I’m certain now was one of Satan’s deliberate attacks on my soul, it began to snow slowly.  I was still standing outside, half of a cigarette to go, watching the snowflakes land on cars, trees and eventually my coat sleeve.

I began to cry, because I didn’t know what to do, and my feeling of being helpless was overwhelming.  I took another hit off the cigarette and then looked down at my brown Carhartt coat.

All of the snowflakes were beautiful.

I laughed to myself.  How could I find beauty in these flakes?  And inside my soul, I heard another voice, again-not my own, say, “I make each of these different for a reason.”

I almost choked.  I coughed a few times.

And I took a few minutes to see the designs and patterns of these crazy, beautiful snowflakes before they were absorbed into my coat.  I put out my cigarette and just let out the cry that was at the corner of my eyes.

I knew it was God telling me that He knew my problem seemed so enormous at that moment, and I was unprepared, but in the scope of my life, that one moment learning about the betrayal would not define me.

My Lord did.

He designs snowflakes so distinctly and unique from each other.  I am not sure if I ever took the time to pay attention to that fact, but God sure had my attention that day.

I was a new believer.  I had just given my life to God when I was twenty, and was still not fully surrendering all parts of my life to Him.  But I knew of His presence and I definitely knew His voice.  That day, I stopped the thoughts of suicide in their tracks.  That is the only time I ever considered something like that, and am thankful that God made it snow.  He took a situation that I deemed overwhelming and unbearable and gave me purpose.

I went home, talked with my boyfriend, forgave him and told him that we had to cut ties with those “friends” if we were going to stay together.  I also told him that I had trust issues and was scared.  Forgiving him and starting over at that point didn’t save us from a divorce six years later, but it definitely started a course of action in my heart that I would depend on God and choose to see the designs and intricate patterns of His creation–including myself.

The second revelation I noticed in the passage listed above is the purpose of that passage.  Second Peter chapter three talks about the end of days, or the day that the Lord returns.  To state in verse nine, that God is “not slow to fulfill His promise” means that He will not return until everyone has had a chance to hear of His love and mercy.

He is being patient in not wanting anyone to perish, but for everyone to have an opportunity to see Him through general revelation and meet with Him through special revelation.  He has revealed Himself, as Romans 1:20 tells us.  He definitely has constructed a well-maintained world that He is a part of, and He still interacts with.  However, He is promising that the reason He hasn’t come back yet is because there is still work to be done on our parts.  We are to continue to spread the message (Matthew 28:16-20) and when everyone has heard, through God’s patience, He will return to collect His children.

God does indeed love all of us.  John 3:16 tells us that He loves us so much that He gave His only Son Jesus Christ, a part of Himself, yet completely separate, to come to the Earth and die for us.  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a picture of the Milky Way, but it’s where we live.  For some reason unbeknownst to us little Earthlings, God chose this planet and our people (red, yellow, black and white), to be saved from the lives we didn’t choose through sin.

This amazing God who created the universe, the stars, planets, people, species, water, atmosphere, etc.  is the same God who is calling you to know Him.  He wants you to see what He’s doing, He wants you to see love in His people and come to know the truth about true love.  I live in the United States and unfortunately here, a lot of us are blessed beyond measure but we take it for granted.  We have so much, and yet still want more.

Jesus didn’t die for us to have happy lives and live until we die with no use for anyone else.  He died and rose so that we could see the power of God through the defeat of death!  Without death to fear, WHAT IS THERE TO FEAR!?  NOTHING!  May you know Him and the power of His love.  Remember that He isn’t slow in anything, but He may be patient because He has a purpose…one that includes YOU.