Thursday, January 28, 2010

Things aren't always what they seem...or what we expect

We were blessed beyond measure to have special guest Pam share with us this month.  While her words were well thought out and put together logically, my notes seem to go many different directions.  But I'll do my best to piece together the nuggets she shared:

Our first human response is to take charge and be in control.  We need to give ourselves permission to let others help us.  We wear many hats as women.  Story of when Pam and her family were rear-ended by a drunk driver at a stop sign.  Jaws of life were required to pull her out, and extensive therapy was required for her to regain movement.  It was a humbling, while horrible experience, yet it was great to learn how to receive help.  We should not try to manage emotions on our own, or difficult circumstances.  While feelings, and the process of healing, vary from person to person, they remain very similar.  We do not have to have identical circumstances with another person before we can walk with them, grieve with them, encourage them, and help them.  Nor do they have to have identical experiences to ours before we can receive those same things from them.

So how do we get through hard times?  Ecclesiastes 3:1 begins the section on there being a time for everything.  We have many seasons of life, and they are rarely bounded by the roughly 3-month time frame as are our Kansas weather seasons.  When Pam's mom passed away, that season in Pam's life was over and complete - even though Pam felt it had come too soon.  It was at the perfect time from God's eternal perspective.

The more we need God, the more we depend on Him...the more we depend on Him, the more we love Him. Many Christians express wanting to love God more, or wanting to "be" more of the kind of person that is compelled by His love.  Yet few people are signing up for needing God more.  It is a package deal.  God doesn't need my help, just my cooperation.  The more we try to help, the more anxious we become.  John the Baptist, in John 3:30, said that he needed to decrease so God could increase.

Pam brought with her a picture frame with three pictures inside.  The first one was very clear, and you could see for miles.  The second was more hazy, and the third almost looked like a picture that had not developed correctly, as it was so dark.  She told us that the three pictures were of the exact same location, just taken at different times.  Nothing had changed with what was out there from that particular vantage point, just how much the viewer could perceive.  There were the same exact things in the third picture as in the first, you just couldn't see them - but that didn't change the fact that they were indeed there.  The reality of God does not change, just what we can see of His plan changes in various seasons.  He is who He is all the time.  What we see, think, feel, or even believe, has no bearing whatsoever on who He is or what He is doing.  We cannot define Him by circumstances or visibility.

Linda Dillow, the author of Creative Counterpart and Calm My Anxious Heart, had what Pam called a tea cup theology.  To illustrate this concept, Pam brought two coffee cups.  One was plain white, nothing fancy.  The other was highly decorated and a more fun shape.  Each of us has a "cup" given to us by God.  One person's cup may look more fulfilled, more blessed, more beautiful or desirable, but we don't have any idea what is actually inside that cup.  It may be filthy, filled with despair, or cracked on the inside.  It is easy to look at the outside of the cups God has given those around us, and make assumptions as to how much God has chosen to favor those people.  But we really have no idea.  It is not for us to know or for us to judge.  When we focus on God, rather than what our eyes can see, particularly what we see of others, it will be much easier to learn contentment with the exact cup and portion God has chosen to give us.

When Pam's younger daughter had her last miscarriage, it was hard for Pam to see other grandmas at church or out and about holding their new grandbabies.  It brought pain.  All who have lost babies understand this kind of pain.  It seems through the Bible that there are many stories of women desperately desiring to have a child, and it is easy to assume that having a child meant the woman was blessed by God.  However, their blessings, as are our blessings, were brought by knowing God and having an intimate relationship with Him.

To experience true peace and joy we have to learn contentment in this exact moment.  We need to not put ourselves so much in center stage that we can't see God's power.  He is weaving an integrating our paths, but we will miss it if we are so focused on ourselves.  Few (if any) people have lives that play out as they'd expected.  We are all in need of refining.  Walk by faith, not by sight.  Fix your eyes on Jesus.  Fighting against what God has for us puts us at odds with Him and with ourselves.  Surrendering to the Lord does not mean giving up all our hopes and dreams, but rather seeking how to walk in His way for us.  It may include fulfillment of those hopes and dreams, or it may not.  We won't know until we surrender and walk.  As Jesus said on the cross, not my will but Yours be done.  We desire to be a fragrant aroma to Christ and others, but we can't do that when we're fighting with Him.

It is not about what we've done wrong or how we are being punished, or how others are blessed - all of those ideas indicate that we're in control...and we're not!!  Pam ended her time with us by reading a poem:

As I faced my Maker at the last judgment, I knelt before the Lord along with all the other souls.

Before each of us laid our lives like the squares of a quilt in many piles; an angel sat before each of us sewing our quilt squares together into a tapestry that is our life.

But as my angel took each piece of cloth off the pile, I noticed how ragged and empty each of my squares was. They were filled with giant holes. Each square was labeled with a part of my life that had been difficult, the challenges and temptations I was faced with in every day life. I saw hardships that I endured, which were the largest holes of all.

I glanced around me. Nobody else had such squares. Other than a tiny hole here and there, the other tapestries were filled with rich color and the bright hues of worldly fortune. I gazed upon my own life and was disheartened.

My angel was sewing the ragged pieces of cloth together, threadbare and empty,like binding air.

Finally the time came when each life was to be displayed, held up to the light, the scrutiny of truth. The others rose; each in turn, holding up their tapestries. So filled their lives had been. My angel looked upon me, and nodded for me to rise.

My gaze dropped to the ground in shame.. I hadn't had all the earthly fortunes. I had love in my life, and laughter. But there had also been trials of illness, and wealth, and false accusations that took from me my world, as I knew it. I had to start over many times. I often struggled with the temptation to quit, only to somehow muster the strength to pick up and begin again. I spent many nights on my knees in prayer, asking for help and guidance in my life. I had often been held up to ridicule, which I endured painfully, each time offering it up to the Father in hopes that I would not melt within my skin beneath the judgmental gaze of those who unfairly judged me.

And now, I had to face the truth. My life was what it was, and I had to accept it for what it was.

I rose and slowly lifted the combined squares of my life to the light. An awe-filled gasp filled the air. I gazed around at the others who stared at me with wide eyes. Then, I looked upon the tapestry before me. Light flooded the many holes,creating an image, the face of Christ. Then our Lord stood before me, with warmth and love in His eyes. He said, 'Every time you gave over your life to Me, it became My life, My hardships, and My struggles.

Each point of light in your life is when you stepped aside and let Me shine through, until there was more of Me than there was of you.'

May all our quilts be threadbare and worn, allowing Christ to shine through!

Each of must come to the place where we acknowledge and accept that "my life is what it is."  If God was all you had, would it be enough?  Your situation has purpose.  But it takes courage and trusting in God to wade through the hard times to discover that purpose...and the blessings awaiting you as you grow closer to your Maker.

1 comment:

Marlo said...

Thank you Melissa for sharing. I sit here with tears running down my face agreeing with your words and the way they have touched my heart. I feel so weary and burdened at times, thank you for the reminder to turn over whatever pain we have to the Lord.