Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wisdom in Fear

Proverbs 2:2-6

Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding;
For if you cry for discernment,
[a]Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.

Lately my prayers have revolved much around wisdom.  Extremely difficult decisions have popped up in the last few weeks that threaten anxiety, rob me of joy, and make me lose sleep at night.  Being the coward that I am even the most benign of conflicts cause my chest to seize up and my stomach to drop.  With the stress of my current job and disappointment about particular aspects of my life there have been a few times where I have quite literally been brought to my knees, verbally crying out for wisdom and strength from the Lord; a good place to be, though very difficult.

Wisdom often seems an illusive thing, especially in terms of specific situations:  

Should I go after this job I know I would love but might not make enough money?  

Should I take a break from school to save a little money?  

Should I move?  

When seeking counsel objectivity is hard to find, for who among us can be truly objective?  Attempting to reason by your own counsel runs into the same problem, encountering emotion that causes great difficulty in separating what you feel from what you know to be right and true.  And latching onto this comes the panicked fear that if you make the "wrong" decision you will experience a fall from which there can be no recovery.

But I think that it is in the fear that the answer can be found.  Do I fear the future, the consequence of mistakes, the disapproval of others above all things, or do I fear the Lord?  In Proverbs we are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  When I first read this years ago I couldn't understand it.  Fear seems like such a negative principle, something we should not apply to a loving God, but as He has grown me in my faith, my idea of fear has grown as well.  This fear is the knowledge of His sovereign control over the events of the world, the understanding of just how big He is, and the realization that in spite of these things (along with our own insignificance) He cares for us.  The God Who created all things from nothing and Who could destroy all things by the mere force of His will has condescended to have a relationship with us, has chosen to be our Father.  This is the beginning of wisdom.

Specific decisions?  Still hard.  Conflict?  Not sure I will ever be able to handle it all that well.  But I can fear the Lord and trust Him to lead me because He is faithful even when I'm not.

Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Embracing the Disappointment

Philippians 4:4
"Rejoice in the Lord always..."

Do you ever read scripture like this and, amidst feelings of guilt and frustration, just want to say "suck it, you don't know my life!"?  Have you ever rolled your eyes at a Christian platitude and wanted to literally punch the person talking in the face (again, amidst feelings of guilt and frustration)?  Have you ever shouted profanities in prayer that would make others blush and question your salvation?

I was talking to a friend tonight about not being where we wanted to be, about feeling like Israel stranded in the desert, about being angry with God.  In fact, I've had a few conversations about this topic recently; about being mad at the way life has worked out, about being bitter, about feeling guilty because we are bitter.  I've wrestled with God, asking Him why He hasn't given me certain things, why He has allowed me to face certain struggles, and then feeling guilty about my complaints, knowing what others suffer.  It seems to be a theme lately; discontentment, bitterness, numbness...

I don't have an answer.  I haven't been given a flood of peace that washes away all my anxieties and allowed me joyful contentment even whilst sinking beneath waves of stress and hurt.  The guilt I feel doesn't bring me back to reality as I consider how other suffer so much more than I do, how blessed I really am.  Rather, in a lot of ways I'm learning to embrace the pain.

I do such a fabulous job of hiding from it, of escaping into the stories I write or the shows and movies I watch and the books I read...but God has been yanking me backwards, making me aware of the ache that accompanies this life.  There was never a promise of satisfaction and paradise on this earth, never the comfort of total peace and comfort this side of heaven.  When God came down, He Himself was poor, a wanderer, an outcast, charged as the worst of criminals, beaten, and consumed with a wrath He did not deserve.  

The sin we brought into this world brings pain down upon us, and I think that sometimes we need to embrace it, allowing it in, drive us to our knees no matter how much it feels as if our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling.  It's tantamount to a fast: in our hunger we are reminded of how we ought to hunger for spiritual food, for the presence of God; in pain we must be reminded of the paradise we lost that Christ gained back.

Only in this can we be brought, slowly but surely, to rejoicing as Paul says in Philippians 4, only in this can we release the comforts of this world and long for the comforts that lay ahead.

"...again I will say, rejoice!"

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nothing to Say

I’ve got nothing much to say. 

We’re in May now, May of 2013.  I can’t believe the time has gone by so fast, that I’m nearly done with my second class at RTS, that summer is almost here, that so many things have happened.  I’ve written a lot, been disciplined to do so every week for a few months now, taken link up challenges, been encouraged by the blogosphere and by sweet friends, and hopefully I’ve gotten better. 

But right now I don’t have much to say. 

What do you write when you want to remain disciplined but can’t find words?  Do you verbally vomit on the page?  Do you make a list of events of the day, both mundane and extraordinary?  Do you attempt poetry? 

Sometimes I think it’s ok to just ramble a bit.  My life isn’t very exciting, I can’t give you sweet pictures of kiddos or tell a dramatic engagement story, but I love to write, and I love to share what God’s teaching me, and I hope and pray that these things are an encouragement to others in some small way. 

But tonight I’ll just leave you with a song, one that came to mind when I was trying to decide what to post, one that I absolutely love, and I’ll cut myself short, be quiet a moment, and just listen.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Who I Am

I almost didn't post today.  For the last few months I've been pretty good about having my writing scheduled out so that even when school got busy I could just throw it up easy peasy.  But lately, things have been hectic at work, taking on the receptionist job along with my human resources duties, and at home where I've been finishing my term paper and studying.  It hasn't been easy, and while on the one end I really enjoy the things I'm learning, on the other I'm exhausted...

I had a friend once ask me how that was possible because I didn't have any kids, and that really hurt.  It was as if the assumption was that I come home, slouch on the couch, and eat frozen dinners every night.  It rubbed in the fact that I haven't (yet?) been blessed with kids.  It belittled my tired.

It also socked me in the pride.

I have a problem when it comes to defining myself.  I am single, I am not a mom, I am a receptionist and administrative assistant, I am a bit of a geek... There's just one problem with these things.  They really aren't who I am.  Sure they are aspects of who I am, they are characteristics, but they do not define me, not ultimately.  If I allow myself to be defined by such things then my pride is easily injured, my aspirations often crushed, my mood darkened and embittered because I feel like a failure.  But if I view myself as what I really am, only then can I stand firm.

So who am I?  Galatians 4:6 says "Because you are sonsGod has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  Genesis 1:27 says that I was created in His image.  Psalm 139 says that He knit me together in my mother's womb, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  This is who I am.  I belong to the God of the universe Who formed me with His hands, Who wrote my story, Who loves me even when I screw up because He suffered for my sin before I even committed it.  This is what I need to rest on, this is who I need to remember I am.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Verbal Murder

“Learn to read idiot, that’s not what he said.”

“Her short hair and dark eyebrows make her uglier than she normally is.”

“Planning to burn a cross in their yard? How ignorant can you be?”
I always make myself a promise, and I always break it. When reading articles online I inevitably make the mistake of reading the comments section down below. It’s utter foolishness on my part, because I know that what I will read will assuredly depress and anger me. People rip into each other with harsh words and little regard for logic in sorry attempts at debate. Part of me wants to laugh wondering, “Do you really think that calling someone a moron is going to open their ears or stop them?” And part of me just wants to cry.

Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
But I’m no innocent by-stander, though certain things restrain me from name calling in the comments section of internet articles, I curse people in my mind, occasionally (more often than I would care to admit) deeming them idiots, morons, ignorant. Sure, no one hears that, I avoid hurting feelings, I’m able to participate in outwardly respectful debate, but that does not make me innocent. Though silent I am still tearing down my fellow man, still murdering them in my heart. More importantly, I am cursing a creature God has made, a creature He formed in the womb, a creature whose story He wrote and eternity He planned. “Silently” I offend the Holy God of the universe.
I don’t like to face this. I want everyone to believe that I’m pretty stinkin’ awesome. But in coming to grips with the sin in my own heart a few beautiful things can happen. This humbling realization allows me to view others with a grace I would not otherwise be able to see through, it allows me to love others in their failings with less self-righteousness than I might have before, it shows me just how amazing the grace of God is.

There is lots of discussion out there about certain types of people being hypocrites (especially in comments sections), specifically Christians. In a lot of ways I think this word is terribly misused and little understood, but I also think the term applies to everyone who has ever existed. If you are breathing on this planet, you’ve been a hypocrite at one point or another. The only real solution, the only real way to flee from this pitfall, is to confront your own sin and come face to face with the only One Who ever met the standards of righteousness and holiness. May our hearts be humbled that grace may abound.