Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Faulty Theology

Gee mister, I’m glad you’re well off enough to go at that speed and risk getting a ticket…

Holy crap, I’m already going five over what do you want me to do?

Psh, at least I’m not going that fast…where’s the cop that pulled me over the other day now!?

My thoughts in traffic reveal bad theology. I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this way; in fact, from frequent conversations with friends I know I’m not. If someone is going too fast they’re a lunatic, too slow (read: slower than me) they’re idiots, not using a blinker they’re inconsiderate, wrong bumper sticker (anything to do with the Longhorns, obviously) and they’re going to hell (ok, kidding on that one…sort of).

I may be right. Other people very well might be driving too fast, recklessly and dangerously even. But what’s my standard for irritation and indignation? My own speed, my own obedience to traffic laws, my own driving “skills”. Do I go the exact speed limit? Do I always use my blinker? I can tell you right now that I don’t. I consistently go five over the speed limit (gasp), I forget to signal when changing lanes, sometimes I get distracted and even dip below the speed limit (double gasp), I’ve even cut people off before (hmm, maybe I need to take the ichthus off the back of my car…)

Delving further still, the main reason I follow the traffic laws (even if imperfectly) is ultimately only because I don’t want to get a ticket. Maybe part of me cares about keeping safe, but without those speed limit signs I’d probably be driving 80 just about everywhere I went (that is, if my car would let me…the pig is starting to shutter when I go over 60). Even my motivations are messed up!

What does this have to do with theology? My attitudes in traffic show what I really believe about the way God looks at us. I can say all I want that I’ve been saved by grace alone, that my sin is worthy of death and just as offensive as the sins of others, but when I rail against someone speeding more than me, I prove that I do not always operate this way.
At least I’m not as bad as him or her.

I would never do something like that.

I need to be reminded, and frequently, what the real standard is when it comes to God. He has no sin, He is perfect, and His perfection is the standard. By no stretch of the imagination can I ever meet such an impossible standard. Period. Therefore, I am in utter need of grace and mercy and have no room to boast that “at least I haven’t committed sin ‘x’”.

The fact is, sin, all sin, any sin (even “respectable” ones) is rebellion against the loving God Who created the universe; the One without Whom we wouldn’t even exist. My decision to tell a white lie tramples on His truthfulness, my irritation with someone offends His love for His creations, my complaining accuses Him of not being faithful to take care of me and give me good things (even if they are hard). I fall horrendously short of His glory, no matter how good I look to the rest of the world, and without His grace deserve nothing short of eternal condemnation.

My prayer is that my deep seated belief that I am somehow innately good with be upturned like a basket of rotten fruit, that God will help me understand the depth of my sin and the gloriousness of His gift, and that because of this new understanding of myself will foster an attitude of love and mercy towards others.

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Mourning What Hasn't Happened"

Her cheeks are chubby and full, cherub-like even, her eyes are blue like mine, her fine baby hair a brown that doesn’t belong to me at all, smelling sweet and strong and fresh filling my lungs and dizzying my brain. Little arms cling to my neck in a death grip as a cry splits the air around me, piercing ears and bouncing off white walls and wide windows, echoing down hallways. Such a loud noise from such a tiny being, such strength in such little arms…

It’s a dream but it’s all too real. Smell, touch, sound coming through so painfully clear that when I blink awake it physically hurts. Despite the cries and wriggles and whines, despite the knowledge of the difficulty of a child, my heart longs for one. Muscles clench in the center of my body, the emptiness there a constant reminder of what hasn’t yet happened, of what may never come to pass. The years slip by. Thirty approaches quickly with mounting thoughts of infertility, of barrenness, of bitterness. Girls I once counseled in their youth get engaged and married and begin to have children of their own. My parents don’t say anything but I see the longing in their eyes as well, the longing to be grand parents, to see their line extended.
It’s not fair. Why would you give those people children and not me?

The lies are often hard to ignore… "You’re being punished." "You’re too picky." "You don’t deserve children." "God doesn’t care…" But the comfort offered by others sometimes seems trite, uncaring, unsympathetic… "A friend of mine just had her first child at forty." "There’s always adoption." "Kids are hard, be happy you have your freedom…enjoy it while you can." I don’t want to be forty when I have my first child. I want to adopt but I still want my own. I know kids are hard…that doesn’t change anything.

A good friend read an article out loud for a group of our friends that talked about allowing ourselves to mourn our singleness, our childlessness…for the life of me I can’t remember the author but the impact those words had on me are significant. It gave me permission to mourn this thing I have not (yet) been given, to not feel guilty for being sad in circumstantial barrenness. But it did not leave me there. It also challenged me to continue combatting the lies with truth, to not let this sadness drag my soul into bitterness, to rejoice in the Lord always as He commands us to do in scripture (Philippians 8:4).

It still sucks. I still dream, quite literally and painfully, of children; of their messes and laughter, of their tears and failures, of first steps and first days of school…I still shed tears sometimes when I wonder whether this joy is in my future or nothing more than a hopeful dream. But I can allow myself to mourn, and I can run into my Father’s arms for comfort and assurance, and I can remind myself that He is faithful even amidst painful circumstances.

Philippians 4:11b-13
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Fall

Beyond the comfort of the norm and the safety of what’s known, beyond the out stretched arms of parental care, beyond the reach of certainty and assurance…Falling is a scary thing, the world rushing past as everything races through your fingers slipping away like water rushing back into the ocean, never knowing the end result, anticipating the…


Is it falling or taking a leap?  Will the ground rush up under me so fast that every bone will break?  So that all things will fall completely and utterly apart?  Will everything shatter when I make this decision?  So uncertain, so unstable, so beyond…

Panic starts tight in my chest, a rushing beat that floods my brain and chases away sleep.  It’s warm here, too warm beneath even the thin sheets of my bed, even beneath the clicking fan set on high.  To remain in place sucks away my energy and joy, brings frustration, but to move might prove to be catastrophic. 

It’s too risky.  It won’t work out.  How will you survive?  Just stick with what is steady and stable, with what is guaranteed and simple, what’s solid.  It’s hard but there’s very little risk involved.
Just lying in bed staring over the edge of a cliff and wondering at the potential effects of a particular decision.  Gravity tugging from one end, fear pulling back with grasping fingers as nagging thoughts insist on the safer route.  Better not to risk it, better to remain in place, in the suffocation. 

Is it falling if sure arms are there to catch you even if you can’t see them? 

Fear lays behind but the rush of adventure, of change, of newness beckons from beyond.  Leaving the safety of the ledge is terrifying, but what lays beyond it?  Is there gain in the venture?  Is the fall really so dangerous that I would rather curl up and remain in place?  Sit in the stagnation?  Refuse to move forward?

But is it wise?  Is it the best move?  Is it really something You want me to do?  I’m scared of falling but I know taking a leap while trusting in You is never really a risk.  For even if I fall your arms are there to catch me, to heal broken bones and sooth scrapes and bruises.  Help me know how to fall…

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Personal New Year

Another year older, another year…wiser?  On Monday I turned 28.  I’m one of those people who still gets super excited about my birthday even if the fast approaching 30 scares me a little.  I think it has something to do with new beginnings…your birthday is sort of like your own personal New Years: this year, year X, I will be _____, I will do ____, and most importantly, I will never ____... Unfortunately, like the normal New Years, such statements often fail before lift off.  You find yourself yelling at other drivers though you swore to be patient, over emotional when you promised yourself you’d be full of peace, and fighting envy though you prayed for contentment. 

Thanks Crystal for the flowers!
Still, despite these falls and failings, each year I look back in complete wonder.  Though the midst of it felt like sinking, another part of the mountain was climbed, a new peak reached, and by God’s grace I’ve learned so many things.  He has taught me about living in the longing, to be thankful for the “yeses” rather than focusing on the “no’s”, He’s made me crave His presence, and most importantly, He’s made me run to Him in need.  How blessed I am to be loved by God and how I pray to be more thankful and joyful in this.

It’s still hard, there is still so much I haven’t done that I want to, I still struggle with occasional bouts of depression and anxiety, but in my rear view mirror I see the work my Savior has accomplished in my life, and I know I’ve never been left to drift on my own. 

Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes, many meals and cakes and sweet presents!  Please keep me in your prayers and always feel free to share your requests with me.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.