Monday, April 21, 2014

Wrestling...

    Have you ever wrestled? I have. Now before I go any further, let me clarify.  I am not talking about physical wrestling! I wrestle with the things I don't understand, can't seem to get a grasp of, or the questions I need answers too. From the time I was a child I have been stubborn this way. I can't let go until I have come to a conclusion of some kind. For some time I wasn't so sure that this was the best approach to take but a sermon changed my mind.

    Eighteen was a difficult year for me. I had a lot of questions that I needed answers to. There were plenty of people willing to supply me with those answers, I just didn't want to receive the answers from them. I was questioning the way I grew up. I wasn't questioning my faith. I was questioning the church. I had never questioned in this way before, but I was dating someone who attended a home church and conversations with him about Scripture raised more questions than answers for me. Should women wear head coverings? Should there be pastors or should everyone be free to share what God has laid on their heart in the meeting? Are denominations Scriptural? These are just a few of the many questions that were raised. My boyfriend and I had fierce debates. My parents and I argued because they were afraid that this home church was a cult. All I knew was that I wanted the truth and the only one I completely trusted for that was God. My prayer became, Lord show me the truth!

       During this time my Pastor preached a sermon about wrestling with God. He based it on the story of Jacob in Genesis thirty two.  Jacob wrestles with God and doesn't let Him go until He blesses him.  What has stuck with me since that sermon, is to not let go of God until I come to a place of understanding with Him.  For the first time I realized that it was okay for me to take my questions, frustrations, and turmoil to God and let it all out. It was okay not to let go of Him until He answered me or brought peace to my heart about not having an answer. It was okay not to be proper in the pouring out of my heart before Him. He would rather have raw honesty because that's what He needs in order to change me. I have been wrestling ever since.

     I hadn't thought about the origins of my wrestling for a long time, until recently.  I spotted a woman in line at the Food Pantry that I hadn't seen in several months. I was so excited to see her that I walked over to her and asked her how she was and told her I had missed her. She said she hadn't been there because of car problems and because she had stopped praying. I asked her why she had stopped praying and she said, "Because God seems to have forgotten me. He doesn't seem to answer my prayers."  I shared with her that I have felt that way sometimes and usually it has been because His timing is different than mine and I needed to wait. She said she was tired of waiting and felt frustrated with Him. She no longer believed that He cared about how hard her life because even when she had been praying, the burdens kept piling up.  I asked her, "Did you tell Him that you feel that way?"  She said she didn't think she should.  I reminded her that God loves her and wants to have a relationship with her but relationships require communication and honesty. I encouraged her to be honest with God about how she feels and what her burdens are. I encouraged her to let it all out and not to worry if it came out with tears, frustration, and anger. I told her it was okay to have what we women call, "the ugly cry".

       She shared that she had never given much thought to God wanting her to be honest with Him. She hadn't really thought that He cared about how she felt at all. She didn't know it was okay to tell Him that she felt angry, abandoned, burdened, and frustrated. This opened the door for me to share with her details of my wrestlings with God and how  I have come away time and time again knowing for certain that He cares! I was able to tell her how many times I have been face down to the floor doing "the ugly cry", asking questions, expressing frustrations, wondering where God's been, and confessing anger.  I  told her how I have wrestled with Him over wanting the truth, miscarriages, broken relationships, my child seriously ill in the hospital, and job loss.  In those moments I have refused to get up off of the floor until one of two things happen. I wait until I feel His peace wash over me or I wait until He gives me an answer.  Either way, I always come away free. Honesty with God sets me free and allows me to leave all of my questions, burdens, hurts, and hang ups at His feet.

       At then end of our conversation we prayed together. I hope she went home that night and did some wrestling. My mom will be happy to know that God used my stubborness for His glory. I am certain that there were many times she may have wished I would let things go. I belonged to a healthy and loving church family when I was a child but we were not really taught that it was okay to question. It wasn't discouraged but it wasn't encouraged either. In Isaiah we are told to seek the Lord while He may be found. Isn't that what seeking is? Isn't it searching for someone or something? Isn't searching kind of a stubborn thing? Why bother to search for anything if you're only going to give up easily? Questions...wrestlings..they are part of making our faith our own. This is especially important for children being raised in Christian homes.  They need to make their faith their own and they need to know that they must be honest with God in order to do that. Questions are good even the angry, hurt, and frustrated kind. Just don't let go of God until He brings you to a place of understanding.

       Do you have things you are wrestling with? Questions that you want answers to? Feelings you need to express? Go to God with them. He can handle it. He has broad shoulders. He loves you and He welcomes your honesty.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Thankful...

     Since my last post I have been giving God my "to-do-list".  I've asked for His help completing the things that are on it even if they are things I know I can do easily myself. Sometimes He has a different order for my day than what I had mapped out for myself and I have gotten better at embracing that. Asking for His help with the list is new for me. I don't really consider myself in need of help doing the laundry. I've been doing it just fine for years!

     It's really not so much about whether I am able to do something as it is that I am choosing to dwell in His presence throughout my day. Things haven't slowed down any but my heart is not hurried by the pace of life. There is something else that I've noticed too. I am more thankful. His peace and His presence invite gratitude. I notice little things that I may have missed before and I am thankful for them. Thursday this week especially, I found myself constantly giving thanks for seemingly little things.

     I woke up thankful for my bed. It was good to be rested. The days before had been full and busy. The sun was shining. I don't think I have ever appreciated sunshine as much as I do now after the long winter we've had. Just opening the curtains put a smile on my face! Then, I realized that I would be home ALL day.  I had no errands to run, no piano or voice lessons for the kids, no grocery shopping to do, and no doctors appointments to go to.  I was thankful. It feels good to be home. During my time at home I was able to get some things done that I hadn't gotten to in a while. I suddenly found myself thankful that I could mop the floors! Now for those of you who know me well... you know mopping is right up there with cleaning bathrooms! Both of those things are my least favorite chores! It had to be a God thing that I was thankful to mop my floors!

     Each time I was thankful I expressed it to God. I would have missed all those little things that I was thankful for without His presence. Expressing my gratitude for these things lead to being thankful for other things. My mother-in- law is home from the hospital and doing well now. My father-in-law who has been away for a few months, arrives home this week and I've missed him. I am thankful he will be back. This reminded me of how blessed I am that he treats me as if I am his own daughter. My mom called and she doesn't need eye surgery...so very thankful.

     My oldest was dancing around the house with bare feet to the tune of her own song. She had been outside and was thrilled to enjoy the sun and the warmer temperature. The youngest found our first flowers growing in the back yard. I watched them from the window as they both enjoyed finding signs of spring. I too am thankful for spring and all it symbolizes.

     Spring is a time for new beginnings and who doesn't need to begin again? Maybe that's what I am doing. I am learning how to better abide and in doing so beginning again. Beginning to give thanks for what I have taken for granted. Giving thanks has drawn my attention to the many ways I overlook God's presence in my life. He is there in every little detail of my days and I can choose how I want to spend them. When I spend them abiding in Him I spend them aware....aware of His many gifts. When I choose to abide in Him I am present in life, actively living it instead of plowing through it.  He came that we might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)  I am convinced that the only way to do that is to abide in Him.