Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thursday thought: on being overwhelmed


There are times in life when the clouds roll over us unexpectedly.  We are skipping along fine when, suddenly, we find ourselves on the ground with the wind knocked out of us. I assume this is common to the human condition and I am not alone in this feeling.  This morning I found myself contemplating the things I have learned after years of having those overwhelmed moments.  And I see some patterns there.

First, the sheer emotion of that moment is so weighty.  I would think I would have gotten used to that feeling by now.  But no.  It still drops me to my knees.  And that is probably a good thing, since on my knees is exactly where I belong before God.  

Second, during those times I seem to have two choices: to wallow in the mire of the situation, or to stand on God's promises.  I seem to naturally gravitate to the mire.  Once you have it smeared all around you, it acts as a sort of insulation.  But eventually, you get itchy under there, and need a bath and some fresh air.  In times of great trial, the promises of God become not platitudes, but things of substance-- places to stand on sure footing while the rest of the ground sinks away.  As a matter of fact, it becomes the only solid ground we have at all.  So there is really not much of a choice.

Third, I look back and see every time I was overwhelmed that God brought me to a new place of understanding, a new place of growth, a new place of closeness with Him or others through the pain of it.  That's all well and good afterwards, to revel in that 20/20 hindsight.  The challenge, it seems to me, is remembering that in the current season, when we again land on our back and the breath is knocked out of us, it is for a reason and it will be good.

So I turn quicker these days to God's word when I am overwhelmed, and quicker to beg Him to fulfill His promises now that I have itched in the muck so many times. I beg Him to be sufficient for me as He promised, to work everything for my good and His glory as He promised, to be my God and make me His child as He promised.  He has never disappointed me in those prayers.  May He prove Himself faithful to you, also, Gentle Reader.

And a P.S.  I am not currently overwhelmed.  Many of you dear and caring readers will send me e-mails asking if everything is OK.  The answer is yes.  I am only contemplating being overwhelmed currently, not BEING overwhelmed.  But don't worry.  I am sure I will be there again soon enough...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thoughts on context

We all know the truth that context makes a difference.  What is objectionable and unseemly in one circumstance is often appropriate in another. Judging our own context is sometimes trickier.

I wonder if I do you a disservice, Gentle Reader, when I share my blog posts without any context.  I would guess that the twenty or so of you who follow this blog regularly (bless your hearts!) know quite a bit of my context: my life situation, my struggles, etc.  But few of you are privy to the particular context of particular posts.

I wonder if, when I post a particularly spiritual or theological post, for instance, you might be thinking about me as some wise old woman spouting  knowledge from the depths of my wisdom and sharing with those behind me on the spiritual journey.  It is true that I am old, but as for the rest, let me set the record straight.  Let me give you a little of my context.

I always assume that my readers (and everyone else for that matter) are pretty much like me-- they have similar hopes and fears, even if the details are different.  I assume that we all struggle to hold on to hope in the midst of this broken world and our battered lives.  I need the truth of the gospel (the really good news) preached to me day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, or I would sink. Therefore, I preach to myself.  I read God's word, I struggle in prayer, and I process here.  I publish it because writing for you, both my imaginary and real Gentle Readers, causes me to think more carefully about my wording and content, and distill the ravings of my very verbose inclinations to something brief and hopefully meaningful.  In short, it helps me to focus.  Or at least I hope it does.

But here is the point: I do not write these things because I have figured it out and this is how I live.  I write these things because I want to live this way. Without such hope I would be lost.  I wish I were, as a dear friend has said, "a compliant recipient of the Lord's refining fires," but the reality is I fight and kick, grieve and despair, and would be lost but for God's grace. I write what I need, assuming you need it, too.

So there is my context. Thank you for wandering this road with me, Gentle Reader.  But please remember we are both pilgrims seeking the face of God in our joy and in our pain.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Flashback Friday: Tim then

In the interest of fair play, and because it was fun to look at them, I offer some senior photos of Tim.  The photographer is our same friend C.T., and pics were taken at Overlook Park and at the library.




Five for Friday: The Gifts of Brokenness

I seem to be pondering brokenness frequently of late.  Be it the broken world we live in, the broken bodies we inhabit, or the broken relationships we are part of, we all are confronted with brokenness on a daily basis.  But that doesn't mean we recognize it, or learn from it as we ought.  Here are five kinds of brokenness I've been pondering and what they teach me.

1. The brokenness of physical illness: our bodies break down, they hurt, they won't function properly.  We sometimes have blessed respite from this brokenness, and at other times this eclipses many other details of our lives.  Our culture tells us to flee this at all cost: either find a cure or find a distraction.  And while I am in favor of both cure and distraction in their proper place, physical infirmity teaches us so much about our own finite-ness, our dependence on others and on God.  In my life, I have really only learned to prioritize my life by looking squarely at my own mortality.  This is a gift, albeit a difficult one to bear at times.

2. The brokenness of inability: I remember with much tenderness watching my sweet daughter-in-love learn to care for her firstborn child. She was the baby born early, who spent the first weeks of her life in a NICU, and for whom her mama (and all the rest of us) could do very little but wait.  Mama's heart wanted to hold, fix, bless.  But she could do very little,and it broke that heart.  But in the breaking something new and more tender and precious was born. When we come to the end of ourselves and can do no more, we are thrown at the foot of the cross, at the feet of Christ, because we have no where else to go.  Another good gift.

3. The brokenness of my own sin: with St. Paul, I do the very things I hate, and fail to do those things I intend.  Wretched woman that I am, when will I learn?  I do the same stupid and revolting things over and over again, feel the weight of the guilt, and repent yet again. How can I stop this viscous cycle?  But when Paul called himself wretched, he didn't ask how he could stop being wretched.  He asked a much better question: Who can save me from this body of death?  The answer is Jesus, of course. He lived a perfect life, and then gave it up because I couldn't. Knowing this is, again, a  great gift.

4. The brokenness in the sin of others: I feel increasingly that we live in a culture running at a full gallop towards its own destruction. I see people justifying any number of forms of sin or pure madness all in the name of their sacred autonomy. This mad dash seems to ruin everything and leaves me feeling very old and curmudgeonly.  But as soon as I forget that every sin others do is a sin I could do but for God's grace interrupting me, then I run the risk of falling into the same or similar sin.  If I respond to the sin of others in pride instead of a broken heart, I join them in my rush to destruction.  Self-righteousness is more fun and distracting, but the brokenness that comes from really seeing the sin of others for what it is creates tender hearts that God can use for healing and peace.  What a gift.

5. The brokenness of relationships: we all sabotage our relationships with others in our own selfishness, and those others return in kind.  We can't help it.  It is consistent with our fallen nature.  We pick up offenses or hand them out, we don't forgive others as we ought, nor even forgive ourselves.  Every relationship, horizontal or vertical, is tainted with brokenness.  The only way to reconciliation is through Him who came with healing in His wings. He was broken in every way, and willingly, for me and for you, Gentle Reader. He is our peace. And His peace enables us to extend wholeness to one another.

Yesterday a dear friend reminded me that we out not to shun suffering because of the great good God works through it.  And brokenness, too, is a sharp tool in the hands of the Great Physician.  It cuts deep, and hurts, but like Ustace freed from his dragon skin, we find the pain from the cuts that excise the disease bring lasting joy.  May I rest there in my brokenness.