Tag Archives: meaning

Blaming God for what I did.

14 Mar

I had a momentous realization on Friday morning of last week.

It started Tuesday night at my women’s book study. We’re reading A Praying Life by Paul Miller and the chapter was about viewing every event of our lives through the lens of God weaving His story. There was a little chart with two columns – one for not believing there was a story and the other for believing there was. With no story, we would be bitter, angry, cynical, and hopeless. With a story, we would be waiting, watching, hoping, praying and submitting.

The question was, Which of these do you see manifest in your life? My initial instinct while preparing for the meeting was that there was a story. Even though I didn’t really understand why God had used the things He had to tell His story in my life, I believed that there was one. But then during the meeting when we were discussing this, I all of a sudden had the thought that I struggled with seeing God’s story in the early years of my marriage. I had struggled so much with my own sin and being a person I didn’t want to be, that it was really hard to see how and why God had chosen that struggle to accomplish His purposes.

I ended up getting really emotional and asked the other women what they thought. One woman said that God never causes us to sin – we choose to sin. Another said that God disciplines us for our own good and that seeing our sin is a form of discipline. The whole time they were talking, I wanted to interrupt and say, “Yeah, but you don’t understand.” I felt like my problem went deeper than that.

After the meeting was over, I had no desire to even attempt light-hearted chit chat so I left abruptly. As I drove home, I wondered, “Why does this still bother me? I mean, I felt like I was over this. It was a hard time but God used it to bring me here.” I could see how my struggle with sin and my consequent accusation that God wasn’t helping me led to my decision to take control of my life. I could see how taking control of my life led to disillusionment and depression, and how that led to my realizing my dependence on God. I could see how it all worked together. Maybe that was all.

I mentioned it to Travis when I got home. He asked the same question I had – “Why does this still bother you? I mean, it’s in the past.” I started giving him an answer, but realized that I had none. I explained the sequence of events to him but it didn’t seem like the answer as to why it still bothered me.

The next morning, I was surprised to find an email in my inbox from a woman I had met during the book study. She said that she had an encouragement for me from the Lord and wanted to confirm my email address. I replied, saying it was the correct one. When I checked my email later that day, the woman said that she knew what it was like to struggle with God’s purpose when your own sin caused the situation. She wrote about how she had been angry with God after her parents died and had slipped into sin out of rebellion and anger. Even though she should have ended up “divorced, miserable and broke,” God’s grace had been “undeniably present” right “in the midst of the situation” and redeemed the situation.

I was again unsettled. I felt like the email signaled that God wanted to say something to me about this situation but why? I had dealt with this… I understood that God used it for my good. That was enough, wasn’t it? I wrote back that I could see how God had used the struggle in my life but that since it was relatively recent, I was just beginning to see that I was still mad at God for putting me through that. I felt like singing the song by The Fray, “Where were you when everything was falling apart? Why’d you have to wait?”

The next morning, I read the reply from the woman to my email and that got me thinking again. I still felt unsettled about the issue, like I was restless and wanted to go shake off the stiffness. I had to get dressed for my coffee date with my friend, Cathy, so I walked into our bedroom, still thinking, and I said, “Well I guess I’m wondering why You had to use my marriage. Why couldn’t You have used a problem at work or something, instead?” I felt God say, “It wouldn’t have broken you enough.” My complete brokenness had been God’s plan and purpose. I needed to come to the end of myself. I understood that I had been accusing God of abandoning me during that time, when He had been there all along. I re-read the woman’s first email, where she talked about God’s grace being undeniably present in the midst of the situation. God had been there. He had seen and gone through it all with me. I cried a little, thanking God for the insight.

Then during coffee with Cathy, I shared my realizations with her but didn’t get the reception I had expected. She said that she didn’t believe God used our sins in order to teach us lessons, that sins were part of living in a fallen world, and that He redeemed and freed us from our sins. She shared about one of her experiences of not seeing God do what she had wanted and how she had realized that she needed to first let go of the bitterness and anger she felt toward Him before she would feel release. She was the one who had been holding on to sin. I told her that in my first year of marriage, I had cried out to God for Him to help me, for Him to sanctify me and give me love for my husband, but that He hadn’t. And then one day, without any correlating realization or experience, things had gotten better. I couldn’t explain it. Why would I have gone through that if He hadn’t planned on using it? Why would He allow me to continue to struggle with sin if He didn’t have a purpose behind it? I don’t think Cathy and I ever really got on the same page—more just like we agreed to disagree. When she left, I felt unsettled again, like something just wasn’t right. I felt that way all day.

Friday morning, I was praying and thinking about what Cathy had said. The unsettled feeling returned. I tried to think through what I meant about God using it for a purpose. I understood it was my sin that caused it, but I kept thinking, God allowed it to happen; He could have stopped it if He had wanted to. Since He didn’t stop it, He must have had a purpose in it. That answer didn’t satisfy me—I still had the unsettled feeling—but I was sick of thinking about it. My brain hurt, I felt like I was going in circles. Finally, I asked God, “Why does it matter how I feel about the situation? What happened, happened, right? The situation is what it is. I mean, does it really matter?” I felt like God said, “Yes.” So reluctantly, I continued to think.

I started typing my thoughts. And the realizations started pouring out of me. I was blaming God for my sin. I was saying that my life would have been fine if God hadn’t caused me to go through that struggle, that I would have been fine without His plan. But the truth was, I was denying that I had desired for my marriage to go my way, to fulfill my own expectations, and for Travis to be the exact husband I wanted him to be. I was denying my selfishness and unbelief in God’s promises and plan.

I had tried to solve my marital problems on my own. I had run to God, yes—but only after all of my own efforts had failed miserably. Once I was done crying, what had I done? I went back to living in my own strength, only to fail again and wonder why God wasn’t blessing me. That’s the real story. It wasn’t that God had abandoned me—He just wouldn’t bless my efforts to live apart from Him.

And why would God bless my efforts to live apart from Him? That wouldn’t be for my eternal good. He would only be reinforcing my natural propensity for self-sufficiency and independence. It was God’s grace to me in that time that I was not successful in sanctification, because I wasn’t seeking Him in the midst of it. I was only seeking the solution to my situation, not the Solution for my soul.

The truth about walking in dependence on God showed up in my journals for the entire three and a half years of this struggle – God was trying to teach me that lesson the whole time. He was telling me the truth. But I refused it. I refused it. I said that it was too easy. Surely there was more to the Christian life than that. God stuck with me, through all of my sin and my misery and my refusal to believe the truth. And finally, I got to the place where  I was so broken, exhausted, and disillusioned that I could finally accept the truth. I had to try out all the solutions I could think of to life. I had to test out all of my theories, everything I could think of to be the meaning of life, before I could accept God’s definition and meaning. I would not accept God until I had proven everything else wrong. I was SO pig-headed! God was SO faithful and patient!

As I realized all of this, I started crying. This awesome truth humbled me to the core.  Even the way God revealed it to me had His fingerprints all over it. I am absolutely amazed at the way God works in the lives of those He loves. Amazed. This discovery further proves that God’s glory is our joy. The more I think about the situation, the more I am convinced that it could be no other way than this: me being humbled and God being exalted. I need to be needy and God needs to be sufficient. I need to admit my sin and see God in all of His shining, brilliant holiness. I am fickle, finite, and wretched; He is faithful, forgiving, and loving.

It’s funny – it seems counter-intuitive that such release should come from understanding that the whole situation was my fault. I think my flesh was resisting the discovery of the truth for that very reason – it puts the blame squarely on my shoulders. But that is slight compared to how it magnifies God. I had been tarnishing His character and reputation. I had been questioning His goodness, faithfulness and wisdom. I had been doubting His love for me. But now, I see God’s character, reputation, goodness, faithfulness, wisdom and love for me utterly magnified and shining in all its eternal brilliance. There is no reason to doubt His character or purpose – God is even MORE amazing than I could have fathomed! Not only has He used my struggle to bring me into a deeper relationship with Him, He demonstrated utter faithfulness and patience to me when I could not have deserved it less.

This realization has had implications that reach even farther into my Christian walk but I will save that for another post. For now, I will just say Praise the Lord for revealing my sin to me!

Just Do Something

28 Jun

The sermon at church yesterday was a very good one – we are starting to go through the book of Colossians and Glynn (our pastor) emphasized the importance of truth in the Christian life. Without truth, our faith and hope are unfounded. We need the truth of Christ to ground us.

Some of the notes I took were:

“We can’t walk in the newness of life without being rooted and grounded in Christ.”

“We’re called to grow and bear fruit. Fruit comes from knowing Christ.”

“All we have in Christ is all we need to grow and bear fruit.”

While I wholeheartedly agree with those statements, I find myself struggling with them. I have returned yet again to my struggle of feeling like I live my life for myself and that the daily activities I engage in are pointless and futile. If God is the one who does the growing, then why am I stuck in this indecision about what I should be doing with my life?

I hate to say it but I feel like the statements I wrote down above are elementary and surface-deep. They don’t explain HOW. They state these truths of the Christian faith like it were easy to figure out how the work of the Spirit actually happens.

We had a “family meeting” at the church last night about who we are and where we’re going. A guy stood up and told a story about a co-worker who had been in need and his care group stepped up to help him out. The first thing he said after the congregation got done clapping (our church claps for everything) was “It wasn’t me. It was all God.”

Statements like that also puzzle me. I think, “Really? All God? But you’re the one who told your care group about this guy’s need and your care group provided for the guy.”

It is obvious that I am hung up on the practical side of God’s grace working in a believer’s life.

Then tonight, as I was sitting at the kitchen table reviewing my notes from the sermon, something hit me. The Christian life is lived from the heart – God is in the business of change from the inside out. It would go to reason, then, that the way God inspires action in a person’s life is by changing their heart. What they once valued no longer holds appeal and what they once would have never even thought of doing is now captivating. We are called to be faithful to the convictions and notions God puts into our hearts.

In my case, I have long been convicted, as I mentioned above, that I live for myself and should be more giving of my time. So I think I should volunteer somewhere. But there are so many good causes I could get involved with, I have a hard time deciding which one to do – which is God’s will for me? I could get involved with Habitat for Humanity or the Denver Rescue Mission or tutoring underprivileged kids or collecting shoes for kids in Africa or stuffing envelopes for Blood Water Mission. I have sat at this crossroads of indecision for almost a whole year. My convictions haven’t gone away.

I realize now that I just need to choose. God’s will isn’t about circumstances – it’s about heart attitude and about being obedient and faithful to the convictions that God lays on my heart.

Two different opportunities were brought to my attention in the past month or so – one just last night. One is volunteering with Life Choices Pregnancy Center. I had wanted to volunteer there when I still worked at D2S but couldn’t because they were only open during business hours, when I had to be at work. But now that I work fro m home and can create my own hours, I think it would work out. The other opportunity is volunteering in the church office. I have already contacted the office administrator about this because it would be a great way to serve in the church again (I had to quit children’s ministry when I got my new job), I would meet more people at the church, and I would be donating my time to a worthy cause.

There’s a book I’m really excited to read – I just ordered it today – called Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will OR How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. I have so long been looking for a Christian book that would at least slightly validate what I’ve been going through and bring some more clarity to this situation (though I do feel like I just got some today) – I hope this book helps.

In light of eternity…

12 Jan

I wish I could turn my brain off. I wish I could stop analyzing. Stop comparing. Stop condemning. Myself, that is.

You see, I walk around with this shadow of guilt sitting on my shoulder. I haven’t done anything wrong… but then, I haven’t done anything right either. I’m mediocre, stuck in the middle. One of the masses. Your average Joe…Joette?

And I want to be fine with that. I used to be fine with that. I’m not the kind of person who needs the infamy of the limelight. I am content in the background, supporting, organizing, planning.

But there’s this restlessness in my head that just won’t let me be content with my life. I keep seeing the ways I could be better, ways I’m not measuring up. Ways I should be different.

A leadership book I’m reading says I should accept myself. “How does a Christian do that?” I wonder. “Is that even a biblical principle?” I dare say it’s not…

At least not totally.

What does Paul mean when he says “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” I think he means exactly what he says. There is nothing good in him.

Does that sound like self-acceptance?

No.

Hmmm… then what? Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came so that we might have life, and to the fullest. Pray tell, where do I find that life?

Some would say the fullest life is found in self-acceptance. But I’ve tried that and found that there’s really nothing much in me worth accepting.

The trite (though true) Christian answer: the gospel.

But what does that mean? The terminology is thrown around so much that I think a telling head nod and eyebrow rise should go with it… you know, the gospel?  What they don’t explain, though, is how does the gospel give us life and life to the fullest? Because I understand the gospel, at least in principle. But as of yet, I don’t think I’ve found the fullest life. At least, I can imagine a fuller one. I can imagine a lot of things. And therein lies my problem.

If you asked me why I’m discontent with my life, and what I thought I should/could do to make it “better,” my answer would be something like, “Well, I feel like I should be making a difference, more giving of my time, more generous with my money, less lazy with my evenings, more productive with my weekends, more loving toward my husband and more enjoying of my life.”

So you ask, why don’t you do those things then?

Good question.

Self, why don’t I do those things?

::Silence.::

I guess you’ll have to check back later.

But I had the insight as I was driving home from work tonight, that it’s all because of eternity. Living in light of eternity is always presented in a positive light as something Christians should do. We’re reminded about it so often because our natural tendency is to live for the present only and forget that we’re going to heaven when we die and that our actions here do matter for eternity.

But you know what, I think that my initial inclination was wrong. I thought I was too concerned with eternity, so much so that I couldn’t live in the present without feeling the “weight of glory” on my shoulders, as C.S. Lewis puts it. But actually, I think that I, too, am only concerned with the present. Whereas most people’s inclination is to lose touch with the fact that their present actions have eternal ramifications and they just go about their day without thinking, I can’t seem to move off of that notion. I am consumed with thinking that everyday, eternity is being written. This is my one life…

And this is how I’m spending it.

Just as I longed for the days of unanalyzed eating in the midst of my calorie counting obsession, I now long for the days of unanalyzed living.

I can’t wait for eternity.

Life according to Woody Allen…

16 Aug

I just read this article about Woody Allen in the latest Newsweek. My heart breaks for him! A director who has had an amazing career but he says that he still makes movies “not because he has any grand statement to offer, but simply to take his mind off the existential horror of being alive.”

“I can’t really come up with a good argument to choose life over death. Except that I’m too scared,” Allen says.

Later on in the article, Woody Allen is quoted as saying, “Your perception of time changes as you get older, because you see how brief everything is. You see how meaningless…I don’t want to depress you, but it’s a meaningless little flicker…You have a meal, or you listen to a piece of music, and it’s a pleasurable thing. But it doesn’t accrue to anything.”

As I read that article, I was reminded of something I wrote in high school. For several years before I became a Christian, I really struggled with the meaning and purpose of life. If I had not become a Christian after my sophomore year of college, I have no doubt that I would resonated with Woody Allen’s sentiments very much.

This is what I wrote in my diary when I was a junior in high school: “There are no other words that I can think of to describe life other than futile and worthless. Really, when you think about it, what the hell are all of us doing here? We go through school, which everyone despises but supposedly it’s ‘beneficial.’ We get a career, which most people hate and they end up wasting their lives on things that don’t really matter. So what the hell are we doing? Sure there are some good times, fond memories. But they all end. Everything good or worth anything ends at one point. Nothing can be relied upon. You may think that you have your life figured out and everything may be peachy keen for a while. But just wait and see–life will throw you a curveball, guaranteed. There is absolutely no doubt that your life will truly suck. And not just once. Repeatedly, over and over. You know why? Because life’s a bitch and then you die.”

By the end of my senior year of high school, this is what I thought: “I know that I have felt–and still remotely feel–that the good things in life seem to be constantly squashed by the shit. But I have also realized that while some good things are temporary, so are the bad things. Nothing in life is ever definite, without the possibility of it being changed.”

Which is all fine and good that I held that quasi-belief then but it still didn’t answer my question: What the hell are we all doing here? I still didn’t have a purpose to my life, no meaning. Until I became a Christian, my life was all about pleasure and rebellion. I smoked pot, got wasted, and slept around because it was wild and free. There were no rules.

But my sophomore year of college, I started rethinking my take on life. I wasn’t happy. I was miserable. My life consisted of surviving each week to get to the weekend and then being so hammered and stoned all weekend that I didn’t remember half of it anyway. I thought to myself, “Is this ALL there is to life? This is IT?” I think Woody Allen started in that place–but he’s questioned it for so long with no answers that he has resigned himself to “This IS all there is and life is SHIT. I would kill myself but I don’t have the guts.” That is truly tragic. And I am sure that he is not alone in his feelings. I think it is common for atheists to feel that way (but most likely not that intense).

Without Christ, life is meaningless. Because only the Creator of the world can tell us what it all means, the reason why we’re all here. That was what drew me to Jesus in the first place–He was something to live for. I finally had something to live for, something to build my life around. I finally had a purpose. Reason #456,278 why I am so glad and thankful that God called me to be His.