Patience and Fortitude

Duh moment.  Writing down so I don’t forget it….

Sitting here trying to figure out why I’m having to wait for what I know God is going to bring, and yet again, I forget.  I forget that I *asked* God to develop my patience.   I was asked to ask by a mentor… it’s not one of those things that “they” will recommend you do, because growing patience isn’t particularly pleasant.

Patience is all wrapped up with faith – I’m not being patient for nothing, I have faith in God.

Yes, things are still up in the air.  No, I don’t know what direction we’re going.  No, I don’t like that.  Yes, it was a lot easier to be patient and cheerful when I didn’t think anything was going to change.    But change will come, soon or late.

And there you find fortitude.  Content in discontent.   This is, for whatever reason, God’s will.  His PERFECT will.   I am convinced that His will, will be done.   And that it is, and will be, perfect in my eyes when I get ’round to His perspective.   I’m just waiting to get there.

All the things that I am not good at, like dailyness and being in the moment, I am being forced to practice.   It’s amusing, in its own way.   I do find myself amusing… the flopping about like a fish out of water.  It’s not as if my life is actively unpleasant, it’s a very nice life – I’m just being grown.  Matured.

Why do I talk about it?  In some ways, to talk it out.  In other ways, because I don’t find a lot of folks writing amidst the struggle.   I mean, if you’re struggling you’re not sitting down to write.  So you get a ton of books written after the fact, encouraging you to walk through that moment with joy, because it will pass.  And those things are encouraging.  But … well, maybe I suffer from having grown up in a very outwardly perfect kind of church.   I’ve talked about that.  I don’t want to pretend to be someone that I am not.

And maybe I just want this to be out there, for the next person.  The one that says it’s all too hard, and “you” are just super spiritual and “I” just am not.  I’m not freaking super spiritual!!!!!  If you had the *slightest* idea of the amount of whining-in-prayer I’m doing right now… oy.  It’s good that God is all-loving, because I’m sick of myself.

And then there’s that too.   We don’t talk about that… how we’re supposed to relate to Him like kids to our Father, not like adults to our boss.  I’m learning that… learning, as I am sick of my whining, to not suggest that He take a certain course of action on my behalf, but just running to His arms and crying, “It hurts!”

Speaking of past grace, I’ve often said that if I knew how breaking my foot would fix my marriage, I’d have gotten out a hacksaw and chopped it off.  That’s true.  But IF it had been my conscious choice to cut my foot off to save my marriage (my foot is still attached, thanks) then I would always be able to point to myself and say, “look at me, how awesome *I* am, that I made this huge sacrifice and I *deserve* what I got in return”.  Ugh.  I don’t want to be that person – but I know that’s who I would be.   It wasn’t a sacrifice – God just used the situation in myriad ways to get us through a storm we couldn’t have gotten through on our own.    There were a lot of moments in that mess where God showed up with *perfect* timing… like when my SIL dropped by unexpectedly and talked us off the edge.   She needed to be there, at that very SECOND.  And she was.  She doesn’t drop by that often.   The day I broke my foot, I  was about to give up and get a job, be more independent.   Then I was made radically more dependent.   God’s weird like that – He doesn’t teach the lessons we think we need to learn, or open the opportunities we think we should have, He provides what we really do need, in ways we couldn’t imagine.

So I know – I know I know I know – that God’s timing is perfect and His ways are mysterious.  And I’m down.

As I’ve said before… my faith in God is solid.  My faith in my understanding of His plans is not.  And yet… I can’t shake that inner joy.   What does that mean?  I don’t know.   For now, I guess it means I should go do the next thing that wants doing… even if it’s a fiddly bit of sewing.  🙂

Talk to y’all later.

 

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Spirit vs. Flesh

Have you ever felt like you were in sin, because your flesh didn’t align with your spirit?

It’s an interesting thing.   I’ve long ago come to the conclusion that while the Bible instructs us to action, it does not instruct us to emotion.   The things that sound like emotion are either gifts of the Spirit, or series of choices that look like emotions, but aren’t.

The usual example is love.  The Bible speaks of agape love, which is something that you choose to live out in action, not an emotion that you choose to have about someone.  Frequently, the emotion of love follows the action.   You may even be gifted agape by the Spirit – but you don’t *start* there.

Other “emotions”, such as peace and joy, are likewise gifts of the Spirit that can result from obedience.  I’d forgotten about the in-between time…. the time when you’ve made a *choice* to obey and walk forward in God’s will but your fleshly emotions haven’t been transformed.

The Holy Spirit has transformed my spirit into a place of joyful peace and excitement.   Certainty.  But in my flesh, I see signs of stress.   Why is this?  How have I failed?  What am I missing?  I am ruthless in my self-examination… I don’t like to fix my symptoms, I like to fix their cause.

I forgot.  I just forgot.

I’ve been directed in my reading to the Psalms of late, and I thought yesterday about King David, running from Saul in the wilderness, when he wrote many of those songs.   He is, on the one hand, certain that God will protect him, that God is his strength and his shield.   He is certain that God will provide for him what he was promised.   But on the other, David is pretty stressed out (far more than I am – no one is chasing ME around trying to kill me).   And David cries out in these psalms… speaking to God of his faith, his love – and his frustrations!

So, why did God call David a man after God’s own heart?  Because David (even under temptation) did not reach out to TAKE what had been promised him.  David waited until Saul died on his own.  David waited to have the door opened for him.   David trusted God, in the most practical of ways.  His emotions, those things that caused him to write such beautiful songs…. he didn’t act on those.  He acted on faith.

And so, likewise, am I – in much much much smaller ways.  It’s hard.  I don’t know God’s timeline.  But when you ask me, “are you sure of God’s provision?”  Yes.  Without a breath of argument, yes.

The faith is there.  The choice to trust is there.  And I can STOP with the endless poking at myself, trying to root out hidden sin.  The impatience and stress are just there.  They’re not signs of some hidden evil, they’re just body things.  The flesh DOES war with the spirit.  Okay.  So I can care for my flesh without indulging it, and feed my spirit and spend time with my Creator and get on with life.   If I keep my ‘ears’ open, God will direct my steps for each of my days, and I won’t miss anything.   If I obey in the details, He will take care of the big picture.   I’m not going to screw this up … I’m walking with Him now.

I have to remember that last – that God’s promises don’t depend on ME.  Or anyone else in flesh.  They’re God’s promises, and He will sort them out.  When He has done the big things in my life that He’s done – NONE of them have depended on ***me***.  So I can stop torturing myself and get on with life.

Maybe.  -winks-  I’m not so good at that.  But I’m going to ask for peace……. God does like to give you what He wills for you to have.

Keep Your Eyes Upon Jesus

That’s the message I’ve been getting repeatedly this last few months.   Only, and I’m just going to be honest here, I’m not entirely sure how to do that.  No, don’t comment the basic stuff, I get that, I do that.  Worship, prayer, devotions, Bible reading – check.    But when I stare at Jesus I either get to feeling like a scrubby worm and then curl up on myself and beat myself up, or I get so excited I expect change instantly – and I get unacceptably impatient.

The practice of gratitude was way more helpful – looking at the ways in which God has come through in our lives, usually just in the nick of time.   I have been present for miracles of timing that have changed the course of my life – repeatedly.

Just writing this out (y’all know I write to think) …    When I’m looking at Jesus and thinking about Him in relation to me, I’m really still looking at myself.   I need to *relax* and just look at Him.   Watch Him in all the ways He is working, observe His character, and just chill out.

It’s difficult to truly give over my concerns and my timing and just be.  If there is something I am terrible at, it’s living in the moment.   Even though I know that I can trust Jesus with everything, I … well, I like to work.  I like to be doing and shaping and planning.  (I really really love planning).

I see this tendency and I understand it – although I am surrendered to His will in my life, it’s not like I’m opinion-free.  It’s not like every decision of His for me has been what I wanted (and that absolutely includes the things that were for my own long-term best interest that I didn’t know in that moment).   Humans strive, we want to do things on our own.  -shakes head-  If there is one lesson that I keep getting, it’s that one.  I don’t know why I don’t get to go off and do things on my own (perfectly appropriate, normal things) but I’ve been choke-chained more than once.

I have to let go and just trust.  JUST trust.  Not “trust and do” – just TRUST and look to HIM, not to me, not to anyone else.   If y’all think that sounds easy, you haven’t done it.

Matthew 14: 28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

When I look at the wind, or the waves, I stop looking at Jesus.  I CANNOT walk on the water, so I might as well stop trying to figure out how.

Hope Scalds

For me, Hope is one of the great needs in life.  Air.  Water.  Food.  Hope.

If you somehow convince me that a situation can never be changed, I’ll leave the situation.  If you convince me that I can’t leave (and there is a strong possibility that I’ll chew my arm off to get out) then I droop.  I despair.   I stop doing ANYTHING.   It gets ugly.  Really, really, REALLY ugly.   Like, it’s a good thing that I can’t stomach alcohol, because I’d have vodka stashed in the couch ugly.

I don’t mind having to change tactics.  I don’t mind having to come at things from a different angle.  I’m all about flexibility.  And heaven forbid you think I mind working – I don’t.

But I won’t work if there is no hope.   Likewise, if I have to slog through and do my time … and I can’t speed anything up, but I just have to sit there?  Nap time!   I will do the bare minimum necessary to get to where I have to go.   Not pretty – and I’m not pretending that this is a nice part of my personality.

What’s hard for me is to have a problem and NOT mess with it.   To take my hands off and go do something else – that takes a tremendous amount of willpower, and preferably a choke collar with spiky bits inside.

But not everyone is me.   I talked to my BFF and to a couple of other people, and person after person told me essentially that they just got through the days – hope was dangerous, because you HOPE in something that you do not yet have, and that emotional investment can be scaldingly painful if it is taken away.   Interesting.  As a person who runs on hope, I am often disappointed.   I get my nose bopped, I get hurt, I sit down and mope for a minute…. and then I find another facet to work on or a whole new hope to invest in.   But I -literally- run on hope.

So, I’ve learned not to share my dreams with just anyone… it’s sad, because I’m perfectly happy to generate hope for others.   (And a path to the hoped-for-object, because I’m practical as well as dreamy).   I don’t like scalding people.

I have a problem right now (well, it’s not MY problem) and I can’t do anything about it, and I’m being cuddled and loved and kept busy… God is GOOD.   All my dreams could come true, does God will… or not, if not.   God is in total control.  I long, long, long ago surrendered to His will for my life, even if I don’t like it.  He’s God, I’m not.  We do things His way around here.

God is ALWAYS in total control, but not every season in life lends itself to that knowledge.   He often allows us the illusion of control.  But it’s an illusion.   Why should I not hope?  Any child can ask their father for a certain gift – and sometimes they get it, and sometimes not.   A healthy relationship with your Father is like a healthy parent-child relationship, where the child is not reluctant to reveal the desires of their heart, nor to surrender those desires to greater wisdom and perfect timing.

The difference is that we teach our children to do for themselves and not be dependent on us, for the children must grow up to be parents themselves one day.   We, as Christians, have growing up to do, but it seems to me that the more I grow in Christ, the more knowingly dependent I become, not less.   I grow in trust, in faith… and yes, in hope.

Hope does scald… but I wouldn’t trade it for despair, which is always five degrees cooler than room temperature, and a bit sticky.

I don’t want to be stuck.   Hope is easy – waiting is hard.

Caged Beast

Once upon a time, they caught a wolf and her mate.  They put them in a cage.  For years, the wolf howled, begging for release.   She hated the zoo.   But her mate was content there, even happy.   And so, the wolf eventually stopped howling at the moon, and concentrated on creating a wonderful den within the confines of the zoo.  She and her mate had cubs, and they raised them to adolescence.

Sometimes the wolf would see the moon over the bars of her cage and she’d long to howl, but she’d turn her face away and continue to make her den as nice as she could.  She connected with good resources, and she and her cubs were well taken care of.  She told herself to be grateful – and most of the time, when the moon didn’t sing, she was.  She had all the food she needed, she was safe, she was warm.

But her mate started to grow thin and tired.  He was brought out to display every day.   He didn’t complain, but his fur started looking patchy, and he didn’t have the energy he once had.   The wolf, who had been taking excellent care of herself (having nothing else to do) grew worried.   She made the den as nice as she could, and ministered to him when he was home, but she had no power to lighten his load.   Even if she were to go on display, it was him the crowds wanted, not her.

One day, someone came by and rattled the door to their cage.  No, not the door that her mate was brought out through when on display, but the door that they’d been shoved through, once upon a time.  Someone looked in on them from that side… Someone who caused her to trust irrationally… and words were spoken that she could not understand.

Hope, long buried, raised its head, and the wolf threw her head back and howled with everything she had within her.   She instantly hung her head in shame.  Her heart’s desire added a burden onto her mate, already sickened by his daily parade.   But she could hear the words outside her cage… what were they saying?  She’d heard rumors that sometimes, animals were released back into the wild… would they do that for her family?

She started dreaming of fresh air and peace.  She remembered her mate, so happy as the alpha of their pack, and how he had thrived, directing the other wolves and caring for them.   She looked around at her beautiful den and she felt a pang – there was much here to be grateful for.  Shame came again… why should she want something else?

She paced.  And then the zookeeper came to her – the one whose words she’d heard outside her cage.  He sat with her and petted her, calming her fears.  She still didn’t understand what he was saying, but she grew to trust him.   He brought her treats, and comforted her.

Now she was filled with confusion – she trusted the zookeeper utterly, but at the same time she’d never been a tame wolf.  She knew he’d never hurt her, and had her best interests at heart… but she didn’t know what he might do, or when he might choose to do it.

Hope had stirred up trouble… trust gave her peace… and every day, the wolf grew to hope more, and to be more peaceful.   But would she ever find herself running free?

What will the zookeeper choose?

 

The Wait

Have good Christian friends.  Fellowship (like all the other commands) is about improving YOUR life, not just obedience.  *  I went to visit my friend C this week, and she was telling me that the column of fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness also served as a rear guard, and I was like, “what? That’s not part of the story I remember!”  (And how many hundreds of times have I had that story taught to me, or read the story for myself?)  So, I made her prove it.

Exodus 14:19 The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night.

You know, it makes sense.  It takes a minute to get a million or so people to move anywhere.   But I’d totally forgotten that the Israelites were camped in the first place.  I knew they had a good solid complain at the edge of the sea, but the mental imagery has them stopped for an hour or so, not at least a day – probably days.   Let’s turn back a few verses…

Exodus 14: Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea.

So, Israel *sat there* until Egypt came running after them.  They had no idea what was happening.  They were sitting next to a sea, no exit plan, no clue what came next.   They started whining – I mean, last week they have frogs everywhere, but because they can’t see the way out, they freak out.

And that’s a consolation.  Because the waiting sucks.  It always sucks.  And the thing that struck me is that God almost always makes us wait.  We wait and we do everything in our power to change our situation… and we can’t, and then we freak out (and hopefully get on our faces and pray), and then He comes through.    And makes with the miracle.

I wonder if that’s not like everything else… maybe His pattern is like that for a reason, and the reason isn’t *just* to point out how little faith we have, but to make us pay attention.   CS Lewis said that God would come in when we’d come to the end of ourselves, but we wouldn’t know we’d truly come to the end of ourselves until we’d tried with all of ourselves.

And He’s protecting us in the meantime.  We are to take refuge under His wings… but how many times do we really avail ourselves of that protection?  I don’t know about you, but I mostly want to try to go it alone.  Like that’s somehow honorable.  -shakes head-  It might be honorable, but it’s not wise.

I beat myself up habitually.  All this time I’ve been beating myself up for the emotions that show up in the waiting time.   The anger, the fear, the frustration.  But you know… I’m a mortal.  Maybe it’s okay – maybe it’s even better – to be honest about those emotions and still stand on the trust in God.   Huh.  Sounds like David in the Psalms, really.  “this sucks, I don’t see a way out, but I trust You, you’ve got this, but it sucks right now, it totally does – but I know You’ve got me and I trust You.”

I’m not a patient woman.  I want my change, I want it now.  Especially the things that I know have had clearance from on high – I want those things *now*.   From my perspective, on the ground-level, I don’t see why I have to wait.  But from eternity, I know that there are reasons.  God makes all things come together for good for those who are called… well, working things together for good involves timing things properly.

The waiting time is useful.  God is still with me, protecting me.  I’m still in His plan, I haven’t messed it all up by doing something stupid (well, assuming I’ve stayed the course – reason #4529 for obedience).   It grows my faith to persevere through the waiting time in order to reap the miracle.

It’s okay that it’s hard.  Lots of things are hard.  And we can persevere through “hard” if we know that on the other end is a good harvest.  Which we do – in this world or the next.

Just keep swimming.

 

 

*The moment when you realize this for yourself is a big moment in your Christian walk.  God tells you to do *nothing* just because.   It’s all for your benefit.  All of it.  Even that stupid rule that you don’t understand and don’t agree with and is totally out of sync with modern reality… it will make your life better.   So suck it up, buttercup.  Obedience is the smart thing to do.

No Mortal Enemy

2 Timothy 2:24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

No mortal is my enemy.   I know, that’s very Kumbaya of me…. and I know that there are mortals who would consider me their enemies.   So what?  Other peoples’ folly isn’t supposed to control *me*, is it?  I know my enemies.  And my hatred is saved for them.  (And oh yes, I do hate – I hate the spirits of darkness with every fiber of my being).

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

If they are human, if they yet draw breath, they have the potential to become family, siblings in Christ.   No matter how horrible a sinner, Christ died for them.   I will *not* stand in their way.   This is hard.   It has to be a decision, not an emotion.  To stand for what is true and right – and simply stand, without attacking those who might one day come to join me, oh… that’s very hard.  And if it’s hard for me, who am a gentle soul, how much harder must it be for others?

I hate how things are going in my country.  I hate the divisions.  The people yelling at one another, the lies, the half-truths, the twisted news, the endless slander… it’s disgusting.   It’s as if those who are throwing words-as-stones have never read a history book, as if they don’t know what comes next…

Civil War.  Cultural Revolution.  Genocide.  Generations of divisions in families, communities, countries.

I’m not blind.  I’m not stupid.  And I’m literate – I read the end of the Book.  I know what happens.   I know the build up won’t be pretty.  Labor pangs take a long time to come to fruition.    Weird things have already happened, and they’re not going to stop happening.

So.  Speak up, speak truth.  Stand up, stand on the Rock.  But remember to let your speech be grace seasoned with salt – not the other way ’round.

Every one who would be labelled my “enemy” is just another human, caught in a web of sin.   I have no right to stand between them and my Savior.   My choices have eternal consequences, and so do yours.