Saturday, August 3, 2013
Nevertheless - One of the greatest words in all of Scripture
I've been trying a new Starbucks that just opened. When I'm headed into the big city for "supplies" it's a good one to stop at: convenient, clean, new.
But, I will say, the baristas still need a few more weeks to get in the groove. Their ability to fill a cup to the brim is leaving much to be desired. I wouldn't care, except for the fact that when one drops $4.49 for a drink, I want my stinkin' cup full. A girl next to me just got a venti iced tea and there is a good 1.5-2 inches left at the top. What?!?!
Yes, that deserves exclamation marks and mayhem upon my blog. Most of my retirement is going towards drinking coffee at Starbucks, so I want to make sure I'm getting my money's worth as I head toward being homeless at age 65.
I finally finished 6 weeks of "teaching commitments" this summer. Between teaching and Boston, I've spent 6 weeks working. I've loved every second of the actual classes and kiddos, but I of course swung the pendulum a bit too far as to how I'm spending all my time this summer.
Between conferences, teaching, and getting ready to go back to school work, I'm basically getting 2.5 weeks of summer off.
Those of you who know me, would not be surprised by this...this lack of balance and a happy medium. Last year I didn't do a thing and spiraled into unhealthy-crazy-idle-boredom world, so I vowed to DO stuff this summer, so I swung the pendulum clear to the other side and will have hardly stopped to have the chance to get bored.
Even though I am a bit tired, rebellious, and drained, I am in a much better place personally at the end of this summer than I was last summer.
Routine, commitments, accountability, and work is what this girl needs. A few 3-4 days break here and there is definitely needed, but large chunks of time with nothing to really get me up and going proves to be time that I don't get up and don't get going.
So, I'm thankful. I'm thankful that I wished to work this summer, to stay busy and productive, and mentally healthy, and God provided the opportunity and the means for all of that to happen.
I haven't gotten to spend as much time with friends and long lost friends I usually catch up with during the summer, which I'm sad about, but the few coffees and dates I've had, have been such a blessing and included some really deep conversations, probing questions, and moments I've seen God moving in my life and prodding me to move in certain directions.
If I had to sum up the years 2012 - 2013, I would say it's been a time of rebellion, disappointment, and realizing I love God mainly for the reason He is the master of the universe and can make things happen in my life.
That's a tough season and realization to wade through.
I spent three years that I felt was ordained by God to be a season of healing and transformation, to be a time that set me up to start anew with the chance to begin my story again. I wanted the chance at my dream of being in love and being married, having the house where I have people over for Sunday Night Church (Jen Hatmaker style), where my son plays basketball outside with all his friends, and I might even have another child or two.
I felt His prodding to keep me on the path of healing for those 3 years, to not look left, to not look right, but keep pressing on, and at the end, I had come to believe my dream would await.
For those 3 years, I would periodically ask myself "what are you going to do when "that" doesn't happen at the end? What are you going to say about God? Are you still going to believe these 3 years were from Him, for Him, for you?"
And as much as I said I would be ok with whatever happened, that I would keep believing God, that He isn't my genie, and what He has for my life is what He has for my life...deep down, my picture of my dream remained, how my story was going to play out was like a filmstrip inside my head.
Year 3 came and went. While those 3 years were amazing, and I don't question a thing about how much God worked in my life and how His faithfulness and goodness saturated me, my son, and all that I was walking through, year 4 didn't have my story playing out in it.
And for the next 1.5 years, I've lived in that place...of what happens when what you thought would happen, didn't and doesn't.
It's made me question how much I make up inside my head...which I know is LOTS, but sometimes there are moments when one talks to God, you feel He is right next to you...holding your hand, bringing things to mind, and even talking back.
I asked myself what I would do if what I thought would happen after I "put in my time" for the 3 years didn't happen, and the reality was/is I got hurt, I questioned, I lived in disappointment, felt rejected and left, I've wondered, I rebelled, and I became cynical and bitter all over again.
I spent weeks not walking through the church door or opening His word, I prayed little except on certain quiet times I needed to rant and beg, I shared my anger with Him, and I grieved.
I grieved because during all of that time being mad at God, I knew what was happening. I knew where I stood. I knew I only "loved" God because He had the power to fulfill the filmstrip occurring in my head.
And realizing that, hurts.
These last 4 months I've spent slowly coming out of that fog...slowly...like sticky mud and oil you can't shake or wash off.
The moment I would make strides, I'd find myself still stuck.
I'd open my Bible reluctantly, I made sure I was in the pew being spoon fed once more, and I opened up to listening to and following that still, quiet voice inside my head.
Just come. Just sit. Just read. Just spend time with Me.
I resisted for so long because I hated to face the fact that more often than not (than ever) I do things to only get something in return.
Facing this was secretly killing me. It hurt my heart, my pride, my soul that after all these years, all this time with God and His goodness, I was still in this place.
As much as He had changed me, transformed my heart and life, as much as His faithfulness and goodness have saturated every moment of my time even when I hardly acknowledged Him, THIS was still where I stood with my love for Him: “I will follow and love You Lord only if you do this for me.”
And if I could only love God in this way or with these conditions, the One who saved me, who unconditionally loves me, who has gone to hell and back for me, who has walked and carried me out of my own hell, then how much more would I fail to love others here on earth.
How incapable of genuine love was I.
And that's where I've been.
Over these last couple of weeks, I've been spending time in John 21. In verse 23 it says, "therefore this saying went out among the brethren that the disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, 'If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"
Jesus spoke and the people projected, expanded, added to the story, assumed, and tried to figure out how it would play out.
I believe God and I had a conversation 4.5 years ago. I believe we've had lots through the years. I also believe the ones that are true are the ones that He's continued to prod, encourage, and compel me to keep walking in and through.
But I'm just like the "brethren" in that I can project, assume, add to, and try to resolve how the story will play out.
And that's where the rub is for me and for God. I'm a resolver. My anxious tendencies, my insecurities, my sensitivities leave me in a spot that despises the in between, the journey, the hallways.
I want resolutions. I want ends. I want “and this is how the story goes.”
But that's not how God works.
That's not how faith works.
That's not how trust works.
Faith and trust and God are in the middles, in the journeys, in the walking out, in the "It's not all laid out for you to see".
He's told us the very end of the story, but the in between is a journey of walking with Him, behind Him, trusting that He has great plans for us...His plan is not the filmstrip playing in my head that I control and direct the characters in.
It's not one I manipulate or resolve.
It's one that I show up for; I come, I spend time with Him, and He guides, He prods, He orchestrates, directs and controls for His glory and purposes.
There is lots out there these days about stories and our lives being them and us writing them, and so much of that I have been encouraged and challenged by.
But, at the end of the day, I firmly believe that I can't control or write my story. I tried it once, and that life was one manipulated, disingenuous, inauthentic, shallow and unhealthy...both in what I did, and what I chose.
I believe all I can be is a good character; one willing to go, to walk, to trust.
Abraham had no idea what was before him, but he was the right character for God to use. So was Joseph, Ruth, Esther, Moses, and Mary.
All the stories we read about are not God recreating the filmstrips inside these people’s heads. The Bible is full of stories of how God used and moved people through the unimaginable story He had planned.
God didn’t go with their plans and dreams...He took them even further. He took them to His.
He took their trusting and courageous hearts and willingness to lay themselves at His feet and brought them to places that couldn't have been conceived. He wrote stories so magical and miraculous that they continue to change lives today...to lead people to the cross, to His goodness and sacrifice and love.
Today, 1.5 years into sifting through the garbage of control and manipulation and having the need to have my life resolved, I find myself praying, begging, pleading God to help me set my script down and be willing to follow His.
I don't want to have to write my story, I don't want to manipulate and control and live inauthentically.
I want to love so deeply I can't fathom the well it comes from.
I want to laugh so hard it hurts and shakes crevices inside my soul I didn't know I had.
I want to live life in a way that only God could orchestrate.
And that kind of life takes courage, takes trust, takes living in the unknown, in a journey of faith in God.
It can’t be manufactured or planned. It takes a character willing to show up ready to be directed and guided to places that aren't even known to us.
As I finished reading Psalm 31 today, the last 3 verses are the balm and redemption to my broken and unfaithful heart...
"As for me, I said in my alarm, 'I am cut off from before Your eyes'; NEVERTHELESS You heard the voice of my supplication when I cried to You..."
Nevertheless...one of the greatest words God uses in all of scripture.
It's water to a desperately dry and thirsty soul, to a hurting heart, to the one who is disappointed and ashamed of her reaction to God, for her lack of love for Him.
And Psalm 31 continues with "Be strong and let your heart take courage all you who hope in the Lord."
Be strong and take courage.
Be strong and take courage.
Be strong and take courage...because God works through the "Nevertheless-es".
He is a God who planned for Nevertheless...and that is where the stubborn and hard heart crumbles into a million weeping and grateful pieces.