Tag Archives: Christians

Hey Jealousy…

When I was growing up, we were in church every time the doors were open.  In fact, we were usually the ones opening the doors.  I spent as much time at church as I did at home.  My parents worked there, I went to school there, my house was practically on the property, and of course there were the services…  Every once in a while I’d ask my parents, “Do I have to go to church tonight?”  Without fail (why did I keep asking?) they would smile cheerfully and say, “Nope.  You don’t have to go.  You get to go!”  No amount of contriving to escape from that explanation ever worked. 

I really didn’t mind going to church.  But every once in a while, I just wanted to stay home.  Now that I’m an adult, I have to admit that every so often I take pleasure in missing a service just because.  I love church and believe it’s important to be an active part of a community of faith, but I’ve never been one who thinks my relationship with God depends on never missing a service. 

My parents were always very big on our attitude.  Bad attitudes were simply not allowed.  While I often begrudged their insistence that my attitude always be good, that I always try to find the good in something, I find these days that I really appreciate that training. 

Most of the time, I look at my life and am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for giving me such blessings.  I have much to be thankful for, including a nice, comfortable house to live in, enough work to keep me busy and financially sound, a good education, godly parents, great friends, and a man who loves me.  I allow the feeling of being treasured by God, provided for, and blessed to wash over me and I rejoice in all that God has done. 

But every once in a while different, unwelcome feelings flood over me.  I won’t list out for you all the failures that accumulate in my mind, but at times they feel overwhelming.  I can’t understand the delays, the rejection, the lack.  When I put all my effort into something and it doesn’t work out, how do I handle the frustration and pain? 

I’ve discovered that when I take my pain and frustration to the Lord, He soothes me.  In prayer I am reminded that God’s timing is perfect.  I am reminded that it’s not my job to make things happen, but to be open to accepting opportunities in obedience when they come.  It’s not my job to make myself a success, but to humbly do all my hand finds to do as unto the Lord and wait for Him to bless me. 

Even so, I find out that a fellow unknown writer/blogger got a major publishing opportunity because something he wrote got shared with the right person at the right time and my small, black, jealous heart twists in pain.  Why him and not me, God?  I like him.  I like his writing.  Why not BOTH of us?  And then the ugliest of thoughts, that maybe he’ll mess up the opportunity and not write anything they want to publish.  Maybe they’ll hate his writing and he’ll go back to being an unknown who is hopefully writing his little blog just like me…   And the soft flutter of angel wings surrounds the green monster in my heart with soothing words of love.  Be happy for him.  Pray that he’ll succeed.  Bless him as he writes.  I have plans for you too. 

And I know it’s true.  I know I absolutely must bless him, cheer for him, and even be happy for him.  I’m not sure if I can do it.  Do I have to, Lord?  Oh, but I get to.  I get to watch my twisted and ugly heart become pure when it is washed with the love of Christ.  I get to allow my Savior into that part of myself and give Him space to work.  And when his first book comes out (for surely it will because he IS incredibly talented), and I congratulate him, I will mean it with all my heart.  And I will know God has transformed me.  I will know my decision to let God change my attitude has made all the difference. 

The thing is, God is the one who has given me the gifts and talents I have.  He is the one who has placed desires in my heart for good things.  Why would God, who created me and loves me, give me these talents and desires and not provide a way for me to use them?  If I continue to walk in obedience to what I believe He is guiding me to do, then I am sure to walk right into more than I could ever imagine for myself. 

So I will be the best I can be at what I’ve been given to do now.  I will be the best friend, the best girlfriend, the best daughter, the best sister and aunt, the best writer, and the best employee I can possibly be.  I will keep putting one foot in front of the other, knowing I am doing what I am able to do, thanking God that He has provided for me.  Most importantly, I will walk in obedience to His Word, doing all I can to stand before my Lord innocently, ready to do His will.  I will trust Him to take care of me. 

I will pray earnestly for the success of all those who have things that I wish I had.  I will pray and pray and pray, not stopping until I can do so without gritting my teeth.  I will pray until my heart really means it and I can really smile as I say the words.  I will even thank God that I get to pray.  Lord, cleanse my jealous heart…

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Missing the Point

I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to figure God out.  What are His plans for my life?  What is He thinking as it relates to my situation?  What in the world is He trying to teach me now??? 

I’m reading Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Penguins and Golden Calves, and what she writes reflects my thoughts on the reading I’ve been doing in the gospel of John.  John emphasizes the fact that Jesus was thoroughly misunderstood by people.  They all had their agendas and tried to figure out how His ministry might help them achieve their own desires or do the things they thought the Messiah should do.  In fact, the only ones who had the right idea were the religious leaders.  They feared He’d replace them or make them irrelevant.  They were correct!  If only they’d become His followers, their lives would’ve radically changed for the better.

But back to my point…  Even Jesus’ closest followers misunderstood Him and tried to get their own way, expecting to become rich and famous (in this world or the next) through their relationship with Him.  He tried to share Himself with them, but they were so busy trying to figure out how His words affected them that they missed the point entirely! 

How often do I do that very thing?  God reveals a little of Himself to me, wanting me to know Him more intimately, and all I can think about is how that information might impact my future.  But maybe He just wants me to know His heart, His desires, and to answer my recent prayer, “Oh, for grace to trust Him more!”  What if this isn’t about ME at all, but about God’s desire for me to know Him?

I write all this because of the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on for the last few months.  God has been changing me, making radical shifts in my heart and mind.  As many of you have noticed, my physical body has begun to reflect those inner changes.  I’ve lost over 50 pounds and have made tremendous changes to my eating habits.  I’ve allowed God to be my Comforter (rather than food), my Protector (rather than my excess weight), and my Provider (rather than trying to provide for myself).  All these things were “head knowledge” before, but now my HEART knows.  I couldn’t hide the change if I wanted to.

So then the obvious question is WHY?  Why now?  What is this transformation for?  Obviously God must have something BIG for me next!  How exciting!

I’ve taken my closest friends and family on an emotional roller coaster with me, trying to “interpret the signs.”  I’ve been all over the map, thinking one day that I’m to become a career missionary to a third world country, the next that I’m to remain right here in Nashville, and every other option in between (at least it’s felt that way).  Which has left my head spinning – especially with the news that my job at my beloved church is ending with a lay off of 25% of the staff.  WHAT????

As I continue my walk with God, I see a choice before me.  I can continue spinning in circles in an attempt to figure it all out, OR I can simply thank God for revealing a little more of HImself to me and drawing me deeper into intimacy with Him.  To know the heart of God and serve Him is my greatest desire.  What else is there?  And to know His heart is to trust Him and to believe that even in the most uncertain times, He is the solid rock of certainty.

I plan to spend the next few weeks praying specifically for what God has laid on my heart – which at this time is that He will miraculously take care of our church’s $12M building debt.  That debt has led to the lay offs and many other challenges.  It is a dark cloud over our heads.  I believe God will do it.  I’m not going to try to figure out what that answered prayer might mean for me.  I’m just going to listen to the heart beat of my Savior and pray as He’s led me to pray.  I’m going to ask Him to reveal to me more of His heart regarding the debt we’ve incurred and how He feels about it.  I’m going to try to get to know God more through this challenge and leave the results up to Him. 

Do you think you ever misunderstand what God is doing in your life?  Maybe if we all followed Him obediently (instead of trying to figure out WHY He’s asking that of us), we’d truly be able to call ourselves the FRIENDS of God.  What do you think?

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Am I Special?

A young mother recently asked me a question that has been bothering her:  “Am I special?”  She qualified her question by letting me know that she has heard that everyone is special, but if everyone is special then is anyone really special? 

I understood her question well because it is one I have battled with myself over the years.  If I am special in some way, then the things that happen to everyone else shouldn’t happen to me.  My destiny should be greater than that of those around me.  Even being a Christian can be used as an excuse to think that we are somehow special and excused from the things that “regular” people go through.  Don’t the Psalms state repeatedly that God gives rewards to those who walk in His ways?  If I walk in God’s ways, then I am special and should expect to be treated as such.

But the truth is that even Christians, sometimes especially Christians, struggle and have difficulties in life.  We are not always spared from injury, illness, poverty, and slander.  All Christians don’t live in mansions, dress in the finest clothes, and sing hymns all day long while we read the Bible and pray together.  We are regular people who understand that our source is God and anything good that happens in life is a gift from God. 

I looked up the word “special” in the dictionary and found this definition – distinguished from what is ordinary or usual.  What distinguishes me from the ordinary or usual?  I am a human being just like everyone else.  I was born, I am living my life, and I will die – just like everyone else.  In that case, the only truly “special” people in the world are those who somehow defy those circumstances: Enoch, who did not die but was taken up into heaven by God, also Elijah; and Jesus, who was born to a virgin and raised from the dead.  So unless I can find a way to get taken up to heaven by God through a means other than death, I’m regular, not special. 

So what should I strive for in life?  I thought I was special, the handiwork of God, created for a unique purpose and called by Him to make a difference in the world.  The answer to all of that is – yes, I am the handiwork of God (just like everyone else), I am created for a unique purpose (just like everyone else), and I am called by Him to make a difference in the world (just like everyone else). 

Every single person has something about them that is unique (existing as the only one or sole example) and if they embrace it, will make them stand out in the crowd and cause the awe of God to fall on those around them who see the glory of what God has made.  The thing is, we don’t embrace our uniqueness very often.  We try to hide it because we don’t want to be different from the crowd.  We want to fit in!  We’re afraid others won’t like our uniqueness or might reject us.  Yet we admire those who try new things and effectively harness their creativity into things that we cannot imagine. 

 The second piece to that puzzle is that we all have a calling from God to make a difference in the world.  Once we discover what makes us unique, we have to ask God how that thing should be used for His glory. 

I used to be afraid to fully surrender myself to God and be made into His image because I thought I’d lose my own identity.  I was afraid I’d become some sort of Christian robot.  What I have found in my surrender (more fully every day) is that instead of making me like everyone else, God calls me to do things that are totally unique.  God knows better than me what talents are hidden in me and He calls them forward and puts them to use for His glory.  Then I begin to see myself through His eyes and the work that I do becomes fulfilling and effective.  The closer I draw to God, the more He pulls forward those unique talents, and the more fulfilled and blessed I become.  I begin to sparkle and people notice.  I find such joy in realizing that the more I fully surrender myself to God, the more He makes me into His image, and the more unique I become. 

So I told the woman that she isn’t special.  She is a regular human being with flaws and problems, working to get closer to God.  However, the more fully we know God, the more we become like Him and the more our uniqueness shines through.  She and I are working together to grow in our relationship with the Lord. As we grow closer to Him, the fears and cares of this life become less and less important and pleasing God grows in our estimation of success.  And pleasing God is what allows Him to take our unique talents, gifts, personality, and experience to make us into a unique and beautiful instrument for His glory.

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