Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Cure for Bitterness

I love lazy mornings. Take today for example. The Mr. woke me up before he left for work and I drifted back to sleep. Then my alarm went off at six (don't ask me why I had it set, I have NO clue) and I promptly shut it off, but by that time my body was telling me to get up. Despite fighting myself on this, the dog felt it time to let me know she heard said alarm and she wasn't going to lay back down knowing I was here...for her...to do her bidding. Yes, I got up.

I wasted time on my phone, as I am apt to do when I don't want to get around and/or think.  I found some interesting discussions concerning politics and gun control.  I read enough to know we are a deeply and horribly divided country - and I'm going to leave it at that, at least here. I watched a video about turning writing into a paying career and decided at that point I may not have the fortitude for it. I window shopped on Amazon.  I think I found the new decor I want for my dining room. And I flitted around on Pinterest.  I wonder if the Mr. will like the new paint color I'm thinking of?!

A couple hours, a clean kitchen, and some breakfast later I finally opened my Bible. Don't ask me why I waited so long today to do what I know to do first.  I could rationalize it away as how I wanted to be more awake, have my surroundings just so, or any number of excuses, but the thing is they would be just that - excuses.

I'm in Proverbs right now.  I love Proverbs. Maybe it is the fact they are like a bunch of rules all in list form.  I like rules.  Sure there are some I am less fond of - like paying taxes, but I do them anyway.  I digress. Nested in those rules are rich nuggets to carry around with you. I think I have shared, in the recent past, how some times I move right over what I read, while at other times I read the words and they stick like super glue and impact me in such a way I cannot even fathom. Today is one of those days.

In fact, there were so many things read today, I may have more than one post concerning them.  However, I really wanted to talk about Proverbs 14:10. It says, "Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy." People! I hate to admit this, but I have had and still do in some cases, have a bitter heart. I have an innate ability to hold onto things. Sadly, you could say I am a hoarder of wrongs done to me. Sure, there are those I have let fall by the way side, but there are others I have allowed to take permanent residence inside my head. It is awful and here is why:

When you are deeply bitter, no amount of coaxing or living will remove it from you. Honestly, you lose the opportunity to have joy and peace in your life. Bitterness distorts your vision to the point where you see all things as nothing more than additional events or circumstances to get through in order to exist.  Bitterness is a life-sucking force. It is a leech on your soul. Bitterness is the same to your character as fire is to a stack of logs. It. Will. Destroy. You. And in some ways I have let that happen to me.

I like to think I am adept at compartmentalizing. Actually, in some ways, I can do this.  Except it is more like organizing than compartmentalizing - I put everything in the same space, I just give it its own spot.  But we all know what can happen if there is a gust of wind, or a tilt one way or another.  Yep! That organization gets a bit out of whack and then there is a mess which pours out over everything and sadly, everyone.

For over a year we have been dealing with a situation designed and brought on by another.  While I am certain this person feels justified in their actions they haven't really, in my mind's eye, looked past their self-seeking interests to see what they are doing. WOW!  Can you see that?!  Yes!  That is the bitterness coming through.  It. Is. Real!  Still - to this day.  I am exceedingly bitter towards this person, and guess what?  I feel justified in this, but God tells me something altogether different.  He tells me (and you) that bitterness steals our joy.  But wait, there's more!

A few verses down He tells us this, "It is a sin to despise one's neighbor..." (v. 21a) The what you say!  I know.  Sadly, I know. So how do I move from this?  How do I take this deeply rooted bitterness and shift from the way I despise this person to how God would have me deal with them?  I am only human after all. I have the right to be justified in feeling this way. But I don't.  You see, while I was still a sinner He died for me. Even though I cannot undo their choices and how they impacted us and our family, I can choose to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I can choose the one thing that God said would be the bleach to the bitterness.

I can forgive. Sure, forgiveness doesn't absolve culpability, but it does free me. Forgiveness opens me up to see the joy set forth by a loving God. Forgiveness is my way of showing, even if it is minuscule in comparison to what Jesus did for me on the cross, the love of Christ. Forgiveness is the the cure to bitterness, but it is a hard pill to swallow and no, it is not gel-coated.  In fact, I'd even say it is a time-release pill.  You can swallow it, but it will take time to enter your system.  Not because it was the wrong dose, but because it takes the continuous work of the Spirit in you to reap the full benefit.

I'm going to be honest here.  I have not swallowed this pill yet where this person is concerned.  I'd go so far as to say, I'm starring at is now but it looks entirely too large for me even though I know it is the right thing to do. I don't want to take it, for no other reason than to do so would mean that I have to give up being justified.  And that is just it. God isn't calling me to be justified, He's calling me to be His and to believe He will take care of everything as long as I trust Him enough to let go of this bitterness.

With that, I am going to pray. Then I'm going to trust. All the while filling this large cup of water so I can swallow this pill to remove the bitterness inside of me.

How about you?  Do you have someone or something that has caused bitterness to steal your joy?  Has this person or thing taken so much house room inside of you that your life feels like nothing?  That you feel lost and not sure where to turn from here?  Won't you take that step with me and let forgiveness win?  Yes, it is hard.  I admit, but I am going to do it.  If for no other reason than I know, He who is in me is greater than He who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Forgiveness.

- M

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

I Wanted More

I woke up early today, earlier than normal. The Mr. hadn't even come in to give me a good-bye kiss yet (he leaves before 5 am). Yes, that early.  My brain has been completely stuck in a whirlwind. So many thoughts and ideas to get onto this virtual paper. I tried going back to sleep, but couldn't.  I tried dulling them away with time on the Internet, but was unsuccessful.  So here I am, instead of getting ready for work myself, writing to you - this vast unknown of readers. Below is a highly condensed version of the last twenty years of my life.  Highly. Condensed.
I got my first house, a tin can really, in the fall of 1996. It was a small, but quaint trailer in a local trailer park. I shared it with my high school sweetheart and I was going to get married, have a couple kids, and spend my life in perfect happiness. I love looking back on my naivete. It wasn't that things couldn't have progressed like my romance novels said they could, but I wanted more.  So, I got a better job, moved in with my best friend, and carried on for a while.
Then I met my first husband. We were young, had great paying factory jobs, and nothing but time to do what we wanted. So we did just that. He bought me things. I bought him things. We decided to get married. Bought a house. Did grown up stuff for all of about a year. I don't know where the things started going wrong - maybe the part where I wanted to actually grow up and he didn't, but in the end, it came to me wanting more. He found someone else and I found a lawyer.
A few months later (yes) I had a new job in a place where I knew no one - a great way to run and hide. I met husband number two. We started life on the wrong foot. I admit that. But as young adults (early-mid 20s) we did what we knew to do.  We had our daughter, got married, and began the "more" I was looking for.  Only it wasn't and still, I wanted more. I wanted a husband who provided. I wanted a home that I was proud of. I wanted a career that made a statement. I wanted all the lies the world told me I needed.  I can't and won't say we didn't have amazing years together. I can't and won't say we didn't make a beautiful family.  I can't and won't say we didn't have love between us. I can't and won't say I didn't grow together with them all, because I did.  But I wanted more. (You can read all about this starting in fall 2012.)
I have found that the place where the 'wanting more' and the 'working to get it' meet, is where you will seldom find the hands of God. Listen to me here.  I am not talking about being open to His Spirit and the path He is leading you down.  I am talking about selfish ambition and keeping your eyes on the world and what it says is best for you. And that is where I was in my wanting more.
In those years I was married to the girls' dad and the months following the end of our marriage I had  earned not one, but two degrees. Why?  Because I wanted more. I equated education with becoming. I also worked myself to the bone climbing a "corporate ladder" - one of my own design, so naturally it didn't go too high. I did make some progress, but I admit I started chopping down the rungs before I realized I needed a safe way back down.  The fall hurt. And yet, I still wanted more.
I carried on with my life. Caring for my children, owning a home, forging a career and doing everything I could to become.  Yet I wanted more. I met my husband during this time and in that span of months and years learnt a lot and lost a lot. But one thing remained.  I wanted more. I finally had the love of my life, but I didn't have my career. I hadn't quite reached the point where I had, for lack of better words, become. So, I went back to school and got another degree. I quit my job and with great expectation worked to become who I always wanted to be, all because I wanted more.
Do you see?  I have spent twenty plus years of my life working towards one thing - more. I have always wanted more. I hate to admit that.  It makes me sound, well, pretty much awful. However, in the last year or so, something has started to change in me. It was scary at first, then it was known, and now it is eager anticipation. Not because I don't want more, I do, but because I want less of all the things I have spent my life wanting more of.
I want less house. I want less stuff. I want less need for more education. I want less desire to climb a corporate ladder. I want less of the things that society tells me I need in order to become. Instead I want more time with my husband. I want more time with my children. I want more time teaching them about the love of their Heavenly Father. I want more opportunity to grow in community with my sisters and brothers in Christ. I want more of God and His Spirit in me. I want less of me and more of Him.
I had spent so much time wanting more that I lost sight of what any of it was truly about. There is only one thing in life where wanting and getting more meet to become the best thing ever. But it takes so much to get there. It takes the desire to want less of absolutely everything else. It takes putting that thing or person or place you hold more important down.  It takes realizing that more home, education, career, etc. doesn't make you more of a person. It takes, laying all of that down to be given the one thing that will fill you with more than you could have ever hoped for.
Don't misunderstand any of this. I am thankful for what I have. I am thankful for my husband, my family, my job, and the things we have, but it is no longer about the more in regards to society's view. I simply want more of what God has to offer and if I can give all of that to my family, then well, I will have truly lived with far more abundance than I could have ever thought possible.
Because with God, you always have more.
- M

Sunday, January 21, 2018

I've Been Set Free

In the past two days I have been challenged.  Challenged in a way that I don't ever recall being challenged before. The Mr. and I are in a Small Group study through our church.  We are currently studying Francis Chan's "Forgotten God". If I can take a minute and share my utter love for his delivery of God's truths.  He is a phenomenal pastor and teacher.  I digress. For those who aren't familiar with the book, it is based solely on the work of the Holy Spirit and the work that only He can do in our lives.  Yesterday and today we spent some time reading the book and doing the accompanying workbook and can I say, we were both caught off guard.  Not in a bad way, but in a moment of 'aha-ness'!. 

Then today at church the message was, for lack of better words, on point.  While much was said, I am still ruminating on the reason why Jesus came.  He came to set us free from the bondage of sin.  Yes, we all know this.  However, when we think of sins most are drawn to the tangible, or physical ones.  The ones that are blatant and obvious - a harsh tongue, drinking, drugs, etc.  But it wasn't those that caught me by surprise.  It was the sin that I didn't realize that had me bound in chains so tightly I never looked at it in any other way.  In fact, it is slightly humiliating to type this out thinking what a bad person I am because of it.

But that is actually the beauty of it.  This sin is the exact reason why Jesus came, for me.  What is it that has me bound to the point of incapacitation at times?  Fear. I am a person that is so wrought with fear that I react and act according to how that sin forms conclusions in my head. I can read the word of God and know the truth of what He says about something, but then I turn around  and in my next step fall to fear. People, don't you see?  My fear is basically telling the Lord I don't trust Him or the work of His Spirit in me. I am trying to do and see things all from a human standpoint - from my own capabilities.

And that is exactly the opposite of what He intended for me, for us.  Yes, God sent His son to die for my sins, that I may have the opportunity to spend eternity with my Lord and Savior, but He did something even more special.  (I know!  Can you imagine something bigger than what Jesus did on Calvary?!)  He sent His Spirit that I may have Him in me. (That we all can have Him! What a personal God we serve.) I think back to the New Testament and all the wonderful things the disciples and early teachers were able to do because of the Spirit and then I look at today.  You guys! He is just as present today as He was then.  Only I think we've dulled Him out by all the noise we surround ourselves with.

We live in a day and time where we are told we have to do everything on our own.  We have to fashion a life for ourselves and if we want to have hopes and dreams we have to figure out the steps to make that happen.  Then when they don't or we fail, why we blame so many other things, people, or even ourselve.  Or maybe, we don't act at all because of fear.  But if God's spirit is in us then what or whom shall we fear?  For me, it is everything.  My list of fears is astronomical, really.  Some are completely irrational, like my fear of wide open spaces.  If I can't find a place to hide, then the space is too big!  Other fears are healthy, I think.  Like a fear of driving fast.  (OK, yes, you might think that one is irrational too.)

Yet, it is the fears I have that essentially limit God and His work in my life that He wants to break me free from.  I fear the unknown. I fear losing my family. I fear not being good enough for anything and everything in my life. I fear I am not smart enough to do the one thing I have always wanted to do - teach. I fear I will never get the opportunity. I fear failure.  I fear being nothing and nobody. These are my fears.  These are the ones I lose sleep over.  The ones I cry for hours about when I can't get them out of my head.  These are the ones I work tirelessly to avoid. And you know what the Lord says about these?  That they are a sin that is keeping me in chains.

I want to let them go. I don't want to be bound by these fears. I don't want my thoughts, words, and deeds to be negative as a result of these fears. I want, nothing more than, for the Holy Spirit to rain down on me and pluck these fears from me - for all of eternity. I want to be a woman who has conquered these - not because I was strong enough to do so, but because I gave them over to the Lord, fully, and with the expectation He in me is greater than He who is in the world. I want more of His Spirit in me.

Then, I want Him to use me exactly how He wants to.  To use my story for His glory.  Not because of me, but in spite of me.  Because in all this, it is not about me at all. This is about the power He alone has to free me, to free us all, from each of the things that binds and weighs us down.  And He will.  He will free us, for no other reason than He said He would.  After all, I do know He is who He says He is and He does what He says He does.

So what has you in chains?

-M