Monday, January 10, 2011

Apparently the world's worst storm was chasing us yesterday as we exchanged Abilene, Texas for a flight back to Indianapolis. In between strapping Eden into the baby bjorn and boarding our last leg of the journey from Atlanta home, I felt sure there was a silent sadness that was creeping in the clouds behind us: that one haunting sadness of bags still unpacked, neatly stacked by our bed, and the realization that I am thousands of miles (okay maybe just 1000 miles) from the people I so love and miss. I hate even the dreading of that moment, and yesterday on the plane I was about to get lost in the feeling when I remembered some words the Lord had put on my heart a few weeks ago: "Frame your heart to the burden."

I'm naturally a happy person, maybe a little bit pensive at times and a tad bit too intense for some people (my apologies), but I generally wake up in the morning feeling excited for the day. I have loved my life all of my life. Not in a prideful way, but in a, I-will-do-the-best-I-can-with-what-I've-got-and-what-I've-got-might-not-be-alot-to-some-people-but-to-me-its-the-essence/extent-of-my-potential. (Its probably illegal to write a sentence like that, but I think you know what I mean). I love the man I married, I love the baby God gave us, I love my family, I love the skin I'm in (or at least I am trying to-- albeit I spent years of my life examining and obsessing over its flaws) and I love love...the fact that I am a victim of grace. (I got that from a book I read yesterday, maybe its one of those well-known Christian colloquialisms, but I hadn't heard it til about noon yesterday and therefore its truth is pretty striking still).

In the past year, however, I have found it more of a struggle at certain points, to wake up blooming with hope. Its been a point of shame for me, and something I hate to even acknowledge. I, who have been given so much to be thankful for, have had the audacity to grumble in my spirit. (My spirit is shuddering even at the thought-- 1 Corinthians 10 makes it very clear how God feels toward complainers). In the wake of the wonderful gift of marriage and this baby and new friends in Indianapolis, I've been hit also with the reality of living away from my family, and the missing of certain people who had become necessary to my everyday welfare. And there are many moments I have found myself comparing my lot to others, whose families are down the street, around the corner, and who are irreparably connected to their hometown, their friends, their place of being presently that they have no need for new friends. And I've muttered under my breath, cried in my car, and tried to figure out a way to get home, to manipulate friendships to fit my needs, and to bother Chad until he does something about it. And quite often, I wish I could see a bunch of trials laid out on a table in Heaven and be able to handpick mine. "Lord," I say, "I could so much better handle financial stress or trouble with a friend or something else...just don't split my heart like this." This, I admit, is totally and completely wrong. Not the missing, not the momentary sadness, but the sense of entitlement to have life on my terms. As if I own my life.

"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup, you have made my lot secure." Psalm 16:5

I usually have the hardest time with it when I'm freshly home from a visit to Texas. The people, the companionship, the warmth is so accessible to my memory that it makes everything seem paled in comparison. I was anticipating this sadness a few weeks before Christmas, knowing I'd be home for a substantial amount of time and I was asking the Lord how to prepare myself and possibly how to prevent my turning into the worst version of myself.

Very clearly, I heard the Lord say, "Charis, frame your heart to the burden. I've placed you neither by accident nor by punishment in your present circumstance. I know that this very burden is the exact trial I've chosen for you, and if you lean into Me, rather than try to squirm away or exchange it for something else, I'll teach you not only to survive, but to thrive in the face of it."

So yesterday, following the lone line of weary passengers onto the plane, I mentally stood up to the gathering clouds in my heart and told them: "The Lord has promised me that I can thrive in the midst, in the very heart of the trial. And I choose that inheritance." I have to and must learn to frame my heart to the burden, and let the clouds that promise trial produce fruit in my life. I woke up this morning and remembered this verse:
"For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned." Hebrews 6:8-9

I don't believe I'm alone in having a specifically assigned trial, or even a circumstantially assigned one. Whatever your burden is, whether its grad school or that one teacher or maybe even the fact that happiness is so much more of a task for you this season in your life...maybe you can take comfort in the Truth that God is faithful to use the trials we go through, and more than that, He is with us in the midst of them, and His voice and instruction will be LIFE to us if we listen and lean into Jesus. He is sturdy enough, surely. He has joy enough for all of us to glean off. And He can teach us to say what David says at the end of Psalm 16:

"The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever."