Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm Not Right

Chad and I had lunch together in Tyler one day before Eden was born, and we had gotten in the habit of assessing our life as a married couple a lot. I think it was because we only knew that this new person was entering in our family and we wanted to be sure we knew who we were and what we were about before we started training a mini-Freije. I could laugh now that at the time we were so afraid of what this new person was going to do to "us". We're more "us" now than ever before she was born.

But anyway, we were talking and I won't ever forget Chad's words. He looked up at me and had tears glistening in his eyes, (something not uncommon for Chad since he started considering his role as a dad...something that I still fight him over...there is only room for one emotional person in our family, and that role was filled a long time ago) and he said, "I just want to make sure that we always remember that we aren't right."
I nearly choked on my meal. What do you mean we want to remember we aren't right? If we aren't right, why are we living this way? If we aren't right, what's the point to making sure we stick to our convictions? But he calmly explained that he knows that at some level, our theology, our thoughts on a God who is much bigger and better than us, and on the millions of different people that God has lovingly formed and created totally unique from one another, are not always right. We don't have all the answers. We never will. We have some blind spots, because we're human, and because we're not in Heaven.
So where do we go from there? What do you do with the realization that you aren't right? Because I've lived my whole life pretty much thinking I was living the right away, and judging other people if I think they are living the wrong way. And that's what Chad meant, we don't have room to judge. Yes, the Bible is pretty clear about sin and immorality and greed and lying and things like that...but there are alot of gray areas. Like how to spend time with God. Is it morning or evening? Is it an hour a day or should I really be spending seven hours? Is it with worship or without? Or how to spend our money. Are we supposed to just tithe ten percent or do we always tithe thirty percent and never buy Starbucks because they may or may not be fair trade? Or, should every mom be a stay at home? Or should every mom realize that she needs to bear some of the financial load? Or are some mom's called to different things and some can work as nurses or nutritionists or photographers and am I missing that calling by staying at home? You get my gist. Almost every area of life is, in a sense, up for debate.
And over that lunch with Chad we both decided that ultimately, the reason we want to know we're right is because we want justification. We want approval. We want to know that we're doing okay, that we're on track. And so we look around and compare ourselves and try and judge ourselves by other people, totally unrelated to us, and we try and give each other thumbs up and thumbs down. But maybe the point of life is getting our cue from God. Letting Him direct us, and not looking to the right and left, trying to figure out whose more right than us or who is more wrong.

I don't know if we're the only couple who is tempted to think we're right all the time, but I know that it was at that lunch that the Lord threw down the gauntlet in my heart and said, No more. No more pride like that. And its not like I've never thought I was right since then or that I've never judged another person, but it's become really evident that I need more humility in my life. And its been really mind-blowing to tell myself, "Charis, you are not always right. In fact, you could be very wrong right now, so you better hush your mouth about your "neighbor" and go ask the Lord to search your heart." It's not been the easiest thing, and it's probably a life-long process of failing at it and reminding myself (or having the Lord remind me) and trying to walk in Love again. I'm not right, but Jesus is. It's a bitter pill for my pride to swallow. But its a good one. It's a true one.

It's like the tool we use to measure one another is broken, because we are all so different. So we have to throw it out and realize we aren't God. Not that this gives license for sin or for things that break God's heart, but it gives license for us to express His will in such different ways.
I'm starting to think that getting to know Jesus, and getting to know Truth, isn't something that happens in one day. It's not something that even happens in a few years. Really, no one is finished in their learning process, not even until the day we die. We're always learning.

"For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect, and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect. But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded)." 1 Corinthians 13:9-10

"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter until the full light of day." Psalm 4:18

Maybe in Heaven we'll have full knowledge right away, in that blinking of an eye, and we'll understand why everyone has their own journey, and why Jesus didn't expound on some things in the Bible. I've often wished we'd have more details about Jesus' way of life: what did He eat? Did He ever eat sweets? Or was He always mindful about health and wholeness? Did he sleep in ever, or was He always the first one awake? Is it wrong to press the snooze button? I mean, these may seem silly, but you see where I'm going.
Maybe He purposefully didn't give all the details so that we'd learn to listen, and learn to walk when and where He tells us and not try and tell everybody else what to do. And maybe that's what the journey of faith is, of learning to listen for His still small voice behind you saying, "this is the way, walk in it." And the way for you might not be the exact same way for me. It will look the same in some places, because we have the same artist painting out picture and every artist has his trademark strokes and touch. But at the end of it all the portrait of our lives won't look a thing like the person's next to us. And maybe that's just how He intended it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"I think thankfulness is like a flower. It needs care and cherishing if it to live and grow. Perhaps thankfulness, even more than some other qualities that seem to come naturally to us, is in need of cherishing, because of the withering winds of life. The best way to cause it to grow strong in our hearts is to be careful never to let ourselves be unthankful. Has anyone done anything to help me and I have said nothing about it? (It is not enough to thank God; we should thank the one to whom He gave the loving thought that caused the loving deed.) Has anyone prepared a surprise for me and I have been blind to it? or if I noticed it, have I been dumb? If we have been careless about this, let us put it right. I often think we must disappoint our kind Father by not noticing the little things (as well as the countless great things) that He does to give us pleasure. Perhaps we should begin by thinking more of what His children do for love of Him and for love of us too." - Amy Carmichael

Last night I let Eden watch a few minutes of Nick Jr. and the Blue's Clues guy came on and was talking about thankfulness and what all the characters on his show are thankful for, and I thought-- this is such a wonderful reminder. Everybody, whether they know God or not, can recognize that an attitude of thankfulness is a good thing. Not only does it serve as a hot air balloon for my heart, it also is a weapon against destructive thoughts and self pity. I found myself this morning thinking about problems I see in other people and I had to stop myself and say, "Charis, how about we be grateful for the wonderful people in our life?" and so I started to list out reasons I am thankful for the people I know and those nasty little thoughts retreated. I think it goes along with the verse that if we draw near to God, the devil will flee from us. Psalms tells us to enter His gates with thanksgiving in our hearts, and our courts with praise. When I was little I'd associate that verse with actually being in Heaven, but I think it's a right-now-reality. If our bodies are temple of the Holy Spirit, then His presence is with us, and He is attracted to thankfulness. So boom...when you get thankful, things like depression, moodiness, anxiety, complaining, bitterness, basically anything that is against God, flees from you. It's like turning on a light in a dark room. I've never seen a shred of darkness put up a fight. It's go to go.

As for the quote at the top, I stumbled across this little treasure of a reminder this morning, and it seemed so fitting for today. Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India, and for the last twenty years of her life she was bedridden with a chronic illness. She spent those years writing letters to all of the people she knew and cared for, encouraging them to love Jesus, to love others, and to keep the faith. This is one of her letters. It never really impressed me so much that she'd write all these letters (which have been compiled into multiple books)until yesterday- when I had my first encounter with food poisoning.

Chad and I spent almost an entire day literally plastered to our couches, and the worst part was, we couldn't watch the food network shows we love, because we'd feel even worse. There were so many times yesterday where I thought about how terrible sickness is, and how its really hard to focus on the Lord when I feel like my stomach is attacking me.

While we were laying on our couches, bundled in blankets and trying to nibble on saltines and taking tentative sips of ginger ale, Chad kept saying how we needed to focus on what God's done for us (probably because I was complaining too much). And when we started reciting all the ways He has been faithful to us, it wasn't long before we started to forget about how sick we felt. And during my worse moments, Eden would be zooming past me with her popper vacuum trailing behind her, and I'd burst out laughing. And it helped so much to laugh too. Its amazing how God made laughter, made thankfulness and praise as buoys for our souls. They keep us afloat.

It's amazing too what being sick did for my perspective. I woke up this morning and all I wanted to do was clean the house. I have been beside myself with happiness. I've managed to do three loads of laundry, clean two bathrooms, scrub down our sinks, refrigerator, oven, and microwave, and organize our ungodly number of magazines...and its only 10:30. I feel like walking outside and shouting, "I'm alive! I will be okay!" There were moments yesterday I thought I'd never eat again. And really, I have to admit that I'm really thankful for food poisoning. Because it taught me how great my day to day life is.
"through Him, then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." Hebrews 13:5