Careful, that Fence Could Give You a Massive Wedgie: CHOICES {Part 2}

Surely God understood my plight, after all, He knew my heart, He knew our financial situation, He knew we wanted to get married—eventually, so did it really matter that we were living and sleeping together at this point? I mean, we’d been sleeping in the same bed for a couple of years by this time, we even had a child together, it’s not like we had much to “save” ourselves for.

 
It was quite the dilemma. I had recently “come back” to God, after nearly a decade of “debauchery” and rebellion. Our situation wasn’t the greatest, either; we had a new baby, debt out of our eyeballs (tens of thousands of which I hauled along from my first marriage), we lived in a roach-infested apartment, had to spend oodles of money on special formula for our daughter who had digestive issues…it wasn’t the most “fun” we’d had in our relationship.

 
Many times I prayed—begged—God to help us. I was sorry, so sorry for the mess I had made of my life. Please, God, please help us, I want to do what’s right. But rather than answer that request, God began to convict me. He started with the “big” things and immediately my dedication to obedience was tested. I wrestled with the issue for a little while, even calling my dad (who had been a Pastor) to ask his advice, I remember reasoning with him, “We’ve had sex so many times, I mean, we have a kid together! God knows my heart, He knows how I want to do the right thing, but we just don’t have the money for a wedding. What would you tell someone in this situation, if you were counseling them?” He sympathized with me, but still told it like it was. The Bible was clear about sex outside of marriage. It was simply not acceptable, and God would not bless me with peace, and other spiritual blessings, until I was obedient.

 
Keep in mind, at the time I chose to come back to God (or rather, develop a new relationship with Him), my husband was not what you’d consider a man of faith, nor did he care to be. So, you can see how tricky this situation was. But I knew what needed to happen. I informed him that I would have to sleep in a separate room, and we could no longer have sex until we were married. As you can well imagine, the response wasn’t super great.

 
Ultimately, my husband (still “fiancé” at the time) respected my faith and that I wanted to change, so he complied without too much of a fight. Of course, it wasn’t long before we found a way to get married. Six days after our daughters first birthday, a deacon from the tiny Baptist church next to our apartment married us and signed our marriage license, with the mandatory two witnesses in our presence (thanks Mom). The peace I felt once we were officially married can’t be described. It’s the kind of peace you experience when you know you’re walking in God’s will. It was a difficult choice to make, and I had plenty of good reasons (excuses) as to why I shouldn’t obey what I knew was right, but in the end, the desire to walk with God and be at peace won over my physical desires.

 
I can’t emphasize enough just how difficult it is to make the right choice, to follow God’s word, to be “sold out”, recklessly abandoned to Him and His will—it’s not an easy path. The above example is only one of many difficult things God required of me in order to walk in His will. After all, He was taking me from the “world” and re-shaping my thought life one thing at a time, which of course, systematically changed my behavior. This brought about new challenges, especially within my marriage. We were “unequally yoked” now, and our worldviews were significantly different. Each choice I made was not only about my desire to obey God’s word, but also my desire to show my husband that the change in my heart was real, not a “phase” that would pass like so many others (I had previously tried out a Jehovah’s Witness church as well as Wiccan practices…I was searching for something to fill a void only God could fill!). I wanted to live the kind of life and have the type of attitude that was attractive to my husband. It didn’t happen overnight, it took many years of trial and error—but mostly prayer for God to continue to change me (not my husband).

 
In this entire journey, one thing was not an option for me—fence-sitting. I had seen plenty of that growing up, Christians who behaved one way on Sunday but lived an entirely different life Monday through Saturday. I never understood it. Many of these people were quick to judge the lives and choices of others, while failing to see their own issues for what they were. They believed themselves to be “sold out” God-fearing Christians when, in fact, they were nothing more than Pharisees.

 
On the other hand were the “worldly” Christians. They were the ones that looked, talked, and acted like everyone else. There was no noticeable difference in them, other than the fact that they went to church. They could say all the right words, teach Sunday School, quote the verses, and dress the part, but on a day to day basis, God was nowhere to be found. One foot in the world, the other in the church. That was not the Christianity I was “returning” to. So repeatedly I found myself praying in earnest that God would teach me how to love Him with my whole heart.

 
It was during this time God led me to Psalm 119, and I began writing my thoughts (which eventually turned into a short published  Bible study). I wanted the words of that Psalm to be true in my life, so I dedicated over a year to studying it, which served to completely change my heart in ways I never thought possible. Still though, God is not “done” with me. Every time I ask him to cleanse my heart or show me where I need “work” He reveals more. I am thankful He doesn’t show me all the crud in my heart at once, but gently works on me one small step at a time. Some days I choose to follow, and some days I sit on the fence. Sometimes I’m on the fence so long, the painful realty of the spiritual wedgie drives me to one side or the other. Ultimately I just can’t go the other way again because it led to nothing but heartache and pain, and a complete lack of peace and purpose. So, I fall back over the side of Truth and dust myself off and try again.

 
I’m convinced that this “fence-sitting” is an epidemic in the Church today, that and the judgmental segment of Pharisees that are certain everyone except for them are going to hell. Both extremes are equally damaging and have only helped the church look like more of a joke than anything. We need to choose this day who we will serve, but for goodness’ sake, stick with whatever we choice we make instead of oscillating back and forth. Either we’re for God or against Him; either we’re willing to follow Him at all cost, or we need to jump back over to the other side of the fence and abandon our faith, ’cause this fence-sitting crap has got to stop.

 
One of my husband’s chief complaints about Christians (and why he didn’t want to go to church) was how much they “judge” everyone while failing to see their own faults. Or, that they were quick to preach about “heaven” while living like the “devil”. We actually experienced people close to us falling into this category. They would go to church on Sunday and drink and party Friday nights. There was an enormous disconnect from what they said they believed to how they actually lived. These same people were extremely bitter towards God for the hardships He allowed in their lives. Yet, they were never willing to “forsake” the world and cling to Him 100%. This type of thing is killing Christianity, seriously, (our persistent fence-sitting could even be the very thing that keeps someone from coming to Christ!); regrettably, I have been guilty of both extremes.

 
I’m not saying that obedience to God automatically results in perfect circumstances and material blessings. Not at all. In fact, I think I showed with an example from my own life that making the right choice is often much more difficult and can even result in conflict or loss. But choosing the “hard” path of a life completely (like, actually 100%) is much more rewarding both here and after our lives have ended. We shouldn’t ride the fence and then whine about how God isn’t blessing us. He wants to bless us, but He will not reward our complacency and indifference to His word and will.

 
Has God been convicting you of a change? Have you been straddling the fence with a list of reasons why it’s ok to do so? Do you have children or loved ones watching you? (Of course you do, whether you realize it or not). The world is watching us, and we’re kind of sucking at the mission here, folks. Either we want to follow Him or we don’t. Often we’re like Lot’s wife, we turn back with longing, unable to give up something good, or even “fun” for something much greater—abundant life, freedom from bondage, true lasting peace, (and maybe even the opportunity for our lives to be the very thing that influences someone to choose eternal life through Jesus!).

 
I no longer want to contribute to this problem but I can’t make choices for anyone else other than myself. One day I hope my daughter will be able to say with conviction that her mother stood for something, and had a purpose—mainly to share the love of Christ with others through her life. That her mother not only said she believed something, but demonstrated that belief through her choices. That her mother wasn’t perfect, but admitted quickly when she was wrong and asked for forgiveness. That her mother was honest about her struggles, and didn’t take pleasure in pointing out the wrongness in everyone else, but rather chose to seek God’s change in her own life. That is what I hope my daughter will say about me some day. One thing I know I don’t want to hear, “My mom, she said she believed and she took me to church, but during the week, she wasn’t any different than anyone else. I don’t understand what good her faith really did.” Or perhaps even worse, “My mom was always talking about what was wrong with everyone. She couldn’t drive to the grocery store without complaining about all the awfulness in everyone else. Everyone was going to hell, according to her. She seemed to think she had it all together, but she was the only one who couldn’t see herself as she really was.” I can’t think of which scenario terrifies me more.

 
God, help me avoid both extremes and find balance within your grace. Let my life be something my daughter wants to emulate, not because she admires me, but because she wants to emulate You, who she sees in me.

 
Be careful how long you choose to sit on that fence, the wedgie gets worse the longer you let it go on, and the results are far more painful for both you and the ones you love most. Choose today who you will serve, and pray for the will to do it with all your heart, mind, and soul.

 

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.” (1 John 3:18-19, NIV)

“With my whole heart have I sought You; Oh, let me not wander from your commandments! (Psalm 119:10, NKJV)

“Make me walk along the paths of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.” (Psalm 119:35, NLT)

 

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See also CHOICES PART 1: Freedom to Choose

 
I will be continuing this series on choices in much greater detail, if you haven’t already, please enter your email under the “Follow” tab to receive new posts in your inbox. No spam! Just new posts, (usually two to four posts a month at most). If you found this website to be of encouragement to you, please share it with your friends!

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Maybe (Just Maybe) It’s Not About You

 

Maybe (Just Maybe) It’s Not About You

 

            A few hours ago a friend and I were musing about the difficulties we’ve experienced in our lives over the past year. “I wonder if God is taking a nap,” may have been uttered. Both of us have been through our fair share of suffering, but if it was a contest I’d have to say she is the winner, hands down. So in a lot of ways I remind myself that as bad as I think my situation is, it’s certainly not as bad as it could be (don’t we all try to make ourselves feel better with that statement?). Our conversation sort of ended with a, “Well, life sucks, time to go take a shower now.”

            As I’ve been doing a lot lately, I stood in the shower after our talk and stared at the wall, thinking, praying, complaining, questioning…and finally I just had to ask, “Why does it have to be like this, God? I mean, why does it have to take thirty years for someone to find out they’ve been married to a monster? Why has it taken me over a year of suffering without any answers or diagnosis? Why, if we have to suffer, can’t it just be quick? Why couldn’t she have found out about her spouse a year into her marriage? Why couldn’t I have gotten a diagnosis last year when this all started instead of being turned away time and again by doctor after doctor? Why, why, why?”

            Of course I know better than to ask “why,” but for some reason I chose to go that route with God anyways. And as it happens when things like this are going on, God has been strangely silent during my prayer times. But this time (maybe He’d heard enough whining?) He chose to speak to me. He said, “What if it’s not about you?” And that was it. He allowed me to stew on that one for a while. So I stood there staring at the walls, having just received a verbal crack upside the heart with a truth so simple yet so profound I couldn’t even respond.

            Then I thought of Job, how he probably suffered more than any human being in the history of humanity (besides Jesus), and how he never had the privilege of knowing the “why” behind his tragedy. Not that he didn’t ask, but God never answered him specifically (at least, not on this side of heaven). And then I think of how many people throughout the course of time have been helped because of Job’s story. How many people have suffered and turned to the pages of that book to find the answer to their “why” only to stumble across chapters 38-42, and realize they probably won’t ever know their “why” either, but somehow gaining a measure of hope from his story.

            Then I think of how much my friend has suffered, and I consider how much my spiritual life has grown just through knowing her, and as a result of watching her suffer. Maybe, just maybe, my suffering isn’t about me at all. You know, we say it all the time (and I hate hearing it, honestly) that “God is just teaching me a lesson right now, I’m trying to listen to what He’s saying” as if God is some cosmic sadist getting some sort of pleasure out of causing us pain, just to teach us a lesson. That is not the God I know from the Bible, my God isn’t a sadist. My God came to give me life to the full (John 10:10), not cause me misery in order to teach me something. But, that doesn’t mean pain or suffering isn’t a part of the process of life, in general. And who am I to presume to know the plans and purposes of God, anyways? How do I know what God is doing in someone else’s life as a result of my suffering? The truth is, I don’t know, and neither do you. We don’t know who is watching us or being ministered to through our pain. We don’t have a clue as to what God is up to about 99% of the time. We only know what we wish He were up to, or what we expect Him to be up to, and most of the time (at least in my experience) he rarely delivers as expected (I find He delivers far better than expected).

            I sit here and think of all the people who have influenced me in my life, and many of those people suffered a great deal. A lot of what God taught me had to do with watching them respond to their circumstances. And all of this gives me pause. Because if my suffering isn’t even about me, that means God is using me for some greater purpose in someone else’s life, even if I’ll never know who, what, or why. Who am I to be used by God? All of a sudden my “why” turns into an “Oh, thank you, God, for choosing me!” Not that I am happy about suffering (who is?) but knowing all of this actually has nothing to do with me gives me some measure of peace within the ugly process of hurting.

            Throughout the past few weeks God has brought a verse to mind repeatedly, and it’s worth noting here, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” Ephesians 5:16, NLT. The reality is we are all going to suffer. Some of us will experience great loss. Some of us will die younger than we had thought. Some of us will be considered “Modern day Jobs” by our friends. Some of us won’t really suffer much at all. But one thing we all have in common is that from the moment we take our first breath, we are already beginning the process of losing time and dying. So as William Wallace shares in the movie Braveheart, “All men die, not every man truly lives.”

            Within the process of suffering a pathway to true living exists, through embracing the pain (not with a giddy, happy, la-la kind of feeling, but in an embrace of surrender) and trusting that God is choosing to use us in His master plan in ways we won’t be able to comprehend. That maybe this journey we’re on isn’t even about us, it’s about Him and seeing how intricately he fits the pieces of our puzzles together to bring ultimate life abundant to us and others, all for His glory. Like Joseph was able to say to his brothers, “What Satan meant for harm, God used for good.”

            Then again, maybe none of what I’m saying here makes sense to anyone but me. I don’t know. I just know that at least in my suffering, I am gaining a bit of relief in knowing it’s not about me at all. And I’m finding a way to be thankful in it, even excited about it, because I know God is working something incredible out. And whether I know what it is on this side of heaven or on the other, I will understand it eventually, and when the final picture is brought together, I know I’ll be smiling as Jesus looks at me and says, “It hurt, but it was worth it, don’t you think?” Yeah, it is, Jesus, it is.

Every Story Has a Villain, Even Yours

“Every story has a villain because yours does. You were born into a world at war. When Satan lost the battle against Michael and his angels, “he was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Rev. 12:9). That means that right now, on this earth, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of fallen angels, foul spirits, bent on our destruction. And what is Satan’s mood? “He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (v. 12). So what does he spend every day and night of his sleepless, untiring existence doing? “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against…those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (v. 17).

He has you in his crosshairs, and he isn’t smiling.

You have an Enemy. He is trying to steal your freedom, kill your heart, destroy your life. Very, very few people live like that. The alarm goes off, and they hit the snooze button, catch a few extra winks, gulp down a cup of coffee on their way to work, wonder why there are so many hassles, grab some lunch, work some more, come home under a sort of cloud, look at the mail, have dinner, watch a little TV, feed the cat, and fall into bed—without even once wondering how the Enemy might be attacking them. All they know is, they sure aren’t enjoying that abundant life Christ talked about.”

John Eldredge, Waking the Dead (pg. 151)