The Burden of the Lord

I’m just going to come out and admit it: today has not been my day.

As the wife of an associate pastor at a fairly large, but understaffed, church, I often find my calendar overwhelmed by activities–and the upcoming month or two are no exception. In addition, as a woman who is in a relapse with a debilitating disease, I find that I can view these activities as just another thing which demands my husband’s attention yet leaves me home alone…again.

And today was one of those days.

Receiving my weekly update on the bulletin, I balked. Quickly I texted my husband and queried, “Did you realize we have church events three weekends in a row?”

Moments later my phone rang. My sweet husband. He did his best to explain that two weren’t really “events,” but, yes, the two-day worship conference clearly would be quite the affair. He gently recalled to my mind that our pastors truly pray over each and everything we host, while also turning so many opportunities away. And then…he apologetically reminded me that this Saturday our church was hosting a rather large Ladies’ Tea–at which he had to serve, but which I could not even attend.

My heart sank. My eyes teared up. My body plunged into “cope mode.” Essentially, I was undone.

After Josh left for his baseball game, I decided I needed a nice little nap–something I hoped would refresh me enough to address this steamroller sensation. Not so much.

I cranked some worship up on the ole iPhone stereo and stepped into my steam shower. My worship center. My refuge where I pause to pour out the cries of my heart, both praise and pleadings.

I sang along with “Hallelujah Jesus,” and simply felt His presence near. I then sat and started interceding. For my beloved daughter, who leaves today for her dream missions/service trip to Maui. She’s weary from the past couple of weeks, and desperately needs me to hold her in my prayers. For my dear son, who bears the weight that only a junior in high school can feel, while also struggling with a baseball season where he watches more than he plays. For my husband, who already seemed weary before he even left our home this morning. All burdened. And then me.

But as I prayed I remembered how Jesus blasted the attitudes of the Pharisees, who He also referred to as “children of the devil” for “they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger” (Matthew 23:4). Yet Jesus said of Himself, “for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

My choice today boiled down to whose burden did I want to carry: the heavy load of the devil or the easy and light burden of my Lord?

My shoulders and mind relaxed. My heart melted. My choice was made.

This is not to say that the next couple of months will float by like silken petals adrift on a summer breeze. Nope. Though rewarding, ministry mixed with family responsibilities often presents hard, hard labor. But allowing God to speak His gentle words across my heart has permitted me to nestle into His goodness and kindness and love for me, even during a steep trek in life.

So let the SAT prep and baseball games continue. Let the church activities and events and retreats come. Let my daughter’s graduation approach. I don’t have to live all these things at once. I simply get to live each day with my Jesus.

“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken,” (Psalm 55:22).

Advertisements

Who Am I?

As my son and I continue our homeschooling ramble through World History, we embark on the era shatteringly known as World War II. We, therefore, must encounter one of my favorite “heroes of  faith,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man so intelligently aware of his times and so devoted to his faith, that he deliberately chose to step into the fray, and joined a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The conspiracy failed. Bonhoeffer was arrested for his involvement, and eventually executed.

During his imprisonment, Bonhoeffer continued to live out his faith and witness before the guards and other prisoners. Even for the most stalwart of believers in Christ, this was no easy task. Bonhoeffer exquisitely captured his own inner struggle through the words of the following poem.

Who Am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
that I step out of my cell
calmly and cheerfully and firmly
like a manor lord from his mansion.

Who am I? The often tell me
that I speak freely and cordially and
clearly with my guards
as if I were the one giving orders.

Who am I? They also tell me
that I am bearing these days of misfortune
with equanimity, smiling and proud,
like someone accustomed to victory.

Am I really that which others say I am?
Or am I only that which I know about myself?
Restless, longing, sick, like a bird in a cage,
gasping for breath as if someone were strangling me,
hungry for colors, flowers, for the song of birds,
thirsting for kind words, for human nearness,
trembling in anger at arbitrariness and petty insults,
driven by anticipation of great things,
helplessly worried about friends infinitely removed,
too weary and empty for praying, thinking, creating,
exhausted and ready to say farewell to everything?

Who am I? This one or the other one?
Am I this person today and a different one tomorrow?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others
and a despicably pathetic weakling before myself?
Or is what is left within me like a vanquished army
fleeing in disarray before the victory that has already been won?

Who am I? Such lonely questions mock me.
Whoever I am, you know me, and I am yours, O God!

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1944)

Although caught in a situation beyond any that those in the general populace face, Bonhoeffer’s words yet resound deeply within the core of so many. I, too, feel his internal struggle as I daily come to grips with who I am. I know that I am a daughter of the King of Kings, the Almighty One. In light of this knowledge though, how can one who longs to do so much be captured by a disease which compels me to such a small life. My home–my bedroom–encapsulate my cell. ME/CFS serves as my guard, restricting my boundaries with undue vigilance, my longings and deepest desires seemingly ignored.  Many Christians try to tell me that am the victor and that I must claim my healing, yet in the light of the whole gospel, these words fall short. And I must discover the me who I really am within my constraints and before my God.

  • I am His daughter, and His lovingkindness toward me has yet to fail.
  • I am His workmanship, and He molds me through His private and sacred means for His glory.
  • I am His bride, and He is simply making me beautiful.
  • I am decreasing so that He may increase, though I may never see earthly results.
  • I am learning what it means to simply be His, with NO limitations on His hand.

I cannot see all or know all, but I can rest in the One who does, and I can place my hope in His love. I can choose to daily surrender any rights I think I may have. I can choose to let His knife cut just a little bit deeper.

Who am I? Just another child longing to be more like Jesus.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).

A Helpmate Suitable

For years I struggled with my ability to uphold the image of the “perfect wife.” Childhood abuse, the death of my mother, and my dad kicking me out at seventeen had all led me to stagger under the load of seeking perfection. Unattainable though it may have been, I could not relent on that inner desire to achieve this idealistic vision of myself. So I did what any other red-blooded, American woman would do; I bought magazines.

There on those fanciful, glossy pages I found tips to improve everything! Better organizing skills. Better decorating plans. Better housework tips. Better me. Which all boiled down to one thing: I obviously needed improvement. So I tried harder. Failed bigger. Despaired greater.

Stop.

Gasp for air.

Repeat cycle.

One day, though, God sent me the most lovely gift, wrapped up in Scripture, and simply waiting for me to open its life-giving freedom: the story of God’s creation of woman:

I love the Old King James' wording best: "a helpmate suitable."

I love this phrasing best: “a helpmate suitable.”

I love picturing those precious Bible stories, watching as the details come alive in my mind. In this story, I can absolutely “see” Adam spending wonderful time with His Creator and God. Their playful interchange as Adam views an ostrich or camel for the first time, or perhaps Adam’s awe when he meets a lion or elephant face to face. Possibly a dejected look crosses his face as he realizes that God had created each animal both male and female, yet for him…no, he had not female. He was simply man. Alone.

Then I see my God, already understanding that Adam desperately would need his female–his “like,” gaze lovingly and thoughtfully into Adam’s eyes, reassuring him that this need had not gone unnoticed. Out of all creation, God had already conceived in His mind how He would fashion a “helpmate suitable” just for Adam.

“A helpmate suitable.”

Just for Adam.

The loving reality of this idea struck out across my brain and penetrated deeply into my heart. God loved my husband as dearly as He loved Adam. In His love, God had given me to Bradley as assuredly as He had given Eve to Adam. All I had to be–ever again–was “a helpmate suitable” for my beloved! His match. His completion. His wife.

Breathing new life into my hungry, wifely soul, this truth rumbled straight across my being, leaving its freedom positively dancing across the landscape of my life. No more did I need to strive to be the perfect wife for every man; I only needed to be the perfect wife for MY man! The helpmate suitable for his needs, his personality, his design.

Out went the overexertion and despair. In came the joy and freedom.

Bradley’s wife. His companion. His “helpmate suitable.”

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” (John 8:32).

Heartache: The Vestibule of Heaven

Having children is one of life’s greatest joys. They enter our hearts and homes as tiny receptacles, seemingly designed to draw love out of our deepest reservoir. Even the more introverted of us find ourselves learning what it means to freely and wholeheartedly give love to these precious little ones.

As they grow we find that our love, too, grows in like stride. We learn to love through disappointment, disobedience and disruptions of all ilks. To embrace our full reflection of God through our parenting, we must also quickly learn the difference between love of a higher and of a baser sort. Training our children to become more like Jesus requires hard core choices not designed for the weak of character or purpose.

Truthfully, the highest hurdle I have faced in my challenge to exhibit godly love for my children has been when I have watched them face head-on the raw, bitter disappointments in their lives.

The unkind words.

The exclusion from parties.

The unmet expectations.

The broken hearts.

In these solemn, pain-filled moments I find the woman I long to be in my deepest core must encounter  the woman I want to unleash in that place and time. For many an uncounted hour, it appears “mama bear” will surely win. She has valid points backed by the fire of conviction. Thankfully, God has restrained her outwardly; but inwardly she’s an out-and-out mess, locked in a stressful pattern of emotional thinking.

I recently had to confront my own inner “mama bear.” (She’s hardly a lovely lady.) I, too, had valid points–based soundly on scripture. Thoughts about the certainty of trials and the grooming of character through them. Regardless of the soundness of scriptural truth, mama bear had a tough time letting go of her emotions. A real tough time.

Forcing myself to re-read a quote so challenging that I’ve taped it to the inside of each bedroom door in our home, I confronted myself and–the next thing I knew–found myself kneeling in repentant tears before my God.

In that moment I had to admit that what I truly desired had been for my child to receive the accolades of earth more than the rewards of heaven. By doing so, I had been willing to cede valuable training in eternal treasures for the mere gratification of temporal pleasure. Although in a rose-colored world, I would find it charming if my child could have both, the premises handed me in scripture assure me that character comes with a pretty steep price tag.

As an adult, I know and accept this fact. As a parent, I find I struggle to accept the same fact for my child. Yet embracing a higher love for my child–a love that desires God’s highest and not my own–I must acknowledge and yield to these character shaping moments.

And pray that through each painful situation, I will not be the one who inhibits my child from entering that sacred “vestibule of heaven.”

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

To see the quote that challenged me so, read my blog, “Others May, You Cannot.”

Where in the World Has She Been??

Dear Blog Followers,

I apologize for my recent MIA status. The past couple of months have rendered me rather lacking in my usual mental acuity. I couldn’t string together sentences–let alone paragraphs, complete with forethought and detail. Toss in grammar and mechanics, and I was at a complete loss.

I do feel that I shall be making a comeback shortly. I actually have something quite strong on my heart and mind, which I will mull over and post soon.

Thank you for hanging tough with me, but most sincerely I thank you for your prayers.

In Him,

brenda