Different Does Not Mean Wrong

Don’t you love how sometimes God will push the recall button of an old memory to teach a new lesson? Of course, then I have that whole “Hey, wait a second…” moment as I realize that obviously He has walked me down this path before. On the other hand, sometimes those wonderful old lessons can yield a brand new crop of results.

Scenario #1: Shortly after marrying my perfect dreamboat of a man, I slowly began to comprehend that he had some slight, hardly worth mentioning…um, flaws. From toothpaste tubes to toilet paper, from dirty socks to dirty dishes, would you believe he handled all those things incorrectly? Surely he must have noticed that each time he picked up the toothpaste it had (yet again) been left neatly and perfectly squeezed from the bottom! TP flap: over the top. Socks: right side out and NOT in balls. Dishes: rinsed as a minimum standard.

Ahhh. *sigh* The sweet saga of that first year of marriage.

As the weeks and months went on, he grasped the “proper” way of tackling all these little odds and ends correctly. (And, much to my delight, my bare bottom never touched cold ceramic in the middle of the night again!) In the due course of time our little married life became a family life; and as much as I would have contented myself with “correcting” any and all little shortcomings, I found my hands filled to the brim with a newborn who thought sleep was overrated. Thus, this groggy woman gratefully accepted any small assistance my wonderful soulmate offered.

One sunny morning, as I emptied the dishwasher, I happened to notice that–in spite of getting loaded “incorrectly”–all of the dishes came out…clean!!! Each one just as clean as the next, and all just as clean as if I had loaded and ran the dishwasher myself!

At that moment, God’s truth shot across my mind and my heart: different does not mean wrong.

Uh oh. My mind suddenly raced hither and thither gathering up all the details and instances of judging my husband through the lens of right v. wrong instead of allowing him the respect of simply doing something differently. And the repentance of my heart transformed into a new freedom in my marriage as my happy soul sang out, “The love of my life isn’t wrong–he’s different!!!” Of course, once I truly, whole-heartedly embraced that fact, I began to appreciate his differences in the most delightful of ways. (Although–and I gotta hang on to this–leaving dirty socks inside-out and in a little ball can never be right!)

Scenario #2: As many a parent before me has noted, the years flew by. The baby boy I once cherished in my arms has transformed into a man leaving for college. The lessons I spent years teaching him have taken hold in his heart. He no longer throws rocks in the pool just to watch the splash, nor does he ride his roller blades down the hall. No Legos litter the floors of our home, nor does he simply out-n-out disobey my words. He treasures me. He honors me. He frustrates me.

While praying for my two children this morning, my mind stumbled over a disparity within my heart as I prayed that they would each cherish God’s wisdom as they chose and set priorities for their lives. My prayer for my daughter came easy as I imagined her sticking to her guns and walking in discipline in all that God called her to do. My prayer for my son, however, seemed to stick a little. Why was that? What caused this inconsistency within my heart over two young people who each love and long to serve the Lord Jesus Christ?

Well, like any smart person should do, I asked the One who created me. And guess what? An old, beautiful refrain came leaping across my mind: different does not mean wrong!

My darling daughter, who seems to prioritize in a way which is comfortable and easy for me to understand–for it aligns familiarly to my own, makes praying for her regarding her choices and preferences come more naturally. (That’s not to say she’s not unique; her style’s just more…well, similar.) My son, on the other hand, zooms through life with his own methods and priorities, which varies so distinctly from anything I could dream up. (This probably makes him very much like that guy I married!) Because his actions and agendas leave me puzzled, however, does not make his wrong and mine right: it merely makes them different from each other.

What do you know? God made my son unique!

I tell you this in faith that the same Lord who taught me to appreciate the beautiful differences in my husband–which transformed my marriage!–will employ His Spirit to work His sweet changes in how I respect, pray for, and cherish that singular persona known as my son. May God alone continue to mold him and shape him in HIS image. And I’ll stand in the background and pray with the love only his mother can have…a love that already knows that God’s molding comes with pain, but a love that he can trust will forever hold a soothing balm.

“For we are His workmanship, created for good works in Christ, that He prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

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Of Counting Calories and Tallying Rejections

I have entered a new world of “diet.” It’s called eating right without counting calories. Can I get an “amen”? I can’t even begin to tell you the freedom I feel away from the food scales, the calorie apps, and the nutrition logs. This yeast-free, grain-free diet (Know the Cause Phase 1 Diet) may seem restrictive to some, but I feel absolutely liberated. All I have to do is choose food that is free of grain and yeast (sugar is a grain!), and I can eat whenever I want and (for the most part) how much I want, which has resulted in a loss of 25 pounds in about as many weeks. Ah…the sweet life away from keeping tabs. It’s enough to make a girl smile.

Now while that little bit of info may seem delightful, can I tell you something that has freed me even more? The liberty of not tallying rejections! You cannot even begin to imagine the playground taking place in my heart because I don’t have to foist guilt on others nor tote bitterness around upon my shoulders. I get to be free. Oh yeah…that puts a grin on!

Needless to say, this didn’t happen overnight! By the time I first said my prayer to ask Jesus to be my Savior and King, I had gone through much pain and rejection…all by the ripe old age of 19. Though I didn’t understand it at the time, I had learned to carry an inordinate amount of pain, which meant that until I grasped how to offload my inner torment to God, I experienced a near-extreme breakdown over the smallest signs of rejection. My limit for pain and rejection had reached capacity.

Yesterday I randomly recalled a memory from an event that took place after I had been saved about five years. My husband and I had been asked to host a table at a church dinner…and no one sat with us. Well, one friend, but she was in the choral assembly and only sat with us half of the evening. I remembered the hope I felt each time someone came near and the excruciating disappointment each time they sat someplace else. Try as I might to contain them, those tears determined to flood my eyes.

Reflection has taught me to see that though our table was in the front near the stage, it was completely opposite of the door, which allowed people to inevitably find seating before our table. Also, I’m certain that if those dear coordinators knew what inner griefs tormented me, they would have done everything they could to put me at a table nearer the door. The pain of the evening was not intentional, yet it did happen.

Fast-forward many, many years to another dinner at our church. Yet this time my husband served as an associate pastor. As we wended our way through the tables in search of seating, we get offered seats at the head table, which we declined…mostly because the darling hosts who extended those seats to us would have had to vacate them! No! Not for us. Then our eyes fixed on a table with a cute young couple seated all alone. The sweet young wife carried a hopeful, longing expression that I remembered so well. On the way, friends pulled us aside to tell us that two seats remained at their table, but we knew we had to decline. Our choice had been made. One big table with one sweet couple awaited.

As I sat there, I could not help but wonder at God’s goodness. Had I never known the pain of a lonely table, I would never have looked for the hosts who sat alone. Never. My husband and I would have sat happily surrounded by friends and gone home content, naively ignorant of another couple who may have gone home with broken hearts.

I learned one of my life’s most valuable lessons that evening: a pain yielded to God reaps a bounty of graciousness.

Because I had determined early in my Christian walk that if I was to be God’s, He had to have all of me to do with as He saw fit…including my pain. He had shown me such continual faithfulness and love that I felt safe in laying down any deemed entitlement to pain and rejection. Over several growing years, I learned (repetitively, too, I must say) that because my pain is precious to me–for it often came at a cost–it is precious to Him…and I can trust Him with it.

Since I expect absolute honesty from myself, you need to know why this all came up lately. Plus, I want you know I’m not serving up leftovers here–these inner meditations result from a current struggle with rejection, from which I repented of my feelings of entitlement and pride but this morning. May God strengthen me by His Spirit even now.

In my past two and a half years of, more or less, living a primarily solitary life filled with extreme exhaustion which often precludes me from the simplest tasks, I have received very little encouragement or assistance from those outside my home. I receive invitations to events, but no simple note to cheer my weary soul. I receive tons of “hellos” sent via my family each Sunday, but rarely a quick text or facebook greeting. My heart feels pricked when I know of others who get sick for a couple of weeks or face a time of trial and have help with dinners, while I have received maybe four…about one every seven months.

Now please understand…I’m not complaining…I’m merely attempting to paint a portrait of my circumstances so you can glimpse the surroundings from which my heart must find succor. And know this–the moments of feeling spurned arouse themselves so infrequently that they do hardly make a dent in the overall makings of me. However, I paint them here now because so many experience such pains…and they don’t know how to stop counting them up and then putting them on others.

Please enter the real deal, my highest solution…well, to pretty much anything: I spend each morning with God. Through His word I glean some key truths on which to hang my hopes:

  • My Father sees (“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” 2 Chronicles 16:9a.)
  • My Father understands (“You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you understand my thought from afar” Psalm 139:2.)
  • My Father cares (“Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7.)

My Father God has a plan plotted out for me to conform me into the image of His Son, which stands as His purpose regardless of the actions or inactions of others. I get to stand alone before God in my circumstances and inquire of Him what He sees and holds just for me. I don’t have to tally anyone else into the equation. My God + me = freedom from the tyranny of painful rejection and joy in the knowledge that He’s making me like Jesus. Woot-woot, ya’ll!!

So now we come to a second of life’s most valuable lessons (two in one blog–who knew?): we can choose to bind the responsibility of our pain on others or release them and trust God–we cannot do both.

Isn’t it interesting how a healthy diet for one’s body and a healthy diet for one’s soul can run so parallel? In both areas, if we dine on the right stuff we don’t have to keep track of the wrong stuff. And God’s word filled with God’s wisdom is the very best of stuff. In addition, when my soul is hungry, I can eat anything I want from God’s menu to my heart’s content which will result in the transformation of my mind until my inner being looks more and more like my Jesus!

I now find myself at the final of life’s most valuable lessons for the day (That’s three for those who are counting!): Freedom from harboring the pain of rejection allows me to walk through life’s situations with a heart to minister to others rather than wondering who will minister to me.

Stop counting sins (and calories!). Keep reading God’s word. Start serving instead of expecting to get served. And never forget that God’s truth in God’s way brings the most exhilarating freedom…always!

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).

Sweet and Upright Words

I have a confession to make. As a 50-year old woman of two young adult children, I still struggle using the correct words to teach and train. Anybody with me?

Sad, ain’t it?

Despite my head knowledge that my children have arrived at the ripe old ages of 21 and 18, I find ugly words like “Don’t…” and “Stop…” creeping harshly into my disciplinary technique. Rather than exhorting and encouraging them to more thoughtful and adult actions, I find myself correcting them with that nasty ole “mom voice.”

Example of shame: Yesterday morning I noticed my daughter pouring hot water into her teacup with the pot positioned where it could easily dribble into the “xylitol” bowl. However, instead of using words of respect, I found this gem shooting out of my mouth: “Hey! Don’t pour that over the xylitol!” And, of course, said comment was made in front of her younger brother, who happened to simultaneously chuckle, which I’m certain made her feel about six.

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Oh, and don’t even get me started on the ugliness that finds its way into the corrective measures I take with my son! Somedays I simply feel like Paul when he penned, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Though perhaps I should cry out, “Who will set me free from this tongue of death?”

I know that a host of mothers have gone before me in this transition of role; of going from mommy to mom to mother of adults. Many have done this beautifully, I am sure, while others like me have struggled, and others even have sadly failed. Sure, these children still live in our homes, but (and I need to truly understand this deep in my heart and mind!) we will lose relationships with them and respect from them if we cannot grant them the respect of a fellow adult. That does not mean that our teaching and mentoring days are over–they have merely changed shape.

God has granted us age and, hopefully with that, the wisdom of those years. Not only that, but He has freely given us the wisdom of the ages: His solid word. When we spend genuine time daily in the Bible, we find that it transforms our hearts and minds. Ultimately, then, we will find that since “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34), our words will begin to reflect the word we truly “have hidden in our hearts.”

Proverbs 18:21 states that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” I have watched my words crush my children, but I have also witnessed God use my words to bring life and understanding into their hearts. Interestingly, the words that crushed came in a torrent; the words that brought life settled sweetly and succinctly like a seed well sown.

God used the words of Job to convict me this morning. And from that place of brokenness I pray for those of you who also find your words striking out hurtfully at the precious ones you love: may you spend genuine time before God in His word, may His word challenge and change you, and may He, in turn, use you to speak life into those around you.

“Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray. How forceful are upright words” (Job 6:24-25a).