Archive for April, 2011

Love Disciplines

I’ve gotten myself somewhat stuck trying to write this next post, so I’m going to give it a shot and see how it goes. I feel like I’m still trying to communicate why on earth I would feel disappointed with love, why I think that it can be a good thing, and why I expect to run into that disappointment fairly often in my walk with Christ.

Perhaps it could be stated as simply as this: my ways aren’t His. I lack understanding. I just don’t get God and what He does an awful lot of the time. Unfortunately, I suffer from delusions and think that I do understand. In fact, darn it all anyway, I understand perfectly, all the time, ra-ra-ra-rawr, rawr, rawr, blah, whatever. So I lack understanding, I experience disappointment, I start up the whole cycle of Bekah dealing with disappointment, and it’s a good thing. It is an opportunity to learn, to grow, to be better conformed to the likeness of Christ. God can take the wind out of my sails, no problem, and leave me stranded to give me time to understand that I don’t understand. I think this is something that will be a semi regular occurrence because, in my saner moments, I’ve a suspicion that there are many, many things wrong with my understanding. Really, if you stop and think about the objective truths of God, does He make any sense to you?

Love disciplines. This little gem was the source of much anguish for me and an effective needle on my butterfly-and-rainbow euphoria balloon. Because I didn’t know all that much about love in general and God’s love specifically, I’d dragged out a concordance and was checking out references to God’s love. It was pretty exciting, until I found Hebrews 12:4 -11. The link is there if you want to read the whole bit, but I’ll quote the part that made me choke.

6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

I had a HUGE problem with this passage.  To make it even worse, verse 6 didn’t originate in Hebrews. The author is quoting a passage from Proverbs 3, so it’s in the Bible at least twice. Here’s some objective truth for you, a statement of fact – if God loves you, you can expect correction and discipline. I could not – literally could not – understand that, because I could not reconcile what God says about love in 1 Corinthians 13 (patience, kindness, selflessness, etc.) with discipline and being treated as His child. I was so upset about it that there were times I hated God. I did not want to be His child.

My life experience was causing me some real problems here. What I knew about a father’s discipline was that I could expect harshness, cruelty, and capriciousness. Capriciousness is taken from caprice, which means:

a: a sudden, impulsive, and seemingly unmotivated notion or action b: a sudden usually unpredictable condition, change, or series of changes <the caprices of the weather>
: a disposition to do things impulsively
By itself, capriciousness is fine. It is not, however, something you want associated with harshness and cruelty. I was disciplined by my father, sure. He made certain to exercise that privilege, that right, of parental authority, but I never really knew what to expect from him. The boundaries shifted. What was fine one minute might earn me a beating or other punishment the next. What had been fine for months might be, just this minute, the epitome of childhood rebelliousness. I saw little patience, kindness, or unselfishness from my dad. That just… wasn’t what he brought to my family. By the time I was starting to talk to God about love, my dad’s presence was starting to fade from my life. I was not at all interested in getting myself into another “child” situation where I would be subject to somebody’s weird ideas of love and discipline, you know? I was so done with being controlled. Beyond that, it didn’t help at all that I could read, say, the Old Testament and see lots of terrible things happening to the naughty Jews because of their disobedience to God. That was scary, scary stuff!
The ironic thing is that my fear of being controlled was doing a fine job of controlling me. It’s odd how that works, how fear removes your choices without you ever being aware of it, and how it stampedes you into something under the illusion of your own, free will. Thinking about it now, I suppose that’s part of why discipline is important to love. It takes discipline to stand against fear. At the time, though, love and discipline being paired frightened me badly, and I got stuck there. I think I’m going to stick here now, too, and move on in the next post about what it was like to have God discipline me over my fear of discipline. 😉 This post is plenty long already!

B&H – a Tangent

I’m still mulling over my next post, but I ran across something worth mentioning. I like to take photos, enough that I’ve actually plunked down the money to buy equipment. Some of that equipment I’ve purchased locally, but some I’ve ordered online from a New York store, B&H Photo Video. The stuff I’ve ordered has arrived as advertised, they’ve got a large selection, and my experience has been good. I like them and have in the past recommended them to other folks. I’m certainly planning to continue, too. Peeking at their site today, this is the message I see:

Passover Closing

We are currently closed. Orders placed today will ship when we reopen.

Our SuperStore and offices are currently closed. We will reopen on Wednesday, April 27th at 9:00AM EDT.
Orders placed today will be shipped after we reopen.
We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patronage.

They closed for the Passover. In fact, if I remember right, they shut down April 16th. I’m not sure when online ordering was closed, but I know it was down over the weekend. I’d left a page up on some fish eye lenses that look like fun times! Anyways, the business was sitting there completely idle over the Passover weekend and mostly idle for almost two weeks. In this age of 24/7, where businesses and mega businesses barely blink at major holidays like Christmas (I bet the light bulbs don’t even get cooled off at Walmart!), B&H has the audacity to shut things down for nearly two weeks. Not only that, they’re closed to honor Passover, a holiday personally unimportant to much of these United States. What kind of weirdos do stuff like that? It’s so old fashioned!

It is, and I love it! See, God was pretty insistent about rest when He was telling the Jews how best to live. Let me give you a few examples. After creating the world, He took a day to rest. The Jews were supposed to be taking a Sabbath once a week, so one day out of six was religiously mandated non-productive hours. They had to take time for all kinds of holy days and festivals. Even the land got a break. Every seventh year, it was “to have a year of rest.” My understanding is that letting the land lie fallow for a year helped to keep its productivity sustainable. It didn’t wear out – the soil wasn’t stripped of its essential nutrients and minerals – the way land farmed continuously does. Seems like there might be a lesson there, huh? Maybe B&H is onto something.

I’ve no idea what an appropriate blessing would be, but for the folks at B&H who have chosen to honor God by observing Passover, may He bless and honor your faithfulness, and may your business be all the more productive for its rest.

Can of Worms

The best thing about having a can of worms is that you can use the worms as bait and go fishing. Fish like worms, I hear. I’m not much into fishing (seems a chilly sport, and my hands spend enough time blue without that kind of help – friends like that, who needs enemies, hey?), but metaphorically speaking, I’m going to pop open that disappointing can of worms and see what sort of fish I can catch.

As I confessed in my last post, I eventually experienced disappointment with love. Disappointment is an interesting emotion in that it’s not inherently bad or good (I don’t believe), but it is a feeling that, when experienced, will produce actions that tell you a lot about the person experiencing it. Disappointment can tell you a lot about a person’s fears and hopes. It will shove you into action and can demonstrate pretty fast what motivates you. What do you do with disappointment?

Well, shoot, silly! I have no idea what you do with your disappointment, and I’m not writing about you, anyways.  This is my blog, and it’s all about ME! Shoo, shoo! Mwahahaha! Kidding! Sort of – I really don’t know how you handle disappointment, so I have absolutely no business trying to write about it. Guess I’d best stick with my own life and share what I’ve done and (I hope) what I’ve learned from the experience.

Expectations – that is what I forgot to mention previously about disappointment. If I am feeling disappointed, I had expectations that did not get met. It might even be stronger than expectations. I might be dealing with disappointed hope or threatened belief. That seems pretty self evident, doesn’t it? I have to say that for me, it’s not that easy. Looking at myself and examining that disappointment is not easy. Ha! Easy looks like skipping straight past go, collecting my 200 bucks, and dwelling on the wrongs that have been done to me. I don’t default to wanting to examine myself. I want to be fried, cranky, grumpy, pouty, and all pissy that I’m not getting what I want!

That’s exactly what I did when my experience with love conclusively demonstrated that my expectation of “happily ever after” wasn’t going to be met. My attitude, fueled by disappointed expectations, went from an uncertainty about being loved by God to a defiant certainty that being loved by Him did not matter. After all, what good did the love of God do for me? I had seen what looked like heaven and gotten slapped with my inability to reach it. My life had gotten harder. I was disappointed. I felt cheated. I was afraid. Therefore, I did what came easily – self protection. I got angry, and I passionately hurled my indifference at God. “So what if You love me? So what? I don’t care!”

That was a lie. I did care. I cared a lot. I did not want to care, but I cared so much that even as I ranted and railed and quivered deep within my prickles, I still gave myself away. I would scream at God about my own frustration, and then turn around and utter deeply caring prayers for others.

Thing is that I was wrong. I know I said that before, but it bears repeating. I was wrong. I didn’t really know it, and I can’t say that I figured it out all on my own. Like I said, I felt cheated and so on. I felt like being loved by God was was like into a grocery aisle fart cloud, and it was annoying that He just kept loving me, but what I believed about the love of God and expected it to do for me made it inevitable that I would be disappointed. What I believed was wrong.

Despite my frustration, I kept reading the Bible and thinking over what I’d been reading. Did you know that God doesn’t say that life will be ponies and butterflies and rainbows??? No, He promises trials and tribulations – troubles! You know, challenges! You know, hardship. It slowly sank in past my prickliness and began to educate my heart about what would be an honest, informed, more mature expectation of God’s love. I needed that. Without it, I was certain to be continually experiencing a negative cycle of disappointment, one lacking in fish and rich in worms. I might not like to fish, but given a can of worms and choice, I’d much rather use the worms to catch fish for dinner than eat worms!

Let’s see if I can finish this up. I was disappointed. I’d allowed my disappointment to rocket me into a high flying and rotten attitude, but ultimately, that feeling did me a favor. It unmasked my misconceptions about God’s love and what God’s love would do for me. It unmistakably demonstrated that I was wrong and needed a course correction. Those mistaken perceptions were sitting under the surface, and in a case like this, what I didn’t know most certainly could hurt me. It’s not like they were in stasis or inert and therefore not affecting my life. No, they were something more like land mines (or, for an example closer to home, dog poop. Who hasn’t dealt with dog poop on a lawn at some point?), more or less quiescent and inoffensive until they got stepped on. Once they were  bothered, I got an explosion, be it of energy or stink, and a nasty mess with which to deal.

It is inevitable that those land mines of misconception will be stepped upon. Hey, man, sh… um, mess happens! When that happens, when disappointment and all its friends surface, I’d submit that skipping past go, picking up the $200,  and dwelling on the wrongs is not particularly profitable. It can feel better for a little while, but it does not seem to produce any resolution. I’d submit that more is going on inside myself than what was done to me, and that it may indeed be worth my while to stay put and do some soul searching with God. I’d submit that the experience of disappointment is actually a fishing opportunity, and that God can use it to feed my soul like few other things. I’d submit that disappointment can play an important role in the process of redemption and becoming more like Christ. It is NOT inevitable that the disappointments I experience in this life must needs to shove me away from the welcoming arms of Jesus. Rather, it is imperative that I refuse to be stampeded and allow God to redeem me there, to mature my faith.

What do you do with your disappointment? What do you believe about it, and because of your experience with it, what do you believe about God, yourself, and your community?

Happily Ever After

I was gone more than I expected to be last week, so I didn’t get a post up. Can’t really say that I’m sorry, though. I got to go visit my friend Steph, which was lots of fun. Then I spent Saturday making sure Carey got to her CBEST test. After the test was over, we went snooping all over the place. We had lunch at The Pink House in Independence. I can’t say I really liked the place. The food was decent (I had a nice, fresh salad), the service was less than fabulous, and the price was too high considering 1 and 2. It wasn’t terrible, but I would not be excited about going there again. Once we finished lunch, we found a used bookstore called Secondhand Books. We definitely had a good time in there. I found an old copy of a Doctor Dolittle book! Anyways, all the being gone was good, but it meant not much writing. I suppose I should plow back into my story!

There I was, in awe over the amazing love of God. I’d been so cynical about it, chalking it up as a fairy tale or a deal simply too good to be true. I’d strongly resisted accepting that “fantasy” as truth, which made the experience of acceptance all the more disarming. I was undone, and I have to say that “in awe” seems inadequate to explain how I reacted. Goodness, there’s only five letters in those two, little words to express my relief and excitement and joy and gratitude and sudden urge to drop to my knees in worship of this God Who loved me first. The biggest problem with dropping to my knees was that I couldn’t jump up and down. It was astounding. I was so happy, and I had lots of fun telling people about it. In fact, I’m having a lot of fun writing about it now. It’s been well over a decade, and I still feel a giddy rush from this memory.

You would think that, having fallen in love and accepted a rescue, and that having experienced the fantastic true love of God, this fairy tale of mine would progress to the age old line, “and she lived happily ever after.” It’s a good line, is it not? It’s how Bilbo wanted to end the story of his adventures, happily ever after. If I were writing my story, I’d like to end on such a happy, reunited note, because it seems like my story had reached a pinnacle there. It was really, really good.

But I’m not the Author, so my story progressed. It went on. I found out that love changed everything, but it changed nothing. It’s a riddle, love is. Just because I’d learned that love will love without its beloved (in this case, me!) being required to care doesn’t mean that I knew much of anything about love. That lesson changed everything but nothing. I didn’t wake up the next morning magically made by the power of love into a perfect person with a perfect life. I still had to work. I still had a family in shards. I still had a huge amount of personal brokenness. In the middle of my messy and difficult life, here comes love, and instead of a fluffy, soft “happily ever after,” it made my life harder.

Yes, harder. Sit with that for a moment. I’m saying that love made my life more difficult. Is that really the way it’s supposed to work? It doesn’t sound like a very good fairy tale or very happily ever after, but that is how it’s worked for me. Harder, because love changes everything, even though it changes nothing. Harder, because love opened a whole, new vista of challenge. I was loved. It was amazing, and it was an experience I wanted to share and to offer, but I did not know how to love other people. In fact, a lot of my life experience had taught me far more about the dark side of the Force, hate and fear. Harder, because hate and fear do not get along very well with love, and my soul got to live in the middle of their war. Love is not ponies and butterflies and rainbows all the time. Love did not instantly make my life easier.

In many ways, after my initial euphoria, love disappointed me. My disappointment was not good (matter of fact, it was dead wrong), but I did feel it, and it did motivate me. I think, though, I’ll leave that can of worms for my next post.