Category: Faith


Not The Easiest Week

The last few days have been… er… interesting.

My brother is moving, somewhat unexpectedly, from 25 minutes away to more like 4 hours. He’s been frantically packing and prepping.  Several of us have been over at one time or another helping paint the house.

One of my sisters took a road trip and had another sister watch her puppy dogs. On the way to the dogs, that sister had car trouble. There was something with a fuel line and shredded tire. The fuel line caused problems on her way home, too, which meant gas went on the ground instead of her tank, two other family members ran to her rescue, and there was an attempt to hitch the van to a trailer to haul sheep for shearing that gave the van a dent. Oh, and one of the dogs? She might have ringworm. My sister tells me that the canine version isn’t terribly easy to catch as a human, but it’s a definite possibility. Guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.

An outdoor rave was thrown a few miles away. I can’t imagine what it was like for closer neighbors. We and others miles from it had no trouble hearing the bass and even vocals at times. That’s not at all normal for where I live. Noisy stuff is usually somebody’s power tool, tractor, or motorcycle. Something about the “festival” felt icky and strange. No neighbors received notification of a festival being held nearby, which I understand is common practice for large events. Seeing rescue vehicles held up at the gates instead of being allowed into the area (ambulance summoning usually implies emergent need) and hearing reports of drug usage and inappropriate defecations didn’t make me or the rest of my family feel any better, either.

I’ve had some stress from work. I also managed to acquire more blisters, scratches, and bruises from working outside over the weekend than I’d probably had in the last couple of years altogether.

My roommate’s summer work scramble has been stressful, and her homework load hasn’t been easy, either.

Another sister just had to treat her head for lice!

One of the dogs caught a chicken and yanked a bunch of her feathers. I don’t know that the hen took any more damage than feather loss, but I don’t think she wanted a summer do.

Little Miss Tire Troubled wasn’t done with her car woes, either. She went out last night to find a different tire had gone flat.

It’s County Fair week. Baking has had to be done; animals have had to be prepped; plants have had to be hauled. It’s a massive undertaking. I think this year three of my sisters are entering lambs, chickens, a bunny, baked goods, table setting, plants, fabric arts, and I don’t know what else. It takes multiple trips just to haul it all into the fair.

We (mostly my mother, a sister, and myself) worked outside. We hung a swing from a tree (the interesting part about that was cutting down the old tire to provide the tree limb with some protection), put a chicken wire top on the chicken’s run (we’re very done with them flying out, and they would not have been out for the dog to chase if the door had been properly shut), tilled a good sized patch preparatory to planting it with grass next fall, weeded (thistles – guess where some of my scratches came from?), removed the limbs from several felled trees, started cutting those trees down into firewood (need to figure out where we’re going to store the wood, but at least we got the downed trees off the fence), hauled rocks and sticks and other junk out of the area to be tilled, burned all of the excess wood and the (nasty) weeds, and did other random cleanup chores. We managed to do laundry, feed folks, and all the normal stuff. Mom even worked in crewing for her hot air balloon buddies early a  couple of those mornings.

It’s just been a crazy, busy, tumultuous week. Good stuff, hard stuff, weird stuff – all tumbled together and wearing us down until we were out of resiliency. No more rubber, no bounce back, gone was the elasticity! The lice last night were about the last straw. I had a moment where I thought one of my sisters was playing a joke in very poor taste, but no. True story. I poked my nose in to say hi and see how she was doing. The poor kid was combing the lice out of her hair, exuding something of the same horrified disbelief that I was feeling, that “How did this happen? What’s going to happen next?” She said, “I’m just trying to remember to be anxious for nothing.” She’s right. She’s exactly right.

Philippians 4:6

New International Version (NIV)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Blessings Found in Brokenness

In my last post, I talked about my revelation that God is truly good. That sort of interrupted all my yakking about brokenness, but I think it was a timely interruption. When God asked me what I would if I stayed broken, I’d already realized that He was good. I had a confidence and trust in His willingness to care for me that absolutely helped me to consider His question with less defensiveness than I had before. Please note that I did not say “no defensiveness.” I was hardly free from it. However, I was much more willing to listen. God is not out to get us. He is good. Brokenness: my lack of perfection, my deformed limp, my pain, my weakness – it might not be the end of the world.

As a matter of fact, it isn’t. In some ways, it’s been good for me. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that God has worked good out of it for me. I could quote some Scripture (Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” with its claim that God’s “grace is sufficient” certainly leaps to mind!) to slap a coat of religious paint on, but I’d rather just tell you about what I know and am learning about living with a limp.

The funny thing is that there is some freedom in limping. I didn’t expect that. For instance, I don’t struggle as much with pride. Neither do I struggle as much with being afraid of finding pride within me. Both of those battles consumed a lot of effort. I’m a gifted individual, and the pitfall of pride correlates well with giftedness. So does the (sometimes false) accusation of pride. I used to get so tied up trying to figure out where my real problem was so I could fix it. Thing is that a lot of my pride was tied up in my “perfection” compared to other people. Having to accept my own brokenness and let God’s grace be sufficient slapped that one down hard. It’s great!

I learned more sympathy. This would be a no brainer, right? It seems like learning to accept, instead of rejecting and fleeing and shunning, my own pain would help me to be more kind to others experiencing hurt and disappointment.

The world became less black and white. One of my friends gave me an interesting tidbit about abuse survivors. After making it through a world of overly simplified values (like, kill or be killed; fight or flight; fight/flight or be thrashed; bad people or good people; it’s safe or it’s not – I’m sure you get the idea), former victims don’t know that the world is full of greys and even color. It’s not all an either/or proposition. I don’t know if that’s true of every abuse survivor, but it’s certainly something I’ve seen in myself and in my family. Where it can cause lots of trouble is in relationships. It’s a rare person who is an angel or a demon. Most folk are quite the mix, and I didn’t assess that well, not even in myself. It made me unnecessarily rigid, and I lacked grace. Enter ‘“My grace is sufficient,” right?

I am more able to live with uncertainty, which goes hand in hand with the world not seeming as black and white. The unknown is not as terrifying. Nor do I assume it to be populated only with bad things. Good things must be there, too. I have more hope.

One reason for that is I learned that brokenness is not necessarily pathetic or despicable. It’s not a disqualifier. God doesn’t hate me because I’m broken. People don’t always deal well with it, but God doesn’t have that problem. Although there frequently is pain involved, the pain is not a disqualifier, either. God still loves me even when I hurt. Brokenness is not leprosy or cause for quarantine. It is not contagious. Ain’t nobody perfect, folks. We all be broken.

I am more able to learn. Rigidity doesn’t lend itself well to the acquisition of new information, experiences, or opinions. Even when a person tries hard, rigidity greatly complicates the learning process.

I always have someplace to go. Brokenness cannot keep me from God and His provision, instruction, and comfort.

I’ve learned more patience. Please note that I do not claim to be a patient person! But I’ve had to learn some, because limping precludes getting anywhere fast.

It’s helped me to forgive. Oh, my, that’s a good one! That’s freedom! Once pride lost its grip, and I accepted that I, too, am broken, I realized that my dad and I have that in common. He’s broken, too. He took things to extremes that I have not, but that’s no reason for me to feel like I’m somehow better than him. I am not without sin. I am not perfect. Accepting that at an emotional level definitely helped free from my burning desire to start throwing rocks. Of course I was angry with my dad. I should have been. He did not treat me well, but living out my life hating his guts and everything about him was a horrible way to live, because, truthfully, I have more in common with him than brokenness. For example, writing is not my mom’s thing. It was most definitely my dad’s.

Happy Independence Day!

The Goodness of God

I’m afraid that I was far too distracted this week by things like fresh, Oregon strawberries to give much thought to another post on brokenness. I’ve got one still brewing, but it’s not quite there. In the meantime, I poked around my blog and couldn’t find something that I most certainly have meant to put up, even though I’m recycling an old post from the Well. It’s the post I wrote when my belief in God’s goodness coalesced out of the faint hope and intellectual void where the Spirit of God hovered over the deep of my soul. I had been struggling, trying to reconcile the idea that God could be good with the reality of pain, limitations, and the crappy things people sometimes do to each other, and I had a completely unexpected revelation that changed my heart. Man, through nothing I did, the light came on for me, and here’s my attempt to express it:

August, 2005

I woke up this morning thinking about one place, one time. Ever said that? I have, especially at work when I have too many people wanting me to be doing too many things in several different locations all at once. It’s really frustrating when all the needs are valid and more or less immediate. Makes it really hard to prioritize. “I can’t do that right now. I can only be in one place at one time.”

What I realized this morning is that my limited ability to be present applies not only to my body, but also to my soul – my heart, my mind or intellect, and my will. I am pretty small, and I can only live in one place at one time. I can only live for one thing at one time. I’m trying to think how to explain this. I woke up knowing something, but I’m not sure yet just what it is I know.

See, for several years, my life’s purpose has been to love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul, mind and strength. Jesus said that was the greatest commandment, and I figured if He said it was that important, that was what I wanted to do. I had no idea how that would work. There are so many good and important things in life, but God is telling me He wants my all. He says it over and over throughout the Bible. He must be first. I’ve had moments where I’ve resented that (and I’ll probably have more moments like that, too). I mean, if it were another human being who wanted that kind of attention, I would think they were being totally selfish. How could God not also be selfish in saying He wants it all?

I think what I realized is how kind He is in demanding everything. I am small, my resources are limited, and I am only able to live in one place for one thing at a time. Life, with all its problems, pains, people, loves, and answers – it is much too big for me. Life is at this point entropic (entropy, according to Merriam-Webster online, is “2 a : the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity b : a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder). It takes who I am and all I have to offer, my heart and soul, mind and strength, and reduces me to a “state of inert uniformity,” to a dead nothingness. The entropy effect within me is hugely magnified every time I choose to contribute my energy, to seek my validation in something besides God, to worship an idol. There is no living to be had from this life. It takes more than I have.

God’s not being selfish in demanding everything. He’s offering to die so that I might live. He knows that left to my own, life will kill me long before I die, especially when I give myself to that which resembles life. By demanding everything I have, He’s ensuring that my life is preserved for release to abundant living and not to entropic living. If you want to save your life, you have to lose it. God is love. No greater love exists than a man lays down his life, and when He tells me, “I want it all, Rebekah. If you want to live, I have to take it all,” that is love speaking. Hm…

As I sat down to write this, I had Nichole Nordeman’s “This Mystery” album playing. The first song up was “Please Come,” and the chorus had this to say. “There is room enough for all of us / Please come / And the arms are open wide enough / Please come / And our parts are never greater than the sum / This is the heart of the One / Who stands before an open door / And bids us, ‘Come'”

God’s not stuck in one place at a time like me. He’s got room enough, His arms are wide enough, His heart is big enough, and He says to please come. I think I’ll take Him up on it.

Brokenness and Fear

In my last post, I talked about Isaiah 53’s Suffering Servant and ended the post by asking why I would be inclined to feel offended over his situation. One explanation could be found in the phrase I quoted near the end, that “it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” There’s an element of sacrifice in this passage, where the innocent was taken by God and offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the guilty. That can be an uncomfortable concept, because 1) I am one of the guilty folk (definitely not perfect, you know), and 2) it can lead one to question the goodness and character of the Almighty.

However, I don’t think my reaction fit into either of those little boxes. It has, at points, but not regarding brokenness. Instead, I found myself identifying with the Suffering Servant and his story. My life had been hard, and I was relatively innocent. After all, children do not deserve abuse. With the way my dad wove religious themes into our situation, from there it was no great leap to feel that my innocence was the sacrifice offered by my father to expiate or relieve some of his own guilt. My indignation toward the way God (mis)treated the Servant was, I think, springing from fear that God would have condemned me to a similar role. If God would be “pleased. . .to bruise” His faithful servant, why not me as well? Would I be stuck broken and limping for the rest of my life to help atone for the sins of others? I didn’t want to contemplate that possibility. I was too afraid that it might be true.

Maybe God was that mean. Maybe I was that worthless. Maybe my dad was more important. Maybe… maybe…. maybe… maybe. What if He was? What if I was? What if he was? What if… what if… what if? What if all the most horrible and scariest things were true?

What if they were? It was the question I couldn’t face, and because I was wondering and fearing without facing, I had some nasty ideas about God and Who He is and what He does hiding. Part of me believed that God was mean, that He was untrustworthy, that He didn’t like me, that He was going to make all my life hard, that His “favor” was anything but, and other things. I had all this floating around inside of me, a spot of darkness where I hated and feared God, and I couldn’t touch it because I couldn’t handle my pain. I couldn’t – or perhaps wouldn’t – see past my pain and the injustices under which I was living, and all I wanted was out. I didn’t want the pain. I didn’t want the questions. I was afraid of the dark, and I prayed for healing and deliverance.

Whether I wanted the questions or not, I did have them. I cannot help but think they emanated from me to poison the air and beat on God with their anxious uncertainties. Anxiety is like that. It hides, but not well. And, I believe, God responded to my prayers, but not how I expected or wanted. He asked me those questions. “What if you don’t get better? What if healing for you doesn’t look like the removal of your brokenness? What if it’s not just gone, and you spend the rest of your life limping?” He answered my questions with some of His own. What that did for me was start drawing my invisible questions out to be seen. God’s questions, rather than being a condemnation of my misdeeds, started shining a little light into my darkness, and that proved to be a very good thing for me. After all, fear doesn’t do well with light.

Until next time!

Getting back to brokenness, more brokenness, and Isaiah 53, I found out something interesting about Isaiah 53. I’d been told that passage was a prophecy concerning the coming of Christ. I can’t say I’d ever investigated that, so I thought maybe before I went blathering on about how it is about Christ, maybe I should check and see if that was anything more than my imagination or a belief held by a weird minority. It seems to be a pretty widely held belief in Christianity, so – whew! – all good there. What was interesting was this bit from Wikipedia: “Isaiah 53, taken from the Book of Isaiah, is the last of the four Songs of the Suffering Servant.” I like that phrase, not in a “it warms the cockles of my heart” sort of way, but as in it seems significant. It seems applicable. It seems relevant to what God has been teaching me about brokenness. I want to to think it over a bit more, but since I’m talking about Isaiah 53 now, it’s worth mentioning. Guess I better move along to Isaiah 53.

One thing that stands out immediately is that this man is going through some hell. His life is not at all easy. He’s the “man of sorrows” who is also described as “rejected,” “crushed,” “wounded,” “afflicted,” “oppressed,” and other painful adjectives. I don’t know about you, but when I think about how I want my life to be described, words like these are not on my list. They make for a hard life.

To make it even more difficult for him, “we esteemed him not.” The poor guy didn’t even get any sympathy. Nobody cared that his life was hard. I guess he just wasn’t… attractive enough. His life was hard and full of troubles. It wasn’t pretty. He wasn’t somebody other people wished to emulate. Instead, folks assumed that he was “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” People were pretty sure that not even God liked him. The man was cursed.

And you know what? None of it was his fault. His situation, full of the bitterness of grief made more heavy by the pettiness of people, was not his fault. He “had done no violence.” He was an honest man, an innocent man. He didn’t deserve the pain he experienced, the contempt he faced, or the death he died.

And “yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him…”

What?

He’s innocent. He’s righteous. It’s well established that the ones who merit punishment (and the suffering servant sure seemed to have been punished!) are the wicked. The guilty are the ones who have earned wrath and hard things. The innocent, the righteous, the just, the downtrodden… aren’t they supposed to be exalted, glorified, comforted, and otherwise cared for by the God Who is their provider and defender?

What’s going on here? Why is this okay or desirable? “It’s not fair,” would be what my emotions like to indignantly scream when I hear about situations where my sense of fair play gets offended. This would definitely be one of them. Why, God? Why is this okay?

Tell you one thing. Why is it all about me? Why do I read something like this and get offended? Why is my sense of fair play so important? Why do I instinctively, without the least thought, make it all about me and my values?

Until next time!