Last week I had another graduation, though this was one I didn’t have on the calendar. It began on Tuesday when I mowed the lawn. I don’t remember what started the downward spiral, but the drone of the mower wasn’t drowning out the thoughts that kept pummeling my mind. Somehow I had let my mind wander and had opened a door to a room filled with pain. I soon found myself in a battle that was about as intense as they get. The thoughts coming from outside my mind (so you know the source) kept trying to get me to become bitter or resentful or pass judgment on those who attacked me. I kept forgiving…and reforgiving…and forgiving again. I cried and repented for my part in things (yet again) and wondered what was it going to take for me to finally get over what happened. Then I had an interesting thought. Peter asked Jesus how many times should he forgive his brother when his brother sins against him. The answer probably seemed way out there to Peter when Jesus told him seventy times seven. So was that seventy times seven different sins or was it one offense that kept coming back to the mind and each time forgiveness had to be extended? The answer is probably yes, lol. In any event, I determined I would forgive as many times as it took, that I would never allow bitterness or anger or resentment in my heart. I felt that day was a test, and that as grueling as it was, I had passed.
A couple days later I was at the store and had to buy a few things. The total was $19.76 and the cashier said, “That was a good year.” I told her yes, that was the year I graduated. As I walked out to the car I’m not sure if it was an impression or if I heard that it was going to be my graduation day. I kind of tucked that away but I could feel a sense of anticipation. Soon afterward a friend came to visit and we talked for a couple hours. Her wisdom and the grace and love she extended brought revelation and healing and by the time she left I realized that I was no longer the person I used to be. A shift had taken place and I could release the past and move on.
I decided to go to Global in the evening to hear Bob Hazlett speak and went early enough to catch worship. When I graduated from my internship at Global back in 2014 I had put together a compilation video and there was a song I used that is to this day one of my favorites, Bethel’s “Chasing You.” It always takes me back to that graduation. I had never heard it played live in worship anywhere, so you know what’s coming. Let’s just say I sang my heart out :)
Jesus doesn’t always come to still the storms in your life; He comes to show you He is more powerful. Bob’s message what just what I needed to hear. He spoke on “Nextpectation”, which describes the place between where God has us right now and the place He is taking us to. It’s that moment of anxiety/anticipation between the natural and the supernatural, the moment between the seen and unseen, an expectation about what God is going to do next. If I knew what was going to happen I wouldn’t need hope. Hope is always planted in a place of uncertainty. But on our way from glory to glory, something needs to move out of the way. If you’re going to take this new place, something has to be displaced. So no matter what you’re going through or what you’ve been through you are standing in the place of grace, and grace enables you to fall forward. So I boast in the hope of what God is about to do even though I don’t know what that will look like. Whatever it is, though, I am sure it is beyond what I can even ask or think. It has to be because it’s from Him!
It has taken me a few weeks, but I can honestly say I have “closed the old folder” now. I am in awe of God’s grace and how faithful and kind He has been to me through this. When you have that kind of grace poured out on you, it’s only natural that you turn around and do the same for others. I have a fresh set of eyes on what went down, including why the counselor did what she did. That doesn’t mean that I agree with it or even like (and that is actually irrelevant), but I have an understanding and with that comes the ability to put things to rest and close the folder so to speak. Do I wish I could talk to Mary about what God has shown me? Sure I do, but I am still getting a no from Him. Perhaps someday I will be able to, but I am not pinning my hopes on someday because that may be in heaven! It is in God’s hands, and I have a life to live and work to do.
I thought I’d post the pic of the lion in the clouds for you (that I mentioned in a previous post). My apologies for the black border, I guess this was a screenshot of the original. Anyway, some people see it immediately, and others get distracted by the mouth (which looks like a key, interestingly enough!). It was just a random shot taken from the top of a mountain in Vermont three weeks ago, and I didn’t notice the lion until I was looking through my pictures that evening. I had been asking God to be my defender, and I guess He was just letting me know that He heard me and was roaring on my behalf!
I am packed and ready to go on a new adventure with God! I leave for Alaska tomorrow. And God is already filling up the blocks of time in my schedule that I was to go to North Carolina. He truly does work everything together for my good because I am trusting Him, and I look forward to the beauty He brings from these ashes.
Kevin and I were talking yesterday about our fathers. His passed away suddenly almost a year ago of a heart attack. My father had his first heart attack ten years ago but had a bypass and survived. Since then he’s had a couple more heart attacks (mild), gone through various stent placements and procedures, and now has a pacemaker. I got a note from him recently, and the first thing I noticed was the change in his penmanship which I could tell was written with a shaky hand. He commented on it as well, noting that he’s “gotten nervous since Jesus didn’t want him yet” (referring to the most recent brush with death that led to the pacemaker implantation). I need to get down to visit him soon. I want to talk about that comment.
So back to my talk with Kevin. I mentioned that I wished his dad had pulled through and been given another ten years. And then I started wondering why that gift was given to my father. I don’t pretend to know the mind of God, but I think I know one of the reasons why he was granted more time: God is giving my dad an opportunity to extend forgiveness to others. For as long as I’ve known him, my father has held bitterness in his heart toward those who have hurt him (and there have been quite a few). Whether he deserved what he got or not is irrelevant, because forgiveness is not an option. Right after teaching his disciples how to pray the Lord’s prayer, Jesus went on to say, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:14-15. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
I think, too, of that verse about God “restoring the years the locusts have eaten” and about bitterness as locusts eating away at a person’s soul. So much loss, so much needless pain, so many wasted years. But God keeps his promises. When we return, He restores us. I had some “locust years” myself and can honestly say they have been restored. I want to see my father receive the same restoration. So I pray for God’s timing and wisdom, and an opportunity (the sooner the better) to visit him and talk about these things.
My dad is back in the hospital. He had a couple of stents placed in January but evidently had some heart irregularities serious enough to require the implantation of a pacemaker, which is probably happening even as I type. We went to visit him yesterday, and I’m glad we did. The surgery is pretty routine, but sometimes things happen on operating tables.
I’ve been thinking about memoir writing lately and the inevitable questions centered around writing about events involving people who are still living. Personally there have been many times I have held back saying some things here because of the possibility that the person I am writing about or another family member might stumble upon it. Not everybody appreciates having their lives put on display, especially when it involves painful events. While I know writing is often cathartic for the writer, is it right to lessen my load when it makes another’s heavier?
In any event, dad shared some things yesterday and I realized, again, how unhappy he’s been in life. Some of the problems he’s had he would admit have been his own doing, but sometimes things happen and you get dumped on. I hope he pulls through the surgery okay, because I want to get more of his story. In some ways, getting more of his story will help me understand mine better. So I didn’t feel loved growing up! How could someone who never felt loved give love to his daughter? The dearth of self-help books wasn’t around in the 60s and 70s, you basically parented the way you were parented, and the cycle continued. That’s not bad if your parents had their act together. Mine didn’t. But I still choose to love and forgive them, and in turn need their forgiveness. After all, I wasn’t the model daughter, either ;)
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful
are the kisses of an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:6
It’s said the deepest hurts in life come from
the ones we love; I’ve found this to be true.
Sometimes it’s not so much what we may do
or say as what we choose to leave undone
which has the biggest impact on the heart.
Despite my best defense, rejection beats
me up and, aided by my own conceits,
the two collude to tear my peace apart.
And so I come, not asking for a kiss
but for a faithful wound; please tell me why
you’ve chosen to ignore me, what have I
done to deserve your treating me like this?
The choice is yours, but I will in the end
still look you in the eyes and call you friend.
Despite the warning “judge not lest ye be judged”, we do it anyway. In the end, we are hurting ourselves, for in the same degree that we judge others we are judged ourselves. I am speaking especially to Christians here, who should know better and who sometimes call it something else (“I’m not judging, I’m exercising discernment”). The fact remains that we should avoid judging others like the plague because we cannot do it without being infected by it.
This past Saturday we had an interesting Ladies’ meeting and I learned many things. One of the most significant related to a verse in James, the one about “sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death.” Sin grows? You betcha. We lay the eggs and don’t think much about it until the chickens come home to roost. The past year or so I have found myself (and sometimes even put myself) in situations where I have been judged by others. Whether I believe I was judged fairly or not is irrelevant; I have learned from the experience. Though extremely painful, the end result has been a good one. God has revealed to me my own critical spirit and the need to repent of it (I’d like to say I’ve only had to do that once, but alas….). I’ve become more sensitive to my own poor attitudes and have been working on whipping them into shape. In the meantime, God has been allowing me to experience the impact my words can have on others, thus making me choose them with more care.
I just spent almost two hours writing a one-paragraph reply to an email I received challenging me on something I’d said. In the past, it would have taken me a half hour (max) to reply. I would have fired off a missive, said things I would have regretted, and perhaps even intentionally threw in a couple of digs to make my point. But I don’t have to defend myself anymore. And I don’t have to be right. My job is to love others. I’m still learning how to do that and still have a long way to go….