Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rejecting the Right to be Angry

When my husband arrives at the door after work, the entire house erupts in chaotic excitement. Little toddler tippy-toes dance full-speed ahead in an attempt to beat older siblings to the entrance in our kitchen. Sometimes the children run and hide, giggling in place as they wait for Dad to notice they are missing and being a game of hide-and-seek in an attempt to find them. Other times, there is a rush of energy as they hurry to finish a task, usually picking up their toys, so Dad will be proud of them for cleaning up. But always, there is commotion. Shouts of joy and exclamatory outbursts can be heard throughout our home: "Daddy's here! Daddy's here!"

Yesterday was no exception.

Little L. ran to the door, her chubby two-year-old legs working overtime to keep up with her outstretched arms. "Daddy!!" She was ready to leap into his arms before his keys had even turned the lock. The older two ran in behind her and quickly began chattering, less concerned about whether anyone was paying any attention and more interested in relieving the in-suppressible need to verbally release all the information that their little minds had been storing throughout the day, waiting patiently for an opportunity to tell Dad every detail he might have missed.

I stood there across the room and smiled. Our eyes met and he smiled back and said a simple, "Hi." Then untangling the children from his legs, he walked over to kiss me.

The children had more to say, so I walked back into the next room to resume folding laundry. Eventually, the kids dispersed to continue their own activities, which they had previously abandoned when they heard Dad's car door shut in the driveway, and I returned to the kitchen. He turned to face me and leaned his back against the counter. I stood near the stove.

"So," I asked, "How did it go."

He shrugged, smirked, then smiled and sighed. "It went good." His tone was not confident.

"What does that mean?" I pried for a more explicit answer.

He looked at me knowingly and began to explain. "You know, it's one of those things that you can either get mad about or look at it as an opportunity to learn something and grow from it."

My smile diminished and I could feel the warm tears welling. I knew I would not like whatever I was about to hear. He knew it too.

"I'm just choosing not to let it make me angry. I want to recognize my own part in it and I want to be better because of it. I want you to do the same."

I just looked at him. No reply. He knows me, I'm already angry and I don't even know why yet. His smile was understanding, compassionate and reassuring. "I need you to be forgiving, because if you get angry about it, it is just going to make me angry and I don't want that. I just needed to say that before I tell you anything else."

My heart sank as he went on to share with me the details of his meeting. What he learned that day would give anyone cause to feel angry. Yet he stood there, saddened, but gracious as he gently explained it all. Not once did his voice raise. Not once did he speak unkindly about anyone. He humbly accepted more responsibility than I know he needs to own. I knew he was devastated inside, but determined; he was angry about what had taken place, yet refused to become embittered by it, refused to dwell in that anger. Instead, his response to the whole situation, and especially to this information, has been perhaps one of the most beautiful things I have witnessed in his life during the fifteen years that I have known him.

While the children squealed and laughed in the other room, my heart was torn between the natural reaction to news like this and the one my husband had not only asked me to have, but was modeling for me. Every time I felt that heat of fury burning in my gut, I thought of him. He was the one who should be most enraged. He wasn't. He had every human right to be angry about this, but he chose not to. I realized what a brave and strong man I am married to.

To do right is certainly commendable. But to choose, even in the privacy of your own home, in the familiarity and safety of your own heart, to embrace what is right - that is truly strength of character. Anyone can modify their behavior publicly or say nice things in front of others. Integrity is doing right regardless of who sees or doesn't see, it is consistency of character. It takes strength to choose to reject the right to be angry and instead to respond with forgiveness towards those who have wronged us.

My husband is truly the very best man I know. He is wise. He is humble and teachable and forgiving. He is a living and honest example to me of love. And although, he is imperfect, as I look at the definition of love, he is all these things. I don't say that just to flatter him. I live life with him everyday and he really does live an example of love - not perfect love, but one of the best examples I have ever witnessed. I am so honored to know this man and to share life with him and to walk through disappointments with him. If not for his example, my heart would be a mess right now. But he is so confident in his determination to do what is right, that I cannot help but to want to follow his lead and let go of my right to be angry and to remember the abundant grace that our God has offered  each of us. I have been forgiven for so much, I must also forgive others.

Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not selfish. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perseveres. Love never fails. [1 Corinthians 13]

In what might have been one of the most devastating moments in our lives so far, there is peace and joy that overwhelm the discouragement and sadness; there is love, whose brilliance outshines the shadows of injustice and anger.

It is no wonder that our home explodes with excitement when Daddy arrives - even on days when he brings sad news along with him. He fills our home with hope and kindness, protection and love.

I am blessed.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Morning

You know those times when you sit there in a church service and hear the words and listen to the message, and it is applicable to your life and you walk away from that time convicted, challenged or encouraged to face the week ahead? Today's message at church was not like that.

Instead, it was as though the entire morning had been carefully orchestrated specifically for us. The second we sat down, we knew...this is what we need to hear. The lyrics during worship were exactly what was in my heart and what I needed to cry out to Him; that life may be challenging and disappointing and unfair - but He is good and holy and worthy. Our circumstances don't change who He is, instead, He changes our perspective in our circumstances.

I knew as we were getting ready this morning that discouragement and sorrow were beginning to well in my heart again. I also knew that I was determined to worship Him, even if I don't understand, even if I am brokenhearted, even if I feel doubt and confusion - I will still follow Him. I will continue to practice trusting Him. I will be thankful.

When the pastor spoke, it was as though a good friend, who understood all we were feeling and everything we were facing, sat down beside us and reminded us of the truth of His Word, walking us through each verse we needed to hear. Our confidence is in a God who loves us, who sees and understands what we cannot and who is more than able to meet all our needs according to His good purpose.

It is easy to say all that in one breath, and grieve our circumstances with the next. The real test is in walking through the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in from time to time [or, perhaps, painfully often] and choosing, each moment, to praise Him - to trust Him.

It is so helpful for me to look at our relationship to our children. We have one in particular who is irrationally dramatic sometimes and before this child even has an opportunity to process information or a situation, this child's reaction becomes instant fear, discouragement, hopelessness. Words like "never" and "always" erupt in bursts of un-checked dramatic exclamations. Often when we want to give this child something good, before we even have an opportunity to explain, this melodramatic display surfaces and the entire plan is dampened by the illogical behavior.

Maybe we react this way a little with God.

Instead of just waiting patiently for Him to explain the whole plan, we jump to conclusions, assuming that because things are not going the way we thought they would, everything is ruined. [Insert hand on forehead and fake swooning...] Or rather than trusting that even if there is no foreseeable plan or answer or conclusion in our favor, that He loves us, wants what is best for us and is not only willing, but able to protect us and help us. That doesn't mean nothing bad ever happens, it just means that He knows, cares about those hurts and has a purpose in allowing them in our lives - even if we never are able to fully understand the "whys".

We teach our children that they need to learn to trust us - even when they don't understand. I imagine our heavenly Father, the God who made the world and everything in it - who formed us with design and purpose and knows the intricacies of both our bodies and our spirits, expects that same respect from us.

That's kind of what it boils down to. Respect. If I believe that He is God and that His Word is true, why would I question or fear or become discouraged? We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. If God is for us, who can be against us?

This is a verse that was brought to mind this afternoon: So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I just need to love Him. That's it. If I love Him, I will listen to Him, I will walk in obedience and do what is right. If I know Him, I will know that He is to be trusted. He clothes flowers and feeds sparrows. He loves us. I won't waste time wondering and worrying and wishing. But instead, I will invest myself in worship. I will commit my heart to trusting His character and wisdom, rather than my own. I will find contentment in His company, rather than seek satisfaction in something innate or unattainable. My confidence cannot lie in what we see alone, because our eyes can trick us to believe we see something different from what really is. My perspective is so very narrow, there is a whole world of insight and understanding that I could not possibly gain in a lifetime. I am like my child in my understanding compared to the Lord, [if even that wise].  He knows better and if I am wise, I will continue to let my confidence rest in Him.

I'm so encouraged to know that He works things together for our good and for His purposes - even preparing today's message for us. He is kind.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I can hardly catch a breath, sorrow and heaviness chokes me. My eyes burn. My head aches and my abdomen is pinched with tension. Facing this evening has been like waking up into a bad dream. I wish I could fall asleep to a nightmare right now and leave behind the nauseous knowing that this won't just go away in the morning. I've been awakened from a dream - to the reality that life is unpredictable, ever-changing, unfair, unjust and inconsiderate of our feelings.

I cannot sit or stand, I pace and attempt to go through routine motions, leaving millions of simple things undone for lack of hopeful motivation. I feel as though I am such a mess of a woman with this devastation weighing heavy on my soul. It is amazing how one decision can impact nearly every aspect of life. I cannot undo, or fix or change what is. I can only wait. Like a young chick with an open mouth, trusting in its parent's provision.

Tonight as I watched the lightening flash violently across the sky, illuminating the horizon with it's mesmerizing brilliance, I was reminded that I am so small. That my world and my wants and my hopes and my life is so very, very small; and that He is powerful. My God is mighty to save. I don't say that as the "Christian-eze" thing to say, I know He is. I've tasted and seen that the Lord is good. He has met us in our dark places. He has stood near and comforted in our hurts. He has changed hearts and lives and made provisions and offered wisdom. I know that even though my stomach turns and my heavy heart is weary, anxious and afraid, that He is to be depended upon and that He alone is in control. He gives and takes away. He is where our refuge is found, stability is in the Rock, not in my dreams and hopes for a future. This is not our home.

As much as I desperately, desperately grieve this, the knowledge that He is loving and able cannot be dismissed by the devastation of vanished dreams. I don't believe the foolish words that "everything will work out for the best". It may not. It may work out for the hardest, the ugliest, the most painful and unpleasant. But He will be there. His power is able to provide brilliant light to eradicate the dense darkness - if only for a brief moment, and remind us He is there.

This discouragement is certainly not the most severe trial a person can suffer, but it is a heavy blow for my shallow and weak heart. I may need to stop dreaming altogether, and keep my eyes open to the reality in front of me; not nearly as much fun, but I'm too disappointed to hope, and cannot help but wonder if He prefers a bit of darkness to surround me so that the brilliance of His light is that much more splendid.

Even in our shadows, He remains. Even in our weakness, His hand is strong. I would still rather be uncomfortable where He is than happy where He is not. This I know. It may be all that I know.

So tonight, I will brush away the tears, and consider His character and kindness - and all the many blessings I have been given. I will remember dark places He sustained me in. I will recall wise insight He has spoken into my heart. I will remind my soul of His faithful provision of all that I have ever needed. In my heart, in the Spirit and knowing the truth, I will worship Him. Nothing else matters much for very long. Life and all of its worries and concerns and demands lasts only a short moment, and is over. In the end, our soul is all we keep. My soul has grown tired and weary, anxious of each next second and where it will lead us to. Perhaps I was so intent on traveling to a destination that I neglected to look up and clearly see the lightening, until the darkness set in, and it became impossible to ignore.

Even in my disappointment, I rejoice, because You, O God are good and You, O Lord are loving. Not the "throw your hands up in the air and dance" kind of "rejoice". Not even the "smile and feel glad inside" kind of "rejoice". It is admittedly a weak rejoicing, maybe a forced rejoicing. But a deep-rooted sense that there is cause for celebration and gladness in my soul, because I know the love and forgiveness of Christ - and nothing, not even lost years, deep sorrows and vanished opportunities can separate us from Him. What others see with worldly eyes, He sees with eternal eyes. I am caught between eternity and earth...never quite understanding what is before me. But I trust. And I waver. Then return to trusting.

Thank you, Jesus, for knowing me and holding me, even [and perhaps especially,] when my moment seems so dark and my heart cannot be quieted, so full of thundering emotions.