Thursday, October 23, 2008
I generally like to avoid religion and politics on this blog. It's not that I don't have strong opinions on either, nor that I simply don't care, cause, trust me, I do, but rather that I prefer not to dive into those murky depths in this particular forum.
However (you knew there was a "however" coming, didn't you?), I think there is a distinct difference between religion and faith. I know "faith" is used these days as a synonym for religion, but I don't use it or think of it that way. My faith is about what I believe, what I put my trust in, what is at the core of me and my life. Religion is all about man's attempt to get to God. I am not interested in man-made methods of finding God. I've seen where my own attempts have gotten me and they were indeed like chaff in the wind.
My faith is the result of God Himself reaching down to get to me. Not because of anything I have ever done or will do--there is nothing I can do to make Him love me more or less--but simply because of who I am. I am His. It's all I ever was and all I ever will be. And that's enough. I have hated Him, blamed Him, cursed Him, walked away from Him, doubted Him, questioned Him, underestimated Him, and ignored Him. I have deserved nothing but to be abandoned by Him. Yet He is there always; waiting, welcoming, forgiving, loving, patient and faithful. You can ask how I know this. I can't tell you that. I just know it to be true. That's why it's faith.
Obviously, as this is what I base my life on, it's going to show. You can't hide what you're made of, even in a blog. My relationship with God flavors everything I do, think and say; I couldn't hide it if I tried. So, to you it may seem I'm talking religion, but what I'm actually talking about is relationship.
I started this explanation so I could let you know where I am coming from when I say that God is trying to do something and I have been getting in the way. I have been struggling with my Bible study class in the worst way and feeling like such a failure. I don't get my lessons done, I haven't done any of the Verse Memorization, I'm so rebellious when it comes to Verse Memorization, I don't spend time in the Word each day like I know I need to, I have children whose behavior baffles and embarrasses me, I waste scads of time, have outbursts of anger, use foul language and allow fear to paralyze me. I have been ready to quit the class and crawl into my hidey hole each and every week. I am so not getting it right.
Last night was particularly bad. I was literally trying to think of a non-dramatic way to duck out of class and never darken the door again. And as soon as the last, "Amen" was said, I had my coat on, my stuff packed, and was four steps from the door.
That's when God caught me. Two women, two of my favorites in the class, unwittingly "cornered" me. One was Mrs. Sassy, our teacher, who came over to see why I had looked like I was being led to the scaffold all night, and the other had had the misfortune to sit next to me and overhear everything.
I was complaining about my failure again and how it was time for me to quit and the woman next to me turned and said, "Please don't say that! I love that you're here and I love hearing the things you have to say! When you walk in the door each week, I'm not kidding, I want to clap my hands and go, 'Yay!' You don't say much, but when you do, you always say so much! You always say exactly what I'm thinking and what I've been trying to put into words and don't know how!"
I was absolutely floored and started to cry and wound up pouring my heart out right then and there. I pulled my dainty little hankie out of my purse like a maiden auntie and cried into it like a child. And as I mulled over my neighbor's mind-blowing comments, I realized something.
I have been so incredibly self-centered. All this time I've been so concerned about me, me, me. What if I can't get it right? What if I sound dumb? What if no one agrees with me? What if everyone is smarter/more mature/funnier/more profound than I am? What if I can't make friends in this church? What if I this? What if I that? It's all been about me. I sat through that class last night sulking because I didn't get to share the prayer request I'd been rehearsing all day. How childish and selfish!
My neighbor's kind words were like a jolt out of the blue. They shocked me. This is a woman who I consider to be the straight-A student in the class, whereas I have considered myself the dunce. She is kind, funny, vibrant, and she loves God with every fiber of her being. Secretly, I have really looked up to her. To have her saying those things about me just blew my mind. But her words also kind of jolted me back to reality. God is at work here, not me. If she was touched by anything I've said, it's not to my credit, it's to God's. And if God can use a selfish, silly brat like me to affect a mature, obedient woman like her, He can use anybody to do anything.
You know what? I think that was just the perspective I needed to prepare me for meeting with my new SIDS Mom friend (I'll have to think of a blog name for her so I can stop using that horrible title for her). I've been so overwhelmed at the thought of getting it right when I talk to her because I've been so self-centered about it, focusing on what I can do instead of what God can do. I was about to get in God's way by trying to rely on my own wits and strength which are, clearly, woefully inadequate.
Remember that overwhelmed feeling? It's gone. My perspective has been realigned, my priorities are back in order and my pride and stubborn will have been subdued. For now. I know this week is still going to be a tough one and I'm sure it will still be painful to talk to my friend, but at least I know I will not be alone. And whether great good or great ill comes out of it is out of my hands. Which is a very reassuring thought.
Overwhelmed no longer, instead I'm reassured.