Instead of complainin
Suspended. On Pause. That’s how I feel sometimes. I’m inside of a snow globe and watching the world move about all around me as I sit still. I sometimes search for drama just to shake things up, to get my world going, but then everything settles around me and once again, I’m in the exact same place.
It’s hard to find joy in the moment when it seems that everyone else around me is moving at lightning speed. I’ve got friends who are my age with teenage children. Some have been divorced and remarried. They are buying houses, getting dogs, dedicating babies, and settling into life with all the boxes checked – and all the while I’m feeling incomplete. Or rather, I used to feel incomplete. The sum of my value is not measured by material possessions or accomplishments. My full value is found in Christ and his love for me. My true friends do not love me any more or less because of the things that I have accomplished or what I have attained, they love me because I love them. They love me for me.
Life in my little globe is simple. It’s cozy in here and one day the glass may shatter and I might be thrust into a new world with lots of challenges and new experiences, but for now, I get to enjoy the myriad of blessings God has given me. I get to share in the lives of my friends and have time for so much living without much responsibility or restraint. That does not mean that I shy away from either of those things, I just instead trust in God to direct my steps and to live in the moment. I find joy in every moment, even in that hard times because I know that what I am going through is exactly what God has planned for me.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5
And with that, I’ll leave you with this great video from OneRepublic that makes you appreciate life, especially if you have your health.
I’d been slaving away in the kitchen for hours. The holidays had been weighing on me heavily and to top it all off, my mother had been in the hospital for five days with cellulitis on her face. Finally, Christmas day had arrived and I had three events to attend. I was looking forward to all three, especially having my family cram into my medium-sized apartment for dinner.
Everyone arrived at my house promptly at 5:30 and I was still in the throes of preparing dinner: Pioneer Woman Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes with Grated Gruyere, and Bacon Wrapped Asparagus. As soon as my nephew walked in he asked, “Where are my presents Uncle Eddo?” I’d been so busy I hadn’t even had time to wrap them. I quickly asked my mom, who is a wizard when it comes to wrapping, to wrap the gifts in my room while I continued to cook. Dinner was almost ready and my mom came out with the wrapped presents. We decided to pause for a moment and unwrap the gifts. It was a quick exchange since we only buy for the kids under 18 in our family. Aiden unwrapped his gift and exclaimed with delight, “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!” He was so delighted with his gift which was a toy that allowed you to melt crayons into different shapes. After he calmed down he asked me, “Can I open it and play with it?” His mom immediately cut in and said, “You can open it, but we can’t melt the crayons here at Uncle Eddo’s house.” I confirmed this response and expected my nephew to just accept this decision with delight, instead he started to pout. At first I thought it would just be a mini pout session, but I was wrong.
I continued to cook and I noticed that my nephew was laying on the ground by the front door with his toy on his face. This was Pout Phase 1 which included a little bit of moaning. His mom asked him what was wrong and he said he wanted to play with his toy. She told him “No, you have to wait.” As soon as his mom walked away he looked at me and repeatedly said, “Please, Please, Please, Please” to the point of annoyance, this was Pout Phase 2. I told him no and I sort of wished I hadn’t gotten him a gift at all. How could he be such a brat when he had so much? His birthday is the day before mine, December 16, and he turned eight. We had a big part for him at Chuck E. Cheese’s. His grandparents got him an iPhone 5s and he got so many toys that most kids, even rich ones, would have burned with envy.
When we finally got around to eating dinner my nephew wouldn’t eat. This was Pout Phase 3. Finally, his hunger gave in and my mom got him a plate of mashed potatoes, but he wanted to sit on the couch to eat. We don’t eat on the furniture in my house so I told him if he wanted to eat he had to join us at the table. After dinner my nephew continued to pout by laying on the couch – Pout Phase 4. My mom tried to console him, but he wasn’t having any of it.
Two days prior to Christmas day I got to watch my nephew while my sister was at work and I bought him a Jenga game that he wanted. We played and had the best time. I couldn’t believe this was the same kid. How could he be so ungrateful?
When everyone left and the house was quiet I received a word of wisdom from the Holy Spirit. How many times have I been given a gift by God, but he asked me to wait to use it? How many times have I thrown a tantrum when God didn’t give me what I wanted when I wanted it?
I talked to my mom the next day and she said, “Well, he was upset because his sister got to open her toy and play with it right away…” Kapow! I felt another punch of shame and guilt once again because I do the exact same thing. I compare myself to others and say, “Well, look at them, they have ________.” For me this usually comes in the form of a wife. I’d love to be married and at 38 I can’t help but feel a little impatient that I’m having to save myself for marriage while others who are much younger than me are getting married left and right. I want what I want, when I want it. I think it is unfair even though I’ve been given SO MUCH. I pout often when I don’t get my way and in my frustration I rebel. Why is it that submitting to God’s will and his best for us is so hard?
After I burned hotly with shame for my behavior I prayed to God for forgiveness and mercy. In just one instance of bad behavior I wanted to retract my gift to my nephew, but how many times have I acted the same way toward God? Furthermore, my nephew’s pouting did not make me want to give him his gifts faster, but just the opposite, it made me not want to give him any gifts at all. Ouch. I’m surprised God even has anything to do with me. I’d put me on a permanent timeout.
2013 has been a year of painful lessons. I’m thankful God disciplines those he loves, but I’m hopefully learning from my mistakes because my backside is feeling awfully raw and chafed these days!
Hopefully you had a Merry Christmas and during this season God taught you something while you were spending time with your family.
“I asked that God would help me to see that man as He sees him if I pass him again. ” – Sara Barnes, China Missionary
This was a line that caught my attention in a recent journal entry from Sara. While walking down the street she passed a man whose face was badly burned, so badly burned that it was painful to look at. She hurried past him and later felt crushed that she had not done more.
How often have we all done the same thing? In an effort to move past something uncomfortable, we rush past, push it aside, repress it. It’s a normal HUMAN reaction. It is not natural for us to be unselfish. As Christians we are constantly being molded into the image of Christ. We are given trials and opportunities to shed little pieces of our humanity and to become something altogether supernatural. Granted, we will never become anything more than human while we are constrained by our flesh, but while we are here on earth, we get the opportunity to show Christ to others through our actions.
I, like Sara, want to do my best to pause when I have the opportunity to be Christ someone and I want to see that person, no matter how ugly, the way Christ sees them – as his beautiful creation. Let me see them through grace and love, the love that can only come from something that is not human. Love that can only come from God.
Thanks Sara for sharing your story, it touched me and I am sure it will change others too.
Here is a little more of Sara’s story:
As we were leaving the subway station, we passed a man that I remember from when Senator and I lived in that neighborhood 7 years ago. His face is so badly burned that it’s hard for me to describe it to you. Hard to describe firstly because most of it is burned beyond recognition, but secondly because it is just so hard to look him that I can’t recall a complete picture of him mentally. And today, my maternal hyper-protective instincts kicked in and I hurried the kids past, hoping they wouldn’t notice him.
I’m not sure if I thought I was protecting the kids from an image that might be too much for their young minds or protecting him from what their possible reactions would be, but after we were out of the station, one thing was clear. Whether I had been with the kids or alone, the urge to hurry past and look away would have been just as strong.
And then I remembered the bottle cap mural, and the song, and my heart felt crushed. I wondered if I were alone if I could sit down face to face and have what little conversation my current language skills will allow me too. (There is no danger or risk involved, these beggars sit in broad daylight amongst crowds of wealthy foreigners.) I know that 7 years ago I didn’t. But I’ve learned a lot about our God in those 7 years, I know better than ever that God doesn’t see as I see. I asked that God would help me to see that man as He sees him if I pass him again.
Our current language level prohibits us from having in depth, spontaneous conversations the way we’d like to, but I am fully capable of offering someone a snack and a smile. I even know how to ask them if they believe in Jesus and if they say no, I know how to tell them that whether or not you believe, there certainly is a God who loves you.
But in order to do any of that, we must be willing to resist the urge to hurry past. Pray that we would have courage and boldness for such moments. In all reality, the guests at the Renewal Center are typically quite easy to love. They are clean and well dressed and happy to be there. But there are still many in our midst just as desperately in need of hope, even if they have no interest in our showers.
I have to admit, I just started watching Duck Dynasty this year. It is in it’s second season and I was skeptical at first, but it’s just funny. I always appreciated the prayers at the end of the show, but lots of people pray over big meals – it doesn’t mean they believe in Jesus. It may just mean that’s what they did as kids and so it became a family tradition. It’s cool to see Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty sharing his story of faith in Jesus.
You can buy his new book here.
When I saw this video I got a little teary-eyed at the end. People are special and we all have a story. The gangster on the subway, the business man with his laptop, the young girl in the headphones… they are lives, people on a journey, stuck in this thing called life between the temporary and the eternal. We have a small window to learn some things while we are here and what I’ve learned is that we need God, and we need each other.
Enjoy this video and maybe look at a stranger a little differently from now on. They could be dying with cancer or HIV, they may have been beaten or abused that morning, they may be rich, but still miserable or poor and unbelievably happy.
Everyone has a story. What’s yours?