Today was one of those days.
A day that I wish I could be little again, run to my daddy, and cry, “It just isn’t fair.”
Remember saying that as a kid? Maybe your brother got two turns on the swing instead of letting you take yours. “It’s not fair!”
Maybe your sister got a date with the guy you thought for sure would ask you out. “It isn’t fair!”
Children are quick to point out when they think something isn’t fair.
Adults can be quick to do so as well.
The difference, hopefully, is that, while adults may cry “Unfair!” inside they realize that life isn’t fair. We have mindsets of how things should go, but have been around the block enough times to know that sometimes, things don’t go the way they are supposed to.
Today was a day I wanted to cry “Unfair.”
Today I sat in a chair, inside a church, and listened to people stand up and say wonderful things about a man who was called to leave this life too early. If anyone had the right to say life isn’t fair, it was him.
He lost both his parents at a young age. He struggled with heart issues much of his adult life, often having to go in for procedures on arteries in his neck. A year or so ago, he was told he had cancer. Through all of these, and other challenges, he held strong to the fact that God was in control. He woke up every morning and said, “Jesus, I love you, I trust you, and I need you.” Wow.
The pictures on the slide show showed a man who loved his family and others. The words of the people who stood to share memories held testament to the same thing. Jake was a man who lived out his faith in love and service to others. When his wife got up to speak, I couldn’t stop the tears that rolled down my cheeks. I would catch a glimpse every once in a while of his kids and my heart hurt for them. And I wanted to scream that it just isn’t fair that they have to face life without their dad.
Death is a horrible thing. It wasn’t what God intended when he created us, but it is what we are dealt because we live in a fallen world. For Jake, death meant healing, freedom from pain and suffering, and an eternity with his Savior. But for those who loved him dearly–for his wife, kids, and other family members–it means loss. Yet, there is hope, for they know some day they will see him again.
Still, it just isn’t fair.
My daughter got married. That was a wonderful event that deserves much celebration. It was also extremely stressful physically. The work and planning that went into the wedding was tiring. There were logistics to work out. Things such as what time should the ceremony be and how long should it last? Who was driving and who was riding with who? How much decorating should be done? How do I decorate the wedding cake so that it doesn’t look like it was the first solo wedding cake I have ever done? Beyond being physically stressful, the event took its toll emotionally. My daughter no longer has the same last name as me. In fact, I addressed an envelope to her yesterday and almost wrote “Sara McMoil” out of habit. It hit me all over again as I wrote her new last name.
I thought when the wedding was over, life would slow down. That didn’t happen, as it seems there is always something to deal with. Sometimes others’ choices cause wounds that were not intended but happen nonetheless. I wanted nothing more than to crawl away to a cave somewhere, find a kitty or two, curl up and cry.
Life doesn’t work that way though.
Instead, I turned to a group of ladies I have never met in person but have come to love and trust. I asked them to please pray for me. I then stayed off of social media as much as I could. I knew there would be certain triggers on those sites that would only add to the emotional stress I was facing. I decided to do some catch up work on a Bible study I had fallen behind in. One of the passages I was to read was in the book of John. I started reading in the tenth chapter. Jesus was talking to his disciples and said, “I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) I had read or heard these words said hundreds of times. I almost glanced over them as too familiar to pay attention to. But, and only the Holy Spirit can cause this, two words jumped off the page and pierced my heart: Good Shepherd. Not just any shepherd but the GOOD SHEPHERD.
My heart melted as I took in the magnitude of what that verse was saying to me in my hurt. Jesus was not just any shepherd. Just “any shepherd” may watch the sheep but does not give the sheep his full attention. Just any shepherd, when he realizes one sheep is not with the flock, might say, “Oh well. It’s just one sheep. There are hundreds more here. One isn’t going to make much of a difference.” But the shepherd who is GOOD, that shepherd will not only notice that a sheep is missing, but he will risk his life to go find it and bring it back with the rest of the flock. That shepherd takes into account the dangers of what is out there and cares about each sheep enough that he desires to safeguard each of them, even if it means he gets hurt in the process.
Jesus is the GOOD SHEPHERD. My Good Shepherd. He isn’t just any shepherd. He sees me among all the other sheep he watches over. He knows where I am–both physically and emotionally. He sees if I have wandered away and he finds me. He sees the hurt and pain caused by the dangers of this world. He gave his life for me. That makes me precious to him. The comfort I found in that realization was real and very much needed at that moment.
I am still feeling the sting of being hurt by others. That is a part of living in a world where sin lives. Because sin is ever present, that is all the more reason for me to stay close to my shepherd. Wandering off will only hurt me. The fold is safe from predators because the shepherd makes sure of it. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
My mindset now? I still am picking up pieces and trying to put them back together. Hurt is real, regardless of whether it is intended or not. I am still not even close to one hundred percent emotionally or physically. I don’t know if I ever will be. That’s the reality of living in a world that is imperfect and in a body that houses a chronic illness.
I know my Good Shepherd sees me though.
My Good Shepherd cares.
My Good Shepherd watches over me. Nothing gets to His flock that isn’t allowed by Him.
He sees my tears.
He hears my cries.
And I am so thankful.
Have you ever had something happen that took your breath away? Something so intense and unexpected that you literally have to remind yourself to breathe? Something that makes you wish you could stop breathing, or at least hide away somewhere for a time?
That happened to me last night. Out of the blue something happened that shook my world.
As I have gotten older, I have realized just how little control I have over life. I used to not think about those kinds of things. I had a task list of things that each day I would attack, regardless of where those tasks might require me to go or what they may require me to do. Now, though, I have seen terrible things happen to wonderful people who never saw anything coming. Loss and sadness permeate the headlines both locally and globally. Just in the past year:
* a local teenager got in a car to go somewhere and didn’t make it to her destination
* a young man with so much life ahead of him was struck by a car and killed while out jogging–something he did everyday
* hundreds have been killed in an uprising overseas
* tornadoes ripped through several areas, including an elementary school where children were killed
* cancer took the life of several young kids I have followed on Caring Bridge
This is not even a tiny tip of the iceberg of pain that has been experienced in this world this past year. With the exception of the young people who died of cancer, none of the families affected could have known what awaited them as the calendar page turned to 2013 just over a year ago. I am left wondering what the pages of 2014 may hold.
If yesterday is any indication of things to come, I would be content to not have to experience the days. Would my presence be missed? Last night I really thought the answer to that was “No”. Today, my head is slightly clearer and I know the answer to that question would be “Yes”.
I just need to remind myself to breathe.
I also need to remember that while I have very little control, I know WHO does have control.
And I need to remember that God can work all things for good.
The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions. Last fall, my daughter’s boyfriend proposed to her. She was so excited to marry her best friend. We were also happy for both of them and were excited to welcome a son-in-law into our family. They originally planned the wedding for May. That gave us about 7 months to prepare. As plans were started, it became apparent that May was not going to work. Sara is not a fan of summer and did not want to have a summer wedding. They decided (in December) to move the wedding to February–the 14th. They both despise Valentine’s Day and figured getting married on that day would be a reason to celebrate. That gave us 6 weeks to pull the wedding together. They made it easier by deciding that the ceremony would be just family, but still, it was a bit stressful getting all the logistics worked out. As you can see by the picture above, the wedding went well and the bride was beautiful–although I may be a bit biased.
All the stress that came with wedding festivities and the emotions of watching my baby girl marry a man and change her name has been more difficult than I imagined. Add to that, the Tuesday after the wedding, I was scheduled to speak at the MOPS group that meets in our community. Public speaking isn’t really my gift and although I was able to get through it without tears, it was emotionally draining sharing those very painful memories. At the same time, I enjoyed the opportunity to share what God did in our marriage and pray that there are similar opportunities in the future.
All of these things have taken a toll on this mom’s heart and health. I was anticipating a reprieve from the stress. Funny thing about life though, there is always something to be stressed about. (And it isn’t really all that funny most of the time) Maybe this just comes with being a mom. I don’t remember being this stressed out when they were little. Tired? Certainly. But not stressed. I’ve thought a lot about this and believe I’ve come up with why that may be. It hit me tonight in a text conversation I was having with my son.
This world is not an easy place. It never has been, of course. When man chose to sin, that action plunged the earth and its inhabitants into an existence that would be characterized by pain, toil, sickness, stress and a host of other negative things. As a mom of young adults, it is even more obvious that this world is fallen. Teaching kids to read and add or subtract was easy compared to watching them figure things out in a world that is not on their side. This evening, all of this stress came crashing down around me. My insides were in knots and shaking at the same time. Tears flowed as I fretted over how things would be worked out for my young adults.
As I sat by myself in an otherwise empty house, I opened my Bible to the familiar and well highlighted book of Psalms. I went to my favorites and read those verses that have been so calming to me in the past.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (46:1)
“In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From His temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.” (18:6)
“I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” (16:2)
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (27:14)
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.” (28:7)
“I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (34:4)
I can’t say that I am smiling and leaping for joy; I still wonder how God is going to work things out for my kids. As I told my son tonight, I know God has a plan. I just wish he’d share it with us. I suppose, though, if God worked that way, we wouldn’t need much faith.
This post may not set well with some.
I’m okay with that.
You may disagree with me.
I’m okay with that as well.
We all look at life through different lenses. Those lenses change as life changes. How I saw something as a child is not, most likely, how I would see the same thing as an adult. Sometimes, lenses change because of life events. For example, when I taught school I was a mom of a baby. One innocent baby. If I were to teach in a classroom again, after raising four kids to young adulthood, I would do things so differently. My lens has changed.
Okay. Enough of the introduction–which wasn’t really an introduction at all but more of a disclaimer.
Last week, our small group tackled the subject of worldliness. As a group of Christian parents, this topic generated some of the best conversation I remember having in small group. It is always enlightening to hear others’ opinions on topics–their definitions and experiences. It is by sharing in such settings that we can learn from one another.
Worldliness has been one of my hot buttons for a while. I was brought up in a pretty conservative home. Cable television didn’t even exist in our town until I was almost in high school and my parents didn’t subscribe to it until I was almost done with high school. Of course, we had no internet and the only game system available at the time was Atari. If you ever played on the Atari system, you know that graphics were not quite advanced at that point. :) Commercials on TV were clean and modest. Yes, we had beer commercials and cigarette commercials, but the actors in them were fully clothed. Victoria’s Secret didn’t exist so it didn’t have scantily clad women parading their assets across the screen of our TV. My parents never hesitated to let us watch whatever they were watching. (Except for a few sitcoms–All in the Family and Maude were among them and those are mild compared to what is watched by families today)
Fast forward to modern day America. Internet allows access to images that couldn’t even be talked about when I was young. Television can seldom be a family viewing event. Even if the show you sit down to watch is okay, the commercials often contain images that many do not want their children (or husbands ) to see. Social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram allow ideas and pictures to be instantly shared.
What does all this have to do with worldliness? In a nutshell, it is interesting to see the progression of what has become acceptable even within the Christian circles. To me, it is also sad. There is little difference between posts and pictures of Christian friends and non-Christian friends. Of course there are exceptions, but, those exceptions are rare as opposed to the norm. I get that parenting and being a young person in this world is difficult. The pressure to fit in is unbelievable and constant.
BUT, is fitting in the ultimate goal?
I do not believe it is.
In fact, if one calls themselves a Christian–a Christ follower–then one should NOT fit in. A Christian should be looked at as different–different because we spend Sunday mornings in church, yes, but it should be more than that.
We should LOOK different than those who do not follow Christ.
We should TALK differently than those who do not follow Christ.
We should listen to different things than those who do not follow Christ.
C.J. Mahaney, in his book titled Worldliness, said it this way: ”The greater our difference from the world, the more true our testimony for Christ–and the more potent our witness against sin. But sadly, today, there’s not much difference. The lines have been blurred.”
For me, I often wish I was born in a different era–one where the lines were not blurred, where Christians weren’t afraid to “not fit in”, where modest dress and clean language made it obvious that one was not like the rest of the world. God chose for me to live in these times, though. I can’t change the world around me. I have a feeling the slippery slope has only just begun. All I can do is live the way God calls me to live and pray–even so, come Lord Jesus.