To the Bitter Before the Sweet

I pride myself in not holding grudges.

I don’t think it’s anything necessarily spiritual so much as a personality type that dislikes confrontation and would rather just let things slide like water on a duck’s back.

My mistake is often equating “not holding grudges” with “forgiveness”.

And I do believe that when I think I’m a-OK in something  (in this case, forgiveness; in other cases, trust in God), God takes no time to show me two things:

  1. I’m really not good at that something.
  2. Even if I am “good at something”, it’s not to my credit.

He’s used Lyme. He’s used moving to No-Jobs-Ever-Ville, PA and No-Money-No-More, OH. He’s used infertility.

Now He’s using you.

A deep-feeling, passionate human being who, perhaps unknowingly, broke my heart and wrecked my soul on the beaches of “Disillusionment about the Church”.

I’m learning forgiveness is not simply “de-friending” you on social media and forgetting we ever met.

I’m learning forgiveness isn’t conjured up through biblical counseling with mentors or a feeling of camaraderie with others you may have hurt.

I’m learning forgiveness isn’t fast and easy and doesn’t always stir up sweet emotions or warm fuzzies.

I’m learning forgiveness doesn’t immediately follow my ability to “see both sides” or “understand where you’re coming from”.

Because I did de-friend you. With full acknowledgment of how childish it may sound, I couldn’t see you on my news feed without instant bitterness.

Because I have sought counsel, biblical counsel, which is something you refused to give me.

Because I tried to brush my hands off and claim it was all forgiven. Really, though, I just was tired of thinking about you. About our imagined relationship. About the whole thing.

Because I do see your side. Or I’ve tried to see your side. Have you tried to see mine?

All this has shown me how far I am from forgiving you.

And this bothers me.

As proud as I am of my parents for raising me as a skeptic, I’m not entirely proud of the ungracious turd I turned out to be. My natural reaction is to bring down the hammer, or to write you off completely.

But that’s not God. And that’s not me, not the me with Jesus.

I definitely don’t like the bitter floods that well up on the off-chance that I think about you. About the clear message you gave me when you never contacted me again.

There’s an unforgiving side of me that prickles at the hurt. It heats my soul, my heart like rug-burn. I want to call you, to email you, to tell you just how much it hurts.

And then there’s the new, saved, Jesus-owned side of me that just wants to forgive you and move on. To someday think of you and pray more willingly for you and your family.

I truly want this.

I’m on my way, but I haven’t arrived. The burn is too tender still. I can’t  see you as the believer I know Jesus graciously made you to be.

Pray for me, however unwillingly, because I, however unwillingly,  pray for you.

 

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Understanding Jonah

Jonah was a ridiculous man.

Granted, he was an appointed prophet of God. He, most likely, was a true believer in God. He demonstrates God’s incomprehensible desire to work miracles through sinful human beings.

But he was ridiculous.

Remember when he not only ran from God — an impossible feat — but stormed furiously out of a town that God graciously, mercifully, wonderfully, amazingly transformed from evil, wicked, hell-bound sinners to joyous, repentant, humble, redeemed sinners?

Remember when Jonah was so eager for Nineveh’s demise that he set up camp a little ways off and waited for the sonic boom?

Remember when, even though he was being the most smug little brat ever, God promptly, in His sovereignty, grew a plant to shade Jonah’s head from sun and wind burn?

Remember when he was exceedingly happy about the plant?

Remember when God sent a little bug to eat said plant and destroy it, and then conducted the wind to blow it away, shooing all of Jonah’s makeshift shelter and temporary happiness away with it?

Remember when Jonah threw a legitimate tantrum, wailing that it was better for him to die than endure such horrible circumstances?

And God simply reprimanded Jonah’s ridiculousness, reminding him of His greatness and His grace, a note on which Jonah decides to end his brief account.

How silly, we smirk. What a fickle, ridiculous human. Is he even a believer? He couldn’t be… how on earth could a true believer behave like that to the God of the universe, the absolute Sovereign God? I wouldn’t dare…

My fellow Christians. I have been such a Jonah.

God calls me to a life I never expected, a life for which I hadn’t planned.

I didn’t dream of being infertile when Mister and I were dating.

I didn’t anticipate searching for property in Pennsylvania while moving to Youngstown for the mission of the gospel.

I didn’t craft and complete my education around the possibility of never being able to work in technical writing again.

And perhaps, at the time, I was a little bitter about it. But the women on my mother’s mother’s side of the family carry a similar trait: stoicism. We glance sideways at incoming emotions and make the quick decision to absorb them and deal with them later.

Ain’t nobody got time for emotions.

So I ran the opposite direction. Because to face the situation head-on would be to acknowledge and praise God’s goodness and grace.

I went about my business obediently, as Jonah did in chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3. I figured the cheerful attitude would follow eventually.

But first, the bitter tears and tantrums.

Perhaps I held out hope that ignoring the revelations in my life would rewind the clock or magically reverse the effects. Perhaps, if I just ignored the fact that I’m not getting what I want, I’ll get what I want in the end. Perhaps it’s just a test. Perhaps, actually, this month I’ll get pregnant. Perhaps, then, we won’t have to leave this house. Perhaps, this interview will turn into a technical writing job. Perhaps all the problems would go up in flames, like Jonah hoped Nineveh would.

But no. This month was just a fluke in the cycle, probably a product of stress. This house is still 4 bedrooms too big for two people and in a city without a church plant. This interview makes no difference at all because the office closed two days afterwards.

Perhaps the weight of putting all my hope in temporary thises is what shoved me face-first into mud and dragged me along by my ankles. But, for several days, to my own dismay, I heard my soul’s clamor harmonize with Jonah:

When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”

Ridiculous.

And, until last night, I didn’t realize just how ridiculous.

Because last night, God asked me through my study of Jonah 4, “Do you have reason to be angry?”

Do you have reason to be angry about not having children?

Do you have reason to be angry about leaving this beautiful home?

Do you have reason to be angry about my dispersing your Youngstown church family?

Do you have reason to be angry about not having a job for which you studied and want so desperately?

Do you have reason to be angry about all your plans, hopes, dreams falling through at My almighty hand?

Do you have reason to be angry for losing the temporary “blessings” of this world in light of My goodness, in which you live, and My grace, by which you are saved?

No, I do not.

What a gracious God I serve. Praise the Lord who patiently deals with all of His Jonahs in love and mercy.

Grace is Not

Grace is not bought.

No amount of good works can buy me a spot in God’s Kingdom. No number of indulgences I buy from the church can guarantee me quicker admittance into Heaven. No measure of good thoughts or empty prayers or claims of goodness can ensure me a soul saved from the eternal wrath of God and a fiery berth in hell.

What horror this is for the rebel non-Christian, the unbelieving soul!

What comfort this is for the weary Christian, the believing soul!

But, my friends, grace is not an excuse.

No amount of hemming and hawing about my sin can stall God-sent consequences. No amount of shrugging and the admittance of my sin can ease God’s jealous and perfect nature. No amount of “I just struggle with [anger, pride, slothfulness, foolishness, vanity, untruthfulness, slander]; this is my life right now” can keep me from apostasy.

What startling and harrowing truth for the saved sinner! Grace has washed me clean, but does that mean I take advantage of it? Paul writes:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1-2

Many Christians today scoff at the Puritans, accusing them of legalism and harshness. And, for the most part, the accusations are true. A majority found security in legalism, finding it easier to follow strict morals than to examine their heart. But the Puritans had one thing right:

Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? You  must always be at it while you live; do not take a day off from this work always be killing sin or it will be killing you.

John Owen, The Mortification of Sin

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.

Colossians 3:5-8

I have been saved, yes, by grace alone, but man’s free will still abides. God no longer condemns me under His Law, now that I am clothed in Christ’s righteousness. But I am commanded to compare my conduct with Christ’s, who followed the Law perfectly. I am called, as a believer, to align my desires with His.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:12-14

Would He want me to prefer the comfort of simply glancing sideways at my sin, instead of facing it headlong and mortifying it with constant study of God’s word and prayer?

Would He expect me to claim grace when pride refuses to acknowledge sin, sin that has made a nest in my heart?

Would He shrug with me at my besetting sins, falling back on God’s grace as if it was a “Get Out of Jail Free” card?

No. He desires me to don His armor and daily plunge into the fight against sin.

Lord, let my soul never rest in mortifying my sin. Let my focus never stray from Your beautiful sacrifice, and let it be my motivation to live a pure, holy life for You, killing my sin with Your sword, wearing Your righteous breastplate, trusting in Your saving helmet, and girding my feet with Your truthful shoes. Your grace has saved me, can it be? Let me not give the world foothold to call Your work in me mere vanity.

Remember…?

Remember that one time you were doing crunches or something on the floor of the apartment? And I wanted to cross the room to the futon? But you were in the way? And I ended up falling butt-first on your face?

Remember when you dragged me out of bed to watch the NASA satellite lauch? From our balcony? And the earth shook?

Remember when I walked down the aisle at your wedding? I was flower girl? And I was trying so hard to walk in a straight line for you that I ruined all the pictures by staring fiercely at the floor?

Remember when I got in trouble by making a friend’s dog poop on the carpet? Because I decided to bark at it and chase it around the dining room table?

Remember when you told me I was going to have a dad?

Remember when we moved to Pittsburgh? And it was my first time seeing snow and your first time as a housewife?

Remember when I used to tape random fabric around my feet? And act like some fancy snoot with pursed lips?

Remember when you didn’t tell me to go stand under the tree?

Remember “Crocodile Rock”? And “Rubber Ducky”? And “My Girl”?

Remember when you taught me how to type properly? When I was six?

Remember when you’d grade my high school papers? And they’d bleed red?

Remember when you edited my cover letter last week? And it bled red?

Remember?

I do.

I love you, Mom.

Happy (belated) birthday.

Long-Time-Coming Check In

Well. So much to explain, and not in one blog post. I figure a good ol’ check in is a good start.

Today is: July 30

Outside is: Delightful. No humidity compared to yesterday, and a nice breeze!

I can smell: Homemade lemongrass and orange oil candles… mm. And the woods outside.

For dinner: We had hamburgers on the grill! After I set the first batch on fire. Not because I can’t grill. I promise.

Thinking about:

  • How long it’s been on this old thing.
  • How much I need to write. Because I’m a writer. And writing is how writers process life.
  • How much I love our new house. Oh yeah. We moved. Into a real house. That we own. Adventures! I love it, despite the fact it’s almost 100 years old and has wallpaper glue from at least two layers stuck on the plaster and needed 70’s carpet removed. I love it.
  • What God has been teaching me, what He is currently teaching me, and what He will probably teach me in the future.
  • I love living with my cousin-love.

Projects I am working on: Finding a second part-time job. Fixing up our house. Being a wife.

Mood today: Unsettled.

What I am reading: On the last chapter of Mortification of Sin by John Owen. Next, I think: Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges.

What I am watching: Rewatching an old, childhood favorite, Dangerous Journey. And, of course, British crime shows.

Pictures to Share: Collection from the past few months:

#tallgirlproblems

Dear world,

No, I don’t play basketball. No, I wouldn’t be a natural. Just ask the person who wore my arm like a scarf last time I tried to play. Yes, I know I’m a waste of height, thank you.

The air is perfect up here. Thanks for asking.

Please save the tall guys for us.

Yes, you may turn to me in an emergency. Years of being a foot taller than everyone else has prepared me for being the human lighthouse.

I don’t like small dogs because I will step on them.

Sure, I’ll get that off the top shelf for you.

You should probably dust the top of your fridge. Just sayin’.

I prefer walking on the street-side of the sidewalk. I don’t want to clothesline myself with a tree branch.

Don’t joke about decapitation. It’s an actual risk for me.

I only look thinner because I’m elongated.

I didn’t mean to stick my chest in your face… you just didn’t give me time to duck down for the hug.

Must be nice to order jeans and long-sleeved shirts online.

Must be nice to have full-length jeans at your fingertips.

Thanks, but these aren’t cropped jeans. I’m just too tall.

I’d love to buy the women’s size of this hoodie, but the sleeves are too short. So I’ll buy the men’s size and look like I’m a potato in a potato sack. At least I’ll have long enough sleeves!

Why do people with small feet get all the cute shoes? And get them on clearance, to boot?

Oh, I’m fine, I just smacked my head on this shelf/doorpost/cupboard. Happens all the time.

Wow, my feet aren’t touching the floor in this chair! I’m going to sit here for the rest of the day.

I can’t remember a time when I was under 100 lbs. Height = more weight, my friend.

No, I didn’t grow.

Yes, I own heels.

I can see you checking my feet to see if I’m really this tall or just wearing heels. And yes, I’m really this tall. And who goes to Wal-Mart in heels?

No, I don’t want to play in the WNBA. And no, you can’t be my agent, creepy man at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Yes, I love being tall. But, to make you feel better, I’m going to tell you it has its disadvantages.

Much love,

Tall girls

IMG_20141106_113332

P.S.: There are no disadvantages.

Thursday Briefing

Today is: October 16

Outside is: Glum, but a pleasant temperature.

I can smell: My coffee and the donuts I brought back for breakfast.

For dinner: Cajun Chicken Pasta… mmmm!

Thinking about: As usual, everything.

  • So glad my brother is here.
  • Happy to provide a home for Tom’s friends on their fall break.
  • God’s will for my life right now.
  • I shouldn’t have eaten three donuts.
  • Mister is making me more and more of an introvert.
  • Thrilled to see my favorite cousin this Saturday!
  • Man, I forgot how late college kids can stay up and sleep in.

Project I am working on: Me… God is working.

Mood today: Ruffled.

What I am reading: What Did You Expect?, Paul David Tripp. Oh wow. Cuts to the quick.

What I am watching: The Blacklist and Gilmore Girls (Netflix!).

Picture to Share: My family from Sept. 27.