Like many other people, I’ve been experiencing a number of difficult things happening in my life lately. Most of my life, really. Historically, my response to unexpected, challenging, difficult and painful situations and events is to move right into crisis management mode and start spinning the thoughts around in my head to figure out all the threads of who, what, when, why, where, and how to manage, manipulate, and control things to fix the problem and change the outcome to what I think is desirable. Initially, I tend to seek to engage others in agreeing with me and confirming that I have the correct understanding and solution and that others involved should also agree with my understanding and solution.
Sometimes that works. Frequently it doesn’t. If it does work, it’s only for a short time. Once I realize things/people aren’t going to change according to my will to fit into my plans; frustration/anger, anxiety, hopelessness, depression, and apathy set in and I start “escaping” and comfort-seeking – books, t.v., other people’s issues/problems, impulse spending and food. All of which serve to either make the situation worse faster or just let it worsen, naturally. By that point, I’ve devolved into a self-imposed isolation.
This cycle and pattern of thinking and behaving is so deep and habitual within me, that even as I recognize it – at whichever stage I catch it, I feel like I’m the idiot character in the horror movie who goes down the darkened stairs into the even darker basement, while everyone in the audience is telling her what an idiot she is. Only I’m both the character and the audience. Reaching this point of self-understanding has caused me to face the fact that I am a classic co-dependent and I need to change. Step one: Admit powerlessness over it and the unmanageability of my life. Step two: Believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. Step three: make a decision to turn my will and my life over to God.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” – 1 Peter 2:2-3
I was saved during vacation bible school when I was a little girl at eight, but church attendance and all the spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, and bible study were not ever present in my home, either before or after. There was a lot of emotional disassociation and disconnectedness and my family moved around a lot. At 12, I lost the only parent I knew and went to live with other relatives I barely remembered. It wasn’t until I was about 14 that I was in a position to seek out a church on my own. When I did get there, I was welcomed and cared for, but because I didn’t know how to connect with people and I always felt out of sync and out of place, I didn’t know how to receive the love and care offered by the grown ups in the community and if the kids tried to include or accept me, it wasn’t something I recognized. I expected to be rejected and ridiculed and that was what I perceived was happening. By the time I was 16 everything in my world was falling apart again and I had become the victim in my own life story and was actively seeking a perpetrator without realizing or understanding it.
Throughout the intervening 26 years, God has never stopped chasing me nor has He ever abandoned me, Regardless of the number of times I turned from Him or assumed that I wasn’t important enough, good enough, righteous enough, or willing enough to let go, give up, or turn away from the things that I understood on a fundamental level weren’t good for me, my life and the lives of my children. It became a shameful embarrassment the number of times I was “saved” and/or recommitted myself and my life to God and Jesus. Spinning, circling, cycling and whirling in my life, head, heart, and spirit closer to and connected with the presence of God. Then, turning away because, like Peter, I stopped looking into the face of Christ and focused on the storm and the waves, losing sight of the one who could command the storms of my life and see me safely through each one.
Eight months ago there was another major upheaval in my life and and all the subsequent crises have been like the aftershocks of an earthquake. Throughout it all I’ve been encountering people who reflect God and His love; people who aren’t afraid to hold me accountable, but are able to do so out of a spirit of love, understanding, and acceptance. People who refuse to do for me that which I can do for myself and more importantly refuse to allow me to seek from them that which can only be provided by God…rest, renewal, and restoration.
As a result, I’ve been doing more whirling around in circles, but I’m realizing that’s ok. I am in a dance with the Lord and He is restoring me and renewing with each spin around and step I take.
Yesterday, I visited a church and for the first time heard the song, ” Your latter will be greater.” It took me a minute or two before I grasped what was actually being sung.
Your latter will be greater than your past,
It didn’t make any sense to me. I had real difficulty grasping the meaning. Which is just not acceptable to me. I confess that I have a huge flaw – pride in my intellect and my ability to think, understand, and analyze things. After the service I had an encounter with a couple of people that was so obviously God-ordained, it was unmistakable that He is doing something in my life, and I stopped thinking about that song. Another unavoidable God moment occurred this morning and even though I have recently had to make some painful and difficult choices and have experienced some financial loss and challenging family relationship issues, I showed up at work with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.
Another song came to mind while I was on my way to work, “It is well.” After work I went to You Tube and searched for both of those songs. I read the story behind, “It is well.” According to what I found on You Tube – In 1873, two years after the death of his only son and after the loss of all of his material & real estate holdings in the great Chicago fire, Horatio Spafford wrote the words to the hymn “It is Well with My Soul” after the death of his four daughters. (He wrote it on the ocean while sailing near the spot where his daughters died.)
I also happened across a CNN article about a pastor I had never heard of regarding controversy about his newest, soon to be best selling book, which I had also never heard of: Pastor Rob Bell, from Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, and “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” The article had some interesting points taken from an interview with Pastor Bell, which struck me as significant within the context of my recent experiences.
“At the heart of the Christian story is [the message that] God loves the world and sent his son Jesus to show the world this love. So that’s fundamentally first and foremost the story. God is love and God sent Jesus to show this love.
“For many people the fundamental story was one of escape – Jesus is how you get out of here. I think for many people in the modern world, the way they heard it was fundamentally, ‘This place is bad, and there is some other place, and Jesus – believe, accept, trust, confess, join, get baptized, whatever sort of language got put on it – Jesus is how you get to some other realm where things are good.’
“So essentially it’s a theology of evacuation. And my understanding is the Bible is first and foremost a story of restoration. It’s a story of renewal.”
Then, I understood: The latter part of my life and my experiences, here on earth, from this point forward, continually and continuously moving from the here and now, today, will be greater and better than anything I have experienced up to the present. I am renewed and restored even as I am being renewed and restored.
You latter will be greater than your past,
you will be blessed, more than you could ask.
Despite all that has been done, the best is yet to come
All things are possible,
possible, possible, possible.
““But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”” – Jeremiah 17:7-8