Can You See Me?

Can you see me? Because I want you to. But, as badly as I want you to see me, I’m terrified that you will; if you see me, then you can reject me. And rejection hurts.

image courtesy of josef.stuefer via flickr

image courtesy of josef.stuefer via flickr

The really crazy part is, if you don’t see me, I still feel rejected. And it still hurts.

I want to be seen, but being seen is scary.

Do you know me? Do you really know me? Maybe more importantly, do you want to know me? Because I want to be known. But, my fear of rejection overshadows that desire, too.

courtesy of istock. Used by permission.

courtesy of istock. Used by permission.

Do you see me now? Because some of the time I don’t want to be seen…not really. Being seen involved being exposed. And being exposed almost always means pain. If you really see me, you will see that I am not perfect. To be seen is to be vulnerable. And vulnerability is very scary.

I think vulnerability is scary for anyone, but it is especially scary for me. You see, growing up someone very close to me told me that once people got to know me, they wouldn’t like me. So, the very thing I longed for, the very thing we’re designed for, became an incredible source of fear and pain. I needed to be seen, but being seen would mean being known, and being known would mean rejection, and rejection means pain.

Yet, to a one who needed to be seen, God has become El Roi…the God who sees.

And what is more precious than to be seen by the very Creator of the Universe? What can be more amazing? Even just thinking about it makes my head spin!! The Creator of the Universe, the One who holds everything together, arguably the most important being in the Universe, sees me. Not only does God see me, He knows me. 

God knows me in ways no human being ever will. He sees not only my appearance, He sees and knows my heart. 

He sees and knows my heart…and He loves me anyway. He loves me so much that He sent Jesus to die for me, to set me free from the pain of sin and death. How incredible is that?! 

I still struggle with fear of rejection. But, as I begin to more clearly understand the depth of God’s love for me, and as I learn to live in light of His love instead of in fear of man’s rejection, the sweetness of the fellowship is beyond description. And it is anything but painful.

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Guaranteed Outcomes?

I wish life had guaranteed outcomes. I really do.

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

I wish that it worked like a vending machine; you put a certain number of coins in, you make your selection, and tada…whatever you want comes out of the little slot.

 

 

 

Or you go to the coffee shop and give them money and they give you a cup of joy with foamy creaminess.

Photo courtesy of Marchauna Rodgers. All rights reserved.

Photo courtesy of Marchauna Rodgers. All rights reserved.

Unfortunately, life does not have guaranteed outcomes. You can invest your entire life in something, only to have it collapse into a heap before your eyes. You can invest your life’s savings into a “guaranteed” investment opportunity, and watch your future disappear in moments. You can make “all the right choices” and still deal with negative consequences, through no fault of your own.

That can be especially true in parenting.

Parenting, it turns out, is much like a crap shoot. You can make your choices, but you really don’t know what the outcome will be for a very long time. And even if you do all the things that “experts” recommend, you can’t guarantee outcomes, especially as children get older. It isn’t like when they are young and you can control all the details of their environment. In the end, control shouldn’t be the goal anyway. Having worked with college students professionally and raising a few of my own, over-controlled home environments leave children weak and unprepared for the real world when they leave home, and be assured…they will leave.

But, it still seems like we should have some guarantees…some sort assured return on our investment, especially when we try so hard to be faithful. And when you don’t get the outcome you expected, prayed for, worked towards, and invested in, it is very disappointing. Such has been my reality lately. God and I have had many a serious conversation on this issue, usually involving tears, and a great deal of meditation on what the Bible says about parenting.

And what the Bible says about parents.

Which led me to Daniel.

In the opening verses of Daniel, we find out that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were all taken to Babylon after Judah fell.

What I find intriguing about Daniel and Co. is that in a generation so corrupt and disobedient that God sent them into captivity, these four young men were different…very different. They were so in love with the Law and the Law Giver that they resisted the peer pressure and indoctrination of the Babylonian Empire, remaining true to God and His ways through out their lives; Daniel for more than seventy years.

That didn’t happen by accident.

It happened because their parents did a fantastic job raising them

in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

We can tell by the outcome that these parents did a good job, in the midst of a perverse generation where so many others failed.

Judging by the results, these parents did everything right. And I am very confident watching their boys be carted away by the lawless, heathen Babylonians was not the outcome they’d expected. And they probably never knew what the real outcome was. If they were anything like me, they struggled with what God allowed to happen.

On further reflection, though, I’m struck with the reality that God loves our children more than we do. Indeed, Jeremiah 29:11 is just as true for them as it is for me…God knows the plans He has for my children, and His plans are for good, not harm…for them or for me.

Romans 8:28 & 29 talk about God’s plans as well. He promises to use everything in our lives to make us more like Jesus.

That is absolutely the outcome I desire for my children…what more could I want for them than to be more like Jesus.

I am beginning to learn, however, that it won’t look like I want it to; it won’t be the neat, tidy package all wrapped up with a bow like I planned. My children will experience heartache and disappointment. My children will make poor choices and suffer consequences…consequences I would try to protect them from. But, in my desire to protect them from pain, I might also prevent them from truly knowing God, from being able to find comfort in Him. After all, when do we get to know God the most intimately?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Through pain.

We can’t get to know God as Healer until we need to be healed.

We can’t get to know God as our Strong Tower until we need some place to hide.

We can’t get to know God as Comforter until we need to be comforted.

It is in those moments, when we most need Him, that God helps us understand His love in a way ease and comfort never will.

Suffering can build intimacy and faith.

Suffering can develop trust and confidence.

This has been true in my life. And as painful as the process may be, it is what I pray will be true for my children…

intimacy with God…a deep abiding confidence in His character, regardless of circumstances.

As I walk a broken road with children whose hearts I can no longer protect, the One who has so faithfully carried me is proving that He can also carry them. It doesn’t get much better than that.

A Cord of Three Strands

I’m studying in Colorado right now, investing time in theological development classes for Cru. And I’m on my own; my family is still in Spokane. That is by design; it is easier to study and work on projects or assignments without the pitter-patter of little feet.

It is also the first time in my adult life that I’m on my own. Even before I got married, I lived with roommates or at home. I’ve never had space all to myself, even temporarily. It’s actually been very nice, too, for the most part. As the mother of many, I am surrounded by noise. It’s okay; noisy children are generally much healthier than quiet children…I’ll take the noise any day. But constant noise wears you down. Sometimes it is nice to sit in silence. It is also nice to be the only one making messes; it is so much easier to keep things tidy that way. Or to leave a mess out with no fear that it will be disturbed; very convenient when working on major projects over a period of several days. Cooking is easier, food lasts longer, laundry is quick and simple. In so many ways, living by myself is easier than living in a full house.

But, easier isn’t always better.

Since I’ve been in Colorado, I’ve been sick twice. Once wasn’t so bad; I kind of knew how to manage. The other was all sorts of awful. Fever, body aches, tummy troubles, exhaustion…the whole nine yards. And I was all alone…nobody was around refill my water cup or to re-wet the cool cloth I was putting on my head. Nobody to make me a smoothie or heat soup or wash the dishes while I was down. A whole day went by where I didn’t eat and hardly got out of bed. I was sick!

That experience drove home a lesson Solomon wrote about a long time ago. Ecclesiastes 4 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Generally I associate this with marriage. Indeed, that is the context in which I have heard it mentioned most often. And the idea that the Holy Spirit is the third part of the aforementioned cord is great for illustrating the strength available to Christian couples who rely on the Spirit in their relationship. But I think that oversimplifies and misses the point of what Solomon is saying, mostly because he isn’t talking about marriage in this passage. He is talking about community.

We use the word “community” quite loosely in our culture. We have community centers, we try to foster “community” while mourning its loss, both inside and outside the Church. We are more connected digitally connected

"Global Network Devices" Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Global Network Devices” Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

than ever in history, and more lonely than ever as well. I don’t think we are really experiencing the biblical idea of community, at least not as a general culture. And that is sad.

The reality is, we are all need community and fellowship. We are all on the verge of falling down or needing help to get back up, but in so many ways we’re traveling in isolation, afraid to let anyone know our weakness or potential for falling. And we are worse off because of it.

I don’t have any wonderful solutions. Just the realization that community is a good thing and I want more of it. I am also equally aware that community isn’t instant, easy, or problem-free. Sometimes the people in our community contribute to our falls. Sometimes we contribute to theirs. Community is messy. And often painful. It is the opposite of easy. But in the end, it is so worthwhile. And the fruit of walking with people, through brokenness and failure, through pushing and being pushed, through helping people back on their feet and being helped…the fruit of walking in humility and brokenness with others is the treasure of community…of being truly “known” and knowing others.

photo courtesy of Marchauna Rodgers, all rights reserved

photo courtesy of Marchauna Rodgers, all rights reserved

That is a treasure that can not be replaced by digital devices, meet ups, or sterile community centers. That treasure can only be found in the hard work and muck of walking through life together…falling down and getting back up…in true community.

What do you value about community?

What do you fear?

How do those realities affect your choices on a daily basis, and what do you want to do about it?

 

Disappointment and Success

My three oldest daughters applied to staff a leadership camp we’ve been involved with for the last six years.

They were turned down.

I’m disappointed.

But, as we’ve contemplated why they might have been turned down, I’ve been reminded again of what is true. Acceptance and success aren’t always based on character. Sometimes people are considered successful because they have a lot of money. Or because they have nice things. Or because they are friendly and popular. Or because they are friends with the right people. Sometimes, the gems get missed because they aren’t obvious to the casual observer.

God knows.

He knew what Israel would be looking for in a king. Someone who looked the part; tall, handsome, energetic, winsome (at least in some ways). He also knew what lay behind those good looks and winsome personality; a man without character. A man who would be led astray by the influence of popular opinion and who’s confidence was in himself rather than where it belonged. God knew, when He sent Samuel to anoint the king, what the journey would be. He knew.

God also knew what kind of king Israel really needed, even though that future king was only a shepherd, and a kind of scrawny one at that. God told Samuel, in 1 Samuel 16:7, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees…man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” NASB.

God said David was a man after His own heart, and he proved to be a good king. Actually, he was one of Israel’s best. And God promised he would always have a descendent sitting on the throne of Israel.

Even Jesus wasn’t that impressive, as far as world leaders go. He never owned a home, never led an army. Before He died, He lost all of His followers! And if you want to talk about impressive, you won’t be listing any of His disciples in that bunch. A rag-tag bunch of social misfits, they were anything but impressive. Yet, Jesus knew what lay in their hearts; He knew their unrecognized, untapped potential. And He used them to change the world! He knew that what mattered wasn’t what people could see. What really mattered was what people couldn’t.

Obviously, I’m a little biased about my children, and I am so proud of the young women they are becoming. I think the organization that rejected them was wrong. I also know that if my girls had needed the experience of serving with this organization, God would have worked it out. They didn’t, so He didn’t.

Instead, God is giving my precious, beautiful, amazing daughters (like I said, I’m a little biased) an opportunity to learn about disappointment, in the comfort and security of a loving home. It is an opportunity for them to “keep their crowns on”  no matter what the world tries to do, and to begin learning the definition of true success.

Bringing Beauty Out of Ashes

Lately I’ve been contemplating the passage in Isaiah 61 where God describes bringing beauty out of ashes. Not sure how I got started reading that chapter, or what prompted the memory, but as I contemplate those precious words, God is helping me recognize how He is at work, fulfilling that promise, all around me.

The first example is my dad. He served in Vietnam in the 60s, before meeting my mother. His tour of duty included convoy escorts, MP duty, and sitting behind a machine gun on a helicopter. He saw hundreds of buddies die during his months in country, and came home with a ticking time bomb in his mind. Almost twenty years later, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder reared its ugly head. At the time, few people (including my father) understood what was going on. Over the next several years, he suffered the loss of a very successful job, my childhood home, most of his friends, and almost all of his self esteem. It was only by the grace of God that my dad didn’t end his life, an option he contemplated on multiple occasions. 

Fast forward many years, to 2010, when my father attended a Bridges-to-Healing conference in Washington State. Not only did he hear about a biblical response to PTSD, but his survival and defiance of the odds was celebrated by the Cru Military staff sponsoring the event. That experience changed my father’s life. And, when the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall came to our city, my father not only visited (with all of us in tow), but he was able to do so in peace. Image

 

My father’s healing is complete, and God is bringing beauty out of the ashes of his suffering by giving him the opportunity to invest in the lives of other combat veterans who are still suffering the affects of their service to our country. He is actually a member of the Men’s Ministry team at his church, where they are launching a Bridges-to-Healing movement in November, just before Veteran’s Day.

God is also bringing beauty out of the ashes of my mother’s heartache. Not only has she stayed married to a combat veteran suffering with PTSD, but she has suffered the loss of a child; my sister died from complications related to Diabetes ten years ago. This spring, a woman who lost her daughter to pneumonia sought my mother out, for comfort and help in dealing with such a devastating loss. They’ve been meeting regularly to process the agony only a grieving parent can feel. God is bringing beauty out of ashes. Another mother may be joining them in coming weeks; her daughter was tragically killed in a car accident. She was only 15.

My eighteen year old daughter is struggling to trust God will bring beauty out of the ashes of her dashed hopes and dreams. Since childhood, my daughter has dreamed of entering the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress. Thanks to some very generous gifts, we were able to book two flights to Washington D.C. We got home the day before the House caved in on the budget and debt ceiling. My daughter spent a week in the nation’s capitol while everything was shut down (we bought non-refundable tickets, and didn’t get insurance) and missed seeing the Library of Congress by one day. It was heartbreaking; she spent part of one whole day fighting tears. I was sick to my stomach.

Sometimes we don’t know what God will do with the ashes of our hopes and dreams. We can’t see how He will bring beauty out of something so ugly and broken. Yet, in His own way, He always does. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. But we often forget to include Romans 8:29. That verse says that those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (italics added). Ultimately, no matter what else happens, followers of Jesus can count on God bringing beauty out of ashes, and whatever happens being used to make us more like Jesus. That, all by itself, is beautiful.