A dear friend, one who possibly understands me best in this world other than my husband, sent me a link to a blog this morning.
Let me just say that if you read my post Tuesday, you probably picked up on the fact I’m working through some frustrations at the moment.
The blog link was to one of those nice sites that are dedicated to focusing on blessings. There will be none of the cacophony of jangling, jarring headlines, no entertaining of conspiracy theories, instead, it has been declared a sanctuary. Nothing wrong with that. God knows we need sanctuaries. I’m not talking about the “Sanctuary Cities” harboring controversial immigrants. I mean we all need safe harbors safe places “to land”. An oasis of calm to just be in sometimes.
It’s the kind of blog everyone loves, that they know will soothe, not stir up. It is a Christian blog, devoted to taking time to dwell on what is good in this life God has given us. That is a principle I believe in. The trick is always in continuing to do that even when the heat of adversity bears down.
It’s the blog that features pictures of the bounty in the garden, the frost-pictures on the window pane, a spontaneous line or two of poetry inspired by these delightful discoveries that can be savored if we only will take the time.
My blog started out that way. The writer is a chronic-pain sufferer. To use imagery from some of my own previous musings: she is the grape,
submitting to the relentless hot sun, so that she may be made sweet and soft, rather than hard and bitter. It is not as easy as it seems, when the reader encounters that sweetness, and marvels at it, they recognize that she has the right attitude, but they don’t know the cost of the “precious oil” of praise she is pouring out. They see it one way, they recognize the intrinsic value, but that’s not the same as knowing the cost.
They appreciative reader can read that and immediately their mind will leap to that “difficult friend” who is always complaining or seems to always be silently brooding. They’ll think that if only the friend would try to take this perspective, she would be better off.
What they don’t know is that the writer of the blog is merely the “difficult friend”, a decade on from now. And they also don’t recognize that both the brooding friend and the blogger might merely be different distances down a road the reader him/herself are about to embark on, or could “but for the grace of God” and a different agenda for him or her, have been traveling him/herself.
When I came to the church we are members in, it was after a protracted period of spiritual warfare in the previous church. In this increasingly apostate age, there are many people who have been wounded in church. At this church, I made the difficult decision once again, to open up to people. I dived in. It was a risk taken with trepidation and cost-counting, but I am not someone willing to settle. I understand that life is seldom as pretty as the wrapping and bows people like to tie around it.
Personally outside of that, I was just finding my sweet place. That place of doing just what the lady (in the blog link my friend sent me), is doing. Yielding to the forces that God uses to perfect our faith. It’s a hard place to get into and real easy to slip back out of, but oh when you are there, it is so good.
And the yokes of performance were put right back on me in the new church. Little by little my joy was stripped entirely away. Did I recognize it? No, not at first. I kept trying to attain to that bar being raised in front of me. My husband didn’t want to go to church anymore, my teen boys were losing interest and certainly if Dad was staying home, it was okay for them to. What is a wife and mom to do? Not nag, that’s for sure! I wasn’t going there!
So here we are five years later, I went out on a limb. I spoke up. God didn’t make my husband the speak up type. His only statement is his silence and his absence, which should say enough.
I am trying to find that sweet place again. I know that my friend who sent the link is trying to help me and I appreciate it. She is right. And she is gentle enough and loves me enough to keep sending little reminders.
And I’m trying. My “pain” of all stripes, is only something my Savior can help me bear. And I am trying to learn how to stay in His rest and His yoke alone, no one else’s. It is an awesome path to walk. And I mean that both in the present day use of that term, and the archaic one that used to be reserved for God.
When our kids were little, and acting out to the degree that a spanking was in order, the spanking served as a retaining wall, of sorts, to set a limit on the infraction. The crying served as a catharsis, whatever anxiety, or irritant, or little burr in the saddle that was driving the bad behavior, would get washed away with the tears. Then there were hugs all around to reassure them that Mom and Dad loved them. We always marveled at how happy and content they were after the spanking. And tears and hugs and reassurances.
See the great thing about being a kid, and having two loving parents in charge over you, is that they are the ones determining and enforcing the parameters. There is a lot of comfort in knowing where the lines are, and having some “help” in staying within them. There is comfort in knowing the Lord won’t let you get too far away from Him even in your own negligence, or lack of mindfulness, or just plain distraction.
What is great about being a kid, we don’t recognize or appreciate when we are a kid. When we grow up, we recognize what we lost, though. Well, here is a little-known secret about being a Christian. I am no Pollyanna, believe me, so listen up! When you are a Christian, you are restored into that child/parent paradigm. Yes, you are an adult, but doesn’t it get wearying having the buck stop with you? Don’t you long for the simplicity of having someone else in charge. I don’t know, maybe a lot of people can’t relate to what I m saying, since being “your own boss” is like the ultimate “virtue”, the epitome of “arrival” by most people’s standards. But I’m hoping there are some readers who will get it.
A little over a year ago I attempted to embark on an effort toward better health. Now, before you get any picture at all in your mind, let me tell you what that means for me, because it’s not going to be that picture in your mind. Fibromyalgia, Narcolepsy with Cataplexy, Ranauds, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Bipolar, significant hearing loss, extreme environmental sensitivities to stimuli (over-sensitive senses). I don’t like making that list. I call it my bouquet of conditions, usually, and leave it at that. Naming them invites speculation, unsolicited sympathy and advice, which generally end up riling up my defenses. I don’t withhold the info out of stoicism, and I don’t share the info out of “bravery” nor in a quest for pity, advice, or commiseration. In fact, I find the whole concept of a “support group” as a well-meant but very flawed one. Support groups either seem to try and make it better with a lot of pie in the sky “rah-rah” kaka, or it’s a bunch of folks rehearsing their woes. I don’t find either approach edifying in the least. If I have managed to get my head screwed on straight, the latter will only fizzle my sparkler, and if I am having a low patch, I don’t need someone coming along and grabbing me by the bootstraps and slapping me around to tell me to get it together. Sometimes you gotta lay there in the ditch where you fell, because you’re tired, dammit. You didn’t jump in to wallow. It’s just where you fell.
So I was doing well when I went for my annual physical, in terms of having made up my mind to lose some weight and be the best fibro-having, narco-cata-polar with numb hands and feet and bad ears, (and fast-failing vision) that I could be at fifty. I lost thirty stinking pounds! With a son graduating high school and joining the Army, even! Made the trip out to Oklahoma, had a blow out with my Mom, still managed to keep taking care of me. Then came winter.
Saw my doctor for this year’s physical the other day. Blood pressure is up. He says, “let’s go ahead and up your Lisinopril to thirty, and then if you decide to start exercising and lose some weight, we can bump it back down.
Don’t mind the blood dripping from that stab wound doc, lets just keep going here.
It was not intentionally spoken in callousness. This is one doctor who actually does know that my case is not simple. But there’s knowing (head) and there’s knowing (from experience) and in the modern age when the body of medical knowledge is as vast as it is, the unfortunate side effect is that we are treated in slivers. There is little room for considering the spirit, emotions, morale.
This winter into spring into, now summer, of just being still and not “trying” all the time to do what others think I need to do, has been a necessity. Sometimes you really have to get away from all the other voices. I needed the rest worse than I needed to make sure my cholesterol is lowered or to make sure my outward appearance is less alarming to people who are going to assume by what they see, that I am not trying hard enough regardless.
I don’t go to the doctors so that I can meet their expectations. I go to them for whatever relief I can get. Healthy people in the healthcare field (and whom else can manage that kind of work but healthy people) can be self-righteous about that sort of thing. I was. I didn’t recognize the fact at the time of course, but you get the knowledge, and you preach it enough, that you eventually get the attitude that “well, I’m here to help you, and dang it all, if you would just cooperate, I could help you, but I can’t do it for you, and you don’t seem to be trying very hard”. How many times did I chide an elderly patient for not taking their blood pressure medicine? Even though I was more conscientious than most people by nature, of the fact that there are always more factors than meet the eye, in most situations.
I was young and healthy. I didn’t understand the other side of the coin.
My friend who sent the link has a nature that will not allow her to remain in a negative focus long. There is an auto default that will reset her after a certain period of brooding over something and if no solution comes, she’s still going to move on and get over it. I think that is great. She had a real rough childhood, and might have developed this for survival, or it may have been something God put into His original design for her.
Personally I can’t stay in the place this lady’s blog depicts. And she makes no claims that is where she dwells all the time either, don’t get me wrong. I’m not judging her, I’m just telling you something about myself.
It gives the impression that she is making a choice to turn lemons into lemonade, and she is, and who doesn’t admire that? But I am willing to bet that after a while, (months, years?:) she will begin to feel like a fraud if that is all she reveals of herself, because though the concept is really good, that bastard named reality doesn’t ever go away.
On the one day she wakes up and can’t muster up this sweet perspective, she will be tempted to fake it, so as not to let her readers down. And the devil will be all over that like spots on a leopard.
So yes, readers respond to the sweetness, they are refreshed, and they are attracted to it like a sweet nectar, but if she shared the other stuff, half of them, (and that’s a low estimate) would go away. They are like the ones who clumped around Jesus and followed him for the show. The miracles and signs and wonders.
It is the Lord who turns our water into wine, and invariably we falter in going to Him. One day you realize your spirit is willing, you still want that sweetness to flow out, but you’re all tapped out. Between the power outage, trying to rescue the groceries in the fridge, the unexpected car repair, the trips to the well get skipped here and there. We can only minister out of our “overflow”, or else we will be giving what we can’t afford to give. There may be some people who have learned that lesson so well that they literally do remain filled, and never make the mistake anymore of skipping “meals” or letting themselves get dehydrated (spiritually) but if they exist, I’ve never met any of them, and I’m definitely not one of them myself!
My personal suspicion is that there are people who like to think they are doing so well because of their faith and because they make a point of being upbeat. But they might learn a different perspective and a little something about themselves they didn’t know, if they were struck with a severely debilitating illness. It is never fun when God shows us how much mold and mildew lingers in the places that don’t see the light of day. The lady who writes the blog is a chronic-pain sufferer. I’m not saying she is fooling herself, or trying to fool anyone else. I am only saying that many if not most of those who partake of her gift, will not know that she is offering the sacrifice of praise. Her benefit is not in being a blessing to others, although she certainly is. Her benefit is in the exercise of praising in the midst of pain and adversity.
So even though my friend was merely giving me a gift by directing me gently to a reminder of a tested and proven spiritual principle at work, I find myself rather than soothed, kind of challenged instead. Not to do what the blogger is doing, because I have done that, and it is not sustainable for me because of the complexities of God’s design in me. My goal is to be able to embrace the entirety of good, bad, and ugly reality and acknowledge the fact of it, and still be able to have the peace and see the good. It’s not that I assume anyone who chooses to make their blog the “place” in their life for choosing thankfulness, is disingenuous in any way. It’s that for me, I have no such compartmentalizing skills. I literally have no internal compartments. (Multiple personalities don’t count, do they? Never mind, lol.) That is normal for me, but I don’t think it is the “norm” for the average person. I get the impression it is sort of rare. It’s not bad or good or abnormal, it just is the way I am.
We have the idea drilled into our heads from every direction, that we are always supposed to be working on being “better” persons. There are all sorts of subjective “scales” for measuring and determining what constitutes “better”, of course. And with all the emphasis on “individuality” there is still this ironic tendency and need for someone to define what is beautiful, what is happiness, what is fullness of life.
I’m not interested in the world’s version. But one has to be careful about embracing their church’s version as well. Or their family’s version. If a person wants to really have peace and tranquility, they need to understand that at root of distress is conflict. Well, good luck in eliminating that from you life, right?
You’ve heard the adage “choose your battles wisely”? For the Christian, God went out of His way to give us a clue in big neon letters when He told us our struggle is not with flesh and blood. But darn if we don’t spend all our life either fighting someone else’s flesh or our own!
Well, back to the subject at hand. What was it? Oh, yes, the blog. A lot of the people who come to that kind of blog, and partake of the sweet savor of her thankfulness and praise, are the very same ones who would get miffed if she shared how bad her pain is one morning, or that she was struggling. People want heroes who are perfect. The minute you show you are flawed well. Nice knowing you! Fun while it lasted.
But then there are the people who have learned that most true beauty and value is forged in refining fires.
One of my favorite gem stones is the opal. Opals in the rough are, like most stones, not all that impressive. They are found in desert climates. When you hold an opal in your hand, the internal flash is enhanced by the body heat coming from your hand.
People are fond of saying “let your inner light shine”. Light is a spectrum. Look at anything under incandescent light, verses full-spectrum artificial light, verses sun light. You’ll see a difference.
So we know we are supposed to return to the well, but one month we have that slew of days when the urgency of the present demands knocks the visits to “the well” off our agenda for a bit. We keep going because we know we have to, and we start to resent people who take for granted that sweetness like it just comes easy or something. We get it up on our own shoulders like it was our own doing to begin with. I’m not good, and I know I am not good. And I understand that folks prefer the sweet stuff, but I sure as shoot’n can’t pretend that the poo on the shoe isn’t a factor too, not even for the benefit of an illusion people are particularly fond of maintaining.
Is there anything wrong with brightening someone else’s day? Of course not! But if it is counterfeit, it’s not doing them any real favors. Hooray for the lady who can have the genuine joy and praise even with the poo-ey shoe, but I ain’t there at the moment, and the lady who is, well, that doesn’t help me get there. My blog was about that when I was there before, and I’m sure I’ll be there again, but the focus on the unpleasant stuff for the sake of stressing what hour we live in, seems pretty important too. So to everything there is a season.
Lessons are learned over and over, (at least that’s how it works for short-bus people like me) and no matter how many years you go through the loop, you better never say “I’ve got it now, I understand” because the Lord will turn around and put you in a completely different “arena” and test the same lesson on you again, and you’ll have failed another time before you even realize it’s the same material you thought you just mastered.
Trying to live the Christian life, I mean, really, really trying to submit to the potter, is a never-ending challenge because no matter what “level” you get to, there are still infinite more levels to go, so there is never a sense of accomplishment for you to rest in. It is what it is, and that’s my brain dump for today.
Aren’t we all just riders on the “short bus” of life?