Something Is Changing

I wrote this 10 months ago; it’s still true, so I’ll finally post it.

I don’t think a person can go through life without changing. That’s a generally agreed upon statement. Over time, people change. We change their opinions on things, our tastebuds change, we understand ourselves better and act differently than before, now needing not so much to please people but to be ourselves. This gradual change is pretty normal. But watching the one person who gave her life for my happiness, physically deteriorate; this creates a pretty drastic and relatively quick change.

I’ve had questions about my faith all my life; that’s pretty normal and I assumed that as life went on, I’d figure things out at a steady gradual pace. But now, I need answers; I need answers immediately. I don’t need someone’s theology, someone’s opinion on Jesus, someone’s thoughts and speculations about what Jesus might say or do in any particular situation. I need to know. Gone are the days where I blindly follow rules and regulations. Gone are the days where I stagnantly, thoughtlessly obey what people tell me I’m supposed to do or not do, say or not say. Why did Jesus come in the first place? To bring more rules for us to obey? Don’t dance like that, don’t say that, don’t be with that person, sit up straight, smile and say ‘thank you’. Because if this is what He’s about, I’m out.

Here’s what I’ve been learning through the people closest to me and here’s what’s changing me:

We were created free to eat from any tree in the garden, and there was an option to eat from the tree of life or from another tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil (the knowledge of right and wrong), though they were advised against it. (Gen. 2:16-17) You know the story, we ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil which led us straight into death; you know this actually meant not physical death but rather a life in bondage to the law. In other words, death. So Jesus came, died and resurrected in order to bring back back the option of choosing Life. But it seems to me, we’ve forgotten that the law brings death. It always has, and it always will.

I can choose to live under the law (continuing to eat from the tree of knowledge of good/evil); or I can choose Life. I have a choice. And it’s realizing that I have a choice, that’s changing my world. I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to do, because I’m supposed to do it, not because I felt like I had an option but because it was ‘right’. Even making all of those ‘right’ choices can land you in chains and bondage just as easily as making the ‘wrong’ choices can. When the focus is on the law, it doesn’t matter which side of the law you end up on, it’s still bondage.

So what does this have to do with my mother? Why is this changing me now? Frankly, because I don’t care about doing what’s right, just to do what’s right anymore. It’s a sick game and I want to quit. If life if just about making the best choices and still there’s a chance you’ll get screwed, then I don’t want a part of it. It’s maniacal. But if life is really more about a relationship, and freedom to make choices based on that relationship, then I’m more interested in that. If my life is based on doing all the right things all the time, then I’m becoming my own judge of what think I deserve. I obviously am looking to gain something from all that hard work. But if I can still get sick and die of some random disease after doing all this work to make sure I’m ‘good’, then what’s the point? Unfortunately, the further into the law you go, and the better and better you become at it, the more miserable, judgmental and graceless you become.

If I can get out of the world of judgmental legalism, then I’m more interested in finding what this Life really has to offer. If there is really a God who cares about me as an individual and about my issues and cares about things that I care about, then I’m far more interested in Him than the god that is after behavior modification. If this Life is really an emotional being who is hurting because I’m hurting and isn’t tallying up my good points verses my bad ones, then I need Him, ’cause I’m not sure how to handle all these emotions and I need someone to carry me. (but not in the way that annoying poem goes…you know, the one about the steps in the sand and Jesus carrying me)

Here’s what changed my world: Confessing sin to my closest friends and they sat there and listened and said, ‘I’m so sorry you’re hurting’. No judgements were cast, they didn’t throw in the towel and say, ‘Well, you’re headed straight for hell!’ And it was then that I realized 1) I want this Life and it’s worth fighting and wrestling for and 2) more people need to experience this type of Life; cause once you taste this Life/grace everyone talks about but very few show it, it will change you forever.

The game of legalism/law abiding seems so appealing. But it’s low hanging fruit that’s really just rotten and dead; and frankly offers no hope to those who are really hurting and need Life so desperately.

Trials

Life has changed so much in a year. It went from normal everyday life and problems to crisis mode. I have felt every emotion from desperation, depression, anger, denial, panic and FEAR to peace, assurance and HOPE. Every day has it’s own trials. I’m having more bad days than good ones. Losing pieces of mom everyday is the worst torture I can imagine. The thought that this is only going to get worse as this disease progresses brings horrific nightmares. The Lord has graced me with gifts of peace that have lasted weeks at a time. I’ve felt hope and love from the Lord when things around me have crumbled into ashes.

Sometimes I think, ‘If one more person asks me how Mom is doing, I think I’ll explode.’ Then within moments I think, ‘I need people to feel the pain I feel so that they will know the kind of pain I’m in.’ I want to talk about it, and then halfway through talking, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Depression hovers over me like a cloud, ready to encapsulate me at any moment waiting for me to just say the word…or rather, draw the curtain and crawl back into bed. I have to remember that better days will come. Grief is a strange thing. One day life seems unbearable, and the next I’m ready to clean my room and take on a project.

Today as I sat listening to the Lord, He revealed some things to me. He reminded me that the Psalmists were very much aware of their adversaries surrounding them. They didn’t turn a blind eye to their surroundings or impending doom and pretend everything was fine. They didn’t respond to these trials and tritely say, ‘The Lord is just so good all the time.’ They accepted and acknowledged the reality of their devastating circumstances; but they didn’t stay there. They looked to the Lord for protection, for hope and guidance. Paul was imprisoned but found contentment. He didn’t ignore the fact that he was persecuted. He didn’t live in denial that he was unjustly treated. He acknowledged his circumstances but looked to the Lord.

No one can solve the problem of ALS or of losing my mother. Everyone says that they wish they could; but not even the doctors know how to fix it. This is unjust; it’s not right what is happening to my mother and to my family. But the truth is, is that if I’m looking for someone to feel the pain I feel so that I can be comforted, it’s the Lord. Didn’t He have to watch His SON be tortured, humiliated, nailed to a cross and then take on the sins of humanity? Is there be anyone else who could relate to me like He can?

But I can’t stop there. This is a trial, albeit the worst in my life to date, but this is one of the many trials I will face as I walk through this broken, sin-filled world. If my focus is ALS, broken relationships, death or sin, then I’ll be overwhelmed. Like Peter, I will sink into the ocean, though Jesus is standing right there waiting for me to look to Him, to make Him my focus. My life could easily turn into an excuse to become a victim. But the Lord doesn’t want that for me. He doesn’t want me to have pain either, but this world is broken; so it’s not escapable. But because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we don’t have to live bound to our pains and hurts and depression. No, we’re not going to leave this world unscathed. We are all affected by this broken world. We all have ways of coping with it, some good and some not so good. Regardless, the Lord’s way is for us to be able to acknowledge this pain, but look to Him as our Savior and trust that He is good and His plan is for us and only He has the ability to heal this pain.

Though this pain is unmatched in my life, though a little piece of me seems to die every day, the Lord gives me glimpses of the things he has been able to accomplish through this trial. He really is using it for good. He hates this pain even more than I do. He hurts more than I do. So everyday I have to remember to trust that He is in control. When I break down and weep, that’s ok. Sin is a horrible thing and it’s not fair that it has touched me like this. It should make me weep. But sometimes, in the midst of weeping, He reminds me of the good that He’s able to do. As I sit with my roommates and we wept together (I’m talking, ugly cry) we were still able to laugh and thank the Lord for His many blessings.

I have to get into the habit of responding to trials and suffering with praise and focusing on the One who cares, who is in control and has the power to heal broken hearts.

 

It’s September?

August is a blur. I have a few memories of August. Morgan had a birthday, Susie got engaged, my grandpa passed away, I bought Chinese for family dinner on my way into RVA, there was food on my shelf in my refrigerator that I didn’t put there, and I did a lot of driving. A lot of driving. I’m getting Midlothian Turnpike confused with 29 North. It’s odd living in two cities. I spend the night in Richmond on Sunday nights and make it into work in Cville on Monday at 1. Then I go back to RVA Wednesday night and back to Cville for work at 1 on Thursday. That’s a lot of I-64. And gas. And coffee. Not only is August long gone, but we’re almost halfway through September. Oh brother.

To say that I have questions is a far cry from reality. I feel like I wander this earth with only questions. This idea of taking every thought captive is almost a joke. How do I fight against the thoughts of death? A friend asked if mom was saved. Thank God she is. He said, “well I know it feels like it doesn’t help, yet, it kinda helps. Ya know?” He’s right. It doesn’t help take away the pain when I watch, helplessly, as she chokes on the yogurt she’s eating. It doesn’t help when she looks at me and begs me to not force her to eat anymore even though she’s lost 20 pounds in a month. But it does help. It softens the blow. But there’s still a blow.

Mom reserves her words these days. She communicates with pointing, with her eyes and with breathless words. But when it’s time to say good night, she looks me in the eye, and as if it’s the most important thing in the world she says, “I love you”. I tell her the same, kiss her on the cheek and head to bed. There’s a piece of me that seems to die a little bit every day.

I look at other believers and think, “How did they do it? How did they go through this type of pain and make it through still so in love with the Lord?” I think of how easy it should be for me to sit back, trust the Lord, acknowledge that He really is in control, He has a plan, He’s using this for His good. I should have grief, it’s normal to be sad, it would be unnatural for me to not be! But why can’t I just rest in knowing the Lord is in control? Why am I so angry? Why am I fighting so hard against the One person who has promised to be with me through thick and thin? Why can’t I talk to Him like mom can? I went to Bible school for goodness sake! I should be better than this. But I’m not.

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The family at OBX last weekend. But missing Phoebe 😦

Maybe this is what wrestling looks like. I thought it was just a figure of speech. I never knew that I would get to the point where I would have to wrestle with the Lord. You see, I think very highly of myself. I think that I will not make bad decisions or want something the Lord won’t give me, or that I will be totally fine with how He leads in my life. I’m so very naive. But there I was, driving home from Cville, or from Richmond, or, wherever, I can’t even keep up with where home is, but there I was thinking. I saw me standing before this huge giant, this beautifully huge giant. He had His arms open. He just wanted to hold me. It seemed so easy to just let Him, but I couldn’t. I turned around and walked away. Why? I don’t know. I simply can’t believe what’s happening all around me. I want to rest assured that He has my back, I’ve been trained that He does. I’ve been told and I believe that He cares. I’m told He’s trustworthy. At so many points in my life I’ve rested in this assurance, I’ve known a peace while resting in Him, trusting His ways for my life. So why can’t I lean back on those times? Have I forgotten them? Am I just another Israelite who forgets how good God is? Maybe I am. Maybe this is what wrestling feels like. I’m holding the map in front of me, but then there’s the road I’m standing on and I’m getting mixed messages.