Monday, October 10, 2016

Include the Grace

I want to begin this post by telling you a little about a lady name Elisabeth Elliot.  For those unfamiliar with her story, the short version is that she lost her first husband while they were missionaries in Ecuador.  He was killed by the tribe they had gone to serve. After her husband's death, she stayed there for two years, living out the Gospel to the very men who killed her husband.  She returned to the States, remarried, and lost her second husband to a battle with cancer. And she still had the courage to marry a third time. In the midst of it all, she became a well-known author and speaker, faithfully serving her Lord and Savior. Hers is a faith I want to know more about. 

So, over the past year or so, I looked at every thrift store, every clearance shelf, hoping to come across a book by Elisabeth Elliot.  Yes, I know...I could purchase one on Amazon or something super simple like that.  But for some reason, I didn't.  For some reason, I kept looking. And it worked out pretty well for me.  At the end of this summer, I came across one of her lesser-known books titled, "The Path of Loneliness."  Truth be told, this life-path without Mom and Dad, in a family and workplace full of married and dating peers, can be a bit lonely.  The Lord and I have been working on this one (recognizing, and trusting, and delighting in His presence) quite a bit over the last several years, so, I just chuckled, told my sister I'd found my book, and left super excited about my purchase. 

As I read these pages, I find priceless challenges and overwhelming hope.  Many of these finds have come from thoughts I've held in my heart being so clearly put to words by another who knows what it is to grieve. Many more have come from the transparency of Elisabeth's writing as she shares, from great wisdom and grace, about the lessons her Heavenly Father has taught her along her own path of loneliness and healing. 

One of the first things that hit me hard is this: "Those who only watch and pray and try to put themselves in the place of the bereaved find it almost unendurable.  Sometimes they weep uncontrollably, for their imaginations never include the grace." 

How true I have found this, both as others watched my siblings and I after Mom and Dad's death and as I now watch others begin their own journey of grief. I hate, more than almost anything, the moment I find out someone else is just beginning the grieving and healing process.  I remember the raw brokenness.  I know that soon, the rest of the world will go on as normal while the one hurting is trying to figure out what "normal" even means now.  I know the complexity of the path ahead.  I hate that others have to walk that path. 

And then I remember the grace. And I am faced, again, with the realization that I hate that moment because I place my human limitations on the Almighty God. I cast the shadow of my own weariness over the situation and forget that the God who saw me through is every bit as capable in this new situation, in this other person's life. 

The Lord reminds me that when news comes of another's loss, as believers, we must first pray. Believing that God is able, we must pray for His comfort to be experienced, His presence to be made known, His Kingdom to be advanced.  

We must also pray that we would use discernment in how we interact with those hurting most deeply.  Sometimes, we must act.  Through a meal, or a word, or household tasks, or a hug...sometimes, we must act. 

And while there is beauty in sharing one another's burdens, while it is good to hurt when others are hurting, we must always keep an accurate view of the sovereign God.  He is still the Provider of peace that makes no sense.  He is still our good Father.  He is still wise, and loving, and so very active.  Therefore, rather than despair, we must always include the grace. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016


#Strong.  #Young.  #Beautiful.  #Adventurous.  #Bold.  #Independent. 

Right?  Isn't this what we are striving for? 
Or are at least supposed to want? 

What if our #goals looked a little different?  What if they were more like
#Gentle.  #Wise.  #Confident.  #Obedient.  #Courageous.  #Dependent. 

Can this second set of #goals even co-exist in one human being?  And who really wants to be known for these things?  Don't they just make me a stuffy carbon copy of what my legalistic Sunday School teacher expected me to become?  Or worse yet, don't they make me boring? weak? insufficient?   

Let me back up and give you a little context. 

I'm a 22-year-old female.  College graduate.  Single.  Outgoing introvert.  Love for new cultures and the outdoors.  Learning each day to walk more closely with Jesus. 

The world at my fingertips!!
At least that's what they tell me. 

Lately, though, I've noticed some...issues....  Some fatal flaws in myself that are not fun to deal with--for me or anyone living with me.

You see, the sometimes-subconscious pursuit of the first set of #goals has produced in me an ugly six-headed monster, born of pride.  Its heartbeat is nothing more than fear, which sends selfishness coursing through my veins, fueling my actions and thought processes.

Pride, fear, and selfishness don't look nearly as good in an Instagram post as strength, beauty, and the rest.  They are the filth we conceal behind a freshly-painted door and a well-manicured lawn.  They are often subtle, easy to dismiss or justify.  But they are no less present and real. 

And they are dangerous. 

They are dangerous because they steal our joy, our enthusiasm for life.  They build a wall between us and the people we love.  They prevent us from seeing situations and other people through the eyes of the One who came to give us abundant life. They destroy our understanding of purpose, security, and grace. 

I imagine most of us have experienced at least one of these, to some degree.  So I want to switch gears.  Enough of the doom and gloom.  On to the effects of the second set of, seemingly-less-exciting-and-goal-worthy, #goals. 

Because you probably forget what they are, I'll list them again.
#Gentle.  #Wise.  #Confident.  #Obedient.  #Courageous.  #Dependent.

What if we laid down our pride and decided to pursue gentleness instead of strength?  I'm not talking about the strength that holds onto right when wrong seems to be winning, or even the physical strength that allows us to accomplish the tasks set before us.  Please, hold onto those kinds of strength!  I'm talking about the strength that always says, "I've got this--alone.  And don't second guess me because I'm right.  I know it."  I think, if we chose gentleness, we would find ourselves and those around us far more at-ease, encouraged to walk in truth, comforted by a kind of security that says, "You're home here." 

Wisdom instead of youth.  Well, we wouldn't make so many stupid decisions, for one.  But we'd also realize that life is short, and laughter is beautiful.  And in pursuing Godly wisdom, I think we would find ourselves more balanced, with a perspective that eases some of the pains of daily life and increases the simple joys. 

Confidence over beauty.  Is there even a difference?  Haven't we been told that the most beautiful girl is the confident one?  There's some truth to that.  As long as the source of our confidence is Jesus Christ and the purpose with which He made us.  Confidence in ourselves and our abilities is prideful and temporary, binding us to the fear of not measuring up.  Newsflash: we're all gunna get old (if the Lord allows) and find ourselves wondering why things don't come together quite like they used to.  Second newsflash: we already have plenty of "flaws."  So if our confidence lies beyond ourselves, in the finished work of Christ on the cross and the fact that He loves us and chooses us, that He is able even though we're not...we'll be much better off. 

Here's one for ya--obedience before adventure.  I'm not sure why we let this one trip us up--myself included.  My obedience has brought me to the greatest, most memorable, most picturesque adventures of my life.  The most difficult ones, too?  Yep.  And, of course, to the ones that seem like they had absolutely no point.  But obedience always brings us peace before God so that we can fully enjoy the adventures. 

Courage and boldness.  Though they sound much the same, there is a difference--at least in the way I'm using them here.  Boldness says, "I've got to stand out!  Make an impression they can't forget!"   Courage is sometimes that loud, but other times it's quiet.  Courage often enables that first step of obedience.  Other times, courage puts us face-to-face with our inner-most battles so that there is finally victory, or at least progress, that brings us freedom. Courage says, "It's not about me, anyway.  What have I got to lose?"  

Finally, the one I've struggled with most here recently.  Dependence.  Why on earth would I, in light of all I already told you about myself, promote dependence over independence?   Because, like nothing I've experienced before, my "independence" fuels selfishness that says, "My day, and everything that fills it, is about me."  That means how I treat people is about what's most convenient for me.  It means that how other people act towards me should obviously be  It means that when problems or weaknesses appear, it's up to me to figure it out.  Yikes. 

Also, dependence is what God intended for us all along.  From the beginning, God gave Adam access to Himself and a life to be shared with Eve.  Dependence.  Community.  Psalm 62:7 explains it a little further.  "My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge."  That means that my standing with God, and with man, depend on God.  What a mess I create when I try to live by my own strength, my own ability. 

Furthermore, I shouldn't be shocked, or even discouraged, when I discover yet another thing that I'm not especially good at.  God created us to be in community.  He created us to need one another, to use the gifts and abilities He's given us, and to value and partner with people who are great at the things which we lack. 

Dependence is not a sign of weakness.  Life with God is not possible without full dependence on who He is and all He's done.  Life with people is possible with independence...but it's so much sweeter when we are willing to let down our guard, reach out a hand, and live life thankful for those around us. 

So from now on, I want my #goals to look less like envy for another person's appearance, relationships, and adventures.  Let's make our #goals actually mean something.  Let's lay down our own agendas, pick up our Bibles (and read them, of course), and go into the world, our lives proclaiming the difference made by dependence on Christ.