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Entries in Sanctification (109)


I'm thankful I was boy crazy

I have three brothers, and I have a mother who wasn't a "girly girl." My first best friend was a boy. I always liked being friends with boys. And when I got to be 12 or 13, they became even more fascinating. I was boy crazy. I wish I had not been. Being too boy crazy distracted me from other things. When I think of what I am learning at seminary and what I would like to do, I'm sad, because for me, at 53, it's a little late. 

And yet, I know that God is in control of the universe. He is in control of my destiny. I was reminded of that as I read Rebecca Stark's book The Good Portion: God. In her chapter on God's wisdom, she points out that God has perfect and unlimited knowledge. And it is a knowledge about my life. She says:

Let your mind rest in this: God knows everything you don't, and not merely because He sees into the future, but because he planned the future. You are in the hands of the one for whom nothing future is uncertain, the one who knows it all because He planned it all.

When I look back at things in my past, when it is tempting to feel regret, I take this truth retroactively and remind myself that God knew what he was doing in my past. 

Eleventh grade was a difficult one for many reasons. Not having been raised with any religious training, other than having been baptized as a Catholic, I used to spend my Saturday afternoons in St. Cecilia's Catholic Church, which was across the street from my high school. I would just sit there and wonder. What did it all mean? I was too shy to ask anyone, and no one really ever came into the building while I was there, anyway.

And then, there was a boy (wasn't there always a boy?) in my 11th grade English class whom I liked a lot. I wanted to get to know him more. This boy was a Mormon. There were many Mormons in my school, living in Calgary, Alberta, as I did. How could I get to know this boy? A girl across the street from me was Mormon. On previous occasions, she had invited me to the dances that were held every Saturday night (an evangelistic tool) for young people. I would kill two birds with one stone: I would ask to investigate the Mormon Church.

And I did. And I was immersed in it for a number of months. And I was a good Mormon. The anticipated romance of the century with the red headed boy in my English class never came to fruition. Ultimately, I decided against the Mormon church in an eleventh hour change of heart. And while I knew it wasn't for me, I knew one thing: whatever church I looked into, it needed to use the Bible. While the missionaries who taught me eventually guided me to the Book of Mormon, they started with the Bible; James 1:5 to be exact (and it was taken out of its proper context).

After I changed my mind about Mormonism, I finally got the courage up to visit that Catholic church again and ask to speak to a priest. I remember that morning well; the Calgary Stampede parade was on a little television in the office of the Church as I waited. The priest listened to my story, but when I asked him if he could tell me where in the Bible it said I must do things like go to confession, and how the bread and wine became flesh and blood, he had one answer: "Come to mass." 

Well, thanks for that.

That was the end of that. I was seventeen years old that day, and when I was twenty, after meeting the man who would become my husband, I read in the Bible what my greatest need was: salvation because of my sin. That was the beginning of the rest of my life. And it all started with a boy. 

God knew my future in that school in Calgary. He knew where he would take me. Perhaps being boy crazy interfered too much. Well, it did. In high school, I never got the grades I did while in university or seminary. I was looking for meaning in a relationship with a boy, but God knew there was something better for me. And he patiently allowed me to fumble and bumble about until the moment when he knew I would see in his word how I could know him.

God has a reason for everything. It may not be something we understand, and trusting in that takes faith. But it's faith he will give us.


Because we know there is something better

Over the years, I have often found it frustrating that I have allowed the relationships in my life to discourage me. Especially troublesome is the reality that the worst friendship experiences I have had have been with Christian women. When I read articles about the wonderful fellowship I'm supposed to be having with my female friends, my cynicism takes over. That has not been my experience. At times, I have felt that we have turned female friendships into an idol. 

Of course, family friendships have also been discouraging to me. I think most of us would be willing to admit that marriage and parenting comes with a lot of heartbreak at times, regardless of how good those relatioinships are in general. I'm sure I've done my share of heartbreaking as a wife and mother. But why have I always let these things overwhelm me? I am not naturally stoic, and as much as I try to be, I cannot manage it. When I fully understand that everyone is sinful and we must not put high expectations on anyone to be perfect, why is this so difficult?

I wonder if it isn't because we know that something better is waiting. We know that when we are united fully with Christ in the new heavens and earth, we will no longer experience heartache, betrayal, or sin. How does our being made in the image of God, carrying his imprint upon us, our being one with Christ unconsciously affect our expectations?

I remember being a child and wishing things were different. I had a fairly happy childhood, but when things didn't go well, I would always resort to wishing that my family life was different, that my dad would be home more, that there wouldn't be so much strife, that my friends were different. It always boiled down to the people, not necessarily my circumstances. God has made us for relationships, whether we are the type who manage several or those who are content with a few. But however many people we allow into our lives, we want our relationships with them to be good. And I wonder if part of my frustration has been because I know what awaits me, and I am frustrated in my waiting.

God is not encumbered by sin. There is no fear of rejection from him. We need not feel uncertain with him. His word tells us that he loved us while we were yet sinners (Rom 5:6). He loves us though we are often unlovely. He sent his son to die for us, and his Holy Spirit to be with us to prepare us for our eventual reunion with him. We were not destined for this earth; we were destined to be with him.

It brings to mind the opening paragraphs of Augustine's Confessions: "you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

There is never going to be a human relationship which will exactly mirror what I will ultimately have when I am in heaven. When I am tempted to feel discouragement over relationships, instead of mourning, I ought to think of it as a reminder of what is to come.


Pretense or pride?

In the past couple of weeks, I've read scant few blogs, but when someone whose opinion matters to me shares a post and then someone else whom I respect also recommends it, I read it. I have not read very much of Wendy Alsup's writing, but I was glad I read this article about being disillusioned.

She mentions her feelings at being on the cusp of fifty years old. I remember the year I turned fifty; it was awful. For many reasons, none of which had anything to do with the thought that I was fifty. Rather, it was the intersection of many thoughts of disillusionment. Alsup talks much about her days a Christian college student. I was not saved until I was twenty, so my perspective is different. 

In identifying the problem, Alsup uses the word pretense, which flows from the experience she had in college. I don't think my problem was pretense so much as the contrast between what my life had been like to what I thought it could be. I wanted a life that was different from the one I had. I had a very typical childhood, and loving parents. But there was always fear and a feeling of uncertainty, and I attributed that to my unbelief. What I didn't realize was that deep down, it was about control. How could I control things so that I could feel like things were going okay?

More than pretense, I believe my situation was more about pride. And I suspect others may feel the same. When things are going along swimmingly, it's easy to feel self-satisfied. I believe the greatest years of parenting pride are when our kids are 8-12 years of age. They are still, for the most part, co-operative, and we can see some of the fruits of our efforts in their willingness to help with chores, good manners, and regular attendance at church events. It's when they get older and begin to test the boundaries more that we may realize that what we thought was spiritual maturity was merely compliance. And compliance and faith aren't the same. As a woman who had purposely chose to be at home full-time with my children, disillusionment came in the guise of a sense of failure. That failure was borne out of my own pride. 

I thought I was something pretty special when my kids were at home and we homeschooled. They were smart, excellent students, studied music with success, read a lot of books, and had inquiring minds. I am thankful we homeschooled, and I am not blaming homeschooling for that; every education system has holes. But homeschooling can lead mothers to feel they have more control than they do. Again, pride.

I've thought a lot about my own sense of dislluisonment. In the years since I've been in seminary, I've seen the wrong theology I have had and the arrogance with which I have too often spoken. I'm learning the difference between trying to bend Scripture to my thoughts and letting Scripture bend my thoughts, a theme I hope to write more about when school is finished. 

If we are disillusioned, it is because we held illusions of something. Illusion is not reality. Rather than looking daily at the reality of who I was in Christ, I had illusions of a particular way of life I thought was part and parcel of the Christian experience. I was wrong. Instead of worrying about that, I should have been focusing more on Christ himself; who is he? what has he done? what does he say?

And yet, for all this talk of disillusionment, I believe that without it, I would not be asking the questions I'm asking. So, I guess in some respects, I'm thankful for it. 


What's in a name?

I didn't grow up in a Christian home, so the use of the name Jesus Christ was not especially revered. Neither was the name of God. I heard my relatives use both names as curse words, and as I got older, I did myself (when no adults were around, of course). Even as I used those words wrongly, I didn't feel right about it. I knew, even in my unregenerate state that those names meant something. Christ just isn't a name. God isn't just a name.

This morning, as I was studying Ephesians 1, I was noting how many times Paul talks about being "in Christ," and I saw how many times Christ is referred to. At the end of the chapter, Christ is on the throne, seated at God's right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, far above every name that is named. His name is above all names, and it's not just because of the letters used or the way it sounds when we say it.

What's in a name? An identity. And when it comes to Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, it is the identity of the one who bled and died that we could be reconciled to God and live in newness of life. When I hear people using it as a curse word, I cringe. I feel the same about the ridiculous "OMG."  I like what D.A. Carson has to say about the matter:

The reason we are not to say "Oh, God!" when we hit our thumb with a hammer or say "Jesus!" when we are disappointed is precisely because it diminishes God.  If you were to be so bold as to turn to a person who has use Jesus' name because he has hit his thumb with a hammer and say, "I wish you wouldn't use my Savior's name like that," he would probably reply, "I do not mean anything by it."  But that is the point:  he does not mean anything by it.  That is precisely why the usage is "profane," that is, common.  Using the name of God or Jesus when you "mean nothing" by it is not profane because you have spoken a magic word that you are really not allowed to use, as if only priests can say the right abracadabra.  The usage is profane beause it is common, cheap.  We are dealing with God, and we must say and do nothing that diminishes him or cheapens him.  It is at best disrespectful, ungrateful, and demeaning; at worst, it de-gods him and thus sinks again in the level of idolatry.

We bear the name of "Christian." To some, that is an ugly name; it represents things they don't believe. What we as the bearers of that name can do is wear it with integrity and sincerity, not associating it with ugly conduct or unkindness. Rather, we should wear it with gratitude for being able to claim that name. 


Building boxes

One of the things I struggle with the most, (always have, likely always will) is being able to compartmentalize things. I have been told that men do this better, but one of my classmates (a man) says he struggles with it as well. When there are burdens, I find it hard to concentrate on anything else, and sometimes, I accomplish absolutely nothing because I can't stop thinking of those burdens. 

In the past year, I have been given progress in that struggle. I don't remember praying specifically, "Lord help me to compartmentalize things," but in this past number of months, I know he has granted it. Burdens are never gone. For those who think parenting ends when the kids move out, think again. Sorry; it only gets harder. Parents age. We age. Friends age. Friends get sick and die. This side of heaven, there is no end to burden and struggle. I can't let each and every burden flatten me. I have to be able to put them away in a box and focus on each day ahead. For me, at the moment, it means school. I have waited a long time for this, and I want to do well. If I let the things I cannot change drown me, I may not do well with this opportunity God has granted me. Right now, I am so thankful for seminary because it gives me incentive to compartmentalize. And I'm beginning to see the tremendous benefits. Those burdens are there, always, in the background, but if I want to do well on tomorrow's Greek quiz, I have to stop rolling them over and over in my head, and close the lid to that box. And I have to trust God.

This morning, my dear friend Persis wrote a beautiful post about a burden she's bearing. Her comments are worth thinking about:

When circumstances are overwhelming, walking by sight is next to impossible because the way seems so foggy, but that's where faith comes in. It's not faith in the strength of my faith or even how well I can recall God's promises. It is the hand that reaches out and clings desperately to the One who is really holding on to me and not letting me fall.

The only way we can shut up those boxes is what Persis talks about: reachig out to God. As we place our burdens before him, we ask him, knowing he can, to bear them. 

And then we close the box for a while and get on with things.