Wednesday, March 15, 2017

for when you are learning about love part 5: difficult situations

One of my greatest skills is creating beauty in my mind, deciding what would look the best in any given place or within any opportunity. Whether that is the deck and landscaping around our newly surfaced--and filled with water!--pool, decorating projects for friends, or carefree afternoons at homes, there is always an ideal in my head of how life, both the living of it and the visual around it, would look best.

On the flip side, one of my greatest triggers of frustration is when these lovely, perfectly imagined ideals do not play out properly. For anyone actually living in this world, it can easily be assumed how often the ideal does not occur. If things worked out perfectly was a question on a survey the answer circle would most definitely be the "not very likely" choice listed on the far left!

Even in this, my writing life, a weekly ideal attempts to create itself within the corners of my mind painting pictures of the quiet space, perfectly sweetened, creamed, and heated tea, the best music plugged into my ears, and the words swirling around captured and placed in the right order for maximum effect. And when, like last week, my writing Wednesdays are filled instead with the care taking of feverish boys and the never ending tasks of housekeeping that goes along with it, that temptation to succumb to frustration of a destroyed ideal begins to overtake the joy and thankfulness of my first job in loving the sweet ones God gave me.

Perfecting ideals can have their place. Planning, organizing, and imagining how to create beauty and give beauty to others is not just a responsibility as a steward of this world, it is loving as well, as long as perfection isn't the circumstance on which your loving acts are resting.

The perfect ideal you have conjured up inside can not mask over the reality that plays out.

We want an experience that is easy and euphoric but instead we are, through abundant Grace, given distractions, failures and frustrations that instead of breeding immediate love produce an increase in our unloving parts. Why? Because within the difficulties the hardness in our hearts is revealed, the deepest places of unloving are brought to the surface, and only then does light shine upon them and enable real love to grow.

A quote from C.S. Lewis that holds both number one spots on my favorite and least favorite lists is this, "We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be." My favorite because its true. My least favorite, well for the exact same reason. We like the best for us, but we do not like pain.

Some of the first words written in the journal that began after my husband's heart shattering confession a few years ago were based on James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its word so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

Written somewhat angrily in black and white was this, "After reading that, I wanted to punch James in the face. Seriously. I literally wanted to take James, brother of Jesus my savior and punch him in the face as hard as I could..." Violent? Maybe. True feelings? Absolutely. But then out of the most difficult of situations God taught me to cling to Him through anything, how to cling to His promises, and see the Love I have been given, the same Love He is continually teaching me to give to others. All others. He desires us to lack nothing. We can not lack nothing until we have been stripped of everything that is not of Him. (to read more of our story and God's amazing grace through it go here)

Learning to love with that gospel centered love is what is best for us, the sometimes painful mining of your heart and soul through difficult things is an inevitable part of that best being formed in you.

But do not lose heart, have courage, we are not left alone ever, and especially not during the hardest and darkest parts of our growth. Difficult situations come in all forms and on all levels. They will not all be earth shattering. They will not all require years of healing and continuous asking for and extending of forgiveness. Some will last only moments, but within each is the gift of grace and lessons of love that truly change our inner dispositions to those more like our Savior's and expands our ability to change towards others as well.

Weeks ago, while reading, I came across a verse in the midst of the needed but terrifying warnings of Isaiah that gave me such encouragement that it was jotted down immediately as something to share in the future. However hesitancy to do so increased as I began to fear that my lack of theological prowess and understanding of context would cause harm instead of the good intended. However with "His majesty as my protection, His glory as my motivation, His grace as my help, and His wisdom as my direction"--thank you Tripp again for your words--today is the day.

Whether in the throes of a difficult time of life, years out from one where healing might still need to be achieved, or in preparation for an inevitable one to come, take these words with you. Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these [whatever specifics are causing the hardness] Isaiah 7:4

Be Careful. However loved and protected we are, there is evil out there that definitely wants to destroy any chance we have of knowing, abiding in, and loving like Christ. Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise (Eph. 5:15), Do not believe every spirit, test to see if it is God (1 John 4:1), walk by His spirit (Gal 5:16)

Keep Calm. Ya'll I'm the queen of flip out first, think later. The times I've had to apologize to my children, husband, God, friends, strangers, and myself for losing my composure before thinking things through is a number higher than I even want to attempt to count to. But He gives us peace, not peace like the world, but perfect peace so that our hearts do not have to be troubled (John 14:27) and promises that He will walk through the raging water and consuming fire with us (Isaiah 43:2)

Do not fear. Flipping out has its roots in fear and we know that Perfect Love casts that fear out. (1 John 4:18) He did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us power, self control, and LOVE (2 Tim. 1:7)

Do not let your heart grow faint.  Friends, repeat this one often.  Situations will come that you will face head on, Truths all risen up in your heart, prepared for the painfully hard that exposes the incomparable Good.  But then, there will be those times that you feel as if you have no strength, you know the hard that is on the path to healing and you just do not want to do it.  Take heart, have courage.  This can not be done alone.  Remember we love only because He loves first.  His love fuels, fills, and overrides.  Your heart WILL grow faint otherwise the command to not let it wouldn't be necessary.  Let Him love first so that you can love next.  

However beautiful the schemes in my head, the beauty revealed through everything covered in Christ is beauty unsurpassed.

Praying for you to learn to love not just through all your difficult places but because of them.  Pray for me.

More in the learning to love series...

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