Thursday was my 29th birthday. I got up and opened presents sent to me by my mom. Andy fixed me coffee and went out to Shipley's to retrieve me a chocolate covered doughnut. When I got to school, I found out that he had also run another errand while he was out- he had taken my car keys (which have my school keys on the same ring) and gone over to my classroom to deliver me a dozen roses. I found them on my desk when I walked in. I also encountered a big yellow piece of butcher paper which said "Happy Birthday Mrs. Wermel!" in marker and almost all of my students -70 in all- had signed it. A PTF parent showed up with flowers in a vase- ranunculus, my wedding flower- a muffin and a cappuccino a few minutes later, and she returned at lunch time with a Chick-fil-a chicken tenders combo. Students came in and brought me presents and cards throughout the day, my Chemistry class sang me happy birthday, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. After school, I went home and found Andy icing a cake he had baked! Then, I opened up my birthday gifts from Andy and Lacy. I especially enjoyed throwing the scraps of paper from the bag-o-confetti Lacy sent me (she did this last year too, and it's awesome!) into the air, which made Andy whine, but he picked it up anyway. Then Andy and I went out to dinner at McCormick and Schmicks, which was lovely and our waiter gave us a free ice cream dessert, which was almost too pretty to eat. I had a wonderful birthday.
Then on Friday, after a busy week at work and a wonderful day of celebration, and a lot of anticipation because John Palmer (Lacy's baby boy) is coming any minute now, Andy sat me down and told me that his company is closing and he's going to be unemployed on December 2. My birthday cards were still strewn about and the "Happy Birthday" candles were still on the cake, and the unpleasant news was too much contrast to the happy day that had just passed.
I did not react well. One would hope that as a Christian, I would respond with words of faith and encouragement. But I didn't. I'm just going to be honest here, because really what's the point in not being honest? Lately, my faith has felt like a wool sweater that someone accidentally put into the dryer.
I talk on here about the stuff that happened to me and Andy last year using vague terms, and I probably always will. I don't name names, and I am not going to. It's not going to do anyone any good for me to share specifics. But if you read this, and you are at all interested in understanding what's going on in our life and how God is working here, it's necessary that you understand that Andy & I went through something very traumatic and hurtful last year. And it's important that you know that we walked through that with as much faith and obedience as we could muster. God disciplined us and changed us incredibly, but the end result was not what either of us wanted. And for me, the end result did not look like what I thought a Christian experience ought to look like.
I have been really blessed in my life because I have gone through several experiences where God has allowed things to get really ugly, and I and other people have been very hurt, only for Him to work in my life and other people's lives in separate but equal ways, which brought about full restoration, complete healing and increased joy! Up until last year, I did not have an area of my life that I hadn't seen the Lord completely transform and redeem. Then this thing happened. And in my opinion, it remains broken, and this still causes hurt, doubt and frustration for me. And everyone involved is supposed to be a Christian. So if Christians are supposed to be like Christ, and Christ is love and His purpose in this world is redemption and reconciliation, why is this circumstance the way that it is? Why does His Spirit not convict? Why does The Truth not prevail? And why does the Healer not heal? If Christians can react to difficult things in life this way, what's the point in being one? It's not any different- in fact it's in many ways much worse- than I've seen nonbelievers react to difficult times.
I gave up on hoping other people would change months ago, but have prayed consistently for God to do a work in my heart- to sow seeds of love, joy, peace and contentment in me that would overpower the hurt, doubt and frustration. I think that I've seen these in every day life, but being told that your husband is losing his job is not every day news. And so those tiny love and joy seeds got drenched in my doubt and negativity. Why should God help us? Why should we trust Him? He left me hanging out to dry last year! I was trying to be obedient to His will and I was ridiculed and rejected! And He hasn't done anything about it. Why should I trust Him? He has no interest in me.
When your heart believes those things about God, all you can do is cry- the big ugly cry. And that's what I did- not because Andy had lost his job. That was only a detail. I was crying because I was seeing the circumstance through a lens of unbelief. I considered the circumstances of my life, the hurt that God allowed last year, and the tension that remains and concluded that God didn't care about me. Because He allowed people to mistreat me and never cared to do anything about it. And because I'm still so confused about who God is because His "people" have reacted so disappointingly.
Beth Moore says, "If you're going to pitch a fit, pitch it at God. He's the only One big enough to handle it." This has to be true. Because only God could handle someone's spirit retching and reeling from disappointment and not even flinch. A person would watch me indulging my doubt and turn away in disgust. But not God. I probably spent an hour moaning and crying out all sorts of doubts, and afterwards, I fell asleep- I guess sleep was the only way to get me quiet enough to be able to hear Him. In the middle of the night, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. I could understand Him very clearly. He said, "I am not concerned with what your life costs. I am concerned with what your life is worth. You can have a family in a home that is filled with nice things, things that cost money, but if you react this way, your life does not reflect what I truly value."
And immediately, and I do mean immediately, my heart changed. I turned and gave Andy a big hug. I knew that from that point forward I was going to have love and belief to share with him, not doubt to weigh him down. I realized that money is not the real issue in this trial at all. I realized that this, like every other trial, is an opportunity to be Jesus, the real Jesus- the One who wakes you up in the middle of the night and rebukes you, the One who shows you all throughout the day that He loves you and is for you- to my husband and to other people.
This week in BSF, we read about Paul's sufferings. I don't know how I'm so dense that I can read that and answer questions and still somehow think that the Christian experience has something to do with me being treated well. Paul went through everything and then some, and he was being obedient through it all. He didn't get treated badly because he was disobeying God. He was treated badly because he was doing exactly what God wanted him to do. He never was closer to the Lord's will for him than when he was suffering. This is the thing that has to transform in my mind. Last year, I did something that God told me to do. People got really mad at me for it and the consequences hurt. But instead of believing that those consequences are something that I can endure because I am in God's will, I have doubted everything. But God is not against me. He has not abandoned me. And He will not let me be put to shame. I know this because I can hear His Spirit and I know that He is working on me still- making sure that I do not display anything other than His character to the world around me- especially those closest to me, my family & my sweet husband, who is such a gift to me.
God is real and really working. I know this for a fact. Not just because there are days filled with flowers and gifts and love, but because there are days when bad news comes quickly. It's His reaction and quick transformation of my heart in those days that brings me greater comfort about His commitment to my holiness than a string of beautiful, perfect days could ever accomplish.
We don't know what's going to happen from here. But we do know that God is going to transform our minds and our hearts and our actions. We know that He is going to show Himself to us, and then ask us to show Him to others.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28