Andy's at the Formula 1 race having a great time this weekend (his 30th birthday present from me!) I've been home catching up on sleep. I woke this morning as physically rested as I have been in a long time. Andy left for the race early, and I found myself with several hours of alone time before having to get ready for church. Almost always, when I'm left with such time, I start some sort of project. This morning, I decided to open our Christmas decorations and sort through them. I wasn't going to put anything up, but I LOVE decorating for Christmas, and I wanted to sort of develop a master plan for decorating the apartment the Friday after Thanksgiving. I also wanted to see if there would be anything I needed to pick up to fill in any "decor gaps" while I'm on break this week.
I had a Christmas DVD playing, and I thought that I would be put in a very Merry mood by the work. But by 10AM, I was on the sofa with Gatsby in my lap, feeling sad. This surprised me because I'm very excited about Christmas. Especially since we're not traveling home for Thanksgiving this year, I'm so happy about preparing for our Holiday trip to North Carolina, as well as trying to enjoy the December days that Andy & I will spend in Austin before school lets out.
The movie ended, and I switched to TV mode, and was delighted to find myself with a front row seat at "First Baptist Atlanta." I love watching Charles Stanley. My parents watch him on Sunday mornings as they get ready for church, so listening to the wisdom in that very Southern drawl reminds me of home and brings comfort to my soul.
Charles Stanley was talking about adversity being a bridge to the heart of God. He said that God allows adversity to come into our lives so that we can grow into a more intimate relationship with Him. I've heard this before, I've even written about it before. I've walked that bridge in years past and found joy in my Father's embrace. But that was years ago. And this Sunday morning, as I sat with my best buddy on my lap, I realized that there's an adversity bridge before me that I have refused to walk. I knew this because of the Christmas decorations. There I sat, three new decorative trees from Hobby Lobby sitting on the coffee table before me, Santas and candles strewn about- proof positive of my ongoing submission to my own desires to control my circumstances.
Obviously there is nothing wrong with decorative trees or Santas. God has spoken to my heart about this before- there is nothing wrong, in fact, there's a lot of right in wanting to create a comfortable, happy home for your family. But it is wrong- dead wrong- to use something as simplistic as decorating to try to control my circumstances. And I do this all the time. But it's not just decorating- it's work in general- it's the drive to achieve, to accomplish, to perfect. I follow that drive into exhaustion in an effort to escape a truth that Charles Stanley was making painstakingly clear- all things.... ALL THINGS... come from the Lord above.
And there's the problem for me. Because there are a handful of things in my life that I have absolutely refused to have seen as being from the hand of God. They are things that have hurt me deeply- a pain that I avoid by trying to accomplish other things. Things like sorting through Christmas decorations and working too hard at school. Charles Stanley said that on this adversity bridge, the railings on either side are each of the following:
1. That God is in control of our circumstances.
2. That God is working those things out for our good.
These two basic Sunday school truths sound easy enough, but when something comes into your life that you just really, really do not want, it's hard to stand still and believe that thing is coming from God. Instead, I want to say that it's the fault of other people, and I think that if I can just avoid those people, then I can get away from the circumstance all together.
I am recognizing that the root of my false belief is this- I have believed that God will only bring pleasant things into my life. I don't know why it is that I believe this, or even when it started. I think perhaps it was sometime in my mid-twenties. I suffered heart-ache from my own poor choices in my early twenties, and then, I though that as I began to more faithfully follow God, that God would start to reward me with good things because I was, in my own thinking, a much better girl now.
But God has made it abundantly clear to me that was not His plan. He did give me one of the greatest desires of my heart- my sweet Andy, but with that, He gave me a life far from my home and my family and that has always been so hard. Other deep heartache has also always been associated with our marriage- and so it was that this sweet, good gift- came with strings that I did not want to be attached to. Those strings are my adversity bridge. They are meant for my good. They are from God and meant to help me draw closer to Him. But I don't want to walk across to the Father. I want to run away to Pottery Barn. Because walking through the adversity means facing the painful things that are not under my control and giving thanks for them. Accepting them. Submitting to the Holy God who chose them for me.
I went to Hill Country Bible Church after First Baptist Atlanta and was encouraged again by the message there- it was about thanksgiving in prayer. The minister said that as we give thanks to God for all things- all things- especially the things that we find it difficult to be thankful for- that we find our gratitude in the character of God, and not our circumstances.
When Charles Stanley closed his sermon, he thanked God for not giving us fullness and joy in our circumstances- so that we could find fullness and joy in Him. Wow. I spend so much time trying to get my circumstances to work out perfectly so that they will bring fullness and joy, and I am so frustrated and sad when they don't. When I got home from HCBC, I still felt sad, but I got on my knees and cried out to God. I am sad. I'm sad in my heart about how some things have turned out, but trying to cover it with Christmas decorations isn't going to help- wallowing in self-pity isn't either. Giving thanks to God, and walking over this adversity bridge into His arms is the only right thing to do.
I am praying that God will help me to truly believe that these things that I fight and want to run away from or be angry at, are ultimately from Him, and that He is indeed currently working them out for my good. My heart still aches with the truth of that, but aching is better than numbness, and maybe, if I just walk forward, I'll feel His arms sooner than later, and I will see that it has all been for good.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father... James 1:17a