The “fine” line is a crooked thing

Have you been struggling and yet feet pressured to say that you’re just “fine” when someone asked the perfunctory “how are you?” after their greeting? I know I sometimes wonder, why are you bothering to ask me if you don’t even care to pause a moment to listen to my answer. I am not always fine. And I don’t want to pretend to be. I want to be honest about wherever I am and whatever I’m going through. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t even have to sound good. WOW! Has that ever been a tough lesson to learn!

I have always figured that people would never want to talk to me if I was in any way “problematic”. And since I always have been, guess who took it upon herself to make them all disappear?

I thought I was serving others by doing this. I thought they would thank me for making sure I was just plain “normal” all the time, but no one did. Obviously they did not see the effort I went to to keep this up. So, I developed another strategy: I would be the constantly happy person. I would never be without encouragement for others. I determined I must always be able to totally forget myself (and whatever difficulties I had in the present) before I went out. I could never afford to be a downer; instead, I derived my identity from being a constant upper–even raising the “levels” of others when possible.

This seemed to work pretty well–better than expected, actually. But, I began to notice that I was never able to get the help I needed while I was so busy deflecting everyone’s attention from my needs to my joys and their needs. I thought this was a good thing, until God really began to sit me down and make me understand that I am HUMAN.

This may sound funny, but I’ve never really known that. I either felt that I was worth nothing because I was weak and broken, or I was superhuman because I could transcend everything and be absolutely strong and composed. Certainly I knew nothing of the fact that both weakness and strength, brokenness and openness are present within everyone of us as human beings. The secret is having them balanced.

Christ brings that balance. At the cross both aspects of my identity are represented. I who was once strong, have been weakened in my rebellion against God. And it is now as I confront my weakness brought on by sin and my inheritance of the Fall, that Christ resurrects my potential for strength; strength that does not lead me away from Him, but is able to stay and wrestle with Him until His spirit of grace and surrender overpowers me.

Why God makes sense

There is no part of life that God is not capable and eager to help us persevere through. There is nothing in our experience that He has not planned out, or chosen to work towards His purposes even if we have chosen what is contrary to His expressed will.

There is freedom in knowing the sovereignty of God is consistent with everyday life and its problems. There is peace in finding God unconfused and yet full of compassion for us when we are. There is joy in believing that we have hope — a hope so strong that it will hold us up even when we grieve the things we are unwilling to surrender to His Lordship.

I like to have joy in full, but not the suffering in full that often sets the backdrop. How unseemly it feels to me for my weakness to be so shamelessly projected through a trial. Unless I have the faith-filled sight that skips beyond this fact to a bigger one: a trial is a gift from God that is suited to Him in such a strong way that inclines us to be suited to Him too.

I don’t mean to be overly sentimental — but it is belief in God’s knowing-ness even while we know nothing that keeps us in exactly the vein we need to be to see all how good God when much in our life is just plain bad. God is not afraid of bad, instead He harnesses the fruit of evil and turns it into seeds that will bear out His patience with mankind.

We think it is horrible if anything has to die, but evil fruit must pass away to scatter the seeds of God’s own fruit. We can’t trust our own instincts when it comes to what must die because we are wired by sin to be unperceptive to what is evil. But God can absolutely be trusted to know evil and effectively deliver us — even allowing for the time that it takes us to surrender to His way and learn that it is best because it is without error.

Investing in God

Investing in God. If you’ve read any of my recent posts you may have noticed that I have used this phrase or variations of it in several instances. But what does this investing in God mean?

Well, when I began to think about this seriously in anticipation of writing on the topic, I realized that I didn’t really understand a whole lot about this phrase. It worked well for general topics of discussion, but when I scrutinized my knowledge of what it communicated, I found that I needed to learn more about what it was saying so I could better convey my intent.

So, I began with the word invest. And this is what I came up with:

To make a rewarding investment I must make the most of what resources I have. When I am considering God as a possible holding place, I must thoroughly research God’s policy profile — to see whether I can back Him based on what He stands for — and investigate His projection standings — to acquire a vision for where His progression will take me.

Everything that I learn about God, because of my perspective association, immediately affects me both personally and fiscally. I must know what God is about and be able to offer a strong reason for being persuaded that He is equal to the worth I put in Him. I cannot propose backing Him without also knowing how this action will demand of me — in every aspect of my life and livelihood.

I want a good return, but more than that, I want a solid establishment. I can wait a long time for any profit to come from this, if I know that my commitment is being well marked and effectively utilized to promote significant production.

I like the simple definition of  investment provided for us by the Business Management blog right here on WordPress.com:

Investment:

The commitment of funds/finance to one or more assets which will be held over some time period for the purpose of earning returns. [http://bizedu.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/types-of-investment/]

For a lot of us, we look at God, and say, “Nah, I’m not buyin’ in it.” We would rather throw small investments after semi-suitable persons and institutions than stair-down a commit to a single Person with momentous claims that we don’t want to bother checking.

We are comfortable with saying that God is not what we want, but do we really know Him well enough to make this judgment?

I can hear some of you saying right now, “Actually, yes I can: My mom died when I was just a kid. She did nothing to deserve it, but God took her anyway. And He ruined the rest of my life when He did that.”

I am deeply sorry. I grieve that you didn’t get to have more time with her, that your life couldn’t stay like it was when she was here. But then, I am not saying anything to you that you do not already know. I cannot change your life for you, and I will do my best to avoid any pretense of trying. I would just like to use the space I have here to communicate something to you that you may not already know.

There’s more to your story than its past or its present or its future. There’s something more to you than just yourself and I want so much for you to find out what it is. Perhaps you say that you once had faith, but God destroyed all hope of that too, when He disappointed you on such a crucial point of life. Where can He stand with you now that He has taken so much away from you?

The answer is that He stands exactly where He always has: at the door of your heart, waiting. He has been waiting on you since the day He formed you in the womb, and He waits still.

He waits not to condemn you — He could have done that long ago — and He waits not to sabotage you, but to bless you. Yes, blessing may not look like what you thought, but then again, who says that you’ve already seen it?

The blessing God offers us is His love, pure and simple. But, don’t let those words be swallowed up in the vortex of an over-used phrase. Don’t think that you have taken God’s love at face value until you have looked at its face, and seen your own clearly reflected in it.

Love cannot be measured for its depth and essence and even its ability to touch our heart until it has been accepted and yielded to. Now, by yield I mean so much more than an act of “giving in” or limply submitting. Rather, I am speaking of an attitude of the heart that turns to God, and leans in — receiving the truth of what He says and responding to what He asks of us.

When we do that, we will not be disappointed. Mind you, it is every single thing that is done short of that that will most definitely disappoint.

You see, God’s love is a recipe for life, for fullness of heart. It is not a promise of good times, but good tidings. After all, great joy is the work of Someone on the inside of us, not something on the outside of us.

Surrender to Live?

I can say I want God’s way in my life and try to leave it at that, but I will soon find that I am dissatisfied, feeling the incompleteness that comes with living life apart from our One central point — the One who holds together all of what we know and see and yet wonder about.

Or, I can realize that there can be no other way with me; it must be His way, or I have chosen to live with less than all I could have in this life. I think that I can have it all if I just live for myself, but this only seems like it is a legitimate hope because I am securely at the head. I think that I will lose out if I step aside so God can take that place that I so fiercely covet.

Yet, will I truly lose out? Can living for more than I can hold onto and keep in-check really prove to be a misuse of my passion and potential? Is it worth it to gain if I have not lost? If I am not willing to lose something I value for the sake of something more valuable — can I really expect to be able to hold onto anything at all?

If I’m already surrendering, I don’t have to fear any loss or disappointment or chaos, because I am not ultimately trusting my circumstances to deliver what I need, but my God. He alone knows what I truly need; He knows what is necessary in mistakes and trials to release me from the power of secret sins, teaching me to realize that life is in Him and not in me or what I see.

If I will live in surrender, I will live in hope. And, if my hope (Christ) is able to hold me, than I cannot fear any significant loss. I cannot rationalize unbelief because I am setting myself up to succeed according to my own resources. Considering all these petty “resources” I have now will ALL ultimately fail me, I must ask myself, “What grounds do I have for trying to convince God that I am right in my ongoing resistance to offer myself wholly to Him?”

I don’t. I would be a fool to believe my own ideas about what is best for me apart from what God has said since the beginning of time — long before I was born, or had any ideas about what I would like to have in this life. God knew what I needed, and was eager to reveal it to me. I have been the stubborn one.

I have been the one who is constantly insisting that I know what is up and what will do great things for me; and all my life I have been convinced that that is not God or anything that comes with Him. One, I cannot control Him. Two, I do not know what to expect with Him. Three, I would rather just be able to do everything on my own.

But, do I think He will not ever-so-patiently whittle down all that opposition in me? Do I think that I have to lead this? Do I think that He will not accept exactly what little I have to offer now, and with that make a way for me to give Him all the rest?

Yes, I often do think all these things, but even this He can deal with. He knows what He’s doing — including where sin begins and the only One who can bring it to an end — because He holds the keys to all the freedom that His perfect righteousness has to offer. I will trust Him.