Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where Is God When It Hurts?

Where is God when it hurts?
Where is He when your whole world has crashed down around you?
Where is He when the hurt has gotten to a point that there are no words to express your grief because those words have not been invented yet?
Where is He when life becomes unbearable?
Where is He when your heart has been shattered?
Where is He when you feel like giving up?
Where is He when you feel like there is no one left who you can trust?
Where is He when you've gone completely numb because it hurts that bad?
Where is He in the midst of strife?
Where is He when you cry out with all your might?
Where is He when you've cried your last tear but still want to cry?
Where is He when the prodigal is ready to return and repent?
Is He listening?
Does He care?
Does He still love you?
Can He be trusted?
Is He there?
Will He still be there?
Will He care?
Will He still love you?
Will He listen?
Will He stay or will He go?
Will He pick you up from a big fall, hug you and say, "Child, I love you?"
Will He forgive you?
Will He wipe away the tears?
Will He repair the brokenness of life, love, friendships?
Can He?
Where is God when it hurts?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Upcoming Event

If you are interested in perhaps one of the biggest FREE events (outside of Alabaster's CityFest in June) in the Birmingham area, come to StadiumFest Saturday, April 2, 2011. The event will be held at Spain Park High School and will have a children's play area. Christian group Casting Crowns and Christian artist TobyMac are the headliners along with several local "celebrities," like Rick and "Bubba," Kevin Derryberry and James Spann the weatherman from ABC 33/40. By the way, they would like as many volunteers as they can get, so consider contacting them about volunteering your time before, during or after the AWESOME music as well as enjoying the FREE event. It's really NOT too often that I get THIS excited over upcoming events, but this one merits the excitement. And if you do come, look for me over in the children's area where I will be volunteering before going to see TobyMac whose music has been an inspiration and an encouragement since I got diagnosed with my immune deficiency almost a year ago. And in case you're wondering who TobyMac is, most of the more mature people may recall the Christian group DCTalk. I will post more information and links in the days to come when I can access a computer, but for now, consider this a preview until after I see my primary medical doctor about some rather intense upper right quadrant pain that needs prayers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Practicing the Waltz in the Midst of Brokenness, Or Trying Not to Fall Apart Under the Pressure of the Fight

The saying goes, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Problem. Although good in theory, is there really a person out there who is really all that tough? Are we not all sort of wimpy under pressure? I know I am. And that is just being openly honest.

There's a practice at my church. I don't mean like choir or drama or anything like that. I mean a practice for the Christian life. Wait a minute, you say. Don't all churches have one? I'm sure they do in their own ways, but my church has a "waltz." It's a three-step that we should all be involved in. Repent, believe, fight.

Sometimes I get stuck in one step and I just sort of sway. Sometimes I go from one to another and do a sort of two-step sashay. Shuffle ball change. This is where I find myself needing to remember the reason for the fight after repenting. And that's believing.

Admittedly, it's hard to not fall apart right now. My toes have been stepped on by my teacher. I'm sure he did not really mean to, but mistakes happen. Sometimes those mistakes inflict deep wounds, but this is where I find myself needing to repent and fight. Repent of some actions that may have contributed to him stepping on my toes and fight for restoration and healing. Believe. I've been in some in-depth discussions this week as I deal with some hard-core recovery and I have been reminded to believe. Believe that the one who saved me will bring things together and restore us. It's going to be a long, hard process and in the middle of it, he and I both will have to face many challenges, but we both have to put Christ at the center and perhaps do a little square-dance or Irish step dance along the way.

Life is not easy. Never has been. Never will be. Thank you Adam and Eve. But you know what? If life were easy, it might get boring. Live. Love. Learn. Repent. Believe. Fight. Keep waltzing.

Friday, March 11, 2011

God's Providence and Sovereignty in Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Solar Flares

I am at a loss over the idea of God's providence and sovereignty today. Not only because of a personal attack on my emotional health by someone I thought I could trust, but also because of the solar flares and the earthquakes in Japan and the tsunamis in Hawaii and California.

The timing of the solar flares and the earthquakes which caused the tsunamis is just too coincidental for anyone to ignore. We all learned in science that the tidal waves are affected by lunar phases. So how much impact can solar flares, which involve magnetic fields, have on earthquakes?

A lot of big words have been thrown out today to try to explain the earthquakes and the tsunamis, but those words do not help explain why they really occurred.

If by some chance the solar flares can be linked to the earthquakes, then it must by some great design out of that sovereignty of God that I have been learning about and wrestling so hard with trying to understand as more and more of my "onion heart" gets peeled away through mistakes and being open to whatever God is trying to do in my life right now. That is why things have been so tumultuous of late.

But what I wrestle with is understanding how to put that in the reach of those who have been personally affected. I have friends in Hawaii and friends and family in California. The last I heard from my friends in Hawaii via Facebook is that they were safe but still under warnings. I have no word to report from California yet. But I have had to stop watching the news because it is so worrisome for me.

How do I explain God's providence and sovereignty in all of this when I do not fully understand it myself?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Where Is God's Grace? Where Is His Providence?

It seems as though God's grace and providence have long since left. Two months ago when this whole situation first occurred, out of the blue really, I began questioning my salvation. And even though now that I am secure on that end, I still have a hard time finding God's grace and providence in this situation. It seems if God's grace were as alive as I hear it is and want to believe it is that the moment the person realized that they could have handled things better they would have undid what they did that hurt me so much. That one action has brought me down emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.

For one thing, that person and I had just regained trust. Trust that was broken by another's implications that I was not wanted at church and that the person wanted nothing to do with me. So for months, I questioned why he hated me. All over a misunderstanding and the implications that planted seeds of doubt in my head. So the person and I made an agreement that as long as I never asked him why he hated me on his wall, that we could be friends but that question would be the breaking of it.

I faithfully and dutifully kept my end of the agreement and then I found myself removed. Not as a friend, but it might as well have been since really a friend who does not have privileges is equivalent to not being a friend.

We began meeting with a counselor as a mediator to try to work on the re-establishment and the re-building of trust and have made a new agreement targeting texting since texting seemed to be the biggest issue that we had. And we agreed on texting once a week.

Now I find myself slammed with a threat that the person will be breaking that new agreement over something that we did not clearly define adequately and that the person could have said something about sooner rather than engaging in back-and-forth.

I cannot even begin to tell you how many levels that would be wrong on since we are in the middle of trying to not only restore privileges that really should not have been taken away to start with considering how faithfully and dutifully I had kept the original agreement and the fact that the person was at fault on account of the fact that the person should have brought up the problem before doing what the person did thus breaking my trust. Because one of the biggest areas that would be impacted if this person breaks YET ANOTHER agreement is that area of trust. I'm already feeling wounded. Does this person really need to bring me down further until I sink so low that all I will be able to do is fall into the bottomless pit of despair which is the point of no return for me since that is the point where I would be more likely to resort to my old friend from before I did become a Christian which is cutting?

Where is grace? I've heard this person say that grace gives second and third and so forth chances. But I did not see this person exercise that. And where is providence? Because if this new agreement gets broken, then the only other question I will have is where is God?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dark Night of the Soul

I keep wondering about the expression "dark night of the soul." It's not just a Presbyterian term. A lot of people from a lot of denominations describe having them. For what it's worth, it is even mentioned in many non-religious literary works.

So then I wonder, what is the dark night of the soul?

I guess to some degree, it would vary by the individual affected. For me, I would say that feeling dejected and alone, rejected and unwanted, unloved and falling into the stage in which I want to hurt myself physically or start pushing people away who really do love and care about me and have stayed with me through a difficult time despite my pushing back is probably my dark night of the soul. It's when I have to fight the hardest to not sink into that bottomless pit of despair.

And if that's the dark night of the soul for me then I'm there now and it seems like I've been there for the past two months. I'm trying to shelter. I'm trying to go into a very slimy bubble where no one can access me. Where no one can hurt me. And it hurts even more sometimes than the original hurt that was inflicted upon me to start with.

All I know is that I am not in a good place emotionally right now. And it is no surprise that it feels like that is starting to overarch itself into my faith and tear me down.

Ever since the original hurt got inflicted, I have been down a whirlwind path questioning my salvation. Do I really have it? Only to be met with one final conclusive answer: Yes because if I did not have it, I would not be  asking if I had it because I would not care. Since no one seeks God out of their own volition and will (the doctrine of predestination and effectual calling), then no one would care about whether or not he/she was saved if he/she was not already saved.

But that does not make things any easier.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Public Confession and Apology, Part II

It was brought to my attention that in my being honest in my last post that some people may have felt hurt or offended.

Continuing in the manner of not using actual names, I will apologize, not for my honesty or my honest words, but for the fact that my honesty may have hurt or offended some people.

I am honest to a fault and sometimes that honesty can be brutal. But that is a weakness that has to be worked on. Being honest, as I understand it, is a great thing. But sadly, it can sometimes inflict unexpected wounds.

When I write, I write from an openness and honesty that really can only come out through my writing. It is how I recover from the things in my past that have been so hurtful. It is how I work out my feelings, my thoughts, my questions.

I began blogging last year when I was undergoing extensive laboratory testing for an immune deficiency. I started with two general topic blogs with the intent to do two things: to keep up with my skills while seeking a part-time job in journalism and to express my anxieties or to teach others. I then developed my third blog on being gluten free which presently mostly consists of product and place reviews. Then, as I have been learning from my pastor, the Gospel CAN be found everywhere, EVEN in films and books and music, so after seeing a film that particularly touched my life, I started the blog on media reviews. Now, as I learn more about my faith and God, I opened a blog, this one, on my journey through theology. It is designed to get my questions out and to work through them and to follow up with what I learn about them. Sometimes it will take more personal notes such as my struggle with God’s sovereignty and providence coming from a “broken” family filled with abuse and pain and broken trust. Sometimes it might get kind of brutal as I learn and grow and develop and mature in my personal walk in grace, but as I understand, the Christian life can be brutal. And it certainly is NEVER easy.

If I ever do come across as being TOO brutally honest, DO tell me. That is how I can learn and grow. But DO tell me. And if you have a thought or an insight that may help my understanding, feel free to let me know.

Again, I apologize that my honesty may have hurt or offended some people, and for that, I ask forgiveness and another chance and grace from those people. I cannot apologize for my honesty or take back what I said or did, and if I start apologizing for being honest, then I will no longer be able to write for one of my strongpoints is that honesty and writing. It is in my writing that I am able to be most open and transparent. It is also in my writing that I can be most vulnerable.

But for those who did feel hurt or offended by such open honesty, I am sorry and hope you can forgive me.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Public Confession and Apology

I have to admit that the past few months have been quite horrendous. My whole world was shaken up by the actions of one individual. An individual who I trusted. An individual who I looked up to and had great respect for. He broke an agreement that we had even though I kept my end of it. But in hindsight, and we have both learned this through a few joint counseling sessions that he has so willingly attended, we really didn't have clearly defined limits to that agreement. Although even still, he did acknowledge he could have handled it much better and much differently and yet to this day I feel like I am being punished, rejected and left out.

I recently lost a "friend" over the whole mess because I said some things about him that may not have been very good to say because I was so hurt - devastated. But the reality of that loss is that she and I were just not meant to be friends. Every thing I ever said, and I mean every thing, was judged by her to be antagonistic in nature, yet she did more than her fair share of antagonizing. There was a moment in which a question had come up in our Sunday night group meetings. Yeah, a question from her. She always did ask a lot of questions, to the point that hardly anyone else could ever get a word in edgewise or ask any questions they might have. Her recent question was a question that I, as a thirty-two-year-old and not quite a two-year-old baby Christian, would naturally expect from a two- to four-year-old child, not an adult with children. "Did Adam have a belly button?"

My pastor, in all the grace he could muster in response, just basically said that there were bigger things in life to think about, such as why it is that in our modern day, there are still countries that have not even heard the Word.

I reminded her of this and even though it was exactly what my pastor had said, she basically threw it back at me to the extent that she came across sounding as though she did not give a rip what my pastor had to say about it but that she can think about whatever she wants. That was the straw that broke my back. I do not take kindly to people who do not respect my pastor and friend.

I will admit that only earlier after he did what he did that I was so hurt that I actually implied that he killed grace. I am now to a point where grace may not be dead, but it still feels quite fractured. My pastor and I have to work on re-establishing a trust between the two of us so that we can experience a full restoration. And it seems like it is taking forever. But he has gone above and beyond what would be expected of a pastor. He has sat through no fewer than two hours of counseling sessions and will be embarking on a third in a couple of weeks. And I am only guessing that he will probably continue to sit through some additional sessions until he and I both feel confident that we have made progress and are restored. Baby steps are great for babies, but when you are thirty-two and have experienced the infractures to the trust infrastructure that began when I was a child, you would begin to understand why what happened hurts so much.

And this is where it gets really personal because to be honest, I think I am afraid to say this to my counselor, so whoever is reading this, I hope that you can provide some encouragement and some support and perhaps even share this with my counselor on my behalf, but yes, one of the biggest reasons I question God's providence and sovereignty is because my human father took away my innocence when I was just six. He beat me with a belt one night after my mother had gone to bed and at that time we lived in a trailer house and the two bedrooms were on separate ends of the trailer. Matter of fact, for the past four and a half years, I have had night terrors as my subconsciousness has revealed bits and pieces of another traumatic event that I am not entirely sure about the who and the what of yet but I suspect that my father did put me through SA. And that is a reality of which that if it did occur, I do not know if I am ready to know.

My counselor asked me why I suspect that. How do I explain that a physician who almost caused my death four years ago planted that bug to start with just because I explained that I felt violated when I went to the women's doctor? And because of something that I have lived with for the past 16 years, not counting the cutting which intensified around the same time because I used to feel so guilty for the shameful thing that I fell into that I would begin to cut my wrist? At first it was a paper clip, then it advanced to scissors. I had to get the pain out. I have never intended to do anything but.

The biggest pain was the biggest relief for me. My parents' divorce just before I turned 21. But my father disowned me. Then when my grandmother on his side died in 2003, that summer was the last communication I ever had with him and that was enough to realize how hateful he really was and to cut him out of my life altogether.

But you know why I still love my pastor despite what he did that has brought so many of these issues back to the surface? Because he never killed grace. If anything, despite of what he did that hurt me so much, he has actively been showing me grace and refusing to let me go despite my stubbornness and my continual "pooh pooh," let me go, let me leave, let me forsake you and everyone else because I do not like feeling rejected and left out which is what I feel right now because of what he did.

And if he is reading this, then we have a lot that has spilled out here that we probably need to go over for the next session if that is okay by him.

I am sorry that I ever said that he killed grace because he did not. I just do not understand grace. I hope that everyone reading this will do one thing. If you see me in the next couple of weeks, kill me with that grace and give me a giant bear hug, okay? Just do not come that close to me if you have a bacterial infection or have had one in the past couple of weeks because the nature of my immune deficiency is that I am most vulnerable to bacterial infections.