Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Relationships Worth Making: Provision

Well, my friends, we have FINALLY done it! We have reached the end of this book!

This last chapter is titled: PROVISION 

Isn't it just like God to show up and show out when we feel like we've messed up?

~I~ feel like I should write/post at least every two to three weeks, but it doesn't always work out that way. When I have been unable to write for months at a time I am comforted by the fact that He has had me exactly where He wanted me all along. 

At the beginning of this chapter the authors shared this verse:

"How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?" Psalm 13:2

Those of you who have been following for a while know that I am an over comer of Pastoral abuse. See what I did there? I changed the word victim to over comer. That's right. I AM an over comer. 

With the opening words of this final chapter we are brought to another scene: 

A couple who have been married for years are facing many difficult problems together. They both came from privileged families and had been given the very best that life has to offer. Their parents had high expectations for them both individually and as a couple based on the belief that they had provided everything they needed to be successful. However, this couple each responded very differently to their upbringings.

"Brian" was always living in the shadow of his brother the surgeon and his sister who was a high powered lawyer at a top law firm. He always felt as though all eyes were on him, gauging his level of success (or not) against that of his siblings. About his third year of college cracks began to show in his carefully crafted facade. After years of near-failing grades in his pre-law classes, he decided to study philosophy. This was deeply disappointing to his parents who were very vocal about it and asked the older brother to call  and talk sense into his wayward brother. The sister too was enlisted in this campaign to reinforce this message of disappointment. It was about this time that "Brian" began to struggle with depression.

"Kara" on the other hand was the oldest of four children and the recipient of her parents constant encouragement. This enabled her to gain the confidence she needed to believe she could accomplish almost anything. She finished her undergraduate degree with honors and graduated from law school at the top of her class.

When these two met, they seemed like a perfect match. She was drawn to his pensive, sensitive personality and he was drawn to her because she reminded him of his family and he knew his parents would approve. It wasn't until after the wedding that Kara realized that Brian had abandoned the achievement dream that she so cherished. Brian didn't realize that Kara's expectations would so closely mirror that of his family's. As their marriage went on Brian's depression became worse as he realized he was not living up to Kara's expectations, and Kara responded to Brian's depression by pushing, prodding and complaining when he failed to complete even the most menial tasks around the house. The more Kara pushed and tried to control Brian the more he withdrew.

Eventually, Kara reached out to a friend. The authors use a great quote here:

THE REALITY YOU SEE WILL BE THE REALITY YOU LIVE BY

This was true for Kara. All Kara saw was problems. Being around people who appeared to "have it all together" only added to Kara's false assumptions. Seeking help from a friend helped adjust Kara's vision. As her friend listened she was moved with compassion. She remembered a time in the the not too distant past where her life had looked very similar. She didn't minimize Kara's problems, but as she peered into Kara's world she also saw evidence of God's redeeming grace at work in and through their circumstances. She saw Kara's deep love for her husband and children, although their finances were tight, she took note of God's obvious provision. Where Kara saw only failure, her friend saw God's ability to use the struggles to bring the couple to a new place in both their personal lives and in their marriage as well as a church family that was ready and willing to help them. The most obvious sign of God's grace in their lives was the fact that Kara, who was self-confident was had humbled herself and was seeking help.

When we lack hope we seek an explanation that will do three things for us:

Help us to understand what is going on:

Why is our loved one acting the way that they are? Why do we suddenly "feel" they way we do toward them? How did this person we once found so appealing become so unappealing?

All good questions...

Point us in the direction we need to go:

When things become difficult we give up on grand plans for the future and just focus on survival.We stop asking "What can be?" and ask "Will I survive?"Wanting goals that will give you purpose and motivation are also GOOD desires

Tell us HOW to get there:

Once we see what's going on and where we need to be, we need a plan of action and practical skills to help us get where we need to be. How do we make progress?

Also good questions...

Explanations, though, will only increase someone's despair. We need more than an explanation.

The example the authors give is this:

Imagine that you have a ten thousand dollar debt, but you do not realize that an inheritance of one hundred thousand dollars is coming. If you knew that inheritance was coming, you would approach that debt differently. What the authors are saying is that YOU have been given a billion dollar provision in the promises of God. Imagination is not the ability to dream up things that are not real but to see what is real but often unseen. To quote Eugene Peterson, "for a Christian, whose hope is in an invisible God, seeing the unseen is essential." he goes on to further explain:

"When I look at a tree, most of what I "see" I do not see at all. I see a root system beneath the surface, sending tendrils through the soil sucking up nutrients out of the loam. I see light pouring energy into the leaves. I see fruit that will appear in a few months. I stare and see the bare branches austere in next winters snow and wind. I see all that. I really do--I am not making it up. But I could  not photograph it. I see it by means of imagination, If my imagination is stunted or inactive, I will only see what I can use, or something that is in my way."

Imagination gives us a deeper sense of TWO unseen realities:

(1) Our identity:The unseen reality of WHO God says we are

(2) God's resources, the unseen reality of His presence WITH us and His provision FOR us

Let's go back to that art gallery scenario. Imagine the walls are covered with beautiful paintings but the lighting is dim and you can't really SEE the paintings. Imagine there is beautiful music playing but your ears are plugged with cotton so the music is muffled. Imagine also that you have been invited to a five star restaurant but you've had a terrible cold and the flavorful food is tasteless.

Spiritually, this is what happens to us.

Our perspective becomes so clouded by what is wrong in our lives that we cannot SEE what is right. Faith (or what the authors have been calling imagination) does not mean that you deny your circumstances, but that you view them in the context of WHO you are in CHRIST.

Too often we miss the unseen things that are true in each of us as God's children, but there are two fundamental truths that characterize those of us who are "in Christ".

(1) There has been a radical change in the core of our being.

The bible says in Ezekiel 36:26 :I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." Paul mentions this same thing in II Corinthians 5:17 where he says,"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away, behold new things have come."

Not PERFECT hearts but sensitive, malleable and alive to God.

(2) Our reconciliation WITH God gives us a relationship with Him that alters the way we respond to EVERYTHING else that happens after that.

In John 14: 15-20 Jesus said these comforting words, "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives in you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me any more,but you will see me.Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that Iam in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you."

There will be times that you are reduced to a place of neediness and discouragement. Trust me, there will be. You will want simple, easy answers to plug in when those times come. God, in His infinite wisdom knows our need is much deeper than simple strategies and He knows what it takes to truly satisfy our greatest need. He IS our wisdom. He IS our Strength. He IS our forgiveness. He IS our Father. As Moses prayed in Exodus 33:15, so should we pray, "If your Presence does not go with us do not send us up from here."

The song by Mercy Me says what I and the Authors are saying so well, give it a listen:





Do you feel this way? Even if?

Bible study and personal reading fall flat when we miss what its intended purpose is. Those things are a means not an end. If you look at bible study and personal reading time as neat little check marks you can check off on your to do list you've already missed the point. The whole purpose of those things is to give you a vision of the God Who is your Savior and Who you are in a relationship with. Bible study is intended to stimulate worship, the authors point out though too often it has become about theology and rules.

The Authors point out this: (and I LOVE LOVE LOVE this analogy)

How do you stimulate your faith? (i.e. imagination)

In any area what do you do? If you want to decorate your house, you buy magazines and pour over them (or my addiction, you go to Pinterest). If you are planning a a trip, you research hotels, airlines, talk to people who have been there, etc.

God provides many things to stir up our faith:

imagination, hymns, songs, sermons, poetry, seminars, allegory, creation

Just to name a few. Immerse yourself. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

Postscript:

I have struggled with my relationships since my former Pastor bent the truth and hurt so many when he did. I have shared what happened and some people have accepted me and loved me through this while others have literally asked what I did to deserve his affections. Others have just left. For a long time I would not interact with men AT ALL because I was fearful that ALL men were like He was. I am not like that any more. It has been a painful journey, but a beneficial one.

Those who I am meant to be in relationship with I will be in relationship with. Paul made it clear that we will not all be skipping around with rainbows and unicorns just because we are all believers. He spoke of Alexander the Coppersmith who caused him much harm. We won't all get along. That's ok. I leave those people to the Lord, and check my heart with Him. Have I struggled with bitterness or anger? Of course, who hasn't. Alas, I am a work in process. I am just so grateful that He promises to continue to work on me till I am complete.

You too have this same HOPE. He who began an good work in YOU is faithful to complete it.

So, go back, listen to the song by Mercy Me again if you're feeling overwhelmed and remember what and why and Who, and get your faith pumped up. You've Got this, because HE's got this.

XOXO

Next time:

Ministering to Others, the BEST medicine