Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A week (or two) in the life

Lately i've had some pretty interesting Bible passages come up. In what i'm sure some would term quite unspiritual fashion, i've taken a totally random approach to finding Bible verses to read. Kind of the ol' "flip and find" style of choosing.

Recently i've voiced concerns to friends, family, and to God Himself. "i'm so dang tired of feeling like crap," i said. "i keep complaining about the same old stuff," i said. So as i threw these words around, i decided to do a bit more journaling of what Bible reading i do. (i would love to say that i get up every day at the butt-crack of dawn and have a glorious time of Bible reading and prayer before running 5 miles. But even seeing that in writing on this page makes me laugh.)

i'm a bit random in my approach to many things--or, "creative" as i prefer to call myself. i have no real plan for housework--when the floor has more dog hair on it than the dogs, i clean it. When there are more pans in the sink than on the pot rack, i wash them. When company's coming, i dust. (And by "i" i mean frequently i make Jarel do it.) There is no "Thursday laundry day" at my house--when i have to start wearing my fancy underwear, i wash clothes. When we're down to carrots and oatmeal in the kitchen, i shop. i sew when the mood strikes me, i exercise even less. All that to say, i'm not the most focused person on the planet.

Why did i feel the need to tell you all that? i suppose so that you won't assume i'm not taking God lightly. i'm simply being consistently random.

So, after all my frustrated complaining, i decided to just pick a passage in the Bible and see what it had to say. The Bible study we friends had been doing (for quite some long time now) by somebody Blackaby called "Experiencing God" has talked about how our times of understanding God through His words in the Bible IS an experience with God. And who couldn't use a little one on one time with the Big Guy?

So i flipped my Bible open to where the attached satin ribbon bookmark was nestled. Isaiah 38, i suppose there because that's midway through the Bible. ANYway, it's a chapter that tells about King Hezekiah's illness. God had even told him he was going to die. For obvious reasons that news did not thrill the king, so he prayed and cried out to God, and God listened and added years to his life. King H even wrote a poem afterward about it--he said that the experience taught him humility, and being allowed to live gave him reason to praise God, as "only the living" could.

i'm not going to die from fibromyalgia, but some days i'm mighty cranky about it. So what experience did i have through those verses with the God who made me? Thoughts of hope, thoughts of purpose, and the realization that life allows me to continue learning.

Another day i picked up my Bible and began to thumb through--what did i think i want to read this time, old testament or new? Job 30 caught my attention. i loved this! Quoting straight from my New Living translation, "I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely." OH somebody's been looking inside my head! Disgusted with the constant exhaustion/pain/lack of enthusiasm for life. Job was saying that it didn't matter to God whether or not he was guilty or innocent, sinful or righteous, God was still choosing to punish him. Job was very honest before God--"You made me, why do you want to harm me? I am right before You."

That's the age old question--why does bad crap happen to good people? What did i hear in those words of Job? i can be honest before God. i can say how i feel, tell him i don't think it's very fair that i have this fat bump in my road. i'm a good person, right? i don't deserve this stupid pain. i can complain freely.

Another day, another random passage--and feeling particularly out of hope that day. New Testament this time: Hebrews 4:14-15. Jesus faced all our same temptations, so he understands our weaknesses. These verses talk about how we can have Jesus as our "high priest" (more on that later--) so we can go to him and ask for mercy and grace when we need it. This brought to my mind the question, what are my weaknesses and temptations? i'm easily tempted to lose hope, easily tempted to get stuck in the "now" of how lousy i feel. i start feeling like i will always feel exactly this way--too tired and awful to live. i lose the bigger picture, that there's more to me and my life than the way i feel at this exact moment of hopelessness. And i'm a big proponent of hope--i try to give others hope in their trials, but i'm having trouble finding any in mine. More time doesn't speak to healing, just to more physical and mental pain.

So what did i "hear" in those verses? Again, i can speak honestly to God my Father, this time with a dose of "he understands because he's been there."

The next time i read more in Hebrews, this time 5:1-10. This explained what a high priest was--someone who represents other people in their dealings with God. He understands them because he is one of them, having their same human weaknesses and temptations. But he must be called by God for the position, simply waking up one day and saying, "Hey, I think I want to be a high priest," doesn't do it. So, how does Jesus figure into that whole "high priest" bit? While he was walking around on earth like the rest of us, he was tempted, he prayed for deliverance from the pain of the death he faced. But he prayed to his Father to understand and make the choice that would be best. He processed to the point of obedience to a bigger picture.

i have a problem with obedience. The very word is hard for me to say. i suppose that comes from having grown up in a home where i pretty much obeyed to stay out of trouble. i didn't obey because i believed my parents had my best in mind and i trusted their judgment, like in some "Leave it to Beaver" world. i obeyed because the alternative was not too pleasant, and i prefer pleasant. So, as a child i didn't gladly obey out of a trust relationship, and i still have trouble with the concept. i'm clear on this. So i'm working on trusting God. i've got the whining/ begging/ pleading thing down.

Next random verse: Colossians 2: 6-10. Verses 6 and 7 say, "Continue to live in obedience to him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done." Hello. Obedience again. What's up with that?

How do i let my life overflow with thanksgiving? It's like all those stinking thank you notes my mother made me write as a kid (i know, i'm a better person for it--) once i would stop to remember what i had received i'd be happy all over again for it. So, remember. Make a list. What has my Father done for me?
-helped me survive my childhood by being there for me
-found me family in my husband and his little girl
-showed me His willingness to walk with me in tough times
-showed me His comfort in pain
-even now, helping me learn to trust him as i could not trust my birth parents
-taught me the value of truth in life and relationships
-given me the desire to encourage and love others.

That's just some of it.

Most recent random verses: Romans 8:9-25. This passage tells me that i'm under no obligation to do what my human nature wants me to do--that's a different spin on the idea of my less-than-optimum life/health choices: "under no obligation" to them. When i think of my human nature, my brain goes automatically toward my weaknesses, such as my passion for all things creamy, fatty, and chocolate, or my lack of passion for exercise. But i owe those things no loyalty. Different spin.

We also"groan to be released from pain and suffering." God gave us his Holy Spirit to give us a taste of "future glory"--is that maybe when we're done with life on earth with its brokenness and decay? So i get the groaning, i get the brokenness, i just tend to forget there's a future.

So, i must ask you, how "random" were all of these verses i read? i mean, take a look: King H was gonna die. He prayed, he lived, he learned from it. Job, a righteous man, a good guy, being honest with God--"I'm disgusted with my life." Followed by Jesus as our high priest, one who understands our weaknesses, someone who has struggled to see the bigger picture and questioned God the Father, something i understand. Top that with a walk through staying rooted in him by being obedient, seasoned with a dash of communal groaning for release from the stuff that steals our hope.

All of that seems to have a theme--maybe there is no "random" with God--yes, there is pain, there is suffering. Friends get cancer, we get sick. Brokenness happens. But where is my hope to be found? i know the Sunday School answer is "Jesus!" But i need a bit more detail than that, a bit more direction. So, how about hope found in the details of that list i made of ways God has shown His love for me, prompted by those verses in Colossians. How about in all the verses that said, "You have lots of company in the struggle to make sense of your pain." Where can i find comfort? Probably in those "random" verses in Hebrews telling me that Jesus understands pain and temptation because he's been there.

i've spent three days writing this--really, i'm gonna stop now! But it's been an interesting creatively random wander. . .


Tersie said...

it was a lovely wandering post! God is not random. You did find meaning in all of those verses for a reason. They all spoke to me as well. I've been reading Job, trying to get a feeling for the "why do good people have to suffer?" question. You know, that question is never really addressed directly in Job. But it does offer hope. After it's all said and done, Job is restored and blessed with even more than he ever had in the first place. Because he kept his faith and didn't turn his back on God. I find Job's friends very interesting. They're very well intentioned, but they do nothing but make him feel worse. I also believe that God does not cause Job's suffering or any of our suffering. But He is there to help us through it.

I just have to say that you amaze me. Thanks for sharing your insights. You're in my prayers.

Unknown said...

i agree with tersie - i am still after 42 years trying to figure God out while the beauty of this journey is that i never will (figure Him out that is) but i have determined that God shows up in the most unlikely of places. tersie directed me to your blog - it's wonderful!

julia said...

hi, ladies! so nice to hear from you both--thanks for the encouragement, too--you are both strong and amazing women...

Lea Ann said...

You are always an inspiration Julie - and I agree with Tersie, God is not random! I don't believe in coincidences, I believe in a loving God who helps us feel connected to Him and others. Suffering is so hard (duh) or rather suffering is so difficult to understand. God promises to be with us and he offers us peace that passes all understanding, but He does not promise easy.

I love you dear cousin Julie, and I would let you in my house on any given day and would trust you to understand my mess! I so hope you are not exaggerating! I have bff who once dated a guy that took me aside and said he really wished he could get her to be less messy. I told him to leave her alone because the fact that we were equally messy to the point of total trust was one of our main bonds!

Be well. Having the faith OF Jesus is what we are called to do...you are exactly right about obedience.

Lea Ann said...

Forgot to say... The Peace of the Lord be with you!

julia said...

And i love YOU, dear cousin Lea Ann-- and i WISH i were exaggerating about my lack of drive in the housework department--there are just so many more interesting things to do!