Saturday, October 29, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

I think you know by now that my life is not perfect. If you don't, then allow me to let you into my world: the laundry is high, the dust is deep, the toys are strewn here and there, and the garage, . . . well, we won't talk about that.  And that's only the stuff you can see; there's the deeper struggles within too. However, do please come in and sit down. I've got coffee and a comfy sofa and we can hang out and talk for a while. I've even made some yummy pumpkin bread that you are welcome to enjoy.

I was only thinking yesterday how very much I wanted to sit and talk with a friend, and how much I'd love to be with you. You came to mind. All that you are going through right now and all that you are carrying; you have a load and I prayed for you. And I wished that we could find the time to get together. I wished I could do more than think of you and pray. I wanted to see you face to face. I wanted to look into your eyes and let you know that I care. I wanted to rest my hand on your shoulder and say to you that I am here for you. I am in your corner. You are my friend. I see the stuff you are dealing with and I see how much you need rest. I see you and you matter to me.

What would it mean to you to hear words like these spoken to you? 

I can tell you that for me, I'd probably start crying on the spot. There is something in me that wants to know that I matter. I want to speak and be heard. I want to be seen, not by the crowds,... but by someone. I need to know that I am not alone. 

Maybe that is why I love the story of Hagar.

Hagar was the maidservant of Sarai, Abram's wife. You may remember that when God promised Abram a son, the promise was not fulfilled right away. And after awhile, Sarai became impatient and took matters into her own hands. Sarai figured that to make God's promise a reality, He might need a little help. So, she told Abram to go sleep with her maidservant. Can you imagine suggesting that to your husband? "Well, okay, hon. Whatever you say."

We don't know all the details of how the scene played out, but I can imagine this "great" idea was not welcomed by Hagar. She had no say-so, no voice. No one asked Hagar what she thought about this plan. It seemed she didn't matter much except to be used for someone else's purposes.

And guess what? When it all worked out just as Sarai had planned, no one was happy. Hagar was pregnant and she "began to despise her mistress." This ticks off Sarai and she complains to Abram and even blames him for the wrong she is now suffering. Abram does not arise to the occasion, rather he avoids doing anything and hands the problem back to Sarai.

"Your servant is in your hands. Do with her whatever you think best." Now Sarai has permission from her husband to mistreat Hagar, and she does. Hagar, desperate and alone, runs away.

And here is where it gets good. Because God is about to enter in. Of course, He has been there all along, but He is about to reveal Himself to Hagar. He will soon make Himself known. Genesis 16 tells it like this:

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert... And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?"

"I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her." The angel added "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count."

The angel of the Lord also said to her, "You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery."

And she gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me."

Hagar has been alone. She was miserable. Yet who could she complain to? Who would listen to this servant girl with no status or power? God would. And God did. He saw what was going on. He was not unaware of Sarai's scheming or Abram's passivity or Hagar's bitter heart. He knew it all. And He told Hagar that she was heard.

It is so encouraging that God told Hagar that she was heard. God named her child according to that; Ishmael means "God hears." Then Hagar turns the table and gives God a name; she called Him the Living God Who Sees. Because when people fail to hear you, they also fail to see you. Or at least they don't see your soul. Hagar needed to know that she mattered to God. He personally saw to it that she received that message.

Thank you Father, for your Word. I get to see that everyone fails much like I do. I get to see that everyone has needs just like I do. I get to see that You are there and that You hear and that You see and that I matter to You.  And You have blessed me with friends that listen and care about me. You are good.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

It's been awhile since I have been good and mad. Isn't that a funny phrase? "Good and mad" I tend to think of those as opposites and much of the time being mad is not good. However, God says in His Word, "Be angry and don't sin."

This is one of my favorite verses. Because I do get angry. I get angry about all kinds of things. I get mad when I go to a fast food restaurant and the person behind the counter doesn't greet me or ask me what I would like. (Sometimes I just stare and wait until he breaks down.) I get ticked off at high gas prices because I know that the oil companies are enjoying their highest profit margins ever on the backs of those of us who are struggling to pay the bills. And don't even get me started on how much of that cost of the gallon of gas is federal and state taxes! I get riled up when I am cleaning the kitchen and there are dirty dishes everywhere and the dishwasher has been empty for two days. Am I the only one who knows how to put a dirty dish in the dishwasher? Apparently so.

Most of these are just annoyances or pet peeves. Poor customer service, greedy oil companies, taxes, etc.

Even though these things can get my ire up, I generally can move on rather quickly. I want my life to be richer than that. I don't want to live complaining about every little nuisance. And I do want to have friends.

However, sometimes when I get angry it goes much deeper. It is more than a pet peeve or an annoyance. Sometimes I can get heated because I think I am under attack. This usually happens with those who are closest to me. Mostly my husband.

All the women just said, "Amen." And all the men just stopped reading. Hang in there, guys, you are not under attack.

Here is what happens when a human is attacked. Fight or flight. For me I can go either way. Flight for me looks like silence and distance from the one who I perceive is harming me. Fight looks like a strong verbal defense of my intentions and motives and a lot of explaining of how I am not the "bad guy."

God is truly amazing in how He uses even my anger (especially my anger) to let me know what is going on inside me.

Yesterday started with a really good argument. The details don't matter. What does matter is that it was extremely important to me that Kevin (my husband) understood that he was the bad guy, not me. I really wanted him to know how innocent I was of the charges he made. I couldn't be the one with the problem; I was only handling things as best as I could given the circumstances.

I felt as if I was fighting for my life. And that was the problem. I was defining life as me being the good one. And if my life is wrapped up in everyone thinking I am the good one, then my life is coming from the wrong source.

I tell people that Jesus defines who I am, that it is God who gives me my value, my worth, my identity. If that is to be true, then I can no longer find my value in being esteemed by others as the good one.

Jesus laid down His life for mine. Romans 5:8 says, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." I was not the good guy. In fact, the Bible charges that we are all alike and we are all under the penalty of sin." There is no one righteous, not even one...there is on one who does good, not even one....their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness....There is no fear of God before their eyes."

I was the bad guy. I was the one who needed redemption. Now that I know Christ, His blood has made me clean. I am now righteous (made good) with God. So I don't have to find my life and value in what others may think of me. I am to follow hard after God and allow His Spirit to lead me. Sometimes I may be labeled "bad."

I think of Christians who are persecuted in other nations because of their faith. They are being labeled as troublemakers by the government and by those around them. I think of all of those in my church who are serving the community through Loveloud this week and weekend. Their work will be labeled good and rightly so.  But what if I were labeled as disturber of the peace if I swung a hammer to help rebuild a home? I can't make my decisions based on what people may think or say about me. I can't do something  only because I want to be called "good".

The flip side of this is that I can't make Kevin out to be the bad guy either. He is clean and set free too. He is good with God.

I've got a long way to go. I really do like being "the good one."

I think this is one of the things Jesus was talking about when He said, "Whoever loses his life for me will find it." The more I let go of finding my life and meaning in being the good one, the more I will find my life in Jesus.

Thank you, Jesus, for making me good with the Father. Thank you that for using even my anger to draw me nearer to you. Thank that my life is found in you and not in how others may label me.