Monday, July 22, 2013

They Can't Give What They Ain't Got

One day when Taylor and Caleb were little, we were out running errands and we got hungry. I pulled into an Arby's to go through the drive-thru because I, like everyone else, was in a hurry. The line was long with about five or six cars in front of us. That part wasn't so bad, the problem was the line was inching along.

However, the longer I was in line, the more committed I became to stay in line because I had already invested so much time in this venture. And we were only getting hungrier and hungrier for those roast beef sandwiches that Arby's sells.

We waited more than fifteen minutes before we ever ordered. That's a long time in the world of "fast food". But, the worst part is that when I finally pulled around the corner of the building and put our order in for our delicious roast beef sandwiches, this is the response I got: "We are out of roast beef."

Yes, you heard me right. Out....of...roast beef. Why are they even open since that's their main product? And why weren't they telling all of us in this dumb line this very relavant information before we got to the little black box? Could they not send a teenager outside to inform us of this development? Could they not put up a sign or something? How does this even happen?

Yeah, I'm still mad about it.

Mick Jagger was right. You can't always get what you want. That day I had an expectation that Arby's (a restaurant that proclaims "Arby's Roast Beef Sandwich Is Delicious!") would provide those sandwiches; but they couldn't deliver. They had no roast beef. Arby's could not give me what they did not have.

In the much the same way, I can look to other people and have expectations about what they are to provide for me. Some of my expectations may be completely reasonable, but if the person I'm looking to help doesn't have what I need, then he can't give it.

This dynamic can be present in any relationship, but I think it shows up the most in marriage. I need comfort, kindness, patience, and gentleness. Instead, maybe today my husband does not have those things to give. Maybe, he needs all of those things from me, but I'm not able. Maybe we both used up our daily supply of kindness and comfort on others or maybe we didn't have any to begin with. Either way, I am set up for a fall. I need comfort and I'm not getting it where I thought it was promised. My expectations are not getting met. His expectations are not getting met. We are (as one of our counselors has said) two ticks with no dog.

When my need for food wasn't met by Arby's that day, the need didn't go away. I was still hungry. My kids were still hungry. We had to begin looking for another source of sustenance. We found another restaurant that did have food and enjoyed our meal with thankfulness.

When my need for comfort is not being met by Kevin, I have to go to another source. God has given me friends, family, and Himself. There have been times when all I needed was a heart to heart with God. The simple reminder that He loves me, values me, and has not forgotten me is often enough. And there have been moments when I have needed Jesus with flesh on (a safe friend) who could listen and empathize with me. And there have been many days when being around my family for a holiday celebration filled my heart with what was missing.

God calls us to be the Body of Christ here on earth. In Ephesians 4:2, we are instructed to "be patient, bearing with one another in love." This is the practical working out of that verse. I have had to learn to be patient with others, receiving them where they are and recognizing they can't give me what they don't have. As human beings, we have limited supplies of patience, love, mercy, and roast beef. We run out of these things. But, God, who is rich in mercy, is always in full supply.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Is God for me?

When I heard my friend Melissa say that she was thankful for the pain and betrayal that turned her life upside down and ended her missionary career, I thought to myself, "Not me. I am not thankful for the junk. I am not thankful for the pain. It's hard to even imagine getting to that place."

Two years later, I found myself saying, "Yes, I am thankful for the pain. I am thankful for the hurt and the wounds."

So what changed?

Not much and everything. It was in the way I saw the pain, a new perspective that only makes sense when viewed through the lens of believing that God is good and God is for me. I had to ask God to help me re-frame what I was seeing. I couldn't get there on my own. It took others speaking truth to me. It took God speaking to my soul. It took the gift of time to release the hurts. It took a willingness to let go of the "victim" badge that brought me empathy and made  me a kind of hero as well. "Wow, she has really suffered. What an amazing person!"

And there was suffering; I don't want to minimize the pain.  However, my pain was not how God wanted my life to be defined. "Introducing, Karen Cone, long-suffering victim extraordinaire" didn't capture His grace, mercy, and redemptive purposes for me. I could feel the Father pulling at my heart, wanting me to believe Him, longing me to move out slavery and into the promised land of freedom.

I was hearing that God was good and that He was for me and that no one and nothing including evil, sin, or bad circumstances could thwart His good purposes for my life. I had heard that before, memorized the verses and I thought I had believed it fully. But my heart kept arguing otherwise. 

I was saying to God, "If  You really loved me, You would do this." I had decided how His love for me should be defined. I had a definite expectation of what He was to deliver into my hands. Mostly, I expected Him to rescue me from emotional pain. But it didn't happen that way.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I have stood with closed fists demanding God fix things in my way. I could not open my hand to receive the good He had for me. I could hardly choke out  Kari Jobe's, "I Know That You Are For Me" if  we were singing it in church. It felt so ... untrue. At that time I could not see that He wanted to free me from my idolatry of Kevin and my kids. I could not see that He wanted to break the bonds of slavery to fearfulness. I could not see how God could use someone else's sinful choices to do me good. I could not understand that God would use a mess to move me out of my loneliness and into rich relationships with others and so much more.

Who knows what other gifts of life and joy He wants to give me that I haven't yet seen?

God is a giver. His gifts are good. Even the ones that we respond to with, "Now what on earth would I want that for, Lord?"  He redeems brokenness--our own brokenness and the brokenness of others--to bring life, joy, hope, and healing. He is good and He is for me.

Monday, July 8, 2013

We Are Tired of This Manna!

Almost every day there is a little song and dance we do in the Cone household and it is called mealtime (or supper in our Southern speaking household). When the usual players are present, Act 1 goes something like this: the loving and hard working mother (that's me) carefully plans, chops, dices, and cooks a delicious, balanced, and nutritious meal. Act 2 involves some manner of getting the remaining players (that's the kids and the hubby) to the table within the same hour and thanking God for the food.

 Then we are on to the main stage performance of  "Supper-The Meal". Here are some famous lines from the show, maybe you've seen parts of it in your own home:
 "Uggh, Mom, are those tomato chunks in the sauce? You know I hate the chunks!", "Are there onions in this? 'Cause if there are onions, I'm not eating it." And the oft  quoted line: "Didn't we have burritos last week?"

In theatre, we call this the introduction of the "problem". At home, I just call it, "Mom Goes Insane and Must Control Her Desire to Throttle Her Children". Don't worry. I am not a violent woman.....yet.

It's just that I put a good amount of time and effort into meal planning, prep, and cooking. I actually like to do it. I used to LOVE to do it. But let's say I've grown a little weary.

For me, cooking a good meal is a physical and tangible "I love you" message. I am caring for your physical and emotional needs when I bring everyone together around the table for a great meal. We all get fed and we get to relate. That may not happen any other time in the day, but it will happen at the table. However, all the griping and complaining and lack of appreciation has me ready to throw in the kitchen towel.

This morning I read in Numbers 21 about the Israelites and how they grew impatient wandering in the desert so they spoke against God and against Moses and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!"

Did you hear that? They were complaining about the food! I thought, "Wow, God I can so relate to what You are going through! Here You are providing and taking care of these people and instead of thanks, they choose to bad mouth what You have done and are doing for them. Manna and water from the rock aren't impressing them. What a bunch of ingrates!"

But God said in His quiet voice, " I think you might relate more to the Hebrew children, Karen. I hear you complain about the portion I have given you. Isn't it a generous portion? Isn't it a good portion? Do you think I haven't thought through what you need and how to care for you?  I know what you need before you speak it. I am good. I am God and I prepare a table for you. Don't scoff at the food I have given you, but receive it with a joyful and thankful heart like the heart you want to see in your children when you are providing for them."

As always His voice leaves my soul quiet and contemplative. And I know He is right. I am like those children of Israel and I am like my own children. I demand, I complain, and I make much of what is not here instead of expressing thanks for the many gifts He gives me each day. I am not who I want to be.

I want to be one who is grateful and appreciative of all that God has done and is doing for me. I want to have a voice that is known for praising Him and thanking Him for His goodness because it is right and it is true. And I want to remember that He is good and He is for me. Change my heart, O God.

Lamentations 3:24  I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for Him."