Cleaning Under the Rug

This is a follow up to my last post. I'm sure some of you disagreed with what I said. I'm okay with that. I'm processing through this and kind of thinking out loud here. So, feel free to comment.

I hope it's readily apparent that I am talking about the deeper hurts of life, not disagreements about paint color or someone cutting you off in traffic. Those things we should be able to let go quickly.

I'm talking about situations of abuse, neglect, abandonment, betrayal, adultery, etc. Most of us who are parents would never think of telling our children, "Hey, just get over it," when they come to us with a deep hurt, but I think sometimes we take the words of Jesus and use them that way. After all, He did say, "Forgive or you won't be forgiven." As parents we hug, hold them, let them cry, let them talk it out. Then, if we are wise, we will introduce Truth into the situation. I believe God, the Father, is much the same.

When people haven't felt free to express their hurt, and it is swept under the proverbial rug, it festers. It can become self-centeredness, bitterness, depression and/or chronic anger. If we want to be healthy people, if we want to live in the fullness of life Jesus offers us, we must deal with the stuff under the rug.

Right now I'm thinking of some more extreme examples. I've known several women through the years that became pregnant as teenagers. Parents quickly made the decision to take them to a clinic, with or without the agreement of the child, and "have it taken care of" quietly. Then it was never spoken of again. That's a heavy load to carry and to never be able to process it was very damaging. The same thing happens in situations of abuse. Because of deep shame it often goes unaddressed. That should not be. Obviously, not every situation is that extreme, but betrayal hurts on any level.

In thinking through this, I believe that admitting we feel betrayed, abandoned, cheated, neglected, ignored, unimportant, or the myriad of other possible emotions, opens the door for an exchange to happen. When we just say the things we have been stuffing (again, not to the offender - don't pick up the phone and unload on them) I think we make a way for God to take them from us, and replace them with the Truth - the Truth about us, the Truth about Him and even a new perspective of the one who hurt us.

I would categorize some of this under the admonition in the book of James to confess our sins one to another, that we may be healed. Bitterness and anger are our sinful responses to pain. We hurt ourselves and innocent people when we live with that in our hearts. In admitting to one another we feel these negative emotions we make a way to be healed. As I've said probably 500 times, there is power in confession.

The ultimate goal is not just to vent, but to receive Truth into our hearts and learn to trust God to take bad situations and turn them for our good. It's for us to be able to say, with Joseph, "What you meant for evil, God meant for good." He has the final word in our lives. Make the exchange.


When Your Rug Is Lumpy

I just listened to Sunday's teaching from Bethel. Danny Silk was teaching and toward the end he turned the platform over to another man whose name I don't know...so I can't give him credit. This is partly a summary of what he said and partly my thoughts about what he said. I thought he made some really good points, worth sharing. To the very black and white thinker, this may sound unbiblical, because we deal only in either/or. You either forgive or you don't. But think about it. {I actually said a lot more than this originally, but for some reason when I hit publish this is the only part that was saved. So, maybe this is all that needed saying.}

Have you ever forgiven someone for an offense and then days, months or years later, the feelings of hurt or anger return? We think, "I know I forgave that person, so why do the feelings keep coming up?"

Forgiveness that doesn't seem to last (and I say seem to, because forgiveness is an act of the will first, not a feeling. The presence of emotion doesn't equal unforgiveness) is often because you haven't fully processed your hurt and secured your identity in God...you don't believe that He can give back what was stolen from you. The following addresses the first part of that statement.

As Christians we often feel like we need to act super holy and, therefore, can't say what we really feel. But those feelings and thoughts are real and they're really in you. And God knows all of that is in there, anyway. If we aren't free to express and work through our feelings of pain, and even anger, then they will fester and turn to bitterness. Eventually hurt turns to anger because anger is less vulnerable. It feels more powerful. If it goes on long enough I think many of us become adept at bypassing hurt feelings altogether, and go straight to the anger response.

But, think about the things David said throughout the Psalms - the ills he wished on his enemies. We know him to be a man of honor, in that he didn't kill King Saul when he had the chance, though Saul was intent on killing David. Perhaps it was because David had already vented his anger, fear and hurt to God, that he was then able to walk in righteousness toward his enemy.

I think it was Kris Vallotton that gave the example that if someone runs over your foot with a car and you forgive them, the pain in your foot doesn't go away. It's the same way with pain in our soul.

I've known people that experienced very painful things and were NEVER allowed to speak of them. Families chose to behave as if nothing had ever happened. What do you imagine that does to a person's heart and identity? 

I think if we could give each other grace to say things that may not sound very "Christian," just long enough to get it out of our systems, then we could possibly find wholeness and restoration could come much quicker. Even if the broken relationship itself is never restored, we are free in our souls. These things don't need to be said to the offender, but to God, for sure, and possibly to a trusted friend or professional counselor.

We are still living this spirit-led life in our humanity. I believe that God is pleased with us when we choose to forgive, despite our feelings, and then continue to move in the direction of healing and wholeness and Christ-likeness. 

Sweeping things under the rug only leads to a lumpy rug. That stuff doesn't just go away.


I Will Help You

A couple of weeks ago, the kids and I were at home one evening and I had a lot to get done. It had been a busy few days - I needed to be out of the house a lot and so it looked like a bomb had gone off. In addition there was homework to be done, spelling words to practice, reading, dinner, etc. Christopher was going through a wake-up-at-5am phase so he was nearly fried by the end of the day. He was whining and all he wanted was for me to come sit by him.

I told the kids I had a lot to get done and couldn't sit down just yet. There were attitudes, the whining elevated, my nerves were shot and I was really overwhelmed. Dave was working late and Caeley was gone, so I had no backup. I repeated that I could not sit down because I had TOO MUCH TO DO!!

Then I heard the sweetest words anyone has spoken to me in a long time:

"I will help you."

It was my 5 year old. My child saw my plight and, not looking for anything in return, he offered help, in the sweetest voice I've ever heard. I put him to work picking up stray items of clothing and he gladly took them upstairs to the laundry room, separating them by color.

I've thought about it for two weeks because it touched me so deeply. I didn't realize how deep my need was to hear those words.

Sometimes when we are struggling and overwhelmed all we need and want is a simple offer of help. No analysis, no helpful pointers, no book recommendations, no correction, no keeping score of how many times this has happened...just an offer to get in the mess and help clean it up.

"I see you're struggling. I will help you," goes a long way.

It reminds me of the offer Jesus made:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

He says don't be burdened by the rules and expectations laid upon your shoulders. Stay close to me, ask me, and I will teach you how to live this life in a way that actually feels restful to your soul. There is rest available in all of the chaos of everyday life.

"I will help you."

I think I heard Jesus in my 5 year old.


You Did It For Me

There's a verse in the Psalms that says God is enthroned on, or inhabits, the praises of Israel. If you've ever experienced a tangible sense of God's presence and nearness in worship through singing and music, you know this to be true.

Having said that I think it would be wrong to assume that's the only way to know the presence of God, to see Christ. It seems that one verse has been used to exalt music as the way to be in the presence of God, in many parts of the church. However, there are other ways (I'm only focusing on one today). What we have come to call worship, both corporately and in solitude, is a relatively easy and comfortable way, but over the last couple of years I have come to believe that there's another highly underestimated way to encounter Him and He pretty much spelled it out:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40 NIV)

I'm usually not one to over-spiritualize things, and we could say this is just His way to make the point that we get credit for meeting needs as if we did it for Him...that He takes it personally when we do or don't. But I really believe there's more to it. 

We believe in an overcoming, resurrected and powerful savior. Absolutely. But He is also the suffering servant. He is familiar with pain - He identifies with it, submitted Himself to it and we never see Him turn away from it, the way we are so prone to do. 

He touched lepers. He looked into their faces.
He went near the wild, unpredictable demon-possessed men kept in chains.
He looked past the sin of the prostitute just long enough to see her heart.
He was found eating with the outcast. 
He wasn't afraid of the sick and afflicted. 

Oh, and He allowed Himself to be mocked, spit upon, stripped, beaten and hung on a cross. All in public view.

I'm just saying maybe we should guard against hiding ourselves away from "the World" and staying in our buildings trying to find God. If you are a follower of Christ, then you are His dwelling place. He doesn't make His home in a building made of stone any longer. He is with you wherever you go. I'm not saying we shouldn't meet together as the Church to worship and encourage one another, but we shouldn't limit our experience to that alone. While the sense of His presence does become more tangible to us, God doesn't only inhabit worship through song and prayer.

What if we can also encounter him when we look into the eyes of 

...The fatherless
...The orphan
...The widow
...The sick
...The handicapped
...The homeless
...The mentally afflicted
...The addicted
...The hungry and thirsty
...The foreigner
...The lonely
...The elderly

I have so many thoughts swirling in my mind about this that I cannot possibly squeeze into this one post. The main question I have right this minute is this:

What if, in some mysterious way, when we take the time to look into the eyes of these people, to serve them, to care about them, we are looking into the eyes of Christ? What if this is a really underestimated, but powerful, form of worship?

"Lord, when did we see YOU hungry and feed YOU, or thirsty and give YOU something to drink? When did we see YOU a stranger and invite YOU in, or needing clothes and clothe YOU? When did we see YOU sick or in prison and go to visit YOU?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for ME."


P31 in a Nutshell

A short observation of the "Proverbs 31 Woman":

1. Solomon had A LOT of wives, so I wonder if Proverbs 31 is simply a collage of qualities he has seen in all these women. And maybe even his mother.

2. She is wealthy and she seems to have a lot of freedom. She is buying land and isn't getting approval from anyone...she's not chatting about it with her husband. That would not fly in most households. 

3. She has servants. You can probably get a whole lot done when you've got live-in servants to do all manner of household duties, like cooking and babysitting. This is a big deal to note.

4. She is a shopper :) She is buying food from afar, a field, and expensive fabrics. She dresses her children and herself in only the very best. 

There are many other qualities listed that are admirable. She is a seamstress, she works hard, she sells her products to merchants, she helps the poor, she obviously loves her family and is a positive reflection on her husband. The reason I pulled out those three qualities (her money, her freedom and the way she dresses her family in only the best) is that it proves the point that not every woman can be her. Nor should any of us feel that way.

Proverbs 31 isn't prescriptive. It's not a rule book telling us we have to get up before daylight and go to bed late, sew all our own clothes and bedding, run a home business and be a knowledgeable teacher, in order to be a woman of value. It's a man honoring women and their hard work, to provide and care for their families. We will all do that in different ways and according to our means, abilities, strengths and personalities.

The one thing we can all be, though, is found here:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (Proverbs 31:30, 31 NIV)

If I can get that one down and, yet, never figure out what on earth to do with that pile of paper that's always on the corner of the kitchen counter, then I will be successful. If I am so busy caring for my family that I forget to go over spelling words two nights in a row before the test, but I fear the Lord, we will be okay. 

So, Fear the Lord and don't do nothing. That's Proverbs 31 in a nutshell.