Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fragile Identities

My GRANDson is 4 years old. He has a happy heart most of the time. Lately, however, he’s been struggling. If things don’t go his way, he loses it. My son says, “he seems so fragile”.

I identify. My identity is sometimes fragile too.

Earlier this year, I was praying with some good friends. During the prayer time I learned some things I hadn’t known … some things I thought I really should have known. It frustrated me, but I was cool. My friends weren't aware of my frustration.

Later that day I was asking my husband about those things. After all, in this case, I felt he probably knew what I didn’t and he should have told me. With Bill, I didn’t hold back! My fragile identity was painfully obvious.

“What got into you?”, he asked. To be honest, I didn’t know. What I did know is that my poor husband was taking the brunt of my insecurities, my fragile identity.

As I pondered his question the next morning, some light began to dawn. I didn’t know the answer to the question, but it was obvious to me that I’m good at hiding, putting on a costume, not letting my friends see the real me. After all, I want them to think I’m more together than I really am. I’m a bit more mature than my 4 year old GRANDson who is able to be honest no matter who he is with.

But when I was in the presence of someone who was safe, I no longer hid, the costume came off and I allowed the real me to surface. I became like my GRANDson. Someone safe is someone I know loves me.

“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it – we’re called the children of God! That’s who we really are. …” I John 3:1

Friday, September 24, 2010

Let the Words of My Mouth

“You know, Sue, it may help if you don’t take the name of the Lord in vain in my parent’s home”. I was a college sophomore and a young believer when my roommate made that suggestion. “Oh God” was a pretty normal part of my vocabulary.

That’s my first memory of anyone commenting on my speech with the exception of being reprimanded by Mom for copying Dad’s rather salty speech.

I also grew up with sarcasm. “I didn’t mean it” or “I was just kidding” were phrases I had to employ often in my interactions with others. This for me is a hard one to break.

Even arrogance had crept in. I remember giving a presentation on children and scripture memory several years ago. I should have stuck to my notes, but I wandered into some arrogant statements. I was very humbled and embarrassed as I thought about it later.

More recently I was with a good friend and made a true comment about her to another friend in the room. She was faithful to me and told me later how my true words had deeply hurt her. Yikes, speaking the truth can sometimes be inappropriate and wound a friendship. Again I was humbled and thankful for a faithful friend. This re-enforced the truth to me that the hearer always has the right of interpretation.

Yes, the culture I grew up in greatly influenced my speech. But God is greater than culture.

My friend Paula wrote on my birthday card this year referring to this blog, “Speak softly and gently, Sue, His words of grace”. It was timely counsel from a good friend. Thank you, Paula!

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Calling for Courage

A few years ago some of our friends invited Bill and I to take horseback riding lessons with them. Yikes, horses are BIG! But the desire to share the experience with Bill and our good friends caused me to stir up the courage and say yes.

Courage has called out to me in harder places too, in those places where I’ve needed courage to face my shame… that which I felt was wrong about me, my person.

A descriptor for Adam and Eve before sin entered the world was, “they were naked and not ashamed”. I desire to have the courage for those words to describe me too.

The gospels record a story of a woman with a flow of blood that had lasted 12 years. She had gone to many doctors and had not found relief. She was desperate. Her desperation gave her the courage to face her shame, come to Jesus and just touch the hem of his garment. She didn’t quite have the courage to speak to him. But her courage was sufficient. The result was Jesus reached out to her, healed her, and blessed her with peace and freedom from her suffering. (Mark 5:25-34)

As I thought about that story, I wondered to myself,
What is the shame I feel that I need sufficient courage to act on?
It takes courage for me to even ask that question.
Do I really want to know the answer?
Do I really want to act on what I find out?
Do I really want to grow in godliness?
That’s the rub.

Philippians 1:20 – “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body …”

“Courage is being scared to death, but getting in the saddle anyway.” John Wayne

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Live INside the Box

Although I had been involved in ministry with The Navigators since my college days, I was propelled onto Navstaff by my marriage in 1972. Suddenly I felt other eyes upon me, I sensed expectations. I began to look around me for role models to see what my ministry should look like. From my observations I felt I was not measuring up. It was not a good feeling.

For the next 25 years I continued that destructive pattern. I saw what others were doing and what I was not doing. Somehow I never arrived at the destination where I thought I was supposed to be. I was hurting.

Sure, there were some “successes” along the way. I could introduce you to my friends who had become believers and many seemed to appreciate the Bible studies I facilitated. But in my mind, I knew there was more. The problem was I was looking for the more in all the wrong places. I journeyed from frustration and discouragement to anger to finally giving up. I literally decided, “I will grin and bear it”. That was 1997.

In the darkness of that place, the light of Scripture began to penetrate my heart and my mind. Truth gradually began to replace the lies I was so good at believing. Something was changing.

Sitting in a coffee shop one morning, I heard the voice of God whisper this truth in my ear, “Sue, you don’t need to create ministry. Live out of who I created you to be. Live INside the box I have created for you”. It was as if God was saying, don’t look to others look to me, trust me. I almost wept with relief! That began a new journey.

Jeremiah 1:5 – “… before you were born, I consecrated you”
Philippians 1:22 – “If I am to go on living in this body, it will mean fruitful labor for me …”