Saturday, December 19, 2009

Life Lessons...

(Taken from an email to some close friends written back in March 2007. Edited and revised somewhat.)

Why does God allow the things in our lives that He does?

My daughter said to me one time that God should have never allowed the tree of forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden in the first place. I disagree. The way we respond (or don't respond in some cases) to things shape and form who we are, not just here on earth, but our responses transform our very souls. Every circumstance we find ourselves in is an opportunity for growth. It might be that we choose to stubbornly harden our hearts, or that we grow some weeds of bitterness and spite, or perhaps we choose forgiveness and love.

God cares much more about who we are (our spirit) than what happens to us (our flesh). Our spirits will be somewhere forever, whereas our flesh is just a temporary shell. Compared to eternity, this life on earth is like the first day of kindergarten. Think back to that day (or if you're like me and can't remember it, think of how you were as a child). You didn't understand much of anything. You didn't understand physics, correct sentence structure, addition! When we were newborns we didn't even chew our food, we drank it. No matter who you are, unless you have a physical and/or mental challenge, you learn as you age because of what happens to you. It might be a subject in school, manners taught at home, social customs and mores learned from the culture in which you're raised. We take in information and it serves to form who we are, not just what we do. I look back on the person I was 20 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago and realize how far I've evolved. I can't even fathom what my soul will be like 500 years from now, 5000 years from now. This circumstance that I'm in right now won't even seem like a second in time. At the same time, the circumstance I'm in right now, and more importantly, how I handle it and what I learn from it, will impact who I eventually become. But, just like we had a choice in school regarding how much we actually took away from what was being taught, we have the same choice in our lives with regard to how much we take away from the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

I'm sure we all had similar experiences in school, the great teacher who could teach the blind to see or the deaf to hear. For me, it was Professor Bolus in college. He taught me history, my absolute least favorite subject. We all had the teacher we hated when we were in his/her class, but after the fact we realized just how much we learned and discovered a new found respect for that teacher we so strongly despised. For me that was Mrs. Thompson, my fourth grade teacher. They are usually the ones who are truly passionate about teaching. Teaching comes naturally to's not what they do as much as it is who they are. They know what we need whether it's to be told that potentially boring, dry story in such a way that will make it seem interesting, or perhaps we need firm boundaries. Think back to your favorite teacher. What did that person do for you? What was his/her impact on you? How long after the fact did you come to the full realization of how much this person affected your life?

God knows how to form us into the "people" He wants us to be. He knows what will bring us to HIM. He knows what will shine through us so that others will come to know Him as a result of knowing who we are. Unfortunately, there are some people that He knows will never "get it". He gives them exactly what they want, a life without Him. I believe everything that happens to us is for our benefit, or for the benefit of another person. Romans 8:28 says that ALL THINGS work together for good, that means nothing is lost. We might not be able to understand it at the time, or ever for that matter, but it's our faith that will bring us through rough times because His Word also says He'll never give us more than we can handle. I think about Job. God allowed satan to test Job because He knew beforehand that Job could "handle" losing everything. In fact, God pointed Job out to satan and then gave permission in stages of exactly what could and could not be done to him. Through that experience, Job's eyes were opened to his own pride.

Many times people try to manipulate their circumstances in an attempt to change themselves from the outside in. They think if they act a certain way or have a certain thing they will be fulfilled. God wants us changed from the inside out. He cares about our hearts first and foremost. Our circumstances don't have the power to change us, ever. God has the power to change us, if we allow Him that opportunity. (Some people choose instead to harden their hearts.) I believe He allows the circumstances in our lives that will bring us to Him, or to a closer understanding of who He is. For some people, like me, it takes remedial training so we can really "get it". We end up going through the same kinds of things over and over again until our eyes are finally opened to the lesson He is trying to teach. That reminds me of my statistics class in college. My professor could explain a theory a hundred different ways. Some people got it on the first explanation; others just didn't, and he would tell them to see him after class. There were yet others that would never even take the class. One girl in that class had to stay late every day, but she passed. That professor wanted everyone to understand what he was trying to teach.

God cares so much about each of us, he wants us to "get it". He will allow anything in our lives that will bring us to Him, or closer to Him, or that will have that effect on the people around us. For me, the process of coming to know God took some pretty heavy examples and "proof". I wanted to hold on to my flesh nature. I liked my sin....I thought I liked my sin. But I came to realize my sin didn't get me anywhere that I really wanted to be. I thought the things I did and the things I sought after would make me happy-but there was never any lasting joy. I had hoped that if I could get my circumstance just right (right husband, right job, right house, kids that behaved just right...) I would finally be fulfilled.

When I wrote most of this, I was recovering from an almost ten-year, failed second marriage that had ended in a very bitter divorce. I had just found out that my ex-husband was getting married. Although I had thought myself "happy" for some time, I was hurt by the news all the same. Rather than wallow in the emotion of the circumstance, I kept asking God to please just teach me whatever it was that He wanted me to learn so I could move on from the pain I was in. Before that whole experience, my heart was as hard as a rock. I was a very angry person. I didn't even know just how miserable I truly was. I blamed all my unhappiness on my circumstances-the finances were tight, my husband wasn't helping with this or that like I thought he should, he wasn't as responsible for things as I thought he should be, I wasn't thin enough, in good enough shape, my job was too name it, I used the excuse. The truth is that it wasn't my circumstance that was causing me to be unhappiness was causing the unhappiness in my circumstances. I don't have joy in my life now because I'm married to the man of my prayers, or because I live in a nice house, or because I'm about to have the job I've "always" wanted. Those things are like icing on a cake. They are extras....GLORIOUS EXTRAS mind you, but if they were suddenly all gone tomorrow, although I would be emotionally devastated, I would still know that my joy would be waiting for me on the other side of the grieving. God is the source of my joy, and He will never leave or forsake me.

I believe living for our circumstances is what it means in Galatians where it talks about walking in the flesh. Wanting that next thing that will "finally" make us happy....a man, a house, a job, a child, a child who does this or that or is liked by this person or that person, proof that we are "worth" something. When the truth is that our flesh is worthless, and as King Solomon said, the things that happen "under the sun" are meaningless. Life isn't about what happens to us, it's about how we respond to what happens to us.

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