Friday, September 17, 2010

And Then My Bubble Went POP!

As a prelude:  Josiah wants it to be known that while he and David and Tobin and Jeff were playing mini golf tonight (Josiah's choice for his Family Night activity), I was using the scorecard, not only to keep score (Josiah was the winner with 54, Jeff came in second with 62, David got 89, and Tobin got the course maximum of 126)  :), but also to scribble notes for this blog post.  That amused him, and he thought it needed to be written down and included with this post.  The scorecard itself, with all my messy, nearly illegible ramblings, will soon be thrown away.  :)

I made the mistake of getting on FaceBook last night.

I'm not on FB, as I've mentioned before; but Jeff is, and he's always very willing for me to sign on through him so I can take a look around and see what's going on with people.  (Just to remove any suspicion that might pop up in someone's mind:  I never do this because I'm worried about his activity, or I don't trust him, or anything like that.  I trust him completely.)

So last night I was on it; and as I clicked from one person to the next in the random spider-webby way of FB, I dealt with my usual thoughts.
~ Oh, she's married?  That's great!
and
~ Wow, look at their kids; they are so big!
but also things like
~ How sad that this person has allowed drinking to be such a big part of his life.
and
~ Oh no, look at that immodesty.  That's shocking.  How can women who claim to be followers of God be so careless when it comes to modesty?

All of those reactions are part of my customary gamut of thoughts when I spend time on FB; but last night as I continued to click around on various people's profiles, I became sadder and sadder.  It seemed like almost everyone I looked at had gone through a divorce...or had babies out of wedlock...or had walked away from God and were living a very secular lifestyle...or had some kind of major difficult issue in their lives.  The thought that ran through my head in a perpetual cycle was, "This is not how it's supposed to be."

I want to be very careful about how I write this because I do NOT want to appear as a self-righteous, compassion-lacking, holier-than-thou snob who pats herself on the back for her good life while spitting on those who lay trembling in the dust around her.  Nothing could be further from my intentions.  I am well aware of a few things:  first, I was only seeing a tiny snippet of people's lives last night on FB, and the impression I was getting of their spiritual condition (as well as their general life condition) may not have been accurate.  Second, God is all about redemption.  He steps into the piles of pig manure that we accumulate in our hearts, and He transforms them.  He can take the young, unwed mother of three who spends her financial assistance from the government on cigarettes and beer, and turn her into a radiant, self-disciplined, Godly woman.  Not only CAN He do that, He LOVES doing it.  Third, the heart-sins of pride and selfishness and anger and greed, etc. are ugly, hateful things to God.  In His years of walking Israel's soil, Jesus came down much harder on the Good Religious People than He did on the "sinners."  Fourth, "there, but for the grace of God, go I."  I have no right--and no desire--to throw stones.

Long before Brandon Heath ever sang it, my beloved friend Maggie Arellano was praying it during our prayer walks together in San Diego:
Give me your eyes for just one second,
Give me your eyes so I can see...
Last night, I felt like, for a short window of time in a very minor way, God gave me His eyes.

It nearly crushed my heart.

As I read black and white letters on the screen and as I gazed at pictures of the faces of people we know and love, my eyes swam with tears and I literally felt sick to my stomach.  So much pain.  So much loneliness.  So much brokenness.  So many injuries.  Such slow healing.  So many scars.

This is not how it's supposed to be.

What grieved my heart the most last night were the families that had shattered--families that we had known years ago.  Families that we saw arrive for church every week, smiling faces, mom, dad, handsome sons, cute little girls.  Families that ate in our home.  Families that prayed with us.  Families that reached out with us to other hurting families.  Children of those families with such promise, such beauty, such innocence, such zeal, such purity.

And then--how does it happen?--a bomb drops, mom and dad decide to divorce, obviously major issues have been there for a while before it's public knowledge, the children have seen and heard and sensed things that have unsettled their world, long before the divorce is final.  There is no way to go through that without ending up scarred.

I don't know what that feels like.  Ever since I was old enough to have a clue about marriage and divorce, I have thanked God that my parents were committed without reservation to their marriage.  I never had to worry about them breaking up, and I realize how rare that was/is.  Even rarer is the fact that my own husband's parents weren't divorced, so he and I have a huge advantage since we both have the example of long-lasting parental marriages to guide and shape and inspire us.  So admittedly I am not speaking from firsthand experience, and maybe I shouldn't speak at all?  But I can imagine how our boys would feel if anything happened to our marriage; and that gives me a tiny, blurry glimpse into how divorce might feel from the inside.

My intention was not to camp on the divorce topic, and I want to repeat my earlier thought about God being a huge fan of redemption.  No matter the suffering and trauma, He can bring beauty out of that.  I truly, truly believe that.  Why?  Because I've seen it happen.

But what really stood out to me last night is that my life, though it sometimes feels demanding as I care for four little ones as well as strive to meet the other responsibilities laid on me, is an amazingly good life.  I live in a nice little bubble, and I like my bubble.  The people I associate with, the friends I'm closest to, even the blogs I choose to read, are by and large very nice little bubbles, too.  I can open the door of my bubble and let these other pleasant bubbles float in because they're all so nice.  Sweet.  Happy.  Striving to please the Lord and live by His standards.  It's so nice.  They encourage me.  I try to encourage them.  We're nice.  Really, really nice.  I'm insulated in my bubble, and...

...it's nice.

Jeff is less insulated than I.  He gets whopped in the face on a regular basis with the fact that we live in a fallen world and there are hurting people all around us.  Sometimes he gets banged in the head so hard that he comes home and tells me about it.  "This person is teetering on the edge, and I'm trying to help, but it doesn't seem to be working, and why did God bring this person into my life if I wasn't going to be effective?  What more can I do to help?"  or  "There was a customer in my chair today who's been married for 22 years, and suddenly his wife decided to leave him, and he's reeling and doesn't know what to do, and my heart breaks for him."  He hears the stories, sees the faces, knows the pain, and realizes that this world is so dreadfully fallen and there are casualties all around.

I realize this, too, of course; but my life is constructed in such a way right now that it's not in my face.  Not until I sit down and click around in FaceBook however.

One of the things that struck me was that the bad stuff was not "out there."  It was "in here."  Here among our circle of friends, here among the people who worshipped with us on a regular basis, here among the people to whom we had poured out our hearts, here among the people with whom we felt as close as to a biological brother or sister.  Not only was it "in here," it was also (in many cases) a consequence of sinful decisions.  The things that were grieving my heart so deeply weren't about people being killed in a car accident or someone's child getting cancer or a family being the victims of criminal activities or a natural disaster causing huge amounts of damage and loss of life.  All of those are undeniable tragedies, and I am not trying to diminish that suffering in the least.  Not at all.  But the specific sorrow I felt last night was for people who had, at one time, been following the Lord, living life according to His principles, growing spiritually, getting their earth-lives together, focusing on the eternal, making a difference in the lives of others...

And then?

What happened?  Why did they turn their backs on that?  I want to speak to each of them.  Gently, quietly, lovingly, urgently, "remember the height from which you have fallen!  Do you want to change?  Do you want to start over?  Do you want to let God transform you and make you new?  He can!  He wants to!  He will!  Please, please, please let Him!"

My voice feels weak, and I'm not sure they'll hear me.  What can I do?  God, what can I do to be Your instrument to reach these hurting ones?  How can I fight, not against these dear ones, but against the dark forces of evil that would love nothing more than to snuff out their lights?

Into my mind comes a post I wrote only a few months after I started blogging.  Prayer as Hospitality was a new concept for me at the time; but now that my heart aches so deeply for old friends near and far with whom I would love to sit down for a cup of tea and a heart-to-heart you-can-cry-on-my-shoulder kind of talk but who live too far away to make that possible...now I realize that yes, prayer is a form of hospitality.  And what's more, it's a tool.  Even more, it's a WEAPON.  As God brings various individuals and families to mind, I can go to war for them by using the weapon of prayer.  I am not as powerless as I felt last night.

I also fight by:
~ pouring love into my children and filling them up, as much as I can, with the fruits of the Spirit
~ showering them with hugs and kisses and words of affirmation
~ making the daily decisions to do the difficult things:  be cheerful when I get up in the morning, keep my voice light and even in spite of my rising frustrations, deal unselfishly with interruptions, peacefully attend to my children's needs even after I've tucked them in for the night and I'm eager for a break
~ doing everything I can to point them in the direction that leads to heaven and to establish their feet firmly in that path (I KNOW each person makes their own decisions in their relationship with God, and I'm under no illusion that I can MAKE my children follow Him...but I want to be faithful to do all that I can to protect their sweet young hearts at this stage of their lives and prepare them for a lifetime of serving Christ)
~ dying to selfishness in my marriage
~ putting Jeff's needs above my own
~ respecting him, building him up, being his biggest fan

Sometimes I fret because my sphere of outreach seems so small.  I'd like to take on the world and change it...but instead I'm changing dirty diapers.  Don't get me wrong:  I love and cherish this phase of life and my role as a stay-at-home mom.  There is NOTHING I'd rather do.  But sometimes (often!) I wish I could do this AND save the world.

But right now, right here, in this tiny speck of earth, I will fight evil by gazing deeply into Shav's eyes as I give him his cereal and I will speak joy and peace and patience over him and into him.  I will punch the forces of darkness in the mouth by not impatiently rushing Tobin as he meanders up the hill from David's soccer game to the car; I will strive to become like a little child and let Tobin lead me into wonder and amazement.  I will deal a harsh blow to Satan's legions as I tenderly pour affirmation and love and respect into my second-born, even when he imitates his little brother's whiny voice.  I will skillfully shoot arrows into the forces of evil as I pause to listen attentively to my first-born and give him the respect that his eight-year-old young-manhood needs.  Now, while my boys are still here at home, I will wrap my arms around them and squeeze them tight, knowing that these are golden years.  As I love them, Satan cringes, and the Father rejoices.

Speaking of the Father... the other thought that I puzzled over last night was, "How does God tolerate this?  How can He bear to see the state of His creation, the people that He loves so very much hurting and broken and sin-stained and degraded?  How can He take it?  How can He allow His heart to be so trampled on all the time?  Why doesn't His holiness cry out, 'ENOUGH!'?"

The answer is simple:  love.

Consider these verses:
Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed...  (Lamentations 3:22)
and
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.  (Ephesians 2:4-5).


We are not consumed.  Me, in my nice little bubble, too often comfortable and oblivious to the slaughter of souls in the world around me--I am not consumed.  The newly-single dad who's trying to pick up the pieces of his life but keeps cutting his fingers on the jagged edges as he reaches down to gather something up--he is not consumed.  The prodigal daughter who cut off ties with home and squandered her wealth and her body on foolish living--she is not consumed.  All those who cry bitter tears and angrily think, "This is not how it's supposed to be!"--we are not consumed.  Each of us can be saved.  Each of us can be made alive with Christ.

Because of His great love...

It's all because of Him.

9 comments:

Jolanthe said...

Wow, girl. I absolutely love you and your heart, convictions and ... I just don't even know how to put it all into words. :)

Thanks for this...in so many ways.

Jolanthe

Sally said...

Two things came to my mind as I read this post. The first was Eze. 9 where the LORD had a man clothed in linen with a writing kit put a mark on all the people who "grieve and lament over all the detestable things" done in Jerusalem. Then, he ordered that everyone without a mark be killed without pity or compassion. It has always struck me that God recognizes when we grieve over sin--even in the lives of others. I get concerned for people who are casual about the sin around them, it doesn't bother them to live in a sewage of unrepentant sinners, and I get even more concerned when people laugh about sin and even joke about it. That's not supposed to be the heart of a Christian. Obviously, you are not in that camp, and I am glad!

The second thing, there is a reason God tells us in 1 John 2 that we are supposed to remain in him, and that if we REMAIN in the Son and in the Father, we will have eternal life (v. 24-25). When I see people who once were strong for Christ, who walked the narrow path, who lived by the authority of Scripture, weaken and wander away from the faith, I am struck by the need to remain faithful to the END! It doesn't matter how closely I am walking with the LORD today, or how faithfully I am serving him this week if I wane in my love for Christ and my footsteps falter near the end of my life. I see that happen to so many people, and it scares me. It happens to people who are a lot better than I am, who were stronger Christians than I probably will ever be, people who knew their Bibles more than most preachers. It jolts me to be diligent to guard my footsteps and heart that I remain faithful and persevere to the end NO MATTER WHAT. Else, I too, will not win the prize of eternal life.

Thanks for all these reminders.

Valerie said...

WHAT.an.incredible.post!! You are even more of a kindred soul than I had previously thought!!
A great reminder to lift up the needs of those whom we know about who are not making such good choices and to pray---and we are NO longer powerless.indeed!
Thanks, Davene!!
(And, besides prayer, I might add this quote: "the pen is mightier than the sword"---and you are a writer!!)

Morning said...

Dear Davene,
So much of what you say makes sense -- since having little Adam I also feel my eyes have been opened to how vulnerable little children and babies are, and how powerless they are if they are in a horrible situation. It worries me so, and I see it everywhere. I also am so grateful for my 'bubble', where we are safe and happy and kind to eachother. I can check almost all the things on your list: care for my babies, love them, treat my husband with respect -- these are all such precious and important parts of my life. But I need to make it clear that I do not share your faith. And nor do I feel that sadness and horror are a result of turning from religion, but instead a loss of self-respect, dignity and internal fortitude. I know faith is such a central part of your world, and I respect that it gives you great strength and purpose. But do, please, don't let the bubble you live in block out the fact that there are good people, too, and not all of them share your religion, and that in fact we can be good on our own terms, and not just through God. I know this will be a difficult thing perhaps for you to accept, but I have noticed on several blogs lately that Christians seem to be very inward looking in that respect, and I find it saddens me that they expect non-Christians to automatically be somewhat lacking morally and spiritually. Yours affectionately,
Morning

Cindy said...

Your post truly touched my heart! It made me want to grab my husband and kids and give them a big hug ~ and I did!

Davene said...

Morning,

I have a tremendous amount of respect and affection for you, and I'm so grateful that we've "known" each other through blogging for quite a few years now! :)

Thank you for your thoughtful comment...and the respectful way in which you disagreed with me. Your thoughts deserve a much longer response than I can post here; but I would be SO glad to discuss this further with you. Could you please email me:
jeffanddavene @ aol.com
(take out the spaces, of course)?

Thanks again for stirring me on to deeper thinking!

Davene

Polly said...

Facebook also makes me sad, too, for similar reasons.

Your outreach field may be small right now, but it is mighty. Raising the next generation is worthy!! Building your own home with your own hands and raising your children as you are is a mission field all its own, and so important.

But I know what you mean. It's tough to see so many struggling so heavily with these burdens....

Stephanie B. said...

Great post Davene! You said it so well.

Margie said...

Davene - I read this a while back - late, one night - and wanted to leave a comment, but didn't because I was afraid I'd get sucked into more and really not get to bed. So I want to be sure you know how much I love this post. It was long, and somewhat difficult to write, I'm sure, but I loved it. And I love your faith and your outspokenness and your authenticity. Thank you for all of it.