I won’t go into too much detail here, because I don’t want to give cause for a misinterpretation of events; but this little incident was too good not to share. Stay tuned for one tiny peek at an unplanned and unexpected but very welcome Redemptive Moment. 🙂
I WAS FIRED.
I was fired. Yep – not from my present job, but the job I had before. It’s been nearly 8 years since I went through very rough waters with a former employer, both sides feeling justified in a growing distrust and mutual dissatisfaction, and a painful ordeal that was only survived with some grace because of a gracious mediator who walked us through the transition that would ultimately lead to me training my own replacement.
This was a life-altering experience for me – not just because it was so devastating to not be believed, not be trusted, and feel I had NO earthly way to rectify the opinions of others, but mainly because this was a small family owned business, and these were people I had known for YEARS before working there, had gone to CHURCH with them, had what I thought was a loving relationship with them and their kids outside any workplace association. Yet in the months when everything unraveled and in the subsequent mutual parting of ways, everything in our friendship and association also vanished.
MEMORY IS A TRICKY THING.
From what I understand – and please, I’m not a scientist, so let’s just chalk this up to being a bit of an internet and news junkie – our brains RE-remember every time we visit a “memory,” and HOW we perceive is fluid, always changing – almost as if the memories themselves are living things – and yet our CONVICTIONS about what we remember are equally as strong in the 10th telling (which for some people will be much more varied from the first telling than others) even if the content (unbeknownst to us) may differ in significant ways.
Perhaps that’s a good argument for keeping a journal – provided we can be trusted to recount events honestly to ourselves, which sometimes may be a big “if.” 🙂
As for me? Here? I remember more the emotions, the hurt, the suspicion, or the anger – even the fury – sometimes directed at me. I remember returning some of the same. Present emotions often register as shame, regret, sorrow, that wishful longing that things had been different, that I had DONE things differently.
A BROKEN WINDSHIELD TO HEAL.
By happenstance, my car recently suffered (another) windshield injury. I looked up a repair shop online, not fully registering the location of the address, and mistakenly assessing it to be closer to my job for a quick lunch visit. In fact, this shop was several miles away, in the neighborhood of my previous place of employment. And I arrived to learn my windshield was non-repairable – I would have to reschedule for another visit to have the whole thing replaced. So by happenstance *ahem* I found myself with some time to kill before going back to work, AND within just a couple blocks of this place which attaches to so many significant negative (but growth-inducing) emotions.
So I decided to drop in for a visit.
And I found that the son has since bought the business from his parents, the wife (daughter-in-law) now manages the main office and the books, and though the mom no longer works there, the dad still weaves in and around the office, cheerfully advertising, don’t you know, that the KFC founder didn’t really get his business feet under him till he was 80 years old, so there!
I found that the gal who had replaced me was years gone, and the gal I had replaced more years before was now working there again. I found that the business had weathered the economic downturn seemingly well, and that the gracious mediator I had hoped to revisit had resigned just a few months before to pursue more missions-minded work in another city. How fitting. 🙂
There was shock expressed over how much weight I’ve lost (they all knew me at my unhealthiest), there was curiosity about the house I’ve recently purchased, my now living near my sister so many miles away from my current job, and the nearly 8 years I’ve now been with the same employer. We visited about changes in our church experiences, changes in our country, and in short how the years mature us .. if we let them. 🙂
There were smiles, even a few hugs, and they let me wander out back until I found the 80+ year old dad lifting his face to soak up a little sun behind the shop, enjoying a quiet smoke break, standing just exactly as I remember him .. I got to visit with him for a few minutes, and … was that “relief” spreading over his face? To learn that I was now in such a good place, healthy and happy and well cared for …. I left well-wishes for everyone, and asked the dad to take a love greeting to his wife, my former boss, too.
Then another round of hugs and affirmations for the healing time can minister, and we all marveled once again at how .. Paths can cross and sever, but God is still God of us all, and – for those who will humbly yield to it – his grace is greater than what we allow to divide ….
I think I will never again feel as much GRATITUDE as I did that day for a badly timed rock bouncing on the freeway on my commute to work. 😉 Miracles can spring forth from the most unlikely of places, don’t you know.
And just for the record, I don’t believe in “happenstance.” 😉
I LOVE HOW SCRIPTURE is so honest with its “heroes” ~ we see their flaws as well as their faith, as in the case of King David. David wasn’t perfect, but he was quick to repent. David didn’t run from God in his sin, he would receive and yield to the rebuke of God’s Word and turn and run TO God for grace and forgiveness. A man guilty of adultery and murder, he was also a man who loved God and knew God’s covenantal lovingkindness, who poured out his soul to God in worship, who longed to build God’s temple…and instead God told him HE would build DAVID’S “house,” promising an everlasting throne for one of his descendants (Jesus), the Anointed One of God. David was “a man after God’s own heart,” flawed yet faithful, zealous for God’s glory. THIS is a godly man.
(We meet David in 1 Samuel 16 when he is first anointed to be king, and follow his story through the rest of this book and 2nd Samuel, and the first part of 1 Kings. David also authored the majority of the Psalms and was known as a musician before the Lord. A few key chapters to read: 1 Samuel 17 David and Goliath, 2nd Samuel 7 God’s covenant with David, 2 Sam. 9 David’s grace toward Mephibosheth, a picture of God’s grace towards us, 2 Sam. 11-12 his sin with Bathsheba, Ps. 51 David’s repentance over that sin, Acts 13:20-25 God says David is “a man after my own heart.”)
or a Foolish approach to a (nevertheless) Genuine desire to serve Christ?
I have learned of a family (2 parents, 4 children all under age of 10) “raising support” for a so-called 6-week missions trip to Africa to the tune of $30,000…a trip during which they MIGHT be helping this ministry to do some construction, and they MIGHT be teaching vacation Bible school to some local children, that is IF they are allowed in, and if not, well – this ministry would just enjoy the family’s company as they visit, so would you please make your checks payable to Family-Dad/Husband by such and such date….
WHAT?? I do not see anything of the Spirit of God in this! – NO calling, NO clear direction, NO confidence that the Lord has prepared the way for the declaration of his word, NO “transparency” as far as the ethics of raising that kind of sum, NOT EVEN a way to have spiritual oversight for the trip? such as would be required to raise money through AT LEAST a sending church?, and an up-front resignation to the fact this may just be a 6-week vacation, basically, for their family of six, and so, would y’all be so kind as to fund it for them?? I will be so bold as to cry: Fraud and veritable Embezzlement in the name of Christ!! (My boldness comes, too, in part for knowing some of the family dynamic, here….)
I find this intolerable!! (and an OFFENSE to my heart, for Christ’s sake!)
So, I hope I have advised my friend wisely – I have directed him to follow the pattern set forth in Matthew 18:15-20 – Approach your “brother” whom you believe to be in sin, openly (humbly) asking questions so you are able to DISCERN if this is just foolishness or willful selfishness; offer either confrontation of sin, or wisdom to correct the folly, and if your “brother” remains unteachable and unsubmissive to the Spirit of Christ, involve a mediator – In this case, I suggested my friend seek the input, then, of your family’s elder in your church, perhaps ask some more questions to gain additional discernment, and approach your “brother” again with the elder present. If your “brother” still remains unteachable and unsubmissive to the Spirit of Christ, be prepared, because this may need to be brought publicly before the whole church – especially if your “brother” has sent this “support” letter to other members w/o the Leadership’s knowledge/approval/support, and is therefore potentially sinning against (stealing from!) the whole Body.
Oh, God help us, we are ALL of us foolish at times. Sure enough! And I hope, by GRACE, that if I were so publicly zealous in my folly (before God, I am sure I have been, at times!) that I would be approached lovingly and carefully by a brother/sister in Christ to at least seek out my motivation, discern my heart, and offer counsel if not correction. And if I were so “foolish” to SIN blatantly in this way, I would hope for Christ’s sake! that someone would intervene that I might not bring such shame to the cause of Christ.
But still? And failing all other intervention? I pray that God, by his GRACE, would nevertheless cover ALL of our own foolishness and sinfulness with the blood of Christ and STILL bring about some good for his Glory, that we might nevertheless say with the Apostle Paul – imprisoned and bad-mouthed by other “preachers” of the Gospel, and exactly in a situation when we might expect him to “defend” himself and rebuke the nay-sayers/abusers – in Philippians 1:12-21 ~
They Can’t Imprison the Message
12-14 I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else, too, found out that I’m in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the followers of Jesus here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah.
15-17 It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them.
18-21 So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!
And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.
Glory to God! and Help us all, in JESUS’ name….
some recent reflections:
@Grace2Grow: The real maturing of the Christian doesn’t occur in seminaries as if by mere intellectual education ~ it occurs by living w/in the community of a flawed but redeemed church Body, loving &patiently forbearing, &laying down ur life for another.
@Grace2Grow: GOSPEL life isn’t mere rigorous doctrinal study; rather, it’s COMMUNION w/God, worshipping in Spirit &Truth, necessarily communing w/others who r also united w/God by his Spirit, together growing 2loathe what God loathes, love what he loves, & live as he lives.
@Grace2Grow: We hv 2long cultivated a sloppy acceptance of “truth” as that which is handed to us as tasty, sugary morsels prepared by others. We cannot now expect to have the necessary capacity to examine and test and discern having so long left these thoughtful disciplines to atrophy. And how can we then complain if we discover we have been deceived?
@Grace2Grow: GOSPEL life isn’t merely loving one another as Christ has loved us, though that might arguably be the fullest expression of it. The TRUTH that undergirds it is the very GOSPEL work of Jesus, itself. Had he not pursued us when we were yet his enemies, &died as a ransom 4our souls 2reconcile us 2God, &were we 2remain ignorant of &cut off from this ROOT, there could be no FRUITFUL Love.
…One of the books I am currently reading is E.Metaxas’s biography of BONHOEFFER. It is … touching me DEEPLY. I’ve always admired Bonhoeffer from afar, but now find him as admirable a man as I have never known, and one whose story is very fit for our own time. The above reflections spring from some of the real-life lessons he learned and would teach on. This book captures well these themes, and works them out in a way that I feel is having a very formative effect on the trajectory of my own life. If you can manage the time, I highly recommend the read ~ you may find it easier to tackle in “audiobook” format. 😉
My most recent devotional post for the WONDERSWORD blog:
Hebrews 4:12-16 (ESV)
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need….”
“…YES, BUT IT’S A GOOD HURT….”
Please forgive me for the tardiness of this latest posting. And will you permit me a moment of vulnerability? Perhaps my very personal situation will encourage some of you?
A couple weeks ago, the Lord gave me a revelation in my spirit of some harbored unforgiveness, particularly from an abusive situation over ten years ago, and how it might be related to my current physical struggles (why, most recently, I have not experienced healing in a particular pain issue). This has proven to be a somewhat consuming spiritual wrestling match ever since.
Then this past Sunday morning and Monday night, through the prophetic ministry of a guest speaker in our church, the Lord began a penetrating work in my heart that pierced so deeply, touching some of the “nerve center” of this very same unforgiveness/bitterness issue. I am prone to sensing things on a deeply emotional level, but I haven’t wept like this except in grief over the death of a loved one. It was a kind of remorse that just gripped me and wouldn’t let go.
I had no idea the extent to which the wounding from this past situation still had a hold on me; but worse, some of the fruit of that has been that I have often, then, “retaliated” in other ways with other people. I have heard that men are more apt to manifest depression with “anger” and women with “sadness” ~ but I definitely manifest more the “anger” side, and I seem to implement both “fight” AND “flight” responses for self-preservation. You could say that on the one hand I pick a fight, and then find whatever ways I can to hide.
Like I’m now become, in some ways, the very Bully that I’ve always despised.
I know it doesn’t all stem from this one situation, but it feels like I was somewhat “arrested” in that stage because of it.
This has affected not only my relationships with other people (men and dating relationships in particular), but also people in positions of authority (especially in church leadership). I am hyper-sensitive to what I perceive as rejection or “abuses,” and have fancied myself something of a protector of, or vigilante on behalf of others I perceive to be “victims” of the same. As if I thought I wore a super-hero uniform emblazoned with “Champion of the TRUTH!”
In the past several months, the Lord has been teaching me to identify my own pride (and “fear of man”) in these things, but in recent weeks it has produced a definite “breaking” ~ the Lord (he is SO good!) has been gently stripping away my excuses, stripping away my expectations, stripping away my own self-loathings (which are their own kind of prison, and a way in which the Enemy of our souls gets a foothold in our lives!), and I know our loving Father was opening my heart to a longing to love and serve others like I’ve never experienced before.
A heart more like HIS.
This is, presently, accompanied by such a regret over times the Lord has so far shown me where I have hurt others ~ this has produced such a heart sickness in me, but I think it is a necessary grieving process, because it is part of the mourning over my own sin, and desiring to somehow make restitution if/where possible….(See, for example, Paul’s distinguishing between “worldly sorrow” which produces death, versus “godly sorrow” which produces repentance and gives LIFE!, 2 Corinthians 7:8-13.)
Since Monday night, and this “piercing” of the Word and the loving presence of the Lord THROUGH it, I have also – by the grace of God! – sensed a definite improvement in some of my physical symptoms as well. And I believe the Lord is HEALING me, in more ways than one….
There is a favorite movie quote of mine to the effect of, “Do you suppose if a hurt goes real deep, that the healing of it hurts as much as what caused it?”
….Yes. But it’s a good hurt….
For further reading, please read Hebrews ch. 12 (of which, verses 1-15 and 28-29 are posted here from the ESV):
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; ….
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”