Monday, July 7, 2008
When I had a flat tire a few weeks ago I discovered a wonderful product called Fix-a-flat. The stuff is amazing! I decided to get a spare can to keep in my trunk ('just in case') and prided myself on my 'be prepared' attitude. But after reading the precautions on the can, realized it probably needed a more temperature 'safe' environment and had added it to the unorganized junk in my tool 'box' (a pretty canvas basket) and soon forgot all about it.
The other day, as I put together my new bed (yay new bed!), I pulled the tool canvas (where the can was innocently hiding) and placed it in the middle of my bedroom for easy access. While cleaning up my room, I casually tossed a hammer in there and walked out of the room. I had only taken a few steps outside my door when I heard a "ksshhhhh" noise and thought to myself, self, that sounds kind of weird - so I stepped back in the room to find a stream of white foam spraying out of the tool box thingy. I paused in a "what the heck is that?" stupor just for a moment, but quickly came to my senses and grabbed the can and ran to the front door of my apt, threw open the door and set it down just outside. (Now what? ) I stood and watched it continue to "KSSSHHHH" for another moment or two - thinking it would stop any moment. (Apparently those cans hold quite a bit...though) But it just kept spraying... ...and spraying... So much, that in a matter of seconds, there was this huge (very foul-smelling) foam puddle. I looked left and right wondering which staircase I should attempt to run it down. I live on the second floor of a three-story building and it's not wonderfully easy to take something 'outside' (since there is pavement and stairs and parking lots involved) Of course if I'd known there'd be this much fluid I probably would have tried that anyway, but at this point it seemed like I'd just be spreading the mess? I needed a way to contain it...so, I grabbed the closest thing to a trash bag I could find - a Target bag. I put the stinky, foamy can in the Target bag and tied it - but it just kept going! ...and the bag started to inflate ...and I realized this was not a very good plan. I ran back inside to look for a towel or something to mop up the putrid mess; but as I surveyed the neatly folded towels in my linen closet I decided I didn't really want to ruin any of them. Pacing back and forth between the doorway and the living room (with my now incredibly stinky hands - in fact I'm not really sure "stinky" comes close to describing it) I thought frantically of someway to make it stop; but nothing came to mind. So I ran back out to the porch to check it's progress just as my neighbors from across the way came walking up the stairs from the pool (looking from me to the inflating Target bag -like 'what the.. ?') Just then the bag exploded... all over me, my door, the staircase and the hallway. And I screamed (more out of surprise than anything else)- and they laughed at me (of course) uh... really hard. I can only think of a few other times in my life when I've been this embarressed.
The can did eventually stop spraying but by then the puddle was so large it had oozed down the stairs - My neighbor just under me came out to survey the mess. He was NOT as easy-going about it. In fact he was furious. He asked if I was spraying gasoline in the hallway (oh yes, I just love to spray highly flamible substances in tight living quarters). I assured him it was just a tire fixing solution (which come to think of it is probably equally flammible?). The smell was nausiating. I apologized profusely. He kept saying how upset his wife would be if she were home and how it was a good thing she wasn't... (I could feel the defiance beginning to overwhelm me). I should probably do something nice to make up for it.
I had a realization a couple of weeks ago about forgiveness. We are only called to forgive others as Christ forgives us. I say "only" because they key phrase here is "as Christ forgives us." God always requires that we repent to be forgiven. He never gives us (what I've hear is referred to as) "cheap grace". I've heard so many times how we are to forgive even if others don't deserve it (which is true) and not to remain angry with someone for a long period of time ('don't let the sun go down on your anger..'Eph 4:26) - which is also true, but I think somewhere along the way I've undermined in my head the importance of an apology. True healing can't begin without it. And it doesn't only consist of "I'm sorry". It needs to contain repentant words and be followed by repentant actions. True forgiveness is not a pardon and it's not condoning. It's not beneficial to the forgiver or the forgivee to merely overlook and move on.
Have you ever wanted something to be a certain way SO badly that you believed it really was that way? So what about the deep desires that are put in our hearts by God that are entagled somehow with our purpose on earth. This desire is so strong you overlook all opposition because deep down you 'know' it will happen. How can you tell the difference? How do you know (if God's not telling you) whether you are acting in His will or out of your own desires? For that matter, how do you get Him to tell you? What if He is trying to tell you and you just aren't understanding? I don't really get how this 'hearing from God' thing works.
I was deleting more of those criptic spam messages this morning (the ones that almost sound like a story). One of them actually had very logical sentences in it so I read the whole thing (what?! I was bored) :) Anyway, one of the phrases that caught my attention was, "as a human being, if you don't fit competitions, you'll be eliminated like dinosaurs." Of course the next sentence read, "in nurse periwinkle's romantic fancy, they needn't see or speak to anyone" So I'm not pretending it was some cosmic message. But it did get me thinking.
I just started a new Bible study last night called the "explorer groups" where we will 'explore' less conventional topics for Bible Studies (like the Apocropha and different canons of the Bible - very interesting stuff!) Anyway, as an starting point for this study, the leader asked several questions about where each of us were in our Spiritual Journey and one of the questions that came up was, 'What is it that steals your joy?' One of the girls answered:
"Expectations. Ones put on you, ones you put on yourself, ones you put on others (that they can't live up to) and ones you put on life in general and how things are 'supposed' to be."
I can't tell you how true that is for me. And how hard its been dealing with the let down that things won't always work out the way you hoped they would. Some change or mistake can ruin a relationship forever. Even being aware that it was a silly expectation to begin with doesn't change how I feel about it. Where do we get these ideas from? And why do they become so important? I would think God must feel that way about us sometimes. We ruined his perfect plan (the perfect set up). We don't fit competitions or even come close to measuring up. How disappointing. And yet He's somehow able to get over it; to continue to love us as if we were still perfect.
Everything you know is wrong!!
I never thought about it when I played the game back in the day, but that is actually really funny. For some reason, that phrase has been on the tip of my tongue a lot lately. Experiences can often deceive you into thinking you have something figured out when really all experiences are tainted with a limited view point (your own) and a (usually forgotten) set of unique circumstances. So why is broken trust one of the hardest things to get over? Even when you know the circumstances this time are different. It's like we develop these mental formulas to size up new situations:
(this happened one time) + (this reminds me of what happened that one time or this happened to someone I know) = (this will happen every time)
It just seems weird that you can know something in your head but not in your heart (or feel something in your heart that doesn't make any sense). Why are we all such silly creatures of habit? And why is it so hard to distinguish legitimate fears from baggage?
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26)
I saw a strange bird today as I was walking into the mall on my lunch break. It had a bad foot that it kept curled under its body (perhaps from an old injury?) It didn't seem to be distraught or hurting in anyway - it just hopped around on its good foot eating bugs off the pavement seemingly contented and suddenly that verse came to my mind; followed shortly by this one:
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. (Isaiah 55:2)
What a conviction to have! And in the middle of the day, just as I'm walking into a mall! This isn't the first I've felt that conviction. Especially, in the last couple of days as I've progressively re-discovered an old flame (shopping). A few months ago by God's grace, for the first time since the undisciplined spending in college, I'm out of credit card debt. And yet with my new found freedom, the only thing I can think to do is buy more things for myself. Not important things, but showy things for a vacation I'm about to take; trendy things that in a month or two will be outdated (well maybe a little longer than that). But I couldn't shake this unwelcome thought, "I have more than enough. I'm so incredibly blessed, and yet I think that I need more?"
I still went into the mall! And I still bought things! (stupid, right?) - Well, actually, I only bought one thing... (which probably wouldn't be so bad if this wasn't like my 20th trip to the mall in the last 3 days) but I'm wondering now if God's shaking his head at me in disappointment, or if He feels more than disappointment (anger)? (which is a little unnerving) And I think that's what bothers me the most. The one thing God asks from us is to 'feed His sheep'. He says 'if you love me...' you will do this one thing. And the funny thing about that one thing is it usually brings more joy than I would ever imagine. Yet it's also the last thing I want to do (even knowing that). I guess that goes back to my discipline problem. Somehow it seems like more than that though - like intentional disobedience.
The crippled bird did make me sad. I kept imagining what injury it could have sustained to look so fragile. It also kind of reminded me of a bird this substitute teacher from one of my HS Biology courses had brought to class. She was the daughter of another teacher whom we had deemed "Dr. Doolittle" because he had a green thumb for animals. Anyway she had brought this crippled bird she was taking care of to class in a shoebox. Both of its feet were twisted and it hopped on the sides of both of them and would eat directly out of her hand. It was so awkward and SO CUTE!! I couldn't help staring (instead of concentrating on whatever test I was supposed to take). It wobbled around on the table and you could tell it totally loved her and completely trusted her!! It sort of made me want to be a vet.
Okay so a weird parallel comes to mind. Can you imagine how completely stupid it would be if this wobbly bird with the messed up feet refused to make the effort to hop (however awkwardly) to receive the handout (grace). Or maybe it thought it just looked so cool chillin' in its (designer) shoebox and hopping is just too much work? Over-active imagination? Probably. Maybe that last part seems a little off point, but it's not really. What is the purpose of buying new (wonderfully fabulous) clothes? If I was the only person in the world, would I still want them? Would I even care about my outward appearance? I don't know that I would - or least not to the extent that I do. Which means part of my love of new things must be for show? Maybe that seems like a given, but I know I've succeeded in deceiving myself that its' not on at least a few occasions. What if I was guaranteed to be the benefactor for millions if I agreed to give someone a penny? You darn well bet I would do it. So if we're promised to be blessed for keeping His commandments (back to the feeding the sheep discussion) isn't that the same thing? And if God can bless us - couldn't he just as easily bless those He's asked us to bless? (Instead of having us do it) Like God really NEEDS us bless people for him. Which means it's really for our own benefit (i.e., the joy of giving - and the resulting change in character). Darn it! It's always the thing we love the most that we're asked to give up. His presence should never be a burden. (In fact it usually brings joy and satisfaction) unless you've let something else creep into the number one spot in your life... ...and then it pinches; but, only while you hold onto that item with the misplaced priority.
So, if you're reading this, and you have any faith at all, please pray for me - that I'll give it up before God resorts to taking it from me. His discipline is never pleasant (and I can say that from personal experience). I need prayer.
Last Sunday, during his sermon the preacher brought up that passage about not braiding your hair or wearing gold earrings and I suddenly found myself zoning out thinking about an incident that happened in Bible camp like forever ago. Part of the dress code was that girls couldn't wear sleeveless shirts (tank tops), the guys could mind you, just not the girls (it wasn't appropriate). But in the middle of the Yosemite forest with no air conditioning and 100+ degree weather, a few of the girls who'd managed to smuggle in tanks were brazen enough to actually wear them. And when they seemingly went unpunished more girls decided to as well. The women counselors brought all of the girls into the cafeteria for an intervention and scolded us on our immodest attire. They actually used that same passage on us and had us write it on notebook cards. "Modesty is the key, girls" they told us. I have to admit that particular verse has kind of bothered me since (it just seems sexist in nature). But then as the preacher started to explain the passage (he suddenly had my attention again), he said the original Greek word used was "cosmos" which meant "utter chaos and disorder". In fact this is where we get our word for "cosmetics" which means covering up the chaos – (yeah, that's a real self-esteem booster). Anyway I guess I didn't realize that passage was more about a "do" than a "don't. (I don't imagine the camp counselors did either). It's not saying "don't" dress up your appearance, it's saying "do" dress up your insides as well (work on your character).
Last night, after a brief discussion on the religion of different denominations (or rather one in particular) with a good friend, I later asked another friend about his personal beliefs in this same realm; and quickly, thereafter, wished I hadn't. (Actually, I was already having misgivings about how the first conversation went). It had seemed like a harmless question (and it would have been under normal circumstances) but after I asked it, I realized my motives for asking were different than I originally thought - I was harboring bitterness; from this very conservative church I grew up in - or rather around (the church we attended wasn't that conservative - but the more local branch of it was); with their oppressive Bible camps and seminars several times a year. I wasn't asking him to see what he thought; I was looking for an opportunity to tell him what I thought. It probably happened on several occasions but three in particular stand out in my memory (aside from the camp incident). Someone from that church had hurt my feelings. I think maybe "hurt" doesn't quite fully describe it. I felt indignant and humiliated (in a public environment). Being a very private person, the publicity of the situation seemed particularly devastating. Without realizing it, my hurt turned into bitterness and that bitterness shaped my view of all churches with that name. What's funny is that I really didn't realize I felt that way until it came out of my mouth the other night. The other curious thing is, that topic seems to have 'coincidently' found its way into more than one conversation over the past week (more than the two mentioned above). And, more often than not, I was not the one who brought it up.
Another 'coincidence' is that today's lesson (for this daily study thing I'm doing) was called "The unrelenting sword" and the topic was bitterness and unforgiveness (go figure). In one of the questions, the study pointed out the time frame involved in Absalom's bitterness; how he waited 2 years for David to do something about his sister's rape, then 3 more years in exile after he killed her rapist (his brother) and then another 2 years in Jerusalem waiting for David to forgive him (for killing his brother); And finally 4 years while he plotted to dethrone David to get his revenge. 11 years total! Which is about exactly how long I've been grudging this person who hurt me ('coincidence 5') and more than a little humbling; especially when put in that perspective. Eleven years! (has it really been that long?) And I realized, I haven't gotten over this because I haven't asked God for healing. I haven't really prayed about it at all; and I just basically haven't tried to get over it - I maintained (and partly still do) that I was right. Why should I let this go? And the answer to that (I know you've already figured out and probably already knew before you started reading this) is that I'm only hurting myself. I can stay angry for the next 50 years, (and have bitter, passive-aggressive conversations every time the topic comes up) but that doesn't bring me any closer to the 'feel good' of letting it go. (And certainly doesn't serve as punishment for someone I'm completely out of contact with). So I guess some lessons are more subtle than others; and then there are lessons like these, which are (as my friend says), practically printed in neon signs. ;)