Tag Archive | Hope

Lessons From a Bad Hair Day

Somethings are so horrible you have to blog about it, namely, my haircut. If you are a guy reading this, please excuse the drama, for there’s no way you could understand. Ladies, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Last night, I looked in the mirror and got disgusted with my previous haircut which wasn’t even straight and grabbed a coupon and headed to a local salon. When I came home, I was in tears and vowed never to leave the house until my hair grew out and I had it fixed. I didn’t even want to go to church this weekend. To make it worse, I had a wedding to attend today.

 

It’s strange how one spark can ignite a whole house. All of a sudden I became convinced I was ugly and worthless. I didn’t have a job, my finances are a disaster and now I look disgusting. When I went to bed, God tried to tell me I was beautiful but I wouldn’t hear of it. “Ugly, ugly, ugly,” I lamented and started thinking about how I could excuse myself from all activities like the wedding and church.

 

You know what I did next? I went to the bathroom and tried to avoid the mirror while I washed my face. Then I went online and looked up Tricoci University. Part of me wanted to learn to bring out the beauty in everyone and make sure no one ever went home calling themselves ugly over a haircut. I dreamed of one day volunteering my services at a women’s shelter so that ladies whose lives are falling apart can look in the mirror and see the beauty that God created.

 

Is this new career choice just a “fad” like all my other pursuits and desires? I don’t think so, but time will tell. However, I have learned a valuable lesson about hope. Several weeks ago, God told me that he has placed a strong seed of hope in me, and that seed has kept me alive thus far. If I let him, he will cultivate it so that it will bear much fruit. I doubted God then, because I’ve spent most of my life feeling depressed and in despair. However, I learned last night that hope is not a feeling. I still feel horrible about my haircut and still wish I didn’t have to go to weddings and church. However, Biblical hope speaks of expectation. All throughout the Bible, God has shown himself to be the redeemer, redeeming what has been lost and making new all which has been destroyed. Even before giving my life to him, I have known that somehow he will make things right in the end. It is that expectation that causes me to “prepare my fields for rain” even in a drought (as quoted in Facing the Giants). I know God will send rain in his time, and when he does I want to be ready. Besides, it would be just like him to turn a disastrous haircut into a ministry, don’t you think?

I REALLY Get It!

Except for the three hours of sleep that I got, I spent most of last night in tears. I should probably add that they were tears of gratitude. I would have called myself a drama queen in regards to the incident if I didn’t know the nature of God and the mysterious ways he sometimes works. Ever since I came back from my Christmas trip to Bloomington, I have eagerly awaited my summer trip. This year however, due to having almost no income, it became less and less of a possibility as the months went by. In addition, my brother, aka my normal pet sitter, would be tied up as would the rest of the family this weekend because of my relatives from Taiwan being in town. So at the beginning of this week, I had to reluctantly say no to Bloomington this summer.

 

Then suddenly last night, by God’s incredible provision, I had $100 freed up to use for things I needed. I began listing in my head all the bills I needed to pay including, utilities, car payment, insurance, gas, laundry, internet, phone, the list went on and my head was starting to swim. I was trying to figure out which one I should knock out first when out of the blue I thought about my trip which would now be made possible if I used some of the money. As much as I wanted to do it, I was really hesitant because the trip in my mind wasn’t a “necessity.” I didn’t need to help out my college pastor’s church with their children’s program. Besides, I told myself that I was given the money so I can pay bills, not so I can go on a trip. My stomach started to churn and knot and I was ready to cancel the trip for good when I heard the unmistakable voice of God.

 

“I want you to go, and I’ve provided a way. It’s a gift.” Stunned, I tried to argue, “but what about my utilities and gas and all the other stuff I have to pay?” “Do you not think I can provide for those as well?” came the response. Continuing, he surprised me by saying, “Is life more than utilities?” I smiled at the new rendering of Matthew 6:25 and Luke 12:23. Suddenly, I burst into tears as the love of God swept over me. I kept hearing the words, “It’s a gift” and I finally understood. Love gives, and keeps on giving.

 

Here’s the interesting thing though. I never prayed about this Bloomington trip. I never asked God to make a way for me to go. Why? Because I never ask God for such frivolous things. The things I pray for are like jobs and my family’s salvation. I never bother God with what I consider are “wants.” But then I thought about the gifts my friends give me on birthdays or Christmases. Many of those would be considered “wants” as well. My friends know I don’t need another teacup or Archivers gift card, but they know I like them and enjoy seeing me smile…because they love me. God doesn’t always give me everything I want, for that would not be loving just as spoiling a child wouldn’t be an act of love. However, much more than any earthly father or friend, God is the giver of good gifts. Why? Because he is love, and he loves us so much more than we will ever know. I get it. I really get it.

But That’s Not the End of the Story!

Have you ever read a story or watched a movie that doesn’t have a happy ending? I have mixed feelings about those. On one hand, I feel cheated. Being the passive, let’s-make-everyone-happy kind of a person, the thing that gets me through the conflict part of the story is knowing that there will be a happy ending. I don’t want to read about wicked people destroying good people unless I know that everything will turn out fine in the end. On the other hand, we don’t all have fairy godmothers that wave a wand and turn pumpkins into carriages at the sound of bibity-bopity-boo. People do die of cancer, or just die, houses do get burned down sometimes, and bad things do happen. So sometimes I like the fact that certain stories do not sugar coat life’s realities. However, most of the time I still feel cheated if there’s not a happy ending. Many times I want to rewrite those sad-ending stories so that they will all live happily ever after. I protest, “but that’s not the end of the story!”

I think I remember something that happened when I was at a church camp. We were instructed that whenever we talked about something bad that was happening in our lives, we have to add the phrase, “but that’s not the end of the story” to the end of it. The lesson was that God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes, so whenever something happens that is not good then we know there’s more to the story because ALL God’s promises are yes and amen. Now just a note of clarification, the verse doesn’t say that God will only cause good things to happen to us, but that he will use the things that happen in our lives to make us more like Christ, which is the ultimate good that can happen to any of us. So whenever we say things like, “I lost my job” or “My mom died of cancer” or “My child has a difficult disability” we can latch on to God’s promises and say, “but that’s not the end of the story.”

Last night I had to learn this lesson in a new way. I had been struggling hard with my financial situation and inability to find a suitable job. I was looking for a way to express the anguish I was going through and flipped through the Psalms for help. When I reached Psalm 102, I found exactly what I was looking for. As a side note, I would encourage you to read the whole Psalm. It’s a long one so I will only be citing parts of it, but it is a really neat psalm to study and meditate on. Here’s verses 3-11, which I found was a perfect mirror for my emotions, “My days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.” My thoughts exactly. I wasted no time to share it, after all, it’s Scripture, and it describes my situation perfectly.

“But it’s a Psalm,” I heard the whisper in my heart.

I know what that means, I’ve even taught others what that means. A psalm never ends in lament. If the psalmist is lamenting about something, he always ends with praise and an acknowledgment of who God is. However, last night, I would have none of that. I was only concerned about the “woe is me” part. I know, some lessons don’t stick very well the first (or tenth) time. As God mercifully removed the barrier that was hindering me from seeing his plan, I was able to read and share the second half of Psalm 102. I’ll share a little part of it here, from verses 12-17. “But you, O Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.” The end of the story is God wins and he will be glorified. My financial situation isn’t any better, it’s actually worse than it was last night but we’re only at the conflict part of the plot line. The resolution has yet to happen, and when it does, the whole world will know that Jesus is Lord. That is the end of the story!

Dangerous Secrets

Do I tell her secret and get help for her even though she will probably hate me forever and never talk to me again or do I keep her secret and hope I can convince her not to kill herself? That question is probably a no-brainer for many of us adults, but for an eighth grade girl longing to be liked and make meaningful friendships, this is tough stuff. I regret to say that this is exactly what I put my best friend through when I called her one night in sixth grade telling her that I believed others would be better off if I was dead and I had intended to make that happen, but that she better not tell anyone.

If you would have presented me with the above question, I would have not hesitated to say, “By all means, get her help!” However, when it came to another kind of secret that also belongs in this category, up until this week, I couldn’t give you the correct answer. Specifically, it had to do with the sexual abuse. Like the majority of sexual abuse victims, I was threatened against telling. As an Asian child, the threats carried the additional weight of dishonoring my family. Children who dishonored their parents committed one of the most horrible crimes in Chinese culture and met with severe punishment and disgrace. When the nurse at the hospital suspected sexual abuse and asked a specific question, my silence confirmed his suspicions and initiated the investigation. However, until this week, I continued wrestling with the guilt for having disclosed the “family secret.” Some members of the family took my dad’s side and charged me for tearing apart the family. Even after I was able to believe that the abuse itself wasn’t my fault, which took years for me to believe, I still wrestled with the guilt of having brought shame to my family.

Last night I shared how Ginny Yttrup’s book Words completed the healing in all areas of the sexual abuse. One of the key areas was this guilt that I had carried with me for so long. In her book one of the key characters had struggled with drug abuse and her best friend was trying to help her. Her friend eventually told her parents about her addiction, which caused quite a stir to say the least, but got her the help that she needed. As this woman shared with the sexually abused girl her story of how her best friend’s insistence on telling the truth helped her get the help she needed, a light bulb went on in my mind. This woman was sharing her story to the girl to show her how it is actually a loving thing to tell the truth, and I realized that by telling the truth about what he did, I provided an opportunity for my dad to face correction and change his ways just like the woman’s friend did for her by telling her parents about her addiction. Whether my dad chooses to take this opportunity and change is completely up to him and out of my control, but at least I can know that I brought the truth to light and in doing so, gave him the opportunity to walk in the light of the truth. I realize now that that is probably the most honoring thing I could have done for my him and my family.

I am still amazed at how God was able to communicate this truth to me in such a profound way. Although many would not hesitate to tell such dangerous secrets, I have a suspicion that I am not the last one on earth who struggles with telling such painful truths for the sake of love and honor (or fear). My prayer is that those who are still living in the dark would find the courage to step into the light. I can say from experience that the light is painfully blinding at first, but as the eyes of our hearts adjust to the liberating brightness of the truth, we find that we are able to love as Jesus did. Then we can truly lead the “little children” in singing with joy, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

How Do You Wear This?

One of the advantages of having a mom with several wealthy friends is that I don’t have to go clothes shopping that often, provided my fashion taste is the same as theirs. Therein lies the catch. You see, my style of fashion is pretty straight-forward. My shirts have a hole on the top for the head, and two holes for the arms. That is not always true with the fashions that come every so often in the big brown box. Sometimes I would hold up a brightly-colored piece of fabric and say, “What is this supposed to be?” On rare occasions my mom would recognize an outfit as coming from another era she has lived in and would take the distorted fabric and show me how it works on her. On even rarer occasions it would actually look good enough on her that I would want to wear it myself. Only then did I claim that odd-shaped fabric to be mine.

A similar thing happened this week but instead of clothes, it dealt with matters of the heart, and might I add, quite significant matters of the heart. I have written before about the recent struggles I’ve had regarding the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. Well, a few months ago, I had bought the book Words by Ginny Yttrup mainly because the synopsis was interesting, although I had no idea it was about sexual abuse. All I knew was that the girl in the story used words to help her survive tough times. Being the lover of words that I am, I was drawn to the book.

As I continued reading however, it turns out that this girl was being raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and was rescued and eventually adopted by a woman who brings the much needed safety and love to her wounded heart. Throughout the book, I saw the principles and elements of healing that people have tried to show me and point out to me, but I never understood it until I saw it happen to someone else. Like the clothes my mom’s friends gave me, I had to see how it worked on another person before realizing it could work for me. Furthermore, I felt God stopping me at various points throughout the book to show me things like the way he loves me and the healing he wants to bring into my life. By the end of the book, I realized that all my questions were answered and all the pain completely washed away. It happened so seamlessly and painlessly that I doubted it was real at first. However, as I revisited the formerly painful memories, I realized that they no longer stung but rather, in the place of pain was a deep knowledge of the hope and love I have in Christ. The healing was finally complete.

There are specific elements of the healing that I’d like to address in future blog posts, but as for now, I want to offer a word of encouragement to those who, like me, and like Ginny Yttrup, have suffered traumatic experiences. Like I have often said before, nothing in God’s economy is ever wasted, and God wants to redeem the horrible things you’ve endured to manifest his love and grace in your life and the lives of those he places in your life. I pray that each of us would find the courage and the love to open our hearts and share our stories so that God might be able to show another child in pain how to wear the garment of grace, and that as they see the beauty of the garment on another, they would want it and claim it as their own.

Are You In?

Ever since I was five, my parents decided that they were going to turn me into a stereotypical Asian if it was the last thing they did. Of course they didn’t say that exactly, but that was my interpretation of the “We want you to be well-rounded” explanation they gave whenever I asked them why I had to take so many music lessons, ballet lessons, ice skating lessons, and so forth. For most of my life, I had very little say in what I learned and whom I learned it from, especially whom I learned it from. They would pick the best teacher they could afford and make me submit to whoever it was who greeted me when I walked in those doors. Whether the teacher gave me candy or called me names, I was to wholeheartedly follow whatever they said. Such is the life of the stereotypical Asian child.

I remember one exception to that however. I was a junior in high school, already pretty “well-rounded” as far as my parents were concerned, and I suddenly developed a intense fascination, okay, maybe more like obsession, with the oboe. The second I heard the oboe solo in one of our orchestra pieces, I knew I had to learn it. My mom was willing to pay for lessons, but I had to find a teacher on my own. I asked around and got referred to a teacher who lived not far from my house. The minute I stepped into her home, I felt warm and welcomed. She had strange methods of teaching, such as making me lie down with a book on my stomach to make sure I was breathing properly. However, her methods worked, and her encouragement was so refreshing I couldn’t wait to practice and get better so that I could hear her words of praise. I was willing to do anything she asked me to do, because I knew she wanted me to be the best that I could be, which was what I wanted too.

Thinking about my oboe teacher reminds me of a lesson I learned this weekend. I had been continuing to read the book The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee when I stumbled upon a chapter that made me want to throw the book against the wall…again. It was the chapter about presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices. Nee discussed how our lives and our bodies do not belong to us, and therefore we should not treat them as our own. Instead, we should for one, take really good care of it, but we should also be willing for God to do with it as he pleases.

All at once I felt myself recoil and sink into despair. First of all, I thought, there are certainly things that I would not be willing to do if God were to ask me to do them, so I guess that must mean I’m not a very devoted Christian because I’m not willing to do whatever God asks me to do. Furthermore, since our presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is an act of worship done out of gratitude for what God has done for me, then I figured I must not be grateful enough for what God has done to save me.

After a reassuring conversation with my pastor, I felt God say, “If you’re thinking in your heart that I would ask you to do those scary things that you dream up, then you still do not know my character. I am not one to make my children do scary things to prove their devotion to me. That does not come from me and is not my heart for you. Those who know my heart and my character gladly follow me because they know I love them and will only ask them to do what is best for them.” I thought of the slaves on the year of jubilee who had the option of going free or staying with their master permanently. I figured the only reason a slave would want to stay with his master for life is if the master was kind to him. I also thought back to my oboe teacher. Unlike my childhood years, if I didn’t like my oboe teacher, I could just look for another one and never return to her. I chose to stay with her and do whatever she asked of me because I knew she really cared and wanted the best for me. So I realize that once I truly understand the heart of God towards me, I will have no problem presenting myself to him to do as he wishes, because whatever he wants for me would be what I want for myself too, and abundantly beyond that.

My college pastor once said, “Jesus’ ways are opposite of the ways of our Western society.  When someone asks us to follow him, we want to know where he’s going first, then we’ll decide if we’re in or not.  Jesus wants us to follow him first, and then he will tell us where we’re going and what we will be doing.”  Of course the disciples were not so clueless that they would abandon their lives for any stranger.  They have seen Jesus and known enough about him to convince them that trading their lives for his would be a good thing.  So I am convinced that as I continue to learn more about the heart of God, I will soon say with joy, “Count me in!  I’m all yours!”

I Have A Treasure!

They call it the Marley mumbo. If you’ve read the book Marley and Me, you know what I’m talking about. The author of the book gets this adorable yellow lab puppy and soon finds out he’s quite a handful, or should I say, mouthful? In other words, it wasn’t long before the majority of the author’s household possessions have come into contact one way or another with Marley’s mouth. Even though many dogs are supposed to be smart, one thing that Marley definitely has not figured out is how to keep a secret. When he is concealing some forbidden object in his mouth, he gets so excited he cannot hardly contain himself. The result is the Marley mumbo. He dances and wiggles so fiercely his limbs look like they’re going to fly off any minute. Whenever the author sees Marley doing the mumbo, he pries open Marley’s mouth to retrieve the hidden treasure which has ranged from paychecks to gold necklaces.

If you have been following my blogs or my life, you know that one of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced in my spiritual walk is trying to understand and believe that God loves me more than anyone else ever could. Although my pastors, teachers, and friends have tried to tell me over and over again that God loves me infinitely and completely, I never got it. To me, God always seemed upset with me over something, and I may not always know what that something is. So I was always scared to approach God because I never knew if he was going to be happy about me approaching him or if he was going to wield a rod over my head for something that I did wrong at some point. At my best moments, I might venture into thinking that God loves me, but never would I dare believe that God delighted in me.

As a teacher, I know that with certain students, timing is everything. You can say the same thing at two different times and one would generate blank stares while the other would turn on a light bulb. Today God provided the perfect timing and environment for which to communicate the precious truth that he has spent the last nine years getting me to understand. I had just been visiting my pastor and his family. His granddaughter was with him today, and as usual, I felt the sting that often comes when observing fathers/grandfathers with their daughters/granddaughters due to my past history. After I left my pastor’s house, I felt the hole in my heart burn from the sting of observing a loving interaction between a grandfather and his granddaughter that I wish I had. Suddenly it was as if the Holy Spirit splashed refreshing, cold water into that hole as God once again told me of his love for me. Unlike the countless other times however, this time seemed to be the right time for my heart to receive that message deep down into its core. Later back home, God completed his love song with a glorious vision of his ear-to-ear smile and outstretched arms sweeping me off my feet and spinning me in the air in pure delight over me.

Returning back to my introductory story, having this treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7) hidden in my heart made me act completely different than I have ever acted in my life. Don’t worry, I did not dance and wiggle fiercely, instead I walked different, smiled different, and talked different. My main mission this evening was to go to the mall and find places that were hiring and get applications from them. Halfway through the mall, I began to realize something was different about me. I walked with dignity, smiled at stranger, friend and foe alike, and talked with confidence and delight in my voice. You wouldn’t have to pry open my mouth to find the hidden treasure, because, as evidenced while I sat basking in God’s delight, my mouth erupted in songs of praise and adoration.

Those of you who are close to me know that once I receive affection from someone, I tend to bombard him or her with handmade gifts, cards, and other trinkets. God once told me that the day I want to give him a gift is the day I will know I have received his love for me the way he wants me to. Tonight, I found myself longing to make God something. As I pondered that thought, I heard God’s delighted laugh as he said, “whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Instantly my heart erupted in excitement as I thought of ways to share my talents with “the least of these” that God has and will continue to place in my life.

I get it!!! And it’s glorious!!! As the song so eloquently puts it, “I am loved by the king, and it makes my heart want to sing” (and maybe do a little mumbo)!

But it’s not Peanut Butter Pie!

When I went off to college, God’s providence led me to a church whose pastor was really good friends with the pastor of the church I had been going to at home. The pastor of the new church and his wife immediately “adopted” me and insisted that I have lunch with their family at their home every single Sunday. Now you have to understand something about this wonderful couple. “Lunch” on Sunday really meant a thanksgiving feast cooked entirely by the pastor’s talented wife. Every single dish could probably have won many culinary awards. No matter how stuffed we were however, we never said no to her desserts. You have never tasted a brownie until you’ve tried her homemade recipe. Even jello tasted like something fit for the angels. However, nothing prepared me for that one afternoon when she presented me her peanut butter pie.

Having had a particularly difficult week, I was looking forward to a little bit of respite in her home after church. With her two outgoing daughters and six energetic grandchildren, there was never time to nurse troubles or wounds for too long, so I welcomed the distraction. After a wonderful meal as usual, she brought out her peanut butter pie. I was pretty excited even though I had never had peanut butter pie because I do have a strange and intense love affair with peanut butter. However, the moment I tried my first bite, all time stopped. It was as if I was Elijah and had been taken to heaven on a chariot. All I could think of for the rest of the day was how divine the pie tasted. I was still tasting it hours later.

In the weeks that followed, something shifted in me when it came to her desserts though. No matter what dessert she brought out or how wonderful or delectable it was, I was never satisfied because it was not peanut butter pie. Of course I pretended to love every one and never said a word about my true thoughts, but I felt like my taste buds died. If she brought out the dessert and it didn’t look like peanut butter pie, I convinced myself long before the first bite that it wasn’t going to be as good and ate it mechanically just to be polite. Thinking back, I’m sure there were many wonderful desserts, but I didn’t care, because it wasn’t peanut butter pie.

I’m using this rather silly example to illustrate a serious and profound lesson that God just showed me today. For the sake of highlighting the lesson, I will generalize some of the details so that the focus is on what God showed me. The past couple of days have been pretty torturous as far as my emotions went. When I finally pinpointed a trigger, it came down to the fact that I didn’t think God loved me like my pastor and his family does. I complained that God couldn’t possibly be loving father inspite of what I wrote in my last blog because where my pastor would respond with kindness, all I felt from God was anger. When I finally stopped my tantrum to hear what God had to say, his answer blew me away.

“I’m not peanut butter pie.” He seemed to say. “I’m so much better, but you’ve already decided that I taste awful because you’re insisting that I have to be peanut butter pie in order to be good.” In other words, I was insisting that if God loved me, then he would love me exactly like my pastor and his family does. If it didn’t look exactly like that, then it wasn’t love. God was saying, “My love for you is so infinitely better and greater than anything your pastor or anyone else has to give you, but you refuse to taste it because you’ve already determined in your heart that unless it looks like what you’ve seen, it’s not love. What you’ve seen is meant to whet your appetite for more, not kill your taste buds for anything else.” When I finally decided to put away my peanut butter pie standards and taste his love, I did indeed find that it was more wonderful than the best peanut butter pie that anyone else could offer me.

Angering a Grizzly

The scene takes place in a tree house. Unattractive, nerdy-type girl climbs up tree house. Her big brother is sitting in the tree house reading a book leisurely. Upon seeing bruises on his sister’s face, he asks her what happened. She halfheartedly mumbles something about someone hitting her at school. Instantly her brother throws the book on the floor, gets up like an angry grizzly bear and demands to know who it was that hit her and swears that he will make whoever it is sorry. I don’t remember the name of the movie I saw this scene in, but I remember the scene vividly. I love scenes like that, especially because I wish I had experienced one.

This is probably going to be the hardest blog post I’ve ever written because I’m going to be discussing an extremely personal matter, the sexual abuse I endured as a child. Although the case has laid dormant for over a decade, it has recently been causing a huge tidal wave of pain and confusion. Last night the key issue at question was, “Where was God?” The only reason I decided to blog about this was because I have a suspicion that I may not be the only one who has ever asked that question, whether it pertains to sexual abuse or some other trauma.

My pastor recently shared in a Bible study how he would not act very kindly towards someone if that person hurt any of his loved ones. Last night, as I remembered my pastor’s comment, I thought about the abuse I suffered and wondered why God was so silent through all those years. I thought how if I was a parent and someone tried to hurt my daughter, my wrath would be quite terrifying. Just imagine my famous temper multiplied by a million and you’d probably get an idea of the storm of fury that would be unleashed against the offender. My question was, “God didn’t even seem mad, so how could I believe that God is a loving father when he wouldn’t be even the teeniest bit angry at someone who sexually abused his child?” My pastor assured me that God is indeed angry and that justice will be done, but I wasn’t convinced. I still wanted to know why God didn’t immediately rescue me from the situation. Wouldn’t any loving parent storm into a room where his child was being abused and at least pull the child out if he knew the abuse was happening? I felt like God was a parent who just sat there in the room watching the whole thing happen like it was some kind of movie.

When God finally spoke his answer to my question, I was first of all surprised that he didn’t seem mad at me for doubting him at all. I had expected God’s answers to my questions to sound like, “How dare you question my goodness! I’m always good. I’m God and you’re not, and I don’t owe you any explanation and don’t you dare question my love for you after I sent my son to die for you!” Instead with a tenderness that quieted my fears, he whispered, “Make no mistake Emely, anyone who messes with my daughter will have to deal with me, and it will not be pretty. I was burning with fury on those nights, just as any parent would be if someone was hurting his child. With human parents however, their scope of knowledge is limited to what is happening now. They cannot see the future. They only know that right now, their child is being harmed, and they respond accordingly with wrath. Although My wrath will definitely be exerted, I also am able to see into the future all the way to eternity. Just like it was in the case of Joseph, I see that the result of you enduring those years of pain will be that you will be exalted and brought closer to me, and that I will be glorified and lives will be saved. Knowing that the result of staying my hand of deliverance would be much better than if I had plucked you out immediately was the only reason I did not rescue you the first night and let it continue for years.”

I am slowly learning that I cannot judge God’s heart by what I see in a human heart. Even when I see good in a human heart that I don’t see in God, I need to remember that it’s like comparing dolls to a person. I am so grateful that God is so infinitely patient and tender towards us even when we are screaming accusations at him. Maybe he is a loving father after all, or maybe he is the lovingest father there ever was!

It’s Not Supposed to be That Hard

I had a really interesting adventure last night. I went to sleep in my bedroom as usual, and then three hours later (around midnight) I woke up hot, thirsty, cranky, and tired. I grabbed a can of sparkling water from the fridge, turned on the window air-conditioner in the living room, and slumped in the living room chair. When I realized it was impossible to sleep sitting in this uncomfortable chair, I grabbed a pillow and got down on the floor. The only problem was that I have hardwood floors and so that was even more uncomfortable than the chair. So I decided to get to more pillows to sleep on while I used the first pillow for my head. That wasn’t much better. Finally, I decided that if I was going to get any sleep at all I was going to have to drag my full-size mattress from my bedroom into my living room and sleep on that. When I finally got all settled in bed and was comfortably cool, I thought of my dog stuck in his crate in the hot, humid bedroom. When my guilt was too much to bear, I let him out so he could sleep on the bed with me. Since it was dark, he probably thought this was a new doggy bed that I bought for him and jumped onto the mattress happily.

Today however, when I pulled the mattress down for a little nap, Colby recognized it as the bed that he always has problems jumping on. Since he’s had hip surgery, leaping onto a high bed is always a challenge for him and he cowers from the bed whenever I call him up. Only when his desire for the bed overcomes his fear does he try to jump on, not always successfully. A few times he has crashed into the bed validating his fear. Well, the mattress was now on the floor, so all he had to do was to step on to it. No jumping, no leaping, no crashing was involved. In fact, he climbed on happily all last night. It amazed me how different today was for him. When I called him onto the mattress with me, he would cower just as he did when the mattress was 3 feet above ground. Then, after a few agonizing moments, he would leap frantically on the bed just like he did before I brought it on the floor. I shook my head in wonder. Then it struck me.

I have been doing the exact same thing when it comes to staying alive. My pastor once said to me, “It should not be that hard to stay alive.” At the time, I thought to myself, “Yeah, it isn’t hard for him because he doesn’t have to struggle with depression or suicide all the time. Of course it’s easy for him to stay alive.” He had said that I have been tricked into believing that staying alive is this huge, impossible task when it really isn’t that hard. While staying away from suicide may have been impossible prior to coming to Christ, the truth is when I received him as Lord, he has put the mattress on the floor. In other words, he has provided a way of escape as 1 Corinthians 10:13 says. He has done the hard/impossible part, and now all I have to do is to step into the mattress of his grace. There’s no jumping, leaping, striving, or crashing involved.

I realized that the deception is one of focus. If I can be tricked into believing that I must focus on not committing suicide, then I will inevitably commit the very thing I’m focused on. It’s like what my pastor said about people who constantly tell themselves that they will not be like their parents which dooms them to be like their parents because their parents are the object of their focus. Today as I was watching my dog stare at the mattress on the floor cowering, I realized that I was staring at the sinful temptation cowering as if it was some insurmountable obstacle when Jesus has brought it low and made it more than conquerable by his grace. When I take my focus off of the sin and place it on Jesus (which by the way, is exactly what praising him accomplishes) then I realize that he who is in me is indeed greater than he that is in the world. Then I can step effortlessly into the mattress of grace and rest in his arms.