September 25, 2010

Fiery Darts and Faith

I have been wondering over the last few days at how so many things have been hitting me like a physical pain deep in my heart. Here are a few examples:

- Carrying a sleepy Jude to the bathroom last night. He cuddled right up and pain shot through me to think that he may not grow up with the personal experience of knowing how much his mother loves him
- I was looking at old photo albums yesterday that I had not seen since before we left for China. Physical pain shot through me as I looked at our wedding pictures and pictures of the first few months of Ari's life.
- Pictures of James and I together looking carefree and happy. What if the boys look at these pictures as if they are a far off dream and not something they have ever personally seen. What if they don't ever get to witness the carefree dynamic and James and I have with each other? What if they never get to see for themselves how mu
ch we love each other?
- The boys watching Peter Pan and being so excited when the children learn how to fly. "They can fly! They can fly! They can fly!" They are so precious, such gifts!
- Seeing any picture of myself before three months ago.

I have been really shaken by the fact that any little thing these days has the ability to send me rocketing deep into a pit of pain. What is wrong with me? Where is my faith? The Bible tells us that our faith is to be used like a shield and it can protect us from all of the fiery darts that are thrown at us by our enemy, Satan. It is his goal to deceive us and to cause death in our lives, more than just physical death. Why are these darts racing right past my shield and hitting me in my weakest parts?

I woke up this morning with a song in my head, with these words (based on Philippians 3:7-10):
All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres and wars to own,
All I once found gain, I now count loss*
Spent and worthless now, compared to this,

Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you
There is no greater thing
You're my all, you're the best,
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you

I realized today that I can sing less than half of these words honestly. Actually right up to the part that I have marked with a star. I have mentioned before that I have led a charmed life up to now. I have never struggled with self confidence (those of you who have fought this losing battle for many years officially have permission to hate me). I have held dear the person that I am, and I have built my life upon the things that this world longs to own. I have known and experienced things that many people never have had, but long for: a happy marriage, beautiful children, university education, opportunities to live in another culture, a nice appearance, many friends etc.

It is humbling for me to admit that it has been easier for me to believe that God is good and that he loves me when I come from the charmed life I have lived. It is even more humbling to admit that part of my faith has been built on these things. Why else would those darts be hitting me so hard? Perhaps the most humbling thing to admit is that I am not yet at the point where I can call these things worthless. I love them, I want to hold on to them. But I will never truly have faith until I can truthfully say that the things of this life that change and do not last, have no worth compared to Jesus. He doesn't change.
When I look at myself three months ago and myself now, I want to cry. This family picture pretty much sums it up for me. It is a physical representation of what I once "counted gain" but now feel I have lost. Look at that happy, beautiful woman with a happy handsome husband, two happy beautiful children! Look at their shining future together! Look at their adventuresome spirit!

That is the only me I have ever known. I don't understand the me that has taken the place of the woman in that picture. The new me is a stranger. The new me has ugly patches of hair, a puffy face (notice that I have not put up a comparison picture), and acne. She sleeps a lot, can't see very well or hear very well. She can't concentrate. When her husband says he loves her, she can't help but wonder if he is lying (the new me must be as much a stranger to him as she is to me).

I literally feel stripped and my faith is part of what has been stripped from me. I see now that I have placed a great portion of my confidence and worth in the things that I have had. Now that I have lost them or at least feel like they are slipping through my fingers, I see how shallow my faith has been. No wonder these darts are hitting me so hard! I am not ready to let go of this "faith" I have held yet, even though it has/is being torn to shreds in front of my eyes. It reminds me of a verse in Isaiah (64:6):
We are all infected and impure with sin,
When we display our righteous deeds,
They are nothing but filthy rags,
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
And our sins sweep us away like the wind.

My faith and my righteousness has been built on a foundation that does not last. Beauty, relationships, being smart, independent, helping people etc. These things do not last, and if I seek to make my life valuable and righteous through these things, I will lose... I HAVE lost. The funny thing is that I would never have known that I was basing my faith and my value/righteousness on these things unless I lost them.

There is not much comfort in what I have written. There is not much comfort in knowing that I am shallow enough to prefer my rags of righteousness over the real thing that is offered by Jesus. But there is the hope that this can change. There is the hope that I can learn to place my value in things that last forever and are true and not in "leaves that blow away in the wind". Look at how easily it happened! Three months and my life is unrecognizable!

Thus closes another rant. Why anyone would find this interesting is a mystery to me, I do it for my own mental processes. Eventually it all comes pouring out whether I want it to or not.


Cliff Martin said...

Thank you for your unvarnished honesty. I have discovered that much of what we wish to pass off as spiritual "togetherness" is often nothing more than a reflection of our material good fortune. Faith is only truly tested in the crucible, and that is when we discover how faltering and unrefined it is by nature. Wayne Shenk calls faith "a dirty little bugger", by which he means in its most stripped down and authentic forms, it stumbles, is uncertain, and finds itself uncomfortably mixed with fear and doubt.

But again, I want to share from my own experience with losing my wife to cancer 6 months ago. I cannot speak for James. But I can assure you of this. When I spoke the words "I love you" to the declining physical specimen of my once gorgeous wife, I never in all my life meant it more!

Sue said...

I am standing with you against those fiery darts of the enemy and asking that even what he intends for evil, God will work for good.
"God is your fortress and your strength, a very present help in time of trouble."

The Laughing Rover said...

I'm praying for you.

This is a song that helped me a lot in a tough time, maybe it can be of some comfort:

Shanilie said...

Praying for you all! It is amazing how emotional pain can effect us in a way that actually feels like physical pain. Your openness amazes me and is an encouragement. I am too much like a clam sometimes.

Love's Door said...

from Regina: one more time, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. talk about culture shock--you moved very rapidly from one world to another, three months ago! (and i don't mean geographically.) kinda your own personal 9-11. 'twould be nice if god would give a little heads-up sometimes, you know...

but suddenly everything looks different. maybe that's the gift of this time, a gift we don't realize we need--the gift of perspective. how very desperately we need him, even when we don't realize it.

i found it interesting to substitute the word "lean" for "trust" in many bible verses (thanks to amy carmichael who suggested it). you will keep her in perfect peace, whose mind is fixed on you, because she leans on you...i like that picture, of resting w/all my weight on him.

so--speaking of leaning, i hope you might draw comfort from this poem (author unknown). so much collective pain in this world. although i wouldn't go so far as to ascribe it to god (as one line may suggest), i hope you can love him and lean hard. he walks alongside you.

child of my love, lean hard
and let me feel the pressure of your care
i know your burden, child. i shaped it;
poised it in my own hand; made no proportion
in its weight to your unaided strength,
for even as i laid it on, i said,
"i shall be near, and while she leans on me,
this burden shall be mine, not hers;
so shall i keep my child within the circling arms
of my own love." here lay it down, nor fear
to impose it on a shoulder which upholds
the government of worlds. yet closer come:
you are not near enough. i would embrace your care;
so i might feel my child reposing on my breast.
you love me? i knew it. doubt not then;
but loving me, lean hard.