Saturday, December 19, 2015

for those who want to lose their cross

I had a terrible thought the other day. You will think I am awful, but it was just a fleeting thought, and I share it with you in case you too have had terrible thoughts.  This was my thought:  I thought of my well dressed, business woman, Manhattan apartment living friend, who chose to marry, but to not bear children.  And the reason I thought of her was because presently, I was...I am...experiencing some painful difficulties with my youngest, and in an attempt to escape this burden of his, this cross of my own, I imagined, for just a second, what it must be like to have no children. And for a second, just a second, I imagined who I could have been, if I had chosen to not have children at all.  How many crosses would have been lifted if I were not mother.

And then, as clear as day, I saw that by removing this cross, I had just removed anything that matters to me at all here on this earth. 

It is tempting to think that if God would just remove this cross, all of my troubles will be gone.
It is tempting to imagine a life without burdens.
It is tempting to curse our God and yell at Him for not hearing our prayers, for not lightening our load, for giving us the heavier cross than the one we see our neighbor skipping through life with.
It is tempting to think that we are smarter than God.

My daughter asked if I was feeling better after a virus had struck me, and when I replied, "not really", she said, "I prayed to God to make you better, and he didn't answer my prayer."
I had a dear friend text me, "what do you do when God doesn't answer your prayer? Go to plan b?"
And me?  Well I pray daily begging the Holy Spirit to come upon my small boy and to give him in abundance self control, a good day, a day with no troubles, only to have him slump off of the bus with his head hung low...and immediately, my head hangs low with him, and together, we both wonder, why did God not answer this prayer?

And then I remember Saint Monica.
She prayed the same prayer for forty years.
And then I remember Elizabeth and Zechariah. (Luke 1:5-25)
They prayed the same prayer for nearly their entire lifetime.
And when the angel of the Lord finally came before Zechariah, the very first thing he said to him was what?  "Do not be afraid. Your prayer has been heard."

Our daily prayers are being heard.
And they will be answered.
It is not our job to know when they will be answered.
It is simply our job to trust they are being heard, and to never, ever, stop praying and begging God to listen and answer.
It is God's job to answer them, as He sees fit, in His own time, by His will alone.
Because He has our plan, He writes our story, and He knows what He is doing.
Really, he does.
This is His world, these are His children, we are His daughter's and sons.
Everything belongs to Him.
We own nothing.
He holds the manual to our life, and so long as we wake to a new day with air in our lungs, we are to drop to our knees, thank Him for everything, and trust in His plan.

I know...we look at tragedy, we look at natural disasters, we look at terminal illness, we look at injustice, we look at broken relationships and troubled families, we look at poverty, and we shout out into the nothingness we feel, "Where are you God?? Is THIS your will? Because if it is, your will stinks.  And by stinks, I mean sucks.  You are not a good God.  You do not care about us.  You must not be real."

What we forget, and what I often forget, is that God is not only so very real, but because He created everything, because there would be nothing without Him, HE KNOWS BETTER THAN I.
And yes, that means He also knows better than you.
He works all things for good. (Romans 8:28)
And my cross, my burden, my illness, my poverty, will not be in vain.
It will all serve a greater purpose.
He will use every single bit of it.
He will take all of the pain and sorrow, and He will work it into His divine plan.
I am a part of His story, and God gave me the role that suits me best.
He gave me a role that only can I play; an important role that this world deeply needs.
There are no small roles in God's play.
No role is more important than the other.
I may not want my role, from time to time.
I may, some days, despise my role.
Or get bored of my role.
Or cry in pain from my role.
I may look around and see someone who clearly, God gave the better part...the leading role...the one I should have gotten!
but that...that thinking? It is such a trap.
First of all, it shows my complete lack of trust in God and his creation.
Because by returning my cross and exchanging it for another, I have just said that God made a mistake in creating me this way.  And God, as we know, makes no mistakes.
And second of all, by looking at others, I have just fallen into the trap of comparison.
It is a trap, because everyone walking this planet, my dear friends, is doing it with a cross heavy on their shoulders.
Do not be fooled by their skipping.  By their smile. By their bank account. By their fancy clothes or big house or perfect Christmas card of their perfect family on that perfect summer vacation you just got in the mail that really pisses you off.
They, too, carry a cross, that God carved and created just for them; a cross big, and painful and heavy.
They just didn't put it in their Christmas photo.

I sat with my small boy yesterday before school.
He was feeling sad-like he can not do anything right.
Recess,  his favorite, was taken away for the wrong thing he did.
And with a heart that was aching for him, I told him this.
"God did not make you wrong, and nothing you do or experience is a mistake. You are a perfect creation, and God has huge plans for you.  We will get through this, and all of these things that feel really hard right now, and make you sad? These are exactly the things that God will use to make you great!  These are exactly the things that YOU may be able to use to help someone else some day.  Maybe you will be a teacher when you are a man, and you will have a student just like you.  To that kid? You will be a hero. You will know exactly how to help him.  So do not be afraid, and trust in God's plan for you, okay? Just wait and see...I promise you...and remember, that God works all things for good."
And as my boy hugged me tight, I wondered where those words came from-the words that not only did my boy need to hear, but that I needed to hear as well.  And it was in that moment that I noticed the angel of the Lord standing right there in that room with us, just as he was with Zechariah, feeding me the lines, letting us know that we have nothing to fear, reminding us that our God is good, and that He does hear our prayer.

It is tempting, isn't it, to try to ignore our sufferings, or to imagine a life without suffering, or to curse God for our sufferings. But it is only in the acceptance of our sufferings that God's love and plan for each of us is revealed. He does work all things for good...but we must love Him, and trust Him, and live out the purpose He has called us to live.  We must accept our role, live it to the fullest, and be grateful for it, in all circumstances.  We must remember that He too suffered, for love of us.

Do not be afraid.  God hears your prayer. And in those moments you are convinced that a good God would never allow the kind of suffering you are feeling right now, ask that He would increase your faith.  Pray that He would open your eyes to see the purpose of your suffering, and ask Him to help you to use your suffering to grow closer to Him, to bring others closer to Him, and to teach you how to suffer well. And then turn your gaze to Gods only son, Jesus Christ, beaten and bruised, broken and hanging, lifeless on the cross, and do not feel sorrow at this sight, but rather rejoice and know that the greatest things in life are born out of pain; the most beautiful gifts are born out of sacrifice.  Know that our God, your God, is good and kind, merciful and almighty, and He sees you, He hears you, and He loves you.

Then pick up your beautiful cross, and follow Him.