Christ didn’t suffer so you wouldn’t suffer. He suffered so when you suffer you will become more like Him.
Wisdom from Tim Keller.
Christ didn’t suffer so you wouldn’t suffer. He suffered so when you suffer you will become more like Him.
Wisdom from Tim Keller.
There are times when I say, “I just want to be normal again.” It’s hard to adequately describe, but my brain has changed since OCD took over my life. I feel less cognitively capable than I used to be. I remember the capacity I once had and it’s hard for me to believe that I functioned somewhat successfully under the stress and commitments that I had in my life. Yet, I still felt like a failure most of the time thinking of all of the other things I should have been doing in addition to my commitments. Living under the constant guilt of unrealistic standards is not a joyful place to be.
I lived so many years in the bonds of legalism. My life and my actions were completely motivated by rules to keep me safe. I am so glad that the Lord blew that up and I recognized for the first time, it is for “freedom Christ has set us free”(Galatians 5). Once free, I lived in joyful contentment of that recognition for quite a few months, just breathing in the air of liberation.
But then there is real life. And I come back to reality where rules are a part of life, and so I have to make choices as to how I am going to operate in the world. I find with more freedom there are more decisions, more options. I’m free, yes, but I’m also now being forced to reevaluate who I am and what I want independent from these rules I once was enslaved to. Although freedom is amazing, it brings on a whole new set of fears. Fear of choice, and the constant nagging thought of “what if I make the wrong one?”
Ed Welch but it this way in his book Running Scared (pg. 20-21):
Both oppression and freedom can incite fear. Freedom resolves the fear and anxiety associated with persecution and oppression, but it increases the fear of personal failure, which is one reason Soren Kierkegaard said that anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. With freedom comes more choices, which mean more opportunities to get it wrong. Freedom or oppression- pick your poison. They both contribute to our fears and anxieties.
So when I say “I just want to be normal again,” it’s true that part of me is pining for the old days. Those days when yes, I was enslaved, but I knew my purpose, my methodology made sense and I didn’t have to deal with the tension of fighting for faith in the midst of all new fears. The dysfunctional comfort of what is known. I’m wondering if that is part of what the Israelites felt when they were wandering in the desert pining for days of Egypt. It seems so wrong to want to go back to slavery, but the bible warns us that after freedom is found, “stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5). This must be, then, a common temptation for those of us who have been set free.
Sometimes I think that the learning will just be over when I have suffered through a trial and experienced growth. I think: I am free now, so the hard work is over. But sanctification is a process, so I am always coming to a deeper understanding of what abundant life really means. I am always continuing to learn how to truly live, and that living is found through dying to self. So I need to embrace this tension that there will be a struggle as I am growing to understand more of how to have faith in the midst of new fear. I don’t really want to go back to the old. What I really want to learn is how to thrive in a new normal. A renewed normal.
Sure that new normal may mean more mental processing time and random fears that come and MAKE NO SENSE. I may feel like I’m wandering around like a lost puppy sometimes. My life purpose may be a little less clearly defined than before. And yes, there will be challenges. But GOD…He is mighty to save and He is not through with me yet. He will help me learn to live, really truly live, a renewed normal.
To say doctrine doesn’t matter, only how you live matters, is itself a doctrine. It’s the doctrine of salvation by works.
A tweet from Tim Keller, December 29, 2014
The idea of God being a Rock has meant a lot to me since I spent a season in a pit. Ps. 40 poetically states, “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”
One of the Songs of Truth that ministered to me during my trial is the song Rock of Ages by Augustus Toplady, and I listened to the Chris Rice version of this song on repeat until I memorized all the words. Sometimes I had the mental picture that Jesus was covering me and protecting me, me clinging to him for dear life as I was sinking deeper into a pit and the fear was so strong. Yet, even when I got to the bottom of the pit, I found that it was solid ground, and He was there. I was standing on a secure foundation, Him. And so He is the Rock I cling to and stand upon.
Each verse of this song speaks to the different aspects of the fear and faith struggles I face almost daily. It’s one of the deepest songs I know. Below are the verses and some truth I find in the words of the song.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.
What truth this speaks to me: God has always been a rock (like, forever) and he suffered and was broken (cleft) so I could be covered and hide myself in his brokenness. His death didn’t just save me from hell, but His blood was poured over me in such a way that it brought righteousness and holiness. When God looks at me He sees the purity of Christ. His blood made me white as snow. Being “in Christ” actually means something.
Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
this for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.
What truth this speaks to me: There is nothing I can do to earn God’s favor. To paraphrase my friend Shaun Cross who once said I have too low of view of the law if I think I can do things to keep all of it. My zeal to do good things will never accomplish perfection; therefore, I can never meet the demands of the law. I will fall short. Then I feel guilty and offer sacrifices, and my tears could come forever from guilt. But that still isn’t enough. Jesus is the only one who lived a perfect life that met all the demands of the law. My work can’t save me, only Jesus, and Jesus alone can save.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to thy cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.
What truth this speaks to me: I can bring nothing to God. Even all of my righteousness is as filthy rags before Him. So, I need the cross. I need to cling to it, to be covered in His righteousness. And I need His help. I need to be washed from my inequity. The harsh reality is that if a Savior doesn’t do this…I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
when my eyes shall close in death,
when I rise to worlds unknown,
and behold thee on thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.
What truth this speaks to me: I struggle with feeling uncertain, and in life there isn’t a lot I can be certain of. But I know we can be certain of one thing: I will die (and taxes, so says Benjamin Franklin). And so when the bible says that “Perfect Love Casts Our Fear” it’s talking about the love of Christ that has covered me so I do not have to be afraid of judgment at death. And if I don’t have to be afraid of judgement then I don’t have to be afraid of dying, which is the only thing I can be certain of. And if I don’t have to be afraid of the only thing I’m certain of, then I don’t have to be afraid of anything else. One day I will die and Iwill go to heaven and stand before God as judge. He will look at me, and all that I did and didn’t do on this earth and I will be judged. But there will also be with me a Savior who was broken, cleft for me. And I will find myself, once again, clinging to Him and standing on Him. Then in judgment, I will be found by God to be hidden in the glory of my Savior and rather than declared guilty as I deserve, I will be declared innocent and set completely free. Free to spend eternity worshipping my Rock. The Rock of Ages past, present, and future.
I made a list at the beginning of 2015 of books I wanted to read this year. A few have been added since then, which isn’t good because none have been crossed off as read yet. Because I am behind with accomplishing this goal in order to finish with all of these by the end of the year, I have to read about 3-4 books per month. So, I’m trying to carve out at least 30 minutes to read each day. I hope giving an update on my reading progress each month will help me achieve this goal.
The challenge with reading is that it’s more difficult for me to stay focused these days. I’ve always had some challenges with reading (in addition to slowness, I now I know it was because of the tendency of my mind to be distracted with obsessing). Because the obsessions are now stronger since OCD, it’s even harder to focus. It’s a challenging side affect, and I seriously empathize with anyone who is in school with the challenges of OCD. Nevertheless, if I can work on re-training my brain to focus again, reading is actually a great way for my mind to stay stimulated and engaged so obsessing doesn’t win.
So here are some of the books I want to read this year, divided into categories. The ones marked with an asterisk are books I have already read that have profoundly shaped me, so want to read them again. The ones with a plus sign are ones that I currently reading. In the future, plan to give a monthly update on the blog about what I’m reading.
Personal & Emotional Development
So there is the list of my 32 books. Are there any books I should add when I’m done with these?
This blog is not off to a good start. It still looks hideous, and I’m not regularly posting. I have written about four full posts and have the scattered workings of a few more. Chris looked at two of them and suggested edits, which will require some more thinking and work on my part. So I’ve been sitting on them. The rest I haven’t posted because I’m more self-conscious about my writing than I was a month ago. I realize I am horrible with grammar. Sometimes my thoughts are scattered and my writing isn’t fluid. My writing is like my life, a little messy. So, I either need an editor who has time to work with me or I have to do the hard work of figuring this out on my own. I probably need both of those and that’s overwhelming to me. But, I feel like I have so many things welling up inside of me that I need to say. Is this messy writing helping me live well in this messy life? And does God work his restoration in my writing as well as me partly by the simple act of doing, even if it isn’t perfect?
I’m also realizing that I’m a little bit of a Debbie Downer. I’m trying to find joy in the little things in life, but what I find most compelled to write or instagram about is struggles or tension. Can one be too real? Too below the surface? Don’t people cringe at that? We want vulnerable but not too raw. I mean most of us don’t mind a scratch that bleeds a little on the surface, but please don’t show me raw flesh and bone or I get queasy. This isn’t just me judging or feeling the judgment of others, I feel uncomfortable with flesh and bone, too. So sometimes I reflect on the rawness of my life and the honestly I have been trying to live in, and I get uncomfortable with myself. What am I thinking living this struggle out loud? But on the other hand, living my fear in the light is how I truly learned to live again. If there is no light, I suffocate in the darkness of my fear.
Some day I think the puzzle pieces of my life will fit together. I will look at each memory, story, post, picture, and I will see that in the raw and exposed as well as the fun and neat and simple, there were glimpses of beauty and grace that were leading me to the next piece to connect with. Eventually what is created is a big picture, the story of my life. A story, a picture, a life marked by grace.
So, until the time my puzzle makes sense, which may not be in this life, I think I’m just going to go about the business of creating more pieces and to stop trying to make sure all those pieces are perfect by my own and others’ standards. But rather I want to live in the moment, so to speak, even if it’s grammatically incorrect, a bad picture, or raw, exposed, and messy. And I know God, who is the creator of my puzzle and the author of my story, will mark his stamp of redemption in all of it. And I pray that at the end of my life there is a picture that is formed that others can’t help but say: to God be all the glory.
A dear friend of mine is suffering intensely right now. When I look at her situation, I so confidently see and believe God is going to work His power just like he did for me. Isn’t it amazing how He gives us faith for others even when we don’t feel it for ourselves? She felt faith for me last year and encouraged me often. And so I, too, tell her things that helped me persevere and built my faith in my suffering. And I truly believe them for her. Because with everything in me, I know that God is faithful. Last week in a quick e-mail she made reference to my strength.
But last week, I didn’t feel so strong. I’ve been struggling to find my footing with our recent transition. Change is very hard for me, and so I’m grasping for any form of control. Things that I thought I had matured out of trying to control, like my husband or washing my hands, seem to have crept back into my life. The truth is, I am a mess most days.
In the middle of this mess, I have a few options. I can become overwhelmed and down and watch 18th/19th century period pieces (I cannot confirm or deny if this is a choice I made on some days last week. After all, it was the week of Valentine’s). Or I can remember who and whose I am. I can remember the Father delights in me, and then begin to relinquish control because I know He is sovereign, good, and wise*. Even while I was still a messy sinner, Christ died for me (Rom. 5:8). The Spirit of God lives in this messy jar of clay and displays His great power in my weakness (Rom. 8:11; 2 Cor. 4:7).
Recently I observed a sister in Christ read Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV) over a brother in Christ:
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
It was such a powerful moment to witness the truth of these verses sinking into another’s soul. I, too, want these words to sink deep into my soul, and I sent them to my friend last week, as well. It is true: A Mighty Warrior is with me, delighting in me. Plain old, nothing, messy me.
*Read Trusting God by Jerry Bridges for a study on the Sovereignty, Wisdom, and Love of God.
A couple of weeks ago we had our first membership class at our new church. At the beginning we were asked to say our names as well as one piece of information about ourselves. It was at the point these directions were given, I started to panic inside. My mind was spinning. What should I say? “Hi, I’m Mindy. I am….” What else could I say about myself that was significant? I don’t work. I don’t have kids. I don’t have any real hobbies right now other than what I cook for dinner. I have no interesting descriptors that are socially appropriate in that context. The truth is, from how I interpreted the question, I am…nothing. Afterward, Chris said I should have told everyone I was a blogger and then with a straight face say I have posted 2 times already. (Oh the banter that takes place in our home; we both think we are so funny sometimes.)
When I stood up to answer, I totally stumbled over my words, really believing I had nothing of importance to say about myself. And to think, I used to have such confidence answering this type of question. I used to welcome it, and I frequently asked it myself in it’s common form: “so, what do you do?” I loved what I did and liked to talk about it with others. I thought it was interesting. I worked hard to get there through my education, and I worked hard at my job. It was a big part of who I was. Much bigger than I even realized. A question like that a year and a half ago wouldn’t have phased me one bit.
I didn’t anticipate the transition from working to not working would be so difficult. Of course, OCD had a huge part in that because it kicked into full gear when I stopped working. Once I had nothing to occupy my time and mind, my propensity to obsess took over and created a deep pit which I fell into. I’ve been crawling out ever since. But my transition to not working also included the typical existential question of “what is my purpose?” Also, my heart is prone to think things like “If I only had a child, I wouldn’t feel this way.” I absolutely know is not true and just a quick Google search of daily struggles written on numerous mommy blogs would render it false. The grass is always greener. If I don’t have contentment today, I won’t have it tomorrow.
If I had a do-over of last Sunday when I botched the “tell me about yourself” question, I’m still not sure I would have a better answer. Judging by the way people commonly answer that question, we expect similar types of responses and I currently cannot offer any of those acceptable descriptors of who I am. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know the real answer to the question; the answer that will satisfy all the fear of man and fear of the future I have. I know who I am. I know whose I am. I just forget that truth sometimes and so I look at who or what others are or who/what I think I should be or who/what I long to be, and I feel jealous, anxious or depressed.
And so, once again, my soul needs to be reminded of who I really am:
All of this truth is possible because I have a savior who once actually did become “nothing,” humbled himself, and took my sin and shame upon himself on the cross (Phil 2: 7-8). And all of who He is and what He did and continues to do is even more than the “I am” descriptors I can come up with. He is I AM and was I AM and always will be I AM. (Ex. 3:14; John 8:58). He truly is all of everything that matters. And when I truly rest in the I AM of Jesus, there isn’t a question or circumstance in the world that can rattle me from that firm foundation. I know who I am. And I know who He is. And so I take my eyes off my once nothing “I am…” and look to the I AM.
I AM…oh how He loves me.
It was Groundhog Day this week. Which for me means two things: I watched the movie Groundhog Day and we can mark our calendars for six more weeks of winter.
My husband and I just moved back to the midwest where six more weeks of winter could be pretty intense. In an interesting plot twist though, it was actually 60 degrees and fairly sunny the day we pulled into Nebraska in the middle of January. But prior to that unexpected blessing and as we were getting ready to move, I found myself thinking about how crazy we were to move to a place much colder right in the middle of the winter. I started to have fear about not being able to safely drive across the country because of snow storms as well as a low-grade dread about the remainder of a treacherous winter I would most likely experience once in Nebraska. As I found my heart becoming fearful, I was gently reminded by the Lord of the winter past and how God carried me through. And so, I began to ponder the ways of enduring winter and what good it can mean for my soul. Here are a few of those thoughts.
It seems like a general observation from life that most suffering/struggle comes in season, as Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) says “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Experiencing the natural order of the seasons on this earth (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) is actually an amazing way we can spiritually reflect on the restoration that God is bringing to earth and in our lives. In this we find that after the bitterness of winter there is the hope of spring- the promise of new life, restoration, resurrection. Thinking of spring helps me because perseverance through hard times seems a lot more doable when there is a promise of hope, and so I want hold on to the fact that winter is not the final say. It will end, and there will be spring.
This is a truth we find in salvation, too. If there is no resurrection there would be no gospel. There must be victory over darkness. So, we can endure the winter (literally and metaphorically) with joy because we know it is not the end, and because it will end. As Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) says about Christ, “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.”
Romans 5 says, “hope does not put us to shame….” As we live in the tension between the already and the not yet of this life, we have experienced the joy of the resurrection of Christ but we still anticipate the final return of Christ. Even if we don’t have immediate relief from suffering in our life, we know and can trust we will have ultimate relief when Christ returns. If we do not hold on to the hope of heaven we will constantly be disappointed. We must view earth in light of heaven, and we know this world offers nothing that compares to that hope. And so we hold on to hope, believing he is restoring all things in Christ. The winter of life builds hope like nothing else (Romans 5). When we get through it, we look back and see He carried us all the way. We see His amazing steadfast, covenantal love in new ways. We then see the beauty of the spring and we appreciate it all the more, giving glory to God for the new life he created.
For me, the spring and summer is all the more amazing when I have walked through a hard winter. And so right now as I endure this winter, I have the blossoms of spring to look forward to. And when they come, I will look at them with fresh eyes and they will beckon me to give God glory for the work He did in the depths of winter to bring about the new life of spring. And I’m reminded it’s right now that God is making things new. Even now, when I look outside and see snow and look at the weather and see it may get to -12 tonight, He’s doing something.