How none of us are all that different.

“I’m realizing we’re all pretty much the same”. I think I literally and figuratively scratched my head as my friend who is a social worker made this statement. Her heart breaks each day at the life circumstances her client’s are facing. Drug use, broken family systems, generations of hurt and pain and seemingly no resources to stop the cycle. And yet she was observing that our lives as middle class Americans who’ve never known a day of real poverty or need are not that far different than her clients’.

“How so?” I asked. She went on to explain how the circumstances may be different person to person, life to life, but she was noticing how the human experience is all very similar. “These people have fears? I have fears. These people experience joys? I have moments of joy. These people have anxieties? I have seasons of anxiousness.”

She is right. We’re not all that different. Her observation tumbling around in my brain the past few weeks has brought about such a compassion in me and leveled the playing field so-to-speak for me. Regardless of social class or status, job title, neighborhood of residence, or amount of charisma, we will all face various emotions, challenges, losses, joys, and seasons of celebration.

How easy it becomes to connect with others when we see ourselves as similar. When comparison is taken away, when lenses of “better than” or “less than” are removed, connection is possible and happens without much effort.

I heard a speaker recently say something along the lines of, “Comparison always leads to dysfunction”. He went on to explain whether we compare our circumstances or ourselves to someone/something and consider ourselves better than or worse than, we always end up isolated rather than connected.

If connection is the deep human desire we were each born with, let that be the currency by which we value our lives. Not money, fame, status or any other less valuable substitute that may move us away from that basic human need and satisfaction.

I reconnected with another friend yesterday. She works as an ER nurse. Her patients present to the hospital in battered conditions as a result of abusive relationships or in a state of substance overdose as an attempt to cope with painful life circumstances. I so admire this friend. Rather than evaluating how or why her patients make the life choices they do, she sits with them and listens to their pain and hurt and identifies with their struggles. She, too, knows: No two of us are all that different.

This nurse friend told me, “Each of us will have a struggle. We won’t be free of struggle in this life.” I hate to accept that fact, but in my life experience, I’ve seen that to be the case. I am almost constantly strategizing how I can move away from circumstances that are painful, disappointing, hurtful or hard. In compassion, my sister recently asked me, “When was the last time you weren’t striving for anything? When you were just resting and enjoying life?” There haven’t been too many seasons of resting and enjoying. To strive for improvement has been my resting state. To which she responded, “You’re amazing. But that sounds exhausting.” She’s right. I am often tired. My strategies don’t often meet the needs I perceive I have and so I invest my time and energy in plans that aren’t necessary.

So what would it look like to accept that struggle will be a part of the human experience? Instead of fighting it and waiting for it to be over in order, what would it look like to allow it to exist and yet not be controlled by the desire to move past it or remove it?

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All things pointing toward Him

Last summer I read an opinion piece about how God has created us all to be writers. I’ve often wished I had the opportunity to read about the experiences with God various influential people in my life have had from their own perspective. So I suppose that’s what I’m wanting to share today. (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-made-you-a-writer).

I’ve had the thought a lot the past six month or so that many (or perhaps all?) things in the physical world point back to God as creator and designer and ultimate architect. To God as sovereign. And yet we know He is goodness and mercy and love.

This thought continues to be confirmed as I remember Phillip Yancy’s discussion in, “The Jesus I Never Knew” about how all time is measured based on the life and death (and resurrected life) of Jesus. Even turning on our computers in the morning and viewing today’s date reminds us how much time has passed since Jesus’ conquer of death and the grave.  I see this same idea of the physical world pointing back to Him on a walk with my children. My five year old asks, “How does that tree grow that way?” And I realize a the tree trunk in front of us has twisted in order to reach through the crowded forest ceiling toward the sunlight. Just as how we, too, desperately need His light as our only life source. Dead tree trunks stop reaching and start rotting. Ones that want to live continue to reach for Light. In the doctor’s office as I begin the process of changing some of the therapeutic hormones in my body, I begin to learn about fertility and for the first time learn how various pieces to the puzzle of preventing and conceiving children all point to God’s design for life to begin (eg: the cervix drops and cervical mucus changes consistency and a woman most strongly desires her husband sexually during ovulation all to best accommodate sperm in their search for a viable egg to fertilize. Amazing! Life is all around us).

I recently saw a trailer for, “One Strange Rock” a nature miniseries on the Discovery Channel which stated, “This planet is literally bursting with life!” Yes. It is. And Jesus is life. This planet is literally bursting with Jesus. Wow. To see and know that He is Good. And His plan, His design is life. Wow!

A relative will undergo a c-section next week to deliver her first born. A daughter who has been diagnosed in utero with Spina Bifida. This relative has struggled with what kind of a world this precious child is being born into – the fear and the worries of how living life in modern society with a disability will affect this child’s perception of herself. The Holy Spirit keeps whispering to me with excitement and confidence, “God doesn’t make mistakes! He doesn’t make mistakes.” And it’s a comfort to my own soul – that He has intentionally knit me together in my mother’s womb with the unique collection of gifts, interests, abilities, intellect, physical traits and personality characteristics He hand chose for me. Oh how we value a custom made possession. Dear Reader, YOU are custom made. And each person in your household and in your neighborhood, and the stranger walking down the street and the difficult-to-love person in your office. His or her intrinsic worth and value doesn’t diminish your own intrinsic worth and value. There is enough Unconditional Love and Grace to free us all.

My husband gave me a valuable gift last night. He listened to me. I’m home with children all day. I’m a collector of ideas and so when he comes home and saves enough energy to allow me to share the additions to my collection that day, I feel loved and valued that he can meet me in the corners of my heart and mind. I shared about a Brene Brown interview I watched recently that continues crossing my mind. She says, “In order for forgiveness to take place, something has to die.” She goes on to explain her research has pointed to a connection between forgiveness and grief. Once we grieve the loss in front of us, forgiveness is enabled. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFaA7mvgMNk).

Oh my, I haven’t considered myself to have any unforgiveness within and yet every time someone massages my shoulders they mention how uniquely tight my muscles are. Often I worry so much I’m not hungry or overly cold or bite my nails short. What is it in my heart and mind that is causing my body such worry. If I can grieve these losses, might I experience more of God and less of my own “strength” (aka: coping mechanism of worry)?

I shared with my husband the brief synopsis of the children’s book, “You are Special” by Max Lucado. A society of wooden puppets rewards or degrades one another with gold stars or gray dots depending on each one’s abilities and looks. The number of gold stars or gray dots determines each puppet’s worth and value among his/her peers. One day a puppet covered in gray dots befriends a puppet to whom the dots and stars simply do not stick. He asks her how this is possible and she invites him to observe how daily she goes to the Puppet Maker who reminds her how valuable to Him she is. And if a dot or star were to cling on for a short period of time, the Puppet Maker removes them during her visits with Him. He loves her and cherishes the time she chooses to spend in His presence. As sweet as this message was to me in earlier years, I’m learning that is everything to me now. My very confidence and sense of freedom from fear and pain exists in the moments of connection spent face-to-face with Jesus. Not studying the Bible or reading books about Christian topics. Just spending time thanking Him for His love for me -a sinner saved by Him- and asking Him what His plan for my healing today may be (A style of prayer called Immanuel Prayer by Dr. Lehmann of California). I imagine there are innumerable ways we can meet with the Living God. But He has been gracious to begin to free me of so much hurt and bondage I’ve lived under in these times with Him.

And so I woke this morning to spend time with Him. A verse from Romans sits on the corner of the chalkboard in our room: “I loved you at your darkest.” Today I sensed Jesus lifting me out of one of the darkest moments of sin in my life. In my time with Him this morning, He showed me how He has lifted me out of that darkness, and passed me through blood and then water (reminding me of John 19:34) and finally I was clothed in Light. I found it interesting that my face wasn’t light. Just my clothes. As I pondered this from Him, I began feeling even more grateful for the truth of what He has done for me. And as I press into Him I sense that picture of my face filling with light. This feels like freedom from chains and bondage. In that sense of freedom in His presence, I desire to share Him and His love with others.

I went for a walk with a friend recently who works as a social worker. She said, “I’m finding I think we’re all just very much the same”. I began to see what she meant in the common human struggle of being burdened by fears, worries, pain, loss, overwhelm, and loneliness. She said, “We cope differently often depending on our families, our personalities, our socioeconomic class or other variables…”. We talked about how some coping mechanisms are more socially acceptable than others (eg. upper class Americans spend excessive amounts of money or throw themselves into achievement at work or in other ways. Other Americans may struggle with substance abuse or abandoning commitments with stress levels rise high). But in the end, the human experience is very similar no matter the circumstances. Isn’t this amazing to begin to realize?! And her teaching me this has planted the seed of a new kind of compassion toward others around me – stranger or not.

I’m realizing I often error in viewing situations and relationships through a problem-orientated mentality of, “What’s wrong? What needs fixing? How am I going to fix this?” I have approached parentings, dating, marriage, friendships, colleagues, and as a former teacher – my students in this manner. In family life, this looks like an ever-growing list of goals I am making of how our family can “improve”. I’m sure you can empathize with my husband and children: my well-intentioned perspective creates exhaustion. Our pastor shared Sunday something along the lines of, “What if instead of being problem oriented, we began to look for opportunities.” To put it another way, my five year old and I watched the recent remake of “Cinderella” recently. A quote says, “Cinderella viewed the world not as it was but as it could be.” This speaks of Grace to me. Whether it be a relationship or experience or what-have-you that may be troubling you…

what if focusing on what I think it ‘should’ be is robbing me of jumping in and experiencing the joy of what it is and is becoming?

Dear Father, You are sovereign and we adore you as being in control of everything (from 1 Chron. 29:11 & 12).

 

 

 

 

 

In search of congruence

Currently reading: “Hinds Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard

3-27-18

Hello Dear Reader,

I hope to share simple observations of life here and hear your thoughts and experiences as well. The definition of the word, congruence is, “agreement or harmony; compatibility.” Synonyms include: compatibility, consistency, conformity, balance, agreement, harmony, and unity. The antonym is: conflict. (1)

As I pass through these days at this time in history, I find myself looking for opportunities to see Truth, goodness, and beauty. I hope you’ll join me in this search and the surprise that comes in noticing congruence in the small and simplistic things.

One theme for me in recent months has been identifying connections between the natural world and life beyond what we can see. The moment I most remember this idea becoming a part of my filter on the world was when a young man came over to visit. He grew up in Guatemala and had most recently lived in Spain before relocating here to the USA. He spoke of how studying cellular biology was what led him to a trusting faith in Jesus Christ. I was so very intrigued. How could observing and evaluating cells lead him to a desire to entrust his life’s purpose to the Spirit of God? And yet a few months later, this makes perfect sense to me. Why would we view the creation of an artist and not be pointed to some element(s) of his or her character and life? I often find myself thinking about the painter or sculpture when viewing works of art on display at a museum.

Scripture tells us creation is and will sing praises of it’s Creator, God the Father. Psalm 66:4 says, “All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name.” (2). Cross references include: Ps 9:2, “I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” Ps 22:27, “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will worship before You. Rev 5:13, “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'”, Ps 19:1, “…the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”, Rom 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”, Luke 19:37-40, “As he was drawing near, already on the way down the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'”, Colossians 1:17, “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”, “Job 12:7-10, “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you, or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”(4).

Another friend recently stated she worked with a people group who had a particularly heightened awareness of spiritual forces at work. She said, while it was an uncomfortable thing to her in her filter on the world and unfamiliarity with seeing life through this lens, she was in awe of how God could and did meet these people in their own worldview.

Wow. That God would glorify himself by meeting us in our circumstances. That he would glorify himself by meeting this young man in his study of cellular biology. That he would glorify himself in my hearing and learning about this young man’s story. 

Rev 4:11 says, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (3). 

To close, I’d like to share the poem, “Weaving” by an unknown author:

“My life is but a weaving, between my Lord and me. I cannot choose the colors He weaves steadily. Sometimes He weaves sorrow, and I in foolish pride forget He sees the upper and I the underside. Not ’til the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly, will God unroll the canvas and reveal the reason why. The dark threads are so needful in the weaver’s skillful hand as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.”

Where are you seeing Him in the natural world around you? It would fill my heart to hear the observations and lessons He is weaving into your life and circumstances.

Because His love for you, just as you are, is never-ending,

Steph

——

Sources:

  1. https://www.google.com/search?ei=Woi6WtChNKSzjwSrzrFo&q=congruence+definition&oq=congruence+definition&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0i71k1l8.0.0.0.422447.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0..0.0….0…1c..64.psy-ab..0.0.0….0.sKqiuyQgqrw
  2. http://biblehub.com/niv/psalms/66.htm
  3. http://biblehub.com/psalms/66-4.htm
  4. https://www.openbible.info/topics/all_creation_worships_god