I started to write a post on something I thought would be a good topic, only to realize God had something else in mind. I was trying to write and come up with ideas of my own based on what the topic was, to no avail. I got frustrated and put my laptop down and decided to read my Bible, reading God’s word usually puts me in a better mood.
I flipped from the back of the Bible and came across a prayer I’d written down (I’d forgotten it was there), and kept flipping. I came to Hebrews 12:7
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Wow, talk about conviction! There have been countless times I’ve felt like God was distant or didn’t care, or when situations happened that I felt were harsh I concluded I must have done something wrong. Perhaps I did, I know I did, we all make mistakes. To look at my life and realize some of the hardest times brought me to the best places is proof that God was disciplining me because He cares about me. It’s comparable to being a parent, we teach our kids right from wrong and discipline them to help them understand proper decision making skills. If we’re smart, we extend grace and show them God’s unfailing love through our discipline. Being a mom is by far the most rewarding, yet difficult task, I’ve ever taken on-next to being a wife.
When we mess up God is always there to help us learn from our mistakes, no matter how big or small they are. The past 5 years of my life have been the most challenging learning process I’ve ever gone through. I know I made mistakes and in the midst of the trial, it seemed the pain would never end. It seemed as though God had abandoned me, even though I knew in my heart otherwise. I believe sometimes God is silent because He wants us to understand the depth of our sin. Once, I was in the middle of a life-altering situation (I put myself in), and I never considered the effects of my sin on my children or the people around me. Part of me felt that God would protect them I suppose, or maybe I was just too scared to admit the truth to myself. We all leave a legacy to our kids, and I was deeply guilt stricken when I realized what I’d be leaving for my own children.
I feel like I’ve lived most my life on autopilot, partially due to not fully understanding consequences as a child and well into my teen years. I’m not sure if it’s the traumatic experiences I went through combined with the lack of being taught, but I always assumed I could do what I wanted without repercussions. Any time I would get into trouble I would shut down, I didn’t like knowing I’d disappointed anyone, yet felt helpless to change my behavior. As a small child I was yelled at and I’m sure that didn’t help. I lived with three sets of families throughout my life and they all had very different discipline tactics. Part of me wonders if any of them knew I needed a full explanation of how my behavior affected my life in the long term, they would have done more than just spank me, yell at me, or ground me. I’d have to say I was pretty numb to a lot without realizing it. As I mentioned in a prior post, my lack of proper decision making skills carried with me into adulthood. I think I always justified my sins with the thinking that God knew how messed up my life was and I was essentially ignorant to the impact they would have. I remember telling myself God would forgive me and fix the problems. I see now that He did fix them, just not how I anticipated or hoped.
Looking at the past year of my life, I can see just how much God has grown me and shaped me to be the person I am today. I have learned so much and have been surrounded by some pretty amazing people. People who love me and want to see me succeed and help develop the God-given talents I have. Being able to share my stories really helps me see the positive ways God has brought me through the deepest, darkest parts of my life. During a period of about 2 years, I felt like I was living in an outer-body experience, and one day I’m sure God will put it on my heart to share that journey. It taught me a lot about myself, who I was and definitely did not want to be, and that God always, always, ALWAYS, has a plan for our pain. Surely He doesn’t delight in it, and would prefer we learn things His way, but, we are human after all.
I tend to over-think everything, being taught at a young age that things happen for a reason I’m sure is the source of that, so every time I mess up I sit in fear waiting for the backlash. Or, I rationalize to myself that any time I go through a challenge it’s because I messed up somehow. It’s not the best way to assess each struggle, and it’s something I’m working on as I grow in my walk. I know things happen sometimes and it isn’t always a direct correlation to our sin. We live in a fallen world and bad things happen, even to “good” people.
There’s a new song by Danny Gokey called More Than You Think I Am, and the lyrics spoke to me. I don’t think I’d ever realized how I saw God. The lyrics say:
Rumor has it there’s a gavel in my hand I’m only here to condemn
But let me tell you secrets you would’ve never known, I think of you as my best friend
I realized in that moment I’d been seeing God how I’ve seen all the authority figures in my life. It made me cry because the Bible shows us otherwise, and I felt so guilty for thinking He was just sitting there waiting for me to mess up so He could punish me. It was a reality check for me, and one I wished I’d had sooner. I’ve always been taught that we relate to our Heavenly Father the way we relate to our earthly father, that the way we’re treated and disciplined here on earth affects how we view God. Never in my life did that statement ring more true than it did then. The more I read the Bible and hear stories of how loving, kind, compassionate and caring He is, the more I see Him as the father I never had. It truly amazes me how experiences throughout our lives can mold us in ways we’re unaware of.
I remember one night I was reading through my Bible and came across a devotional that was talking about how God sees us all as His beautiful creations (Song of Songs). It said:
He loves everything about you, the way you walk, talk, and laugh and brush your hair. He loves you in more ways than you can ever know because He knows you through and through.
My reaction caught me off guard. I scoffed and thought to myself, “There is no way He sees me that way”. I tend to be oblivious to my thought patterns and I realized I’d been speaking negatively to myself for so long, it never occurred to me I questioned the way God felt about me. [We all crave and desire to be loved, admired, and appreciated. And when you grow up without affirmation, you start to search for it in all the wrong places.] I stopped myself in my tracks and began to cry, did I really just question something God was showing me? Since that night I’ve tried to be more aware of the thoughts I think since:
Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, and your values become your destiny. –Gandhi
For the first time in my life I feel like a “grown-up”. It’s kind of a nice change to be aware of myself, my thoughts, my actions, my decisions as a wife and mom, and to pursue things that better my character. God’s love is never ending, never changing, never failing. The more I remind myself of this truth, the more clearly I see the ways He works in my life on a daily basis, e.g., choosing not to react or respond negatively when I’m frustrated, speaking words that bring life, showing my children the importance of prayer and trusting in the One who gave us life.
The events I’ve been through aren’t anything I’d wish upon my worst enemy, but the lessons I’ve learned are invaluable and the experiences were the catalyst to becoming who I am today.
Years ago, my younger sister would always tell me, “Rejoice in your suffering, Julia”. (Through rolling eyes, I’d think to myself, “you rejoice in your suffering). Though it drove me crazy to hear, I knew she was right, and I knew one day God would show me how to do just that.
Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-5