Love is Messy

Love is messy

Galatians 1:10 (NLT) – Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.

Although Paul wrote this in direct reference to preaching the Gospel and exactly what the Gospel is, and relating to the falling away of the church at Galatia, application can still be made to any what which Christ has called me to serve.

We lost any expressed approval/respect we may have had with at least two people dear to me the day we left for Thailand as full-time missionaries.

Then, when Dana’s as-of-yet-undiagnosed dementia took a turn for the worse this past spring, summer, and fall I also lost the expressed approval/respect of three additional people dear to me when I wouldn’t abandon and divorce Dana and pursue my own personal financial well-being.

At this time, I serve God mostly by honoring my marriage vows and serving Dana.

It strikes me odd that, when it was generally believed that Dana was mentally ill, it would have been OK to have thoughts about divorcing or abandoning my spouse, even in Christian circles.  Even one person who expressed the opinion that I was acting in a crazy matter stated, “God forbid, if there really is something wrong with his (physical) brain (i.e., tumor or dementia), I’ll eat my words!”  Now there’s been a diagnosis of non-Alzheimer’s dementia, a dementia that first affects a person’s ability to logically reason. But I’ve not heard one word or read one text, email, or message to that effect.  I don’t even need to hear words of apology; I’d just like to see a change in attitude.

It also strikes me odd that the church cries out against divorce and for honoring marriage vows, yet many in the church approve of and may even encourage abandonment and even divorce in the case of severe illness and in the case of nearly all mental illnesses.

Here’s what I have learned over the past forty-two years of marriage:  Love, marriage, and commitment is not always kittens, sunshine, and skipping through the meadow.  Often it can be quite the opposite: The roaring lion – the enemy – seeking to devour, to tear apart Christian marriages, which are to represent God’s eternal covenant with the church; The valley of the shadow of death, walking through difficult, sometimes even dangerous, passages of our pilgrimages here on Earth, yet fearing no evil because God is with us; Trudging knee-deep through the mud and mire that this life sometimes is, through no fault of our own.

It is in those dark times when we are knee-deep in the messiness of this life, being attacked from every side, that true love can shine forth like a diamond: walking the path together, encouraging and strengthening and wrapping our arms around the other without condemning them in their struggle; Working out in real-time that love, that commitment, to serve the other’s need; Taking upon ourselves a portion of the heavy burden the other is carrying, the burden that is crushing them to the point of annihilation; Holding the other up when they are weary so together we can take one more step forward.  It’s in these times that an example of God’s love for us can be seen and He can be glorified in our lives.

As I walk this journey of dementia with the one I love, my husband of forty-two years, I know I won’t win the approval of many people.  I cannot expect that.  In fact, I expect the disapproval of most, if not everyone.  But that is not the calling of God on my life.  The calling of God on my life right now is to honor Him, to “do” my “I do’s.”

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Living Boldly: Fear of the Unknown

fear-of-the-unknown

Abraham Called to Leave Ur of the Chaldees

a synopsis of Genesis 12:1-9

When Abraham was 75 years old, God called him to leave his home in Haran and go to a place that God himself would show him.  If he did so, God promised him that he would make a great nation of him and would bless him and would bless those who would bless Abraham himself.  So, he gathered up his wife, Sarah, his nephew, Lot, and everything that they had acquired in Haran along with their servants and their families, and headed out to the land of Canaan.  When they got to a certain oak tree in Shechem, the Lord appeared to him once again and promised him and his offspring the land there.

God called Abraham to leave everything he knew and move to an unknown (to Abraham) location.  Even though God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, I know from other accounts about Abraham that he was probably fearful, at least at first.  But, as we read in verse 4, Abraham obeyed, taking his wife, his nephew, his servants, and his possessions and set out on this grand adventure.  He didn’t know where he was going, when he was going to arrive there, who was in the area he was moving to, what the land looked like.  It was a total unknown.  Yet, any fear he had was overcome and in faith he moved forward.

Sometimes God may call us to leave all that we know and move elsewhere, not knowing all the details of the move.  This happened to us when God called us as full-time missionaries.  But there are other unknowns we face far more often.

The fear brought about by serious illness is one.  Not knowing what the illness is, not knowing what treatment is best, not knowing how long it will last.

The fear of attending a new school or university or church.  Yes, heading into a new place with unknown people and an unknown culture.  Every institution has its own culture, so there will be adjustments in order to adapt to each new environment.  Often, we don’t know what those adjustments will be.

The fear of a new job or volunteer position is very real.  Once again, we don’t know the people, the culture of the organization, and we usually don’t know all the particulars of the position.  This can cause a lot of fear.

The fear after unexpectedly losing a job: how will I pay my bills? How can I live? What job will I find next?  Frequently we have no idea where we will go next, how we will generate income.

The fear of a new neighborhood, new people and their pets.  Sometimes this is mixed in with the excitement of the move, and only becomes apparent when it seems hard to “settle into” a new place.

There are so many other unknowns that we can fear.  So, what are we to do?

First, we need to recognize fear for what it is: fear.

Second, we must acknowledge that not knowing what is happening or what will be happening is going to happen whether we like it or not.

Third, we need to overcome that fear.  This is often the most difficult part of the process.  One of the best ways I know to do that, and what has worked for me in the past, is to memorize and recite a Bible verse or passage that particularly relates to that particular unknown.

Here is an example from my own life:  I was very fearful when we entered full-time ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship in August of 1989.  My husband was leaving a 10-year tenure at Pacific Bell telephone company, where we had adequate salary, full medical, dental and optical insurance, and a good retirement plan in the works.  Now we would be paying the bills from the generous gifts of friends, family, and churches that believed in what we were doing and that also believed we were the ones to do it.  We were going to have the income cut by 60%, have to pick up self-employment taxes, and not have any benefits such as insurance and retirement plans.  What passage of Scripture did I learn and cling to during this transition?  Matthew 6:25-34.

25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (ESV)

God built it into my life through this passage that, as long as I was pursuing what He called me to do – seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – then everything I needed – food, clothing, and I was so bold as to add in shelter and the tools to perform the work He had called me to do – would be provided for me in one way or another.

One other thing, too.  I learned to pray like I had never prayed before, trusting God to meet my needs and those of my husband and children.  I learned what the father of the boy possessed by a demon cried out to Jesus in Mark 9:24 –

“I believe; help my unbelief!” (ESV)

So many times I asked the Father to help me believe more; build my faith strong.  And He was faithful, answering the cry of this wife and mother as she traveled through this unknown territory.

So, to sum things up, we must identify fear as fear, acknowledge it exists in our life, then overcome that fear with an appropriate passage of Scripture to memorize and meditate upon, and with vibrant prayer.

Share some of your “Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown” stories.  I’d LOVE to read them and see how God worked in your life.  Share some of your “Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown” verses, verses that spoke into your heart and life.

 

Visual from http://www.ics.com/blog/planning-unknown-unknowns