Monday, February 14, 2005

The State of My Heart

Everywhere I look today, I see hearts. Heart balloons, heart cards, heart candy. But the heart I'm most excited about sharing with you today is my own. I've been through quite a journey in the last month and now I want you to see what my own eyes, blurred with tears, have seen.

Last weekend, when we were at the College Winter Retreat, my friend Leslie spoke about the unexpected gifts God gives us. She shared about the difference between the gifts she gets from her mother and the gifts she gets from her father. Her mom always gives Leslie exactly what is on her Christmas list and they are always beautifully wrapped in Perfect Martha Stewart style. Her dad, on the other hand, feels that wrapping paper is a waste of money when we have the newspaper right here. So Leslie often gets packages wrapped in the stock report and electrical tape (apparently, scotch tape is also a waste of money). I think if someone offered me a gift wrapped in ugliness I would be inclined to reject it. I would think nothing good could possibly be in that mess. But Leslie's father often gives her beautiful pieces of jewelry--diamond earrings, pearl bracelets, gifts that are precious because they are so valuable.

The point is that there are pretty gifts that we have on our list for God to give us--grace, joy, financial provision, etc. However, he also gives unexpected gifts that on the outside are ugly and undesirable--suffering, pain, etc. But how many times have you gone through something difficult and found something wonderfully beautiful at the end? One of the jewels that comes out of those horrible messes is knowing Christ in a deeper and more intimate way. Leslie reminded us of Paul saying that everything he once considered to be to his gain (all the stuff on his Christmas list) he now considers rubbish compared to the greatness of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:7-11). The Greek word for rubbish is skybalon which is literally translated shit. Compared to the greatness of knowing Christ, everything else is crap.

So here's my heart. After my second miscarriage I've been feeling like God has given me some very ugly gifts. It seemed like God had put me on this roller coaster ride and just as we reached an exciting peak, He pulled the whole coaster away and let me land on old bruises. But you know what? I had already experienced one miscarriage and found the jewel in that ugly package. And I know that if God gave me a gift wrapped in poop (which this second miscarriage seems like) I would dig through the stinky, disgusting mess just to find the greatness of knowing Christ. Wouldn't I? So why haven't I been digging through the poo?

I've been describing my relationship with God lately as being really close to him, but with my back turned. For most of January my heart has been alternating between screaming, "You're so UNFAIR! What did I miss the first time?" and "Lord, I need you. Comfort me." Thus, having my back turned while in his arms. But I think I'm beginning to turn around to face him. In my Bible Study several verses have really pierced my heart:

Ezekiel 18:25 "Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust?"

Jeremiah 18:3-4,12 "So I went to the potter's house and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as it seemed best to him...But they will reply, 'It's not use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.' "

I feel ridiculous. I have been defending my anger at God by saying that he isn't offended by my lashing out, that it doesn't make him any less than what he is. And while that is true, I also need to view God rightly. One Sunday, I broke down in tears at church because we were singing "For You Are Good" and I couldn't sing the song because I didn't believe it. But you know what? God is good. And I'm the one who has been unfair. God has been saying, "I want to make you new" and I've been saying, "It's no use. I want to be stubborn and believe my own evil heart." I've been calling God unfair, but really I'm the one being unfair expecting him to comfort me but not allowing him to heal me because he wasn't being the kind of God I expected him to be. As if I'm better than God. As if I know what is best.

The truth is, God gives good gifts. I know this! I know that they are good even if they are ugly on the outside. And I know the center of the gift is always priceless. So now my heart bears the gift of knowing Christ in a deeper and more intimate way. But I also found another little surprise. I have been able to identify with Christ's sufferings. If anyone knows suffering, it's Jesus. And because I have known deep suffering, I am a little bit more like him. Do you know how comforting that is? I don't wish to lose any more babies. I don't wish to experience any more pain than I already have, but I do hope to receive more precious jewels. Even if they're wrapped in poo.

In all things, let us praise the Giver of every good and perfect gift. He gives and takes away, blessed be his name.


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