Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sand or Rock? Are those really the only options?

Many years ago, my great-uncle built a house. While it was still a phantom in his head, he rubbed his beard and thought. Maybe I should have a basement as a foundation. As he gathered the materials, he cocked his head to one side and pondered. Maybe I should just do a concrete foundation. One day, it was decided. He would build the house on posts and perhaps come back to the other options later.

Now, all these years later, he had decided to put more posts at the corners. He was even talking about placing a full foundation under the house. At this juncture, a full foundation would be a task and a half. There would be crawling under the house. Then, in that cramped, ill-lit space, there would be digging out the dirt, laying down a form to guide the concrete, pouring and raking the concrete all over the area. It is a complicated affair, with that house in the way and all.

Of course, it would likely not be my great-uncle under there. The running joke around my family is that my dad is chained to Uncle Johnny's back porch. If there is ever a project out at his house that needs doing, nine times out of ten my dad is the one who they call on. As he was explaining this new project of my great-uncle's, a thought took root in my brain.

I began to think of my marriage and how it was like this house. You see we were young and in love. We talked about almost everything. We had prayed and had confirmation from God. Our beginning was good. There were mistakes made that I won't go into here, but it was a good start. There were other things we could have done, options we had discussed. We talked about my going to live with my dad and finishing my degree. We could have done a full pre-marital counseling program (ours we found out just before the wedding hadn't been that). We could have extended the engagement. We could have spent more time learning (not just telling one another) each other's strengths and weaknesses. We could have learned one another's love languages. The list could go on. The thing is that these would not have necessarily guaranteed a different result. But I will get to more on that later.

The posts that my great-uncle settled upon aren't bad. They have supported the house these many years and will keep doing so for many years to come. So, why change anything? A little while ago I stumbled upon a thought in C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. He argued that we ought not think of things as only good and bad. Instead, we should look at things in terms of good, better, best and bad, worse, worst. The posts were good, but a foundation would have been best.

The foundation of my marriage was good. But it could have been better. It could have been the best. I don't look at this as an "Oh, would that the hands of time bent to my will" moment. This would not have magically waved away our problems. Wounded people - I've said it before and I'll say it again, no one gets through this life unscathed - living with one another will injure one one another. There is no safety in vulnerability, there is security in Christ. Those closest to us have the greatest capacity to injure us. They can injure us with what they know and what they don't know.

For now, my great-uncle has decided to just put in a few extra posts (with a silent *whew* from my dad, I think). Trying to go back and put in a full concrete foundation at this point would be quite an undertaking. There is a big house ontop the spot now. It is full of stuff, good and bad. As to my situation, the work would be just as difficult. There is a house full of past words and actions, good and bad. It would take a good deal kneeling in prayer and humbleness. It would take a good deal of digging up those misconceptions about marriage, ourselves, and eachother. It would take a good deal of uprooting those lies we believed about marriage, ourselves, and eachother. It would take a good deal of cleaning out those wounds we received before and during marriage. It would take a good deal of restructing the form into what marriage should look like. Finally, it would take a good deal of mixing forgiveness, compassion, and perserverence and pouring that mixture into the form.

Another thing came to mind. That story from Sunday school about the man that built his house upon the sand and the man that built his house upon the rock. The man whose house was on sand lost it all when the storm came. But the man who built it on the rock did not. So, where does good, better, and best fit in here?There doesn't seem to be any middle ground there. You won't find any either. The thing is that we, or at least I, will often do what is good enough. Not necessarily out of any real laziness. Why build the house all the way up there on that rock? This area looks good. It is far enough from the water. Besides, it isn't really practical to drag groceries all the way up that hill everyweek. And it may work for a little while or for an entire life time. There is a way to do things that are good and still not have things work out. So, when they don't I have to look back now and see that maybe I didn't do the bad thing, but I also didn't do the best either. It isn't to beat myself up. But when I want to look at God and ask what on earth He was thinking, I have a reason to look back and check whether my foundation was actually the one He wanted for me or if it was just good.

In all my musings about this, I have come to a conclusion. Whether that relationship is ever rebuilt or not, it is going to be my intention to not settle for good. I want to strive for best. I don't mean the best car or jeans. What God has for me is what is best. I mean going the full measure. Not just to where I feel comfortable. I won't wade in His grace. I mean to lanch myself headlong into it. I can't give any concrete example at this point in time. For now it is a heart attitude, to no longer sip the water he offered the woman at the well or nibble the bread he spoke of to the Jews. The best foundation I can lay out now is to trust God. I know I keep harping on that point. It took me 22 years of walking with Him to really get what it means through my head. So I will likely go on saying it. For I know, I still haven't grasped it to its fullest measure.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Motive, motive, motive

I've been thinking a lot about motives lately. It is one of the most important things in a murder mystery, which happens to be one my favorite genres. But an Agatha Christie mindset is not what has this circling around my cerebelum. No, I afraid that my own motives have far more selfish. Why did so-and-so not talk to me at church? Why hasn't so-and-so called? Why did so-and-so say that to me? This isn't a new thing for me. I dare say it isn't a new thing for many women. It is a very old thing. I used to gauge how well I was doing by how people reacted to me. A symptom of many actors. So much of what is kept and changed in a production is based on how well it was received by the audience. I have gone through most of my life as if my worth depended on the reaction of my audience. What I was too young to realize in the chaos of my early years, came into sharp focus over the last few weeks.

I ran into a friend at a local coffee shop. His usual greeting was reserved. In fact, he seemed downright preoccupied. The little actor inside of me jumped up and began pacing. Why didn't he ask how I am? As I stood and my actor paced, he told me about a trial he's been going through. Ah, ha! I began to realize something but my actor only stomped her foot. One of my college roommates had a favorite, well-worn t-shirt. It read, "Why, yes! The world really does revolve around me!" There it was, the truth. The ego-bruising realization smacked my little actor in the head. She begrudgingly sat down. The t-shirt lied, but we want so to believe it.

I know intellectually that other people have problems. I try to share their burdens. My heart hurts when I see someone else hurting. However, there are times that it is too busy licking its own wounds, real or perceived, to see anything beyond. My head knows. It tries to come up with some sort of help while my heart is otherwise preoccupied. I don't think I am alone in this. The Bible mentions that we should "Love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart, and with all [our] soul, and with all [our] mind." We have different pieces and unlike the cogs in a Swiss watch, they don't always work together.

Often, I feel I am the last to know of other people's struggles lately. It makes it hard to feel connected. It makes it easier to believe that everyone else really is my audience alone. Theatre is a heady experience for the actor. There is an intimacy with the audience in a theatre production that the actors in a movie do not find. The audience laughs with you, cries with you, and is made merry when truth triumphs. The actor can feel the energy in that space of time. But the sharing is really only from the stage outward. At the close, the audience claps their level of approval and goes on to their lives. The illusion of community is over. The little actor searches for a new audience, more approval.

My deepest longing has been to be taken as I am. It is not there by accident. God put it there. So as to make me turn my eyes heavenward. It really is too bad that I have searched the length and breadth of this world before I looked to him for this fully. Since I was small, I found it easier to do what I knew would be well received. Afterall, those around me were my elders and I was to respect them. Too late did I learn they were wounded too. I also learned to hang in the wings to avoid failure. Not even the wise words of Dr. Townsend on the subject of Boundaries wedged this attitude out. You see even if I am not responsible for the audiences reaction, I still ended up judging myself by it.

I have come to the conclusion that I am responsible for my actions and reactions. Nothing more and nothing less. As long as I endevour to live according to God's word, Jesus' example, and the Holy Spirit within me, I have no reason to hang my head in shame. And where I faulter, I expect a loving reprimand. I do want to clarify that my little actor and my theatre analogy do not mean that reactions and actions are ingenuine or practiced. But I do try to save face more often than I should. Ah, that little actor is hard to settle down sometimes.

Given all of this, I have been pondering my capacity to fall back again. The answer came in the form of a timely book. I began this particular post in a notebook a couple of weeks ago. Something kept me from posting it at first. It has been a year since my husband actually left. I have had a rough time of it. I think that is why my little actor has been making such a fuss. I mean what could possibly be worse than my problems, right. Oh yeah, the eathquake and tsunami in Japan or the tornadoes that just ripped through the south. There are others that demand my compassion beyond these disasters. The world doesn't revolve around me.

Back to the timely book. It was So Long, Insecurity by Beth Moore. I knew I had issues with insecurity and with good reason. But I hadn't been able to get beyond that point. "Hi, I'm Fancey and I'm insecure." Any rehabilitive program begins with recognition of the problem. It doesn't end there. I devoured the book in a couple of days. So I am still digesting a good portion of it. And you'll probably see things cropping up from it in future posts. But the concept that relates here, the one that had escaped me in counseling, stress management class, and the other books I read was that I decided to let go of my security.

Yes, I had very valid issues that had the potential to shake my security. But they didn't takeit, I gave it to them. Everytime I listened to the little actor, I let the audience have it. Even with good boundaries, I got hurt. Here's the trick. Just because I got hurt doesn't mean that person or circumstance gets to have my security too. I think the walls just fell! I don't know about you but that was a revelation of monumentous proportions to me. I thank God that He gave Beth Moore the desire and ability to write that book. Otherwise, I still would be wandering around the ocean of my emotions with a only a latern for light. Now, I see the light house and I am headed for the safe harbor. Whether my little actor likes it or not, she's along for the ride. She's got a lot to learn but she'll get there.