April 1, 2010

Sanctus Via

After dinner with the folks last evening, my son and I attended the Sanctus Via program at our church. Sanctus Via (The Holy Way) is an interactive program based on the traditional Stations of the Cross. Our church has created a wonderful program, whereby visitors (all are welcome) can come and walk through the last days leading up to the crucifixion of our Lord. The program is quite powerful, and calls you toward reflection upon the great sacrifice made by Jesus. If you happen to be in Phoenix and would like to experience this program, come tonight or tomorrow evening. You can find more information here: Sanctus Via at Paradise Valley Community Church.

On a totally unrelated note, I have made my decision to move to IL (Lord willing). I have applied for several jobs here in Phoenix as well as two in Northern IL. I applied locally with the expectation that the positions in Phoenix would come to pass. I had all the required experience, the education, and the jobs "seemed" a perfect fit for my interests and needs. I applied to the two positions in IL on a pressing of the Lord. I have to say that these positions are neither ones I would choose to pursue. They are different than my interests, but they meet my needs with great sufficiency. I struggled for a time, even considering the scope of the work, but then after spending some time in reflection realized that they both align with my previous work experience very nicely. In truth, all the positions (Phoenix and elsewhere) fit my skills and experience. Some are more closely related to what I had HOPED to do for a career. Both are with companies/employers within the higher education industry.

The main difference between the local jobs and these two positions in Northern IL is that the local jobs are easily within my reach. By that I mean that they are the type of position I could easily get hired for, given the timing and the right conditions (interview, other candidates, etc.) I am not saying that the HR people do not have a say, I am just saying that these positions are not a stretch for me or for the hiring manager. I fit them well. These other two positions are higher level, manager positions, and require quite a stretch for me. I am sure that once I get in and interview and I wow them with my presence they will see that I am the right person for the job (said with "tongue in cheek") LOL! Truthfully, I would never have even considered applying because these jobs simply were not the type of position I could see myself as being able to do.

The issue at heart (I think) is this: one job (or set) is dependent on no one; while the other is wholly dependent on the Lord. I believe that when the Lord's presses something into you, He often does so with the intention of DOING IT FOR YOU. He often suggests things that cannot be done by your own hand -- hence -- His desire to show you that to accomplish this or that WILL REQUIRE HIS INPUT AND HELP. I am grateful for His help. I want His help. I have been praying for His help in finding a job. The funny thing is that the jobs He is directing me toward all require HIS HELP to get. I cannot do it on my own.

In fact, I didn't find these jobs on my own. I didn't find any of this on my own. The Lord simply began to direct me towards Chicago, pressing an interest in my head and then lulling me into the "thought" of living there agin. It didn't happen overnight, no, it happened over the course of many months. I really didn't want to consider this as an option at all. I really didn't think it was that good of an idea, kwim? After all, it would mean leaving my family and moving 1000 miles away. I wasn't too sure that this WAS the Lord's will for me. It took time for Him to show me, and then for me to accept and acknowledge that this was a real option for my life (not just fanciful thinking, but that it was something that COULD COME TO PASS.)

I stepped out in faith and applied to these positions. I haven't heard back yet, so we will have to wait to see if I read the Lord's guidance correctly. I think I have, but it will come out one way or another.

In the interim, I have been making plans to support this move. I have started to think about where we might live, what schools my son could attend (either for high school or college). I have checked the place out (isn't Google Maps cool?) I have visited the Village website, read up on all specs, and pretty much familiarized myself with how things are done in IL. It has been more than 30 years since I lived there, and a lot has changed! Still, the thought of moving so far away is difficult for me. It is an adventure.

An adventure is an activity that is perceived to involve risky, dangerous or exciting experiences.

One of our Pastors gave a sermon last sunday and it was all about adventure. Pastor Smith quoted this definition and it made me think about my life (recent and future). Our Pastors are teaching a series on the life of our church and community. It is called "Quarter Life: The Big Adventure" and is all about life from age 25 and on (our church turned 25 last fall). Of course, as they teach on the life of the church, we all are learning life application and are drawing parallels to our own walk of faith. Last weeks message was all about adventure and how it is characterized as "being a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome." As I heard these words, my mind immediately ran back to my own recent experience. In the midst of such uncertainty (in marriage), I really had not considered this experience to be an "adventure." No, no way, nothing of the sort.

In reality, however, my life these past eight months has certainly been an adventure. It has been one of uncertain outcome. I started counseling last fall with the hope and intention of repairing a fractured marriage. I ended the year feeling very convinced that I was to face the next "Quarter Life" alone. I have lived the past three months in transition, not really exiting the old life, and certainly not starting the new one. I have considered myself to be "stuck" and have blogged about it for several months now. I simply have felt as is nothing was changing in my life. While certainly not true, because massive change has taken place internally (personally), I simply was not seeing outside change, the kind of change one expects to see with a change of mind, a change of heart, or even a change of momentum. No, I have not seen anything outside to give me a clue that anything at all is different. How can this be? How can I continue on? These were the kinds of daily questions (and I mean daily -- ten, twelve, two dozen times) I asked the Lord. Why is this not happening? Why am I not moving forward? What am I doing wrong?

I still have few answers, other than to rest in the knowledge that His timing is perfect. I wish it were easier and I wish I could just move on, get on with my life. But, I cannot. I know that my writings sound like I am so willing to trash 25 years of relationship in just eight short months. I know that I make it sound like I just want it to be done. I do. I am. I know it. I cannot say it is wrong, because I have been told that it is very normal, and that all people who find themselves at the short end of the divorce stick do the same thing. It has to do with the level of betrayal, and the depth of hurt you experience. It really doesn't matter if you have been married for one year or three dozen; the depth of hurt and the amount of betrayal is what causes you to behave the way you do. You simply are forced to accept the truth, and in doing so, you either: cave in or you come out swinging. I took the latter approach, because I have spent my entire life compromising in one form or another. I was (and still am, but in recovery now) as Joyce Meyer accurately describe it: A PEOPLE PLEASER. I read her book on the subject (very good read) and was convicted immediately. I have spent my entire life (all 40 some years) living as a people pleaser. I placed other peoples passions, expectations, comfort, and desires ahead of my own.

On face value, that sounds pretty self-sacrificing, something the Bible would condone; but in truth, it is far from the selfless service our Lord demonstrated to us. We are to be selfless servants who do what is right with NO EXPECTATION OF GAINING ANYTHING IN RETURN. It is GRACE IN ACTION, and our Lord demonstrated it over and over and over again. The main difference between GRACE IN ACTION and people pleasing is this: the one is done with selfless love and motives that are for the good of others; the other is done to appease -- to stave off anger, intimidation, silence, or to get something in return -- love and affection, companionship. People pleasers do so to manipulate others into doing what they want. It is the reverse behavior of a controlling manipulator. The motive is the same: getting what you want (or not getting it, in the case of negative emotions or physical abuse). PP's attempt to get what they want through compromise and appeasement. Appeasement literally means:

to bring to a state of peace, quiet, ease, calm, or contentment; pacify; soothe

PPs attempt to bring about peace, but instead of doing it rightly as the Word of God suggests, they do it out of selfish motives. They simply want the unpleasantness to go away. They will do whatever it takes to make it stop, to restore peace, and often they do it by giving up their rights or their own desires (even some, their very identity).

This is what I did as a child, as a teen, and later on as an adult. I figured out that the only way I could ensure there would be peace in my life, was if I compromised to make it peaceful. I became very adept at it, and as a result suffered miserably through it. PPs get what they want, peace at all cost, but always end up on the short end of the stick. Instead of getting a Righteous Peace, the kind where two people mutually agree to rest and remain that way; they get a temporary peace, a peace that will only last so long as the one (the compromiser) continues to maintain it.

After years of pleasing others, I decided to take this opportunity to please myself. Sounds selfish right? Yes, I will admit it. I am desperate to please myself, to do some things for me. Thankfully, I am also at a place spiritually where I can understand that it is not pleasing to God for me to leave one life of selfishness and exchange it for another. I may have been a PP in my marriage and this "half life;" but that is not what God wants for me in the next one. He wants me to be all about Him and to be like Him. This means I have to put aside the PP and embrace GIA (Grace in Action). I have to begin to behave in ways that demonstrate His Grace. I have to learn how to stop manipulating others for my own gain, and begin to see how to minister to them for His gain.

It is not easy, that is for sure. I have been a PP for so long, and so many of my tendencies are ingrown now. I almost do things on auto-pilot. The Lord has been working with me to get me to stop doing those things, the things that are not healthy and productive for me. One of the things I have learned how to do is say "NO" (politely, of course). Saying NO is the first step in leaving the PP way behind. Everyone can say No, but knowing when to say it is far more important. We can walk around saying No, No, No, and all we will get is a sour-puss face and a lot of disagreeable relationships. We can learn to say No to boundary-busting people, people who routinely push the boundaries of our lives (I was always the "on call" go to person at Church -- oh, need a nursery worker, Carol will do it). I had to learn how to say No and not feel guilty about it. Talk about something difficult -- oh my goodness! For a PP, guilt is what drives us (or the absence of it). We simply cannot deal with guilt so we avoid it like the plague. If I have to say No to someone who legitimately needs me, that causes me to feel so guilty. I give in, rather than say firmly and lovingly, "No, I am sorry but I cannot do that for you."

There are oodles of other things I have had to learn how to do, but saying No and standing up for what is right (for what God says is right) has been the two biggest things for me. I have had to take a stand on my own willingness to compromise when I should have said NO, and I have had to look sin in the face and make a decision whether or not to accept it (again, do I compromise and look away or do I say NO, this is not right). I chose to say NO and to stick to the Word of God. It has been liberating in many ways, not all of them good.

When you choose to stop pleasing people, especially if you have been this way for so long, you will find that some people accuse you of being mean. Or they say "Oh, she has certainly changed -- and not in a good way." Some people get downright angry that you are using your voice and saying No to them. Others will champion your new found spirit and will say to you, "Oh, I am so glad you finally got a voice!" It is not always pleasant and peaceful. It is not always calming and soothing, and for a chronic PPer -- it is worse than pulling teeth (without any novocaine!)

So, to make a long story shorter, I decided to come out swinging. I decided that when I was faced with the choice of living as I had been (accepting and not saying NO) or standing up for what was right, I would choose the way of doing what was right -- regardless of the consequences. I figured that I had already lived with the consequences of a life of PPing -- how bad could it really get if I chose instead to live a life in accordance with the Word of God?

I haven't done it perfectly. I have even done it well. I don't think anyone experiencing this type of situation really is in control of their behavior -- all the time. So much of what I have done, so much of what I have blogged about has been pure emotion, pure response to the devastation of hearing and then seeing the truth of what I thought was a good marriage. I reacted as many women do, with disgust. I then sunk into depression and despair. I grieved loudly (have you ever wondered why Jewish women wail? It is a God-given thing, you know. Only in America are we truly afraid of our emotions and will not openly grieve and wail in sorrow.) I then came around to reality, and began to accept the reality of my life. I moved slowly into truth and acceptance, and then I stopped. Then I took a rest. This is why I am where I am today -- not really moving forward, but also not moving backwards. I am just stopped, I am resting a while BEFORE THE LORD moves in my life.

I get it now. I get it. I understand that all His speaking to me about resting was about this moment in time. I have been made to rest because it is what is best for me at this time. I have had to handle so much, so much over the last eight months, and now I must face some other major hurdles. If the Lord chooses to move us to another state, there will be much work to do (before, during, after). If the Lord chooses to keep us here in Phoenix, there will be much work to do too (Do we stay in our home? Do we move out?) Either way, this is the calm before the next storm. We have come through the initial tumult, and now are taking a short breather BEFORE THE NEXT BIG WAVE.

I see it, finally I see it. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for helping me to see it. I have cried to you, wailed at that wall in despondency and grief, and now I am trying so hard to move on. Your hand is holding me back, your voice is soothing me and telling me to rest a while. I have not listened to you. I have worried and feared and fretted over future events -- thinking I must worry, and fear, and fret. You have said "rest" and I did not. I have struggled against you, but your Mighty hand has resisted letting me go...just yet. You know what is best for me, what I need most, and while I agreed with you, I simply didn't understand what was coming down the pike. I didn't see the wave building on the horizon, and I didn't see how much strength would be needed to master it, to survive it. I see it now, I understand that this is a time when I am to rest and recharge and refocus my energies. The time will come very soon and then I will need to get to work (figuratively and literally). I won't have time then to rest, so I have to do it now.

Thank you, Lord, for your Gracious Hand as it rests upon my life. I haven't lived these last eight months perfectly. In fact, I have been downright difficult. I have been short-tempered and ill-mannered and often selfish. I have worn my hurt on my sleeve, wailing as I walked through the "streets of my life." I have made my situation known to everyone, opening myself up to much criticism and scrutiny. I have suffered comments that were not supportive, and I have then loathed myself for opening my story up. I have not thought things through, I have lived them. I have not been in control, and I have been at the control of others for so long, that I simply didn't know what to do.

Often, I described my situation as topsy-turvy -- upside down, inside out. This has been so true -- it has been both ways, twisting and turning and with lots of heartache in the middle. Yet, through it all, through the bad and the good, there has been ONE SHINING MOMENT, ONE GENTLE HAND, ONE SUFFERING HEART that truly understands. There has been the consistent and constant companionship of your Spirit, guiding me, holding me, directing and correcting me.

And, there has been One Person, who stood in the gap, and said to me over and over and over again: It will be OK.

I trusted you, I relied on you. I gave you my all, and you covered me with your wings and you shed your Grace upon me. You did everything to save me -- from myself, from others (for good or bad), and from making mistakes before you were ready for me to start walking. You have kept my feet firmly grounded and made sure that I didn't falter too much or go afield too far. You walked with me, held me and kept me sane and safe and secure. You did all this for me, even while I was such a stinker at the time. Even when I wasn't very nice or pleasant or graceful. You have been there with me, and I cry out to you now and say:

THANK YOU, JESUS!

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