August 21, 2014

Personal Reflection

Today is a good day, a very good day.

First, I am thankful that it is a Thursday. Thursdays are one of my days off during the semester. I purposely looked for courses to teach that fell on MWF just so that I would have two days off each week. I knew that I would need those days to recuperate from teaching (as an INTJ -- I need downtime to reflect and feel refreshed) and to complete my doctoral schoolwork.

Second, I am thankful that I can spend these days unwinding, decompressing, and relaxing. I can also use the time, the quiet time, to reflect on changes in my life, on events and circumstances that I am facing as well as to consider the options or next steps the Lord reveals to me.

Taking time to reflect is important. Reflection allows us to process events and to consider how those events influenced or are influencing our attitudes, our behaviors, and our choices.

This week has been stressful for me.  Not only did I begin teaching at a new school, but my own doctoral courses began with a big bang. I quickly felt the pressure mounting, and I began to feel the sag of the weight bearing down on me. I struggled to doubt, and I felt inadequate and not up to the challenge of teaching four college courses. Yet, the Lord sustained me. He provided everything I needed, and I endured. I patiently endured the uncomfortable feeling of pressure, and I am now experiencing the joy of relief.

Yes, the Lord is good to those He loves. The Lord provides exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

Eccl. 3:11 - Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.

This is one of my favorite verses. I love the way the writer says that even though we cannot see the plans the Lord has for us (the whole scope of His work), it doesn't mean that what God has done and accomplished is not good, not beautiful. 

We are a work in progress, just as God's plans for eternity are also in process. Often we rush to judge the work the Lord is doing in our life. We want to see the end result NOW. We do not want to endure trials or suffering, we do not want to wait for Him to move, to create or to change our situation or our circumstances. We believe erroneously that when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, and He begins to do His work in us, our lives will mysteriously change, will improve, will become better right away. However, this is not always the case. 

Our lives are messy, often filled with damaged relationships, brokenness, and sin issues that need to be addressed. The whole process of salvation takes time (from saving grace to sanctification to eternal life) and depending on our previous (BC LIFE) there is much work required to help us move from the old life into the new life (daily yielding, submission, etc.) Moreover, as we come into a deeper relationship with the Lord, as we learn to trust Him more completely, our lives will change and we will begin to move in-sync with the Lord's will for our life. We will come to know our purpose, to see His plan, to understand what He wants to do in us and through us. This is an exciting time, to comprehend the Lord's choice for our life (be it a life partner, a new career, continuing education, more developed ministry role, a possible relocation, etc.) When the Lord begins to direct our steps (Prov. 16:9), and we begin to follow Him in obedience -- wonderful things happen. We see CHANGE IN ACTION. We see our movement as we pass through phases or stages, as we traverse the Lord's chosen path.

I can give testimony to this because it is exactly what has happened in my life. More so, I can witness this same experience as I watch my friends move through the changes in their lives. I see the same patterns, the same behaviors, the same outcomes. Yes, my friends are on vastly different life plans -- some are in full-time ministry, some are living modest lives, some are contemplating major moves -- but they all are being changed internally in the exact same way.

I was blessed to have interviewed 10 people for my ethnography project this summer. These were people in my church who consented to share with me their life experiences as our church travailed in crisis. I spent anywhere from one hour to four hours with each person, discussing change, discussing God's plan for them and our church. In the end, I came away filled with excitement -- not for the church and the struggles it is having -- but for the individuals who are being changed by the mighty hand of the Lord. This change, this movement encouraged me and reminded me that what I am seeing in my own life is not special to me -- no -- it is consistently apparent in the life of believers who have yielded and surrendered their will to the Lord.

As I reflect on my life, where I have been and where I am going, one thing is for certain: God has created something beautiful out of something really, really messy. The Lord took the disparate strands of brokenness in my life and created something lovely, something useful, something good. I am the recipient of that process. My life is beautiful. It is good. It is filled with blessing, and my life is active and alive -- and now I am capable of bringing encouragment and influence into the lives of the people I meet. God has done this through me, He has changed me for His will and His glory. I am blessed, so very blessed.

Today I look back over the closed chapter of my married life. My divorce was finalized last week, and my decree arrived in the mail yesterday. The life I chose for myself back in 1982 has now ended.  I am single again after 30 years of a very difficult and trying marriage. I am at a point where I can look backward, reflecting on my choices and seeing the resultant actions, and I can learn from my mistakes. I can also use my experience to help others, to encourage others, and to influence others to make better life choices.

God has created something beautiful from the mess of my life. He has made me new. He has given me a renewed sense of self, a renewed purpose, and a renewed perspective. I am walking in a new way, going in a new direction, and moving forward into a very bright and shiny new future.

The Lord has done a mighty work in my life. He has great plans in store for me, and though I struggle at times, and I feel burdened beyond belief, I rest securely in His grace and in the knowledge that He loves me and He cares for me. God is good, so very good. All the time, He is good.

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