August 2, 2014

Rest, O My Soul

Today is a great day to rest. Not only did I finish my research project with a little time to spare, but I think the paper turned out well, really well. I am so glad to have that project off my to-do list. It was a bear to complete, probably the most difficult assignment I have been asked to do since I started at Regent University. I thought my COM 702 project -- statistics and statistically analysis -- was the hardest ever. Wrong! Who would have thought interviewing people would have been so difficult?

Suffice it to say, I am so relieved it is over, and I am ready to move on. God is good. He is so very good to me.

So today is Saturday, August 2, 2014. August -- it is AUGUST! This means that I have 16 days of REST before I start teaching at Arizona Christian University. I am excited, more than I care to admit, to be teaching over there. I cannot explain why I am almost giddy over getting to adjunct at ACU. I have this wonderful, warm and fuzzy feeling inside that is telling me "It is going to be so GREAT!" I believe it, I believe it. On top of that feeling, I have a sense of boldness, of confidence, of complete and utter REST in God's provision for me this fall. I believe that this fall is going to be "The Fall of Carol" (a tribute to the Seinfeld episode called "The Summer of George"). Yes, I feel that this fall is going to be foundational for me, it is going to be transformational, and it is going to be sensational (Oh, how I love alliteration!!)

Yes, God has a great plan for my life, and that plan is coming to pass. I am eager and excited to see what He has in mind for me.

A slight digression - I read an article yesterday that was posted to the Huffington Post. Granted the Huffpost is not the most friendly toward Christians or a Christian worldview. This article was crossposted to my Facebook feed, so I read it (as I usually do). I got about half-way through the article and I stopped reading completely. It wasn't that I thought the article was bad, per se, it was just that I took offense at the fact that it was so against what I believe. Let me explain...

Lately (and this is another digression), I have seen blog posts crossposted to my FaceBook feed from a number of Christians (some Pastors and some teachers). In these posts, the FB Friend makes comments about how Christians and the Church need to consider the blogposters point of view. Most of these posts are negative commentary on some of the more overt behaviors within sections of Evangelical Christianity. I have read posts on how we should not speak of God's will for our lives (the big NO-NO), how we should not call our lives BLESSED (another big NO-NO), and how we should downplay our relationship with the Lord so that we can be more authentic, more realistic, more in touch with the hurting world around us.

Okay, so I get it, I get what these articles are suggesting. The overwhelming sentiment is that the CHURCH has overly emphasized God's power and influence in their lives, to the extent that it has caused some Christian's and non-Christian's to think all of Christianity views themselves (globally) as "special people, special to God." It has caused, these writers suggest, a major disconnect whereby there are now two groups of people: those IN the circle of God, and those OUTSIDE the circle of God. This fraction is not just in the world, but it is also in the church.

So the article I was referencing from the Huffpost was about Christian's calling themselves blessed, using that term, or saying "I am blessed." I took offense, as any good Evangelical and slightly Fundamentalist Christian should. And why not? I am, after all, blessed.

The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying by Scott Dannemiller

The writer, a worship leader and a former missionary (go figure that one) references Matt. 5: 1-12 as his description of what it means to be blessed. It isn't until later on in the piece you see that what he is upset about is when Christian's attach the label of blessing to their everyday life (he says now that he prefers the term "I am grateful" to explain any good thing in his life). Yes, Mr. Dannemiller wants the world, the Christian world, to stop preaching that blessings such as ease of burdens, financial security, or family relationships as reasons for considering ourselves to be "blessed." No, he wants us to be thankful people, grateful people, but not blessed. Blessed, in his view, is something entirely different.

I don't get his viewpoint because clearly Jesus' words in Matthew 5 are to tell us all the reasons we are truly BLESSED. Yet, for some Christian's the only ones who are blessed are those that suffer and are persecuted. Let me take a moment to recount the last time I suffered. Okay, so I didn't go to the stake as a martyr. I didn't get thrown into prison for my faith. Yet, I have suffered, I have suffered greatly. I have been wounded. I have been brought to the point of death (physical, spiritual, mental and emotional), and the Lord revived me, the Lord saved me. Yes, I am thankful. I am grateful for His mercy and His grace. But, I am also blessed. I am blessed.

I think the issue that many Christian writers have is against those who preach the so-called "health and wealth" gospel. Many in the Charismatic side of Christianity use words such as blessed, favored, etc. Many on the other side say that these words now have an anti-Scripture context to them. Many take the position of Mr. Dannemiller who clearly sees the life of a Christian as a "cradle to grave" struggle, as a life filled with hardship, misery, and suffering. Those moments when life is good, well they are moments to be enjoyed, to be savored, and to be thankful because just as surely as they came around, the flip side (the old screen door) will slap you in the backside.

I understand this mentality, I do, I really do. I lived like this for so many years, lived completely under the assumption that anything good that came into my life was happenstance, was circumstantial because as a Christian it was my lot in life to suffer. Suffering was how I was to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, suffering was what would make my life count. In the end, the Lord would say to me "Well done, my good and faithful servant" because I would have finished the race, finished bloodied, bruised and battered.

I cannot really state when my view on the matter changed or how I came to grasp the idea that God's will for my life was not to suffer. I didn't read a book, I didn't follow a preacher, I didn't listen to a sermon series or any other type of message that said to think otherwise. No, I came to it or it came to me, I am not sure which is true or if both are true the moment I devoted my entire personality, my complete life, my everything to the Lord. My personal relationship with the Lord has determined my outcome. My life is blessed because of the blessing of knowing Him. I am not good. I am not wealthy, I am not healthy. I am blessed because He has chosen to have a relationship with me.

The key here is that God did not remove suffering from my life. No, I have suffered greatly. I have been at the brink of financial ruin. I have lost my home, my marriage, and at more than one point in time, my life. Granted, I have never had cancer. I have never been homeless. I have never been held at gunpoint, raped, or imprisoned. Yet, I have experienced great and horrible, inexplicable pain, emotional pain, dark pain, and difficult pain over the course of my life. Can my experiences be compared to other people who are currently suffering with life-ending health issues or who are sitting in a prison in a foreign country? No, of course not. You cannot compare one life to another, you cannot compare one misery to another. Still, are not my sorrows, my suffering, my pain worthy of respect?

Christians, and I am making a mass generalization here (noted), often take the view that there are different levels of blessing, different types of people who are blessed. The Virgin Mary is often singled out as being blessed, as being the only person in Scripture to be considered "blessed and highly favored." Therefore, to use her as an example and because of her unique position as the mother of our Lord, it is impossible for any other person on this side of heaven to say they are blessed and highly favored.

My struggle in all of this hornets nest of interpretation is the fact that what I believe in my head, what I feel in my Spirit, what I sense in my soul, runs contradictory to what the majority of Christian's believe. I do feel blessed. I do feel highly favored. I am thankful of every good gift (James 1:17), and I believe with my entire heart that God does have a unique and a wonderful plan for me.

So I will get off my soap box now and retreat back to the safety of my little room. I am blessed, so very blessed this good day.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Blessed – what God has done for us (saved and unsaved alike)
Thankful – how we respond to God’s blessing