March 19, 2015

It's Raining...

It is raining today. I know that for most parts of the country, rain is not a BIG DEAL, but to those of us who call the desert our home, it is a very BIG DEAL! Praise the Lord for His blessed provision of rain this very good, good day!

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain as it hit against my window. I think it started to rain a steady stream sometime during the night, but I am not sure. I know that I woke up to gray skies, and the gentle rap-rap-rap of the rain as it fell softly to the ground. I love the rain. I love it when it rains, especially during non-monsoonal months. It is not uncommon for storms to pass over us, but generally, they stay to the north or the south, and rarely make it all the way into the Phoenix metro area. Rain for us is a delight, a lovely provision that reminds us of springtime, and the goodness of God (at the least, it does to me!)

Isaiah 45:8 - "Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the LORD, created them."

This is a good day, a very good day. I am struggling still to fathom how the Lord will provide for my needs this summer, but I am choosing to place my trust and my faith in God alone, and not in the works of man (i.e., a job, a career, a windfall, etc.). It is difficult at times, and I know that the Lord knows me well. He knows how I struggle with provision and with security. He knows how my fear of running out of money can often consume me, so much in fact, that I can lose my focus, and become fixated on worry, on doubt, and on fear of what "might happen." I know why I do it, of course, and I understand my motivation. My fixation on provision stems from two factors, really. The first is that I am a single woman attempting to navigate the unknown waters of this life without a companion to stand beside me. The second is that I am in the midst of transition, moving from one way of life and into the next, and that change (in career, in job, in educational status, etc.) has caused me to realize just how much I am sacrificing right now to accomplish what I believe is the Lord's will for my life. Thus, these two factors are constant reminders that I am walking a path that relies on the Lord's provision for my life. I have no companion (i.e., husband) nor do I have a stable job to look to for help. As such, I cry out with the Psalmist every day,

Psalm 121 (NKJV)

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Yes, from whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

I lift my eyes to the Lord of Hosts knowing full well that my security, my provision, and my trust rest in Him alone. I am in that "uncomfortable" place right now, a place whereby I am forced to reconcile my behavior and my attitude with what I say I believe (faith). Do I really believe that the Lord is my sufficiency, my ALL IN ALL? If so, then why do I worry, why do I fear?

Good questions to ask. In truth, I struggle with this very thing because while I say I believe, while I say I have faith -- often -- I behave as if I do not. Ouch!

It is interesting to ponder, to think about the reasons why I do what I do. I know that some people are not "into" self-reflection (so be it). I happen to reflect a lot, and I find that introspection is a good thing, so long as it doesn't lead you into depression or despair. When we reflect on choices, on attitudes or on behaviors, we have the opportunity to grow through the process of introspection. If we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, we can actually learn quite a bit about ourselves, learn to live with or let go of the things that hinder our walk or keep us from moving forward in the Lord's will for our life. The key is of course to allow the Holy Spirit free reign to use our experiences, our memories, and our perspectives in order to change us, grow us, and shape us into the person God desires us to be. 

In my case, I feel that introspection has benefitted me greatly. Over the course of my life, I have spent a great deal of time in reflection. I have learned a lot about myself -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- and I have come to understand what motivates me, challenges me, encourages me, and empowers me to do, to work, to achieve all things within my life. I have also uncovered my greatest needs, my deepest wants, and my strongest desires -- all of which -- I have surrendered to the Lord. Of my needs, wants, and desires, these two things are foremost: protection and provision.

Protection

I have blogged about them both over the past 10 years, but suffice it to say, I am still at odds with the fact that my greatest need is to "have enough" material (i.e., food, shelter, clothing, etc.) and sufficient protection (from the world). I have learned (through introspection) that my need for security has always been high. As a child, I lived a relatively easy life, but I was fearful of the unknown. Perhaps it was because I was the baby of the family. Perhaps it was because I was tormented regularly by my three older brothers. Or perhaps it was that I was often left alone, and that loneliness caused me to fear everything, to be timid about walking alone, going places alone, and being alone. 

As an introvert, I value my alone time. I love to be alone (within reason), and I find the quiet time when I can be alone to think, to ponder, to question, a blessing. But, still I need people in my life. I need companionship. The Lord said that it was not good for Man to be alone (man/woman), and He was correct. Man (and woman) was designed to live in companionship, in fellowship with God and with others. I need fellowship, companionship, and friendship. So while I enjoy my alone time, I also need to be with other people. I need to laugh, to love, and to listen to the needs, the wants, and the desires of people the Lord has placed in my life.

Fear is a BIG DEAL to me. I am often afraid, and I struggle with being afraid. I worry about details, about knowing what will be, what will come, because the 'unknown' aspects of life scare me. Yet, I walk alone often, and I go places by myself. In order to not be homebound, I screw up my courage, put on a brave face, and venture out into the BIG UNKNOWN. I trust in the Lord for my safety, for my security, and for my surety. He is my sufficiency, and as such, I rest knowing that His word to me is true: 

Deuteronomy 31:6 - "So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you."

If I am honest with myself, and I do try to be honest, then I have to admit that the reason I married my ex-husband was not out of love or out of companionship, but simply it was to avoid being alone. I was lonely, so very alone, and I was afraid of everything. My ex appeared to me to be a strong source of protection, and I trusted him for my security. I often was afraid at night, and I longed to sleep with someone who would keep me safe. I know it seems wrong to feel that way, but I was very young when I married, and frankly, I know now (in hindsight and introspection) that one of the motivating factors in my decision to marry was to avoid being alone. Yes, I know -- not a good reason to get married. My heart told me that I was making a mistake, but my head wanted to be free from the fear of being alone.

Provision

I grew up in a middle-class home. My father was college-educated and was a good provider for our family. My mother also took some college courses (later on) and was a good homemaker/keeper. I had a good childhood, relatively speaking, and I never worried about my next meal or if my shoes or clothing would last. No, for the most part, I always had "enough" as a child. I could count on my father to pay the bills and my mother to fix the meals. I could live as a child in our modest home and feel comfortable knowing that my needs were met with sufficiency.

After I married, however, that feeling of protection and provision changed. I can remember the day it happened, almost as if it was yesterday. My ex-husband and I were living in a rented apartment in Cupertino. It was a nice place, and we had fixed it up with a mish-mash of his stuff and my stuff. We had very little to start our new life, but thanks to hand-me-downs from family, our little home was comfortable. We lived in this apartment for 8 months before I found out that my ex-husband couldn't afford the rent. I assumed we were okay since I didn't pay the bills. I was working for CompuServe, Inc. back then, and while I didn't make a lot of money, I did earn an hourly wage. He was working for a major magazine in managerial sales, and he was earning good money. For all intents and purposes, we should have been fine, but we this was not the case. He broke the news to me one day by saying simply "We have to move. We can't afford to live here any longer." I was shocked by the news, hurt by it, and worried about where we would move to on such short notice. We started to look for a new place to live, but everywhere we turned the cost for rent was the same or higher. In fact, the day my ex showed me where we could live, I burst into tears. Our apartment in Cupertino was nice. It was a large complex, and we were in a two-bedroom place (did we need two bedrooms?) The new place he showed me was in a seedy part of San Jose, clearly unsafe, riddled with crime, and generally run-down. He said it was "all we could afford." I cried and cried and cried because I didn't understand how we could go from a nice place to a place where I would be afraid to sleep at night, afraid to come home from work, and afraid to live during daylight hours.

My heart sank that day, and I knew then that my future was not rosy, was not hopeful, but was instead, filled with insecurity and unmet provision.

In the end, we did find an apartment that was in a nicer part of town. We lived there for five years. During that five year span, we struggled financially. Constantly, we had financial problems. There were collectors, debts, and always, the money ran out. Food was scarce, and at times, there were weeks when all I ate was noodles with sauce, peanut butter, and mac and cheese.

In 1990, we moved from our apartment to a rented house in a seedy part of town. We had cats then, six of them, and frankly, I think the apartment manager wanted us out. The neighbors complained about the noise, and we were pressured to move. We did move into a house in San Jose where we stayed until we moved to Phoenix. It was smack-dab in the middle of two warring gangs. There were drive-by shootings, and generally, the area was marked by high crime. I was thankful for the home, but in truth, the house itself was not safe. It had issues, scary issues, and I was told later on by neighbors, that it had been used as a drug and prostitution house. Also, someone said that there had been a murder in the home. I knew the day I moved into this house (the house was purchased as a fixer upper and was owned by a friend) that something was wrong with it. I spent the next 6 years living in fear -- on the outside and on the inside. 

The best day of my life was the day we left San Jose. In truth, it was the worst, but I was so happy to leave that house. I had nightmares every night I lived in the house (as did my then small son). I saw things, felt things, smelled things -- shadows mostly, in mirrors, in the hallways -- and always I felt this eery sense that I was being watched. I hated it, hated every minute I was in that home.

Arriving in Phoenix, I hoped that my future would change, that I would no longer be afraid and live in need/want. Unfortunately, the next 15 years were more of the same. In the end, after my marriage ended, and I moved out, I found myself alone and without any provision. My two greatest needs were provision and protection, and at age 49, I had neither. 

The Lord is My Sufficiency

It has been four years since I moved out of the home I shared with my ex-husband. Since that time, I have lived in a lovely rented town home (for 18 months) and a rented home (with my parents and son). So much has changed for me in the past four years. I have learned how to be alone (finally), and I have come to terms with my need for provision and for protection. 

Over the course of time, I have learned that no one, no human will ever be able to meet my need for provision and for protection. I have also come to learn that no job will ever provide the kind of security I need. And, while a job is a good thing, it is not to be my sole focus or my endeavor. Rather, a job is to be considered "good practical work," meaning that it is a means to an end. I work unto the Lord (Col. 3:23), and the job I do (whatever it may be) is to provide financial and material resources for my family (me and my son). It is not to be the basis of my security nor is it to be the reason I work, I strive or I achieve. It is good practical work to be done to meet the needs -- the provision aspect -- of my life. Furthermore, I have learned that it is not right to look to another person for protection. Should the Lord choose to bring me a protector, so be it. However, until that time, I look to my Father in Heaven as my ROCK, my REFUGE and my STRONG TOWER.

In sum, as I consider today, and as I watch the rain pour down out my window, I am reminded that manna from heaven is the Lord's provision for my daily needs.

Exodus 16:4, 5 - "Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”

Dear Lord, 

You rain down bread from heaven. You have given me enough bread for each day, and in some ways, you test me to see if I will trust you with what you provide. I have struggled, have strived, and have strained against you regarding your provision, and it has been a difficult battle. Help me this day to let go of my need for more, and teach me Lord, to be content with your daily provision for my need (for today and for tomorrow). I ask this in Jesus' Name, Amen. So be it, thy will be done! Selah (pause, and think about it)!

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