I really would like to know why I have so much struggle with issues of faith. Especially concerning things I pray for. Oh wait...I'm HUMAN.
No honestly. You need to know my life better. Don't worry. I won't regale you with it here. That's a series of novels Trish needs to help me write. To condense it for you, my whole life is a giant study in God answering my prayer. Not in my time, but His.
So when I start attacking something in prayer that is big or important, my faith is wobbly. I think it's very normal. But when you have a whole history of God coming through for you, why do you doubt? I take solace in pretty much every story in the bible. The Israelites saw all the plagues, were delivered from slavery, had the sea parted for them, even heard God's voice but they still screwed up by doubting. So I'm in pretty good company.
I figure it has to do with a few things.
God is not a vending machine. I can ask in faith like the bible says. But ultimately, it is God's plan that is done. So often times, when I pray for something, I sit there thinking doubtful thoughts under this umbrella - maybe it's not in God's plan for my son to be safely delivered from his surgery. Maybe God has other plans for me than my marriage staying whole. You know? That kind of thing. I think my problem here is, I should ask in faith and then let it go. And trust that God's plan is ultimately better than anything I could come up with. But I tend to ask in faith and then worry and attempt controlling my fate. Like I said, I doubt I'm alone in this.
God's miracles are for other people - not me. For some reason, I can pray with so much faith and absolute certainty when I'm praying for others. When I pray for me, I'm wracked with doubt. I tend to forget my whole history of God coming through for me. My doubt-filled selective memory seems to tell me that other people get miracles. Not me. This has happened less and less over the last 2 years. As I press more into God and talk to him more often, this has gotten less. It would be nice if it disappears altogether.
Satan blows big chunks. I'm not one to blame everything on 'the enemy', 'satan', 'the unnamed one', 'the big dirt-bag below'. I have free will and I exercise it badly quite often. But I do believe that much doubt is planted in our minds by 'the big bone-head of darkness'. I have also noticed less and less doubt in my mind over the last two years. I believe this is due to my constant chats with God. I don't wait for meal time or bed time or church. I talk to God all the time. Especially when I see anything that upsets me on any level. But sometimes it's just when I see something that makes me happy. I thank God for beautiful things I encounter. I ask God to bless people I see that do good things. I ask him to help that box turtle make it off the busy road safely. But at night and in the morning, I do serious business with God. And I think this relatively new discipline in my life has been keeping more doubt at bay.
So yah, I'm human. I'm like all of you. I ask God for things and I have a picture in my mind of how it will look. And I would like to see that picture manifest sooner rather than later. My intellect knows better. But my human side tends to hang on to that impatience. I'm getting better at turning things over to God and saying, "Your plan, God. Your plan. I'm ok with however you need to get things done." But I also believe God wants to know exactly what I want. So I tend to also say things like, "...and if you could let it happen soon - or let it happen where I can know it happened...that would be great." I like to think God is ok with that. His answer might be 10 years down the line. But I think he's ok with us asking.
Now that I've done all of that set up, let me tell you how this has recently played out in my life.
When future ex informed me that he didn't love me any more and was in love with an ex girl thing of his from 21 yrs ago, I was devastated. I don't even know if there are words in our language to describe the pain, jealousy and betrayal. The level to which my spirit was crushed doesn't even compare to my father dying when I was 11. If I was a different person, I would have turned to drugs or hurting myself. But I've got God. Or more correctly, God has ME. I spent pretty much all of January through April begging God to save my marriage. I know God's not a fan of divorce - meaning it's not his plan. I don't mean he thinks divorced people suck. So I figured I'm praying for my marriage to remain whole. Of course it's God's plan. Of course he'll come through. I really really believed this. So in late April, when future ex left, moved back to Boston and starting playing house with his girl thing, oh man. I was shaken. But I kept praying. I just changed it from "save my marriage" to "God, whatever your plan is, help me deal with it. Help me get through this." But I did also pray that God totally open the eyes of future ex and his girl thing. That they see the full truth of what they've done. I wasn't sure what that would look like. But I prayed it with all my heart. I also prayed that God would let them reap what they have sown. This was hard not to pray as a curse. I prayed it as earnestly as I could. I refused to curse them. I refused to ask God to smite them or any such nonsense. So many times I would just repeat over and over, "Vengeance is yours, God. Not mine. I leave that to you." It was hard because my anger was valid and totally understandable. But I also knew that God's would know the best way to make this request manifest. I have no idea if that's even proper grammar. Sue me.
So future ex has been back for over a week now. And by "back", I mean in the area. We had a rough start but have been trying very hard to be friendly. I have felt God's prompting to be generous but not stupidly so. I have been asking for his guidance in this. God, tell me when to help him and when to stand back. And I really think he has been doing this.
What I have been watching this past week is future ex reaping what he sowed. And also his girl thing. Without divulging personal things about them, I can't really explain much. But I can tell you I have never had to say anything like, "I told you so," or "See? You really DO suck!" because God has been showing him these things through the consequences of his actions. I wish I could share them with you because it is truly mind numbing how absolutely God has answered my reap/sow prayer. And it was not in the time I wanted (ie - immediately). But I have to tell you, after he had been with girl thing for a while, I just asked God to answer this prayer - even if it was decades later and I never know about it. I just wanted justice. And here God is, allowing me to witness first hand the struggles and hell that future ex is in. I've heard him say stuff like, "I know I made this bed and have to lie in it," and "I know this is all my doing but it's so hard." At times like that I beg God to keep my mouth shut. Pointing and laughing would sink me down. So I just stand there.
One thing future ex said this week was after he really pissed me off. I don't remember how. But he had been talking like oh things are so hard for me and I got the sense he thought I was just coasting through this like it was no big deal. So I indignantly - and totally without meaning to - witnessed to him. If you can picture the attitude that accompanies the hand on hip, waggling finger and a "oh no you di-int" head bobbing, that's what he got. I just started spouting, "The ONLY reason I'm standing here so strong and with such kindness is by the GRACE OF GOD!" and I proceeded to tell him how he hadn't had the guts to stick around to see the absolute hell I went through. I told him how I had to break down every wall I had between me and God and beg him to save me. I told him how God didn't just poof me out of the giant cesspool of destructive emotions. But he stood in it with me. And told me he'd never leave me. But we'd get through it together. And I just kept spouting indignantly to show him that I had been SO low that I needed the Creator of the Universe to save me. So don't tell ME about hard! Don't cry to ME about surviving hell! My God got me through it. And I stood there fuming all "snap snap SNAP!" and stuff. I thought he'd be rolling his eyes at yet another outburst that proves I had become "too Christian." But in stead, he said, "You know, I wish I had a faith like that to help me through this." It deflated my anger. And in that moment, God tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Uh hello? I set this up for you. Get in there!" I suddenly recalled my old Alpha class and our talk on prayer. The whole, so what if you don't know how to pray. So what if you're not sure you believe in prayer or in God or in anything. Try it. Just give it a shot. Tell God you're not sure you believe. Tell him you're scared. Tell him you think it's silly. But ask him to show you that he's real. Ask him to help you. I think you'll be surprised. And that's basically what I told future ex. He said, "But I don't have enough faith to pray." That's the beauty of it! You don't NEED to. Just the act of turning toward God and talking - that's all God is looking for. One on one relationship. Just your attempt will mean so much to God. He will honor it. I told future ex, look, God is just standing here right now just going, "Come on! Just turn toward me!!! Try it!" and he's so excited. He thinks you're the most precious thing in the world!!! Future ex just couldn't fathom that. I said, look, just try it as an experiment. Just ask God to show you he's real. He said he would. He hasn't yet. But he talks about it often. I know he's wrestling with how stupid it feels. So I don't push. I keep praying.
Future ex knows he's screwed up so big. He knew most humans around me wanted to pummel him. He's gotten a few icy receptions from people around here. So another day, we had this big talk about forgiveness. He was annoyed thinking that there are people who claim to follow God that aren't forgiving him. So I explained, hey, we're humans down here. The only one I know of that can instantaneously forgive? That's God. Not me. Not my parents. Not my friends. Not anyone I know of down here. I told him, all you have to do is tell God you're sorry and turn away from the bad that you were doing (ie - repent = turn away from the sin). It's much simpler than most religions make it sound. Repenting just means turn away from the sin. And turn toward God. If you're focused on God, you'll most likely find yourself it right-thinking situations. So I said, God will forgive you immediately. Us humans you have to give some time to align with God on that one.
I have been jokingly inviting future ex to church. And both times I did, he considered it. Which shocked me. He knows that I have leaned heavily on my church friends. Which means many of them know a lot of the details. And a lot of them are mad and feel protective of me. So last Sunday, he didn't go. I kind of figured he wouldn't. And today, he went. He came with me and the boys to church. I was scared! What if my church family lived up to his cynical view of Christians! So I prayed a lot last night. I told future ex, this will be a good test of us Christians putting our money where our mouths are. Let me tell you, my church almost had me in tears today. My church friends are freaking AMAZING. When he walked in (very early) with us, my pastor saw him and came running over to him. I heard something like, "Hey there friend!" and he had future ex in a HUGE bear hug. The music director and his wife greeted him warmly and I saw her talking to future ex for a while. Our other friends who were very close to future ex had already hung out with us earlier this weekend. So when Wyatt got there, he was looking for future ex. And was sincerely glad to see him walk in to the room. Future ex got one chilly reception but not rude. And it was someone I haven't been able to chat with lately so she has no clue how I'm feeling about things and I imagine she was being cautious.
But what a testimony it was to God's imperfect followers. I was SO proud of my church family. I was also very impressed with future ex - he didn't slink away to hide in a corner. He knew he might face some people and their opinions of what he had done to me. But no one did that. Everyone just made him welcome. I have no idea what struggles might or might not have happened for people today. But I was swelling with pride in my friends. And it deeply affected future ex.
So, on the way to church, I had been asking God to just reveal himself to future ex today. I wish I had a tape of the sermon. It was almost comical. We're in a series on Joseph. Today's sermon talked about the part of the story where Joseph is now 2nd in command of Egypt. After being sold into slavery by most of his brothers and then passed off for dead by all of them. They had to come to Egypt to bow down before him and beg for grain. Joseph dealt with them with forgiveness and generosity. SO the whole sermon revolved around the concept of you will reap what you sow. And how we must forgive. He discussed how mercy and grace play into our forgiveness. I mean, future ex and I exchanged a few amused glances. And I know my pastor was thinking, "Oh man, of all the days he chose to come to church!" Afterwards, future ex jokingly asked me if I had called the pastor to have him preach all that. HA! His comments showed me it had all sunk in. And I think he saw the two sides of it. Not just us pointing at him saying, "Ha ha! You're reaping what you sowed, bone head!" But that we are commanded to forgive and to be loving and generous. In the car later, he even said to me, "You've been acting like Joseph. You're being so good to me since I returned." That was amazing to hear. Because it's been a lot of work to not be a shrew.
Anyway, this is going on way too long. But do you see some amazing answer to prayer here? I honestly never thought I'd see future ex reap his sowing. And here I am watching it. And then to have him come to church and God to speak directly to both of us like that? Yah, just TRY to tell me God doesn't answer prayer!