Do you ever get like that? You and I know… WE KNOW, God loves us and we don’t have any reason to get bummed. But, life gets in the way. Life grinds us down to powder if we don’t pause, open up the Book, read it, and apply it.
When I say I believe I’ve logged more than my fair share of time in the grinder recently, I’m quite serious. At least in the sense that I’m remembering more metaphorical flying whip kicks to my crotch than smiles from the faces of my family, that I put this forth for your consideration.
My family had a friend that took her life a year ago. The “anniversary” is on my mind, as is the hurt and resurgence of the feelings that come naturally when reminiscing. I had a set back at my business that got under my skin big time. It’s kept me up at night and not to sound like a real whiner, but I rarely sleep much to begin with. I’m stressed about getting some civic support for a group I’m involved in. I did a poor job of extrapolating my concerns at the most recent church board meeting and I was worked up about it. I had a great friend from high school that ended up my room mate after college take my gun in my room and end his life setting on the edge of my bed, and that was 21 years ago just the other day. That’s been heavy on my mind. Most of all, my son, is slightly developmentally delayed at the moment, and we’ve got him enrolled in a special tutoring program to help get him up to task. There’s a substantial cost associated with that of course. When the dust settles I’m obviously more concerned about him having the same legitimate shot at life that my wife and I enjoyed, and less about the considerable costs. I utter those words as I make mental note that I have no printing press…
I recognize all too well, that far more people than I have it far worse. Here I sit at my computer typing away with a fresh Gatorade, in my comfy chair, listening to my podcasts, all the while some kid is dying of starvation and will expire before you reach the end of this sentence. To make matters worse, he may not have ever been exposed to Him. So I get it. I really do. I know as bad as I have it, I’ve won the lottery by virtue of being born right here in America. No matter what though, I still get blue. I think that’s just the breaks sometimes.
And here’s the messed up part. I’m not sure there’s a lot I could have done about some of this stuff. I’m a guy. I’m a fixer. When things are broken, I repair them. Setting things right again is hard wired into me. Typically when I’m finished, I grunt a little like Tim “the Toolman” Taylor and strut around. This time? No such luck.
What am I to do about a family friend killing themselves? Sometimes a project slides sideways and it goes bad involving the customer not matter your intent. Not sleeping compounds the problems, but how am I to deal with that? I’m not going to take a pill to sleep. No way. I can’t fault my partners in the civic group because we’re all newbies at this particular venture. The guys at church are great, some just haven’t thought through the small issue I was passionate about as thoroughly as I had hoped. They’re still great guys, so blame doesn’t fall on them. Do I still dream about all that happened 21 years ago and then see the fallout from that terrible decision? Of course. Do I catch what appears to be glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, turn to see nothing there? Yes. Do I wonder how all our lives would have been altered if he’d stayed? Sure do. These are all problems I’m unable to repair. Sometimes they just end up this way.
I grew up with a kid that I rode bicycles with often. We laughed and played and when we went to grade school, he went into “special ed” as it was called then, and I was in a standard classroom. I barely remember seeing him after that. I don’t want that for my son and it’s tearing me to pieces. So my wife and I are doing the very best we can with what we’ve got. …And as worried as I am, I think we’ll do just fine by the little guy and this’ll work out. When I say that I’ve been praying hard lately, I mean it. If there are carry over minutes on God’s cell plan, I’ve burnt them up for him in the last three weeks.
Here’s the thing though. I’ve witnessed too many people for far too long derive their answers from the wrong places. They assume too much. They don’t put their faith in Him. Or they’re just seeking the wrong stuff in the wrong spot. What did I do this morning when I felt really overwhelmed? I glanced over in my truck and saw my bible placed in the passenger seat. The only thing more symbolic would have been the good book in the driver’s seat and I was along for the ride, but I’ll take it. That poor old bible is getting kind of beat up too. It doesn’t look like much anymore and it travels around with me. It’s sun faded and the covers have seen better days. I actually like it like that.
When customers come in my shop I have a fondness for a weapon that looks worn and tattered. That usually means it has been used extensively. That use translates into two things in my mind. 1, it has value or he/she wouldn’t use it. 2, it’s obvious it’s reliable or they wouldn’t keep it around. I look at that poor little bible the same way. It’s my daily driver, if you will.
I picked that book up, plopped it open and started reading where I landed. I hit 1 Corinthians so I read it. Then 2nd Corinthians. It took time I hadn’t budgeted this morning, but it was what I needed. God’s wisdom, the church’s leaders, the method in which we’re supposed to carry ourselves as servants of God, best practices for living, marital guidance, forgiveness, false apostles, a thorn in the flesh, and so on… I began to feel better and some of the questions I had were answered. Those remaining didn’t seem quite so bothersome any longer.
Am I so different from Paul? That guy worked hard for the Lord, yet he endured the messenger of Satan, and realized that his weakness and torment were OK. He was neither free of weakness, nor am I. Instead Paul learned that when he was weak, but observant of God, he was strong. Nobody gave him a guarantee he’d not have burdens. I believe the trick was to recognize when to double down on Him, rather than wallow in self pity which can happen to us all. Whatever Paul’s thorn actually was isn’t really the point. The fact that Paul, who we know worked hard for the Lord, wasn’t free of pain and suffering. We also know God told Paul His grace was enough. Paul didn’t succumb to the thorn did he? Paul learned from it, wrote about it, and I’ve gleaned plenty from his lesson.
A Thorn in the Flesh – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Be salt and light my friends. Please.