Fridays with Susan...
Today (Thursday) was my last day off after some time spent resting and recuperating. It's been a slow and easy two weeks and I'm really excited about getting back in the saddle tomorrow. I've had a whole week to frame the "what if" questions I will take with me tomorrow.
In spite of some great backup in my absence, there will be a logjam. Reports to process, human resources issues to follow up on, people to say hello to, emails to answer, phone calls to return, projects to get back to, and the "how ARE you?" question to answer over, and over, and over again. It will be wonderful - emphasis on the "full"!
All my natural defences have tried several times to rise up and take me to a state of panic and dread. But I'm not listening to those. I have a new way of living - a new way of being. Remember my questions from last week? The ones Belinda has been bringing us back to all week? I'll be taking them with me tomorrow - and though I have many to choose from, I'll be stepping only on those stones the Lord points out to me - and not worrying about those which need to be left for another day. And when I'm done, I'll be done. I will pack up and go home based on making sure that I reserve enough strength for the long haul. Monday will come soon enough.
I'm becoming addicted to the "what if" way of life.
I had one very particularly tough day since writing last week. It was tough for a number of reasons. I took hits from several directions and in quick succession - all on the same day.
Blow #1: There was more than one set of eyes that used to be filled with joy to see me - but instead steadfastly avoided mine too many times in a row for me to be mistaken or think I was imagining things. (Oh, the pain of rejection and lost relationship!)
Blow #2: There was a phone call that came relaying the disappointing news that some of my actions and attitudes had been misrepresented in a way that cast a shadow on my reputation. (Oh, the disappointment and damage to my pride!)
Blow #3. I picked absolutely the wrong time to tease someone who I love with all my heart, and would never hurt on purpose. I didn't realize how fragile she was feeling and my silly words caused her to break down and cry. In the ensuing moments of my completeley inadequate attempt to pick up the pieces and apologize, the deeper issue that was causing concern came to the surface. My heart broke as I realized there was nothing I could do that would help this dear person in the situation she was facing. (Oh, the sense of helplessness and hopelessness! And I only made it worse.)
Blow #4: I stumbled in an area that I thought had been resolved and would never fail in again. It wasn't a big fall, just a little short-lived stumble, but it shook me to my foundations and left me feeling frightened and uncertain of myself. (Oh, the disappointment in myself and the fear of becoming entrapped once again!)
All this happened on the same day. There was a time, and not very many days ago, that a day like that would have flattened me for weeks. But instead of turning to my old ways, which, incidentally, were calling me loudly, I resolved to ask God for some what-if questions instead.
Blow # 1: What if I actually reached out to those people instead of running as fast as I can in the opposite direction? What if I refused to feel that comfortable old sense of rejection, but instead showed them somehow that God had shed abroad his love in my heart already? What if I chose to see them as hurting people too, and afraid just like me, instead of "mean". What if I did that even before they gave me any indication that they were ready to love me back and before I had any assurance that I would be "safe"?
Blow #2: What if I waited to talk to the one person whose perception I most cared about who was in that room and had heard, with everyone else, the things that were said in reference to me before I started reacting and getting my bloomers in a knot? What if I waited to hear her perspective on what happened before I started building up defenses in my heart and taking up an offence in return? What if I trusted God with my reputation instead of taking up arms in my own defence?
Blow #3: What if I just held my hurting friend? What if I didn't try to do a thing to fix it, but just let her know I accepted her, I cared deeply, and that she could count on me to pray?
Blow #4: What if I just forgave myelf even as I asked God's forgiveness and purposed to learn what I could from my mistake? What if I shunned self-pity and saw it as an opportunity instead, to learn more about myself, the weaknesses in my defences and most importantly, What if I just pulled up my socks, tied my shoes and got back in the game?
Well, three of those blows have already been either profoundly resolved or defused. Because I stopped to ask God "what if" and cooperated with him as he held me back long enough to listen closely to my heart's response to his reply, I have been blessed beyond my wildest expectations. Not only were the actions that I took measured, and wise (with His wisdom, not mine!) but my heart was completely at rest through it all - and still is.
I have realized during this week of trying out "what if" that asking those questions and waiting for God's direction in his reply, positions me to be "abiding in him". I have loved the idea of those scriptures in John 15, but I have always felt badly whenever I ran across them. It sounds to easy - to abide in him. I wonder how many times I have asked him, "How do you do that?" and have never really understood his reply. I have always fallen so far short of what he describes. I think he's drawing me closer though, to the understanding and application of that incredible truth. Am I "there" yet? No. But because of the events of this week, I have some tangible hope in my heart for "knowing him" and "abiding in his love". More than ever before.
You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father. You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you. But remember the root command: Love one another. John 15:15-17. The Message