Last weekend Kayla, her friend Mary, and I got to go to YEC ~ the Youth Encountering Christ conference. It’s our denomination’s winter teen conference and this was the 35th anniversary. I’ve dropped kids off there before and picked them up again, but I’ve never stayed for the whole weekend. This time I stayed, and I’m so glad I did.
My husband just confronted me about something I said to my children recently. And for the record, this hardly ever happens, his correcting me or having issue with something I’ve said or done, that is. In fact, I’ve worried before that he was secretly harboring all kinds of ill will and complaints against me and not telling me about them in the name of patience and as an act of grace. He assures me this is not the case, and I have come to believe him, mostly due to his undying optimism and his tirelessly giving every person he knows the benefit of the doubt, and this long after my own suspicions about a situation or person seem confirmed. Anyway, he’s an ultra-positive-believer-in-people who reserves confrontation for what he deems the severest of cases and always for the sake of the other person, so when he’s concerned, I know to take it seriously.
What he heard me say to my teenagers was “There is no one you can trust.” And yes, that statement is something to be concerned about. What I think I actually said was “There are very few people you can trust.” Either way, I needed to hear his concern and gentle redirection.
The interesting thing is that while I was out running this morning, and before the expressed concern, the words to the hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less,” kept coming to mind, especially these first lines…
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name
I’ve always wondered exactly what “sweetest frame” meant, and while I now understand that the phrase probably intends something along the lines of “frame of mind” or “emotional frame” and the fleeting nature of those things, I think it can also apply to people. People have frames, too ~ sweet, or slight, or heavy, or kind, or stubborn frames. And Scripture certainly warns that people are insufficient sources of validation, of salvation, of love, of loyalty, of anything really. I was reminded of this recently while reading Psalm 60…
O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is vain.
Through God we shall do valiantly, and it is He who will tread down our enemies. v. 11-12
Yes, deliverance by man and dependance on man is indeed vain, and though I am the slower-to-trust-one in our marriage, I am also the one quicker-to-bear-my-soul to an assumed friend. I long to relate, to share deeply and intimately, to know and be known by people. I keep no secrets and I assume that those I’ve discerned to be kindred spirits in Christ don’t either. (How naive!) I’m ready to defend and to celebrate those I love, those who’ve come close in friendship. (How silly!) Without intending any sort of boasting, I am fiercely loyal (the personality tests and my own experiences confirm it) but this loyalty has backfired on me so many times, and it’s partly due to my own sin, because loyalty is easily motivated by “fear of man.” So, I know for sure that some of my faithfulness to others is God’s good work in me, but some of it is more like this…
…for they loved the approval of men, rather than the approval of God. John 12:43
When I spoke the words about not trusting people to my children recently, it was in reaction to my own feelings of betrayal, and honestly, the betrayals, the rejections, and the inherent questioning of my character feel like they’ve been stacking up. It hurts deeply at first, but then I just feel foolish, incredulous that I have put myself in this position yet again. Trusting others, entrusting others with information and vulnerability, serving others, sacrificing for others ~ others who will eventually distance themselves from me in word or deed in spite of the closeness between us that I assumed.
And yes, my grandmother taught me early on what “assuming” makes of “u” and “me.” (I’ve used the dangerous word “assume” a lot in this post.) So yes, I must be a stupid donkey, because I have fallen foolishly prey to assumed loyalty more times than not. It’s in times like these that I begin to ponder all those surface-y, non-emotional, closed off, reserved folks I know and mentally beat myself up for not being more like them. They are so wise, so mature, so savvy, so spiritual. What is wrong with me? When will I ever grow up?
One thing’s for sure: I must resolve to stop trusting others.
And evidently, I must resolve to teach my children to do the same.
Or maybe not, according to my husband’s rebuke this morning. And I know he’s right.
Larry Crabb, the Christian counselor and author we love to hate around here (but mostly love), because of the painful, scriptural truth with which he exhorts, says that Christians are more like practicing Buddhists, denying all hope, all desire, and all positive anticipation in an effort to avoid any disappointment or pain.
I lose sight of this truth so often. My faith in Christ allows me to hope for and anticipate all the best things in people, in relationships, in circumstances, and then when they fail me, I can be okay, because my sure foundation is not in those things, those people. Rather, it’s in Him, and He never fails me or forsakes me. It’s also an opportunity to identify with Him, albeit not exactly a fun one. Now that I think of it, a lot of our “opportunities” to identify with Christ are not that enjoyable right away, but they are good. (“It is good that I was afflicted…”) And He’s been there. He was misunderstood, rejected, falsely accused, and betrayed by those closest to Him. Really, it should be considered a privilege to be entrusted with any of the same sort of emotional pain He endured. I only wish I could embrace it more willingly.
So, Robert is right. I need not, should not take up the “I dare not trust” mentality. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection enable me to entrust myself to Him as I risk trusting others.
I might be slightly more discerning in future circumstances, but there is no pressing need to withhold myself from relationships with those He puts in my life.
His oath, His covenant, and blood support me in the whelming flood
When every earthly prop gives way, (or “when all around my soul gives way”)
He then is all my Hope and Stay
(Kids, are you reading this? If so, please forgive my hardness of heart, and entrust yourself to those given to you in friendship, but entrust yourselves to Christ above all. Love, Mom)
Me: How long have you been driving a cab?
NYC Cabbie: Haven’t been driving a yellow cab for very long. I drove a stretch limo for many years before this.
Me: Oooooooh! Driving the celebrities around, huh?
NYC Cabbie: Yes, ma’am. I took Brooke Shields to her first prom, and I haven’t washed the cheek she kissed since.
We had a great day! More pics soon…
(Brooke Shields is 49 years old, by the way. If she was 16 when she went to prom, that’s 33+ years of driving. Wow.)
The sun came out for a few hours today, but it was only 70 degrees. I have had a very strong desire (really, I can’t overemphasize how strong the desire is) to get in the car and just drive until I arrive in a place that is warm and sunny. I can’t remember the last time the sun was shining here for any length of time. And forgive me for my lofty expectations, but it’s JUNE. I heard it came out while we were away in Baltimore, but I have not seen it with my own eyes, or felt it on my own skin in a LONG time here in Massachusetts. I know it’s not technically summer yet, but come on.
I’ve really been trying not to complain about it (too much), but today I had to hang out at a Starbucks in Connecticut while Cooper and a friend were attending a graduation party. They had the air-conditioning cranked, so I made it through one chapter of Romans, shivering the whole time, and headed outside, since the sun had come out. The outdoor table was in the shade, so it wasn’t much better at all. I ended up back in my van with the windows rolled up and the sunlight streaming through the windows creating warmth inside ~ finally!
Tonight we decided to grill out for dinner ~ have to seize every opportunity to do that in these parts. This is the conversation that ensued, which is fairly typical around here.
Me: (putting a hoodie on to eat our grilled-out burgers on the backyard picnic table) The sun FINALLY came out today, but it was ONLY 70 degrees. And it’s June. June 14. That’s MID-JUNE.
Robert: (slight haughty tone) You know…I’m just glad for my salvation. Thankful for the Cross.
Me: Well, I think it should be justification AND warmification ~ to at least 80 degrees.
When he went in the house for a second round of food, he came back out wearing his L.L. Bean orange down jacket.
|The L.L. Bean Jacket. Worn in late-November to cut down a Christmas tree.
In my opinion, it ought to be put away for good no later than April 1st.
If I have anything in common with King David, it is this.
Though I’m hoping the remedy for my perpetual coldness will be a home near the equator at some point. Or heaven, of course, where I’m certain it is a constant 85 degrees, because that is the PERFECT temp if you ask me.
Me: Hi again. I just wanted to find you and tell you thank you. Thank you for talking to me and for being so kind. I am from Texas, but I live in Massachusetts, and people just don’t usually do that there.
Sandy: WHY????? Oh honey, why would you want to live THERE????
Me: (laughing) Well, my husband is a pastor there. We moved there about 13 years ago to plant the church.
Sandy: Well, then it ought to be planted by now and you can come HOME! You are coming back home now aren’t you?
Me: No, we’re just on a 3 month sabbatical. The Lord is doing great things at our church in Massachusetts. The church is full of college students and twenty/thirty-somethings, and He is really at work among them. It was just time for us to take a little break.
Sandy: Oh, I know. I understand. Obedience is better than sacrifice. You’ve got to obey.
Sandy: I want you to know that this is the first time in two years that I have asked anyone to pray for him, but I’m asking you. OK?
Me: OK. Yes, I will pray for him. And thank you again for your kindness. I will send you a book soon.
Robert: The woman you were talking to in Whole Foods tracked me down on the way over here and gave me this.
Me: What???? What did she say??? This is crazy.
Robert: She said she wanted to give me something….for Christmas. Then she changed her mind and said that she and her husband had recently felt there was too much paganism in our Christmas celebrations, so she adjusted her wording to say she just wanted to give me something…..for me, for us.
Me: Oh. My. Goodness. That is just crazy. Did she say anything else?
Robert: No. She just grabbed my arm and said goodbye and walked away.
Kayla: What are you making making for dinner, Mom?
Me: Fish! Aren’t you excited!?!
Kayla: (groan) Why can’t we have the chili?
Me: The chili is for tomorrow night while I’m gone to Oklahoma. I also made pizza crusts for you guys for Friday’s movie night.
Kayla: I wish we could have the chili tonight.
Me: Nope. It’s your favorite tonight ~ fish! (sarcasm) The chili is for Thursday and the pizza is for Friday.
Kayla: Ooooooookkkaaaaaaaaaayyyy. (more groans)
Me: That’s right. We’re having the yucky meal tonight with mom ~ fish, but at least it’s not salmon. It’s cod. And the fun meals with Dad when I’m gone. Oh, and for Saturday I got the ingredients for spaghetti ~ one of Dad’s when-mom-is-away specialties!
Kayla: Yeah, but Dad will probably still pick out a bad movie for movie night on Friday.
Me: Well, at least you’ll be eating pizza with your bad movie instead of fish!
Kayla: Yeah, or kale or kombucha or those fuzzy beans….edam? edamam? edamame?
Robert: What award was Sandra Bullock up for last night?
Me: I don’t think she was up for an award ~ just a spectator/presenter at the Oscars last night. Actually, I don’t think she’s done any movies since Blind Side. Remember, when they interviewed her before the award ceremony, she said she hadn’t worked in over a year. She adopted her son, and has been focused on that ~ and going through a divorce as well.
Cooper: So did she retire?
Me: No, just took a year off, I guess.
Cooper: How could she take a whole year off from work?
Me: Sandra Bullock has made a LOT of movies and she got paid a LOT of money to do that. She puts the money in the bank, and uses it to live on when she’s not working.
Cooper: How do other people retire?
Robert: They work hard and save money for years in a retirement account. When they need to stop working, they use the money in that account to live.
Cooper: Can I just retire now?
Me: Well, how do you plan to buy food and clothes and a car and a house?
Cooper: Well, can’t I just live here?
Robert AND Melanie in unison: NO.
Been feeling pretty swamped with an endless to-do list this week. Yesterday, I was standing in the kitchen cleaning and preparing for our couples’ Bible study, and helping the kids with school, and having a little pity/reprimand party for myself regarding the obligations I currently have, misunderstandings by a few close to me, and overall overwhelming tasks ahead. Adding to this was the fact that I could not leave the house, because the Sears repairman had not arrived to fix the rattle in our brand new refrigerator – for the second time. He was over an hour late. Right about then, he called and apologized profusely for being so late.
“I am not a man who feels comfortable saying that I’m going to do something, and then not doing it,” he said.
Back to waiting. Back to being sad, overwhelmed by tasks, etc.
When he finally arrived, he came in, listened to the rattle, and said he needed to go out to the truck to get some tools.
“I’ll just head out to the truck now. And if I look a little dizzy walking out there, it’s because my wife just called me to tell me that my son-in-law died this morning.”
He began to sob.
“Oh. I’m so sorry. Was he sick?”
Through tears, he told me that his son-in-law had an accident of some sort when he was younger. It has caused arthritis and other complications. They knew that they would probably outlive him, but of course, you are never quite ready to hear the news that he’s gone. He was only 44. Wife. 3 kids. Then he apologized and headed outside for awhile.
“…casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you into his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1Peter 5: 7-10)
These are the verses that came to my mind as he went for his tools. I am not the only one suffering here. And really, am I even technically suffering? Everyone’s life has pain and struggle. It is the nature of this fallen world. Lord, please give me perspective. Give me gratitude for your many blessings, and give me joy even in the midst of extreme busyness, countless tasks, tensions, frustrations, and a very full life.
When he returned he said, “Ma’am, please forgive me for unloading so much pain and emotion on you. It’s just that the call just came and….”
“Not at all. Please, don’t apologize. In fact, what you shared just brought a couple of verses from the Bible to mind.”
(I did not know if he was a Christian or not, but still felt compelled to share.)
“There are a few verses in First Peter that talk about ‘not being surprised at the fiery ordeal among you as though something strange were happening to you’ and ‘knowing that the same experiences of suffering…’ “
“…are being accomplished by your brothers who are in the world.” he said, finishing my sentence.
“I’m very familiar with the Scriptures, Ma’am.”
We shared a knowing smile.
“Well, it’s just that, here I was, standing in the kitchen feeling sad and sorry for myself for a variety of reasons, and then you come in here with real pain and suffering, and it is just a reminder from the Lord to me that things could be much worse.”
“Well, I’m glad my situation could be a help in that,” he said.
Oh, what maturity. What trust. What understanding of the ways of the Lord, I thought.
As he worked on my rattling refrigerator, I asked a few more questions. He was going straight home after this job to be with his wife and make plans to be with his daughter and grandchildren. He broke down crying with his head in my freezer several times. I longed to send him home myself – I could live with the rattle a few more days – but he seemed intent on finishing the task.
While we talked, a couple of other verses came to mind…
While he went out to his truck to get my receipt, I wrote the verses down on an index card to send with him on his drive home to his grieving wife. I signed the slip, and handed him the verses…
“I pray that you and your wife find comfort in the Lord today,” I said.
“Oh, Ma’am. There IS no other comfort. Thank you for listening. Thank you for the verses.”
No, thank you, Lord. For this angel sent from you as a reminder of your love and grace. You never leave me in places of despair. You are faithful to give a gentle rebuke. You are sovereign over even the subtle wanderings of my heart and thoughts, and you draw me back to the only place of true refuge and hope. Thank YOU.
Kayla: “Mom, I finished all of my math problems, but I need your help on three of them.”
Me: “Oh, honey, I can’t help you right now. I have to leave in just a few minutes. Will you go and ask Dad to help you.”
Kayla: (grumpy voice) “Every time I ask Dad to help me with a math problem, I get it wrong.”
Me: “Kayla!!?? Go ask Dad. I’m pretty sure he can do fourth grade math.”
(Fridays are his day off. He had already been to the gym, and had just finished helping Cooper with some math – which I have to say, is much more of a workout than Planet Fitness could ever offer!)
Kayla: (grumpy attitude, angry voice, furrowed brow) “Daddy, I need help with three math problems, but every time you help me, I get all the answers wrong.”
Robert: “Kayla, that is not nice. I just finished helping Cooper with his math. And now, why don’t you now say something kind to build Daddy up, since you just hurt him with your words.”
Kayla: “Ummmm……you’re good at helping Cooper with his math?”
Robert: (hysterical laughter) “Kayla! You are a pill.”
Kayla: “Daddy, I need your help with one of the questions in my Bible study. Who did Elijah tell that it would not rain?”
Robert: “What? Help with a question on your Bible study?”
Kayla: “Yeah, and I figure since you’re a pastor, you can help me on this one.” (cheeky laughter)
Robert: “Kayla, you ARE a pill.”
I’m just thankful that he tries and is sometimes available when I’m not!)
Kayla: Mama, you have some black stuff on your teeth.
Me: Yes, those are fillings from cavities when I was a little girl.
Kayla: Will I have to get those sometime?
Me: Not if you take good care of your teeth and eat healthy food.
Kayla: Really? If I eat good food, I won’t get cavities?
Me: Really. Eating healthy food makes your teeth nice and strong.
Kayla: Mom, did you not eat healthy food when you were growing up?
Me: No, I didn’t.
Kayla: What did you eat?
Me: Oh…you know…chips, candy, Burger King, McDonalds….
Kayla: They had McDonalds when you were a little girl!!!???
Me: Kayla! Mommy is not THAT old!
Kayla: Did they have McDonalds when Daddy was little?
Me: No, I don’t think so…… 😉