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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

God's Grace is Sufficient for Me.

Many of you know about my "Couch Nights".  I used to have them during deployment, and many spouses of deployed soldiers do this, but I still carry on this "tradition". I do it when I am lonely, mostly, when I am too tired or exhausted to get up and carry myself to my bedroom to fall in to sleep's caress.  When I am too lonely to feel the large bed without my husband in it.

I used to turn my DVR to play all of the "Through the Wormhole" episodes. I love Morgan Freeman.  I love his calming, soothing voice, his voice of reassurance and comfort.  Even when he talks about some tragedy, it is still so calming.  In Bruce Almighty, I was so excited to see Morgan Freeman playing God, because that voice is how I hear my God.  Calming, soothing, reassuring and comforting.

One night, I was up late, trying to laugh at SNL (which, well....doesn't happen too much anymore).  After SNL came this show "Your Move with Andy Stanley".  This show caught my attention. It made me think and understand things in ways I haven't yet. It made me.....connect.

I have since DVR'd episodes of Andy Stanley, and have watched them on my couch nights.  I generally find myself watching an entire series in one night, even if I have seen them before.  I find something new each time. 

Many of you know my story of my salvation, of my recognition of God's comfort and grace and redemption, and it was found in the tragedy of losing my husband.  Before I met Matt, I was agnostic. I just didn't know. I just didn't see how, if there was a saving, loving God, he would let all the bad in our world happen. He would let babies die, cancer sweep across wonderful people, bad people continue on.  How does this happen?

Matt was very secure in his Christianity, and he had no doubts who his Savior was.  He knew where he was going "someday".  We didn't go to Church, but sometimes, now, I wonder if that was more me than just his decision.  I wonder if my discomfort with this was something that he was just waiting to fade away.  I do blame myself for that sometimes, and wish that I had it together so that maybe we could have shared in this together.  I see families and couples at church now, and I am so happy for them, but filled with guilt and loneliness that I am there alone.  That my other half, my husband, is not there with me to share and learn, and then talk about it afterwards and apply it to our lives together, as husband and wife, and as a family.

Someone very close who has suffered this loss with me, once asked me how and why people find God in loss and tragedy.  While I was coming closer to my acceptance of God and Jesus during our marriage, I still wasn't there completely yet. I still had my doubts.  But after losing Matt, after receiving his "remains" (I shudder at the word) in Dover in the dignified transfer, I found Him. I felt Him. I felt the Holy Spirit and the protection and comfort in my desperation, in my sorrow, in my grief, in my resistance.  I found Him.  I haven't always done my best to seek Him out since then. I have had complete strife with Him, I have had arguments, bargaining, and literally cuss-out battles with Him.  But, through all of this, through all of my desperation, my sorrow, my grief, my resistance, my arguments, my bargaining and my screams, I have learned: He still loves me.  He still comforts me.  He still protects me.

This weekend, or month, really, I have had more "couch nights".  Several in a row.  Right now, the Your Move series is talking about Love, Sex and Relationships (interesting stuff- check it out).  I kept watching though, through more series.  I haven't had a lot of time to catch up on everything, but had break week this last week from school so watched. And listened, and maybe even transformed a little.

I came across this series on a particular night when I was feeling lonely, desperate, looking for answers, looking for guidance, looking for- any sign that God was there.  The series is called "Why God?"

Andy Stanley talks about when God is Inattentive, Uncooperative and Late.  How appropriate, right?  Well, he starts out by asking the audience, and even those at home, raise their hand if they felt that God had ever been described by these terms. I raised my hand, scoffing in a sense- "uh, yeah, obviously".  He showed that every person in the audience had felt this way.  "You thought it was just you!"

My apologies now for lack of verses in here. They are in the series videos, though. I recommend you check out this series, especially if you ever feel that Your God is letting you down (and even, or especially, if you aren't Christian): www.yourmove.is

Since many of you know my experience and my struggles, especially through this blog, you may be able to relate to the timeline I discuss. Let me tell you a little about my experiences, and how they relate to the stories told:

Inattentive
How many times did I pray? Did I truly pray for Matt to come home, safely, to me, to his family, to his friends? For our life to be able to be what it was supposed to be?  How many times, as a new-ish Christian-ish person, did I pray?  And how many times did I feel that He didn't even know I was there? That He didn't even know me?  And this was before Matt died.

When Matt died, I found God, I found the Holy Spirit, I found comfort, and I KNEW this is what it was, but boy did I think, for a while, that this might have been a one-time short spell.  I still thought that since God ignored me then, He didn't answer my prayer then, He was just trying to make up for it now.  Sort of like when you have a friend, they go through a hard time and you miss all of the signs, all of the times they have tried to reach out to you, and then the stuff hits the fan and you feel guilty, so then you want to be involved, to help, to make it up to them.

In the series, Andy talks about the story of John the Baptist's time in prison. John the Baptist thought that Jesus had forgotten about him, he couldn't understand why he was suffering, and why his cousin, whom he had devoted so much time, energy, commitment to, would leave him just sitting there, as if he didn't even know who he was. John even asked if Jesus was the savior that he had been telling people about- questioning that Jesus was who he said he was. Jesus then told John's messengers to go back and tell them what they had seen and heard, since John's view, perception, pain, was only as big as his prison cell- he didn't realize what was going on outside himself.

I can relate to this now, looking back. While I was going through my pain of losing my husband and, essentially, my life as I had wanted it to be, and writing it down in my blog and sharing it, I can see how this applies to me. So many times, my words had helped someone else. So many times, my words, my pain, my weakness, had shown someone else something that they could realize in regards to their own decisions, their own situations, and their own lives. Getting those emails, messages, conversations- that also helped me pull through. In a way, it helped me realize, even when I hurt the very most and was screaming at an ungiving God, that God was using my weakness to help others. I am very appreciative of that. This has glorified God, it has helped others see more clearly in their situations, and has helped them, hopefully, seek out God. Sometimes this has happened without me even mentioning His name.

Uncooperative
How many times have I prayed? While Matt was deployed. After he passed. After I got better at praying, how many conversations have I had that have said "I will do this if you just do that?" And God, while, I know He was listening, just told me "No".  I can tell you- I do not like to hear those two little letters said together to form a sentence.  No. 


Matt died 3 days shy of 7 months after he deployed. He was to come home in only 3 more weeks for his R&R, and our honeymoon. While we didn't want to have children until we had our ideal one year together as husband and wife and he could actually be home with me during our forming miracle, it was something that we wanted. We wanted to have a piece of each other, we wanted to be a family and have a family and share our family with our family and friends. I prayed and prayed and prayed that I was pregnant, starting from, oh, about 12 hours after I found out Matt died. Please, please, please, please, PLEASE let me be pregnant. Let me have this piece of him. I want to share this with our family, our friends. This is all I have left of a piece of him- his flesh and his eyes, and his nose, and his hair, and his, and his, and his....PLEASE GOD! Let me have this piece of him. "No." Then, ten months came and left since I had seen him. It's not a possibility. Eleven months had come and gone. Even God won't do this for me. I will not have this piece of him anymore. He is dead. God, please let him live. "No." God, please let me be pregnant. "No."

This most certainly applies directly to me. Absolutely, positively, directly to me, and to my son, Gabriel. I asked and asked and asked to have Matt's son, or daughter, as long as it was a piece of Matt. I asked and asked and asked that God bring Matt home, with this being some crazy mistake, mix up, secret mission, whatever- I would forgive all. So many times. God was uncooperative. I did not get to have his child. He did not come home. But, God showed His glory, his miracle when, 10 months after Matt's death, almost to the day, I took custody of my five week old little baby boy, my little Angel baby, my little Miracle, God's big show of His Glory. He was uncooperative in the moment so that He could show me, and many, many others, His Glory through my weakness, my strife, my loss, my pain, my sorrow, and my desperation. This little boy, my little Angel, my miracle, has made God's being uncooperative to me in my moment of need absolutely worth it. And not only did I already find God, and the Holy Spirit through Matt's death, but through Gabriel's presence, I sought Him. I found a church while home in Illinois and accepted that Jesus had died for my sins, and I was worthy of this gift, and sought guidance to find a church when I came back to my home in Tennessee. I am now a member of a church that provides me hope and healing, even, and maybe even especially, when I don't think I need it.

Late

Was God late with my son? Was he? Now that I know how his glory showed through with this, I cannot say that he was. When I was originally thinking about this blog, I was going to use the "late" as a way to discuss my son coming to me. I had not yet seen the uncooperative segment of the series. But now, as I write this, I realize that Late is going to be a message of a different order.

Andy talks about Jesus being late to heal Lazarus, and how he showed up after Lazarus being dead for four days, despite his sisters sending a message that Lazarus was ill. Mary and Martha (Lazarus' sisters) were angry at Jesus, and felt betrayed by Him, because had Jesus come earlier, He could have saved their brother. He could have healed Lazarus, and Lazarus wouldn't have died. Jesus told them that Lazarus would live again. Mary and Martha believed that he would, as they knew about the Resurrection and living in eternity with God. Jesus wanted to show them, and everyone around them, that through Him, and through God, and belief in them, anything could happen. Again, Jesus was giving the Glory to God for his works and his abilities. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, out of the tomb. Those watching were so astonished, Jesus had to tell them to take off the grave clothes from Lazarus.

Andy started this conversation, I should mention, that God is not inattentive, not uncooperative, and that "God.....is never.....Late". So powerful.

The best way that I can relate this back, at this time, to my situation, is that maybe God was late getting to the aircraft, maybe he was late saving those on board, and that he just wasn't on time. I remember the first time I read the story of Lazarus about 1.5 years after Matt died, I just kept thinking and hoping that this meant he was going to bring Matt home. My home. Not God's home, my home. But now I know differently. Now I know that God has a purpose, and that I do not know it. But, I feel in my heart, now, even though I have been told millions of times, that I will know the purpose someday, that I will understand it all someday.

Maybe the late part is that if God had saved Matt, and the others, then our children would have fathers. Our children would not be "fatherless", we would not have the burdens of raising our children without a male figure, would would not have the burdens of doing every. single. thing. alone. Maybe that is what I am to find in this? But, that gives me hope that, because God is never late, I won't always be alone. We won't always be alone.

It still hurts. It still stings to know that Matt is dead. It always will be difficult to know this and to live with this pain. But, with what I have learned, especially from this series, is that, truly, God is never late. All I can think here is that God does have more in store for me. More in store for Gabriel and I. I don't know what it is. But, I can have faith that no matter the pain that I am going through, He is not late in delivering what it is that I need, that Gabriel needs, and even that you need. Through the chaos, there is a reason, and it is truly all in His time. I cannot tell you how many times my pastor has said this- again and again. I guess I am pretty stubborn and I need to hear it that umpteenth time for it to sink in.

I hope that this might bring hope to many in despair. I hope that this might bring clarity to situations that are out of our control. I hope that this might allow others to have a little more faith when it is small, dwindling, or hanging by a string. My faith has been tested in ways that I have never thought possible, that I have never thought a loving God would put me through. But, now I can see why. He has a reason, and it is so that the word can get out about Him, people can seek Him, and people can be saved by Him. The reason is so that he can be glorified, even in failure, weakness, trouble and despair. Through weakness, God's glory can be shown. God's grace has shown me so much, and will continue to do so. As Andy says, "In my weakness, He is Strong."

Even if one person can relate to this message, then my pain has value.

God's Grace is Sufficient for Me.