Monday, July 12, 2010

Use Me.

Dear God,

These are the suffering for whom my heart breaks today, and I'm here asking why.

One is the most faithful man I know and yet, in his suffering, he is doubting. He wonders where you are and why his enemies chase him and won't leave him alone. He reads his Bible everyday and prays to you. He seeks out opportunities to be your ambassador. He preaches your word boldly, in and out of season. He needs grace and fears you haven't actually forgiven him as you say you have. He's done some bad things in his past. His body hurts, but is healing. He needs you to feed and shelter him and to expose him. He wants to know what he did. What did he do? Why is he suffering so? Are you trying to teach him something? Did he offend you or make you angry? Are you punishing him? Or are you seeking to redeem something in him? Are you seeking to get him to turn to you? He has, God! He has! Why so much suffering for him? And, why does the guy with the black suit and red tie, with slicked-back hair and a Tumi bag saunter by without concern? Or does he fight demons too? Just different ones? Would he say he is suffering?

Another, God, lost a child. Why subject her to that? Why not save the baby and her small, mustard seed-sized faith? She doesn't know you . . . is that why? Do you not have mercy on her? And, what about that baby? Is she with you, God? Do you have her safely at your side, under your wing, inside your grace and protection? What are you working on with her, what will you redeem? How long must she stay in the suffering and question her life and her hope? She's run out, and you know. You know, she's low and losing control. I wonder if she will see you in this. Maybe she will see you. But how? How will she? In knowing that everything is in your hands? Why couldn't you just have intervened and healed that sweet baby? Why? Did she anger you or turn her back? Is it punishment? Is it freedom? Can you, God, just lift the burden, just lift it from her so she can feel something move in her again, something alive? Please.

A third is in the midst of a relational crisis that he has no control over. Do we ever have control? No decision he makes seems to matter, and at the same time, he doesn't seem like he can make the "right" decision. He has a great heart, best I know. But something in him is broken or protective or scared. One of those. He can't seem to operate unless there is mystery and secret. Why? This is his suffering. He carries it with him. Most of the time, he's quite good at it. But it is so hard to watch and so hard to manage. It's like one of those big camping bags with multiple levels and pockets, all stuffed with things. Why not just lift it off and place it down? Why not just free him of it now, before it's too late? What has he done that the rest of us has not? Must he give it to you, is that it? Must he give it to you?

A fourth can't get out of her head. Voices talk to her and tell her she's not worthy of your grace because she's made mistakes. These same voices scare her into believing she's alone and that no one cares. But it seems like her dog loves her. Even he runs away from time to time, though. And, her health. Her health fails, she can't concentrate, can't listen, can't follow through. She runs on and on, getting scared that anyone around her, no matter who it is, will leave and never come back. In fact, most don't ever come back. She's too hard, they think. Too much effort. Meanwhile, she sits at home with her dog, no one to talk to and no one to complain to . . . but you. Do you hear her? Do you see her? Just tell me again that you do. Remind me. One of these days I'll believe you. As much as I try, I wonder. Why? Why does she suffer so much? Could you reach down to her, tug on her heart and say "I am here. Here I am." Please, God.

Lastly, is my friend who seems like she has everything she needs. Good job. Good health. Smart. Good looks. Makes money. Has a house, a car, a couple different i-pods, I think. She is the loneliest person I know. Most days she dreams of escaping everything, running away. But she's also the most responsible person I know. So, she only runs for a couple days and then snaps out of it. She surrounds herself with people who love her, but she doesn't quite believe that most do. She thinks they want something from her and that she can give it. She always does, but feels emptied by it. Few build into her so that her resources stay strong. She turns to you, loves you, praises you, cries out to you. Sometimes she avoids you, but knows you're still there. She's running low. Running out. Why not provide someone she would trust and know and give and take? There must be someone somewhere, mustn't there? It seems only logical. She prays about it. Wants someone to drop down out of the sky. But, so far, no one has come. She turns to you and wants you to be enough. But you never seem to be. She needs help, guidance, someone else who will pray alongside. This is her suffering. A loneliness that she can live with in the loud moments, but in the quiet, alone moments is too much to bear. She breaks down crying, stays in the shower for longer than anyone would, runs farther than her heart can handle. . . Why not relieve this? What did she do? Is it payment for things past?

Help them. These are people I love. Please just help them. Bring them out of the dark. Let them see beyond, let them see you. Why not? Why not a gesture of love, God? Why not?

Me? What can I do? I am just me, small. You are big, you are everything.
You plan to use me to show them you? Oh. I see. I see! You plan to use me!
Ok, I'm listening. Use me.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I lease a Nissan Pathfinder. It's not a luxury car necessarily. But I LOVE IT. Yes, I do. I love driving it. I love the way it smells. I love that it has leather seats and a sunroof. I love that the seats are automatic and there is a little button I can press so that every time I get in, the seat adjusts to just where I need it to be. The windows go down AND up automatically. I love that it has a third row of seats and a huge storage area. It can carry my golf clubs and bikes. My entire Christmas tree can fit inside without any part hanging out the back. I can plug in my I-Pod and listen through the Bose speakers. There is no navigation system or DVD player, but I don't "need" those things. Oh, it also has really great cup holders. And a two-tiered glove compartment.

Recently, I had to take the Pathfinder into the dealership to get its oxygen sensors fixed (don't ask because I don't really know). It took a while to fix because they had to order the appropriate parts, etc. Anyway, they gave me a rental. And the rental was a red Chevy Cobalt:

I am not proud of this, ok, but I got in this car and thought: I'm so glad this is not my car. It did not have leather seats or a sunroof. My golf clubs would have to stick out a side window. Three-quarters of the Christmas tree would poke out of the trunk. The windows were manual. The seats did not move. There was no place to plug in my I-pod. The glove compartment had just one tier. I thought that I might be able to pick the car up if I stretched a little beforehand. It seats five people maybe, if they're small. The trunk could definitely store a couple bags of groceries.

None of this is SO bad I suppose. I mean everything I've pointed out that was wrong with this car is based in utilitarianism. The Cobalt doesn't suit my many needs for an acceptable car. These things were not the real issue, though.

The real issue was deep and abiding and embarrassing. I was ashamed to drive this car. This car was not good enough for me and who I am. What would my colleagues think if I drove up in this Cobalt? What would my friends think? And, my family, what would they think? I assume they would think something bad had happened. They wouldn't look at me as the one with money and success. Everyone would think, and maybe I would too -- that I was moving backward instead of forward. After all, I should be getting better cars as my career moves ahead. My next car should probably be a Mercedes or BMW. Maybe eventually a Porsche. (I'm not even mentioning here the other issue this internal conversation raised because I could and should compile an entirely separate entry for this: my frequent ungratefulness about what I do have. Ugh.)

Somehow, who I am had become (in my own mind) what I drive, what I own. I realized I had tied my identity and my worth to stuff. This is so shocking and terrible. Yet, it is so human. It hurt me and made me apologize to God because it is a way of forgetting God, forgetting that He leads my life. I had forgotten that He says my life and identity are in Him: "[Y]our life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3) My identity is not my car, or the stuff I buy and own. My life is hidden with Christ in God. What an amazing little statement with such far-reaching consequences. Hidden means unseen, cloaked, covered. I am safe in God. He is cloaking me, covering me. When I try to tether my identity, my life, to the things I own, I am exposed, I feel uncertain. There is always a better car, or a bigger boat, an I-Pod with more memory and apps. So, I have to keep reaching and striving and moving and spending. It's tiring, really, to try to keep up.

I am so grateful the oxygen sensors on my car failed. God, in His wisdom, knew that this was the way to get through to me, the way to show me that my life is hidden not in the things that I own or the car that I drive, but with Christ in God. Now that I have new life in Christ, I am free to set my mind on things above, not on earthly things like Pathfinders and I-Pods. I don't have to keep striving and climbing and achieving and buying. My life is hidden with Christ in God.

I know that God will have to teach me this lesson again and again because of my humanity. But for now, message received. Praise God!