The last several years have been heavy with increasing weight as they moved along. The burdens have been hard to bear. Often, my back has felt broken by the yoke and burden.
I frequently speak of Corrie Ten Boom's book, The Hiding Place. I am particularly moved by the passage where she deals with thanking God even for the flea infestation in the concentration camp barracks where she and her sister, Betsy, are imprisoned during WWII. I won't quote the passage here, but it is very inspirational. (You can find it at this link on my Caring Bridge journal if you are interested in reading it.) In the passage, Corrie and Betsy are discussing I Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus." Betsy begins praying, listing things that are "wrong" in their lives and thanking God for them. Corrie struggles, but prays in agreement - until Betsy thanks God for the fleas. The biting, crawling fleas that cover their beds, bedding, every inch of their living space. Corrie says she just can't be thankful for the fleas. Betsy reminds her that the Scripture says ALL circumstances! Grudgingly, Corrie thanks God for the fleas. Weeks later, God's reason for allowing the horrible infestation is revealed and Corrie is truly grateful.
I think this is probably one of the most difficult of God's expectations for man - especially when the reason is never revealed. We don't like it when bad things happen! The concept of being thankful for inconveniences never mind in horrible circumstances is completely foreign to us! Nonetheless, there it is. I Thessalonians 5:16-18. Not only that, but the Psalms and Proverbs are full of admonitions to praise and give thanks to God in all things. All throughout Scripture, we find this concept. So, we strive to be thankful in all circumstances. I often say in my prayers, "even the fleas, Lord, even the fleas!"
But like Corrie, there are those things that we cry out, "This is too much!... there's no way even God can make me grateful for the fleas!" My life has been filled with fleas in the last few years. The last few months have been particularly infested. Let me tell you about why I am thankful for a specific infestation, my broken relationship with Harlan, the man with whom I thought I would spend the remainder of my life serving God and each other as man and wife.
Before betrayal and pain entered our relationship, their was love and devotion. Their was grief healing for both of us. Their was flirting and fun and long discussions about everything from theology to our days' events. It was easy to be thankful then! He had helped me begin to emerge from the blackest, the absolute worst time of my life, the death of my precious Al. Through him, God lit a light in the darkness, gave me the will to live.
Then, I discovered that the man I loved did not exist. He was imaginary. The true man emerged. I was shocked, devastated. I cried out to God. I begged. I refused to believe at first. At times, I still refuse, am tempted by his calls asking for reconciliation, crying that I have hurt him beyond what he can bear. And my heart was broken yet again. The darkness settled back around me, deeper, blacker than ever. I prayed - continue daily to pray - for him. I will do so until God releases me.
I have not been angry with him. I sometimes wish I could be. It would have made the loss more bearable. But that is not the way God chose to teach me thankfulness in all circumstances. He has revealed much to me through love.
- Through Harlan, God brought me joy when I thought I could never be happy again. He gave me light to get through the intense darkness.
- He showed me I could love again!
- During my relationship with this man, I drew much closer to God. First through sharing a devotional time with him each morning, then, as he experienced a very difficult time in his life, through intense prayer for him and his situation.
- He taught me a little more of His great love for us. I learned that I could care so much more for someone else than myself. Just as God cares more for us than Himself. And not just as I care more for Chrys and Kim because they are my children, no, I loved him purely, just for who and what he was, outside of the parent child relationship, just as God loves us purely and for who and what we are. Not just because we are His children, but because He truly loves us.
- He has taught me stillness in His presence, careful listening.
- He has shown me that my level of trust in Him was shallow and result dependent. I am learning to practice blind trust in Him. When it doesn't make sense. Because He is God!
- He has shown me that the pain of loss is the worst kind of pain. First Al, then Harlan. The double loss, the worst pain I have ever known. The betrayal. The loss of dreams. The harsh reality. Only a tiny taste of the pain He feels when He looses one of us. I think this is the greatest lesson! My loss of Harlan was by choice, not by circumstance as with Al. I could change it. I could go back to the relationship without changes. When we turn our backs on Him, it is our choice. While He could force us into relationship with Him, he does not, but lets us choose. He could lower His expectations, but that would make for a shallow relationship. He wants depth! He experiences more pain than I can begin to fathom when we repeatedly turn our backs on Him! And the multiple losses!
The double loss I experienced by my choice is nothing compared to the loss He experiences thousands of times each day by man's choice to turn from Him! How He must grieve!!! May I never do it to Him again!!!
- He has honored me by calling me to intense prayer for someone. The most intense prayer calling I have ever experienced. And prayer is one of my spiritual gifts, I pray intensely a lot. What an honor and privilege! Thank you, Lord!
- He has shown me that man cannot satisfy. In our humanness, we will always fail. My satisfaction, true satisfaction, can come only through Him.
- I have learned that faith is a choice that I make. It is either strengthened or weakened by adversity. Which is my choice.
- I have learned that deep love is both easy and hard. It is easy because there it is! I love Harlan. Period. Regardless of what he's done, I love him. It is hard because there it is! In betrayal, it doesn't leave, it just hurts, even, in some ways, grows as we seek to find a way around it. Just as God sought to find a way around man's betrayal through His Son, Jesus Christ, loving us all the more in the process. And when we continue to betray, He continues to love, seeking US! Can you believe it??? HE seeks US!!! He gave everything! Sacrificed! Paid our penalty! And He still comes looking for us! (Revelation 3:20 NLT, "Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear Me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.") And so often, when we receive all we can get from Him, we turn on Him. And still, He continues to love us, woo us, seek our love in return. How amazing! How gracious! What great, infinite love!
- Finally, He took me where He wanted me by steps. A number of years ago, I was working at a law firm. I liked my job, I liked the people with whom I worked, but I was becoming bored, restless. I had advanced as far as I would be able to there. I was offered another job. A very significant pay raise. A better title. I made the move. Just six months later, my position was eliminated. Just in time to apply for my position at Amarillo College, the best job I ever had! Now, I have to be honest. I would not have applied for that job straight from my law firm. I would have viewed it as a step down. And I intended to use it as a stepping stone until I could get back into the legal field. I stayed until Al's illness brought me home as his caregiver. Would still be there were it not for that. It was the place I was meant to be.
I met Harlan on Christian Mingle. I'd have never gone to any other site. But after Harlan, when I decided to get back on that horse, I didn't want anything to be the same. So when I got back on the sites, I didn't go to Christian Mingle. My sweet Michael didn't either. I'd have never met him without my Harlan experience to slow me down for the months it took to bring me to where Michael was so we could find one another.
So, silver linings. They really are there! Go find yours!
Thank you, Lord, for the fleas! May I always be grateful in ALL circumstances!