Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Honesty is the Best Policy

I am not a confrontational person; generally when people say things that aggravate me, I just smile and say, "Aha." Like last December, when the checkout lady at Wal-Mart (who had 14 teeth and hadn't bathed that week) said, "Why don't you have socks and shoes on your baby?" I smiled and said, "Aha. Didn't notice that. Silly me." All the while gritting my teeth and thinking, Mind your own business. It's Texas, for crying out loud. It's 55 degrees outside! But I'm a good Southern girl; I'd never be rude.

Lately, though, I've discovered that honesty really is the best policy sometimes. I've heard a lot of religious cliches in the last few days from well-meaning, good-intentioned people: "God will never give you more than you can bear." Really? Because this week, I'm seriously doubting that. And when you say that, it says to me that I should just buck up, spiritually, and shoulder the load without being dramatic or emotional, since I obviously have been given something I can bear. Or "God works all things together for good." Okay, but you take what I have on my plate right now and say those words with a straight face. And "Things will all work out in the end." Yeah, I know that, but the end is a really, really long way off, and today is hard enough that I can't see the light at the end.

And before this week, I would've never said those things out loud. But this week, I've said them--with a smile, of course. (Southern hospitality is not a cliche!) Until this week, I'd never had anything given to me in life that prompted me to ask God "Why?" I'd been fortunate so far; my parents are still living, my husband and I have a great relationship, and we're taken care of financially. But this week, things have happened so that I've asked it. And asked it. And asked it again. and I've been angry--with God--don't gasp here. But what has really bothered me is how many people have hinted that I surely haven't asked why, and I surely haven't been angry, because I'm a "good" Christian. And I tell them, bare-bones honest, that I have. Several times. And that I probably will continue to either until I wear out or get an answer. And if I don't get one here, I'll certainly have it on my mind the minute I step into eternity.

And you know what? I'm still here. God hasn't turned me into a pillar of salt. He hasn't stricken me with leprosy. As far as I can tell, He's still listening to me. He still loves me. He hasn't answered me, but He hasn't turned away, either. Growing up, I was really angry with my parents more than a few times. Downright furious on a few occasions. But I never stopped acknowledging that they were my parents, that they loved me, and that I loved them. And I am venturing to guess that I can be downright mad at God, and still have a relationship with Him. I can still say, "This isn't fair!" to Him, and He's not breaking off communication. He's not withdrawing His hand from my life.

David seems to be one of the favorite Bible figures, and I don't think it's because he was king, or because he killed Goliath. I think it's because he was brutally honest with himself and with God. He had some grandiose victories, but he also made a few glorious mistakes. Bathsheba, remember? He was a lousy father. He couldn't build the temple because he was a man of war. And in his psalms, he lays it out more than once that he was filled with different emotions, and many times they weren't "religiously correct." Yet he was called a man after God's own heart.

I can't say that I'm going to stop being angry right away. And from what I've heard from others who are already down this road my family is just beginning, after I calm down, I'll get mad again. And again. And maybe even again. But that doesn't mean I don't love God. And that doesn't mean I'm failing spiritually. I think it just means that I'm human, and that this road called life sometimes stinks. And to hide those raw emotions away will just make my journey harder to accept, and it will tell others who are going through rough times that they need to suck it up and move on. Being false is not helpful. It's not compassionate. Being real is.

What's reassuring to me, today, is that just as my parents didn't disown me when I asked them, "Why?" or shouted, "That's not fair!" or didn't see the value of a decision they'd made for me, God's not going to, either. He's big enough to deal with my anger and my questions. That's why He's the parent, and I'm the child. And on days like today, that's comfort enough.

24 comments:

  1. That makes me feel so much better to hear you say you get mad! At 53 years old, my daddy suffered a life-altering stroke. I was 33 weeks pregnant with my daughter (after having preterm labor & bedrest with my son at 34 weeks) & I felt like a ton of bricks had been dropped on me! He was in a physical rehab hospital for 5 weeks. I had Isabelle while he was still in there & we were released from the hospital the same day. He got out before me & rushed over in his wheelchair to meet his new (& only) granddaughter! In the beginning, I felt he would be a "testimony"--a "miracle" & he was to the degree that he was STILL ALIVE, but part of me feels "let down" because he is not fully recovered. August will be a year & the effects of the stroke are so effident! I keep wondering why it happened to him---he is a good man! I've never met another person in my life who is as selfless & hardworking as him!! I don't understand!! And though my heart breaks about this often, I've never wanted to say that I was ANGRY about it...somehow, felt that was "wrong". Thank you for reminding me that God understands all of our emotions, after all, He made us!! And maybe if I can be "honest" about this, I can FINALLY find a peace about it all!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lacey, thanks for sharing your story--I think that anger is one of the stages of grief, and that if we don't face each stage, we never get to move on. I'm glad to hear that my story helps someone else a little.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sarah, I don't know exactly what you're going through, but I know exactly where you're coming from.

    The well-meaning people who say things like that are misinformed. Hopefully, they wouldn't be intentionally misquoting scripture, but they obviously lack understanding.

    We are practically guaranteed more than we can bear in 2 Timothy 3:12 "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," and if that were not the case, why would we need Him?

    Job certainly didn't "buck up... without being dramatic or emotional." He asked God why. He got angry with God. And he never turned away from God, but trusted Him all the more.

    I admire your honesty, and I hope you'll pardon me if this sounds cliche, but "I'm praying for you." Really. Often.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I sit here, wiping tears from my eyes reading this post. My post today immulates just a portion of my life that allows me to relate. My daughter is terminally ill. I am devestated by it, but at the same time a good christian wouldnt struggle with the whys, she would be glowing in the promise of the miracle. Its been 5 years, and still no miracle. But that must be because I struggle with the whys, which in turn taint my faith. The vicious circle never ends.

    Thank you for this post. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for immulating what My heart is feeling right now.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Saying "I'm praying for you" is never a cliche. Ever. It's a blessing. And you need to be angry - it's a mother's natural reaction when she's facing something that seems unbearable. You're handling yourself and your feelings with grace and God knows that.

    xoxoxoxo
    Aunt Barb

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sarah you are allowed to feel how ever you want because it's between you and God and that's it. I've been asking God that question "why" a lot this past year and still no answers.

    I know we are not going through the same situation in our questions as to "why" with God, but here is a scripture that I've been dwelling on for quite some time now...
    "For I know I have plans for you,'declares the Lord', 'plans to prosper you not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11.

    Prayers to you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Years ago, when we were at the beginning of what would turn out to be a LONG journey to adopt, we had been selected by a birth mother to adopt her baby. It all seemed destined. She and her family attended the same church we did when we visited my DH's parents. She lived in that area. She was due to deliver the same time we would be in that area! It was meant to be. Then we had a little trouble with her agency and what we needed to finish with OUR agency, so we rushed back to our home (14 hours away) to do the last minute stuff. She called us when the little girl was born and asked us to name her. Four days later her social worker called to say she'd changed her mind and was going to keep the baby. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me, and I felt like GOD was the one who had done it. I felt like He'd set everything so perfectly for us, and then laughed and said, "nope, sorry." I was ANGRY!!!

    At the time, I had been praying a rosary every day in Thanksgiving for this child, and after three days, I told my husband that I hadn't been saying my prayers because I was so mad at God. He, being the wise Christian man he is, said, "Maybe that's just when you need to pray." I said, nope, I'm too mad. He said:

    "God is big enough to take your anger."

    So, I went into the bedroom, closed the door, and yelled. After a few moments, I broke down and cried. I felt God telling me that all along, He'd been telling this mom to keep her baby and she didn't see it. He was sad and grieving with me, but best of all, He let me yell and still loved me!

    While I don't know your situation, I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't ask why or be angry. God is big enough to take it!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ah, Sarah! I wondered where you had been. I'm so so sorry.

    Keep being honest. Be angry ... it's ok! I think, in fact, that David's questioning and sometimes anger is the exact reason why he was a man after God's own heart.

    I love your honesty, God loves your honesty, and those on the road behind you need your honesty.

    And you can tell the checker at Wal-mart exactly where she can put those socks! (Oh, sorry, did I say that out loud? Maybe that was a bit to honest.)

    ReplyDelete
  9. What was the code again? I'll just sum up my opinion of this post in two words-
    beautifully refreshing.

    The encouragment others can draw out of honesty is amazing. And I think your closing remarks say it best, God is big enough to handle your honesty. He isn't turning his back, removing his hand, or shutting you out just because you're telling him how you really feel. He is just loving you- with the wild, passionate, unending, love a father has for his child.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sarah,
    I love how you are so honest with how you feel. And you know what? God already knows what you're feeling, so tell it to Him. Cry it out to Him. I think He understands grief and anger.
    Lamentations 3:22 reminds us that "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies are new every morning."
    And may you be encouraged that your precious family is being prayed for....all over.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'd love to leave a comment in reply to each one of your comments, but it's 11:30 and I need to snatch sleep when Addison's sleeping--but Addie (the blogging Addie, not my baby Addie!) I have to say that on yet another hard day, your socks comments made me laugh. Almost out loud. And that is a big accomplishment! You are too funny, friend! Thanks:)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you for sharing with such honesty. That will encourage so many people--including me.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wonderful post. I would venture to say that it is hard to have a real "relationship" with Jesus without having real, raw emotions.
    I know you are reading Captivating, but when you finish it I strongly suggest "Your God is Too Safe." Sorry I do not have the author's name here with me...but I just completed a chapter where he talks about doubts and how they are a part of our walk.
    Ask God your questions. He can handle them. Then, listen for His still small voice. May He grant you peace!

    ReplyDelete
  14. On a lighter note, I just tagged you over at my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You know what's funny, I tagged you earlier today for the same meme as Shannon! Hee Hee!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sarah - I know this echoes what Theresa said a little bit, but I have been praying Jeremiah 29:11 for y'all all day.

    Love love love to you and yours....

    ReplyDelete
  17. I hear ya about the socks. My kids never kept socks and shoes on and I can't tell you the number of rude comments I got. Same with the kids sitting in the shopping cart--something mine would never ever do. I was unloading my groceries one day and my son was standing up in the cart (as per usual) and my daughter was a baby and crying...

    A stranger waiting in line behind me taps me on the shoulder and says, "did you know if he fell out that might cause a head injury? you should really make him sit down." It was all I could do to not burst into angry tears. Would a better solution have not been to say, "hey, let me unload your groceries for you so you can tend to your kids. I see your hands are full."

    And about the scripture misquotes--it drives me crazy to have people tell me God won't give me more than I can handle. Um, show me where it says that in your Bible please?

    My life verse refutes that very statement:
    "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead." 2 Corinth 8-9

    God does give us more than we can handle so that we can trust in His strength rather than our own.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wow, that's all I can say. No, I take that back. I have total respect for you because you are so honest. Do you know how many people would never be able to do what you just did? You are extremely brave...I admire you. :) xoxoxoxoxox

    ReplyDelete
  19. Sarah, I was very moved by this post. I actually read it yesterday, but waited to comment. I have always admired you, as an older cousin, and after reading this,I remember why.

    Many people think that in order to be a true Christian example, you must always portray utter happiness, and be positive all the time. My opinion is that your honesty is one of the best Christian examples I have ever been exposed to. If a relationship with God is a true relationship, and not just "religion", then it should encompass every emotion on the spectrum. This includes anger. I think that it is not only okay, but natural to feel angry at God. After all, who hasn't been angry with their father before? Besides, he knows what's in your heart, regardless of what you tell others, so why not just be honest?

    I truly admire you for your bravery and your strength- as a mother, a wife, and a Christian.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Anger is one of the 10 basic emotions from God. That is why God says be angry, but sin not. When my baby was in the hospital at 3wks I felt God was silent. My family and friends said those very things to me. I just felt like giving them a big POW! But now when I reflect on that time. What they said was true. But when you are in the midst of it that's a different story. Sometimes the most precious thing one can say during a trial is "I will be praying for you." enough said.

    ReplyDelete
  21. WOW! What a sermon! You have helped me go through the problems that I am now facing! I was just sitting her reading your post with tears runnging down my cheek and cold chills all down my arm. Thanks for being such a role model!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm sorry for your painful trials and pray that God will give you the peace and wisdom and patience to endure. I heard some of those same cliches when our 2nd son was born and felt exactly what you wrote. No one else could possibly understand what we were going through. With God's grace, we've come a long way, and I'm comforted to know that He will never let go. I hope you feel that comfort too on the days that really feel rotten.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm new to your blog... just found it two days ago. But I too have a child who's been sick. And I feel and have felt for 3 years the exact feelings you are feeling and you've put them in such perfect words. My little girl was diagnosed with pancreatitus at 18 mo and is now 4 yrs old. She's scheduled for another surgery in 1 week.

    I don't have much to tell you to give you the strength that you crave but I do know going through this that God has always carried us and my little girl too. Yes, it's been horribly hard but he's given us such joy in the midst of it all. As a mom with a child who's been sick, I now appreciate EVERYTHING more than you can imagine- the smiles, the hugs, the tears, the chaos. God has given us such a gift to be blessed by these beautiful little girls. No, it's not fair and I'm not sure why it's happened but I do know that they have a very special place in our Father's heart and He has a might plan for their lives. Keep you head up and make sure to take care of yourself too - you need to be strong and healthy yourself so you can be strong for her. And remember this too shall pass.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comment!