The Study With Friends community includes a team of bloggers who bless us with authentic and honest musings about how their faith informs their life, and how life informs their faith. These blogs offer insights and advice from the heart. They are experiential. For instructional insights, visit our bible study page.
We’re very fortunate to live in a neighborhood which was once the site of a tree farm. Our property is inhabited by a variety of very old, very tall trees which cover everything in a blanket of shade. I’ve learned after 20+ years of living here, not to waste time trying to grow sun-loving plants. The only exception is the single corner of our house which gets the right amount of direct sun to keep a purple wisteria vine happy and flourishing. It has enthusiastically climbed all the way up the side of the house, sending its pendulous blossoms cascading elegantly over the roof.
I recently had the privilege of listening to a series of lessons on the Israelites: From the Exodus to the Promised Land. The teachings highlighted how God delivered his chosen people from slavery in Egypt, led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land, and then His dealings with them as they wandered in the wilderness another 40 years for their lack of faith. (I remember reading these stories when I was a kid and marveling that these Children of Israel never seemed to learn from their mistakes and how they kept repeating them; and how they complained!) The teacher of the series commented on their ingratitude and posed the thought, “I wonder how that made God feel?” Then he challenged us to consider how WE make God feel in our lives, and how we can be just as ungrateful as the Israelites were in the desert.
Sid has wanted to be a “baby doctor” since she was four. She often wore a set of scrubs. She donned a surgical mask. There was an oxygen mask that she had fashioned out of another toy for a completely different purpose. She was like MacGyver in her bedroom turning her toys into medical equipment. She performed many operations in her bedroom. I am happy to report that all of her patients survived. She never lost a baby on the table. Following an operation, I often had goldfish crackers and chocolate milk as a snack for her.
But sometimes I get to meet these kids in their tough places and make an impact that lasts forever. Recently, I was working with a kid who was stuck in a low spot. She mentioned that she got her Bible out the other night to read to help her find faith. We started talking about our favorite verses. From quoting John 3:16 to Proverbs 3:5-6, to quizzing me on the shortest verse in the Bible (“Jesus wept.” -John 11:3), this 10 year old knew her stuff. She told me her favorite character in the Bible was Solomon. When I asked her why, she said that ‘Solomon prayed and prayed, and could have asked God for anything, but he chose wisdom. I told her, I thought for a 10 year old who got dealt a pretty cruddy card, she sure had a good handle on wisdom.
When I was brand new in my faith, I met an older woman named Margaret. Margaret’s face always seemed to be lit up with the love of God. The light of the resurrection, new life, and hope came glowing through her when she entered a room.
In my youthful naiveté, I assumed that since Margaret was such a joyful person, she must surely have a wonderful and easy life. Imagine my surprise when I learned that she was married to a confirmed alcoholic, a difficult man. I began to look more closely at her face and listen more closely to her words and I could see small signs of her suffering from time to time. I heard it in her prayers for her husband. I saw it in her compassion and activism on behalf of others who suffered. She wasn’t hiding her suffering.
So I started thinking about what God would say to all of this. My knee jerk was to think of the passages of Nehemiah on social justice, because societal discrimination is at the forefront of this intersectionality conversation. But then I quickly realized what a stunted vision I had taken, to look only at Nehemiah for the counsel of God’s Word on social justice. Isn’t the Bible full of intersectionality? And furthermore, isn’t it full of God’s favor for those who experience discrimination?
Today has been one of those days from the start. After a couple of snoozes on my bedside alarm clock, I got up to turn off my phone alarm over on the dresser (does anyone else have to put their alarm across the room?). Standing at the foot of the bed, I considered my options. My hair was too dirty to go one more day without washing; that would have been another 30 minutes of sleep. I could skip my morning workout, but I had skipped yesterday. I literally prayed for God to help me just stay out of bed. And so it went…
Unfortunately, while I was busy being blown away from the excitement and opportunities available to my son, he was busy being overwhelmed at the thought of having to decide his “career path” at the age of 14. I was just so excited for him, as was my husband, that we assumed he was as fired up as we were. We realized quickly that he was starting to internally freak out because, at the ripe old age of 14, he didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up! Thankfully, he is blessed with a mother who also doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up either.
I took it very personally. I began to argue with her and engage in conduct unbecoming a Christian. She finally left, and I went on venting to those around me. A little while later I was talking to someone about having to miss church the next day and he joked that I was a bad Christian. I defended myself by saying, “But I love Jesus.” Even as I said those words I remembered that difficult customer. How could I say I loved Jesus if I wasn’t following His command to love one another?
Having completed the medication prescribed on an earlier doctor’s visit, and feeling very little relief, I called his office and was told they would “work me in” that afternoon. Wisely, I took along a book: Liz Cutis Higgs’ 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path. The focus of the chapter was Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” While reading Liz’s comments on this verse, I had to confess that my heart was anything but cheerful. Twenty-one days of illness had worn down my body as well as my spirit.