Friday, August 18, 2017

When I Wrestled With God

Hey Friend,

This past weekend I wrestled with God.  It wasn't just a little tussle; we went the full ten rounds.  I am a fairly patient person, but with tear stained cheeks and punctuated frustration in my voice, I aired my grievances with God because, frankly, I was beyond weary....I was physically and emotionally drained.  Nothing left....nada.

I began:  "Lord, I've lived all 56 years of my life with OCD and other variations of an anxiety disorder as well as episodes of depression.  I went through a long, dragged out, painful divorce.  I watched helplessly and prayed fervently as one child went down a destructive, prodigal path that lasted years. I now have another grown child going through many struggles that has put a strain on our relationship. I've had to bury my dad, help my mom - as I am the only child. I've lost my two best four legged friends.  

I've had 4 major surgeries in 5 years.  The 3rd surgery left me with residual nerve pain in my foot that I lived with for three long years until I was brave enough to go through surgery #4.  Now, three months out from that surgery, I am still in quite a bit of pain and most days can barely manage to walk to the end of the cul-de-sac and back.  I wonder if I'll ever walk without pain and, just for the record, I've had it!!"

After the airing of grievances, I went on to remind the Lord what all I had done (my litany of righteous acts).  "Lord, I've walked in your ways for many years and for the most part have walked the straight and narrow.  I honored my marriage vows and I raised my two children, as best I could, to love You and follow Your precepts. I led MOPS groups, taught Sunday School, led Bible studies, did mission work, hosted small groups.  I am in your Word daily and I write about it in my weekly blog.  I started a Christian school in the devil's back yard in the Middle East so that those orphans might know your love.  What more do you want from me?"

"I know people who don't even acknowledge You, yet they seem to prosper."  

"It's just not fair Lord.  In fact it really stinks.  Is this what I get?  I don't even want to go to church this morning because my praise would be hollow.  I deserve better than this...."

To say that I'm stubborn, is an understatement.  This wrestling match (with pauses only because I was exhausting myself) went on for two days.  

Genesis 32: 24-28:

Jacob Wrestles With God:

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip would be wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."

But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

The man asked him, "What is your name?"

"Jacob," he answered.

Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome."

I notice several astonishing things about this passage.  First, Jacob's boldness in wrestling with God (or a messenger of God).  Second, Jacob's tenacity that he wrestled all night long until daybreak.  Third, Jacob had the audacity to say that he wouldn't let go until the "man" blessed him.  Finally, God did not vaporize Jacob on the spot, but instead gave him the honored name, "Israel" because he wrestled with God and man and had overcome.

After my painful wrestling match with God, I take great hope from this passage....Why?

1.  God is big enough to handle my pain, frustration, and even anger.  Even if
     I become angry with Him, He will not abandon me.  He loves me no matter
     how ugly or ungrateful I can be at times. 

2.  God will let me engage with Him (even if it's wrestling).  If I had truly given
     up on God I would have simply walked away.  God honored Jacob bringing 
     his grievances to God, rather than walking or running in the other direction.

3.  God did not break Jacob.  He didn't vaporize him on the spot, but there was
     a tender spot on his hip that remained because he was touched by a holy 
     God.  

4.  There is a spiritual battle going on, and if you are doing good things for 
     God's Kingdom, the enemy will come after you with a vengeance.  Therefore,
     it often seems like the most faithful often suffer the most.  The enemy is not
     threatened by those who don't work to further God's Kingdom.

5.  God richly blesses those who suffer and even those who wrestle with Him. 
     Unlike the world, God looks on the heart and He knows those who listen to
     His voice and He will bless them because they have overcome in strength
     beyond their own. God will and does give us more than we can handle so 
     we will come to a place of reliance and dependence upon Him.

6.  God is a good and loving Father who cares, ultimately, about our relationship
     with Him.  His patience is long lasting.  His love is long suffering.

To answer the question, "Lord, don't I deserve more than this?"

Frankly, the answer is "No."

I am a sinner and even with all my righteous acts, I don't deserve anything good.  In fact, because of my sin, I deserve death.  But, because God, in His goodness has had mercy on me (and you). He has imputed grace upon us through the death of His Son, Jesus, on the cross.  Jesus paid the penalty for my sins.  Jesus took what should have been coming to me.  I needed this reminder and an attitude adjustment.

I have been given the gift of salvation - a gift I do not deserve and cannot earn.  This alone, is more than enough for me.  I have been given the greatest gift of all.  All else pales in comparison.

And, as for "fair" and life not being "fair".  It isn't.  The rain falls on the just as well as the unjust. As my husband would say, "Fair" is where you go to get cotton candy.  True enough. 

What about you?  Have you ever wrestled with God?  Do you think He's big enough to handle your pain, anger, doubts, frustrations?  What lessons did you learn?  Did God bless you in some way or do you have any revelations you'd like to share?  What did He reveal about Himself to you?

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you and thank you that you are a God who is big enough to handle all my grievances.  I'm thankful that you are mindful of my frame and know that I am but dust.  Forgive me Lord for when I get caught up in what I don't have instead of looking at what I do have (my many blessings) and say "thank you."  Thank you for the ultimate gift you gave me, which I don't deserve - the gift of my salvation.  Let that truly be enough for me.  This world is but the blink of an eye.  Enable me to cling to you through the trials until I can revel with you in eternal glory.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed.....

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

Hey Friend,

Ever since I was little, I've been dreaming about things I wanted to be when I grew up. Of course, as a very little girl in ballet class, I wanted to be the ballerina center stage in Swan Lake.  Then, there was the phase of loving Dorothy Hamill, and wanting to be a professional ice skater.  Deep down, I knew I wanted to be a wife and have a family.

Throw in the phase of wanting to be a flight attendant, beach lifeguard, and various other professions; there finally came the day of picking a college major. I hated math, so that eliminated some careers right there.  I always loved writing and words, so kind of half blindfolded, I picked English and Communications. (With my Father's suggestion of, "Be sure to take a good typing class," thrown in for good measure).

The emphasis has always been on "Being" something.  The typing class did get me into a temp job that led to being a Relocation Specialist and then a Relocation Director for a large firm.  So I "directed and managed".  

Then came motherhood.  I admit sometimes I struggled with "just being a mom".  It didn't sound impressive until God impressed it upon my heart what a crucial and important profession Motherhood is.  So, I took pride in the fact that I was "molding and shaping" young lives for the Lord.

Then I taught for a period, so I was a "teacher".  I also taught Bible studies and Sunday school so "teaching" was my profession for some years.  That was until the succession of surgeries sidelined me.

Ready to climb the walls during recuperation, I felt called to return to my first love of writing and started a blog (which you are now reading).  I remember the day I proudly held business cards in my hand that said Beverly Duncan (my name at the time) and next to it was the word "Writer".  A writer....after all, this was what I was destined to be.  I had a college degree to prove it.

My blog then led me to start a Christian school in the Middle East (long but interesting story).  So now I was "President and Founder".  Impressive, huh?? You'd think by now, I would have satisfied that question of "What do I want to be when I grow up?"

While recuperating from surgery #4 and being laid up, yet again, I had A LOT of time to spend in God's Word (partially because I couldn't "Do" much of anything else).  I have to tell you that this time spent reading, meditating on, writing down, and praying God's Word began to speak volumes into my heart.  

There was a closeness and presence with the Lord that I have never really felt before.  

Each morning I couldn't wait to dive into His Word to see what He had for me that day.

I could relate to the deer panting for the living water....the more I drank, the more I craved.  

The verse in 1 Samuel 3:9 kind of summarizes what I was experiencing.  Much like Samuel, who heard the Lord's voice in his sleep, I responded:

"Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."

That was it...I knew what I was called to be and what I wanted to be when I grew up....a professional listener.

Think about it...wouldn't it be great - the next dinner party or back yard BBQ you attend and someone asks you, "So, what do you do?"  And, you respond, "I'm a professional listener."  Wait for it....dead silence.  

Crazy as it sounds, that's what I want to say.  

Every other "profession" I've named is a passing profession.  Even mothering is a profession designed for eventually letting go.

But, what stays?  What remains?  What is something I can do and never grow out of or get tired of?  Sitting at the feet of Jesus and letting His words speak directly into my heart so that I may bask in His presence, be in relationship with Him, and know, without a doubt, that I was made and designed to be fully loved by Him.  There is truly nothing in the world that can beat this.

Wow, it kind of makes my desire to someday write a book, pale in comparison. There's no title I could put behind my name on a business card that could ever compare with "listener". 

Admittedly, most titles are somehow wrapped up in "pride" and "self".  Listening is the only profession I can think of that is truly selfless. 

God's Word gives life.  When I read it, meditate on it, pray it, write it down, and share it....I am bringing forth life.  Life for me and life for others.  

But, before I "Do" something with it, I first have to be willing to listen.

Before I write it for others, I have to listen to it for me.

I know what I want to be when I grow up....a professional listener.  

Beverly Rihtarchik, Professional Listener, LPL  (licensed professional listener)....you have to have a designation acronym.

"Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening....."

I'll let you know how it goes when I share that at the next gathering I attend and I'm asked, "So, what do you do?"

What about you...what do you want to be when you grow up?  What is it that gets your juices flowing?  Have you been searching to "be" something when what God wants you to be is right under your nose?  I invite you to take a moment and ask God what He wants of you....what is He saying?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your patience with me as I seek and search and strive to "Be" something impressive.  Help me to understand that the best thing I can be is your disciple - to sit at your feet and listen to your words that speak directly to my heart.  Let this be my greatest desire.  Enable me to set aside my prideful desires and seek what you would have me to do for the glory of your Kingdom. Thank you for loving me so much that you simply want to be in relationship with me and spend time with me.  Give me the desire to never want to stop listening.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed....
                                                                Beverly Rihtarchik, Professional Listener, LPL