It’s been a strange 2-3 weeks.
And insanely busy, I might add.
I know some of you have wondered where I’ve disappeared to. You’ve sent me Facebook messages or emails. Thank you so much. You are so kind to check on me, to encourage me. Your words are very treasured!
I’ve fought a hard battle the last few weeks. I share that with you, because maybe it’s a battle that you find yourself fighting at times, too. It’s a battle of feeling like a failure. No, not feeling like a failure. Being a failure. At looking at your life and seeing the wrong, seeing the ugly, seeing the things that disgust me about myself. And as a result, sinking into a kind of despair that creates doubts about God and the truth of scripture. Not necessarily that there is or isn’t a God, but doubts of how that God could possibly love someone as depraved as I find myself to be.
It’s not a good place to be.
And, in the midst of it, I found myself doubting scriptures truth, because it was easier to doubt that scripture was true than to do the real work necessary to fight the battle back to what I know must be truth.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes it is so incredibly difficult to think that the God of the universe could love me. Me! When He knows my every thought. He knows everything I have ever done, my entire life. He knows my motives, my sins, my daily failings! How could God–WHY would God love such an ugly creature as myself? One that fails her family, her friends, her children–and fails God Himself, time and time and time again?
This morning I returned to Romans 8. Quite frankly, I don’t visit that chapter often, simply because its theological fullness intimidates me. It is packed so tightly. There is much in there. I believe it is John Piper who refers to it as “The Greatest Chapter in the Bible”. That’s great for him, but he’s a LOT smarter than I am.
But I found these verses in Chapter 8 that I just couldn’t let go of this morning. That I spent much time writing about this morning.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You see, I’ve been stuck on Psalm 51:10 for quite awhile now, which states:
I have prayed this verse dozens and dozens of times over the last 3 weeks. You see, I don’t want to have an unclean heart. I don’t want to have a wrong spirit. But that’s all I’ve been able to see–my failures. And though I prayed these words right along with the Psalmist, I just could not see how God would even want to answer them in my life. I didn’t see how He could, because I know that no sooner do I repent of some wrongdoing, that I turn around and fail all over again. The cycle never ends. How could God love such a person?
But then, after reading an article that had the Romans 8 passage in it, I found myself pouring over those verses–verses 35-39. Searching for an exception. Looking for the one thing that would say “Yes, but this doesn’t apply to you because you have failed too many times.”
Guess what……it’s not there.
It’s not there.
No where in Romans 8:35-39 does it say that my repeated failings as a parent, as a friend, as a church member, as a follower of Christ will separate me from His love. How can that be? How can that be? I don’t understand it. Because when I look at myself, I see someone very unloveable. Very unloveable. Yet these words, that must be truth, say that nothing–not even my failures–will separate me from His love. And even more than that—all these other things listed will not as well: tribulation, distress, things present, things to come (and, though it doesn’t say it, I am assuming today that it means things past as well)—none of these things will separate me–or you–from the love of God.
I don’t understand it. I don’t deserve it. And it’s too big for me to even know how to be grateful enough for it.
So I’ve printed up these words and have taped them to my wall above my work desk, along with other important scriptures that I so easily forget. To remind me that God loves me. No, it doesn’t change my faults or my failings. It doesn’t change my daily need to repent. It doesn’t change how much I hate how often I fail. But it does remind me that even my ugliness doesn’t separate me from God’s love. Nor any of the other things listed in Romans 8:35-39.
Post Choir Update: 9:14 pm Wednesday night—-Driving home, I was struck, out of the blue, by the concept of forgiveness. What a strange entity it is. What a very difficult thing it is to understand. That God would forgive us. Completely. Utterly. In spite of our failings. No, this does not give us a license to sin. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It should spur us on to greater obedience. To a greater desire to glorify Him in all that we do and say. And then I got to thinking about our forgiveness of each other. How imperfectly we forgive, but how beautiful it is when we do. And how incredibly meaningful it is, to know you are forgiven, when you have wrongfully hurt someone, whether purposefully or inadvertently. When someone grants forgiveness to us, it is a precious gift. It is a selfless gift. It is undeserved, yet given out of grace and mercy. And when we receive that gift of forgiveness from someone, we mirror the act of receiving the gift of forgiveness from God our Father. The same is true, when we extend the gift of forgiveness to one who has wronged us. Tonight, I am especially grateful for God’s willingness to forgive me. Over and over again. And for the gift of forgiveness given to me from others. Because it is a picture of salvation. It is a picture of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. And that, my friends, is not nothing.
Update on the Duffer Crew:
These last few weeks have been a whirlwind as well. We are quickly approaching Timothy’s graduation. Wow. I know having a graduating child is a big deal for anyone. But there is something about being a single parent and watching your child succeed in spite of difficulties that makes it just a tad bit overwhelming. Timothy has over come a great deal. Not as much as many. But much more than others. An incarcerated father, Aspergers, Learning disabilities, and having a mom who, like mentioned above, fails him often. But here it is, May 2014, and my oldest son is running headfirst toward graduation.
Much has happened for him in the past 3 weeks. First, he successfully completed a 3 night run of the Musical “Shrek” in the lead role of Shrek. My “a bit awkward, a bit socially challenged” son, stood on that stage and acted his heart out, having the audience laughing uproariously. He sang perfectly. He had us believing he WAS Shrek. And on the final night, a line of little kids waited patiently, all wanting to hug Shrek and get their picture taken with him. Yes, proud mama moment! And it’s not over yet…he and the amazing cast and crew of Shrek will be taking their performance to the Fringe Festival in Scotland in August, where they are only 1 in 7 American schools to be invited!
But that’s not all. Several weeks ago I posted on Facebook that Tim had taken the practice ASVAB test at the Navy Recruiter’s office. He disappointingly fell two points below the minimum to be accepted into the navy on that test. To say he was discouraged was an understatement. A week after that test, he took the real ASVAB test at school. We were both very nervous. However, there was no need to be. He recently received his scores—a 78! The minimum to get into the Navy was a 30. The minimum needed to be considered for the nuclear program was a 75. We were stunned. And thrilled. He’s going to get to achieve his dream of a career in the Navy! During the first week of June we will return to the recruiter’s office (this time with a Navy man from church who has graciously volunteered to walk him through this process) and make the commitment. Another proud mom moment.
But these are all just achievements. Oh, I’m not saying they are not amazing, they are, especially with the obstacles Tim has overcome. But the real point was made my Tim the yesterday when I took him to dinner to “celebrate”. These were his words to me: “Mom, I never dreamed my life would actually work out. That I would have a lead in a musical, that I would graduate, that I would get to go into the Navy. Can you believe it? Mom, the only answer is that it must be God!”
And, my friends, what other explanation could there be? Except that nothing separates us from the love of God. And He must have a plan–for all of us, even when we don’t sense Him. Even when He is silent. Even when despair is thick. Even when we don’t see the next step.
The rest of the Duffer crew? All are doing well. Keli continues to work as assistant manager at MensWearHouse in Hampton, and she and her boyfriend continue to minister every single Sunday to the residents at the Carey House, providing them a worship service and a meal. Mark continues to do very well in school, and just informed me 30 minutes ago that he thinks it would be “pretty cool to become a Dr. and move to Africa and open a free clinic there”. Yeah, Mark, that would be pretty cool. And Bethany? She continues to write, continues to sing, and continues to seek out God and love her friends with her huge heart.
So, as Mother’s Day approaches–I don’t celebrate my motherhood, because honestly there is not much to celebrate. Ask my kids, I definitely will never win the “Mom of the Year” award. But I do celebrate the four amazing children that God has in my life, and their incredible resilience, determination and hard work. I am so blessed.