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Not About ME

"God works in mysterious ways."

We've all heard that expression. Many of us have used it, too. It's sort of a catch-all phrase for the funny, quirky ways things work out in life. Sometimes it's meant to be an encouragement when things don't go as planned.

Like so many sayings, it's so common today that the meaning is often tuned out. But it is, in fact, true. Romans 11:33 says,
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!"

That goes for the big things in life, as well as the small.

This past week, I went to go see a movie with a friend. I see lots of movies. Movie watching is basically a hobby of mine, because I love stories. This story was about a Bengali Indian family living in America, and it was good. (It was called "The Namesake," if you're curious.)

Anyway, in the course of the movie, a couple of tragic things happen to the family (as with all families). The son, Gogol, the titular "namesake" of the story, says something both times, to two different people. He says, "It's not about you." The first time it is to a girlfriend, who doesn't understand his change in attitude in his grief.

Somehow, that little phrase stuck with me.

It made me think (as I believe all good stories do). How often do I make myself the center of my problems? Whatever I'm going through, there are other people being affected. But I usually look at it from my perspective alone, what my needs and desires are.

The fact of the matter is, it's not always about me.

In a way, that's a relief. I tend to internalize so much, take things so personally, over-analyze things to death. I know that I do this. But hearing a phrase like that reminds me that I don't have the whole story if I'm only looking at a situation from my perspective. When I shift the emphasis, I am freed of that burden.

With friends, for example: it can be so easy to take things personally if someone doesn't call, or seem to notice if I'm upset, or listen to me. And certainly I believe all relationships need to be about give and take. But I should be free to give, without expecting so much of others. Remembering that it's not about me does just that. It frees me to care about my friends and family without needing something in return.

So am I saying God spoke to me through a movie? And a secular one, at that?? Oh, yes. The line "It's not about you," came at a very timely moment for me, and was then backed up as I read my assigned scripture for my Bible Study.

Oh, yes. God does indeed work in mysterious ways.


All The Time

Well, it's amazing.

I know I've been mentioning my struggles lately, my stress and frustrations (as much as I can on a blog without dragging out all the details!). I hope I don't sound like I'm complaining.

The truth is, Life is Hard sometimes. And I know I'm not the only one who can attest to this.

So, there are these things, these areas of my life that I've been wrestling with. Just so you know, I'm on top of the "Christian" thing to do. I pray and pour my heart out to God. And I've already mentioned that I'm trying hard to do the "praising in the hard times" thing. I'm still working on it. Can you feel completely miserable and still profess to believe that God is God, and in control? Well, if so, I'm slogging my way through it.

I don't share this stuff just to vent. I mean, I do think it's important to have people in your life that you can tell things to. For me, talking it out with others really helps me get things in perspective. (Because again, things are always worse in my head than in reality.)

I share it because it's Real, and it's what's going on in my life, and I don't think that praising God through the bad stuff means that you act like everything is great when it's not. When I pretend like I'm fine, as I'm prone to do, to avoid pity, I am depriving others of the Reality that Life will get rough. I can't act like things are great all the time and that I never wrestle or struggle, or those who are struggling will think there is something wrong with their faith. And that's simply not true. Every person in the Bible who had an active relationship and vivid encounter with God also had times of hardship and struggle. It happens. And we could get into theological discussions of why--whether God is testing us, or allowing it to grow us and bring us closer to him (hard things to tell someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, and not very comforting), or if it is the work of this fallen world and our Enemy. But the bottom line is that God is still in control.

He is sovereign. He is in the big things and the small things. And most of all, he is good.

I started out my day stressed, frustrated, and tired. Things were weighing heavily on my heart. I was wrestling with my situation and circumstances, and things that are simply out of my control. And yes, I was praying, and acknowledging God's control. But I was still under attack.

Then, in a heartbeat, just when I needed it most, I received encouragement. This is the other reason I share about my struggles. To show how God works through them. Not one, but two people reached out to me with very needed words of encouragement. God is good. So very good.

And isn't it amazing how He uses us, as flawed and selfish as we are, to lift others up? That is so very important, such a vital part of our purpose here on Earth. Just being there, being available, listening to a friend--it sounds cliche, and yet it saved me today. God knew just what I needed. And so I praise Him.

God is good--ALL the time.


Stress and Blessings

I love this time of year. Honestly, I do. Spring is my favorite season. I love seeing everything come alive again.
Right now, at my desk, I have a vase full of daisies and daffodils. I bought them for myself on Monday...because I was completely stressed out.

In the midst of this wonderful time of regrowth and renewal, we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus (commonly called Easter). It's such a beautiful holiday, so profound and soul-stirring.
And because I have to plan and participate in the worship services this week, I haven't given it hardly a thought.

I love being involved with worship. I truly do. But some of the more Administrative (as opposed to Creative) duties are just draining. Stress!

On Sunday, I admitted my stress to my 20somethings group, as I stood in front of them, leading worship, just me and my guitar. I didn't really want to admit it. I didn't really particularly want to say anything to them, because I didn't want to draw anymore attention to myself. Yet I found myself sharing about my struggles and stresses, because I believe that in order for worship--any worship, not just the singing kind--to be authentic, it had to be honest.

You know what happened? My group prayed for me. (I shouldn't call them "my" group. I just meant the group that I am part of.) Blessing!

The last song we sang was "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord," in which we sing that no matter what we're going through, we will praise God. It's a profound thought, one I have already admitted I struggle with.

So, I wonder: was the stress in my life a blessing in itself? Or was the response of the Body of Christ the blessing?

Afterward, I went out with a friend of mine; this very friendship is what I called "a God thing," because He brought it about so unexpectedly and suddenly. It was so nice just to have some quality girl time. Talking about relationships, eternity, struggles....and when I think of just over a year ago, when I hardly had anyone--outside of my family, and here in Pgh--to even begin to discuss such things with, I am amazed. Blessing!

BUT were the years of loneliness in themselves a blessing? Or was it a blessing to see God's hand bringing people back into my life?

I don't pretend to know the correlation between Stress and Blessings. Certainly it is Biblical to look at the struggles in our lives as something of value, because of what they will produce in us. But we don't want stress in our lives. We don't want struggles and hardships. I know I don't! And yet...and yet. If I could do it over again, would I want the easier road? If nothing else, dark times give us the opportunity to see God at work in our lives more clearly.

I don't have the answers. But it is something on my heart, something that keeps coming back. What do YOU think?