Purpose, Glory and Grace

I was considering a different title for this post like: “Seeking God despite my Failures”, but decided to stick with the current title above.

I’m writing this post because grief (a small word for that horrible, scary, overwhelming ocean of pain) can really make you question the reason for existence, question God and several other things.  And, if you are anything like me, you’ve probably asked yourself why you’re here, or what your purpose is on Earth. Maybe you were six, or 16 or 26.. Or maybe it’s been a continual question in your heart. For me it definitely started at a young age. I honestly don’t think I ever understood or truly heard the purpose until I was 25. I spent plenty of childhood Sundays in Sunday school class, so I likely could have heard the truth about our purpose, but I didn’t commit it to memory. Not knowing this left me with a hole in my heart. I tried to fill the hole with a job, money, starting a family, but even before experiencing great loss and grief, I was discontent and felt like I lacked value or purpose. The biggest lack was in that area of joy. I could enjoy my family, don’t get me wrong, but it felt shallow, like I was missing something.

I remember 2007, being eight months pregnant with Lila (our second child who passed away), and sitting on our Pastor’s couch. They had invited us over to dinner because we had questions we hoped to get answers to. I explained to him and his wife that night that I wanted to be saved, but something about the gospel wasn’t clicking for me. I didn’t completely understand, and I personally felt ‘stuck”. I bit my lip and held back tears before confessing that my problem wasn’t believing the gospel, but believing that I could be saved.

What I did believe in these early stages of my messy walk with God was that I wasn’t good enough to be loved by God.

In six short months I had gone from

Don’t call me a sinner, I’m a good person”

to

I’m ashamed of my past life choices, why would God ever accept me?”

That’s when he said it.

‘It’s a gift.’ He went on to explain that gifts aren’t always given when someone deserves it, sometimes they are given because of the grace of the giver. (I quickly associated this with buying our oldest child Christmas gifts even though she had produced a series of tumultuous tantrums from October through December.)

It finally clicked. God gives us grace, love and the hope of a future with Him because of Jesus, not anything we have done.

Though, in return, we show obedience, gratefulness, and that’s where the fruit comes in. (Or – at least, it should..) Our good deeds and works don’t earn us a spot in Heaven. But instead, our obedience shows God our love and thankfulness to Him. If we didn’t love God, why should we be allowed in Heaven? And if we truly love someone, we show it, right?

Finally I understood that our purpose on Earth is to Glorify God, to love God and love others. I hadn’t known that, and it was causing me so much strife.

It’s hard not to get caught up in a legalistic mindset where we decide what we should and shouldn’t do. It’s equally hard not to be overly casual and start making choices based on a moral code we make up ourselves instead of checking the Bible and our hearts to see if we are on the right page.

I have struggled with that part for 10+ years. Have you? Knowing I have to guard my heart and watch my tongue can be hard (even my typing/blogging figurative internet tongue included) lest I be a stumbling block to another soul trying to find the truth about Jesus. What I want/need/do/think should all be put through my filter in my heart asking myself, does this glorify my Great God. I have to hold myself accountable.

Sometimes I feel intensely guilty for my words. I ask myself how they would look as a tattoo across my forehead. Would I be proud to wear them, would God be honored, would my kids be willing to claim me? Thank goodness for Grace, because a lot of times the answer is a big, fat NO. Insert Heavy Sigh here, I have failed DAILY. I won’t lie. But- and I do mean BUT- I can keep trying. I have a forgiving God who gives me repeated chances to try again.

Who doesn’t want to hear this when they get to Heaven,
‘Well done, good and faithful servant!” Matthew 25:23 NIV

We’re not perfect, but we can certainly be loved by our Great God.

 

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My Messy Walk with God

I grew up in a loving home and attended church off and on at different denominations.  As an adult I hadn’t been to church much and after a bad car accident had that feeling of “if I had died today, where would I have gone?”   It ended up being the perfect timing for going back and learning about God, I had no clue my child would be vanishing from my life in just a few short months and that I would be crying out to this God I was just getting to know.

I came to faith and decided to pursue God, to really get to know Him, to read the Bible, to try and shape up my life.  Not legalistically, but practically -I had always heard that hymn (and maybe you’ve heard it too- How deep the Father’s Love for Us) that convicts me and makes me think.

Here are the lyrics, I’m highlighting the ones that grab my heart the hardest when I hear them.  If you prefer to hear it, here is a beautiful version from two sweet ladies from our church (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0a5Oveznmc)

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
 We are often told that Jesus died for our sins.  I had heard that my whole life, but I will be honest.  Prior to getting to know God through the Bible, I thought this whole blue marble should be focused on me.  I was selfish, I was lost, I HATED being told I was a sinner.  I couldn’t understand why my basic life would be called sin.  I scoffed at the legalistic and the faithful equally.  I couldn’t understand why my “little issues” needed to be changed.
Then it hit me.
Or rather, the Holy Spirit paid me a visit.  It wasn’t my own mind telling me I needed to change, someone was working in my heart.
It was all fresh and new, learning to serve others and think of others instead of myself.  Learning not to just do what everyone else is doing because it’s “normal”, I was in the middle of meeting a new version of myself and thinking differently about things when my sweet baby girl just vanished.  Seeing the lifeless body of your child is the most horrific soul agonizing pain.  You immediately want to demand to see someone, like- who’s in charge?!  Who can I talk to that can get this reversed?!  You can beg, plea, cry, scream, blame, but at the end of the day- it DOESN’T CHANGE.
Within one week of this experience a friend of mine who believed in God said to me, “You just became a Christian, why would God do this to you?”
Ouch. 
It’s a question a lot of people think, but not many would say it out loud to a grieving mother.  But it was something I had thought over a thousand times.
So I asked Him,  God, how could you let this happen to me?  I know I used to go my own way and act more like the world, I know I didn’t seek after you until I was 25, but why?  Why now when I have come to know you better, and wanted you so desperately.  Why would you let my life crumble this way?
Questions were asked like that daily, and it was through prayer and reading that He showed me many answers, although some I may never know until I am in Heaven and then they might not matter to me anymore.
I believe God allowed this tragedy in my life to shape me, to teach me it’s not all about me, to open my eyes to the hurts and sorrows of others.  Could He have taught me another way?  Maybe, but perhaps it would not have been so profoundly effective.  In 10 years I have met so many other Moms who have experienced this massive loss.  Some lost their children to SIDS, some cancer, some stillbirth, medical issues, doctor negligence, you name it- there are so many heartbreaking stories.  So many people who just NEED SOMEONE to listen, NEED Someone to understand, to know they aren’t alone and someone has walked in similar shoes.  I may never have been a listener if my life hadn’t taken those turns.  God doesn’t just shape the life of the person experiencing the tragedy, but He can do so much more with that.
God gave His own Son to bring us to Him. He didn’t have to do that.  He made that choice.  He could have looked down at all of us being “sinful humans”, selfish and narrowly focused and just shrugged it off allowing us to be separate from Him forever.  But He didn’t.
He didn’t have to offer us eternity with Him.
But He did.
Back to the hymn- my voice was a mocking voice my whole life until age 25.
My sin held Him on that cross.
That song was written for everyone who is human, and that included me whether I could acknowledged it or not.
I personally was a scoffer.
But I had to come to terms with the fact that God did not take my child to hurt me.
He did not take her to crush me.
He built me up, brought me through the fire, made me stronger.
I think about my actions now, I think about eternal value and consequence.
I struggle daily and fail often. 
I have hurt other people, I have failed to see needs of fellow humans- but I am certainly so much further than I was 10+ years ago when all I could see was myself.
I want her back more than anything, but I can accept God’s will for my life, and I know it’s not the end.  There is an eternal life offered where I can be a part of a family that doesn’t experience pain.  Trials here on Earth are worth it when they lead us to a perfect forever.  I’ve come to find that I grieve my existence here on Earth more than her departure.  I want me whole family to be where she is.  She’s with her creator, the maker of everything majestic and beautiful, the keeper of the stars.  This Earth is filled with terror, sadness, selfishness and broken-ness.  She is far better there than here.  My heart aches to see my family reunited with her and be in the presence of the Lord.  So for now, I can choose to not be angry with God for the lessons and the trials, but to be grateful and anxious for the next life.  To purposely seek joy when my heart wants to dwell in pain.  Everything we do is a choice.  We can choose to glorify God or wallow.  Some days I still want to wallow, but I know which ones leads to happiness.
If you’re in the middle of this right now, it’s okay to be mad, it’s okay to ask questions and seek answers.  It’s okay to admit to other people and to God that you’re not fine, and that healing is messy and takes forever.  Don’t hide your pain, it’s okay to be a real person- because you are.  My personal plea to those who are hurting and mad at God is for them to let Him know.  Talk to Him every minute that it hurts, through your anger.  It can be hard, but He’s the one who can heal your aching heart and bring you understanding.
He’s also the one who can grant you eternal life with those you’ve lost here on Earth.
And if you just can’t bring yourself to do it, you can talk to me.
I’m here for anyone who needs a listener.  Just message me, I’ll give you my number.
Love to you all,
If I could personally take your pain, I would, because I hate for others to feel it. 😦
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