I have this nasty tendency to look at God’s gifts as a burden to bear rather than a joy. On a good day I might see it as a joy but as soon as something hurts or feels uncomfortable I immediately look at God accusingly and demand, “Why did you give me this anyway?!” or “Why’d did you ask me to do this?!” Rather than look at it as a gift I only see it as hurtful. I am ashamed to say that this tends to happen quite regularly. Today, however, is one of those rare days where I simply look around me and at this big beautiful world and simply rejoice.
The good days tend to happen as a result of doing the things that I know help my heart, things like being honest with myself, with God and those I love about where I am, how I feel and who I am. I am always in much better form if I have done my journaling and shared my life with God; shared the struggles, my nasty feelings and thoughts and invited God into all aspects of my heart and my life.
This past week has actually been a very difficult one for me. I have felt a heavy cloak of despair and darkness drape across my shoulders and its weight has caused me to feel severely exhausted. When I feel this cloak drape itself across me it is like I am trapped behind a mask, my authentic and and joyful self is locked behind a mask of despair. When this happens I know that going to God is the only thing that will lift the cloak; however, I struggle to go to God because digging into my emotions is a long and exhausting (in a positive way) process. By the time I go I am so worn out it is like I am limping home but as I begin to share what is on my heart and mind, no matter how many times we have gone through the same conversation (God’s patience is never-ending and I am incredibly thankful for that) I find the peace my heart was seeking.
Today, I felt the cloak lift, today is one of those rare treasures where despite everything the world looks a little brighter and I feel the love that is present a little bit stronger. I just finished reading, for the second time, The Shack by WM. Paul Young. A difficult but magnificent read, The Shack, much like Redeeming Love, is a book that I constantly return to and will continue to do so throughout my life. The Shack is full of beautiful little gems of advice about life, love and relationships. This post is not a review of The Shack, I will do one of those at a later time, but this post was inspired by the things which stuck out to me as I read it. A brief background of the book is, the main character, Mack, loses his youngest daughter in a brutal and violent manner and he distances himself from life, those he loves, and God. He receives a letter that is supposedly from God asking Mack to meet at the place where his daughter was murdered, an abandoned shack in the woods. Mack shows up to the shack and meets God in a beautiful, incredibly difficult but healing manner. This time as I read the book I really focused on the themes of love and relationship.
I truly believe God has the most wonderful sense of humor, as I am writing a post about relationships I am rewarded with a lovely couple sitting in front of me at a coffee shop. As I glance around to gather my thoughts I keep catching little things this couple does. I am a stranger, an outsider looking in, and yet I can see the affection that each one holds for the other. I see the beauty of a simple hand hold or a loving smile and it touches a part of my heart that feels like it has been locked away for too long.
I am going to let you into my heart a bit and tell you that one of the beautiful gifts that I haven’t really graciously received is the gift of love and relationship. In the past few months something and someone beautiful came into my life and this person and our circumstances challenged me to face one of my biggest fears–letting my walls down and learning to love without expectation. There have been times, sadly not enough, that I have joyfully praised God and wholeheartedly rejoiced in the gift of love but sadly there have been too many times to count that I have glared accusingly at God wondering why would she ask me to carry this burden and tried to shut my heart off to the love (yeah, God really must have a lot of patience to deal with me). Try as I might my heart won’t let me quit, my heart will not let me reject this precious gift that God so lovingly enriched my life with. The gift of a loving, difficult, sometimes hurtful real and magnificent relationship is one that I am thankful for, even on the days that it is hard.
As I read The Shack this little tidbit stuck out to me, “‘It’s simple, Mack. It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life. What we are doing right now–just doing this–and being open and available to others around us. My church is all about people, and life is all about relationships. You can’t build it. It’s my job, and I’m actually pretty good at it,’ Jesus said with a chuckle (The Shack, p. 191).
As I was driving over the bridge that connects so many different areas of Charleston I thought about all the incredible relationships that have enriched and colored my life. I have so many people I love who are spread all over the United States and all over the world. When I send my snail mail I send letters to a variety of states, zip codes and countries and that is such a beautiful thing. How lucky I am to live in a world where nurturing a relationship with someone thousands of miles away is as easy as picking up the phone or sending an instant text message or email–I can even see someone face to face who is in a different country and timezone!
Just today I had a friend say he would drop a book in the mail to me so I don’t have to go out and buy another copy (he lives in another state and we are still going to share his copy of the book), I am going to be doing a long distance book club with a friend who lives in another state, I email and write letters to a dear friend who is a few hundred miles away from me, I Skype fairly regularly with a friend in another country, I communicate with someone nearly everyday via snapchat–the world has shrunk! I have relationships that are sustained in seemingly unconventional ways and yet they nourish my soul and feed my heart. As I drove over the bride that connects Charleston, Mount Pleasant, North Charleston and West Ashley all together I just thought about how wonderful it is to be able to have relationships and to be capable of loving. As Jesus said in The Shack, “life is all about relationships.”
“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do no just live in a world but a world lives in you” (Frederick Buchner, Telling the Truth but I discovered this quote in The Shack p.227).
As we near one of my favorite holidays, Valentine’s Day, expect more posts centered around love and relationships! I would like to write more for this post but I am afraid I have already rambled on too long!
May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!
Peace, Joy, Blessings and Love,