moss-1570171__340

Like You Wrote It? When You’re Not Living The Dream

Like You Wrote It?

It didn’t sit right.

That America’s funny, wholesome family man- The Cosby Show was one of 3 sitcoms mom let us watch- would say something like that didn’t fit. It sounded smug, arrogant, proud.

I won’t comment on Bill Cosby’s fall from grace and imprisonment, except to say, It’s all so sad.

But Cosby’s comment does make more sense now.

These are not the exact words I heard on the TV interview two decades ago, but these are attributable, and they’re close. When asked about married life, Cosby said with that big easy grin of his,

We are living it now just like we wrote it.

It hit me wrong. Because even then, fresh out of grad school, newly married in my early 20’s, with a house and a job and good  friends, I may have been living somebody’s dream, but I knew I wasn’t living mine

My story had already taken some twists and turns I couldn’t have imagined, much less written 20 years ago. Let’s just say, I didn’t think I’d be playing these roles, with the “cast”  now. I’m not (mostly) living my dreams. This isn’t how I wrote the story.

Which is really no matter.

Playing The Part

Because, my life is not really my show.

C.S. Lewis explained like this: We do not know the play. We do not even know whether we are in Act I or Act V. We do not know who are the major and who the minor characters. The Author knows. We are led to expect that the Author will have something to say to each of us on the part that each of us has played.

The playing it well is what matters infinitely.

God wrote us each into this story, where He wanted us. He’s the Author of our salvation (Hebrews 12:2) and  the Director of our hearts (2 Thessalonians 3:5). And He casts each of us in his grand play to the praise of his glory (1 Corinthians 7:17).

And when we are on our set stages- and in our waiting stages- playing our roles with joy and thanks, we make Him look great.

Testify to Grace

Paul said something 2,000 years ago that ties all this story-play-dream stuff together for me.

In Acts 20 Paul shares some sobering last words with some old friends, church leaders from Ephesus. He explain that he will go to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to him there.

In other words, Paul didn’t know what turns his story will take. No worries, though, because not knowing the story didn’t stop him from playing his part well. Heres’s how he summed up that part (Acts 20:24):

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

Is that the aim of our lives too?

Different Stories, Same Aim

Our stories are so different. But, John Piper explains, in Christ,

We do all have the same essential goal: to magnify the glory and the greatness of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. This is the racecourse all Christians are running. The turns and the terrain are different. The aim is the same.

This means we embrace the fact that we do not write our own stories. We don’t know the next page, let alone the next chapter. The way there is unknown.

Our stories twist and turn,

[A]round the corner called future and disappears into the unknown. Therefore, the unwasted life is always lived one step from the unknown. This is what faith is for. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). That’s what faith does.

I don’t want to waste my life. Which means I need to rest content with the unknown next chapters and with parts I wouldn’t have scripted this way.

Not Living the Dream is Still Alright With Me

So, no. I wouldn’t have written myself in this way- not into this marriage or this job, not these boys, this house, or this blog. (Well, I guess I do write the blog. But it wasn’t my dream. My friend Traci spurred it on.)

But I do know this story I’m in, with both its surprise twists and its storylines that feel more static than I’d write, was scripted by God. 

And- oft in sorrow, oft in woe– often way too slowly both for the characters around me and for me- I’m learning that it’s not so much what part I play but how I play that part that matters.

Oh, sure, sometimes I let my hungry eyes drift to what seem like others’ storybook lives and dream up different parts for me. But my aim is to play my part well, which is to testify to the grace of God.

And the great thing is, I don’t have to have to be living like I wrote it, living the dream, to do that.

In fact, God’s grace might just look that much greater when the testimony to it comes from one whose story is not just like he wrote it.

I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.

Jeremiah 10:23

moss-1570171__340

5 Truths for When Hearing No is Hard

For some of us, saying no is worse than 1,000 mosquito bites and a week of sleepless nights. I mean, saying no hurts!  We relational types hate to let others down. We hate to disappoint.

For others, it’s not saying no that’s so terrible-  it’s  hearing and taking no that hurts worse. Being rejected rates right up there with jumping in Lake Michigan in January and getting stung by angry bees in August. That bad.

This post is for those of us who are more undone when we hear no. No, your son can’t take that class- your dog is not allowed in here -you can’t take off Friday – I can’t watch your kids. No, we can’t make it.

No. Sorry. No. 

So Sorry

The first text read, Late meeting. So sorry I’ll have to miss tonight.

Then, I forgot it’s my son’s half-birthday. Sorry I’ll miss. 

And, Abigail, so sorry I can’t make it. It’s our anniversary.

That- more or less- is how the texts came in.

Grace had stretched me far but now it felt personal. Resentment was starting to grow. 

Because it’s hard to take no.

When We Are Rejected

So here we were. We three, then four, out of the dozen who’d been part of our little summer Psalms study.  Then two more texts.

Ab! Locked myself out of the car. Sorry to miss.  

And, Feeling drained. Think I’d better stay home. 

That was when that toxic cocktail of emotions started stirring again. The one that comes after the first twinge of rejection, the  resentment/self-pity mix. The Enemy tempts me with it when I feel like my efforts don’t matter or my labor is wasted.

Or, honestly, when my requests are denied and my invitations are rejected.  Simply put, when I’m told no. It’s ugly, I know.

But Christ Jesus died for this.

And he died for us, that we might die to sin. So we’ve got to preach to ourselves and stop emotions from driving the train. We’ve got to take ourselves in hand and get perspective.

Here are 5 ways I’ve been learning- learning- to take rejection and hear no with grace.

1. Remember Who else was rejected.

This gives me perspective: God Almighty was rejected- God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

Remember that parable of the guy who threw the big party and invited many guests? At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  

Remember the excuses? They’re in Luke 14.

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

Talk about rejection! Those texts messages are miniscule, not worth comparing- even after I reserved the room and sent the invites and spent a couple hours prepping the study guide. Small potatoes. Teeny-tiny, speck of dust potatoes are my little rejections compared with that rejection.

Those texts were just polite little no’s to a Wednesday night Bible study. The host of the real party is God the Father. (Also Matthew 22)

In Isaiah 53:3 the Son of God, the Suffering Servant, is described as despised and rejected. When He came to his own, his own received him not. He said, The Son of Man must suffer and be rejected.

The rejection theme extends to the third person of the Holy Trinity, too. When we reject what the Holy Spirit shows us, Scripture tells us that He is grieved.

2. Look past the NO to God’s ruling hand.

This one is big. It’s the perspective I want to have whenever I hear no.  And not just in retrospect, but line by line as the texts roll in. When people upset my plans, I want to be like a woman I read about named Janet.

Someone who knew her said,

She delighted in seeing her plan upset by unexpected events, saying that it gave her great comfort, and that she looked on such things as an assurance that God was watching over her stewardship, was securing the accomplishment of His will, and working out His own designs. Whether she traced the secondary causes to the prayer of a child, to the imperfection of an individual, to obstacles arising from misunderstandings, or to interference of outside agencies, she was joyfully and graciously ready to recognize the indication of God’s ruling hand, and to allow herself to be guided by it. (From The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart, quoted In Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot)

When people say no and reject our requests, this too reveals God’s ruling hand. The half-birthday and the locked car and all of those texts were God’s ruling hand.

They upset my plan, but worked his all-things-work together-for-good better plan.

3. Do unto others, when they say no unto you.

When we are told no, the Golden Rule still applies: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

When we have to say no, like I had to say no to my sister this afternoon, about watching my nieces and nephew tomorrow, I felt bad. I don’t like to disappoint. But Danielle understood. In fact, she sounded a lot like Janet.

Oh well, she said, I was on the fence about going to the party, anyway. 

She took my no with grace and made it easy to say no.

I need to do the same. I need to do unto others when they say no to me. Odds are they like saying no about as much as I like hearing no.

4. Be disillusioned, in a good way.

I know that sounds strange. Because disillusionment isn’t usually good. It’s the feeling of disappointment we get when we find out that something isn’t as good as we believed it to be. But we can be disillusioned with people in a healthy way.

Jesus shows us what that looks like in John 2, where it says that he did not commit himself to them…for He knew what was in man. 

In “The Discipline of Disillusionment,” Oswald Chambers explains,

The disillusionment which comes from God brings us to the place where we see men and women as they really are…The refusal to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering in human life. It works in this way — if we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give. There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

When we allow ourselves to get disillusioned, we won’t demand every perfection or resent every rejection. We’ll be quick to remember others are frail and finite, with limited time and energy, too.

Being disillusioned is another of saying we don’t resent those who refuse or reject us. We take it with grace because we know that we all stumble in many ways. We don’t demand of others what they cannot give and we sit loose to our plans.

Good disillusionment means we aren’t devastated when our peeps say no. 

5. Keep sowing.

This last “tip” for taking no has been immensely helpful to me, especially when it comes to the rejection and no’s that come with Kingdom work.

In Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 the Teacher says,

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle; for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

This passage, I’m coming to see, is about holy boldness when we, to use Jesus’ own words, sow the seed of the Word.  Not everyone- maybe hardly anyone- will accept my invitations to a Bible study or Vacation Bible School or dinner or a walk. 

But we need to keep sowing and asking and inviting. Because we do not know what seeds will grow. But we will not reap if we do not sow.

Put something out there that God can bless.

We can be too cautious. We don’t want to be the farmer who watches and waits for perfect conditions and never plants or reaps. There’s always a chance that the seed will stay dry or blow away when you plant. Or that a storm will knock it all down the day before harvest. You never know.

But Ecclesiastes 11 is a warning to us, when we hear no and only a few people show and the ministry seems a bust.  It’s a warning to not stop sowing.

Phil Ryken explains:

Whenever we engage in kingdom enterprises we offer to the Holy Spirit something he can use to save peoples’ livesSome of us are so risk averse that we keep waiting to invest. That’s the picture we get in verses 3 and 4. The Preacher is asking us to invest in the Kingdom. If we want the blessing of it, we’ve got to exercise our faith and put something out that God can bless in return.

Don’t wait for the perfect circumstances. Don’t hold back in fear. Step out in faith. Not faith in your own efforts but faith that God can do it. But faith that God will take whatever you do and use it somehow for his glory. When it comes to kingdom work we should be venture capitalists willing to risk for the kingdom.

God is God and we are not. We don’t know God’s ways. We don’t know if our efforts will take and seeds of the Word will grow.  But, we do know that we will not reap if we do not sow.

Get out of the closet of the manageable.

Some of us fear rejection and hearing no so much says Sean Michael Lucas, that,

We cover ourselves up and lock ourselves into the closet of the manageable…The things we can manage are in that closet. We believe that’s the only way we can protect ourselves.

And it just so happens that the Psalm our little remnant studied Wednesday night was Psalm 121, the one that starts with, I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from?  

The Psalm ends with an immense, security-building promise for God’s children. Not only is He present and powerful, God promises to guard and watch over you. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore (Psalm 121:8).

Keep on risking to the glory of God.

And, says Sean Michael Lucas, this means something powerful. It means that,

You can risk yourself to the glory of God. You can live dangerously for God, because God will watch over your life.  He will watch over your very soul. He will protect you and guide you and bless you and guard you all your days.

God promises to care for us and to guard our very souls from this time forth and forevermore. This means we’re free to request and invite and love others in risky ways, because the LORD will keep us.

So we give him something to work with and trust Him to get it done.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

moss-1570171__340

20 Quotes from Mark Baker’s book on Guilt and Shame

Don’t be ashamed. But do feel some guilt.

Are you guilt-ridden or shame-prone?  Do you struggle to forgive yourself and hold on to your fails too long? Isn’t there a godly sorrow that leads to repentanceIs that the same as guilt? And is guilt the same as shame?  More important still, is any of these good?

Dr. Mark Baker’s new book, Overcoming Shame: Let Go of Others’ Expectations and Embrace God’s Acceptance, takes these issues head-on and explains how healing for soul-crippling shame comes through courage, vulnerability and grace.

These quotes caught my eye. I hope they encourage your heart.

20 Quotes From Overcoming Shame

1. Guilt and shame are not the same. Guilt is the bad feeling you have for having gone too far. You did something you should not have done, and now you regret it. Shame is the feeling you get for not going far enough. You feel regret for being inadequate.  (12-13)

2. Healthy guilt is the capacity to feel bad when you have hurt someone else, God, or even yourself. Healthy guilt is motivated by love…Guilt comes from doing something wrong, so it is corrected by doing something right. Healthy guilt comes from having a conscience, and that in itself is a good thing. God created guilt to guide us toward restoring our relationships with him, but it works as a guide for restoring relationships with one another too (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). (13)

3. Neurotic guilt is not about making amends or figuring out the loving thing to do to make things right in your relationships. Neurotic guilt is about self-preservation and the fear of getting caught. If your guilt is focused on you taking care of yourself, it rarely produces anything good. (13)

4. Shame motivates us to want to keep secrets. And the toxic power of shame only grows stronger in the dark. (16)

5. It is only when we are most vulnerable that we can experience the connection with God and others that we were designed for, but is also exactly when we are most vulnerable that we can get hurt the most. Vulnerability is a two edged sword that can cut both ways. It can surgically heal you of your deepest shame or cut out your heart. (42)

6. Jesus taught a lot about joy and love, but he never taught his followers to avoid pain. Quite the opposite, it was central to Jesus’s teachings that facing suffering well is a crucial element in developing a mature character and that our vulnerability to suffering is not only not a bad thing but is the best path to finding a clear picture of who God really is. To Jesus, vulnerability was certainly not a weakness but was actually a sign of spiritual strength. (44-45)

7. Shame is a painful feeling that directs your attention onto yourself in ways that make it difficult for you to care about what other people are feeling around you…Shame-prone people tend to respond to fear by either trying to hide or trying forcefully to overcome it. The best response to fear is to face it, with vulnerability. (47)

8. The solution to the fear of vulnerability is healthy dependence. Psychologists call it secure attachment. People who live with secure attachments view vulnerability as a powerful means for connection, and they experience their dependence on others as a natural part of the give-and-take of healthy interdependence…People with secure attachments are generally grateful people. (54)

9. People with secure attachments are not looking for the easy way out…If you are comfortable, you probably aren’t learning anything. Growth stretches us, and that means we need to believe discomfort is simply a part of a normal life. (55)

10. The best life isn’t about getting onto easy street, it’s about being connected to God and others no matter where you live. The goal isn’t to be better than everyone else by invulnerably rising about them; it’s to figure out how to have a healthy dependence on God and others to find joy. (55)

11. [S]hame-free guilt…actually helps people to be more empathic, to deal with their anger in more constructive ways, and to have more benevolent interpersonal relationships…Shame on the other hand, causes people to focus on their worthlessness, which makes them defensive and more likely to fly off the handle in destructive ways. (68-69)

12. Shame-free guilt produces humility. Feeling bad about what you did motivates you to restore any broken relationship that resulted from it…You don’t have to be defensive because you don’t have anything to hide, as you would if you felt shame. (69)

13. [T]he truly confident person who has a secure sense of love and belonging is free to be humble; and all those who live this way are the ones that have a lasting impact on others. They will be the ones that others respect and look up to because they are living the the way God created us to be. (72)

14. Envy is the hatred you feel toward another person who reminds you of what you are not. This is a two-person dynamic between you and one other person. With envy, you see qualities in someone else that trigger feelings of shame in you. (107)

15. An attitude of scarcity fuels envy and jealousy because scarcity is the enemy of connection and belonging. It is based on the notion that you must defeat competitors to survive. Scarcity cause you to feel that losing means you are a loser, because the attitude of scarcity is motivated by shame. (118)

16. An attitude of scarcity is often a spiritual problem. If it is rooted in the belief that you are not enough, it will cause you to compete with others for what you believe are limited resources for your survival. But to thrive in life, you must see others as a needed resource for your survival, not a threat to it. This comes through the spiritual attitude of plenty (Matthew 10:29-31). (118)

17. Shame doesn’t make us want to be good; love does…[W]e have the most effective delivery system on the planet for the prevention of crime in even the most crime-ridden areas of society. Do you know what that delivery system is? The Christian church. (136)

18. Perfectionism is the attempt to hide your fear that you are not enough by getting everything just right. If you are good at it, you will only succeed at covering over your fear, never dispelling it. As soon as you have completed whatever it is that you are doing, you have to start over again immediately trying to do things perfectly to avoid your shame. (139)

19. To overcome shame a person must experience acceptance at a time when they don’t deserve it but need it more than anything else. Shame-proneness can be healed only by the renewing of your mind, and that can happen only by experiencing acceptance of the unacceptable…The grace we extend toward one another has the power to heal shame. (179)

20 The point is, grace heals shame. Whether grace knocked you down and blinded you with its impact or snuck up on you over time, the experience of acceptance changes you. If you are willing to live a life of courage, vulnerability, and grace, you will be healing shame in your life and the lives of those around you. Jesus has paved the way before us. (188)

“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1b-2

Related:

Access John Piper’s “Battling Misplaced Shame” sermon here. (Instead of guilt and shame, Piper uses the terms well-placed shame and misplaced shame, and explains that biblically, the criterion well-placed shame versus misplaced shame is not how foolish or how bad you look to men, but whether you in fact bring honor to God.)

Listen to Dr. Baker’s hour-long interview with Janet Parshall here

Read how purging these 4 words can strangle misplaced shame here.

 

moss-1570171__340

8 Favorite Marriage Quotes

Not Mushy-Gushy

Others can tell the mushy-gushy marriage story. We don’t have that. Ours is much more a tenacious, cling-by-our-fingernails, cleave-by-grace sort of story.

This day last year marked 20 years of marriage. I condensed the first score in a post called, 3 Lessons for Incompatible Soul Mates. Number 1 was God gives us strong grace so we can share it. Lesson 2: Your real soul-mate is the one you’re married to. And Number 3: Incompatibility is not a deal breaker. It’s a grace-muscle maker.

So I won’t rehash more. Because this wedding anniversary is a milestone too. I’ve been Mrs. Wallace for as many years as I was not.

What’s changed in 21 years- besides those full cheeks and fringy brown bangs?

Easy. I rely way more now than then on God’s grace. Only by clinging to HIs strong forgiving, forbearing, speak-truth-and-keep-loving grace could we have possibly made it this far.  And we know this pleases God, because, after all, marriage is really all about that, about how Christ loves his church.

But there have been some quotes that have helped me get up and press on in the last 21 years since we two became one.

These are those: courage-making marriage quotations from those way wittier and wiser than I.

8 Favorite Marriage Quotes

  1. What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? -Gary Thomas
  2. Marriage is the greatest test in the world. It’s much more than a test of sweetness of temper…It is a test of the whole character and affects every action. -T.S. Eliot
  3.  Love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. -C.S. Lewis
  4.  One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse.  Had there been a card attached, it would have said, “Here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!” -Gary and Betsy Ricucci
  5.  The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people. —John and Noël Piper
  6.  I have know many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible. – G. K. Chesterton 
  7. A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers. -Ruth Bell Graham
  8.  The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the Gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The Gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. – Tim Keller

Reflecting

The T.S. Eliot quote compares marriage to a great test. Well, we’ve failed a lot along the way. We’ve been irritable and downright discouraging to each other some days. There’s been anger and hurt. We still get tempted to lash out and to clam up, to let the sun go down on our anger and keep a record of wrongs and go our own way.

But love doesn’t do that and we love because God first loved us.  And God’s love is a tenacious and gracious, steadfast and covenant-keeping love and marriage was made to reflect the Gospel- the good news of God’s great love for flawed, sinful man. Jim knows my flaws the best and on, earth, he loves me most.

I’ve heard it said that to be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. 

So today I pray that our marriage is more and more a reflection- albeit a smudgy one some days- of just that sort of love.

May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ. 

2 Thessalonians 3:5

 

Follow
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Pressing On, Pressing In. To the praise of His glorious grace.
Powered By WPFruits.com