Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Learning truth...

In the past couple of weeks I have had two experiences where I have felt that something was a direct answer to prayer, but then by the next day it felt as if it had done a 180º. I couldn't understand what was happening and felt confused and angry at myself and God. How could an answer to prayer one day feel like a curse the next?

In my confusion and pain I was going to call a friend of mine that I hadn't talked to in quite a while, but no longer had his number. So, I called his brother, also a friend, to see if he knew his number. His brother is very spiritual and insightful and could sense that I was in pain. He asked me what was going on and I began to share the pain and confusion I was feeling. We talked (in between my occasional tears) for several hours. He told me the Native American tale of two wolves, which I had heard before, but didn't remember what it was really about.

The Two Wolves Within
An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice... "Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt great hate for those who have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It's like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die." "I have struggled with these feelings many times. It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. But...the other wolf... ah! The littlest thing will send him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all of the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing." "Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit." The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?" The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, "The one I feed."-- -- A Native American tale told many times around the Sacred Fire

My friend called the "bad" wolf, the critical wolf, the enemy (just as Satan is our enemy) and the "good" wolf is the wolf of truth, (just as God's Word is our truth). Whenever God gives us a gift and we receive it, the enemy hates it and tells us all kinds of evil, so that we no longer see the gift from God as a gift, we no longer can see God's hand upon our lives, we begin to see the gift as a curse. What we need to do is refer back to the Bible, to God's Word and focus on the truth, not the appearance of things around us. In Isaiah 43:4, my theme for this blog, God says, "Because you are precious and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you and peoples in exchange for your life." And then in Matthew 7:9-11, Christ says, "9 Or what man is there of you, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will hand him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will hand him a serpent? 11 If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven [perfect as He is] give good and advantageous things to those who keep on asking Him!" The "loaves" I had been given had come to feel like "stones," but that is untrue. God would not give me a stone. The enemy wants me to see the gifts as stones. Which wolf am I going to feed? The critical wolf, the evil wolf or the wolf of truth, the good wolf. Who am I going to believe?

I thought of this during my Bible study this morning. One of the verses that really stood out for me was Psalm 105:19. In the verse just before this, the Psalmist talks about Joseph being put in fetters, "he was laid in chains of iron and his soul entered into the iron." And then in verse 19 he says, "Until his word (speaking of Joseph's words to his brothers when telling them of his dreams) came true, the word of the Lord tried and tested him." Even though everything looked the opposite of what Joseph had told his brothers and his future appeared bleak and dismal, God was only trying and testing him until the appointed time when Joseph was to be released from prison and become ruler over the people of Egypt under the King. During his trials Joseph had to rely on the truth of God's Word, the truth of God's way, not appearances, not his physical circumstances, and then eventually, at God's appointed time, his words came true, the truth from God was made manifest in his life.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Where I want to go and who I want to be...

This past Saturday night, after getting off a phone call from a friend of mine in Tennessee, I remembered a situation from my past that was an eye-opener to my present. It was back in 1987, when I was living in Kansas City. I had moved several times since moving to Kansas and at the time was living in a 2-bedroom apartment with an unmarried couple that I had met. The apartment wasn't very large, therefore, my belongings consisted of a bed and dresser and a few other items, besides clothes, that I was able to store in boxes against the wall of my bedroom. It was very college-like and unsettled, an odd arrangement, but I really didn't know where I was going or what I wanted to do, so this seemed the best for the moment.

During this time, a friend of mine that I had dated occasionally and who I had longed for a chance to date seriously ever since I had met him the summer of 1981, happen to be coming out my way for some event and decided to spend the weekend with me. At the time, I knew he was dating someone he had been dating for quite sometime. In fact, I believe they were either considering getting engaged or were already engaged, but for some reason he came to see me. We had a relatively nice weekend, but I was fairly certain when he left that his heart wasn't mine anymore and never would be again.

Now for whatever reason, the other night, all of this came to my mind again and for the first time ever I asked myself, "What if he came to make sure whether or not he was making the right decision to not be with me and to become engaged to the girl he was dating?" "If that was the case, what did he see that made him decide to go ahead with the girl he was dating?" "What was he looking for that weekend that might would have made him wait a while longer and possibly consider being with me as a real option?"

Looking back, I recognize that there really hadn't been any growth in several significant areas. I wasn't any different than when we had dated back in Tennessee. I was still unsettled, clueless as to my direction in life, what I wanted to do, where I was going. I was still living as a college student even though I wasn't going to college at the time. I hadn't gotten any closer to God, I was still readily open to sexual sin and hadn't become any better with my finances. I was the same person, just living in a different place. I never knew why he felt he didn't want to become serious with me even though he seemed to really like me in a lot of different ways, but I have often felt it had something to do with my lack of spiritual, emotional, and financial growth. Not that he was so mature in these areas either, except financially he was doing very well by that time, but I think that he was looking for someone who was, someone who knew where she was going and what she was doing spiritually, emotionally, and financially. I was not the one.

Now, 21 years later, I find myself in a similar situation. I have a “new” friend who I really care about and would like the opportunity to date. But last night, after remembering the situation with this other guy back in 1987, I asked myself, “If this friend that I care about came to see me right now, what would he find?” “Would anything be different than when we met, 1-1/2 years ago?” Just as with the other guy, I don’t know the exact reasons why he decided he didn't want to date me at the time we met or since (it wasn't a lack of physical attraction), but whatever it was, I wondered if there would be anything different now. “Is there anything in my life that would be different enough to possibly make him reconsider his options?” And, “What would I want him to see?”

Here's what I would want him to see (not in any particular order):
  1. Someone who has created a clean and orderly, comfortable home with touches of beauty throughout.

  2. Someone who has resolved what her role is to be in her brother's life.

  3. Someone who has a healthy awareness and gratefulness for what she has, along with goals toward the future.

  4. Someone who is at peace in her relationship with God and who is spiritually growing.

  5. Someone who is involved in a ministry of some sort and is compassionate and loving to others. Someone who is more focused on serving others than serving herself.

  6. Someone not afraid to talk about her faith and beliefs.

  7. Someone who has learned to save money and live frugally. Someone able to live within her means and be content, while doing what she can to improve her financial position.

  8. Someone who has expanded her horizons, who has opened herself to new opportunities and growth, whose world is larger than just the small world around her.

  9. Someone who is physically active and eats healthfully for the most part.

  10. Someone able to live in this world, but daily preparing for Christ's second coming.

Yes, this is who I want to be and in some areas I am closer to being this person than I used to be. But in others, I am still a long way from being there. I'm not even sure what holds me back, except life seems to continue to throw things at me that I don't handle very well and seems to throw me off-course for various periods of time. Not that life unfolds perfectly for anyone, as I know it doesn't, but somehow even in the midst of the terrific storms of life, some people are able to maintain their focus and not become diverted into meaningless, dead-end side-trips. Whereas I have too often become diverted, lost focus, and spent years indulging in the meaningless, dead-end, depressing, side-trips. Somehow, I haven’t retained my focus in the way that I wish I had. Additionally, I have lacked and still lack some of the tools needed to become this person I desire to be.

So, the questions I ask now are, "What do I need to do to become this person?" "What steps can I take now, toward becoming the person I wish my friend to see, no matter if he ever sees or not?" "What tools do I need to obtain to enable me to become this person I desire to be and where do I obtain them?"

To be continued...