Today I yelled at God. Today I woke up angry. I mean ANGRY. I stopped being angry at everything else and I focused my anger towards Him.
I have felt alone and defeated all week long. And I’ve looked and I couldn’t find Him anywhere. I prayed for Him to remind me that He was here with me. But nothing. I read the bible over and over hoping that He would talk to me. Nothing. I listened to sermons that I had missed since Justin started his new job, thinking that maybe I would find Him there. Nothing. Still nothing.
I yelled at Him today. I was fed up and I had had it. I yelled at Him and told Him I knew why people left the faith. I got it. There is nothing worse then feeling alone and defeated.
I purposefully didn’t pick up my bible today. I turned off the praise music. When I got more bad news today I took matters into my own hands. If He wasn’t going to do anything then I would.
I stopped crying. I wasn’t going to shed another tear for Him.
And then I checked my email.
I am responsible for the communications ‘department’ for the women’s ministry at church, therefore, I am responsible for the monthly newsletter. Most of the time I just picked something that I had written before and plugged it in to the newsletter, but lately, I’ve been wanting to feature other people and their stories. It was beginning to frustrate me that it was all my stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love the attention. I mean, I’m a writer, of course I want people to read what I write, but I’m also just a girl who likes to read and hear stories that aren’t mine.
I expressed my interest in featuring other women from our church to write for our newsletter and I was put into contact someone I have never met, but was told that she was an amazing writer with an amazing testimony and story to share.
I reached out to her. She said she would think about. She got back to me and asked me what exactly I was looking for. Bad timing for her because the last thing I wanted to think about this month was church or a newsletter or a testimony, remember, I’m angry.
I emailed her back explaining that there was no real formula to follow. Just to send me something that she wanted to share. I was short and to the point.
As the fighting continued between me and Justin last night my phone notified me of an email. I saw that it was from her and I just couldn’t open it. I wasn’t in the mood. And so I left it there, sitting in my inbox, untouched.
So back to today. I woke up angry. Another text from Chase bank explaining to me that our account was over drafted again. There’s been no money in our bank account since Monday, last week. The fees and charges took my entire Beautycounter paycheck and still left us with nothing.
And the thing is regardless of how much we don’t have, we still need things. We need food. Milk. Gas. Bills still need to get paid. Life goes on.
Because I am selfish at first I let it go. There was nothing that I could do until I got paid, but when that happened and we were still in a bad place, that’s when I got angry. You see, I gave it to God, but it was still on my terms and conditions.
I should also point out that things had been going really well for awhile now. No fighting. No money problems. But I was starting to feel distant from God. I could tell that I wasn’t making time for Him like I had been. I wasn’t reading my bible. I wasn’t praying. And if you guys can remember the last time I became distracted from Him, He moved me 1100 miles away from my distractions. He knows how to get my attention. And sure enough, when things started going south, I reached out to Him, and sure enough, when He didn’t answer me the way I wanted, I got angry. You would think that I would learn by now.
Back to today, I have my favorite radio station playing. I’m sitting at my desk when I remember that I need to check my emails. I was sitting here reminiscing about my childhood. My teenage years. How simple everything was. I attempted to do some writing, but I couldn’t. As a favorite song of mine came on the speakers it reminded me how I used to write as a young teenage girl. I always wrote best when I was struggling. When I didn’t get the guy. When life wasn’t what I had expected.
Then I checked my email. And there was Melissa’s email. I checked it only to check it off of my to-do list.
I just finished writing this – let me know if it’s what you have in mind.
I downloaded the attachment and I began to read.
The Narrow Gate
In September of 1998 my husband and I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to begin a new life. We bought a home and business in the downtown area, joined a church and thoroughly enjoyed a more relaxed lifestyle. Living downtown was a dream come true for big city dwellers grown weary of the Southern California freeway system. We could walk everywhere we needed to go and began to think a car trip across town was inconvenient. Our brilliant plan included running the business for ten years, selling it at a good profit, and retiring. Up until that point we had enjoyed a very comfortable life style, but God was about to lead us along a new path: He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths. Isaiah 2:3.
When the US economy collapsed in 2008 so did our retirement plans. Over the next few years we lost our business, our savings, and our home was about to be claimed by the bank. It was time to get out of town! In 2013 we moved to the Woodlands to live with family until we could find jobs and move into a rented house; it seemed a reasonable plan at the time. As we drove out of Santa Fe on a dark and cold September night an unexpected thunder storm swept our car towards the Texas border. Before we had crossed into Texas my husband became violently ill and nearly two years later has not fully recovered. In time he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and spent four months at Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. Every month we go back to the Center for Advanced Heart Failure for a checkup.
Yesterday, as we were driving to our appointment, I bravely decided to take the HOV. I always take I-45 because it’s the only way I know, but yesterday I was feeling particularly adventurous! I was somewhat apprehensive because I wasn’t sure if I could find the hospital once we left the HOV. I tried to overcome my anxiety by comparing the HOV to the Christian life. This all started when I noticed how alike the gate of the HOV and the narrow gate in Matthew 7 are.
Here is how it unfolded.
As we headed south on I45 we moved from the multi-lane freeway into the HOV with cement barricades hugging the car’s sides. We had moved from the broad road through the small gate and onto the narrow road. Matthew 7:13- 14 speaks of that: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction…but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life… As new believers we enter from the broad path of unbelief and rebellion to a path that becomes increasingly narrow as we mature. This maturing process, also called sanctification, is painful but necessary if we are to grow into the likeness of Christ. James 1:2-4 tells us to Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
My husband and I have endured many trials in the last few years and they were miserable. There were many times that we didn’t think we could endure one more day. We have never pretended that these experiences were anything less than horrific, but we have been transformed, and today I can say that we are grateful for each and every trial. Our faith has deepened and our compassion and love for others has increased. We are more mature and complete.
On the HOV there are several exits that lead back to the freeway. If one isn’t paying attention to the landscape or perhaps texting a co-worker he might end up at the wrong address – it happens. It would be inconvenient but not impossible to get back on the lane. We Christians can also get off the path God has set for us because He has given us the freedom to choose. Sometimes it is a deliberate departure and sometimes it is accidental. The Psalmist describes this tendency to get off the path: I have strayed like a lost sheep, seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands. Psalm 119:167. We who are Spirit-filled will sometimes get off at the wrong exit, but the Holy Spirit will show us the way back.
In the HOV there are signs along the way – the same in the Christian life. If we listen we will hear His voice: Isaiah 30:21 says Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’. It is up to us to watch and listen for the Spirit’s promptings. In Exodus 13:21 we are told that we can count on God’s presence in our lives : By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. And in Deuteronomy 31:8 God says The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
And finally, when cars are spit out of the HOV onto a broader road, we need to guide them to the final destination. In my case I needed to find the way from Milam to Fannin which was simple with God’s help. But, I could only find the way because there were street signs posted at every intersection. Once again, decisions must be made- left or right; straight or U-turn? It’s that way for Christians too – there are road signs everywhere if we look for them. God’s Word says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Yesterday when we exited the HOV I wasn’t sure how I would find the hospital, but I did know from past experience that God would get me there. It was the same when we left all we knew and loved in Santa Fe. We didn’t know how we could start a new life in Texas but we still had enough faith to believe God would see us through… and He has.
And there it was. There was the answer that I had been looking for. There was the conversation that I had been begging for. And it came from someone I had never met, from a task that I didn’t want to do.
I don’t know why I’m living in Houston. I don’t know why I don’t have friends or a car or money. I don’t know why I had to leave all of that behind (besides the money part). I don’t have an answer for any of it, but I just have to trust in God that He loves me enough, more than enough, that He’s got this. This is all for something. On the days that I feel helpless and forgotten I need to remember that that’s not the case because I have Him and He is enough.
Faith isn’t easy. And to be honest, it’s a lot easier to not have faith. But clearly He has plans for me because He wasn’t going to let me go.
Our bank account is still in the negative. Payday is still days away. The fridge is still bare. But I’m okay with it. Because He is enough. And as long as I have Him, then I’m fine. I’m more than fine, I’m great. And He never leaves us to do this on our own. It may not be done how we would do it, but thank God for that because I know that I am not capable of doing it the way He does.
And for those of you who don’t believe in the power of prayer, I sent a message last night to my Bishop and Deacon asking for prayers:
I need prayers for God to let me know exactly what He wants me to do. I feel so lost and alone right now. I know what I want to do. I know what other people think I should do, but I need to know what God wants me to do. I’ve been reading my bible. I’ve been listing to sermons. I’ve been praying. But I still got nothing. Feeling pretty defeated and very vulnerable to the enemy right now.
He really does listen to us. I can’t say it enough. He really is all we need. He is enough.