Friday, July 29, 2011

"The good old days" aren't always as good as we remember

It is too easy to think back to the "good old days" and forget some key problems. It's so easy to see the greener grass on the other side of the fence and to not enjoy what we have right now. Many days I will miss living near my family and it's easy to remember the good stuff about living in Washington and forgetting some of the reasons why we had to leave.

When Youssef and I were first married and until we had to move to my parents basement Youssef had to sell his plasma so we could buy food. If he did it as much as they'd let him it was $200 extra a month. Pretty significant when before that we were buying food with tip money from his Starbucks job (which was about $20 a week total)... Youssef still has the scars on his arms from selling his plasma so often--- He literally gave a LOT to provide for his family.

And I've been thinking lately about these things. Issues of contentment and realizing that this life is never going to be perfect. We try to make a heaven here on this fallen earth and it's just not possible. Or doesn't last long if we reach that "perfect" point. How many people look at someone else and wish they had THAT life. The people in the North see the sunshine that we have here and want that. Those of us who are enjoying some 100 degree weather wish for some cooler temperatures or rain. A woman who can't have children and sees a mom with kids might think that if she could just have a child THEN she would be happy. Someone who HAS kids perhaps thinks fondly of the days when the house was a bit more quiet. Someone who can't walk might say that if they could they'd run EVERYWHERE! Yet, how many of us who can walk actually appreciate that fact? People in other countries walk for miles to just reach clean water and yet how often do we take for granted our many sinks and faucets? For most of us I think this is a pretty accepted thought processes. Actually, often I don't know that we see what is wrong with wanting more or remembering something good that happened in the past and wanting to recreate that experience.

But there is something wrong with it.
I was listening to a sermon the other day about Jesus being transfigured on the mount and there's just a small portion of that sermon that I'd like to share. It was in regards to Peter wanting to build a tabernacle for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.


People have the proclivity to do this. You have an amazing experience with God, and rather than enjoying it, and moving on to what God would have for you next, you keep trying to go back and relive it. Some of you had a great experience at a camp, and so for you, you’re addicted to camp high. Some of you had a church that did things in a certain way, and maybe that was even your first experience of worship, or teaching, or community, or programming, and it meant a lot to you, and God used it in your life. And I don’t want to denigrate that at all. We rejoice in that, but you keep trying to recreate it and relive it. “If we could just go back and keep it the way that it was.”

Parents even have a proclivity to do this with children. “We had an amazing experience when they were this age, and I just want to keep them that size, and keep them that age, and keep reliving those experiences. I just want to capture this sacred moment, and never let it dissipate.”

And the truth is, it is a sin to want to continually relive mountaintop experiences. We are to enjoy those sacred moments that God shows up in glory in our life, and then proceed forward trusting that, if and when it’s time, he will meet with us at a different time, perhaps even in a different way.

For some of you, this comes down to music. And you say, “But I worship God through this music.” You may worship worship. It may have been a moment where even in singing a song or hearing a song, the glory of God was revealed to you, meaning that your heart and mind were open to love Jesus, but now you have to sing that song, or you have to sing those songs, or you have to sing them in those ways. And methodologies then become method-idolatries because we keep trying to recreate, relive a mountaintop experience, some sort of Christian high. And Peter has that same sin.


It's too easy to gloss over these sorts of sins. Why? Because we want a good thing. What's wrong with wanting something that is good? We see what we had at one point, what God had blessed us with then and want to remake it. But why is it a sin?

Because it's not trusting God with how He could bless us again or in different ways. It's not being thankful --which damages our communication with God (note; if you give a child a present and all they do is say how they wanted more or something different or in all other ways just complain about the good thing you just gave them, see how YOUR relationship with them is certainly not brought closer by their attitude.) And finally, it's perhaps making that thing more important to us than Jesus, and putting anything first in our lives before the true God is idolatry.

Friendships are a blessing, but are they more important to you than Jesus?
Children are a blessing, but are they more important to you than Jesus?
Our health is a blessing, but is it more important to you than Jesus?

Think of the good thing that popped into your head just now that you value or want and ask yourself how important it is to you? Jesus said "If anyone comes to me but loves his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters -- or even life -- more than me, he cannot be my follower." Luke 14:26

Could we give up any of these things so that Jesus could be glorified through our lives? There is a praise song with the bridge "You give and take away, you give and take away. My heart will choose to say, 'Lord blessed be Your name.'" Every time I sing or hear that line I feel it. That is to say, I go to that place of realizing what it would be like if I lost one of my kids or my husband and ask myself if I COULD say 'Lord blessed be Your name.' ... Honestly, it kills me to go to that place every time-- to choose to say, "Lord blessed is Your name" even if the blessings He's given me are gone. But I have to. I need to. Because I know He is good. I can see that so clearly. I'm not saying I wouldn't grieve or even be angry at times, but I couldn't stop believing that Jesus is worthy of all praise.

Somehow it's always been easier for me to see these truths in "obvious" things or bigger ways. Grieving a death or going through an injury, and of course it's ALWAYS easier to see what OTHER people should do! Sure, you might not be able to play at the beach because your health isn't great, but at least you are there and can see it! At least you are with your family and can watch them play! Exactly, it's always so much easier to see what OTHER people should do, but what should I do?

Coming back around to what our life was like when Youssef and I were first married (at the beginning of this post.) Often I think of the wonderful things and the things that I miss from then, like walking to parks and coffee shops--- of playing games together and visiting my friends and family whenever I felt like it. Perhaps I have a selective memory and don't remember the hard things as well, yet at the time the hard things were primarily on my mind. I DID enjoy those other things, but I know I focused too much on the difficult stuff and what we did NOT have more than what we were blessed with.

So, yesterday it was about 4:00 in the afternoon and I just decided I'd brave the heat with all the girls to take them to the pool. This is not an "easy" thing to do (to get everyone outside and back in one piece by myself.) But as I was sitting out there (on the pink floaty) holding Grace (who's feet were in the water and was falling asleep) I started to realize how much effort it takes to enjoy what we have and be thankful.It's not an "easy" thing to take the girls someplace by myself... even if it's just around the apartment to the pool here) BUT it's important and it's a way to enjoy the blessings we have right now. We won't always live here and may never live near a pool like this again. How wrong (really) is it of me to be sad or thinking about what we left behind when I could be enjoying what God has blessed us with here? I hear people in Washington complaining about how cold it is there and it's so easy to think of reasons why I'd prefer that (I love to snuggle in blankets and wear sweaters!) But the point isn't to think of what we COULD have or what things USED to be like, but to see what we have right here. Right now.

Just one year ago I was still near my Mom and family and (I'm sure) not appreciating them as much as I do now that I'm far away, but I only had two precious daughters! I truly wouldn't want to be back in the past because Grace did not exist then. When Youssef and I were talking about things that we enjoyed in the past I said, "Wasn't it weird? We just had one baby then." And he said that whenever he thought of our past he always saw all three girls in it. Even though some hadn't been born yet. They are just so apart of our lives that we can't see our past without them. How silly is it then, to wish for something good in the past when in many ways we have something better right now.
Is our life perfect? No, but this isn't heaven yet! Do we have the finances for a bigger place to live or money to travel to see my parents more often? No, but I can be thankful that we have money for food withOUT Youssef having to get his arms stabbed. I'm thankful for where we are too! Is it work to enjoy these good things? Yes, but it's worth it.

I know that some day I will lose someone. My parents will die, I will lose friends, perhaps even a child... Youssef might die before I do.... I don't doubt that I will look back to this time in my life as a "golden" time in our lives. Enjoying our babies and the good health that we have right now... I know that this world isn't perfect. Sin has wrecked havoc here, and there will be heart ache and pain and lose, but I don't need to hold onto the past or try to keep things the same.... or try to "get back" to a certain good place in our lives.

We trade one good thing for something worse and a bad thing for something better all through life. One job that might pay less, but give the person more time off is traded for a job that pays more but then free time is limited. One time period in our life with certain friends is traded for another season of life with other people. The blessings and hardships ebb and flow in our lives yet one thing is constant. God is good.

I don't need to pine for the past or be discontent until something is accomplished in the future because ---- I can trust God to bring other blessings as He always has.

Even if (or when) I come to that point in my life where everything is taken away. (Health? Children? Husband? Family? Friends?) I can choose to praise God, and I can practice that right now in the tiny things that are all around me.

There is ALWAYS something to thank God about. Even if every worldly thing is taken from us we know that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.

(List of blessings, a continuation.)

#1. Toys scattered all over my small living room and the kids books overflowing from the book shelf.

#2. Rainbows dancing on the wall as my girls try to catch them.

#3. The baby trying to tell me something in little "grunt" sounds and after I give her the binky (which is what she wanted) she continues to grunt while she sucks to emphasize it's importance.

#4. Grace's laughing trusting eyes as she watches me from her stroller/carseat.

#5. Sunshine illuminating the window art that Lily and I colored the other day.

#6. Watermelon!!!

#7. Youssef coming home happy and saying, "Did I tell you that I love my job?" :}

#8. Setting the table for a dinner of super yummy pork chops and baked beans while listening to a sermon together!

#9. The "Privacy" screen that I've always wanted and finally got when we moved here which works SO well to give Youssef a place to dump his stuff! Marital peace comes in many forms. ;]

#10. Bottles of water half full and frozen to take on any outing!

#11. Pink and purple tea party cups on a little table with crumbs and milk spilled in dribbles.

#12. Sending texts to my sweet husband whenever I want. :}

#13. Grace grunting through the baby-monitor to tell me to come pick her up! :}:}:}

1 comment:

Keisha Valentina said...

Oh! You're starting a gratitude list! How wonderful!!