It rained a lot overnight. A lot. In fact, it stormed: lightning, thunder, wind, and rain.
Did I mention the rain?
It was still pouring when I woke up but lightened by the time I left for work, which is when I noticed my street was flooded. I could still get to work, but there was ample water everywhere.
Many social media friends posted photos of flooded areas. Most the water would recede by noon, but the rain definitely inconvenienced people who had to take alternate routes to work or stay home to pump and clean basements.
A couple days earlier, I heard several people complain about the heat and our need for rain. It wasn’t too long before that when people were complaining about bitter cold weather.
In general, we don’t like extremes. We don’t like discomfort or inconvenience. We want rain but in well-paced and convenient amounts. We forget to take a step back and consider what we’re experiencing in the context of the average.
It’s not just weather. We respond similarly to the trials of life. We feel they’re ill-timed and overwhelming. Yet if we’re willing to consider the average – how experiences fit into our lives – we can appreciate the overall provision. We don’t like the flood, heat, cold, wind, but we keep it in context. We don’t like the pain, grief, betrayal, but we keep it in context.
And we find glimpses and moments to appreciate.
What if you gave more?
I know, I know. Some of you reading this are overwhelmed with demands on your time, emotions, energy, bank account, relationships.
But what if you gave more?
In just one area of your life?
What if you greatly give money, clothes, or food to someone with a greater need than you?
What if you greatly give forgiveness to someone, not to let them off the hook of what they did to you, not to naively invite them to hurt you more, but to invite healing for both of you?
What if you greatly give patience out of a humble respect for someone?
What if you greatly give a chunk of time to do something and help someone for which you will never get recognition or other benefit?
What if you greatly give with wisdom and discernment, relying not on yourself, your preferences, your assessment of your time, emotions, energy, bank account, and relationship, but relying on God?
Will you feel depleted at times? Absolutely. But if you empty yourself for God’s purposes, he will always fill you. Refuse stinginess. Overflow onto others with intentional generosity.
“Doesn’t it make you mad? I mean, where was the church in all this?”
The accusation caught me by surprise, and I got a little defensive. I took a breath before responding:
“The church isn’t perfect. It’s made up a people – imperfect people. Imperfect people who called him, texted him, offered to visit him. Imperfect people who tried to do the same things he would have done before he chose to try life without God or the church. Imperfect people who tried but got ignored or harshly pushed aside. Imperfect people who continue to try to invest in his life even if he has no idea. Imperfect people who have helped me, had tough conversations with me, been patient with me, and have loved me well – and imperfectly.”
I’m not saying the church has never mishandled responsibility. History reveals the church’s apathy and harsh response at times. But other times, it is trying. Even when God-prompted, everything doesn’t get tied up in a tidy bow. Life is messy, and that includes church life. People under the umbrella of church have hurt people. I hate that. I’m sorry. People under the umbrella of church have also loved people. Abundantly. Sometimes that love is well received, and other times, it is rejected. When someone isn’t sensitive to God, it’s convenient to misconstrue what people do in God’s name. It’s easier to blame than take responsibility.
So today, notice someone’s need. Reach out to someone. Extend grace and forgiveness. Be patient. Listen well. Love abundantly.
My friend was only asking me to connect on a Saturday.
I could tell by the text that is was more of a “need” request than an “if you can” mention. Throughout the day, I received texts from five friends, each going through significant issues, each reaching out for help, including prayer.
I’m deeply invested in each of these people; I would not identify a single one of them as clingy or dependent. But needy? Yes. Of course. Aren’t we all?
We think “neediness” is a bad thing, as if relying on others reveals a character flaw. But stubbornly and proudly declaring we can do it all on our own is a character flaw. Of course, we don’t want to expect everyone else to fix all our issues; we need personal responsibility. But acknowledging a need and reaching out for support as we share a burden isn’t the same as unhealthy dependency. We don’t only choose one end of the spectrum or the other.
When my friends reach out to me, we do life together. I respond in a variety of ways – sometimes with a single text, sometimes with a card or visit, sometimes with a walk, meal, cleaning, or transportation. Regardless of my response, I connect in some way.
My friends and I connect. We share. We sacrifice. We invite each other into the tough places. We value truth. We let God guide through the short term and long term. We give, and we receive.
I don’t know about you, but I have to keep my motives in check.
Even when I think I’m in a good place and have pure motives, if I’m not attentive to and honest about my motives, I will slip into a place I don’t want to be.
I don’t want to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. I certainly don’t want to do the wrong thing, believing I have the right reasons.
When my motives are in check, I might do some tough, uncomfortable things, but at least I know I can trust God for the strength and wisdom as I step into them.
What are you doing (or not doing)? Check your motives.
What are you assuming or justifying? Check your motives.
What are you thinking? Check your motives.
I have found God checks my motives better than anyone because he knows how to correct them. But it takes constant humility.
Every tear, every doubt
Every time you’ve fallen down
When you’re hurting, feeling shame
When you’re numbing all your pain
When you’ve lost your way
And feel so far away
You’re beautifully broken
And You can be whole again
The weekend after I moved out, I wrote a note to my soon-to-be-ex. It had been a month since he demanded a divorce. It was a weekend he spent at his girlfriend’s house. I had written him notes throughout that month to try to say things he wouldn’t accept then but might be willing to hear someday. This note was different. He was moving on. He had moved on.
I wrote the note in one draft. I left only one blank on the page. It followed the dash after our wedding date: it would be the death date of our marriage. It’s something I hadn’t seriously considered. The beginning date was our anniversary, our wedding date. The death date would be the date of our divorce. I wrote with no bitterness but a consuming sadness and loss. I wrote of what I would miss, the moments that would never be a part of the dash between the birth and death of our marriage.
I will send it to him one day – when I can write the final date.
Despite that death and the abrupt, hostile way it came about, I appreciate the dash. I would do it all over again – every moment of it. Marriage and doing life deeply with someone is worth it. The dash is full of joy and heartache but it is a journey of growth. My journey was cut short, in my opinion, but my growth wasn’t. I am still living the dash of my life. I am thankful.