Why We Might Not Want to Live Without Suffering

The other day, I learned the physiological mechanics of a mosquito bite.

Yee-haw.

Some of you might have seen the same animated video that I did as it makes the rounds on Facebook. I learned that it’s really all about the mosquito’s saliva (ick) – it acts as both an anesthetic and anticoagulant, allowing the female to get the blood she needs (what a wonderful provider God is!….I think…).

Then the video concluded with an interesting point: the actual swelling and itching of a mosquito bite isn’t directly caused by the saliva. It’s caused by the body’s immune  response to the bite. The saliva is an allergen, which triggers antibodies to attack the foreign intrusion, and that causes the swelling and itching we’re all familiar with as we writhe around upon the grassy ground, scratching like gangbusters.

I was reminded of other bodily responses. A lot of symptoms we experience to various problems aren’t actually caused by the problem: they’re the result of our body fighting the virus or the infection or whatever.

We would not want to live without physical pain.

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Single and Feeling Like God Doesn’t Care?

thinkingOne of the analytics tools WordPress gives us bloggers is labeled “Search Terms”. It shows us the search words that have brought up one of our posts to someone (though it doesn’t specify which post).

Most of the time, for (I think) privacy reasons, Google hides the actual search words the person used and just says “Unknown Search Terms”, but occasionally the actual words show. I’ve seen “losing friends” (which presumably led someone to this post), “being godly and sexy” (I’m guessing this), a surprising number containing the phrase “last minute” (which probably all led to this), and some hilarious non sequiturs that aren’t all appropriate to share.

On Monday, this one popped up: “single and feel like god doesn’t care”

My heart broke.

I will never know who it was, out of 7.5 billion people, that was led to my site by that search phrase. I don’t even have a way of knowing which post they viewed. I can only hit my knees and pray that God got their needs to them.

Because I know what that feeling is like.

Sometimes we must sweep aside the thick knot of church-foyer theology, rationalizations, and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, and just shine a light upon what our hearts are really believing. And I know what that feeling is like.

No matter how many married people tell you that marriage won’t fix everything (it won’t) or sweep aside your feelings with a big hearty “You shouldn’t be lonely, you have JESUS!!!”*, loneliness is real. There are those who’d give anything to have someone to share a dinner with, someone to entrust with a few uncomfortable secrets, someone to help with the calendar or budget or even just touch them on the shoulder. It’s amazing how many people go without these small comforts. Only the lonely really understand. And that only makes them lonelier.

It’s another level of suck entirely to bear the clenching idea that God doesn’t care. That he’s too concerned with The Plan** to notice how our hearts react to it.

To feel cut off and dismissed by the greatest hope we have? Awful.

I have wonderful news.

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The Sin of Deflection

deflectionAnother year, another incorrect prediction of the world’s end.

I often wondered how these predictors interpret their constant misses, until I went on the internet and saw for myself.

They deflect.

Instead of acknowledging their error and apologizing to those they mislead, a lot of these people simply hide behind the sins (or perceived sins) of others. They accuse you of unbelief. They speak of the “mockers” and “scoffers” outside the kingdom who will get their “just reward” when Christ returns. As if any of this somehow ameliorates their own false prophecies. Deflecting.

A coworker responds to correction by pointing out how awful X and Y are at their jobs, and thus how unfair the criticism is. Deflecting.

Teachers spreading poor doctrine complain of being attacked. Deflecting.

Political candidates play down their own flaws and talk about those of their opponent. Deflecting.

And I?

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It’s Okay to Admit that Losing Friends Hurts

friendsLosing friends hurts.

Sometimes I think that if all the energy we pour into avoiding that fact were spent elsewhere, we’d have cured world hunger by now.

The memes clutter our feeds.

“We never lose real friends, only fake ones.”

“Those who can’t handle your worst, don’t deserve your best.”

“Be yourself and the right people will gravitate towards you.”

“If they didn’t stay, they were never meant to.”

And today I found myself wondering…Who are we trying to convince?

Over the years, I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost them because someone moved. I’ve lost them because they got “too busy to call”. I’ve lost them because they married. I’ve lost them because they got married and wanted to stay friends but were female, and it was no longer appropriate. I’ve lost them because they forsook God and all the awkwardness that causes in the coffeeshop (I should have fought harder for those). I’ve lost friends simply because one of us changed, or revealed their darker side, and the other decided they didn’t like what they saw.

I’m no special case. Life winnows things away, and friends are no exception. It’s left me with a small but committed group of close friends I know I can count on, no matter how many the miles and misunderstandings. We’re in it for the long haul. I want to hurl myself into a lake with joy when I think of those people.

And sure, some people are best left in the past.

But…

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This Could Really Be the Last Day You Fail

Stop struggling with your sin and kill it!We all have something dogging us.

And we’ve had so many go-arounds with this particular enemy – some weakness, some vice, some habit seemingly iron-wrought or seemingly genetically hard-coded – that it’s turned the idea of victory into distant foolishness…even though you know that victory is God’s will, and that with his commands comes the power to obey.

Perhaps victory seems attainable during moments when we’re in the clear, when temptation is at bay. Or at church, or after the prayer of repentance, when you’re bowled over by God’s grace and power.

But once the bell rings again, and you’re standing in front of the refrigerator or the computer or that person at work who needs your patience rather than your anger, the optimism fades fast. A deeper layer of doubt is revealed in your heart. I can’t do it. If we succeed for a little while, it switches to, I can’t possibly keep this up forever. Or the urgency fades after a week and our treacherous minds convince us that one surrender won’t hurt and…it ends up being more than one surrender.

Don’t you sometimes just wake up and want to be free of all that? For good?

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The God of Winks and Lost Wallets

walletThe Neurotic Self-examination Department sent me a memo today: I haven’t been very personal on my blog lately.

So in the interest of shoring that up, I’m postponing my last Prodigal Son installment. I want to take time to get the theology right anyway.

Besides – I have a story in the meantime. If you want to know the delights of walking with God.

Last summer, I had an illuminating conversation in Subway with an old youth group friend I hadn’t seen in fifteen years. I linked to the story here, but basically, it was me and him ironically discovering we’d both envied the other’s gifts in high school and dismissed our own. It was the kind of talk that blows the lid off your assumptions about your story, leaves you madly reevaluating.

God’s message in it for me: “Stop envying, and stop resenting yourself.”

Like everyone, I’ve got attributes I wish I could change (not sin, just personality), and I’ve not administered those areas a lot of grace. I’ve not always appreciated myself for who God created me to be. I’ve resented myself.

I filed it under “huh…interesting…maybe God wants me to think about this” and moved on with my life.

Fast forward to last month.

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Take Christmas Back From Your Pain

15542081_10154850484279695_2005805105793914489_nThis weekend, I put up my first Christmas tree. It was a three-foot-tall noble fir Charlie Brown tree, and it got just a simple arrangement of bulbs, lights, and miniature star.

And yes, that’s totally a Darth Vader ornament. Impulse buy. Be jealous.

I’ve never put up a tree before. Part of the reason was living alone, who else was gonna see it, etc. But part of it was my typical attitude towards Christmas. It wasn’t a holiday I’ve particularly looked forward to. Not for a while.

It was on a December 27 that I received news of my parents’ divorce. I don’t blame anyone anymore (because forgiveness doesn’t let you); I don’t even blame God; I just kinda blame life. But the fact remains that I haven’t gotten into the Christmas spirit much, either.

Some of you who have faced loss this time of year, or taken hits to that precious refuge of family, can relate. It can be frustrating to feel pressured into joyfulness by the radio stations. A friend of mine is bracing for her first Christmas without her father, a good man who passed on last February. That one carol comes on telling us From now on our troubles will be miiiiiles awaaaay and we’re all like…

orly

Because that’s TOTALLY what Jesus said in John 16:33, right? Well, not really.

So naturally, Christmas has not been my favorite time of year for a while.

But what does the rest of John 16:33 say?

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33b)

We’ve got a game-changer here. That’s where God wanted to take me this Christmas.

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