When I was a little girl, I watched the Wizard of Oz at my cousin’s house. It practically scarred me for life! It wasn’t the wicked witch that did it either. It was those darn monkeys! Oh my goodness they scared the bajeebies out of me. Let’s face it, they were horrifying, and my poor parents paid the price. I was terrified to go to bed. I just knew those monkeys were going to come out at night and get me. For whatever reason, I thought they lived in my closet. So every night when it came to bedtime, I would cry and get hysterical about the monkeys in my closet. My mom would open the closet and show me that there weren’t any monkeys in there, but it didn’t matter. In my mind, they were going to magically appear just as I fell asleep. What’s a parent to do? You get “monkey spray”…of course. My mom got a can of Lysol and proclaimed that it was monkey spray. All the monkeys hated this spray and it made them go away. And so it began, the nightly ritual of spraying away the monkeys. My mom would open the closet and exclaim, “Get out of here you monkeys!” as she sprayed the can of Lysol. And I bought it…hook, line, and sinker. Genius! And…I had the most germ free closet in America (smile).
Now why did the “monkey spray” work? Maybe in my mind I really thought that it killed monkeys. But I think it had more to do with the trust I had in my mom. I knew that she loved me and would protect me no matter what…even if it meant fighting terrifying monkeys. If she said that the spray made them go away, then of course I believed her.
We are in the middle of a series at church on faith. In looking at the series, I noticed that one of the week’s topics was “What do you do when your faith is tested?” I’ve been pondering that idea because I feel that my faith has been tested on different occasions. I came to the conclusion that for me faith is really a matter of trust. Do I trust that God is going to do the things that He says He is going to do?
I was given a gift by God when my mom died that helped to build this trust with Him. At her funeral, when I felt like I was going to just lose it, I prayed and told God I couldn’t do it alone. I needed Him to take over for me….and He did. I felt such a sense of peace that it actually felt like the stress and anxiety were literally being sucked out of my chest. It was in that moment that I knew for sure that God was real. He wanted to take my burden, and He did so in a big way. That gift has helped me through many difficult times in my life since then. I trusted Him…until one fateful day.
I’ve shared before that when I learned my son was gay I heard God clearly say that it was going to be ok. I took that to mean that we would discover why this had happened and we would “fix” it. I was led to believe that it could happen. I went to places on the internet like Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, and Exodus and read story after story about how people had changed their sexual orientation. I prayed every day for God to help my son discover why this had happened to him so that he could also have that change. It is what my son prayed for as well. As the weeks, months, and eventual years passed, I started to lose my trust in God. I put Him in a tiny little box and kept Him at arm’s length. Was He the God that I had believed Him to be? Why was this happening? I got to the point that I was afraid to read my Bible because I was scared of what I was going to find, and when I did read it verses like this just led to more confusion:
Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”
I did have faith. I trusted that God would listen to and answer my prayers. But my trust was fading. I truly believed that God could do anything (I still do). I still prayed, but the prayers felt forced. The Bible tells us that when we don’t have the words to pray, the Holy Spirit will pray the words for us. I had run out of words so I knew that the Holy Spirit had taken over. Surely he would know what to pray to make God move in this area. The change never came. So, I had to take a look at that. If this was something that God “hated” so much, why wasn’t He helping my son? My son was willing, asking for help, but nothing changed. Why?
Throughout this journey, God was speaking to me. I just wasn’t listening. Instead, I was listening to people. It took a lot of time…years even…for me to realize that it wasn’t God that I had lost faith in…I had lost faith in God’s people. Those stories I had read about change turned out to be untrue. The change that people professed was false. I can’t tell you how damaging that was to not only me, but to so many others. I wasted so many years believing that lie and blaming myself for it not happening in my family.
I decided to let God out of the box I had put Him in. I had to remember that His ways are not my ways. I was hearing from Him all along. He was telling me that it was ok to love my son. He was telling me that He loved Him too. He told me to stop listening to people and focus on Him. It was hard…it still is some days. Through this journey I have met so many people who have had horrible experiences at the hands of God’s people. I know a woman who was told that God gave her a very serious illness because she didn’t kick her gay child out of her home. I know a family that was banned from their church because they support their gay daughter. I know families that are torn in half because family members believe that by supporting their gay child they are leading them straight into hell. And others feel the need to constantly quote Bible verses to us…a common one being this:
2 Timothy 4:3
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.
I’m learning to silence the voices of people and listen for the voice of God. Getting rid of the monkeys (smile). It is challenging at times. But I want to fight the good fight, run a good race, and I want to keep the faith.
I love this quote:
A true faith in Jesus Christ will not suffer us to be idle. No, it is an active, lively, restless principle; it fills the heart, so that it cannot be easy till it is doing something for Jesus Christ – George Whitefield
The heart cannot be easy till it is doing something for Christ. God has given me a strong desire to help families who are on this same journey. It is so isolating and painful. He has also given me a passion for the children who are kicked out of their homes. I don’t know where it’s going to take me, but I am open to His leading.
I found this quote from John Ortberg this week and I absolutely love it:
“In a contagious world, we learn to keep our distance. If we get too close to those who are suffering, we might get infected by their pain. It may not be convenient or comfortable. But only when you get close enough to catch their hurt will they be close enough to catch your love” ~ John Ortberg
Oh Lord…may I get close enough to another’s hurt so that they catch my love….because love matters.