Get out of here you monkeys!…

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 mommonkeys 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:

Matthew 21:21-22
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.”

140316133840-largeI 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.

Trust-building-blocks

 

 

In whom do I trust…

Kai KickI love this picture!  This is Kai doing a jumping side kick.  That’s his dad holding the board that he is breaking.  You can see that there is another person behind him helping to brace for the impact.  It amazes me that someone can be standing perfectly still one second, and in the next jump that high to break a board.  There is a lot of power in that kick…and it takes a lot of trust on the part of the person holding the board because the target area is barely bigger than their foot.  They have to trust that the person is going to hit the board…and not them.  If you’ve ever watched “America’s Funniest Videos,” you know that the kicker is not always successful (smile).

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150I’m joining Holley Gerth today in her “Coffee for Your Heart” challenge to encourage others.  She usually gives us a theme each week, but this week she gave us our choice of topic.  I decided to write about trust because it’s something that has recently been tested in my family.

On December 11th, my husband Mike was unable to get out of bed.  He had extreme pain in his lower back and literally could not move.  By the next day, I needed to take him to the emergency room.  Let me tell you…that was not easy, and not just because he is 6’2″ and I am only 5’0″ (smile).  The pain was excruciating.  The hospital gave him some pain meds and referred him to an orthopedic surgeon.  When we saw the surgeon, he explained that he suspected a herniated disc was the culprit.  He explained that the body can heal itself given some time, but sometimes surgery is necessary.  My husband decided to try the non-surgical route first.  Well six weeks later, working from home because he couldn’t drive, and hobbling around like an 80-year-old man, he still wasn’t better so he went for an MRI.  At the follow-up visit, we learned that it was indeed a herniated disc…a really big one.  We left the office with a decision to be made…have surgery, or see if the body would heal itself in time.

After doing some research, my husband decided that he should consult with a neurosurgeon to get another opinion as the disc was really pressing on the nerves in his spine.  After consulting with a neurosurgeon, and hearing again that the herniation was very large, he decided to have the surgery.  There was just one problem…they were calling for 17 inches of snow in our area starting the night before surgery.  Sigh.  In the meantime, Mike had done some research (more extensive than he originally had done) and discovered some things about this surgeon that he was a little apprehensive about.  He prayed about it and asked God to give him a sign if he shouldn’t go through with the surgery.  Since the forecast was calling for so much snow, he called the doctor’s office the night before to see if they would be canceling due to the weather.  They assured him that they rarely cancel surgery and it was still a go in the morning.  The hospital was 35 minutes from our house so we decided to get a hotel room 3 miles away to make sure we could make it there in the snow.  The next morning we got up and low and behold…they canceled the surgery. Mike was beside himself.  He wondered what he should do.  Was God telling him not to have the surgery?  Or was God telling him to go to a different doctor?  What did it mean?  He asked for a sign and this surely seemed like a sign. I told him that since he had reservations about the surgeon, I would take the cancellation to mean that he should look for a different one.

So, after tons of research, and asking around to lots of people, he found a doctor that was an orthopedic and neurosurgeon.  He had a very good reputation.  So, we went to see him and were told the same thing.  At this point, we were almost 3 months into this and he was tired of living in pain so he decided to go with the surgery…again.  As the day of surgery was nearing, another snow storm was coming our way…really??  Luckily it wasn’t as big as predicted and it was all clear by surgery day. There was just one problem…Mike started to feel better 3 days before the surgery date.  He had been walking hunched over for months, but suddenly he could stand upright.  He wasn’t completely pain-free, but the pain was suddenly and significantly diminished.  At first he thought maybe he was just having a good day, but after 3 days with less pain he wondered if he was getting better.  Did this mean he was healing?

The day of surgery finally arrived.  We chatted with the nurse as she prepped him.  She asked about his injury and he went through the whole story.  She said she had been a nurse for 34 years surgery had only been canceled twice in all those years.  It seemed clear to us that God didn’t want Mike to have the surgery with that first doctor.  So, the surgeon came in and Mike explained how he was feeling.  The doctor said he didn’t have to have the surgery if he felt like he was getting better, it wouldn’t hurt his feelings (smile).  Mike’s struggle was that he had been praying for healing and he felt like maybe he was healing.  But in his own words, he is a blockhead and he knows that God knows that about him so he had specifically asked for a clear sign.  His partial healing confused him.  Did it mean God would eventually totally heal him?  I felt peace about the surgery, but Mike did not and he wanted to feel peace about whether or not to have the surgery.  What to do, what to do?  The doctor left so that we could chat about it.  Mike said he was praying for a clear sign, but this didn’t feel clear (like surgery getting canceled).  Since he didn’t feel like he had a clear sign, and he knew that God wouldn’t try to confuse him, he trusted that surgery was the right decision.

The surgery took twice as long as it was supposed to because when the doctor went in he couldn’t even see the nerves.  80% of the spinal cavity was filled with the disc and it had wrapped around the nerves.  The reason why he had started to feel better is because the nerve was being choked and was actually dying.  Good thing he had the surgery!

I wrote in another post about “what if’s” and how you can get stuck with that thought pattern.  That particular post dealt with the “what if’s” of the past.  My husband’s “what if’s” were for his future.

What if he died on the operating table?
What if he was paralyzed?
What if the surgery didn’t work?
What if he got an infection?
What if his body eventually healed itself?

On and on…

These “what if’s” had metaphorically paralyzed him.  It made it difficult to make decisions.  He was trying to put his trust in God, but it was confusing.  Looking back it seemed clear that God didn’t want him to have surgery the first time.  The second time was not as clear.  We think that we want clear, concise answers from God all the time.  If we really thought about it though, I don’t think we would like that.  It seems to me that we could become somewhat robotic.  There wouldn’t be much of a relationship if we didn’t have to lean into Him, rely on Him, call on Him in our times of need.  But this trust thing is hard because deep down we know that things aren’t always going to turn out the way we want them to turn out.  We have to trust that God will be with us no matter what happens.  He will always be there to help us.  And He answers us…not always with the answer we want, or with the timing we would like, but He does answer.  The first surgery was canceled.  We felt that was an answer.  The second time it wasn’t canceled and things seemed unclear.  But we got our answer after Mike stepped out in faith.  The doctor said his injury was so bad he wouldn’t have gotten better on his own so surgery was necessary.  In fact, he would have gotten worse.

I had a situation recently that involved trust.  I’m in a women’s study at my church and there are some new ladies in the group so I knew that not everyone knew that my son is gay.  We were going around the room and answering questions.  There were several ways I could have answered the question, but I decided to answer in a way that let them know my situation.  I have a gay son.  I had to trust the ladies in the room which is not easy because in the past when I’ve shared some gossip has come out of it.  But I had to trust that this is what God wants me to do.  He wants me to tell my story.  And I trust that He is with me every step of the way.  It’s the only way I am able to do it.

As Christians, we want to do God’s will.  We consult with Him when we need to make decisions.  However, when we don’t feel like we get a direct answer, we need to step out in faith and trust God.  He can’t work though us if we are paralyzed by fear and indecision.

Psalm 91:2 (NIV)

2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

And remember to love each other…because love matters.