Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. James 1:12 (MSG)
Facing life's challenges, no matter how large or small, is contingent on one thing - our understanding of just how much our God loves us. There are so many different discussions regarding bad things happening to us in this world. Some believe God allows it, some say God is testing us, maybe God has merely set this world in motion standing back and watching as life unfolds, or maybe bad things just happen in this world. There may be some truth in all of these, but regardless of the origin, hurt hurts, trouble troubles, and pain is painful. It doesn't change the experience and it does not change the results of our circumstances.
One of the greatest gifts God has taught me is that He always uses periods when it comes to freedom and healing. What this means to me is that when God sets you free, you are free indeed. However, satan loves to use question marks. At times in my life when God has been doing a great healing in my life and I feel free, satan comes in with a question “Are you sure?” God is just not the God of question marks. I love that about Him. He is definitive, determined, and directive. I don’t feel questions when I sit near my Lord. Oh, I may have them, but He is the God of answers not questions. That makes me feel pretty safe. I start to understand that confusion and questions lead me to try and answer and solve. However, if I remember that God is the God of answers and not questions, then I find myself being able to better hear Him. He calms the storm; he doesn’t stir it.
I know you may not want to hear about this because it is not what you believe about yourself or what you have come to accept about yourself, but I hope that you will hear my heart. I came from the place you are in. Oh, I never fully accepted myself as gay, but I did feel like being attracted to other men was something in me that I could not control nor did I really want to control it most of the time. I tried, but let’s face it, it was too hard. I wanted the closeness with another man and I wanted to be loved by him and sex with a man was all I had ever known. I struggled with believing that it was the only way for me. So, I am not here to condemn you or to tell you how easy it is to change or to not be “gay” anymore, but I am here to tell you that I just want to offer to you another answer.
Well, it is raining here today in San Antonio, Texas and I feel the need to write about fair weather…you know the phrase “The weather today will be fair and partly cloudy.” That’s the way we like it right? Fair, no rain, not too hot, not too cold, a few clouds, but mostly we like it just right. In my life today, my God became my fair weather friend and I realized that I did not like it, although I do it all the time. I don’t understand why the Creator of this universe, my Creator, my Father, my Dad, can lose my trust, my unconditional love, my hope just because the weather starts to turn. Oh, I don’t mean that the rain caused me to doubt my “heavenly dad”, I mean the weather of my life, the rain of disappointment, the flurries of doubt, the rays of rejection, the pounding hailstones of unmet expectations; all of these work together to remove the trust that I have in my God and cause me to turn and run from Him, angry, hurt, and pouting because He has not met my expectations today.
I think that the fear of failure is one of the biggies for men. I mean, even the word, fail-ure slides downhill, like your heading for something bad. We don’t read the instructions, we won’t ask for directions, we don’t dare ask for help to fix the garbage disposal. What is it about men and failure? Why is it that failure is so hard and admitting it can be even harder. For me, failure reminds me of the words my Dad used to tell me in frustration when he and I would be working on something together, “Never mind, I’ll do it.” It is like you don’t even get a second chance to succeed. You may have heard similar words from your father or someone significant in your life. Even as I am writing I am feeling that nervousness in the pit of my stomach reminding me that “you better do it right or he isn’t even going to give you the chance to do it at all.”
The need to control runs deep in my veins. Simple tasks get turned into arguments and frustration as I attempt to grasp on to any fragments of security that so easily seem to slip through my fingers. Why do I have to be in control in the first place? Well, I have thought about this many times and have realized that although, I don’t like to admit it, I like having my way. Now, this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the need to control, but it is an important piece. The need to have my way seems to have its roots deeply intertwined in selfishness and perfectionism. Okay, you may be saying… Hey Lee, we already know this – what are you really trying to say?” Well, I guess as I began to see my need to control, I realized that it's not just a ravenous appetite for power over others and situations, it seems to be rooted in hurt and fear.
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)
If we take a trip back in time to the days before Jesus' death on the cross, we might understand a little more about another time in history when all hope was lost, or so it seemed. As I think about that time, I can only imagine several experiences both mentally and emotionally that those involved might have experienced. Let's put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples a day or two before the crucifixion. Jesus seems thoughtful, introspective, not really his usually joyful and playful self. He keeps talking about this event that is coming that we won't understand. What do we do with this! We should be celebrating right - He has told us He came to earth to set up a "New Kingdom" so He is bound to be just on the other side of taking His throne and bringing all this hurt, pain, and mess to an end! Let's celebrate. Why does He not seem to be very excited?
I was driving to work today listening to the radio and heard the song “Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns. It brought tears to my eyes. What is a slow fade? It is a glance, a momentary lapse in judgement, an intruding thought… it is one degree to the left that destroys mind, body, spirit, and soul, little by little. The song’s lyrics “people never crumble in a day” is so convicting because we don’t realize what one look, one thought, one glance will do to our purity, our lives, our faith, and our relationships. The destruction that a slow fade produces is devastating – we would be much more aware if a bomb hit our home, but much less aware if there were termites, eating, destroying silently; maybe seeing one, maybe seeing glimpses of the destruction, but it is not until untold damage is done that we begin to be aware of the complete devastation that was going on behind our backs while we continued in our complacency.
El Shaddai! That is one of the name’s of God but what does it mean. He is the God of the Supernatural! When Moses passed through the Red Sea on dry ground, that was El Shaddai that did that. When Balaam’s donkey spoke to him to warn him of the Angel of the Lord, El Shaddai did that. El Shaddai is a name given to the attribute of God that speaks of His supernatural power. The power that cannot be challenged and is not challenged by the boundaries of the natural world.
For they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God. John 12:43 (ASV)
Have you ever known an “elbow rubber”? Someone who seeks the praise of men… not the praise of just any man (or woman) but the praise of men and women who can “get you somewhere”. They ride the coattails of others, they seek those in life because they see an advantage. I think we all know someone like that. I am not here to down or degrade that kind of person, I am only looking to help us all understand more about seeking the praise of men. The praise of men means that we care what others think about us. It also means that we might ignore the person in rags on the front row, yet offer all of our attention to those who come in looking “shiny”.