Finding Perspective in a World of Pain

Maturity brings perspective.

I have the distinct memory of a shopping trip to the Red Barn Market, a grocery store in the small town of Jonesburg, Mo.  I was with my mother; we had just finished gathering the necessities & were standing in the checkout line.  I remember the sound of the beep as the cashier slid each item, one by one, across the scanner.

That’s when my dream developed—my dream of being a checkout girl.

Now, as you may have guessed, as I matured I realized that my dream was really more of a nightmare. I have no burning desire to work as a checkout girl in Jonesburg, Mo. Yes, maturity brings perspective.

As we grow and change, so do our ideas and beliefs.  It is unrealistic to think that our childhood ideas should follow us into adulthood.  But…

This is precisely the problem that so many of us struggle with in today’s world—and it costs us dearly.

As children we are taught that God cares about our each and every need.  That He has the “whole world in His hands.” We are built with a fundamental understanding of how God works and who He is.

Our world is beautiful.

It is simple.

It is kind—and from that we draw conclusions about the God that created it.  We understand that He is beautiful, simple, & kind.

But as we grow our perspective changes.  We realize that this world we once found beautiful is sick. We see tsunami’s claiming the lives of thousands, wars driven by men hungry for money, & starving children in a world overflowing with food.  At this sight our vision of God is shattered, our understanding of His character altered, our faith shaken. Perhaps you have never struggled with this, but unfortunately that would place you in the minority. I have watched as friends have struggled and faltered. Many have walked away; some remain, but simply avoid the issue because they find no answers.

So, you ask, what is my point?

My point is this: the little view that we teach our children is flawed. We have misrepresented the very character of God.  We teach that He is in control of everything; that all that happens is from His hands.

I don’t know that I agree.

We raise children that believe their God is one who controls every aspect of their life. I believe this is problematic.

Is it true? Does God control every aspect of our lives? I don’t think so. Gasp.

Human beings are incredibly powerful, so powerful, in fact, that they are the only beings on this Earth that can limit God himself. We make choices, and those choices limit the power of God.

There was an accident not too long ago in the town where I used to live.  A group of young kids were riding in a car without wearing their seatbelts.  They were hit by a drunk driver, and the results were catastrophic.

Did God cause this? Did Satan?

The driver of the other car made the choice to drink that night. He made the choice to get into his car and drive.  Those kids made the choice to drive without wearing their seat belts.

God didn’t cause that to happen for punishment.

He didn’t cause that to happen to bring anyone to Christ.

He didn’t cause it at all.  We did.

The free will of human beings can limit the power of God.

Every time Christians take some awful event and give God credit for it, they’re tarnishing the very name of God, and I believe they are costing Heaven the souls of some.

The Bible says that God brings rain on the just and the unjust, that every good and perfect gift comes from the father of love. God is love. He does not cause accidents. He doesn’t give you cancer to bring you closer to Him. He didn’t cause sin and I don’t believe that He uses sin to bring about His purpose. We live in a sinful world; let us place the blame where it belongs—on us.

Of course, this is only my perspective. How do you find perspective in a world of pain?

Motherhood is…a Hallmark commercial?

When my husband & I got married I distinctly remember visions of what our lives would be like together. I looked into our future & I saw it all. The two-story house on a quiet street, family dog, 2.5 kids, & myself, in a career that I adored.

In my visions we were always smiling, the kids were happy, the house was perfectly clean and organized—all was well. I saw myself baking with the children, all laughing around me, the holiday crafts we had made together decorating the refrigerator in the background.  I was headed for a wonderfully perfect life in suburbia. What I didn’t realize at the time was this image that I had in my mind, it wasn’t a life, it was a Norman Rockwell painting, a Hallmark movie, a Nestle commercial—but it wasn’t real.

Now this may seem painfully obvious to you, but for a young, idealistic 25 year old expecting her first baby, it was a shock.  I encountered motherhood with a false expectation of what my life “should” look like.  It was a picture created from thousands of magazine ads with perfect mothers holding perfect babies, from years of watching television shows depicting “Betty Crocker” mothers that could do it all with ease. It started in pregnancy, from the moment I found out that I was expecting I immersed myself in baby books—I stopped eating all the wrong foods; started eating all the right ones. I continued to exercise 6 days a week, drank the perfect amount of water, slept in just the right position.  I avoided cold medicine as if it was the plague. I carefully planned out my birth plan—which absolutely excluded any pain medicine.  I was striving for perfection.

“Freedom From Want” By Norman Rockwell

Once our baby arrived the obsession continued.  I tried to keep my house in perfect condition, make sure that my baby was doing it all—sign language, sleep training, cloth diapers, etc. Now I am a 29-year-old mother of three, and I am exhausted. My house isn’t perfectly decorated & immaculately clean—and I feel guilty about that. My kids don’t behave wonderfully all the time—and I feel guilty about that. I don’t always have time to cook the most nutritious meals—and I feel guilty about that. I wake up late & don’t always make time for worship in the mornings. I am, at times, short-tempered and impatient. I have been known to use the television as a babysitter to get a moment of peace, and even let my twins sleep on their stomach because they HATED swaddling and wouldn’t sleep any other way (gasp)—and I feel guilty about all of it.

But you know what, I have come to accept that I am not alone.  I am not the only drowning mother in a sea of perfect, beautiful women who have it all together. No. There are others that find this ideal is too much. This ideal that we’ve created through countless ads, television shows, movies, & Facebook posts that reveal only our best moments, and rarely our worst.

So for all you moms out there, having perhaps your worst day—keep the faith! Despite all the cute pictures & funny anecdotes barraging you on Facebook—there are times we all want to cry.

Image Credit: supershot.com

You see, the truth is, we all get angry at our kids. There are moments we ALL want to rip our hair out & wonder why in the world we didn’t just stay childless.  More often than not our house is not kept in perfect condition, because we have toddlers running about—wreaking havoc where there once was order.  Sometimes we cry; sometimes we yell; sometimes we feel like giving up.  This is life. It is messy. It is imperfect. It is hard. It is not made up of a thousand perfectly happy Facebook posts, and at the end of the day, thank God for that! Without its chaos & imperfections I wouldn’t have all the stories & memories that make up my life—instead I would merely have a Hallmark commercial—superficial & uneventful at best.

Neither Rich Nor a Ruler

In this life we tend to avoid extremes.  Own 1 or 2 guns and you’re a typical American, start stockpiling storehouses full and people get uneasy.  We cling to old adages, “everything in moderation” and “too much of a good thing can kill ya!”

Yes, we really do prefer all things in moderation, but does God?

Does the God of the universe share our desire to blend in and enjoy everything with a hefty dose of moderation? For an answer, I turn to the story of a young man who comes to the Lord with a question.

It’s one of the most provocative stories in the New Testament—a young, wealthy, Jewish ruler comes to the Lord of Heaven and asks, “What must I do to attain eternal life?”

The question seems simple enough; many have asked it through the years. That’s not what makes this story significant—the significance comes in the reply of the savior.

“Sell all that you own and distribute it to the poor,” was his answer. Everything.  All.

There is a sense of completeness, of wholeness that comes with the word all. It is the “whole quantity or extent.” Jesus doesn’t ask the rich man to give all of his savings to the poor, or even all of his money to the poor. No. The King of Kings commands this man to sell all that he has in his possession and distribute the money to the poor.

To me, that is profound.

Too often too many of us sit on our couches and watch our television while God waits for us to give all.  We go to the movies & travel the world and he waits for our everything. We throw parties & plan weddings while he waits for our “whole quantity” to be given to him.

We read the story of this rich young ruler who loved himself and this world too much to give all that he had for the cause of Christ, and yet, how many of us deny Jesus the same daily?

I believe that we serve a God of extremes.  He loved when he should’ve hated. That’s extreme.  He restores health where he should’ve walked away. He served others when he was the one that deserved service.  He was an extremist, and I believe that he expects nothing more from his people today.

We like going to church each week, sitting in our pew, maybe volunteering a few times a year.  We give our tithe and many of us even add a little offering.  Perhaps we give a little to a shelter around the holidays. But we hold back. Just like the rich young ruler, we hold back.

We keep enough to buy the latest iPhone. We save enough for a hefty retirement. We make sure we can afford cable television and name brand clothing and that nice television and…

We are the rich young ruler, living in 2013, we are guilty just as he was.

The pen of inspiration writes, “He (Jesus) gave him a test that would make manifest the selfishness of his heart. He showed him the plague spot in his character” (COL 392). The plague spot.

We have a plague spot on our character. When the books are closed and this world has passed away, will any of us wish that we had purchased a more expensive phone? Will we worry about not having worn nice enough clothing? Fret over the lack of television that we watched?

Doubtful. It’s far more likely that we’ll weep over those we didn’t help. Lament over those that suffered longer than they needed to because of our inaction.

Can we be extreme in a world of mediocrity?