Confession: I have a bad attitude.
Truth: If you know me, you probably already know this.
Not about everything and everyone, though. Just some things. And man, I get pretty passionate about those things.
In my head, I don’t have that bad of an attitude. It’s more that I’m stating my opinion. When things work and are decent I’m pretty apathetic, really. I enjoy the good stuff, don’t get me wrong. The good memories are all stored away in my heart–promise. But the bad stuff pisses me off.
I’ve been working on being more positive.
Confession: I tend to be in the empty half of the glass.
Truth: I don’t know why. And it takes a lot of work to think positive.
I used to be a lot worse. Ask Phil. I used to believe that anything bad could and would happen to me (and most times, it did.) I was constantly worried. Like when Phil was driving over the road without me. In the days before cell phones. There were a couple times when I couldn’t get him to respond to me paging him. I don’t remember why now, but what I do recall is how
obsessive frantic I would get. I’d call the pager 172 times in a few hours, I’d call State Troopers along his route, not to mention calling all the hospitals along the way.
I also believed Phil would leave me. And I believed I wasn’t worthy of anyone’s love. I believed I was a bad person and bad things would continue to happen to me.
I’m not quite that bad anymore. But sometimes those anxieties rear their ugly heads. (more than usual lately)
Confession: I don’t care if you don’t like me.
Truth: I don’t care if you don’t like me.
It’s not just something I say. I truly don’t care if you don’t like me. I’m not here to please you. And why should it bother me if someone doesn’t like something I do or say? Is my worth resting in a human?
I have no use for some people. I tolerate very little. I tell it like it is. And most often, that gets me in trouble. Some people want to be lied to. They want to feel good about themselves so they fish for compliments or blog comments or Twitter responses or Facebook conversations…anything. Anything at all to get attention.
I might have been like that when I was younger, which is probably why I can’t tolerate it now. I sought out acceptance like it was a drug.
Except it’s more powerful than any drug out there.
Confession: I am judgmental.
Truth: I always have been.
Not towards everyone though. Rational, logical people very seldom are judged by me. It’s the people who make no sense to me that I wonder about.
Confession: I am a hypocrite.
Truth: So are you.
We all are.
Confession: I’m not good at encouragement.
Truth: I don’t know how to change that.
I’ve been doing this Beth Moore Bible study and in the last session something very powerful happened to me.
Let me go back to November of 2005. I was asked by my Church to attend a Lifeway Women’s Leadership Training conference.
Something happened there–well, it started a little before that. I had done another Beth Moore study and she had mentioned (quite often) having a spiritual “mama,” a mentor. I prayed and prayed for one and God didn’t answer.
Until this leadership conference.
I had felt just a tad bit uncomfortable eating meals at the conference because it seemed everyone there was with someone else from their own church. This observation was verified by the name tags that said the name of the church as well as the attendee’s name.
We were meeting in Lifeway’s sanctuary for a little music from Travis Cottrell before the day’s classes began. I chose a pew 5 or 6 rows from the front, scooted myself to the middle and buried my nose in the day’s schedule to verify that the sessions I chose were truly the ones I wanted to attend.
The music started, I stood up and started singing along. I looked to my left. Empty. I turned to my right. Empty. I realized then that I was the only one in the very, very, long pew and I was smack in the middle. I looked forward and behind. It was the only pew in the entire sanctuary that had open seats. And I was smack in the middle.
The uncomfortableness of it all sank in. I closed my eyes and asked, “Why can’t I have someone to be with? Why can’t I have a mentor?”
God’s answer was loud and clear, even if silent, “Am I not enough?”
He really proved a point to me that day.
For the last 5 years, I’ve been going at it (from an earthly prospective) alone. No human mentors, not many humans that could relate to me and my spirituality, and I’ve been perfectly ok with that. I stopped asking for human mentors and friends. I leaned fully upon Christ.
Last week, at the end of the Stepping Up video session, Beth Moore asked participants to stand up and move in shoulder to shoulder. Our facilitator asked us to get up and do the same. Beth explained that as sisters in Christ, we should be shoulder to shoulder at all times. We should not let the enemy penetrate our bond. We should encourage one another, be there to bear each other’s burdens, love each other unconditionally, and stand this way, shoulder to shoulder.
As she was saying all this, I was standing between two women I don’t know. Shoulder to shoulder. Touching. There was a line of women in front of me and behind me all shoulder to shoulder. Surrounding me and non-penetrable.
I closed my tear-filled eyes and asked, “This means something, doesn’t it?”
God answered again, silently, and not near as stern as before. The answer was yes. But He didn’t tell me what exactly it meant.
You’re probably not going to believe this.
So really, the truth is, I don’t want to believe this.
I joined this Bible study because I needed to get back to God. I don’t know a single person at the study and have never stepped foot in this church. (If you want to catch up on the story. Read this. Then this. And this.)
So, Beth Moore was on the video for Stepping Up, talking about the Psalms as songs and it was so very interesting. She was reading some verses and having us flip to some in our Bibles and we were in Psalms and had to move to Hosea and I flipped right to it because I know where Hosea is and I know the story Hosea tells and just the other day I likened my lifetime-relationship-search for God to Hosea, so yeah, I know right where it is. But the girl next to me didn’t and for a moment, when I saw her go to the table of contents, I started (in my mind) judging her and I have no excuses. I just did. And I thought to myself, you should give her a little grace. There’s no reason you should be thinking this stuff, this is stupid.
Then I hear Beth Moore on the video say, “ALL of us need to turn to the table of contents to see where Hosea is, lest we should get prideful in our hearts because we know where it is and our neighbor doesn’t.”
If the girl who sat next to me at Bible study last night is reading this, I want to apologize. Which makes me a coward, because I totally couldn’t work up the nerve to say it last night. But I am sorry and I don’t want to be like that.
If there was a time when I thought God couldn’t possibly know and react to my every thought–that was washed away completely last night. You skeptics can call that coincidence. I think otherwise, though.
And I feel horrible and really need to change some things. What made it even worse (for me, in my head) is when I got up to leave she said, “Be careful going home, Michelle, it’s snowing pretty bad.” She knew my name and cared enough to wish me well. And here I am, being all mean in my head. For no reason.
Time to make some serious attitude adjustments.
What happens when you write this and this and tell God you’re scared of being close to Him?
This is what I heard at the Beth Moore Bible study, Stepping Up:
“The Psalms of Ascent have been paralleled to a soul getting closer to God.”
“We will move to the next level with God.”
“I don’t want to be too scared to go on with God.”
“…to find yourself in a nearness to God that you’ve never been.”
(Do you really think God doesn’t speak?)
You can read part 1 here.
* * *
Apparently when you ask God, “Now what?” He hears.
…Ask and it will be given to you
Apparently when you ask God, “Now what?” He hears.
He sends people to you who say things like:
“Having faith means deciding what your relationship with God is, just the two of you (and his legion of angels who follow you around slapping you upside the head, sometimes just because they’re having a bad day – they have those, too, I assume).”
“Just be you – because He thinks you are pretty f-ing cool and if you be someone else, he’ll send an angel to do that head-whacking thing.”
My friends are angels.
One told me a story of how he had a meltdown after some particularly horrible events. He told me how he told God he wanted “out” even though he didn’t know what that meant. He was a little fearful of what it could mean so he apologized and he had a peace about things that led to him understanding that God invited him to be with people during their times of crisis, that God trusted him to be there for them. That he didn’t have to accept every invitation and if he chose not to accept it, he wouldn’t be punished or scorned or set outside the city gates to gnash his teeth.
One humbled me beyond measure by breaking down walls to tell of things not ever shared.
One who has been struggling with this same issue is now emerging from the other side and shining a flashlight back for me, so I can get a glimpse of the path.
…seek and you will find
At a church I’ve never stepped foot in, with women I’ve never met, but also alone, I’ve started a journey. I’d be a liar if I told you I knew that yesterday. There was an inclination, a desire, to work on a Beth Moore Bible study, that was it. No more, no less. It was a comfortable way for me to try this thing with God again.
(God was giggling at his mighty cleverness.)
An S.O.S. was sent out to Twitter and Facebook asking if there was a study starting and another angel told me where to find two of them and using my awesome gift of deduction, I chose the Wednesday night study called Stepping Up.
Stepping Up—a journey through the Psalms of Ascent
If the woman said it once, she said it a million times last night, “Because the veil has been torn, there is no distance between you and God.”
There is no distance between God and I.
There is no distance between God and I.
Is that my answer? (I think so.) (yes. I know so.)
Beth Moore wrote in today’s homework,
“This study is about going from here to there. About making real progress. Simply put, if you want to get on with it, whatever “it” may be, you can rest assured you’re signed up for the right journey. “
…knock and the door will be opened to you.
Does God really invite us to be a part of His work or are we obligated and bound by Christ to do it?
The very first verse of the very first Psalm we’re studying:
“In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.”
It’s the little things, y’know?
It was very hard for me to hit “publish” on this one.
* * *
In October of 1999, Zane was born. Phil was driving our semi over the road and he was home one day out of every thirty. That year, Jill and I spent New Year’s Eve together afraid for Y2K. We survived.
In 2000, we filed bankruptcy on that semi and moved back to Indiana and lived with my parents for a short time. Phil found a driving in job in Chicago and he was home two days out of every seven.
In 2001, 9/11 happened and I was scared for our lives. I’d never, ever heard it so quiet outside as when all planes were grounded. That month, we found a duplex to rent, Zane turned 2, potty-trained and I was still trying to decide if I was a good mom or not.
In 2002…Phil got a local job hauling fuel and was home EVERY night.
In 2003, Phil and I bought the Knox house. I started attending a church for the first time since I was let down by a different church back in 1992.
In 2004, doctors thought Phil had cancer. He didn’t. He did, however, punch a wall and break his hand and have to have pins put in.
In 2005, I was reading my Bible daily, active in Women’s ministry (and Phil in men’s ministry) and I was really getting to know God. Jill told me she had breast cancer and had already been battling it for a year. She’d already had a mastectomy and chemo and radiation. She made me get a breast exam. And I think they thought I had cancer. I then had an ultra sound. Then a mammogram (and platypus poop.) Then I had to see a surgeon. He told me I didn’t have breast cancer.
In 2006, I was called to write. “Write.” (I noticed I posted that on 12/02/06. Wonder if that has anything to do with 12:26?) That year, I also lost my Uncle Ed. I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when I felt as close to God. And that’s also the year my church gave me a wake up call–lying about me, accusing me of ridiculous things, and leaving me alone during a time of huge, monumental need. Phil thought he was having a heart attack. Our fridge broke. Phil lost his job. Phil had double hernia surgery. We almost lost our house. 2006 was probably the hardest year of my life. I felt so alone that year. And God taught me more about His love than I could’ve ever expected.
In 2007, my thyroid completely shut down and I’ve been trying to get my brain (and my body and my life) back ever since. It’s also the year I was asked to be on the editing team at The Midnight Diner.
In 2008, I lost my best friend, Jill in January. She might have survived Y2K, but she did not survive breast cancer. And then my grandma passed away in September. I was asked to be Editor-in-chief of The Midnight Diner.
In 2009, We were taken on a trip of a lifetime to Key West and Marco Island, Florida in March. Phil quit truck driving altogether! He started working as property manager for a local retreat center. We were blessed with a grandson in April. Around May, I finally started feeling like myself again with the help of some replacement thyroid hormone. We moved in June and I’ve been trying to figure out what life is now that Phil’s home all day, every day and now that everything has changed.
* * *
I started this post with the intention of talking about how I feel separated from God right now. I mean, I know He’s there, He just feels distant to me and I remember hearing people talk about feeling this way and I distinctly remember thinking, “I will NEVER feel that way. I will always feel as close to God as I do at this very moment.”
I was going to talk about this new Bible I got, The Books of the Bible–with no verse references–and how I was going to start reading that for the New Year.
But I got caught up in looking at the way things got so ugly during the time I was closest to God. I remember what I went through and the lessons I learned after I did Beth Moore’s Believing God study. Things I haven’t found the courage to write about.
And though God says, “Do not be afraid.”
I am afraid.
I’m afraid that if I get close to Him again, something worse will happen. And I don’t know how to let go of that fear.
I know I’m the one keeping the distance from God.
I said it.