I Will Not Forget You

The following post is a letter to my children which I have included with my will and other end-of-life information.


Elderly manLong after Alzheimer’s disease ravaged my grandfather’s confidence, his humor and his past, it finally drained his body of breath and life. Once he died, his wife began the same, slow descent, and I went to her, hoping to comfort her with Christ while she still knew me. However, in human terms, it was already too late; a sweet, vacant smile was her only response to love or logic. So I left her with a Bible, which has now come back to me, unmarked and unruffled, and she left me with a new struggle of my own. Can God’s word sustain those who are beyond words? Does His Spirit indwell those whose spirits are vanishing? Because I became a Christian as an adult, the specter of returning to childhood, of forgetting the best news I ever heard, weighs heavy on my mind. There are a thousand losses in that possible future.

 

Yet, if I should experience the slow, sad leave-taking which is Alzheimer’s, I would not wish anyone to grieve over-much for my sake. Whatever else it may be, the disease is surely a metaphor.  It leaves behind what cannot be taken forward. As perception, kindness, the fruits of faith, a loving heart and the twinkle of an eye fade from our sight, they cannot be lost. Those are the elements of a child of God which will never be lost but will be infinitely improved. Just out of sight, those pieces wait for the final exhalation of the last remnant of a soul which has been yearning toward God all along. We will all leave behind a dry husk of flesh and sin, a seed “sown in dishonor.” It is no necessary thing for us. A thousand years from now, will it matter if I shed my skin more slowly than you shed yours?

 

Psalm 139 speaks eloquently of the omnipresence of God not only in the world, but in all the days of our lives which are ordained and written in His book. Are some of the pages blank?  If they are, it must be those pages that I have wasted on myself, taken hold of and shared with no one, refusing the difficult prose of God. Those are the meaningless pages, the ones that will burn in the fire of salvation. The pages which God alone has written with His own finger, like those days in my mother’s womb, those nights of mysterious slumber, those years which may be lost in confusion or delirium, must not be waste. The script on those pages is gibberish and foolishness to the wisdom of this world, but waits like mirror-writing to be revealed in the perfect light of grace. He who is familiar with my going out and my lying down will write on all the pages just as He wishes until that glorious morning when I arise to His call and behold the glory of His face. (Ps 17:15)

 

I do not wish to forget my children or my parents or my husband. I do not wish to drop my sword while still on the field of battle. But I will be yielded to His will and used to His purpose. And even if I forget God, He will not forget me. Having forgotten that there is hope or life or a beautiful God, I will still wake one day to the most breathtaking of all surprises: to hope and to life and to my beautiful God.

 


Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Isa 49:15-16

Gentle and Quiet, Honest and Brave

Free Happy Woman Enjoying Nature. Beauty Girl Outdoor.According to the Apostle Peter, a woman’s beauty is supposed to be most evident in her gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4), this prescription from a man whose aggravating and endearing outspokenness was a key quality of his personality. Jesus Himself showed us that one person can, without sin, be both bold and humble. In trying to capture a similar combination, modern theorists have come up with the term “assertive” as a midpoint between “passive” and “aggressive.” But the word has been applied to everything from requesting a well-deserved raise to the latest political brawl. How can Christians decide whether assertiveness, which often means voicing one’s opinion, concurs with Peter’s prescription? Can assertiveness and quietness coexist?

 

If you read my last post, then you understand there are ways in which a caricature of meekness can be harmful to human relationships. A gentle and quiet spirit cannot mean extinguishing God-given gifts or an attitude of deceitfulness or a birthplace for bitterness. It does mean, from the Hebrew, an unpretentious and settled spirit. So let us consider a description of biblical assertiveness which includes humility and honesty, leaving room for the dignity, passion and courage which Scripture also promotes.

 

Biblical assertiveness is:

 

…a quality of the mind. In the Bible this aspect of assertiveness is generally called wisdom, but it is also referred to as assurance or confidence. This is not a confidence in some quality of self but in the eternal connection of our soul to the King of Everything. When we understand our worth as determined by God alone, we neither need to hide our light under a basket nor crow with self-centered pride. Wisdom takes joy in knowing what kind of instrument God has crafted – so that you can play the trumpet you are, for example, rather than the harp you thought you were supposed to be. Jesus’ wisdom grew from intimate knowledge of His Father and of the role He had been given. Cultivate this wisdom through deep familiarity with Scripture, seeking God in prayer and making a real effort to understand and appreciate the unique and beautiful ways you have been shaped for His use. (Here is a free resource to help you.)

 

…a quality of the heart. Jesus displayed every human emotion from temptation to grief to compassion to anger. The psalms teach us that all those emotions can be directed toward God in worship. When we accept our feelings as part of God’s image in us, we can express them in ways that honor Him and promote good in the world. Every feeling has a good purpose as well as a destructive dark side. For example, anger, the one most people fear, is meant to motivate us to change things, to right wrongs or protect the weak. Jesus got angry when His Father’s house was desecrated and when the unsuspecting were led astray. Jesus wasn’t afraid of His own heart. He took care of it, seeking solitude, allowing Himself tears and surrounding Himself with family and friends. When we accept our own emotions as He did and learn to express them appropriately, others will feel more comfortable with us and with themselves. They may even know God better. Get to know your own heart through close attention and journaling, and cultivate at least a few relationships which are safe and encouraging places to express it, including your relationship with God.

 

…and a quality of the will. The will is the seat of actions and choices. Much false meekness, the kind that makes people uncomfortable (see previous post), comes from misguided choices of the will. Refusing to acknowledge real emotions or real truths, declining to speak because of guilt or fear, is not Peter’s settled spirit. To speak the truth in love (i.e., to speak the truth in relationship) is a Biblical admonition. We do not speak from a motive of anger or punishment or self-protection but out of the assurance that we have submitted ourselves to Christ first and are loving others well with our words. Making godly choices means knowing God’s values and our own. Jesus did not answer every question put to Him, meet all others’ expectations or hesitate to reveal unpleasant truths when necessary to honor His Father. He knew when to remain quiet and when to use His voice. Our will, like His, enables us to control our responses and actions rather than having them control us. When you feel emotional, consider how God might want to use that – and when and where and with whom. When you have something to say, ask Jesus to give you bold and loving words.

 

A gentle and quiet spirit is not agitated or abrasive, but it may be funny or convincing or brave. A person with this attribute exhibits confidence without arrogance, born from a sense of identity rooted in the love and acceptance of the King of Everything. A person at peace imparts that sense of tranquility to others. I know a gentle and quiet spirit when I find one because I am at peace in her presence. I neither need to protect her nor read hidden signals for her mood or preferences. She is able to say what is true, to own what is real and to do what is right – without nagging or contention or guilt or defensiveness. Because, at the end of the day, she looks into the face of her Beloved, and no other, for approval. It took Peter a long time to learn what that meant for his own life. I don’t expect we’ll get it overnight, either.


Related Material:

Faith and Assertiveness by Blaine Smith

Gracefully Assertive by Chelsea Cote

Why It’s Good to Be Bold by Liz Curtis Higgs

What Marriage?

20120714-105714.jpgDear Christian Counselor,

What do I do with my marriage? I am tired and hurt and devastated. We have been married three years and have fought this entire time because he is controlling and emotionally and verbally abusive to me. I have since learned he cheated on me before we were married and also recently. I feel lost and not knowing what I am to do at this point. On top of all of this, he is not remorseful for his behavior and choices and says I deserved it.

Lost and Alone in Marriage


Dear Alone in Marriage,

My first reaction is to say to you, “What marriage?” Jesus names adultery as His exception to the prohibition on divorce (see Matt. 19:9, for example) because it breaks the relationship so thoroughly – physically, emotionally and spiritually. So you do have the option of divorce. You did not say whether you or your husband are Christians or have a Christian community, but if you do, it is time to engage those resources. You need a pastor, a counselor and a group of friends supporting you, praying for you and helping you through this time. If you don’t have these things, go get them!

Just because divorce is an option doesn’t mean you have to take it. But if your husband remains unrepentant in the face of confrontation by you, your pastor, Scripture and the Holy Spirit, then I would suggest you enforce a separation, even if you remain in the same house. Use the time to do your own counseling, especially in terms of your identity and decision-making, investigate your legal and financial options, and pray, pray, pray. For something this important, you want to know you followed God rather than culture or even your own ideas. In the end, you will either have to build something totally new with your husband or pursue life on your own, because what you have is not what I would call a marriage.


Related Material:

Questions About Forgiveness
An Unrepentant Spouse