Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Blessing of Pain

Some of you may notice that I changed the title of my blog from "Just Thinking" to "The Heart Speaks." I'm always thinking about something but I am learning more and more that from my heart, my mouth speaks and it's often not exactly what I'd wished I'd said.

I saw some old friends recently that I had not seen in years. It was wonderful to reconnect with these dear companions, but I was so hoping that I wouldn't see one individual in particular simply because of a wounding I had received at their hand. That spot was obviously still tender no matter how well I tried to cover it up.

Well, as God would have it our paths did cross. There was no avoiding someone who wouldn't let themselves stay hidden, much like I had chosen to do. I avoided contact for as long as I could, like a wounded animal afraid to be touched. When approached, I did what any hurt thing would do, I chose my words deliberately in hopes of ending the interlude as quickly as possible.

Afterwards, I was sick -- heartsick! Though I wasn't mean or rude, my demeanor was unloving and extremely detached. I had never fully released that which I perceived as an affront to me in my relationship with this individual. My actions revealed what was in my heart and it wasn't pretty.

In truth, what I thought was moving on from an offense I'd received was actually a cover up. Masking indifference for forgiveness is a dangerous infection no salve can mend. Fortunately for me, I tend to be pretty honest with myself in the end. As a believer, when we're honest before God we know when we're just plain wrong. I'm not saying it's easy. In fact, I hate it when I'm wrong. That usually means I have to do something about it, and God knows I will because I want to grow up in Christ, achieving the fullest stature of the Cheryl I was created to become. ...but, back to the heart issue.

It was rather telling to me afterwards, after all the fretting beforehand in anticipation of seeing this person, just how obvious it was to me that I was still holding onto the pain of that situation. Why couldn't I see it as clearly before? Maybe it was because until I saw this person, I was able to convince myself that I had moved on. Then while I was standing there face to face with them, the truth came forth and it hurt.

Do you you realize that pain is a gift? It is an indication that something is not quite right and it is in need of healing. The pain I was experiencing in my heart should've clued me into my greater need for healing. The Father's love for us is so great that He allows us to experience pain. Can you imagine having a broken leg and not experiencing any pain because of it? What sort of further damage could you inflict upon yourself without the indication that something is terribly wrong? Pain is a blessing when you look at it like that. However, just having the pain and not doing something about it is not a good thing either.

When we present our pain to our Great Healer who has the power to transform our hurts into our holiness, then we wince no more when those places are touched. What once caused us to shrink back and respond in fear, now compels us to allow the Spirit of God to search us and to reveal those places in our heart that need His healing touch. Exposure is a great thing! Living there is not always easy but as we yield to the Lord more and more each day, our defenses begin to crumble and weaken giving Him greater access to those deep places in our hearts.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Are you the Best?

I've started frequenting the grocery store chain that I love, at a new location. It's on my way home from work and therefore more convenient for me. It's not the big "ta-dah" version I am used to but it will suffice since it carries everything I typically need anyway.

Last week, I decided to do my weekly shopping for groceries at this location as opposed to the one I normally go to for this trip. I took my time going up and down the aisles, (something most people hate doing but I somehow find therapuetic), familiarizing myself with where everything could be found. When I was done, being that it was in the evening after work, I started to prepare myself for the long cashier line in which I was destined to wait.

I began making my way through the crowded paths, looking up all the while to make sure I didn't end up in one of those "15 or less" aisles. No matter how cute I tried to be or pathetic I tried to look, that just wouldn't fly with my basket heavily ladden down with provisions for the following week.

However, to my surprise, every register except one was open and many of them were manned by managers! I was shocked! I could get in any line I wanted because all were moving quickly. Never in my life had I seen so many registers open at once. Even more shocking was the number of managers, checking, sacking and filling carts. Had I just walked into the Twilight Zone? They were moving people out of there so fast that I started scrambling for my store card, my wallet and even my keys, so that in case they rushed me by too fast, I would at least be ready to load up my car once my head cleared from the daze.

The look must've shown on my face. In fact, I know it did because I was so floored by this phenomenon that I commented on it to the manager that was checking me out. When I did, she said, "I wondered why you were looking around like that." I made sure she knew that I thought this was a good thing and that they were now my new favorite location. Really, I just wanted to make sure that I would receive this kind of service all the time. :0

The manager said that they all felt it was their job to keep the store running smoothly and that they realized we all just wanted to do our shopping and get home. How right she was, but few in her position care enough to do anything about it. She also said something else that kept me pondering all the way home. "We don't mind doing whatever it takes to help out."

I looked at her and said, "That's why ya'll are the best and why I will be shopping here more often."

As I drove home. I thought to myself, what if we all did our very best everyday? What if we tried harder, gave a bit more, made a bit more effort than the day before? What if instead of saying or in most of our cases thinking, "That's not my job," we thought, "Sure. I'll help with that!" What if we went beyond the norm everyday?

A friend and I were talking the other day about my current job and why she thinks I'm there. I was relaying a rather frustrating story to her about one of my clients. I had worked very hard on obtainging some special assistance for this elderly lady. It was a big thing we were doing for her and I was so happy to be the one to tell her what we would be providing for on her behalf. I had gone beyond what was required of me to make this happen for this individual. I was so excited, only to watch most of this tremendous blessing crumble before my eyes, because once I did my part it was out of my hands and into another's who didn't care as much or perhaps like their job enough to see to it that this request be honored in a timely fashion. What if we all cared as much as we could each day?

I have another client who needed some major help as well. I had also been working on this case for several weeks. This time, the client herself was holding me back from completing her request by not giving me everything I needed. I stayed on top of the situation, constantly calling to check and see if she had everything. No longer wanting to delay the provision she needed, I went to her home to retrieve the last and final paperwork needed to complete her request. I could have waited until she compiled everything herself or simply just let her follow up with me once she had all she needed. When I called her last week to tell her that her request had been approved, she screamed so loudly into the phone that I nearly dropped the receiver. What if we each went the extra mile everyday?

I didn't tell you why my friend thinks I'm in this particular position. She says it's to leave things better in my wake, for the next person who will follow behind me. I agree. I'm not trying to toot my own horn. In fact, because of how much work I have to do, I have been strangely impressed upon to make my work count. At times when I've wanted to take shortcuts that would get the job done but cause my work to be less than perfect, I've felt the gentle nudging of the Spirit encouraging me to go all the way, and not stop short. I want the work I do to be so precise and so excellent that the next person will have to work harder than they ever did before to equal my results. At times I may feel as though I am cleaning up the mess passed down to me, but in reality, what I am really doing is raising up a standard of excellence through the tasks set before me. What if we each did more than we thought we could everyday?

You are the best you there is. Can you imagine you, only better? Just what would that look like? Don't imagine it. Be it! Give yourself fully to the tasks at hand.

2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.