Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spiritual Economics

So life is rarely what you think it should be. And we all know nothing makes God laugh like a man's plans. Or a woman's plans in this case.

But either way, I'm sure he's been getting a good giggle out of my life lately.

I feel like I need to preface this story with a caveat; I knew this year was going to be hard. Last May, when Paul turned 18 and his missionary calling was imminent, I had a feeling akin to "Brace yourself. Its going to be tough one!"

I originally suspected it was going to be a financial challenge.

Some of the challenges fall into that category, the "financially-annoying- in- nature"; speeding and parking tickets, an accident on the freeway plus the towing incident leading to unexpected costs on the cars (thousands of dollars actually), broken computers, school fees, illnesses that eat into my paid time off plus costly doctors visits and medicines,they're selling our condo and we need to find a new home. They have become piled on top of each other making life more difficult to manage than usual.  Like my friend Doris said "We would all just like to say stop that. No more surgeries. car accidents, etc." True story Doris. Word.

But the real difficulty lies in what has become a very refining part of my life in the emotional, spiritual, and mental areas. A lot of the experiences are the types of things that force you to stretch and grow and bring you to your knees because you have no where else to go. The types of things that make you dig very deep and come to understand who you are, and decide if you're okay with where your life is and where it feels like the Lord is taking you. You are brought face to face with your fears and insecurities and have to recognize they exist...then grab the opportunities to grow and forgive yourself for your weakness or let those situations mow you ever and turn you in human mulch. Most of them are things I can't even yet share the details of the journey... because the journey is still in progress. But it has been hard. And some days have felt like nothing short of despair. It has been professionally and personally the hardest 6 months of my life in recent memory.

Wendy Ulrich in the book Voices of Hope shares this insight:

 "When Christ's teachings or life's demands are hard or offensive, we need special help from the Father to not go back but to continue to walk with the Savior. That help generally comes after - not before - we make the decision to do whatever God requires. We often struggle with this order. We want God to do His part first - to make us happy, cure our ills, bring us love, remove our frustrations, meet our needs - and then we will sing on the dotted line. After all, wouldn't we be suckers to spend all our emotional savings before seeing the merchandise we are purchasing?

Dealing with God is not an economic exchange, governed by the rules of the marketplace. The decision to follow God comes from our deepening conviction that God, unlike our fellow mortals, can always be trusted to do His best for us, free from selfish intent. The decision to follow God is not a bargain we strike but a statement about who we are and an expression of our deepest values, regardless of the temporary outcomes. Our covenant relationship with God is not based on short-term economic exchanges (I'll stay as long as I'm happy, as long as I'm fairly compensated for my efforts as long as it makes obvious send) but on an emerging trust that God's best is as good as it gets, ever, even when we cannot quite see how, Such a commitment provides direction and sustenance regardless of the vicissitudes of life."

I believe in Him. Not only do I believe IN Him, I believe HIM. I believe that his best IS as good as it gets and that the current demands on my life are bringing me closer to that best. And even though he asks us to step forward with faith into a dark and terrifying unknown without giving us all of the answers to the where or the why... he keeps sending us little reminders that in the darkness, we are not alone. That even though he cannot give us the fullness of the blessing until the task is complete, he will always be close enough that we can feel his love. He shows us this love through what many have come to call "tender mercies".

The events of this past week seem to me, the perfect metaphor for this process.

The pain right below my ribs had been constant if not consistent. A dull ache was always there, sometimes turning into sharp stabbing pains that would double me over and leave me on the floor. The severity and frequency of these attacks was increasing. And Sunday was kind of the final straw. I took myself home from church and laid down hoping the pains would subside. They did. Enough for us to be able to run up to my aunts and enjoy some family time. But when we got home, the pains picked back up again. And the timing was impeccable. Marcus had stopped by. And the bishop had just called to ask Paul and I to stop over and sign some paperwork to complete his missionary requirements. Marcus drove us over and it was decided I would seek a blessing from the bishop to know what best to do in this case. Should I wait it out? Should we go to the emergency room? I wasn't sure. Mostly, I just wanted to stop hurting.

The blessing was interesting. I was told that the doctors would be able to quickly diagnose the problem, and that while I healed I needed to remember to allow others to serve me. And to be assured that my family would be provided for.

As he spoke, my mind flashed back to a not too dissimilar situation 9 years ago. I had cut my thumb. And the pain that came a few days later seared my arm from finger to elbow. We had no insurance. I pled with the Lord to take the pain away. I just knew if I could rest that I would be better. The Lord knew far more than I did. The pain, even after my pleading, increased to the point I could no longer stay away, I took myself to the ER (where the pain immediately subsided) and was promptly admitted, given the warning that my entire arm was infected and it was quite likely I would lose part of my hand and arm. The Lord intervened and I kept every part of me person, thanks to blessings, prayers and guidance from those near to me. Had I waited, it might not have turned out the same.

As the bishop finished, the pains sharpened again. I understood the message. Go to the hospital.

Short story; I was admitted and had my gallbladder removed the next morning complete with a recovery time.

But the point is not actually the surgery. Or the pain. The point is the mercies.

First mercy... Marcus. I could not have asked for anyone better to be with me. He is a very good man. And an amazing friend. He deserves a lot of credit for not only going with me, but staying with me through bloodwork, ultrasounds, vomit, and the decisions that had to be made. He did not leave me until I was settled in and practically asleep. His "I love you" is the last thing I can recall before I drifted off into a medication induced slumber.

Second mercy... Bryant, my brother. Also a very good man. He came straight from working the night shift and went to go talk to my kids so they knew what was going on and made sure they were off to school before coming over to see me. He stayed with me until they took me to surgery. And he was back to take me home, letting his second job know he couldn't be there because he had to help his sister. He took the kids to the store and got some groceries. I am so grateful for him and his willingness to be there for me and for us.

Third mercy... Bryant had to leave to go get some sleep and I really thought I would be just fine a lone until later in the day after I had come out of anesthesia. But my mother felt otherwise, and called my Grandma Thacker to come and be there when I got back to the room. I was so grateful for it. As I was coming out of the anesthesia, I lost it a little and started crying hysterically I guess. And there stood my grandmother, holding my hand, stroking it and calming me down. I needed that. I needed her. It was the first time I had really had a chance to cry about any of this, and she was there to help me through it. She stayed the whole day as my company until Bryant came back.

Fourth mercy...  Kayque sent me a facebook message, pleading with me to let him know I was okay. He told me that on Sunday he had just started thinking of me and knew he needed to say a prayer for me. And that God would somehow get that message to me. What was interesting, is about the same time on Saturday when he was praying for me, I was overcome with the thought of him and missed him. I could feel that prayer. It helped to know that someone half a world away from me loved me and was thinking of me.

Fifth mercy...  the outpouring of love and support was incredible! I have wonderful people in my life and their willingness to serve and offer anything they could to us was amazing. The countless emails, messages, texts and calls.  It helped bring an enormous amount of peace to the whole process.

I see this surgery week as a metaphor for all of the things that have been going on...so let me wrap it nicely in a little package. Just like my surprise surgery, life is full of things we didn't plan to go through. But they are necessary. I needed to have that surgery. Like my sister in law Tamra said...surgery is immediate gain for long term pain. Most of what I am going through now is immediate pain for long term gain. But I have to pay the price first. That is how spiritual economics works. The most wonderful thing is that even though I would have ultimately seen the benefits of the surgery regardless of the small mercies, the small mercies made the temporary pain bearable and reminded me why the pain was worth it and that it would not last forever. Just like the many small and simple things that have helped me through surgery and recovery, I have had those moments appear even on the edge of despair; the story I needed to read, the friend I needed to talk to, even the stranger I needed to talk to... all mercies to remind me that the pain would pass. That his best is as good at it gets...even when in the moment, I cannot see how.