I Am Thankful For Heartbreak and Failure

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I have seen so many “I am thankful for _______” posts in the past month that it got me thinking: What would I put on such a list?  Of course the normal things came up: my family, friends, health, home, safety, freedom, love, Jesus, faith, the World Race, America, clean shaven men, hand-holding, soft rainstorms, mountaintops, laughter, joy, hugs, kisses, smiles, frozen Greek yogurt, technology, fuzzy blankets, cold weather, bonfires, music, snuggles, accents, books, education, ASU, random acts of kindness, God-following men, letters via snail mail, and the list goes on and on.

Then, I got to really thinking and decided I was missing two important things: heartbreak and failure.  Yes, at first I argued with myself.  “Heartbreak?  Failure?  Those aren’t so pleasant.  Why should I be thankful for them?  I usually try to avoid them.  It makes no sense at all to be thankful for having had a broken heart or having failed.”  Oh, but it does!

You see, we are all naturally inclined to be thankful for the pleasant things, the things we want more of and hope to never be deprived of.  I am among the world’s worst at simply trying to avoid unpleasant or uncomfortable things/situations/people.  Someone breaks my heart?  That’s fine, I’ll just move on and try to pretend it never happened.  You know, avoid those memories like the plague.  That’s totally acceptable, right?   Unfortunately, no.

I believe a part of growing up is accepting that life is not always a series of pleasant, enjoyable moments that come together perfectly as long as you “do things right.”  Things are going to happen.  Despite perfectly executing that “next step” agenda that we are taught to strive for (college, career, marriage, kids, etc.), there will be unpleasant moments.  There will be broken hearts.  There will be failed attempts, plans, ideas, and relationships.  That’s part of the process, and really, it’s one of the best parts if you think about it.

I happen to love the metaphor that places God as an artist and we, as people, are His masterpieces.  Instead of thinking of us as paintings or sculptures, I like to think of each of us as mosaics.  Each tiny piece has been broken off from somewhere, rearranged, fitted into the whole, and is an integral part of the big picture.  Each time your heart has been broken, whether by a friend, a partner, a family member, boss, or even a stranger, those pieces are scooped up, rearranged, put back onto the canvas, and fitted into making the big picture beautiful.  Same thing goes with every failure.  Every failed test, failed relationship, failed plan, failed job, failed idea – it’s all used into making your big picture beautiful.

A song out right now by Casting Crowns that I have grown quite fond of states:

One day I’ll stand before You

And look back on the life I’ve lived

I can’t wait to enjoy the view

And see how all the pieces fit.

On that day, I do believe I will be seeing the most beautiful picture of my life – my life’s very own mosaic masterpiece crafted by God Himself.  Each heart break, each failure – it’s all working together along with all of the joy, the love, the excitement, the adventure, the pleasantness of this life.

So, nestled on my list of things to be thankful for you can find “heartbreak” and “failure” somewhere amongst the others, probably hanging out somewhere between “traveling” and “men wearing ties.”

Altar of Praise or Battleground?

Stand Still.  Praise.  Watch.

Stand Still. Praise. Watch.

I don’t know about y’all, but for my daily readings I tend to gravitate more to the New Testament, or if in the Old Testament regularly stick to Isaiah (my absolute favorite book of the Bible), Psalms, and Proverbs.

However, lately I’ve been drawn to the other books in the Old Testament.  Today I was namely drawn to 2 Chronicles.

A favorite story of mine from 2 Chronicles stars King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah in the face of three armies outnumbering them.  The people of Judah did all they knew to do (under the direction and guidance of Jehoshaphat) in the face of overwhelming circumstances — they prayed to God and asked for His help.  They petitioned their Rescuer to come and save them.  They knew that their power was too weak, but that God’s was strong enough.  They believed in the might and power of God to save them.

In 2 Chronicles 20:13-24 God tells the people from Judah that they do not need to fight the three armies coming after them.  In fact, God tells them to “position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” in verse 17.  Above that in verse 15, God tells the people of Judah who are depending on Him that “the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

Oh how precious that when we are seemingly cornered and outnumbered – whether that be by people, burdens, circumstances, or whatever – God is mighty enough and loves us enough to take the battle for us!  So many times I want be the one in control and on the front lines trying to determine the outcome, but God is saying, “Child, just stand there, praise me, and I’ll do the fighting.”

Here’s to giving up control to God and being joyful in simply being still, praising Him, and living in the victory of my salvation in Him.
(I think I was made more for praising than fighting, anyway.)

Safe Place Intrusion

Safe Place Emergency

Safe Place Emergency

 

This may offend some, and if you are one who takes offense — please accept my dearest apologies.

First I will make completely clear:  I LOVE when we have more people come to church.  I LOVE when new people come, old people come back, and seeing the regulars worshipping and learning alongside me.  It’s beautiful, truly it is.

However…
Ever have that ONE person that you try to forget you ever invest so much as a minute in?  That ONE person that you feel stupid for trusting because they turned out to be exactly what they said they stand against?   That ONE person who betrayed you in a way you didn’t expect and really couldn’t handle?

Now imagine that person invades your personal space, your SAFE PLACE.  I don’t know where your safe place is — be it a park, your garden, the gym, a basketball court, the football field, your bedroom, your favorite tree, etc.  For me, my safe place is in the arms of my Creator.  For me, my church is like the sidewalk leading up to my safe place.  It shows me the way, guides me to safety.

Okay, so tonight that person who I just wanted to avoid and forget I ever invested any of my time in invaded the avenue to my safe place.  There I was, worshipping my Creator amidst a group of my peers when I look over see him.  Sitting there.  Right there blocking my safe place.

Imagine how awkward.  Could I focus?  Pfft!  Not at all.  I know there was something about being bold and being different and being proud of acceptance in Christ.  I heard that from the message, but the details are fuzzy.  I was occupied with willing myself to:  a) not freak out, and b) try to ignore this intruder.

Out of the dozens of churches in this city, of course he would choose mine.  Of course.  That’s just how life goes.  But really?   I know there is noone that can separate me from God — noone has that power.  It just doesn’t help focus to have someone blocking my path to Him, especially in His own house.  I know I should want him to be there at my church (because I know how awesome it is), but I wanted him anywhere but there.

If you’re like me and your safe place (or what leads to it) has been invaded, attacked, or taken over, just take heart in fact that God never changes and is always your safety.  It’s Him or nothing.  When something or someone tries to block your path to Him, run faster, fight harder, and don’t succumb to seemingly overwhelming or uncomfortable circumstances.  God is able and He is willing.  Seek Him earnestly and you will never be without a safe place.

On an ending note, know that I said a prayer for that person.  I pray that he is blessed in life.  I pray that things go well for him.  I pray that he learns to live by his words and treat people rightly.   But I also pray for DISCIPLINE for him in the most holy of forms.  Prayer is power, after all.