Sunday, September 09, 2007

It's just pain.

No, this is not a post about childbirth--I promised to keep those on the baby blog, remember? :) No, this post is about church--because we actually went last night! For the first time in, like, a year! (That's what happens when you have a toddler who loves to run (and your church has an outdoor "parents' room" complete with giant field that just begs kids to come frolic) and hates being left in a nursery with strangers. We finally realized we were just distracting everyone else and not getting anything out of the message ourselves because we were so busy chasing Abby. Hence a year has passed...) I found out two of my teacher friends go to a church about 20 minutes away, and they have Saturday night services, and indoor parents' room, and do expository teaching. The perfect church trifecta, as far as we're concerned.

I really enjoyed it. I don't think I've heard that much Scripture in a church sermon in my life. It was beautiful. A bit hard for me to follow at times, since half my attention was on keeping Abby occupied in a room where all she had to play with was her coloring book and crayons, but considering that she did very well. But anyway, the main gist of the message, which was taken from Hebrews 12:1-2, was about growing in your faith in order to combat sin in your life. One of the points he made was "Minimize the sacrifice." In other words, don't get a martyr complex, don't focus on what you stand to lose when being obedient, but focus instead on what you stand to gain. He commented on how we tend to fall into sin because, when faced with a choice to make, we start thinking about how painful it's going to be to deny ourselves what we want, to choose the right path, to remain obedient. Instead, he said, even though it might hurt in the short run, think about all you stand to gain by making the right choice.

That really stuck with me. I'm a pain freak. I am terrified of it. Not just physical pain, but emotional pain, mental pain, relational pain. I am a total scairdy cat when it comes to confrontation because I hate pain--feeling it or causing it. It has been an issue for me my whole life. But it really got me thinking when the pastor said that last night. I mean, who cares? It's just pain. It won't kill you. It won't last forever. It sucks, no doubt, and it's not pleasant, and it's worth avoiding when you can, but if avoiding it means staying in the same place year after year after year, never growing as a person and never growing in your relationship with God, then isn't it in your best interests to just buck up and take it? The potential payoff is so much bigger than that of staying complacent and never going all-in with God, or your husband, or your friends, or your passions, or whatever.

I have been at about the same level in my walk with God for the last ten years. Ten freaking years. That's not only pathetic, it's dangerous. Mediocrity is not a good place to be, ever. The worst part about it is how oh so very comfortable it is. Predictable. Cozy, like one of those memory foam beds that holds your shape. And, just like those beds, very difficult to get out of. For me, I think a big part of why I've been here so long is my fear of pain. I have this idea, and I don't know how theologically sound it is, that if I turn everything over to God and pray that most dangerous prayer--Take me, Father, I'm yours, do with me what you will--then my life will not only be turned upside down, but I will suffer. There will be pain. Refinement requires fire, does it not? Sort of hard to refine with a warm bath. And now that I have a husband, a child, I fear that the fire God will use to refine me will have something to do with them, with losing them, or seeing them suffer. Me suffering I can take, but seeing my baby girl sick or harmed? No way. Seeing Dan ill? Lord, I can barely stand it when he has his cluster headaches, I can't imagine seeing him suffer something worse.

And yet, I feel like I'm giving God an unfair shake by assuming He'd do that to grow me. I mean, he's my Father, he's not going to purposefully harm me or my loved ones (for whom He is also a Father), right? But it's a fallen world and bad things happen to good people...*sigh* See, I keep going back and forth and I don't know what to think. But despite the see-saw of confusion, I keep coming back to the fact that I shouldn't be here any more. I need to grow. I need to change. I need to be closer to God than I am. I need to be more disciplined. I need to be more immersed in the Scripture. I need to be more proactive about my relationship with Him. And I just don't think it's possible without some sacrifice. Some pain.

So where does all this leave me? Honestly, I don't know. But I'm tired of telling God I'm sorry for not being better, for the same sins, for not trying harder, for not hardly caring sometimes about the fact that I'm such a spiritual loser. I don't want to wonder anymore what it would be like to know God intimately. I want to know.

So I'm bracing myself.

It's just pain. Right?

1 comment:

Adventures in Aberdeen said...

Ali, I appreciate your blog and your heart in this, and I do have a thought.

I think these times can be hard because it is easier to point to the problem than to enter into it. In other words, we tend to make action plans as a way to "fix" our situation.

As I read your blog, I noticed there was a lot talk about how things should be in your life, as well as a view of a God who isn't as trustworthy as you might want him to be. I think that is the place to start - with your false ideas about God, with all of your action plans to fix yourself - at the feet of the God who doesn't need action plans but needs our hearts.

Not to advertise or anything, but I think a great first step for this is the prayer project Jamin wrote that is called The Hidden Heart on the front page. I know that a half an hour alone is probably dreaming with the little one, but if you get the chance, I think it would be beneficial.

I hope church continues to be challenging! Blessings, DAIO