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Monthly Archives: August 2009

Crisis of Faith Part 1: Rules, Regulations, and Legalism

So, I’ve been struggling for some months now about why my husband consistently does not see Christ in me, why he continuously feels that I am not representing Him well.  We’ve had many conversations.  I’m combining those with sermons that have convicted me, with counsel, and with Biblical reading to investigate my faith, why it may not be growing, why it may not shine very bright.  I want to know what I believe and why I believe it.  I don’t want to be a Christian that simply spouts back to people what I’ve heard or “learned”.  This will be in several parts.  I’m once again very hesitant to make myself this vulnerable, this open to ridicule, correction, and judgment.  However, blogging helps me to sort through my thoughts, my days, like a journal, and the comments help me to see myself from a more objective perspective.  I also hope that God’s power will be seen through my situation and that he will be glorified. And so it begins…

I find myself like a Pharisee.  I adhere to rules.  At least I try to.  I like rules.  They make me feel safe, like I can’t really make a mistake if I’m following them.  And if I do make a mistake I’m not as accountable if I’m following a rule set by someone else.  If I only follow rules, I don’t have to think very much.  I don’t have to be an active learner. And besides, I made enough mistakes from birth to the age of 18 to age my parents at least 50 extra years and enough for all my children too. Why?  Because I didn’t follow the rules and guidelines set out for me. For years (probably my whole life) I’ve tried to impose what I believe – whatever it may have been at the time or whatever it may be now – on other people.  I’m right.  They’re wrong.  The end.  At least that is all too often what goes on in my head and heart.  I can even usually back it up with scripture and experience….just like the Pharisees did.  And, well, if you don’t listen to me you’re bound to make a mistake, do it wrong, because – well, I told you so.  In my eyes and my heart, I’m only telling you so you won’t make a mistake…because I follow the rules and the rules are right. Oh, and of course, I’m ever so guilty of passing judgement.  I’m sure we all are at some point.  But my judgment is based on rules that I follow that quite possibly may not be correct that I’ve imposed on other people that I don’t know and may never know (usually it’s HOPEFULLY I’ll never know).  I’ve found more and more that I feel obligated to at least strive to follow every rule in the Bible, to take everything literally.

That’s not a Christian.  That’s not a follower of the Lord.  I have failed in my Christian walk to relax and acknowledge that I am saved (more on why I haven’t done this in a later post).  However, nothing can snatch me from the hand of God.( John 10:27-29)  No snatching going on here. I can follow rules that I set for myself, but I cannot expect others to follow them as well.  I have to accept that everyone has different expectations of themselves.  I have to accept that people are going to act wrongly often.  I don’t have to approve of their behavior, but I don’t have to react to their bad behavior badly either.  Judging and imposing rules on them is not a good reaction.  Being offended by the breaking of my rules is not a good reaction. Being a Pharisee is not good.  It’s not the way to win people over.  I’m pretty sure that’s one of the reasons I haven’t won my husband over, or anyone else for that matter.  So, revelation #1, check.  It may seem simple to you…something I should know.  Something I should be able to practice and control.  But it hasn’t been.  I’m tired of being a rule following legalist.  I’m ready to move on.

For the next week or so, I’ll be trying to figure out the truth behind my belief in the Lord.  Why do I believe in Him? Why do I believe that He died on the cross for my sins?  What do I have to tell the lost if I’m ever asked these questions?  How can I represent Christ well if I don’t know why I believe in Him?

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I Remember

I remember when you used to make me grits with bacon, scrambled eggs, and Tang. I remember when you used to hold my face and tell my I was “beautiful” and “precious”. I remember when you took me to see The Little Mermaid and comforted me when we got back and I cried to go home. I remember when you came and picked me up from North Carolina School for the Arts and bought me groceries…everything that I loved. I remember sliding down your stairs and playing in your chair. I remember late night coke floats, whispery talks at your kitchen table, and slide shows of all the places you had been. I remember your smell. I remember watching you read your Bible in the evenings.  I remember your love echoing through our family and through your home, through your friends and your church.  I remember your spunky nature.  I remember our family the way it was then.

I remember that day…that dreaded day. The day when I had grown older, too old and too young to appreciate you. The day you visited and the last day I ever said hello and goodbye to you. I remember, shamefully, being ready to go prom dress shopping. I remember not thinking about death. I remember coming home to cars and people and dad. I remember the words he said. I remember your funeral days after.

I wonder what you would think of me now. Would I still be your so highly regarded granddaughter? Would you still call me precious and beautiful? What would you think of my character? My mistakes? What would you have said to all my wrongs? My choices? Would I still be the apple of your eye?  Would you still call me Elizabeth Anne, and would that name still sound sweet?  What would you think of my life at this very moment?

It is not the anniversary of your death.  It is just another day, another night.  Another day where I remember and miss you.  I love you.

1951 Beth

1956 Beth 3

1966 Beth & Grover1975 Beth

1980 Beth, Liz & GroverMy grandparents and me.

1982 Beth - JerusalemGrandma in Jerusalem.

1984 Beth - Masia Village, KenyaIn Kenya

1987 Liz & Beth

1992 Shoppers - St. Petersburg, RussiaMy grandma brought me back a doll from every country or state they visited.  I have probably over 80 dolls.

1997 Venice

Their last trip together before the car accident on February 7, 1997.  They were driving home from visiting us in Louisburg.  They were hit by a careless driver who had apparently bent down to get his floor mat unstuck from the pedal.  The driver had several DUIs on his record.  He received a ticket.  My grandparents would have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary that year.

1998 Burchette, Elizabeth jpg

Mediocre Drama

Have you ever thought about what your friends do in the privacy of their own home?  Or even what they look like doing it?  For instance, there are some friends that I have that I simply can’t imagine cleaning their home.  I just can’t picture them bent over a toilet scrubbing away.  Having been in their homes, though, I’m almost 100% sure that they do (or at least someone does).

I keep thinking about the things I do on a daily basis.  I’ve been pondering how mediocre my life is yet how dramatic is our story….even as it still unfolds it is dramatic.  Yet I don’t do anything amazing during my day.  I haven’t done anything spectacular, invented anything, done anything that people would consider crazy.  I haven’t built a self made business or worked my way to the top of a corporation.  I don’t have a high paying job (more like a pro bono one).  I vacuum two times a week.  I clean our toilets (aren’t our guests thankful?).  I feed our family.  I do dishes (by hand) and sweep, clean up toys, make beds, change diapers. I buy groceries and generally keep our household running while my husband works.  I don’t feel like I do anything that important.  I know I know.  Raising children is important.  But I don’t feel like that’s anything extraordinary.  I mean really.  We’re all capable (meaning we all have the capacity to, not that we all DO) of raising well behaved, productive, and generally socially acceptable children.  We can’t make them believe in the Lord, but we can expose them to it, live as unto the Lord, and attend a good church.  That’s not extraordinary.  That’s normal.

At the same time, my life is so very dramatic.  My family has been going through some rocky times for going on four years now.  We had an unexpected pregnancy (Peanut) in 2004 when we had no money and had just bought a home (that we really couldn’t afford).  The pregnancy was very difficult and the labor was traumatic.  We had another unexpected pregnancy 11 months later that we terminated at 20 weeks (yes, that’s half way through) due to severe neural tube defects of the baby, baby dying, and potential death risk to me.  Six months after that we got expectedly pregnant (the Bean) and my husband had finally landed a good paying stable job.  However half way through that pregnancy my husband admitted  some disheartening news, some devastating news which definitely brought me to my knees just in case giving birth to my 20 week old baby wasn’t enough.  This news forced Bloke to quit his job.  So then (2007) we were expecting a baby and had no means of income.  Bloke found a job rather quickly, but this lead us to another city.  Well out of respect to my husband and family, I can only finish the story with a few details.  Bloke and I wound up separated.  He was jobless in a city where he knew no one.  The girls and I were completely supported by my family here in my hometown.  Bloke wound up in a homeless shelter begging me to pick him up.  While I didn’t pick him up, God did.

And so our story is still dramatic.  We have ups and downs.  We have good times and bad.  We are really just about polar opposites. We have baggage.  We have stories.  We have hardship.  We’re still poor, and we own nothing except the furnishings in our home and our car.  This leads to my pondering.  How mediocre and dramatic every person’s life is.  How relative each person’s story is to the next person’s story.  Hardship to me could be a life of ease to you.  Mediocrity to me could be extraordinary to you.  So either way we are all, I suppose, living some form of mediocre dramatic life.

Are we, as Christians, supposed to live this sort of life though?  Is life supposed to be about our drama and our average every day comings and goings?  Maybe.  Maybe we are called to use the life we are given, the life we live,  in a way that glorifies the Lo rd whether it’s dramatic or not.  Perhaps this tendency to be unhappy with the average life I live is God’s way of drawing me closer to him.  Perhaps this sinful tendency to feel self pity and unhappiness with my lot in life, this temptation to be angry that I have not done better in all areas of my life and to envy others who have, is breaking me to lean on the Lord for my purpose and my filling.

This life, the strife, the drama, the mediocrity and averageness of it has led me astray…or I have let it. I know that right now I am unsettled.  I am a bit listless.  I am not joyful, and I am not at peace. I am weary. I am not abiding in Him.  I have voices pulling me in different directions.  I wonder where He is amongst them.  I wonder which voice He is using to speak to me. What will it take to bring me back to Him?  What will happen before that?  I’m scared to go to Him, but I’m not sure why.  I don’t want to be rebellious, but I am.  How do I find him?  Where is the peace that I should have?  Where is the light in my life?  The light that isn’t average but bright and beaming through the mediocrity and struggles.   I’m tired of the darkness, the dreariness that inevitably accompanies time away from God.  I’m tired of this mediocre drama.

“The voice of Truth tells me a different story.  The voice of Truth says ‘Do not be afraid.’  The voice of Truth says this is for My glory.  Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of Truth.”  – Casting Crowns, the Voice of Truth.

Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.   Psalm 43:3

Compare and Contrast

You know, I have so many people tell me that our girls look alike. I just don’t see it. I know I’m the mom and I really should notice whether my kids look alike or not, but I just had to post and see what everyone thinks. I have a serious post too this week, but I just needed to get this little tidbit one out of my system. Thanks for bearing with me! 🙂

Peanut at 18 months

Avery in Snow 18 mos

The Bean at 18 months

Bean Bag Girl

oh, maybe they do look alike….

Home Sweet Home?

So we’ve been back now for a few days. We’re officially unpacked and I officially have every stitch of laundry done! However, I can’t understand why people would actually want to come home from vacation. My husband says vacations are not vacations unless you live where you’re vacationing because, if you’re like me, you’re sad about leaving before (or soon after) you get there! In some ways, this is so true. How can one truly relax or enjoy a vacation knowing that they have to come home? And exactly who walks through their door and says with a smile, “home sweet home”? If you’re out there, let me know! So here’s some of my favorite pictures from my not-so-relaxing but ever entertaining and enjoyable “vacation”!

Helping Sister

sillohuettes 2

close up

first day on beach

Pretty Baby

Beaufort Clock

dad

Splashing

First Ice Cream Cone

flip flops

holding on tight

Notes from the Sand 2

In light of where we are, I also want to post notes of what I’ve learned about the beach/ocean since childhood (I mean just because we’re not completely in control doesn’t mean we shouldn’t practice beach safety, right?):

1. Never turn your back on the ocean. It’ll take you off your feet in a hot second and you’ll be eating sand and seashells for the next week. Always stand to the side. It’s the stance you’re most stable and you can see what’s coming your way.

2. Curved fins = dolphins. Straight fins = sharks.

3. Never shake your towel out with the wind coming towards you. Otherwise you’ll be having sand for lunch.

4. Wear sunscreen even when it’s cloudy.

5. If you’re in the ocean, know where the beach exit is and keep an eye on it. Otherwise you might be walking a mile (or two) to get back to it after the tide has taken you up or down shore.

6. Big wave coming at you? Duck under it but take a deep breath. See number 7.

7. If a wave holds you under, don’t panic. Keep holding your breath. It WILL release you and you’ll be pushed to the surface.

8. Know which way the tide is going before you go into the ocean. Whether it’s out or in or going out or coming in could make a difference in your safety level.

9. If you’re caught in a rip tide, float. When it’s over, you can swim back to shore.

10. Have a boogie board? Use the velcro attachment. The boogie board  can be used as a flotation device.

11. If you’re a body surfer (like me), remember:  if the pull is strong and the wave is medium to large, don’t take it unless you want a really rough ride.  If the pull is strong and the wave is small with no umf you won’t get a ride.  If the pull is strong and the wave is small but strong, go for it!

12. Lastly, have respect for the sea. It’s bigger and stronger than you and contains lots of scary animals.

Notes from the Sand

So, we’ve been hanging out here at the beach since Sunday. I’ve always felt the ocean and I have a good understanding of one another. It’s a love affair of sorts. I could watch the waves come in even if it was 50 degrees outside and still be happy. This year was the first year that the Bean has seen the ocean (at least in person) and only the second year the Peanut has, and it has been wonderful to watch them play in the ocean and grow to love the beach! I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to capture many of those moments on film (to come much later after we get back).  I’ve also been thinking a lot about what God is teaching me with my love and  passion for the ocean.

When I finally get a chance to go out into the ocean deep by myself for a few minutes, I’m reminded once again of my childhood. It’s quiet (with the exception of the sound of the waves of course). I feel like I’m at its mercy. I’m not in control. It’s nice to not to want to feel in control since I have serious issues with that very thing….serious serious control issues. I mean serious. I feel like God has used this trip to remind me that I’m not in control.  I am reminded that there are things on this earth that are bigger and greater than me, and I so love that they exist and that God created them!   I can practice safety on the beach with the girls.  I can protect them to some extent from the dangers of the beach and the ocean.  And I myself can practice those same things.  But I cannot control the ocean, what it does, how fast it does it, or what’s in it.  I have to trust that the Lord is in control of the ocean as well as our lives, and that He is in control of everything all the time.

Something else I’ve considered is how what I know of the ocean corresponds to what I know about God.  I know that God is the Father because only (note NOT ‘only because’) the Father could create something as majestic and perfect as the seas.  It is no accident that the seas are vast and deep and supply our world with much needed water.  I know that God is grace and gives grace and that he gives us enough for each day until we die and go to Heaven just as each wave takes care of the next until it gets to shore.  I’m also reminded of how glorious God is. One water droplet doesn’t make an ocean.  Every single droplet is necessary to create the seas, and it’s in all of those droplets together that we see the enormity, the magnitude of the ocean. We, as God’s children, glorify him the most when we pull together as one church and one people, when we love one another as ourselves.  It takes all of us working together to create one body in Christ, one union in Him.  Lastly, the ocean reminds me of God’s consistency.  The tide rises and falls without fail.  The waves crash onto the beach constantly.  The ocean contains all that is needed to feed what lives in it.  God is consistently loving, full of grace, forgiving, patient, and kind.  He gave us Christ, and in Him is everything that is needed to sustain us. It is through the ocean that you get to it.  It is through Christ that you get to God.

I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.           John 14:6

ocean dusk

Picture credit to photo.muse