Friday, October 17, 2008

How I Really Feel

It may have been noticed, or not, that I have been holding back with my usual honesty and forthrightness when it comes to how I really feel. So many of you have commented positively, both in writing and in person, on my vulnerability in the past. And I should remember that. I am letting you down, I guess. But if you appreciate it, if you really value that trademark transparency of mine, it seems to me that you are a rare breed. For various reasons that I will not go into, I have a hard time trusting myself. What I tend to do is put little feelers out into the world to see if what I am thinking and feeling is okay. And well, that's just never a good idea. Because there will always be people who disagree with you- just think of all the weirdos who are going to vote for Obama! I think what this five months of misery has done for me, among other things, is really cement this understanding for me: you cannot go around worrying what other people think all the time. My problem is that I usually think that people misunderstand something. Surely if they understood the situation, if they just really knew exactly where I'm coming from, they would agree with me. But even then, I have found, people can't or won't understand. Again, I write without specifics. Sorry about that.

But just for example: You start thinking that surely if people knew that there is a lawsuit against Obama because his natural born citizenship is in question (he has family members who claim he was born in Kenya, that they were present for his birth) and that he fails to produce his birth certificate as proof of his natural born citizenship, they would start to recognize how shady he is. Or even if they just paid attention to his relationship to his cousin, Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya, for whom he helped campaign, an anti-Christian Socialist who is massacring Christians (but claims to be Anglican?). Or if they noticed that one of his close mentors, Frank Marshall Davis, is a Marxist, a member of the Communist party. You think that even if they didn't know or care  about those things, they would recognize what a bad idea socialized healthcare is, and what a terrible idea it is to send everyone to college (imagine the entire working class obliterated!). And I know some people don't think abortion is a big enough deal to base your vote on, but (besides saying that murdering millions of babies is not a big enough deal- although I get it, the President can't overturn Roe v. Wade) generally speaking, the people who are pro abortion, are also pro a bunch of other things that they shouldn't be pro, namely pro ginormous government that makes all your decisions for you. But people don't care, maybe that's why they want someone who will make the government make all their decisions! Or else they don't know. I am constantly amazed to see Obama signs in neighborhoods where presumably educated people live. And I am disappointed that there are Obama campaign signs hanging in the hallways of my child's Christian school, where education and Christ are presumably the goals. They really should know. But maybe they don't. 

Anyway, it is helpful. It reminds me that people disagree on things. And that it is possible that I really am right when more people are wrong. I just don't like being outnumbered. And I think that another big trend in the Church at large, something I get from people all over, is this idea that contentment, the way Paul writes in Philippians 4, is being happy and cheerful no matter what. What? That is absurd. When did optimism and happiness become the equivalent of Godliness? I mean, yes, there is a point, a point where you rebel in obedience to God, or where you decide that he is no longer in control or good, that there is a problem. But is questioning okay? Is being sad or scared? If it's not, then we have a big problem with the Psalms being in Scripture! Even Paul says that contentment is something he has learned. Why do we not trust the work of the Spirit to bring us to that? Instead, people are walking around in pain pretending things don't bother them! It drives me crazy! And I never want to be one of those people. On the other hand, this growing thing is something. I definitely feel better going through my current situation- three months without a home, five months of my husband being unemployed, my family being perpetually homesick, poor, and exhausted- than I have going through much less trying times in the past. And for one reason, because I am not terrified of actually being sad this time. I'm not defensive. Part of it is because I have several wonderful friends who have really walked with me through this, who have said "I don't get this. It stinks. I am so so sorry. I am praying for you. I know it doesn't seem like God is good or like he is paying attention to your family at all, but I know he has something for you in all of this." Wow! That's perfect! What else is there to say? 

Well, actually, there are plenty of other things to say. I know because they have also been said. I have had people say that it would be tempting to be sad, but that I can't let Satan get in there like that. What?! Or that this is all because of something we did or did not do or we are or are not doing. Again, what?! Some people don't seem to grasp the frustration of our situation. Some seem to think it is problematic to even ask questions about God's goodness. And why is that so terrible? What is so wrong with "I believe, but help my unbelief!" Is that sinful or just less mature? I mean hey, we can't all be as mature as the next guy. Do stories like Amelia's not make y'all wonder what in the world God is up to? They do me. And selfishly, my story makes me wonder that. And a whole bunch of other stories that I fear I should not share without permission. But you know them, you know about the tragedies of the people of God. What is up? I used to be content with a very youth group answer to that question. But lately, the tragedies in people's lives around me have gone beyond a mean boss at work or not being able to get pregnant right away (not that those aren't difficult!) And I have realized how small my world has been up until this point. Because it isn't just people who have crossed Abby Edema's path. What about martyrs? What about the people of God who have been massacred or starved to death or lost a child? I mean, these things are all over and all through history. And yet, we believe that not only is God good, but also that he is in control. And that is where I lose some of you, I know. I lose some of you when I say that all of these tragedies are part of his plan. Yet here I am, in the midst of a comparatively small tragedy, but a tragedy nonetheless, certain that God is behind all of this, and that he is good. 

And yet, I am not happy about my life right now. It's not a whole lot of fun living at my mother-in-law's house with my three kids. I mean, that is nothing personal about her, it's just that being at anyone's home, going by their house rules from where you can eat to when you can shower to how to do laundry to what's in the pantry, when you have been a homemaker yourself for seven years, really stinks. And she is great to let us stay here. I am not diminishing her generosity in any way. I would feel the same way living in any of your homes. And asking people for money we will likely never be able to repay isn't a good time for me either. Although, let me just say that we are humbled and overwhelmed by the generosity of loving friends. Also, my parents being ticked off at us because our lives don't look the way they want them to is not fun, not surprising either, but definitely still not fun. 

Nevertheless, I am okay. Do I rejoice in all of this? That's hard. I mean, I definitely rejoice in what I'm learning, in what God is showing me of his love and care, and in how I am growing. I definitely rejoice in the beauty of friendships that are growing and sustaining me during this time. I definitely rejoice in the hope that I have that is that we will probably not always have to live at our parents' house, that we will likely have a home again someday. But, I do find myself wondering, sometimes crying,  "how long, O Lord?" I do find myself hitting a wall every now and then, even getting stuck in a funk. And I don't rejoice in the funk, or in the frustration and sadness over the practicality of our situation. I struggle to get through it, whether it is through a three mile run or a heart to heart with a friend or whipped cream on my coffee! And I reckon I rejoice over running and chatting and coffee, but I do not always enter into those situations with gladness in my heart. I enter into them often, as an act of desperation, from the point of view that those things may be the only thing I can muster up gratitude for today, the only thing that will remind me of God's very specific and personal goodness to me. But what I think is that my actions demonstrate my faithfulness to the Lord, even when my feelings, if they could be seen, would indicate doubt and anger.  

And I am sure that there are points in here on which some of you will find fault. There will be some of you who will instinctively want to tell me where and how I am all wrong. But I really think that is wrong. I'm just going to say it. When our first instinct when we see a brother or sister in Christ is to judge, to figure out where he/she is sinning, and not to love and figure out where someone is hurting, there is a problem. And I do it too, so I'm not just free and clear on this one. But it is a lot harder for me to fault someone for their feelings when I have felt them. I begin to recognize feelings that many people would classify as sinful, as really just human. And human is not bad. God made man and said it was good. Jesus was fully man. So while man has a sinful nature, being human is not sinful. I have said this better before. Please don't hear me denying total depravity, because of course I am not. Just hear me saying that humans being sad or angry or sorrowful is not categorically wrong (though it can be handled or manifested wrongly). I heard someone the other day say, "this person is a strong Christian; they do not struggle with depression!" I did not hold this person accountable for these particular words because they were said about a frustrating situation. But, they were said in such a way that the first was meant to be a proof for the other- if the first thing exists then the second thing must be true. And while I am not going to take the person to task, because of the situation, I tend to think that they really think that depression cannot be present in a Christian. I think they think that because a lot of people think that. Wow! I mean, I have never been diagnosed with depression myself or been on any medication, but I am here to say that depression and Christians are not mutually exclusive. And I am unsure of different people's connotations of depression, but I am even willing to say that there is a depression, a long, drawn out sadness, where one is desiring and waiting on healing and relief that does not come (think loss of a loved one or chronic illness/pain), that is not sinful in essence. 

I know some of y'all will disagree. Or I will be really really surprised (not that I am thinking of anyone in particular). But I'd love to hear what any of y'all think about all of this. And I will try my hardest not to take anything personally (unless it is meant to be!). And even if I do, like I said, I am learning to let these things hurt me a lot less. And that's how I really feel. 


e.c. said...

I don't disagree with anything you said...quite the contrary, although it's taken me many years to get to this point. And it does stink, and I'm so sorry, and I don't understand it, but I DO know that God has a plan, and I know it's sad and frustrating to wait for it. And I think it's totally crazy for someone to imply that a Christian can't be depressed, just like I think it's crazy to say that someone who commits suicide isn't a Christian, or even that they necessarily weren't trusting in God to take care of their problems. That COULD be true, but I don't think it has to be, and it certainly isn't very encouraging for a loved one to be told that. Anyways, you're right, even people who have the facts either will discount them or just flat out disagree with you, so you have to learn how to not let it bother you...not that it won't bother you, I'm just saying this used to be REALLY difficult for me, and now it's only sorta difficult.

And I can't believe Amabel's school has Obama Campaign signs...crazy! And not b/c I don't think you can be a Christian and support Obama, clearly you can, and as you pointed out, clearly people won't see facts or refuse to believe them, or just disagree with the relevance of them. I would be almost as horrified(being honest here, I don't agree with the use of campaign signs at all at a Christian school, but it does horrify me more that they're Obama) to hear that McCain signs were up...I just don't think a child's school is the place for that.

The Rays said...


the good, the bad & the ugly said...

I agree with every single word of this post. I believe that it is more sinful to NOT lament (weep, show doubt, show anger, etc.) with God and close friends than to "just be happy". I have been guilty of trying to bury tough feelings, mainly selfishly for my own sake in the past. Maybe I felt like I didn't have the time or energy to struggle through the difficulty. Or maybe I was afraid that looking at the depth of the problem or loss would shake my faith. But it always caught up with me and lead to sin. I usually ended up bitter and worried in those cases. The idea that sadness and anger and even depression are not "Christian" behaviors is crazy, I agree. Maybe people who have said those types of things to you haven't lived long enough to experience deep loss or disappointment yet. I know that before we hit rocky roads, I still thought that I was in control. I wouldn't have claimed that stance, but looking back I know it was true. I probably have the least likely personality type for depression- extrovert, highly optimistic, high energy, etc. But I have experienced depression several times in my life in its severity. After Joshua was born I had to take medication because the post-partum was so debilitating!
The more time I spend as a Christian, the more I realize how very little I know or understand about myself or God's character. I have nothing to offer about trying to wrap your brain around God's goodness and soveriegnty + the problem of evil and pain in the world. I haven't found any theologan that gives a satisfactory answer to that question! But I know that I personally always come back to that question when I am hurting, just like you have. I will be praying for peace for you. I know you will find it as you continue to seek Him, and that He will be glorified! I am really sorry that things have been so difficult for you. I pray that it will all be over soon. And not only that, but that you will be able to see how He was working very soon. And I will pray that your family, local friends, and church body will love you in a way that you will undeniable see that the Lord was involved. Thanks, again, for being willing to be vulnerable. Much love! Renee

Wright Family said...

I LOVE your honesty and I agree with you. We are praying so much for y'all. I am so sorry that you are in the situation you are in. I love y'all,

lauren said...

good stuff abby-thanks so much for sharing.

we are praying for you guys all the time. i look forward to seeing God's next step for you all and sitting down with you someday over a cup of coffee and laughing about the time you lived with both sets of parents in one year. i can't even imagine what your crown in heaven will look like. ;)

love, lauren

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