Sharon Seasons
Worth Fighting For

            Tonight, as I thought about and prayed for someone close to me, it occurred to me how heartbreakingly simple it is to write people out of our lives.  I was feeling this first on behalf of my loved one; the hurt of lost friendship; when I suddenly saw myself on the other side.

“Anything worth having is worth fighting for,” may be a cliché, but it is reality; especially when it comes to relationships.  The people in our lives arrive there in many different ways.  Some are related to us; others we have called friend for so many years, we can’t say when “we” began; and then there are those who have stepped into our lives more recently, but have just connected.  Some people are just easy.  We agree on stuff, have similar values and lifestyles, and we don’t have to worry about offending or being offended.  My favorites!  Then there are the rest, with various levels of work required to maintain the relationship.  Sometimes it’s just now and then learning to keep opinions to myself, sometimes it’s patience and tolerance, sometimes it’s the determination to listen and get what they are all about, and sometimes it’s about making regular, conscious decisions to forgive intentional or unintentional hurts.  And that probably doesn’t even begin to cover the possible challenges. That is when we see the relationship as “worth fighting for.”  

But then something happens, or we just wake up one day, and we see things differently.  “What is the big deal?  Why am I putting myself through this?  Don’t I have enough to worry about in my life without ….?  I have plenty of friends who are no trouble; why should I put up with this?”  That’s it.  We emotional divest ourselves of the troublesome connection, and breathe a sigh of relief.  We may get the word out that we are not longer available to that person, or we might just be satisfied to subtly withdraw without any official break in ties.

Everything’s fine.  Right?  I’m not leaving mad; I’m just leaving.  Maybe we weren’t that close, anyway, so what’s the big deal? 

Now this next part is harder to articulate, because it is the other side; the side of the person who is written out of the story.  They also wake up one day and realize they weren’t “worth fighting for.”  And the impacts, of course, will all be different.  Maybe they will really feel the loss like a deep cut, or maybe just a scratch.  Maybe it will be just another rejection, which is the story of their life, and they tell themselves they don’t care anyway.  Maybe it will just be a dull ache that they will try not to think about, but will color their others relationships, and darken their faith in people in general. 

This is way too many words to inadequately express the sadness I felt as I considered the idea:  how easy it is to make a simple decision to disconnect from someone.  How easy to just walk away and not look back.  And how heartbreaking it is to discard a person like we would an old pair of shoes. 

I’m thinking the Apostle Paul didn’t write I Corinthians 13, with “easy people” in mind.  When he talked about love being patient, not seeking its own, not being provoked, not taking into account a wrong suffered, bearing all things; those are the battle cries of fighting for a relationship.  I’m thinking I need to be more of a fighter.    

Today the light of the Holy Spirit was shone on my heart through the reading of   2 Timothy 2:20-21.  The verses spoke of the existence, within a house, of vessels of different levels of “honor;” the most honorable being the gold, and the least honorable of clay.  The least honorable were in fact given the rank: “dishonorable.”  The challenge was to be honorable vessels; useful to God.  As I meditated on those verses, I was reminded of some passages I had recently been referred to in Francis Chan’s book, Erasing Hell, which I had been reading earlier in the day.  He had brought up verses from the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7, in which Jesus talked about the time of the Judgment, in which people would be separated for eternal life or death based on how they lived their lives, and some who had been expecting life would receive death, even though they had acted the part of even prophets and teachers.  I thought of other verses from the Sermon in which Jesus spoke of how it is not just the actions, (such as murder or adultery), that are judged, but also our thoughts and motives.  I thought about Psalm 51, which I have read numerous times, and which contains the words, “You desire truth in the innermost being.”  As I thought of these passages, I thought of something I had written down in my notes last Sunday night from our Pastor’s study on the Doctrine of Sin, and under the list of things that are meant by Total Depravity: “It does mean that one’s acts of kindness are ALWAYS tainted with at least some ill-motive.”  That had begun the shaft of light that was expanding through today to render me exposed in an impossible situation. 

 

I frequently am made to realize my wrongness in specific actions, thoughts, and even motives, I especially struggle with the pull of pride in my thoughts, and I confess to God and ask for help.  But the realization began to hit me full force this week exactly how insidiously sin was entwined with my every thought and action; even those I would like to consider pure all the way to the motive. The hours I spend each week in activities I think of as showing my devotion to God: Bible Study for personal and teaching purposes, Prayer, Musical Practice and Service; are tainted with the desire for praise and recognition by people; by my placing myself in value to God and the Church above that of many others, because of my “level of devotion.”  But the challenge of 2nd Timothy was to be as a vessel of honor!   How is that even possible, when I struggle just to have a single moment of purity in God’s sight?  

I was made to remember more of Psalm 51 and more of the Mount Sermon.  David confessed that all sin is against God.  He also said God did not desire burnt offerings, but what he did desire was “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.”  Jesus began His sermon with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.”  I began to understand this brokenness.  I began to experience this brokenness at a new level.  I was in my late twenties when one night I was made to realize the truth of my sinful condition.  I had confessed Jesus as my Lord from as a young child, but had never understood the depth of my need for a Savior. Again, today, I was made to realize in a greater way the cancerous condition of sin invading every cell of my being; beyond eradication by any effort I may put forth.  I truly believe my position is righteous in the sight of God based on my faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, yet my operational, day-to-day condition is beyond hope based on my own inability free myself from my depraved nature.  I want to cry out as Paul in Roman’s 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”  as the battle rages with me!  The poverty of spirit is my reality of hopelessness, and yet Jesus said speaks as if that is actually the goal!  Blessed are the pour in spirit…a broken and contrite heart.   

“Surrender, full and sweet,” is the answer whispered in my spirit.  Surrender that recognizes with overwhelming thanks the role of the pain that brings me to this place.  Surrender that recognizes the hopeless height of the bar placed before me in the demands of holiness.  Surrender that recognizes the joy of letting go and allowing the fullness of God’s sufficiency to overwhelm my crippled and ineffective efforts.  Surrender that opens my weakness to His strength.   The ray of revelation begins to be a light of hope.  The hope is not a wish, but an anchor.  It is the promise of satisfaction for a desperately hungry heart.  It is the assurance that the quiet sweetness I begin to experience is indeed His unexplainable peace.  On my own I am hopeless to gain eternal life.  And on my own I am hopeless to live even a moment of this life pleasing to God.  It is only in intentional surrender to His light that my hopelessness becomes hope.

Faded to Pink

September, 2009, I was driving back from getting Gracey settled at SAU in Magnolia, Arkansas; a full two day road trip.  The first day somewhere in northern Texas before I got to Amarillo, where I stayed the night, I passed a farm to the south of the interstate with a huge barn, and that barn had a pink roof.  Who, I wondered, would paint his barn’s roof pink?  I looked back and realized the probable truth:  It was originally red, but had over time in the bright sunshine  faded to pink.  For some reason I couldn’t get that idea out of my mind…the vivid red fading to a tired pink.  But over time, this picture has stayed with me and has progressed to represent an idea that has since begun to symbolize the natural (or even unnatural)  progression of life.

I’m not sure I can even articulate this idea, since it is really more of a picture collage in my mind, but I will try.  First I need to mention that this big pink-roofed barn was obviously not in anyway new.  It looked sturdy and still useful, but it bore signs that its days of glory were well behind it.  In my mind I pictured a new red roof, and it didn’t work, for me at least.  That faded roof fit with the aging barn.

With the picture of the barn at the top of my collage, I’ll describe a couple others below. One picture in this mental collection is of a woman I saw at the Fry’s store not too long ago.  She is in front of me in line, and and at first I only see her back.  She has shiney blond hair in a stylish bob, she is wearing a pollo shirt and a tennis skirt and nice tennis shoes.  Her arms and legs are tanned.  See it?  Wait.  The arms and legs are not toned like you are picturing; they are the saggy-skinned, leathered arms legs of an old person who has spent much time in the sun, and perhaps lost a considerable amount of weight.  Then she turns and I see her face. Same kind of weathered skin, but eyes starkly outlined in eyeliner and mascara and lips bright red.  I didn’t want to stare, but I can’t look away. I feel saddened as I look at her.

On my collage, I, being the control freak I am, might arrange the pictures to give obvious distinction between visual statements.  Fry’s lady would be under the “obviously” unnatural category, (as opposed to the “artistically-subtle” unnartural.) 

Okay, now I’m already starting to sound like I’m judging, which I’m really only observing and comparing.  Let’s go to another picture.  I know this person well, but will leave out her name and relationship to protect her privacy.  She is young and has a ‘lot to work with.’ Any given day she might show up in public having spent considerable time in front of the mirror doing her makeup and hair.  In this case she is stunning.  Another day, she will get out of bed, wash her face, put her hair in a ponytail and again go out to face the world.  In this case she is lovely.  When she complains about pictures taken of her without makeup, as she recently did, I think about slapping her.  She is young and that definitely helps.  But she also has an inner beauty that doesn’t need any help from Mary Kay or Covergirl.  It sparkles in her eyes and flows through her laugh.  If she were a barn roof…she’d be in her red stage. 

At this point I could keep describing pictures, but I’m starting to bore myself, so let’s try to get to the point.  Again, with the objective of not judging…back to the barn roof.  Assuming the barn had any choice in the matter and also had feelings, (just for illustration purposes), how would he feel about his pink roof hanging out there for all the world to see?  We are talking a big barn with a big roof.  Now I don’t know this barn personally, but I’d like to think he was okay with it.  His walls are still holding up, he’s still providing useful shelter, he still gets to enjoy each new day.  Sure there are nicer barns with nicer roofs around, but hey, who even cares?  I love his attitude!!!  He has come to the place in barn-life when he realizes that how other’s appear doesn’t affect him.  He is what he is and a new coat of red paint on his roof won’t change him or make him any happier. 

Okay, so I admit, that may seem a stretch to the way normal people see barns.  But it works for me, so I’ll take it.  By the way, I’m not ready for giving up the idea of a regular paint job personally, but am moving in that direction. 

The Beginning of a Love Story; Love At First Sight

It was probably within the year after my mother died, at the end of 1996, that my father had come to town for a visit.  He was getting ready to leave and we were talking outside by his car. It had been a very difficult time for the family and especially for him.  Mother had cancer and he had lovingly cared for her at home up until her death.  Now home for him was such an empty place.  For some reason I can’t remember now, we had gotten on the topic of “Love at first sight,” and I’d asked him what he thought of it.  Now my dad had the gift of using his words in a wonderful way, and this time was no exception.  His response was to tell me a story, part of which I had never heard before:

In the early 1950’s the Korean War was going on and my father, Dell Harris, was in the Air Force stationed at Luke AFB in Glendale, Arizona.  He and some buddies there would drive into Phoenix to Palmcroft Baptist Church on Sunday mornings.  They went to Sunday School and Worship Service.  The young-adult Sunday School class they attended was taught by a lady named Lossie Butler.  She was a wonderful teacher, counselor and also very generous.  She and her family would regularly invite the “fly boys” from the base home for dinner and the afternoon, so they wouldn’t have to drive all the way back to the base and back in to attend evening services.  My father was a part of this group and one Sunday, while spending the afternoon at the Butler home was looking at some family pictures.  He picked up a framed photo of a young lady, and asked Lossie who she was.  Lossie said she was their oldest daughter, Raydean, who at the time was away at Westmont College, in California.  As he held and looked at the picture, Lossie began telling him about Raydean.  She had gone through a hard time as a girl, in fact had almost died of rheumatic fever, and had spent two years in bed.  When she had recovered enough to go back to school, she had a very traumatic experience socially, and was still a very shy, withdrawn person.  My father said he that as he looked at the picture and listened, the thought began in his mind that this was the girl God was bringing into his life; that he could help and love her.  He had never met her, but actually starting caring for her at that point.  When he met her in person he found that he really did care for her and she for him.  He was the kind, patient, loving person she needed, (and she was lovely and caring as well), and they were married on February 29, 1952.  That of course was only the beginning of the love story that lasted until her death  44 years later.  My father died in 2006, also of cancer, so I don’t think he would mind me telling this story. 

Yes, he did believe in love at first sight.

An Easter Memory

 

I bought an Easter dress today, and that’s where the link to this memory occurred.  I was at JC Penney, which has a great selection of affordable decent dresses for middle-aged average-Janes like me, so I had several that I took into the dressing room.  The first dress I tried on was a lovely salmon-colored thing, but then the second just “looked like Easter.” As I took a picture of it in the mirror to send to two of my daughters for their opinions, (doesn’t everyone do that?), I realized why it looked like Easter.  It looked like my Easter table cloth!  But, really, it was a nice dress, (not like Carol Burnett in the “Gone With the Wind” skit wearing curtains, rod and all!), and I did buy it.  Well, that thought then jogged my brain to the memory, which is the one I’ll now tell:

About twelve years ago, when I was teaching at Grace Christian School an interesting variety of classes, one of them was high school Boy’s Home Ec.  And after units in cooking, Christmas crafts, cake decorating, and basic machine stitching, we were into sewing the first project: a decorative throw pillow, complete with piping.  Each student had taken home a paper describing what they would need for this pillow and date it was due.  The day we started, each boy took out their supplies to begin the first step: using a rotary cutter to cut out their squares for the pillow.  Most of them had picked their fabric, so we had a variety of choices from black and white checkered to cartoon themes…well stuff guys would pick.  Except for one student, who I shall not name, other than to give his initials:LH.  LH had brought in a table cloth with a lovely pastel-tulip border.  I thoroughly questioned him about it, but he reassured me to was the “fabric” his mother had chosen for him to make his pillow. 

So, the boys proceeded to cut out their squares and strips of fabric, (for piping cover), and eventually each made one or two pillows.  I talked with LH about how to cut his, and we decided upon corner pieces, so flowers would be centered on each pillow.  It was after the pillows were finished, graded and taken home that we found out “the rest of the story.”  LH came in to class the next day and said, “I messed up and my mom is really mad!”  Come to find out, his mom had purchased fabric for him to bring to class, and told him where to find it.  Well, guess who didn’t listen too carefully, and instead of going to the place where the fabric was, he went to the place where she had her good Easter tablecloth.  Oops.  Well, it was her good Easter tablecloth.  I’m not sure if he had to buy her a new one or what happened to those lovely pastel tulip pillows, but I do remember the look of terror in his eyes when he explained his predicament.  That’s my Easter memory, which I will be thinking about this Sunday, when I wear my lovely new dress. 

quirky just makes life interesting…

Getting old(er) has brought with it a certain amount of self-comfort with having characteristics that are, shall we say, unusual.  We all have them, but for the sake of our perceived need to be accepted by others, we tend to keep them under wraps.  But then comes the point in life when you realize that, although you have no desire to alienate others, the cost in being normal is really just too high.  If someone is going to dislike me because they see my wierdness coming to the surface; well I’m sorry, but I’ll just have to live with it.  It is freeing to get to that point.  Enough said; here are some of my peculiar traits…

  • A disdain for written directions:  PLEASE draw me a picture! 
  • A preference always for pictures - please put them on all menus!
  • Prime Numbers!!  I love them!
  • I take brief vacations in my mind; especially to my cabin in the woods, which exists only in my mind, but which I can describe in detail. If I have that “far off” look in my eyes, don’t worry or take it personally, I’ll be back soon.
  • Could eat butter and mayonaise straight - love them both.  Don’t ever give me margarine! 
  • Road trips …alone!  The longer/further the better.
  • Don’t touch my hair; no explanation; just don’t!  I’m not responsible for my response.
  • Drinking Straws…enough said.
It’s not always the destination that is important; sometimes it’s the trip.

It’s not always the destination that is important; sometimes it’s the trip.

It has become so apparent to me that I cannot, on my own, come close to honoring God with my life.  I try but I fail.  A lot.  It is only through surrendering to His gracious, though sometimes painful, work in me that I can hope to live even a day that honors him.  Then comes the effort to surrender, which I find even that I cannot, on my own do.  So my prayer is:

"I have a desire, Lord, to surrender…maybe it is just a desire to have the desire, but there it is; that I offer to You with the request that you cause it to be full-blown desire.  I need you to enable me to surrender this day - even this moment- to You.  Right now I am so aware of what I lack - bring me to the assurance of what I have in You."

"I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion… I want all that God has or I don’t want any."
— A.W. Tozer