Archive for May, 2012

Our Daily Grace

Posted: May 31, 2012 by clairer in Contentment, Trusting God, Worry

I was a high school junior and I desperately wanted to attend Furman University. The problem, though, was…finances. Furman cost a fortune and the only way that I was going to be able to go there after graduating was if I qualified for a scholars program that winter. Another problem: my SAT score was 50 points short of the threshold for the scholars program. Fifty points isn’t an unrealistic jump between the first and second times testing, so I had high hopes when I retook the SAT that winter. My whole future rested on that test. I needed those points or…the world would end (for me at least).

Two weeks later, at 7am, my mom came into my room to tell me my results: my score fell 100 points. That was it…I couldn’t go to my dream school. I should have been devastated. My mom fully expected me to dissolve into tears on the spot. But…I was strangely at peace. I couldn’t explain it. I suppose it was the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” Had someone asked me a week earlier how I expected to react if I didn’t get those 50 points, that was definitely not what I expected. But, this was just one example of something that I’ve seen over and over again throughout the years: God gives us grace to weather storms when they come, not before they do.

It’s so easy to worry about the future – especially about big decisions like college, employment, or marriage. I can’t count how many hours I’ve probably spent thinking and rethinking my future plans. My friends like to laugh at me because my college course schedule has changed probably about a dozen times in my first two years of college. I’ve worried about both likely and unlikely circumstances: what if I fail my classes?…What if I get stuck in a boring job?…What if I become chronically ill? Sometimes I’m not sure how I’d manage to cope if things in my life began to fall apart.

However, one of my pastors once had a wonderful piece of advice for me about worry. He told me that worry is pointless because we’re stressing about something that God has not given us grace for yet.

Corrie ten Boom told a story in her book The Hiding Place about a conversation with her father when she was a little girl:

“Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ.”

“Tell me,” said Father, “When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?”

“No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train.”

“That is right,” my father said, “and so it is with God’s strength. Our Father in Heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will supply all you need – just in time…”  

Corrie was highlighting precisely what I felt that morning when I found out I could no longer go to my “dream college.” I couldn’t explain the peace that I felt that morning, but I know for sure that that peace was the strength and grace of God that arrived precisely when I needed it. God never promised that we would get everything that we wanted, but He did promise that He would comfort us and would help us to make it through the difficult times. It’s like what Jesus said to his disciples when he cautioned them about persecution, “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say.” (Mat. 10:18-19)

When we worry about things before they come, we’re wasting our energy. God gives us the peace and comfort just in time. He supplies our daily grace.


No Regrets

Posted: May 29, 2012 by clairer in God's Power, Purpose, Trusting God

I’m not a huge fan of the Field of Dreams. In my opinion, it’s a bit slow and rather nonsensical. Other than being a baseball movie, really, the only thing I like about the movie is the scene below. In this scene, Doc – once a young man with one major league at-bat, and now an old man past his prime – gets to go back and relive his baseball dream, until…

I suppose that in some ways, this is a tragic clip – Doc had to give up his own dream in order to save a young girl’s life. But I think there’s more to this scene than simply sacrificial undertones. I think it raises an important question about regrets and “if only’s” in our lives.

One of the most frequently quoted verses in the New Testament is probably Romans 8:28, “…and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This verse has become so routine that I think the concept can sometimes become stale. Take a minute to ponder this truth: for Christians, God works everything – our mistakes, our failings, our hurt, our confusion – for our good. Mistakes that we make are no longer mistakes – they are avenues to God’s greater purposes for our lives.

In this scene from Field of Dreams, Doc had the opportunity to go back and relive the dream he had left behind 60 years previously – playing baseball in the major leagues. But although Doc may have lived with regrets that he was never able to realize his dream, his decision to become a doctor instead led him (providentially) to a small village and a thriving medical practice that impacted the lives of hundreds of people around him for decades. In this clip, he essentially let’s go of the past, and embraces where his life has taken him.

I think this idea can really be seen in C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian. Lucy, a girl who goes to the fanciful world of Narnia, does not follow Aslan (Narnia’s parallel of God) when he originally calls. Instead, she follows her siblings into a disastrous alternate route. When Lucy sees Aslan later, she immediately regrets her mistake and wishes she could know what would have happened if she had followed Aslan.  She pleads:

“Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?” said Lucy rather faintly.
“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No, nobody is ever told that. But anyone can find out what will happen.”

I think Aslan’s last line is very telling. In God’s kingdom, there is no room for looking back, for wondering what would have happened. As Corrie ten Boom once said, “There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s kingdom.” But all these past things are used by God to lead and guide us to be who we are today, and to be who we are called to be in the future – to shape what will happen.

I definitely find this comforting in my own life when I look back and wonder – did I get this right? Did I choose the right internship? Did I take the right course? Did I say the right thing? Did I spend my time wisely on that day? Maybe I made wise choices, maybe I made foolish choices and I will reap the benefits and consequences of those decisions. However, nothing that I do can surprise God or mess up His greater plan and purpose for my life. And ultimately, despite the consequences of mistakes, He’ll work all things together for my good. There are no “if only’s” when you have a sovereign and loving God.

Beautiful Scars

Posted: May 24, 2012 by clairer in God's Faithfulness, Truth

My toe nail is black. Yes, literally, black. It happened five months ago now playing an alumni basketball game with my old high school team. I’m happy I at least injured it athletically and not by stubbing it on a stair. But, over the past several months, while I’ve been waiting for my toe to heal, I’ve done my best to cover up the “injury.” It isn’t something that’s terribly pleasant to look at so when I go out in flip flops, sandals, or bare feet, I’m careful to cover up that particular toe with a band-aid. When I forget, I just tuck that toe surreptitiously under my other foot. My “scar” isn’t something that I want to show off to the world because, frankly, it’s ugly and makes me look bad.

I think I sometimes do that with other areas of my life, though, too – not necessarily with physical scars, but with emotional or spiritual rough spots. I’m a perfectionist and, as such, I usually like to seem like I have it all together. I like to make it seem like I’ve got no problems, no flaws…like nothing bothers me.

But, not surprisingly, I’m human. I’ve had times of spiritual dryness, times when I’ve been hurt, times when I have been less than perfect. We all have these pockets of imperfections. But, like my toe, I think we often try to cover them up and make sure that no one can see them. That way, we seem whole, even if we are somewhat “broken” inside.

But I think this is a mistake. Our “scars” are a testament to who we have been and who God has made us today. Every physical scar comes with a story – like my little brother’s small scar above his eye where he got hit going up for a rebound in a basketball practice (yes, another sports injury). In the same way, our scars from our histories tell a story – and, for those of us who are Christians, a story of grace.

For example, when I was a freshman in high school, I went through a very difficult time spiritually and really began to question my faith. Am I proud that my faith waivered for a time? No. Do I love broadcasting the fact? No. But still, I’ll talk about it with my friends and I’ve written about it on this blog. Why? Because that “scar” – that rough time – points to God’s grace in my life and can be used to help others.

I’ve been able to relate to many of my friends who are doubting their faith because I’ve gone through it. I can talk to unbelievers about how God has changed my life because I can point to that time of doubt. I can be a testament to God’s grace by revealing that “scar.”

I know there are other areas of my life that can be witnesses to what God has done as well. There are things in my past that I may not be proud of, decisions that I regret, or experiences where I’ve been hurt. But by being open to using these experiences to  testify to God’s grace, these scars can be used by God…not band-aided over.