God is always at work in our families.
Today, I failed to go to church. I got hooked on a really bad game and have been going to bed super late as a result. So instead, I listened to two sermons (I don’t condone not going to church! please don’t do as I do…): one from Evanston Vineyard, and one from Willowcreek.
And even though I didn’t wake up in time for church, God’s grace still abounds.
This week has been difficult for me. I lost my job at the animal hospital, and I got in a huge fight with my mom. It doesn’t really matter how I lost my job, I believe I did all that I could do, and yet with live animals, there’s still some things you can’t control (no animals were harmed in the making of that post). In any case, I was up for a raise, and instead, I lost it all. And in the fight with my mom…it happens every so often, but this one was probably the worst it’s been since I told my mom I was moving into the city. I’ve learned over time just to sit there, and to not say anything when she yells because it just makes things worse. I get really upset, she gets even more upset, and it’s just not good. This time she just said a lot of things that brought up other things she’s said in the past…and it’s not easy. So it’s been a hard week for me.
And I wonder…God, what happened to the blessings that you gave me? What happened to the blessings that come with giving up everything and following you? What happened to the blessings of giving up a job that I loved to wander in the wilderness? Was I not supposed to take that job in the animal hospital? Is this your way of telling me? I don’t know. I’m glad that I have more time for my grad apps, and I’ve been so tired. With two jobs I was working 7 days a week, probably around 50-60 hours a week. And I needed a break. So I cans ee the silver lining…it just sucks being fired. Especially being fired from a job you were told you were overqualified for. (humbling in more ways than one)
And in an email I sent to my friends/prayer partners, I wrote that I never hope for full reconciliation when (not if) my mom starts yelling. the best i can hope for–the best i can expect, is that after a day or two she acts like nothing ever happened. i’ve just gotten so used to the pattern of brokenness that its hard to maintain hope…even for my family. And I know I’m not the only one with difficult family issues. I have friends whose parents refuse to acknowledge their presence at home, friends whose parents are threatening to kick each other out of the house, friends whose parents are constantly arguing about their beliefs. And I think since Thanksgiving came around, the divorce was all the more real because this year it was just me and mom sitting at the long dining table that in years past was so full we had to scrounge around the house for extra chairs. Dad’s away taking care of GungGung, and so with two separate celebrations, it really feels like we’re two families.
But back to the sermons…the one from Vineyard, a woman was preaching. Talking about the genealogy of Jesus. She goes through and explains who everyone is, from Abram all the way to Joseph. She talked about the heroes in the story, the great kings, the rebuilders of temples, the men who walked with God…and she talked about the adulterers, the drunkards, and the men who sacrificed their children to other gods. Oftentimes, they were one and the same person. There were messed up people in the lineage of Christ. There were messed up families, sinful people, deeply lost people, people who even murdered their own children. And you wonder–why, why would God choose these people to be part of the line that brings about the savior of the world? Because these are the people that God came to save. God’s grace, his mercy, is not too far from these people. And she said–look back. No matter how messed up your own story is, no matter how far your family seems from God…you can find part of your family story in this line. and you too–even if you think you’ve messed up far too much, even if you think that you are too far from God, that he could never take you back…your story is echoed here too. And God is not far from you. His grace is still more than enough to welcome you back home. and he could have just given up on those people and said forget it, i’m going to go another route, use a different family, one more deserving, but no. he PRESERVED the line in FAITHFULNESS to abraham and allowed his son, the savior of the world, to be born into a long line of broken, sinful people.
As for willowcreek…he spoke on the story of Ruth and Naomi, also part of the lineage of Jesus. He spoke on how Naomi lost everything–her husband, her two sons…and she was so miserable, so tired, that she changed her name to Bitter. Times when you lose a member of your family, and that chair is empty at the thanksgiving table…times when you or your parents lose their job and are wondering where the money to pay the next bills is going to come from…God is still at work there. And that is paramount to our faith. Knowing that God is who he says he is, that he can do what he says he can do is foundational. Ruth was a woman of great reputation, a woman who chose to be faithful to her mother in law when she could have gone back to her own family, and in the bitterness of losing her husband and leaving her people behind, God was still at work. A story of Redemption. A small picture of the rich history that Jesus was born into.
And so the pastor reminded us that family was God’s idea. Part of his plan. And he asked–will you commit your family over to God? We have the faith to believe that someday…those that we love that do not know Him may come to know Him. Something that was permanently broken can be made new. Relationships that you think are irreparable can be reconciled. Will I commit to praying for my family? Will I? Do I believe that God is still at work in the midst of the sorry state, the crap, the messiness, the yelling and the tears, that is my broken home? Do I believe that what was permanently broken can be made new?
God is working behind the scenes in our lives and in our families. He never slumbers or sleeps. And he is working all things together for good as we trust and follow him. (rom 8.28)
And I’ve learned–there’s a difference between optimism and putting our hope in Christ. Optimism is just blindly hoping things can’t get any worse, that things have to pick up. But putting our hope in Christ is knowing, knowing that he is working for our good, and for his glory. That though things may not get any better, we are being shaped and formed into Christ’s image, and he is where we place our trust.
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
He is making all things new.