Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Seaglass & My Middle Aged Manifesto

We have a lot going on in our family life. Because this is a public space and the stories are not entirely mine to tell, I will spare the details--suffice it to say, there are many stressors and lots of complicated issues. I have no doubt it will all work itself out. I am not afraid. It is just A LOT.

A couple of weeks ago, we were able to enjoy a week of respite in Maine visiting Ryland's sister and her family. Before I was a foster parent, I didn't 'get' respite. Honestly, I thought it was a bit heartless to leave your foster kids behind and draw such a blatant circle around your bio family. After a week away, I have a different perspective. This is 24/7 ministry. We are not an adoptive family. Rest and sabbatical are good for everyone. It was like a glorious weeklong date with my family--reconnecting with my first loves. Our foster daughters also had a great week with a local family who honored their 'staycation' with fun experiences and memories.  

Each day in Maine we would explore the rocky, shell-filled shores of Penobscot Bay. Among the many treasures we collected I found myself drawn to the sea glass. Growing up on the sandy beaches of Florida, I haven't had much experience with sea glass before this trip. Here at 41 it made quite an impression.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, sea glass is the product of broken pieces of regular glass (largely from discarded bottles) that have been tumbled and ground by the ocean over time. The result is that sharp edges are rounded out to have a smoother appearance and feel. Additionally, the glass' original slick and clear surface is replaced by a frosty opaque look.

As I collected handfuls I thought about how reflective this glass felt of my own heart and opinions in middle age.

I was once bold, certain, and confidently opinionated about most things. The world was black and white. I loved talk radio. I got most of my information from only one or two sources. I was quick to discount people who had differing views. Like glass that has just found its way into the vast ocean I was clear and sharp.

But now, life experience has tumbled and ground my worldview. I am being sanctified by a variety of relationships and experiences.

A close friend confided her abortion years ago--how the protestors banging on her car with handwritten signs calling her a murderer did more harm than good to her fragile faith. I have seen firsthand the fallout in her life and the years it took for her to really see and know the heart of God. I am still pro-life--I just think the answers require more work than most people want to do. Her lack of resources, desperation, fear and belief that she had no other options weren't going to be solved by people screaming at her.

I have developed friendship/mentorships with a couple of ex-prostitutes and drug addicts. In hearing their stories, I began to understand how untreated mental health issues and past abuse put people on a path most of us cannot begin to imagine. Easy to judge, much more difficult to walk with a person as they attempt to rebuild a personal life after decades of shambles.

I've had long, tearful conversations over the course of years of friendship with a woman of color I adore. Our sons love each other and on paper are growing up with very similar lives. Yet, I am painfully aware there are conversations she has to have that have never occurred to me--about hoodies on dark nights or how to handle themselves at traffic stops.

A family member came out as gay and then transgender. Ironically, this person rejected me for being a conservative that might judge before I had ever said a word.

I became a foster parent and found one of the sweetest rewards to be the relationship I have developed with the bio Mom whose rights have been terminated. She is unable to be a good mother, but she is honest and brave--with a heart that longs to be healed and whole spiritually while owning up to the many decisions that got her to this place of brokenness and loss. In the beginning of this journey, I was so angry with the 'her' I imagined, but now I pray for the her I have grown to know through our letters.

I don't just read or listen to one perspective anymore. I seek out books that shine light in corners I've not had to live in myself. The result? I have far less opinions than ever before. I find it difficult to find a simple answer to much of anything.

What once felt so clear has become more obscure.

Before you write me off as a fallen Christian who has abandoned truth...hear me: My core commitment to Jesus and the Word of God stands. In most of the scenarios I have described above, I believe there is a great deal of brokenness as a result of not persuing God's rightesouness and 'best.'

Jesus is still my anchor. He is my worldview. As I have followed Him to this place in life, I have begun to think it is often laziness that cause us to feel so clearly about things--not our actual faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 KJV 

What if it was never God's intention for us to have all the answers and strong opinions? What if, instead, He wanted us to become OK with being refined by the mighty ocean of life and the crashing waves and sand of the circumstances He allows to impact our lives? Truthfully, I find myself required to rely on the Lord a whole lot more since I have stopped 'knowing' everything.

 At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me! I Corinthians 13:12 (Phillips) 

I want to know. I want to understand--but mostly I want to be found faithful more than I want to be right. God willing I still have a lot of years here on Earth and much more refining to do.

He has shown you, O man, what is good.  
And what does the Lord require of you? 
But to do justly, 
to love mercy, 
and to walk humbly with your God. 
Micah 6:8


Meggie said...

Thank you for sharing your heart. I love this and am finding I feel the same.

Jacquie Reed said...

What a beautiful piece of writing. You are growing and evolving in your walk with God - open to how God comes to you in new experiences and ways of being with others.
I pray you feel God's strength and companionship as you serve God in foster-parent ministry.

Beth in the City said...

This could be my manifesto too.

Missy June said...

Thank you for detailing the evolution of your faith. Like you, I once believed that doubt eliminated faith. Through my own life experience, and that of those around me, I now believe that faith cannot exist without doubt. The doubt is what creates the catalyst for faith.

I loved your analogy to sea glass. May the softer sides of each of us increase the faith of those to whom we minister. May His glory shine through in the darkest places. May we keep turning to Him in our questions, trusting when we question and seeking when we are lost.

Denise Ross said...

I'm finding my mindset and faith is in a similar place to yours. I used to think everything was clear cut and I had all the answers. Life us complicated and we complicate it well ourselves. We are human and fallen. At middle age, I realise I don't have all the answers, and possibly it is better that I don't. I wouldn't seek Gid so needily if I did.

Laura Elmer said...

Beautiful said, my friend. <3

Nichole said...

This is so wonderful. I just wanted you to know that these words encouraged this 34 year old mama of three today. Thank you for sharing.

Wife Goes On said...

Beautiful observations and your heart is so clearly focused on Jesus. He's the one who cared for the widows, the prostitutes, the adultress, the sick. He didn't say anything about their right or wrong actions, but he cared for them. May we each strive to do the same.

The HUB said...

Cabell, I cant believe I found you! Not sure if you remember me! My name is Jenn and I was burned at crooked creek ranch in Colorado in July 2000. You were & continue to be a big part of my story! If I could only begin to tell you the many ways God has used it to His Glory! All you prayers & letters encouraged my heart! Something you wrote has stuck with me all these yrs. "it is so easy to praise God when things are wonderful but what a testimony to praise and thank him in the middle of a painful experience". After reading some of your blog I am so sorry to hear of your husbands passing. I am encouraged by your heart and the many ways he is using you. Today 16yrs ago is when he accident happened, it is imprinted on my heart the prayers you prayed over me as we drove to the emergencey room. God has healed me & I thank God for you!!

J & A said...

I think this is what they call a 'mature faith'. :) Thankful for your perspective and testimony...hopeful that I, too, am headed that way.

Michelle said...

I've read your blog off and on for years and this is my favorite of all your posts. Much of what you have written in the last year has resonated deeply with me, but nothing more than this. Thank you for sharing your heart! I find my edges becoming much softer with every passing year. More and more I realize that love is always the answer! That does not mean I change my faith or my beliefs at all, it just means that, as you said, shouting accomplishes nothing other than hurting someone who is obviously already hurting. Showing love and listening will move mountains, not shouting and judging. We must hold ourselves accountable first and foremost...and love those that are making decisions that are clearly based on a deep hurt in their heart. Obviously easier said than done, and a pass cannot and should not be given for unacceptable and unrepentant behavior. That being said, love will open up more doors and start more conversations than shouting and judging ever will. Thank you for sharing this.

Tashia Twyman said...

I have seen you grow/change over the course of our friendship and I am thankful that the experiences you share are so transparent and REAL. #lifeisbutadream. Thankful to do it with you!

Kristi said...

Love this so much...many situations presenting themselves in my life lately - and realizing that screaming the Gospel, a Bible verse, or a prayer - do more harm than good. That to live my life and rely on the Gospel, Bible verses, and prayers...with peace, grace, and love...are what I need to do and these actions speak louder than any scream I can offer. Love your heart and your shared perspective!!