The Grace of Disruption

I read them slowly from the cocoon of my sick bed, spoke them into the room as one might swipe at cobwebs. They are truth and I held them like a stop sign against the dark and renegade thoughts that traveled the neuropathways of my brain. The declaration offered hope and reassurance.

This I declare about the LORD; He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God and I trust him.   – Psalm 91:2

He is my God and I trust Him!

Trust isn’t instant. It’s learned over time and through experience. Blind trust in God is sometimes called for in life but trust we have cultivated through experiencing Him is more personal; not easily shaken.

I learned to trust God with finances more deeply in my mid-twenties. I had three children and a precariously fragile marriage. One tense October Sunday morning my husband backed the car out of the driveway and headed in the direction of church.

Halfway down our block I irritatedly uttered: Would you please wait until I’m fully in the car before you start backing out? At the end of the block my husband wordlessly turned the car around, sped back to the house, pulled into our driveway and said flatly, “Get out! Get the kids and get out.”

In stunned silence I peeled three bewildered children from the back seat.

He didn’t come home that night.

Or the next.

It was four months of hand-to-mouth living before divorce proceedings were stopped. It was a season of divine provision.

blog4

Life disruptions. 

They have a way of challenging our theology and reshaping our life’s essential meaning.

Some life disruptions can seem like the end of the world. They appear like a betrayal of God. They attack our spiritual equilibrium, confront our identity and uproot our sense of security.

The difficult months following that rainy morning thirty-five years ago became a canvas of grace, painted by the hand of God in vivid colors of loving faithfulness.

Through the grace of disruption I was given the privilege of renewed dependence upon God. I experienced His provision in very tangible ways and solidly experienced God as Jehovah Jireh–my provider.

I eventually remarried and though my financial position became more comfortable, other aspects of my relationship with and trust in God would be clarified.

Thirty-five years of life disruptions since have shaped my relationship with God, working a maturation and sanctification process in me.

That process continues.

I am prone to forget my vital need for utter dependence upon Him. I can unwittingly drift into the waters of pride and self-reliance.

We make plans and God laughs. 

Those sentiments have no biblical basis but they remind me of James 4:13-16

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.

We sometimes slip behind the veil of parroted expressions of faith without realizing we’re really just robed in rhetoric. The familiar scriptures we quote, the one-liners we repeat from sermons and best sellers can lull us into believing we have a stronger dependence upon God than we actually do.

The Christianese we speak doesn’t always equal the caliber of our surrender to God or His Lordship in our lives.

Life disruptions. 

My husband, along with two of our sons, recently received a blindsiding email that left us all standing like deer in the headlights. A family business decision separated them from their dreams and their jobs.

It looked like betrayal and felt like shame.

That email effectively wiped away the plans of a father and two sons to farm together. It redlined the identities of these men who had always been farmers.

It was a business decision made by brothers for the benefit of some, but not all.

blog3

It took days before the shock wore off–before we were able to identify the blindside as a tool in the hand of God.

It was God’s eraser to the drawing board of our carefully laid plans.

On the white board of God’s sovereignty we were reminded:

I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD. — Jer. 29:11

Our plans had been abruptly disrupted.

His plan is still unknown to us.

Throughout the last year we had prayed fervently: Lord, this is our desire, this seems wise and prudent…we ask you for wisdom, direction and favor but above all,  if this isn’t your plan, please close the door.

And He did. Though late in the process, it was definitely closed.

The reality of it all is slowly sinking in, especially for my husband whose been forced to  prematurely walk away from a third generation farming operation he’s spent forty years growing. It’s all he’s ever know. And it’s a major blow to our sons who thought farming was their heritage and future as well.

As we pray for love and forgiving hearts, we thank God for His better plan and we voice our praise.

We would rather be caught in the scary unknown than with foolish confidence pursuing our own will.

We humbly and gladly echo the words of Jesus, Not my will but yours be done!

In the messy mingling of fear and faith, we are becoming more keenly aware of the privilege we have been given to be stripped of any vestige of independence from God–any reliance upon ourselves.

There is refuge and safety in none but God alone! He is our future, our hope. The grace of disruption can return us there.

 

(Author’s note: I share events in my life only to illustrate a point–not with the slightest intention to disparage anyone. My former husband is today a very humble and gracious follower of Christ. I have tremendous respect and admiration for both he and his wife.  My husband’s brothers are also God-fearing men making difficult decisions. We love them and will continue to do so.)

Truth-Speaking: Navigating a Touchy Subject

truthinlove

I’m not very good at it.

Being a semi-good story teller doesn’t necessarily make me a good communicator, particularly when it comes to speaking truth in love. Unfortunately, sometimes my love-truth spends a little too much time fermenting in frustration and comes out covered in emotional barbs.

I lack practice in truth-speaking because I’m afraid of it. I prefer to avoid conflict and I still care whether people like me! Though I’m actively working to resist it, I’m sometimes motivated by my fear of anger and rejection. Too often my words and actions are filtered through the grid of people-pleasing. Unfortunately, my truth-speaking comes easiest when I’m emotionally charged.

I remember a comment made by a British entertainer: “You Americans are so touchy and easily offended. You take yourselves far too seriously.” I think we generally know this about ourselves, and our culture; it hinders us from daring to confront in love.

Christians are too easily offended as well. We get our feathers in a ruffle if someone dare suggest we might need a little spoken-truth. John Bevere’s book introduces the idea that offense is The Bait of Satan.

Many of us have a very difficult time receiving truth especially spoken from the lips of fallible human beings. Nothing rouses offense like some flawed hot-mess pointing out our teeny-tinny flaws.

Offense is not only a natural byproduct of being human. Offense is deadly.

Offense is a baited-trap to ensnare us so Satan can dismantle unity and weaken the body of Christ.

Through offense, Satan disrupts and impedes kingdom growth and our kingdom purpose.

In Ephesians 4, Paul urges Christians to grow up. He tells us to put away falsehood and speak truth to each other so that we can grow up into the full measure of Christ–emulating not only His actions but also His character.

Marriage provides good practice for this–a brutal boot camp that never ends! My husband and I were in a rather animated conversation once. Okay, we were in a big fight that went south rather quickly.

There was a lot of truth being flung around our 25 foot RV that night in the middle of the woods. I was so upset that I refused to get in bed with him; choosing instead to sit at the table with my head in the crook of my arm and shiver-sleep. He, on the other hand, well, let’s just say his snoring was a metronomic reminder that my dramatics were wasted. My chattering teeth eventually ate through my pride and sometime before dawn I crawled into bed with the enemy!

Somewhere in my husband’s upbringing he determined it was necessary to avoid confrontation, regardless of the significance of the relationship or the degree of the behavior. Being one of ten children may have influenced his belief that superficial peace was preferable to conflict-riddled honesty. His motto: Pick your own nose and keep your finger out of other people’s faces.

I grew up with a spasmodic communication style. Silence. Pressure. Blow. Retreat. Silence. Pressure. Blow. Retreat. I had a very difficult time navigating our relationship by his rules. Trust me, I really tried to fit in–that’s what trauma survivors do. I’d pretend things didn’t bother me. I’d forcefully hum my way through situations that I would rather have talked out.

To be fair, he had his challenges with my style as well. (I think we’re improving!)

About every six months I’d become so backed-up with truth that I felt like I would explode if I couldn’t unpack some of it. My need for emotional honesty and vulnerable  connection was too great. I had come too far in my journey out of disfunction to welcome avoidance.

My unpacking usually began with one small thing: When you don’t give me eye contact it makes me feel like you’re angry with me. So far so good, right? But if he didn’t acknowledge or respond , which was usually the case, my litigious brain would kick into gear and I would enter my carefully tagged exhibits–examples of other things he did to create emotional disconnection.

Grace&Truth copyMy evidence combined with my multi-layered, multiloculated communication style overwhelmed him. He’d feel ambushed and would start throwing self-protective truth-grenades. Emotional carnage ensued.

Such was the case that night in the quiet woods. By the way, have you ever tried to yell in a hushed voice? Not at all easy and definitely not attractive–just sayin’.

Truth&Grace

The following morning we picked up the pieces and prayerfully (with repentance) recovered the real truth in the truth we had flung at each other. We agreed that there was a better way to communicate truth.

  • We agreed that we would be prayerful before speaking truth.
  • We agreed to posture ourselves in love before speaking .
  • We agreed that truth-speaking, as hard as it can be, is absolutely necessary for our growth in Christ and in our marriage.
  • We agreed that Truth is the twin to Grace.
    • Truth without grace is injurious.
    • Grace without truth is indulgence.

Is it easy? No. But it’s essential.

As humans we find balance very challenging. We think balance comes from the architecture of spiritual algorithms, which are born of our skewed reasoning and fueled by our affinity for and need to control, measure, assess and evaluate.

But balance comes from the pace of a Spirit-ordered walk of grace and truth. It sounds over-simplistic doesn’t it?

We have to be prayerful about Speaking the truth in love because there is a God-determined priority of transformation in each of our lives. One of the lessons I learned in Experiencing God is that we are to join God in what He is doing around us–according to His plan–rather than asking Him to join us in achieving ours.

Jesus reveals this Father-led-transformation priority in nearly every sinful-man encounter recorded in scripture. Of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus demonstrated that Her spiritual void was higher in priority than her moral conduct so He offered her grace. But grace is always followed by truth. In her case He concluded with Now go and live differently. 

Grace and Truth are activated by the Holy Spirit and empowered by love.

  • The pre-requisite of truth-speaking is the ability to hear and receive truth ourselves.
  • Truth cannot be spoken outside the architecture of love, first love for God and then love for the recipient.
  • The motivation for truth-speaking must be love for the recipient.
  • The goal of truth is reparative and restorative.Truth germinates in the life of another through grace.
  • Truth-speaking must be Holy Spirit led and paced.
  • Truth is necessary for health in the body of Christ; it is essential for life-transformation.

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.                       Eph. 4:25