Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 310 - choose love, live love

I dreamt about Anderson this morning.

I rarely dream about him nowadays. It was nice though... to see him. The dream was a little bizarre, but almost all my dreams are.... at least a little bit. At one point... I remember that Anderson was snapping his fingers, one hand at a time. He used to always do this... to compare his left hand function compared to his right... the deficits he discovered would always depress him. I remember him showing me the differences in his hands... and then looking at me with really sad eyes. I hugged him. After a long hug, I pulled away, squared up directly in front of him, held his head between my hands... I remember that some of his hair fell out into my left hand and I quickly flicked it away so he wouldn't see... and looked straight into his eyes and said, "Now and until the day I die, I will always love you." And I hugged him again. I remember... a split second before I said those words in my dream... that I quickly exchanged, "until the day you die" for "until the day I die"... because I knew it would hurt him to hear me say it in reference to him. And then I opened my eyes.

This was not an unusual scene for us. It happened pretty frequently. He was always getting frustrated at his physical limitations... surgery by surgery... little by little... his body slowly failed him. After one surgery, it was his right hand that was slower than his left. And then after another... his right hand became the stronger of the two. Early on, his arms were less coordinated than his legs, and by the end... it was his legs that were paralyzed and his arms became his strongest assets. It broke my heart to see him limited in this way... especially since his body was one of the things that he always used to count on... he worked with his hands... he created digital art... he bowled, he batted... he played catch... he loved to drive. And all of that was taken away. He was stripped. His voice was the last to be taken away. After he was intubated, he had to point to letters and spell out words. Thinking back now... it was cruel on my part to plead with God to keep him alive. I would have spent the rest of my life at his side... even if he were unconscious, kept alive on life support. It really was because I couldn't let go. Even to a remnant of him. I would have rather had the remnant than to be left alone. One day though, I got to the point where... I knew I had to let go. My faith had shifted from hoping and pleading that God would heal him... to submitting to the Lord and acquiescing to His will. To know intellectually that God is sovereign is one thing; to live in a manner consistent with it... takes believing it with all your heart... and it also takes letting go of what you think is good for you in order to receive what God knows is best. It's been a long time since I've said it but it still rings true in my life... God's way is better than Tiff's way 100% of the time.

wedding 01 10 09

Someone asked me recently if Anderson ever hurt me. She said that it seems like from how I write about him, that he was the perfect man. He was not perfect. I am not perfect. But we were perfect for each other. In all the ways he hurt me... my character was grown as a result. In his struggles and weaknesses, I was able to be strong for him and vice versa. In every situation... there are almost always at least two ways you can choose to go. We could have let our differences frustrate each other and drive us apart. Or we could have used our differences to learn and grow from each other... so that both of us are stronger, better people together... even more so than when we are apart. Differences are hard to work with sometimes... but tapping into the strength that lies in diversity provides a richer, fuller, deeper experience than what can come out of uniform similarities. That's how I see it anyway. We chose to grow together. We chose to stick together, for better or worse, richer or poorer, til death did us part. And it was an active choice. Not so much a difficult one... an active one.

I also remember hearing that I didn't have to marry him. I could have left him and gone on with my own life. To me... that choice... was completely illogical. When you love someone... you love them... through thick and thin, good times and rough times. Anyone can love someone when things are good. It's the hard times that really reveal the character of your love... that show you what you're made of... that test how far you really would go to be found faithful and true. I know now for a fact that when I said "I love you", I meant it in the deepest possible way. Not "I love you if...", but "I love you always, no matter what". And I'm glad. Even though we had a rough beginning and a good time in the middle... it was the ending that gives me the most joy and peace about our relationship and our marriage. The ending was not lackluster... it was even greater than the beginning. And that is what I will always remember... not the hurt, the frustration, or the pain. So did he ever hurt me? Yes. But the outcome was always worth whatever pain it took to get there.

I can say this in retrospect now. But I also could have told you this back when we were in the very heart of darkness. I'm very, very thankful for this... for my life... for everything I've been through. I'm the one that's left here now... but I'd also like to continue similarly for the rest of my life. I want to always be thankful for everything and give God all the glory at all times. I want to study, know, and remember the Word of God, and to be a doer, not just a hearer. I want to be one who clings to the Lord, in darkness and light... through joy and sorrow... and to be found faithful. Like Job.

I read something the other day. You know when sometimes you read something and a line just sticks out and hits you? What I read was that, "Job never read the book of Job". It's kinda "duh", but it made me stop and think. This is the sentence in context:

It is easy for us to read Job's story and critique him at certain points. But we need to keep in mind that Job never read the Book of Job. He didn't know it would turn out well in the end. He didn't know about the conversations between God and Satan. He didn't know why everything was happening. All he knew was that one day, it all was going beautifully, and the next day, the bottom dropped out with no real explanation that he could see. Yet Job persevered in his faith and integrity.

We are told in James 5:11, "We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy." God's plan finally ended in good, but Job could not see that midstream.-Greg Laurie

There was also a quote...
All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator with all I have not seen. -Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I think when I read the stories nowadays, I really try to put myself in their shoes... or sandals... and when I do that, the way many of the people in the Bible acted becomes so much more real and alive to me. I don't see Job's lamenting so much as something to criticize but as something to admire. He was dealing with his situation in the most honest way he could. There was no sugar coating his feelings and there was no holding back or putting on appearances to "appear" that everything was OK when it really wasn't. He was who he was. He said what he felt. Even to curse the day he was born. When we read his story now, we read about what God said to Satan... how God protected him in the midst of his "stripping" time... but Job didn't know that. All he knew was one day things were going fine and dandy and then all of the sudden it was all taken away. So he cried out, "why?" but he never, ever cursed God or abandoned Him. He also stood firm as his friends lectured him. I wonder if he doubted. I wonder if he was tempted to believe them sometimes... to think that it was punishment for something he did wrong... for some unconfessed sin. But maybe in his honesty, Job knew that he had remained faithful and he had peace and confidence in that, at least. And at the end of it all... he said:

My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Job 42:5.

Job remained faithful, never cursed God... and he had only ever HEARD of God prior to his suffering. I know it's crossed your mind that... if ONLY I could have experienced a miracle like the parting of the Red Sea or manna falling from heaven... I would totally have great faith in God. You know what? I don't think so. The Israelites saw it and immediately forgot. What makes you or I think that we are any different than them? Even reading about the Israelites and how they worshipped idols... we say "we'd never do that" but... we do the exact same thing when we put trust in money before putting trust in God. Whenever the kings wanted to buy another army to help them in battle... they plundered the temple of the Lord to pay for it. How symbolic. The spiritual state of their hearts reflected how they treated the treasures of the temple. Didn't they remember how just a little while ago, they cried out to the Lord and God granted them victory, despite all odds? No. They forgot. And we do too. So, so often.

But reading about them... knowing how easy it is for me to be and act just like them... really encourages me not to be like them or live like them. And what admonition was repeatedly told to them ever since the days of Moses?
"So be strong, show yourself a man, 3 and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, 4 and that the LORD may keep his promise to me: 'If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.' (said David to Solomon on his deathbed) 1 Kings 2:2-4
The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. 2 Chronicles 15:2b
For all the love that Anderson and I shared... it was logical for me to abandon school, my career, my life... for him. The choice was easy. Why not get my priorities straight and spend the time with him? I put him before myself and it was the best thing I've ever done. Similarly, for all that I have heard that God has done... for others... and also now for all He has done for me in my life... it is quite logical for me to choose Him and to be faithful at the expense of giving up what I want to trust that He will bring what is best for me in His good timing. I want to continue living like this. I don't want to be like those kings who started out well and after a few victories got so prideful that they ended up forgetting the Lord and falling into sin and captivity. So what to do... what to do... keep on clinging to the Word of the Lord... allow His laws to reveal the sin in me... follow His commandments to complete obedience... walk in His ways. This is the way He meant for it to be. This is the way we were meant to live. The greatest fulfillment and joy of our lives comes from living out exactly what we were purposed and created for.

So really... the choice is easy and logical. In light of all I've learned, all I've read, all I've experienced... how can I NOT choose Him? I chose to follow Him when I was 6 years old. That, in and of itself, was God's grace to me. He sought me out. He sent His son to die for me and for you so that we could be with Him in heaven. All I had to do was choose Him. The hard work is already done. And even after that... having the Holy Spirit living within me... with all the power of the Father and Son... to tap into that power, all we have to do is choose Him too. Choose Him and resist the devil and he will flee from me (James 4:7). God does all the hard work in that too. We have absolutely no power to change, no power over sin... it is the Spirit of God at work in us that does all that... we just have to let Him do it. But love is not passive. Jesus says, if you love me, keep my commandments. If you love me, feed my sheep. I am to choose Him and also to live my life consistent with that choice. If I said I love Anderson and abandoned him in his greatest hour of need... is that love? No. Choose love, live love. That's how it shows and that's when it really counts.

wedding 01 10 09

Alritey. I think I'll stop writing now.

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