Friday, February 26, 2016

Why persecution reminds me of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the Queen Mother)

The other night I heard someone I respect very much say "The end is coming. Change has happened so fast, Jesus ought to be coming back soon."

Without putting down at all what this dear person said, I have to respectfully offer my skepticism that Jesus is going to come back just because the West (by that I mean Westernised countries) is not only entering into becoming Post Christian but very much Anti Christian. This doesn't mean Im not sad that people aren't just devaluing biblical morals but they're twisting and changing the God who made those morals into either something He's not or nothing at all. Technically speaking, the West has been "Christianised" since the Roman Emperor Constantine decided to become a Christian. But has the West truly been Christian? By that I mean has society as a whole truly as a majority genuinely loved and feared the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob? Or have we just had the facade of being sort of Christian and now that its no longer financially or socially worth being a Christian is the true Christianity finally getting a chance to show its face? Is this "decline" in professing Christians really a decline or just people finally being honest for the first time ever? 

In returning to that previous statement that my friend makes I feel the need to ask the question -
If persecution of Christians is what is going to bring back Jesus why hasn't he come back a million times already?

- In the early church only 50 years or so after that wee utopian period of everybody sharing all their stuff and living together in Jerusalem and speaking all kinds of crazy tongues and languages and having that first experience of the Holy Spirit (you know what Im talking about, cos your Pastor loves to nostalgically preach on this every so often as if he was there). Do you know what happened not long after? They got themselves a crazy Emperor by the name of Nero who not only blamed that gigantic fire in Rome (that he likely started) on the Christians. Then he rounded up men, women and children who refused to worship him to be murdered or torn about by wild animals in the Colosseum AND to keep his drunk parties well lit, he covered these Christians in pit and tar and crucified them over his parties then set them on fire. Why didn't Jesus come back then?

- What about that time when the so called established 'church' of the time sent its most devout followers to capture and burn at the stake those Christians who upon reading the bible for the first time in their lives in their own language and discovered the true God who said you didn't have to pay money to get your salvation or cross yourself so many times for him to love you, or pray to this person or that person (and the only person you needed to pray to was God).

- What about that time when Britain called itself 'Christian' while convincing themselves that those people in that continent over there weren't really human but half animal and that it was ok to ignore that part in the bible about not kidnapping humans for money and taking out of context the biblical stance of what a bond servant actually was? And there appeared to be only one true Christian at that time (last name Wilberforce) who fought to end that horrid despicable practice. Why didn't Jesus come back then?

- What about the millions of Chinese Christians being horribly persecuted and driven underground. Have we stopped to think that China has never had a "Christian government" nay not even a wee bit of Christian in their roots yet they likely have more Christians than all of the West combined? Persecution has never stopped for them. Why hasn't Jesus come then or now because of their suffering

- What about our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East being BEHEADED for loving and confessing Christ as their Lord. What about them?!

Maybe I'm sound a bit like a broken record here but Im trying to respectfully make a point. I know we're being persecuted as Christians in the West. I know its going to get worse. But I feel like, to the rest of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world we're looking like weak little cry babies because we're looking at how its starting feel uncomfortable being a Christian. We're no longer accepted any more. People are hurting our feelings now and accusing us of not being nice and this hurts our feelings and we're acting like we've lost a limb when really this is more like a paper cut.

Now after this gigantic rant you may still be scratching your head and wondering, "what on earth does this have to do with the late Queen Mother?!"

To some people, one might yawn and think "Oh gee, another spoilt royal." Let me tell you something, this woman is probably one of the most bravest of women in the kind of position such as her's. She wasn't born into royalty, she married into it - quite hesitatingly too (she turned down the then Duke of York's proposals TWICE!!). But anyway, thats not why I admire this woman's legacy so. Most women I think, if they knew that they were to be bombed by an enemy of some kind they'd grab their kids and run for it (in her case, the runaway destination offered to her and her daughters was Canada). But she flat out refused to leave London during WW2.

“The children will not leave unless I do. I shall not leave unless their father does, and the King will not leave the country in any circumstances whatever," she said when asked if she would leave London during World War II. 

If you're not a history buff like I am you may not know that the East End of London was likely the most worst hit area by the Nazi Luftwaffe during the war (cos thats where all their shipyards and warehouses were). The East End was also where the poorest of the poor of all London lived. The squalor that the East End had was well known and had truly set in long before the bombs laid waste. This woman's compassionate heart, dedication and loyal stubbornness to her husband and her country and most of all her fellow countrymen (particularly in this neighborhood) is what made her one of the the most beloved Queen's of all time. When the East End was being regularly bombed, she repeatedly left her house (Buckingham) went down there with her husband and two kids in broad daylight at risk of her own life and that of her family in order so she could commiserate, comfort and encourage them. I don't think any royal before her EVER did this, especially not a Queen. Because of this England literally treated her like a living saint and thus were extremely protective and proud of her and her family. Instead of hiding and sheltering her daughter's from the war at hand, she instead encouraged them to directly serve - as a result our current Queen Elizabeth (as a young woman) trained and worked as a truck driver and mechanic (during a time when it was just not the thing for a princess to be doing, driving a car, fancy that!).

Then, it finally happened to the royal familyBuckingham Palace took nine direct hits from German bombers, the first raid involving a fairly narrow escape for the King and Queen as masonry and windows were destroyed close to them. Im sure this was legitimately terrifying to them as well. But the Queen's response is completely remarkable - 

 “I'm glad we've been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face.”

This brings me to my point.
This is not a denigration to either side but sometimes I feel like as Westernized Christian's we've been too comfortable in our wealth and 'palaces' while our brothers and sisters, our fellow country men of the Kingdom we strive to enter have been taking bombs for years, some even hundreds of years. We're only just starting to get little hits. Lets not moan. Lets not sit on our hands and wait for Jesus to come back (only He knows when he's coming back). Lets not get obsessive and do nothing but speculate about end times and waste breath arguing about pre vs post millennium-ism and who's who of potential Anti Christ's. Lets pull a leaf out of this grand lady's hat and roll up our sleeves and comfort one another, suffer together gladly, think outside of ourselves and our own little world. Lets serve. When Jesus comes back I want him to find me busy working and loving for his Kingdom using the talents He gave me instead of sticking them in the ground and not doing anything. Now that we're finally being persecuted, I too feel weirdly relieved and think, maybe one day I too can look my brothers and sisters in the face and instead of pitying them I can finally share with them the cup of Christ.


I admire the late Queen Mother so much I thought Id add a few more of her quotes and picture of her playing pool:

 “Cowards falter, but danger is often overcome by those who nobly dare.”

"Nobody is boring. If you find someone or something a bore, the fault lies in you."

 "You should live your life, as if tomorrow you’ll be run over by a big red bus."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

What infertility has been teaching me about God's grace

Last September was probably the most broken hearted period my husband and I truly had together. It was a tough month. I had just been offered a full time permanent job which you'd think I was supposed to be rejoicing over but instead I was struggling so much in my first week (transitioning from community to hospital context) on the job, I went home crying wondering if I had made some kind of terrible mistake. Secondly we were in the process of moving home late in the rental season here in Vancouver (which locals know even in the Summer its a tough market). But that was nothing in comparison to what came. My husband and I got the result of the test.

I won't go into detail, but it was bad. Really bad. For both of us it was devastating. What made it even hard (though it was no one's fault at all) was that other couples dear to us had announced their pregnancies that SAME week that we got our news. Not wanting to ruin their joy I literally suffocated while hiding my own grief. I put it in that box deep down and hid it away but in quiet moments in my day all the emotions I blocked up would come exploding out of me. I would be driving my car listening to something totally benign and normal or in Walmart comparing apple prices and out of nowhere it would puke out of me, this torrent of sorrow and before I could count to two I'd break down and be sobbing over apples or on  a Highway with blurred vision. 

I didn't know I would be challenging my own beliefs about God and the bible that I had previously been (at least intellectually) rock solid with. Like:
- God is good.
- God knows best
- God is Almighty Creator
- God is perfect
- God is just

Thing is I believed those things in my head but I was not truly living it out in my heart. I was having irrepressible thoughts pop into my mind like:
- Im a GOOD person! I DESERVE children.
- Ive been planning and preparing for this, therefore, God you owe me
- If I am deserving, and I cannot have children then why do I see undeserving people conceiving and having (or throwing away) their children?

As a result I started battling the worst case of bitterness, envy and anger I had ever experienced in my life. In my personal life, because of my adhering to biblical beliefs that children are a "heritage from the Lord" it means that I am also vocally Pro Life. But in the last 5 months Ive felt I've needed to take a mental sabbatical from thinking about Planned Parenthood and abortions because it quite frankly makes me weep harder. At the same time Ive carried this huge terrifying fear of being THAT kind of crazy nasty woman. The kind that snubs her pregnant friends in order to make herself feel good or at least not have to face her own pain. 

Winston Churchill famously labeled his depression as being like a big black dog that never left him alone. Someone much later on wrote a picture book for adults that I bought for work purposes (share it with client's who have mental illness). I never thought I'd be looking at that book for myself. It wasn't a clinical depression but it started as a constant  nagging fear during our 2+ years of not conceiving and then like a grief  losing a beloved family member when we found out the news.

Sometime in the weeks following I struggled with the above arguments I had with myself. I was having vicious theological debates with myself over the concept of goodness. My petty argument with myself was that I am good therefore I deserve to get pregnant naturally and have children. 

In Mark 18:10 we find a guy calling out to Jesus saying "Hey Good teacher!" and Jesus responds.. "“Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone." Now Jesus IS good. Because he never sinned. By word, action or thought. But for Christian's he is our only standard of goodness. As Christian's we rate ourselves and everyone else as born inherently 'bad'. Our standard of good these days just looks like an imperfect person just trying to live life, pay their taxes and keeping their lawn appropriately cut. The guy calling Jesus good was putting the world's standard of "good" on Jesus and as such he was flat out refusing that title attached to that man's flawed worldly version of good. Now in other part's Jesus does use the title "good" eg "The Good Shepherd" etc elsewhere, but in doing so, he gives his own definition to what good is - perfection. Because he did that, the religious leaders of that time frequently picked up rocks and attempted to stone him multiple times because in saying what he was saying, Jesus was calling himself God. By calling out to God saying that I am a "good person" what am I really believing? Am I truly the pinnacle of goodness? Am I THE standard? The TRUTH? The WAY? My husband would tell you, no I am not. Im quite pathetic in trying to be good actually, I fail miserably every time.

Another argument against my terrible theology is my wanting my "good works" to procure God's blessing. God doesn't work that way. You can't 'buy' Gods favor with good behavior. God offers salvation through his son as a gift. I cannot earn it. I think God does bless obedience but it is based on his omnipotent power and knowledge and above all else, his mercy and grace. Sometimes obedience is painful and suffering may occur through doing right. In the bible there are stories where it says that God does deliberately stop conception of children. Sometimes its explained, sometimes it isn't. There are also examples in the bible where couples are devastatingly childless who also happened to be godly, obedient, humble people. Hannah and Elizabeth are two women I think of right now. Sometimes infertility occurs and there is no rhyme or reason for it. Sin is in this world which also means there is sickness. Some sickness comes as a direct result of ones sin in ones life - eg alcoholism often leads to liver disease. Other sicknesses just arrive because of a freak accident in chemistry in the body, its not our fault but its there. 

Another argument is, my past, present and future anger in my head are just as equally culpable to God's law of sin = death as the person who physically commits murder. Jesus said, both are equally deserving of hell. 

Thanks be to God that me with my angry thoughts as well as the man who commits murder while equally deserving of hell, are also both equally gifted salvation though undeserving we both are.

So, theres my sodden argument so far:

- I am a good person - WRONG. Only Jesus is good.
- God owes me - WRONG. He owes me nothing, yet he gives me something better (more priceless) than a child, he saved me from my sin yesterday, today and tomorrow.

My last argument was - why do some people get pregnant and some don't? Matthew 5:45 says that God gives sun and rain to both evil and good people. Thing is, I don't know others circumstances. Its really none of my business and I don't have the right to be mad from assumptions I make about people's lives when Im only seeing a minuscule view of their bigger picture. 

Im young still. Only in my late twenties.  I am relieved that I started this process early. A friend who had also gone down this path counseled me to start digging around for answers after I shared with her my concerns about not conceiving in a 3-4 year period. I don't know how children will come our way, whether by medical intervention, some sheer miracle or by adoption. Im not sure. Im keeping my eyes and heart open to any direction. All I know is, I know Im going to be a Mom. But I have to be open to the idea that the process may not be the one I initially wanted.

This is very strongly teaching me that in planning my life, I need to hand God the pen and keep a pencil for myself. If its the other way round Im setting myself up for bitterness which Im now finding out the hard way. Corrie Ten Boom - a marvelous Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp because she and her family hid Jews, once said -

“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

The last thing I've learned is this - suffering doesn't have to mean Im alone. Jesus once said an odd thing - "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." When the hubby and I were told our news we had barely been mourning our loss for a week when I accidentally broke during a staff lunch when someone casually and innocently asked "Do you have children Melody?" With all my strength, I quietly answered back "We can't" Well thats one way to kill a conversation. Somehow by the end of the day, all my colleagues knew and were rather obviously avoiding my company or providing me with badly hidden looks of pity or stupid comments like "Have you tried raising your legs up?" 

FYI, if you have children yourself, please don't offer "advice." No matter how well intentioned you are please SHUT UP. Your advice is very patronizing and borderline cruel. People in our situation only want advice from people who are going or have gone through this same thing. And I am so exceedingly grateful that I had more than one friend who I could unashamedly pour my grief out to because they had gone through it themselves. If you do want to comfort me, let it be just to comfort not to fix.  An interesting thing happened after that wee episode at work. I had FOUR colleagues privately seek me out at work and tell me they too were struggling with infertility. They were struggling with the shame, and the guilt  and the suffocating grief that I too knew so well and not having anyone to talk to about it. Within one and a half weeks of being a mourner myself, God drew me out to comfort others where they needed it and be that understanding person for them. Crying with someone else helped me too. Sometime later I saw the movie 'Inside Out' and there was a scene that explained it so well:

So there I have it. Thats about as far as I can explain it. Im still not happy that Im not a Mom, but I also understand its not my be all and end all. God put that desire in me and there it stays. And every now and then I pull it out and hand it up to God and say Hannah's prayer

"My heart exalts in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord.. I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like the Lord; for there is none beside you; there is no rock like our God."