I felt like one of those aluminum Christmas trees folks had when I was a kid, the kind with the rotating color wheel that sat on the floor underneath it, projecting an array of colors on the tree’s metallic branches. It was quite a spectacle to see the tree change before your very eyes, going from red to blue to green, sometimes the tree itself was on a rotating stand, further enhancing the experience.
If emotions were colors, I reflected all of them sitting in the booth at Applebee’s this past Tuesday, during that lull in time before the dinner crowd arrives. I was feeling angry, fearful, resentful, and insecure, but mostly I was feeling an incomprehensible sense of confusion and pain. “What more does God want from me?” I cried.
This was supposed to be a day of closure and rebirth. A day when legal decisions would be made that would allow me to bury the remnants of poor choices, past mistakes, and painful experiences and begin living once again. This was supposed to be a day of resolution and relief—or so I had hoped and prayed. After years of being consumed with loss, grief and increasing feelings of fear and desperation, years when my physical health suffered, my financial health suffered, and yes, I’m sorry to say times when my spiritual health suffered, I had allowed myself to believe that this would be the day when this long season would at last come to an end.
“When does it stop?” The tears flowed. “What am I supposed to learn that I’m not learning? I don’t think I can take this suffering anymore. Maybe I’m not supposed to be a writer, maybe it’s time to throw in the towel, maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong. Maybe it’s not God’s plan or purpose for me to write about setting healthy boundaries, maybe I’ve got it all wrong…everything shouldn’t be this hard.” Clearly, I was not coping very well, and I certainly wasn’t filtering my challenging circumstances through the lens of the 6-Steps to SANITY…I wasn’t walking my talk.
My friend and moral support listened patiently; I could tell her heart was aching for me as she watched my hit-the-wall melt-down. Not quite sure what to do about the emotional lady in the booth by the window, our server brought extra mozzarella cheese sticks and maintained a wide berth.
“You’ve got to claim victory, Allison!” My friend said. “You’ve got to continue praising God through this. No matter what.”
It’s the “no matter what” seasons that get us, isn’t it?
I went home Tuesday night and cried myself to sleep. Wednesday morning my eyes were like two slits in a puff pastry face. I read my Bible, the Streams in the Desert devotional for the day, and Our Daily Bread. I wrote in my OnCall Prayer Journal, and I prayed and prayed some more. I spent the day talking to God. Like many of us, I’m no stranger to intense trial and tribulation. However, I’ve seen God’s amazing grace, mercy and love in so many miraculous situations and circumstances—I never doubt His presence.
Yet it suddenly dawned on me that’s exactly what I was doing in Applebee’s on Tuesday as I whined, cried, and babbled about my situation and circumstances. How pathetic—how unproductive—how human. Things didn’t go as I had hoped they would, but who am I to place a statute of limitations on trial and tribulation? God has a plan, and I’m not God (a fact He frequently has to remind me of.)
Life really is all about setting healthy boundaries, every day in every way. Not just with our adult children, difficult people, or even with food or time. Sometimes we need to set a healthy boundary around our heart that keeps out our own negative thoughts, feelings and fears. Proverbs 5:23 teaches us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” I can’t control all the drama, chaos, crisis, or circumstances of life, but I can control how I respond to them.
And so I dusted myself off and began thanking and praising God.
I thanked Him for the people, places, things, circumstances, and situations that molded together are making me the person He wants me to be. I thanked Him for the gift of His son. I thanked Him for the wisdom of His Word. I thanked Him in advance for giving me the strength to continue enduring this season and for the wisdom and discernment to understand His plan and purpose for my life.
And I began claiming victory!
Trusting God is a choice we make, and I’ve chosen to trust Him. I’ve chosen to be “All In” with God, and that means even during the times when I may feel left out.
Faith and Endurance – James 1:1-26 (NLT)
2 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
9 Believers who are[b] poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.
12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong,[c] and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.[d] He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.[e] 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.[f]