Meaningless

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The wisest man in the world (other than Jesus) once said, “Meaningless.  Meaningless.  Everything is meaningless.”  I think I know which time of life he was in.  If anyone had told me when I was 20 something or 30 something or even 40 something that in my 50’s I would be trying to wrap my head around so many things…I would have laughed.  I knew at the time that I didn’t know everything; but I certainly felt I at least was going in a direction…the right direction.  I’m not really sure of that anymore.  The only way I can describe this period in my life is like another adolescence.  I remember feeling pretty lost then…I lost my dad at 16 and to lose one’s security and stability at that age really sets your world in a tailspin.  

A year and half ago I moved for the 23rd time since I was married, but this time it wasn’t for ministry or finances…more to find a job and be closer to two of my six children.  I have to say that this Ecclesiastes experience started before our move to NC…so it’s not the move’s fault…just a puzzle piece in the mix of emotions.  

In our last church I had more “close friends” than I thought I had had at any other time in my life. Now I sit wondering if everything is meaningless and to be honest am coming to the conclusion that it is. I had two REALLY close friends in VT….kind of my James and John…maybe I was Peter. I don’t hear from either one anymore.  I guess if I were to write first again I might hear from John…but James gave up on me before I even left.  I had others…my Thomas who begged me not to go and said things like, “Do you really have to go?”  There was no job…no ministry to speak of anymore…so yes, we had to come here.  I’ve never heard from her again…I’ve texted, sent messages and nothing.  Another lady is sick…I keep giving her that out..but again I’ve texted and wrote…but nothing in return.  A pastor’s wife who wrote for many months..we used to meet to pray as fellow servants and wanderers…is now gone, too.  

My daughter tells me, “Why don’t you do things with your friends?”  How do you say, “I have no friends, sweetie.??  You are the only one who ever wants to do something with me from time to time and when you do I drop everything to come to you.’  You don’t.  Because your children really can’t handle their mom being so needy.  They can’t handle being needed so much…it is a terrible burden.  

So I go on …trying to wrap my head and my heart around this life.  I pray, “Is this all there is and ever will be for the rest of our lives, Lord?”  There is silence.  I can hear Him weeping with me…He has the answers and knows the pain of having no friends when it comes down to the wire…hanging on a cross.  This is my cross.  It makes me yearn for Heaven.  If we are so quickly forgotten anyway then why do what we do?  Why pour yourself into someone who is going to so quickly not care if you are even on this earth?  Because I’m not God or even a god to decide when I leave.  I stick around for the hope that someday there may be someone who decides they would like to have me for a friend.  Maybe someone will ask me to meet them for a cup of coffee or to come when they need a friend.  I think I’ve always waited on the side of life for the next need to fill.  I thrive in being needed…but I wish I was wanted….maybe that’s at the source or root of all this meaninglessness.  I’m here to meet other’s needs…not their desire to have a friend and be close.  

I miss my friends.  I know some of them probably think of me from time to time…I did have a lady message me the other day that she misses my wisdom and encouragement…I had to laugh at the wisdom part…but I know she meant how I would always point her back to Jesus and to His Word…she misses His wisdom.  I’m thankful.  I did have one of my youth group girls from 30 years ago (she’s now a grandma!) thank me for all I did to encourage her all those years ago.  It reminds me of how ten lepers were healed and one returned to thank Jesus.  

We went to the Billy Graham Museum a couple of weeks ago.  As we were talking with the host at the desk he asked what we did.  My husband told him we had been in ministry for many years and he now was an AFLAC salesman.  The man said something simple like “Thank you for your service to the Lord.”  It brought instantaneous tears to my eyes.  And I was a basketcase in my soul.  How could this one man who didn’t know us give us more honor in one moment than the hundreds who we’ve poured our lives into?  

I have a daughter who’s been trying to tell me that ministry is where we are and that “full time” ministry isn’t any better or more glorious or more holy than sweeping floors or being a customer service representative for a cleanroom wiper company.  In my head I can agree to that to a certain extent…but my heart cries for ministry…it cries for meaning, it cries for relationship, it cries for community.

Ever since I was young I was drawn to full time Christian work.  I never doubted it.  I don’t doubt it now…but I sit wondering if we will ever be there again.  Allen is tired.  He’s broken and doesn’t have the desire I have.  Or doesn’t seem to.  He hates his job a good deal of the time…but not enough to send our resume’s or go back into ministry or leave our children we hardly see even though we are five minutes away from them.  I don’t see the point.  From this side the tapestry is pretty messy…it’s full of very dark colors…it is hanging with threads that haven’t been tied back and made neat…there is no picture…it is all meaningless.

 

Things I’ve Learned Along the Way

From time to time I have younger women who seek my counsel…it’s especially gratifying when it’s one of my children or their spouses…but it always means so much to me.  I wonder if those older ladies I sought out felt that way twenty and thirty years ago.  I imagine they did…not because it was me…but because I noticed something different in them that I wanted to know about or emulate.

I’ve spent thirty years in ministry of some sort or another…now my ministry is sporadic and totally of the Lord.  I wonder if that isn’t the way He meant it to be…rather than an occupation of ministry….but that’s for another discussion.  Today is the last day of 2013 and I’m wondering if there are things in my heart that can be helpful to others.  I have learned some lessons along the way…some have left me a bit cynical…although I always strive to be better and not bitter from life’s experiences.  I know in my sharing and especially in my writing it can come out as a bit morbid and dark.  Maybe that’s the path my soul must travel to find the light in life again.

Here are just some thoughts…I may number them…I may not…things I’ve learned along the way.

* You can’t control people.  You can try.  You can make them and yourself miserable.  But you can’t control them.  You can’t make them grow.  You can’t make them closer to God.  You can’t fix them.  You can’t stop them from doing what they are doing.  Heck…you can’t even stop yourself half the time or make yourself grow or change yourself.  So don’t try.  Relax…accept things as they come.  I sometimes have people who tell me, “You are so calm!”  I strive to be so. Most things in life like computers acting up or figuring out phones and such don’t stress me….it’s the under the surface things that get me in a whirl.   All too often my soul is NOT calm…but I strive to not let you know.  When I am struggling, I head to the bathroom and cry…cry out to my best friend who is the ONLY One who totally understands me.  He knows my struggles.  He points out my sin.  He loves me anyway and He IS in control…so if I open my hand in surrender…He has things pretty well in control…without me!  lol  Can you imagine?

* You can’t keep some friendships.  You can be there through their thick and thin.  You can minister to them for years.  You can be the friend who sticks closer than a brother (or sister).  You can say the hard things in love…and sometimes there are just things that must be said that will end the friendship.  My mom used to say, “If you are both Christians, there is nothing that should come between you that you can’t work on.”  I loved her positive line of thinking…but it hasn’t been true in my life.  I have friends I’ve had for years who have totally given up on me.  I’ve had people beg me to stay in an area who forgot me as soon as I went out the door…never a phone call, text, facebook message or note in the mail.  Does it hurt?  Yes.  There are days I still cry for what we lost.  Will God make it right someday?  I imagine in those first moments in Heaven a lot will be made right between people who sinned against one another…I only wish there were such a complete sense of God’s presence in our lives that things could be worked out here…But only last year when I was grieving over a lost friendship, God reminded me that I had spent enough time grieving…that it was time to move on without those people and that their sin against me was far more than my initial sin had been towards them…that He needed me to accept the end and move on with Him.  I am…most of the time.  I remember when we were first in ministry grieving over those who left our churches…. I’ve learned that God has a journey for each of us and sometimes it is to part.  I don’t think this is ever true in marriage…that is the ultimate grief … when we give up completely on our spouse.  But our church family comes and goes.  I can’t hold someone’s hand forever to make sure they are growing or even following Jesus closely.  I can’t make someone want to be a part of a church (even though they say they want that).  I can’t make someone put effort into relationships…because that’s what it takes to be a part of a church or a group.  I can’t make someone go to ladies’ tea, or women’s conference, or some ministry opportunity.  Like I said, half the time I am crawling out of my “pit” (Thank you, Beth Moore) to make sure I go and grow and put effort in.

*  Always be encouraging to others.  You never know what they are going through.  I remember one picture that hung on my mom’s kitchen wall….I must have read it a thousand times.

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This isn’t what it looked like, but it IS what it said.  There were noticeably a lack of moccasins in our home; but I remember a lot of grace in it.  I hope others remember me for that one day….despite my exclamations of, “Where is his mother?  Where are his reflectors!”  which my kids remember so well.  I hope I am also known as one who saw the good in people and tried to understand what they were going through.  I’ve had so many people over the years who thought they knew what I needed.  I even had three pastor’s wives pray over me once to exercise more so I would forget the church and pastor’s family who had stabbed us in the back and left us bleeding and dying emotionally.  I was never so hurt…and don’t think I even came home and told anyone about it.  How could these my friends who I had prayed with every two weeks for so long in a community pastor’s wives group so trivialize my pain and suffering?  I understand not knowing WHAT to say…but isn’t nothing better than to encourage someone to “exercise so you feel better”??? I’m sure I DID need exercise…I needed to knock someone’s head off…I needed justice in this life…I needed a hug…I needed a cup of coffee and lack of judgment…I needed friends. lol  I can laugh now.  As you can imagine…those relationships went away that day.  I left a note on the door the next time we were to meet that maybe I needed to not come anymore since they were uncomfortable with the level of pain I was in.  One of them even came to me and thanked me for being the bigger person and bowing out of the group so they wouldn’t be uncomfortable with the pastor’s family who had skewered us.  Indeed.  That same pastor’s wife’s husband told us if we shared any of what we were going through we would have to leave their church.  Understand, we have been in some very healing churches.  But I have to say every pastor’s wife and pastor we have been under haven’t really ministered to us when we were in pain.  What a missing opportunity.  What are we here for if not to minister to hurting people?  So encourage….don’t assume someone’s pain is of their own making…maybe God has a painful journey (like ours) to take us out of a judgmental church to protect our children so that we wouldn’t lose them.  I’m so thankful He has been there…and He has given healing.  I don’t write these memories to make you uncomfortable…some who read them may know the people I speak about…but so that you know that you may never know what someone is dealing with in life…on the inside.  Give them grace.

* Read.  A LOT!  And not just Christian books.  One of the books that has ministered to me most has been Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore.  ImageIt is decidedly NOT Christian…but it has ministered to me so much.  He gave me permission to be human…to have dark nights in my soul…to grieve…to be depressed and not need medication (other than my brain food St. John’s Wort)…and for it to be okay that I have those times.  I tend to pray through books like that … that God would use what is true in my life…I find myself praying, “Is that true, Lord?”  “Is it okay?  Does it make me human to have these dark times?”  Christians are uncomfortable with you if you are sad or grieving or struggling.  Humans struggle….  we are uncomfortable with being human.  I am not glorified, yet.  News flash.  lol  Anyone who knows me well, knows that.  Heck…I need to exercise more…those ladies were right!  lol  But you know if I have all my ducks in a row (my AFLAC ones and the ones I juggle daily) and my smile on right and my clothes are beautiful and my makeup is on right and my hair is done beautifully and my words are right and my facebook statuses are always scriptural and a blessing to others….even then I am not glorified…I need help.  I need books.  I need mentors…and I truthfully haven’t found many people I desire to be like who want to mentor me.  Mentors are far and few between.  I need God “with skin on” in my books …those who have been there and lived to tell the tale…and so do you.

*Relax…enjoy….savor….do the things you enjoy before you forget what they are.  Feed your soul.  Read His Word.  Walk with Him daily…in prayer as you go through your day.  If someone is mean…pray for them…hurting people hurt people.  Don’t wait for those around you to want to do something…you go do it…alone if need be.  For you are never alone…truly…He is with you.

* Pray…more…and more…and more.  You need Him.  I need Him.  More … and more…. and more.  I remember a story about Susanna Wesley hiding under her apron when she needed to pray and regroup. http://anchoryourlife.com/prayer/place.htm  Hide under your apron more.  Your kids need it more.  Your grandkids need it more.  Your spouse needs it more.  You need it more.

* Make 2014 great.  Happiness is a Choice (another great book).  Be purpose-filled.  Grieve.  Love.  Lose. Live. Be Human.