02 September 2010

Wrestling On

Several years ago found me deeply involved in practicing martial arts. Eventually, I got a 2nd degree black belt in a fairly obscure art, got married, and quite practicing. But I loved almost every minute of being there.

I loved the freedom of karate, the feeling it developed in me that I could handle whatever came my way. My body loved it, too, as I constantly pushed its limits and found that it could do more than I’d ever thought. I loved all of it - the tradition, the discipline, the camaraderie, the workout.

All of it, that is, except the sparring. I was never more than mediocre when it came to meeting others in the ring. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the technique or even the ability, but that the energy scared me. Aggression could fly, and some people had better control of themselves and their feelings than others. I did spar, because I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to advance, but I would rather have done almost anything else.

All of that to say that wrestling with God isn’t one of my strong points. And yet wrestling is where I find myself lately.

If I do say so myself, I've done a rather good job talking up normal life recently. It seems so clear to me how polluted my own mind has become with the ideas that I need something exciting or adventurous to happen in my life so I can create some meaning. And it seems even more clear how our culture is permeated with these ideas, how most westerners of my general demographic feel these things, at least to some extent.

It's so clear that normal days should be our focus, but it's so hard to actually focus there.

I find myself in an situation where the temptation to look beyond my normal days runs rampant. My husband lost his job in June and we're for-sure moving in December, when he's done with his Master's degree program. It's so much easier for me to imagine us doing something exotic and exciting, like taking our savings to travel the world, rather than thinking about him getting another job, us settling somewhere new, and finding more normal days wherever we end up.

I see him getting a world changing job, or at least a world traveling one, and Mirren and I following along in tow. I see God calling him to something big and fun and exciting, where he'll get a lot of recognition and even more praise. I see exotic locales, substantial sums of money, and never having to wonder again what we're about or why we're trudging this path.

It doesn't help that I find myself more and more dissatisfied with where I am professionally, spiritually, financially, and physically. I thought I’d have done more by this point in my life and the fact that I haven’t leaves me confused. And the more dissatisfied and confused I become, the more I look to something outside of my normal days to bring what I’m looking for.

And so I’m struggling against the life God has for me right now. It feels like a fight that I'm losing and I don't quite know why I can't just accept what I have and what is in front of me when I know it to be so good.

Maybe this is why the story of Jacob wrestling with God feels so apt. Right now I’m trying to push against what I know God is doing and the places where I know he’s working. And I don't know how to give up. I don't know how to let him win. Maybe that's why God touched Jacob’s hip - that was the only way Jacob would stop fighting and move on into the life God had for him. I'm afraid, though, of how I'm going to be wounded, of how things are going to come and hit me, of what I'm going to have to carry throughout the rest of my life because I can't stop fighting now.

The thing is, though, I don't ever see that story as a bad thing. Maybe there was a better way, but Jacob couldn't take it. Maybe there's a possible world where he trusted God and walked across the river to meet his brother knowing that the Almighty was at his back. But he couldn't do it in this world. And that's where I'm at - I think there's a better way, but I can't currently take it. No matter how much I see that it’s the normal days that are important, I still want more. I still have this sinful heart that believes lies and, while telling myself the truth is well and good, it's not making much of a dent right now.

So I'm wrestling with God through the twilight and into the night. My life isn't what I want it to be, and that ideal life doesn't seem to be coming. I don't like what I have. I want something else. I don't feel like God is here, like he cares about me and where I'm at and where I'm going, and I don't want to live the life that he's calling me to. And I don't know how to move forward. I feel like it's somewhere between midnight and 4AM and we're still wrestling. The dark reaches of the night, and we're wrestling on.


Brian Miller said...

thank you. this is what i needed...i too struggle with where i am at times. 2 years ago i was on a very different track and then it all shook up and i am finally finding my way back but one of the biggest things was just enjoying those normal days and waiting to see what he had in store...

Leslie said...

Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in sharing this. Sometimes, many times, our lives end up being far from what we imagined they would be. Sometimes we are able to escape this, and shouldn't, and sometimes we are unable to escape, but still want to.

I suffer from an incurable, chronic, illness that causes much pain. I live most of the time on a liquid diet, and my life is very circumscribed. I have been struggling with this disease for many years, now. My life is definitely not what I dreamed it would be, but I am trying to learn to trust in the God who loves me, who gave Himself for me. To trust that His plan is good, even when that is not immediately apparent.

I'm not exactly sure from your post what you think God is wanting you to do, that you are "rebelling" against. It almost sounds here as if you don't know where you'll be going after your husband finishes school. If the path is open, why not leave the direction to God and see where He takes your family? Perhaps it will be someplace wonderful, even if it is not your dream place.

I do know this - He loves you. He wants to lead you into places that will be, not necessarily the fulfillment of all your earthly dreams, but the fulfillment of your soul. I am reminded of an Oswald Chambers quote from the May 8 entry of "My Utmost for His Highest":

"Patience is more than endurance. A saint's life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says -'I cannot stand any more.' God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God's hands.... Faith is not a pathetic sentiment, but robust vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. You cannot see Him just now, you cannot understand what He is doing, but You know Him.... faith is the heroic effort of your life, you fling yourself in reckless confidence on God."

May we both fling ourselves recklessly upon the God who loves us, and find true fulfillment in His arms.

Laura said...

I feel these words so deep. I don't know why it is that hindsight is twenty-twenty when I want to be able to see clearly now. The hassles of life are so oppressive sometimes and it is difficult to feel God's breath in the normal days. But we keep trying, don't we? I know the gratitude journal has helped me. And just blogging--helps me notice the holy in the mundane. Thanks for sharing this. Beautifully revealed.

B. Meandering said...

This speaks to me as I deal with uncertainty -- a husband without a job and a job of my own that takes the stuffing out of me lots of days (I teach high school English).
And I agree, sometimes God just has to do it the harder way because that's the only way we'll give in to Him and what HE WANTS for us.
Your honesty touched me and helped immensely.

emily wierenga said...

i cried as i read this. i am wrestling now, too, not wanting his best for me, wanting MY best for me... i join you, friend, and i'm scared of the wounding too... and i draw strength from the fact that he knows how much we can take. and a bruised reed he will not break. this was such a perfect link-up... thank you, friend. you minister to me.

Heather said...

My husband and I have also been struggling with this, although we're in different stages. I think I'm coming out the other end of it. After seminary, my life did not go where I thought it would go. For several years, hurt, I wondered what had happened, how I had given my all to Christ expecting to do great things for him and he had left me in the suburbs. Then I started writing, and that isn't going where I thought it would go. I'm having to take a longer view with it. A much, much longer view.

My husband, after a ministry he worked for had to get rid of all paid management positions (including my husband), has been struggling with the same ideas. What is life, then?

We've had grand visions, but we're having to learn to live in the normal.

Sarah said...

Thanks for sharing yourselves and your stories with me, even just a little bit. May we wrestle together, because we're stronger that way rather than apart. Be well.