Sunday, September 26, 2010

Our Gifts are a grace from God

As anyone who knows me or follows my blog knows I grew up in a pretty hard situation. Growing up was not pleasant, easy, or fun. There was a lot of abuse, disappointment, and massive amounts of confusion. What I did come to understand at a very early age was that the more independent I was the better off I would be. I learned pretty early to take care of what needed to be taken care of myself and to have no need for anyone. I learned to be very responsible at a very early age and to even take care of many other people in my life including the adults who were "theoretically" supposed to care for me. My point in all of that is to say that one of the biggest struggles in my life is independence and a sense of self sufficiency.

On a side note, I can see that I have raised my oldest daughter to be the same way. She is such a tremendous blessing; she is beautiful and strong and very capable of doing what she needs to do and not really needing anyone to help her. The self sufficient part of me is so proud; then there is the part of me that is being restored and changed that knows I have done her a disservice. She will have to come to the realization that she is totally dependent on God and that we are all created to need people and be dependent. I can only repent of my sinful mistakes and pray that God will be gentle and gracious as He brings her to the realization of her need and true dependence.

Anyway, if something needs to be done, I just do it. If I don't really want to do something that needs to be done, I am very capable of making myself do it anyway. Many times I can and do push myself further than is healthy. I put unreasonable expectations on myself and make myself take care of things on my own. (To be fair, I am getting better about this as God heals me.)

The strength, independence and sufficiency in me that many people admire and think of in a positive manner is truly my Achilles heal, the weak spot in my armor. I have such a hard time asking for help or allowing people to come along side me because I don't want to be weak. The funny thing is that very tendency is the weakest spot in me. It's like the wondering sheep; I am "strong" and stand up, but it isolates me from the fold and allows the enemy to attack without having to contend with my fellow sheep. Now, I do in a sense realize my dependence on God, but that is not so hard for me because I trust Him. I don't, on the other hand so much trust people. That, though, also stems back to not truly trusting God. If I truly trust God, then I trust Him to put those people in my life that need to be there as well as trusting Him inside of them.

As I was reading this morning I came across a verse that really stuck out to me. I began to meditate upon it and ask God to speak to me. It struck the nerve of this very tendency in me.

I Corinthians 4:7
For who makes you differ from one another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

I began to think of my attitude about where I am compared to where I started out. I have this attitude (which is a very prevalent American attitude) that I have picked myself up by my boot straps. I have said out of my mouth, "I started out this life in a gutter and have clawed and fought to get to where I am today." I have used this especially in dealing with other people who have not had to start out as far below ground zero as I did. "Don't compare my progress in life to someone who has started out in a loving family, who got to have enough resources to survive, go to college, etc." While there is some truth to that statement, I cannot even take credit for the progress. Coming from being a homeless drug addict, with nothing and eating my dinner out of dumpsters does give somewhat of a disadvantage over a supportive home, encouragement, a church background, college, etc. The problem in this whole line of thinking is that "I" have brought myself this far.

What do I have that I was not given? Do I have room to boast of my progress? God called me out of darkness. God has given me to grace to take each step I took out of the gutter and each step I continue to take away from that gutter. Not only did He give me the grace, but He took the steps inside me. Even having started out in the gutter is a gift that God has given me. He has allowed me to know Him in a very special way and to have a very deep sense of appreciation for what I have. That is a gift. When you have always had a bed to sleep in, you might not stop to consider what a blessing it is each day to wake up in a bed. I once owned 1 pair of underwear, 1 shirt, 1 pair of jeans, 1 skirt, 1 pair of Doc Martins, and a leather jacket. Man, am I grateful for my closet full of clothes. I only have to wear my underwear one time in between washings; I could even change them mid day if I should so feel inclined. That is a gift. Most people might not stop to be grateful for their underwear. I didn't teach myself to be grateful for these things. God, in His beautiful grace and mercy, allowed me to have the environment to foster that kind of gratitude. When asked how my day is, I will often respond with ,"It is a good day because I woke up with air in my lungs today." I really mean that. I am not saying I don't ever struggle with my attitude because I do at times. But, there were many days before Christ that I did not want to wake up; there were many days that I should not have woken up (I am sure there are more of those than I am even close to realizing). No one promises me tomorrow, so when I roll over in bed awake, it is a gift I have been given. It is another day to walk this earth and serve my Lord who created me, died to redeem me, kept me alive when I should have died over and over, called me out of darkness, and graciously leads me, heals me, changes me, and uses me each day.

My life mantra, the phrase that usually passed into my mind and heart at least once a day is...

Everything I have You gave me; everything I am You made me; Everything I ever hope to be is tied up in You!!

What do I have that I did not receive? How can I boast about anything? He has graciously given me everything. I did not carry myself out of the gutter. He carried me out of the gutter. I cannot take credit; I cannot boast. I have been dependent on Him for every breath I have taken since me first.

Psalm 71:6
From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you.

That was my scripture reading on Northumbria Community for the day.

It goes right along with the theme for the day. God continues to faithfully chip away at that self sufficiency, independence and pride. He reminds me that I did not give myself anything; I daily borrow life from Him. I am so glad that He does not hold my pride and arrogance against me; He just gently reminds me, loves me, and graciously teaches me more about my dependence on Him. I have come light years from where I started out, but it has been Him bringing me, not me bringing myself.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, creator of the universe, redeemer of man kind and lover of my soul.

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