Several years ago, God asked my husband and I to do the hardest thing in my Christian life- leave the church, home, and city that we loved without good earthly reason. I went. But I went kicking and screaming, lamenting and wringing my hands. It was personally and financially costly. And as our family of five squeezed into my mother’s basement not knowing how long we would be there and where we would end up, God gave me a gift. He gave me Himself. See, I had been a good little Christian girl for years- I was steeped in meaningful ministry, had three healthy children, a smoking-hot man, an affordable brick craftsman on a historic part, two exotic Taiwanese cats- but I didn’t know God’s voice. I only gave Him small, safe offerings. I was busy enjoying the good things in life. But I didn’t have the best thing.
So God asked me to give up everything- except the man, the kids, and the cats. For those seven months I was alone. I didn’t call my old friends in an effort to allow them to emotionally move on to their next pastor. And I didn’t make new friends, though not for lack of effort. I was invited to the obligatory church event but few ever asked below-the-surface questions. (They may have sensed I was a blubbering mess and would suck the life out of them if they opened that can-o-worms.) So Jesus became my friend. In a way that He had never before. He tutored me on how to sit at His feet, to listen, and to cast all my cares on Him. I consumed His word and rolled the psalms over and over in my mind. I began to hear Him speak. And I was sustained. I finally had the best thing.
That chapter of my life has a fairy tale-ending. My husband was hired at the church of our dreams and we have been basking in deep relationships, personal sanctification, and culture-shaping ministry ever since. But I will never forget the painful isolation. And how heavy was my burden because I bore it without friendship.
Then God asked me to do the next big thing. Bigger than the last. I made the grand deal: Yes I will obey you Jesus, but only if you agree to do this “one thing” for me. (It had gone so well the last time, after all.) But this time, I didn’t get what I said that I needed. That one, simple-for-an-omnipotent-God-and-very-reasonable-request that I had made: He said no. And not for lack of prayer and obedience. I was throwing myself headlong at this God-given task, every day waiting for God to give me my “one thing” that would make it all okay. So I could cheerfully proclaim that “God works all things together for my good” which was code for “If I obey I get what I want.” But now, years later, the answer is still no. Daily, daily I tell my Lord how I need Him to change my circumstances. Daily, daily He says “My grace is sufficient.” I move forward, but I do so with a limp.
Tonight my husband is out having a beer with our friend Ken who is gay and celibate. Ken left a long relationship with his partner when he met Jesus. He was a committed Atheist who began to know God through reading CS Lewis. Now he is one of the most joyful, pure-hearted members of our church. He is committed to serving the homeless and needy in our neighborhood. Ken fills my heart with wonder. He has the best thing in life.
When I think about my “one thing” that daily causes me to appeal to God for mercy I sometimes think of Ken and what he has sacrificed for God. I don’t know why God has not granted my request. It would be so easy for Him to do it. But I can say that even though God has said “no” to me, I see His hand at work. This burden keeps me fettered to Him, less self-reliant, and always aware of my neediness. I would pray less without it. I would boast more without it. I would miss out on fellowship with Christ and His intentional sufferings without it. This time, I have a circle of dedicated friends who are bearing my burden with me. Who strengthen and encourage me. Who, when the thorn pushes deeply into my flesh, turn my face to God.
So, not the tidiest blog post. But as I sit at my kitchen table, I think about Ken’s holy life. His sacrifice to Christ and the power that is thriving within him. I am thankful that my unanswered “one thing” gives me empathy and appreciation for Ken. I am thankful that my husband can be a friend to Ken so that he doesn’t have to walk this narrow road unaccompanied.
24 thoughts on “Sacrifice & Friendship”
I converted to Catholicism when I was 30…through the love and care of a woman who would eventually become my sponsor, then drop quickly and completely out of my life. My family is not supportive of my decision at all (my father literally said “Why would you join the superstition of the masses?”) and my friends did not understand, although I got the pat “As long as it makes you happy”. I was helping to raise the son of a gay couple at the time; he is my godson and I love him literally as my own. They have since dropped out of my life and I got a ranting, “why do you hate gays” letter from his mother….a letter that deliberately poked at my most tender spots; punishment for not waving the flag militant for her cause. I literally do not have one “real life” friend who shares my faith. I have pleaded with Him for what *I* want……….to be surrounded by a family and a community that believes as I do. To be able to firmly declare myself with Him without feeling nervous or defensive b/c it is verboten in, literally, every place I go outside of my home and my church. To be lifted up and supported by a faithful community that shares my struggle. God answered me with me a good, loving, generous, kind, funny and true servant of God for a husband. Still, I ask for more. Truly, how hard could this be for God? He made the world and all in it in six days, but he can’t give me this one “little” thing?
A lot of the time, I feel pretty dry and like this loving Jesus and following His Word thing is too hard, too much sacrifice, too much introspection, too much having to choose, too much hostility from those who scream tolerance but characterize me based on their bias without even knowing me.
So, you may ask, why do I keep loving Him in my imperfect way, keep praying hard and often, keep encountering Him in confession and in the Eucharist, keep do my best to follow HIs ways, keep crying out to Him, keep struggling, keep teaching my child about His infinite and inscrutable ways?
Because, as you so aptly said, His grace is sufficient. ❤
Good for you!
God’s grace is enough, and from their perspective on the outside looking at our RC faith community, it just looks complicated and too full of symbolism – but of course, so is life, so it feels appropriate. Those of us in our faith, who dig deep, find such deep truths and love so rich that can be found no where else. Christ is present to us physically as well as spiritually, and deeply within us He shows us the Love and Truth necessary to embrace each other. We are called to embrace those we disagree with, and those we have a hard time understanding. This is the unconditional love that allows us to leave our burdens at the cross, and in so doing, to lead others to do the same. We are all sinners, and our God’s judgement is His alone. We are called to lead each other to Him, and to support and foster that relationship. Much Love,
That was awesome, dogtorbill! Thank you so much for the encouragement….it helps more than you know.
“Those of us in our faith, who dig deep, find such deep truths and love so rich that can be found no where else. Christ is present to us physically as well as spiritually, and deeply within us He shows us the Love and Truth necessary to embrace each other.”
Aptly spoken. Thanks for your wisdom, Bill.
Tisha, if you live in the Seattle area, I would love to help you out with that “real life” friend thing. I’ve got a rockin little sisterhood going on here with a handful of zealous Catholics thrown in. You would be a delightful addition.
If not, let’s be virtual BFFs. I am amazed at how God builds intimacy among His people through shared experience and working together for a common goal. (Plenty of that on this blog, no doubt.)
Thanks for reading, commenting, and most of all for sharing yourself and your story with me/us. God bless you, girl. I’ll be praying for some real-life fellowchicks that can sharpen you, encourage you, and walk this road of life with you. In the meantime, clearly you are being refined through this hardship into a woman who is hungry for Christ and who will not be satisfied by earthly substitutes. THAT is a recipe for a culture-shaping follower of Jesus. 🙂
Askme, I would LOVE to have you as an IRL friend, but unfortunately, I live clear across the country :(. Thanks so much for your care and concern…it helps a lot to be supported on-line and I didn’t mean to diminish that.
So, virtual BFF is great….and God has lead me in this direction as well. I actually met my husband on-line and we are married 11 years, so truly wonderful things can come from “only” on-line interactions 🙂
Thanks for such a nice compliment! Of course, recently I’ve felt less like a culture-shaping follower of Jesus and more like that cat you see in the poster hanging by on claw to a tree with “Hang in There!” posted above its head….
I am going to rename my thorn “side jewel” since seemingly we are mated for life. Maybe the repackaging will make me hate it less. Good post.
Adjusting your expectations does seem to be the key. 🙂 Let me know how “side jewel” goes. Maybe my burden will get a touch-up too.
This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks Keefe. The reality is, I’m not a blogger. My passion is having relationships with anyone who wants to be known. I love shepherding. I don’t like getting into arguments, especially about secondary or tertiary issues- of which marriage, sex, and politics so often are. (The primary question being, “who is Jesus?”) It makes me very uncomfortable because I love praise and affirmation (indeed I worship it sometimes) and I don’t like making people upset.
And yet, I know that this is what I’m supposed to be blogging about because media doesn’t present a fair picture of the church or those who oppose gay marriage. More of us have to get out of our comfort-bubble and speak up. And do so with love. And reason. And respect. So, with the help of a sharp red-headed polemicist and brilliant Catholic friend (both stay-at-home mothers by day and wicked editors by night) blogging is what I do with my free time. But I still have to ask for courage every time before I press “publish”.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on several posts. I so appreciate you argumentation done with respect. Nothing like a serious dialogue to break down stigma. You are a welcome addition to asktheBigot.
I get and respect everything you said. As it happens, I’m a lover of the Big Questions too. (And, not incidentally, I also happen to think you are a very good writer).
But where’s your action against the media for presenting an unfair picture of supporters of gay marriage too? Many of us follow Christ. Many are straight. Many are conservative in some/all their politics. We do not draw our morality from what pop culture says. We are not turning society into one big orgy that ends in a marriage between three woman, a goat and shoebox. We aren’t condoning gay marriage and certainly not suggesting anyone enter into one. We simply believe in equality under the law . . . for everyone . . . whether you agree with them or not. And for that we are compared to people who promote incest and beastiality. I feel like you sometimes promote this unfair picture of gay marriage supporters and provide encouragement (or remain silent) when your commenters do.
At the same time, I keep returning to this blog because, well, I like you (though obviously don’t really know you and haven’t ever met you) and find a true and good intention of love behind much of what you write.
And at the same time as that, to me equality for everyone regardless of sexual orientation is the civil rights issue of our time. It is what the fight for racial equality was in the ’60s and women’s suffrage was in the ’20s. Which isn’t to say gays are the only discriminated-against group (far from it) but that the ill treatment is rampant and — what really gets me — often legal.
It isn’t only about marriage either. In about half the states you can fire someone solely because of their orientation. Landlords can legally deny housing to some one because of their orientation. Gay people have been — and are currently being — harassed, tortured and killed because of their orientation. It is the civil rights issues of our time.
Of course, of course, I know you yourself don’t condone all anti-gay discrimination — just/mostly discrimination in marriage. But that is discrimination nevertheless.
And then I remember that I like you and find an intention of love behind much of what you write.
Altogether, a reminder, perhaps, that people and life are gloriously complicated.
Thanks for your comments. It is a good reminder to abide by my Rules of Engagement and make sure that I am attacking arguments and not people, or allowing others to attack people. I think that very few gay marriage supporters are trying to destroy marriage, destroy society, promote bestiality or promote polygamy. I have tried to be fair regarding the fact that some of the most vocal and radical of gay marriage proponents do not represent the average gay couple (https://askthebigot.com/2013/04/30/the-future-of-no-longer-marriage/) but I also understand, and agree with the argument, that this is a SLIPPERY slope whether that is your intention or not.
I do hear voices such as yours- Christian, straight, level-headed, articulate- represented in media. It is one of several which are given a platform in many outlets in support of media coverage which is overwhelmingly slanted toward support of gay marriage. https://askthebigot.com/2013/06/17/pew-report-reveals-media-bias/ I respect where you and others are coming from. And I KNOW that you advocate your position because of a genuine concern for others and a love of justice. (That’s my motivation too- it’s just that I see it in terms of rights of children.) The difference is that when media reports (if they report at all) on supporters of natural marriage, they demonize the motives. It’s no longer a “well-meaning people can disagree” thing. It’s “supporters of natural marriage do so because of hate, animus or phobia.”
I also attempt to call out those “in my own camp” who are off base (see my most recent post https://askthebigot.com/2013/07/13/dear-pat-robertson/ as well as https://askthebigot.com/2013/06/08/meekness-vs-weakness/) But no doubt I could do more of this, as “judgment will begin with the house of the Lord.”
You can say that I support discrimination in marriage if you like, but only if you concede that by supporting gay marriage you endorse motherless or fatherless parenting. You cannot separate the public purpose of marriage from the rearing of children.
On sexual orientation, I don’t wholly agree on your thoughts though it certainly reflects the mindset of most in my area. I would love your thoughts on this post: https://askthebigot.com/2012/12/05/sexual-orientation/ Certainly, people ARE complicated. (And precious.)
Are you a blogger? If so, I would love to visit your blog! Drop a link in here.
Again, I so appreciate your remarks and the discussion that is always thoughtful and respectful. Cheers, Keefe. Here’s hoping we see more of you around here.
Thanks for your reply. I do see how hard you work to call ’em as you see ’em. That’s a quality that’s both rare and wonderful (and, I agree with you — it’s a Christian quality too). So I thank you for that too.
I shared thoughts on the post you linked to.
Also . . . I feel like maybe we’ve arrived at the crux of it with these two statements:
“You can say that I support discrimination in marriage if you like, but only if you concede that by supporting gay marriage you endorse motherless or fatherless parenting.”
Supporting gay marriage, you claim, endorses motherless or fatherless parenting. Explain to me how, please. I don’t see it.
Gay couples have been having kids regardless of the legality of gay marriage. The government recognizing their marriages does not create a flood of new mother/fatherless children. (Not incidentally, poverty and incarceration levels are currently create magnitudes more mother/fatherless children than gay couples ever will).
Further, the government simply allowing something is not an endorsement. The government (thanks to the 1st amendment) allows me to form a Wicca church. The IRS will give my church tax except status. The state might accredit the Wicca school I attach to my church. I’d be legally allowed to only hire wicca believers to work at my Wicca school. So, the government is extending a host of benefits to me and my (very much hypothetical) Wicca enterprise. In doing so, are you saying that they are endorsing witchcraft?
” You cannot separate the public purpose of marriage from the rearing of children.”
I needn’t. The rearing of children is not the public purpose of marriage so the two separate themselves. (Have you ever been to a wedding where the subject of the newlywed’s future kids were central to the public ceremony?)
BUT . . . if the purpose of marriage was to help enable the rearing of kids then it follows that you would support the marriage of a gay couple with kids. You’d support that if, for no other reason, than to provide legal protections for said kids who, through no fault or choice of their own, ended up in a loving family unit that lacked a mother or father.
You don’t hear much from me, but I have learned so much from your insightful blog and I thank you for sharing your struggles and triumphs so openly. God has given you a wonderful gift in the ability to articulate so well the wisdom you’ve gained in your walk with Him. Being a pastors wife, a mother of 4 children, ministering to women, the courage of your website goals etc -it boggles my mind to think you have the time to do it all. Yet I know it’s because of His enabling. God continue to bless you as you share your life so sacrificially and joyfully. Love you – Nancy
Nancy, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. What a great encouragement to me. Yes, I am spinning too many plates. 😉 And many days I drop one or two. I try not to have those dropped plates be my children, but I do have to appeal to God for help and balance. Some days I don’t do any of it well. But I’m pretty sure that I’m called to all of it, so I trust that God will fill in the gaps. Much love to you and Mike.
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Your message here rings with perfect clarity and tidiness… a word we might all take to heart. Runs so hand in hand with a current read of mine. Thanks and blessings.
Thank you, friend. This “all-hands-on-deck” kids home for summer has taken me away from the blogging world for a few weeks. But I find that the opportunity to die to self, even in the everyday, disguised-as-mundane activities offers that avenue to Christlikeness even still. Thank God for the friends who are walking this road with me!
Hi I’ve Been Reading Your Blog Often And I Just Wanted To LeT You Know That You Are An Encouragement To Me. You Are A Light In The Darkness. So Thank You And Keep Up The Good Work. 🙂
Hi Strawberry. Thanks so much for the encouragement. In the midst of this busy summer that is pulling me in so many directions, it’s a blessing to hear that the blog has ministered to you. What an unexpected gift for my day. I hope to crank out some new material after school begins at which point (or any point) please feel free to share more of your thoughts! All the best to you, friend.
LOL! Guess you are not so brave and authentic after all, are you?
I hate your type, all know it all and preachy, while hiding your truth.
What you pray for is the equivalent of praying to God to regrow an amputated limb.
Get off your knees, stop your claim to be preaching in the name of God. As IF you know God’s mind.
To dedicate a blog to anti gays, and if you deny people equal civil rights by definition that IS anti gay, to dedicate a blog to pushing an anti gay agenda calling on the Almighty Name of God as your justification with the issues you have, is hypocrisy. Pure Hypocrite. You should delete everything and disappear.
Hello. Apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I have had only intermittent access to my computer as of late.
Your two other comments will not be approved because, as stated in Rules of Engagement (https://askthebigot.com/rules-of-engagement/) comments degrading others (you comments about Ken and my husband clearly crossed that line) will not be posted.
You are right. I am not as brave as I should be. Authenticity is something that I could do a better job at. Thank you for your insights. Yes, there are areas of my life where I am a hypocrite. However, recognizing that children have a natural right to a relationship with their mother and father and that public policy should reflect that reality does not amount to being anti-gay. Though I understand why you see it that way.
If you would like to engage in a discussion about ideas, I welcome your comments. If you are going to cut others down you will find better luck on another site.
All the best to you.
Building bridges is seldom fun. Extremists on either side want so much to tear down the civility which is so very hard to establish. I’ve spent some time with the Marin foundation and find their approach a breath of fresh air, issuing criticism at neither the evangelical nor the gay viewpoints. Christians, whether gay or strait, must strive for the empathy and compassion to realize that we each are wired differently. This does include our sexuality, but also the way we think and process information and the truths that we perceive through our own honest study, contemplation and prayer. As we all walk toward the light of our Savior, isn’t it so much better to support and affirm each other in that walk? Respect and empathy. The marriage thing may indeed be more difficult, but I continue to work on it. The years of us strait folk who treated it as only a “piece of paper,” and our willingness to tear it up so quickly, or shack up without it have certainly contributed to the popular mentality that if we can have a meaningless piece of paper, then why not everyone? However, if it is indeed a sacrament, instituted and sanctified by our Lord for the specific reason of expressing our love through procreation, then the very logical answer is the contrary one. I’m still working on this one. I want so much to be fair, and I do have so very much empathy for gay family and friends. Such is the stuff of much current prayer. Much love.
Thanks for that, Dr. Bill. I love what you said about respect and empathy. I have found that both of those come more naturally when we are doing life with one another and bearing one another’s burdens. Even if we cannot relate with someone’s same sex attraction, we can be faithful to walk with them through life and speak hope and encouragement when times are trying. And I wholeheartedly agree that Christians need to see the marriage covenant for what it is- a picture of the devotion and sacrifice that is displayed between Christ and the church. I so appreciate your comments, friend.
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