22 November 2010

Lessons in Attitude Adjustment, Part II

...continued from Part I

We lasted a year; one very long, very hard, very painful, very lesson-filled year. It was the kind of year where you wave the white flag and say, “Please God, enough with the character-building!” (It sounds even better if you can say it with an accent like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof.) Looking back on it, we went through all of these steps in our process to both start what God wanted us to and then to try and make sense of it when it didn’t seem to go “as planned”.

First would actually be second or step number two: Am I using the benefits of God's "common grace” - the healing built into our bodies and the medical knowledge we have gained? Or, have I exercised due diligence for my particular situation? For our circumstances, it would be more of a question of using resources and knowledge properly and I believe we did. Both of us have a fair amount of business acumen gathered over the years, and we investigated loan rates, amounts, different square footage rates, renting in an already existing building versus building a place, suppliers. We also had previously followed Dave Ramsey’s financial planning advice and were completely out of debt except for our monthly house payment before we took on this assignment.

Numbers one and three are somewhat entwined for me.  I do think there is a general mindset amongst Christians that we have a right to certain benefits because we are followers of Christ, meaning that if God has called us to do something for Him, then He will undoubtedly bless that endeavor. I know both the Spousal Unit and I had to deal with this both within ourselves and with other Christians who were on the outside looking in at us during this whole process. Accompanying that is also the general “success” mindset in America today that if you work hard, keep your nose to the grindstone, be a good citizen, and so on, your hard work will be rewarded.

We started out okay as far as customers and profits went, quickly building up a small but loyal customer base – and just as quickly went into a period of some of the worst spiritual warfare I have ever been part of. It was like we had a target on our foreheads. It was like the shop became invisible to the town at large and some days we couldn’t get anyone in there for love or money. It was mystifying. It was scary-making, too, considering that money was tight (to say the least) and we didn’t exactly have reserves of cash, and it was angry-making as well. Y’know, kinda like “Hey God, you told us to do this. What exactly is the deal here?” (Those of you that know me know that is the highly edited, clean version.) In some ways, I think it was harder for my husband than me. While both of us had been raised with one heck of a work ethic, when I failed to complete the appropriate, high-school-to-college-to-marriage-within-five-years track, my family pretty much labeled me a failure so, in a way, I was okay with things NOT working out “as planned” The Spousal Unit, OTOH, had done the success track and had gone very far in his chosen career with nothing more than a high school diploma – a subtle nose thumbing at his family who had all gone to college and had degrees except him. Now, despite all his good, solid planning and hard work, things weren’t working out the way he/we had figured they would.

I don't think I can adequately describe the anger and fruutration he felt, or the fear.  Submission is a difficult thing and so much of submission talk gets centered around Ephesians 5 and how wives should submit to their husbands.  While this is true and Biblical (something I believe so much in that I had the guy who married us put submit back into my vows), I think men sometimes have the more difficult job.  Men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (NIV).  Dude, Christ died for the church in submission to God's plan for him.  Now I was watching some of my husband's ideals and stumbling blocks being broken by his being willing to submit to God's plan for us and it wasn't pretty.  It was hard to watch.

We had agreed together this was God's plan for both of us so, in my role as a submissive wife, my job was to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with him and support him in every way possible whether that was through working more hours at the shop after my other job; telling him verbally or by text what a great guy he was, what a good job he was doing and how proud I was of him; or by praying for him and asking for others to pray for us too.  A prophet once told us that the Spousal Unit and I are like balloons.  When one of us is down, the other is inflated and seeks to pump the other one up.  I was pumping as hard as I could.

One of the things I noted were the changes occurring in me.  Money has always been a hot button issue of mine ever since childhood when my dad wasn't quite so good at getting things paid on time.  When things started to go wrong in our eyes, I was surpringly, weirdly...okay about it.  I wasn't weirded out.  I wasn't freaking out over where the money was going to come from to pay bills. People talk about the peace that passes all understanding and if that's it?  It's one of the oddest feelings ever.  Nice...but odd :).  Shortly before the shop had opened, I had been in the shower (God likes to talk to me in the shower and I'm not sure why) and God had said, "I will give you enough."  And he did that whole year.  It may not have been my definition of enough but if you looked at the books over that year, there are several instances where there was absolutely no way the math should have worked.  Yet we had food, a roof over our heads, and we were able to keep the doors open to the shop longer than we should have.

Even in the midst of all the spiritual warfare, there were bright spots.  One night, there was just nobody coming in and it was so oppressive that the Spousal Unit finally said, "You know what?  I've had enough."  He grabbed his guitar, threw open the doors and sat on the stage playing and signing worship songs for a couple hours.  We learned how to pray and give thanks for the good amidst the bad which can be really hard to do.  We learned how to start getting out of God's way by letting go of our expectations.  We gave thanks for everything He had given us because none of it was anything we had done on our own.  We were able to counsel many young married couples, do pre-marital counseling and also counsel a long-term married couple and keep their marriage together.  We also managed to convince one couple that getting married was probably NOT the best thing for them right now.  I was able to give cooking lessons to some of the young women in the church and give some guidance to a young woman who was getting married and becoming a stepmom - same as I did.  These are all people we wouldn't have been able to touch had we taken the job in London and moved two years earlier.

We prayed before the shop was built and while it was open that it was God's to do with as he would.  We asked that it be an extension of our church and I believe He did make it that.  In doing so, we committed ourselves to a deeper level of service, I think, and God required a deeper level of faith from us.  Hence point number one - no necessarily quick or dependable release from suffering.  He grew both of us in a way we were not expecting (and is still stretching us) but God has become much more the shelter from the whirlwind than the whirlwind itself.

(...to be continued)

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