Years ago I read (most of the way) through a book by Charles Colson - "A Dangerous Grace: Daily Readings." When I was headed back to the hospital last week I grabbed it for some easy, yet encouraging reading. It ended up that since it was such a quick in/out that I didn't even open it. Since I got home, it's been sitting on the desk patiently waiting for me. This morning I finally picked it up. I flipped randomly through until a part that I had underlined caught my attention:
"My greatest humiliation - being sent to prison - was the beginning of God's greatest use of my life; He chose the one experience in which I could not glory for His glory.
Confronted with this staggering truth, I understood with a jolt that I had been looking at life backward. But now I could see: Only when I lost everything that I thought made me Chuck Colson a great guy had I found the true self God intended me to be and the true purpose of my life.
It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn't want our success; He wants us. He doesn't demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self."
Several years ago, when I first read and underlined those words I had no idea that God would be teaching me that same lesson. I haven't had the humiliation of going to prison. But I have had the humiliations that come (in hospital and out) of not being able to even feed myself or use the restroom without total assistance.
My goals in life have changed over the course of the past two years of dealing with my diagnosis. My measure of success has changed - it's no longer based on our financial situation, or the amount of china in my china cabinet. One form of "success" is taking a shower without wanting to pass out from oxygen deprivation. Another "success" is when my troubles, my pain, and my "lessons learned" help someone else along the way. Pain is just too painful for the lessons learned to be just for myself.
So many of my friends seem to be in valleys right now. They're dealing with a lot of really heavy issues - troubled finances, sick children and parents, unfaithful spouses (or being tempted to be unfaithful themselves), strained relationships with family members, work/don't work decisions, addictions (either their own or with a loved-one), struggling with their past, depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. My heart has broken over and over again recently.
Ya know - everyone has a past of some sort. But our past is our PAST. If we ask God to forgive us for what part (if any) we played in it, then it's done. We need to forgive the other people who helped to create it. But our past is our PAST - just that - no more. It doesn't have to be our present or our future! Praise God for that! What doesn't kill you makes you stronger - or bitter. It's your choice. Look for the good - and if you look long enough - you'll find some, no matter how small.
Maybe our measuring stick of success needs to be readjusted. Forget about your goals and dreams for a while. What does God want from your life? How does God want to use the pain you've dealt with to make you stronger - or to help others? After all, "... victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness."
#55 - Get me off this mountain
8 years ago