Thanks for visiting!

This is a work in progress, just like me. Please feel free to add your thoughts on my posts. Have a blessed day.

March 30, 2012

Change and the Poor Me Syndrome

Change is welcomed by some and feared by others. Change can be good or bad and sometimes a little bit gray.  Almost always change is stressful. Stress, according to the experts, results from both positive and negative events and often results from the changes in our lives. Moving, divorce, death of a loved one, a new job, or a new baby all of these major changes cause major stress in our lives. Stress also has a way of showing us, and others, what I like to call our “true Christian colors”.

I have been blessed to be able to be a stay at home mom from the time my daughter was born until she went away to college. I enjoyed being at home and spending my time taking care of our house, leading a weekly Bible Study, and playing tennis with my friends. Life was relatively stress free and slow paced. I kept myself busy and a lot of my time was spent with activities I enjoyed.

My husband, Gary, joined me at home in 2009 when the bank he worked for went through a reorganization and he decided not to take the job they offered him. We had faced so many mergers, acquisitions and reorganizations throughout his career that it was a somewhat routine part of our lives. He had always survived, thrived and managed to remain with the same organization for 25 years. This time would be different, the beginning of a change for us.

Since Gary had been with the same organization in some form or another for 25 years he had the benefit of a nice severance package. So for the first few months we were able to enjoy a “honeymoon” period. We spent time together as a couple and enjoyed more family time as well. In retrospect this was a time of renewal and coming together as a couple which would help us face the changes still ahead in our life. A major blessing during this time was Gary’s increased interest in his walk with God and wanting God to direct his life.

The path Gary ultimately decided to take was to start his own business. Starting a new business is always an undertaking and certainly a producer of more stress.  His return home was now officially permanent. Many of my friend’s joke that they could never have their husband be at home full time.  Although it has been an adjustment, I enjoy having Gary at home.  His current work arrangement provides us with flexibility to take care of personal responsibilities as well as increased time together.

When Gary’s severance pay stopped his business was still not at a level to provide the income we had received from his banking job. Although we had cut back on a lot of our expenses we were faced with college payments looming and the inability to eliminate our biggest monthly challenge, our mortgage payment. The sub-par housing market, together with our current income level i.e. ability to qualify for a mortgage, made selling the house a less viable option. Gary soon started talking about the idea of me going back to work; a major change was coming.

I had not been in the work force for over 18 years. When I left my job to take care of our daughter I was a loan officer for a bank. I could not see myself re-entering the banking world at this stage in my life. As Gary casually introduced this idea I really didn’t take his comments too seriously.  I understood it would help our family if I was bringing in additional income, however the ability for me to make that a reality seemed slim to none. How marketable was I at this point after being out of the workforce for 18 years especially when trying to re-enter at a time of high unemployment; more importantly I was not very motivated. I did, however, do one thing that would be able to circumvent all of the above obstacles, I got God involved. I asked my bible study ladies to pray for me. I didn’t realize it at the time but it was all over but the shouting.

To make a short story shorter, one of my bible study ladies happened to mention to her husband that I wanted to go back to work. He then told her about a position opening at his company. Within a month I had my new job, writing proposals for a health care company. Major change had arrived in my life. To say this job was a gift from God is an understatement. The circumstances of finding and landing the job, together with the job environment, I really couldn’t ask for anything more. I have my own office, currently work about 16 hours a week and have a wonderful group of co-workers.  

God answered our prayers and delivered a perfect job to me but somehow this change was not welcomed by me. I found myself often in a state of frustration and agitation with my life and others around me.   Was I reacting to the stress that always accompanies a change in our lives, or was it something more? I needed to do some soul searching to discover the truth.

As I started to reflect on my emotional state I realized I viewed my current lot in life as a transgression by my husband Gary?   Does that make sense when filtered through my Christian belief system?  No, not at all.  Is sin the disconnect between the two? Undoubtedly yes.  It is the same sin that took down the greatest angel of all time.  When I began to look inside to my sinfulness and see the root of it, the answer was clear, I was full of pride.

Pride whispered to me things that I could never voice out loud, unseemly things that display my sinful nature. “I have so much to do I don’t have enough time. How can I be expected to keep up with the house now that I have this new job? I want my old life back this is too hard. Why did Gary make me go back to work? Life should be easy.” The poor me tapes played in my mind as I went through the day creating dissatisfaction and frustration in their wake. Pride told me I deserve better and pointed the finger at Gary. How ugly is that? It is difficult for me to write this as the Holy Spirit in me is repulsed.

Thankfully I am a child of God and I have the Holy Spirit in me guiding me to the truth. The truth is I deserve nothing; that is nothing but Hell. Thanks be to God who has redeemed me and I am saved from the fate I deserve. Anything good I receive in this world or the next is a blessing from my loving Father not a right that I inherently deserve. Anything that I deem as “not good” which He allows into my life is always worked out for my good as I follow Him and live in obedience to Him.

The Pit and God's Solution

Our actions can either draw us closer to God or take us farther away from God. This does not mean, however, that we need to earn our salvation or earn God’s favor. Thankfully we are not saved by our works; everything has already been DONE for us by Jesus’ work on the cross. God does not love us any more, or any less, based on our day to day actions. However, we can do things in our lives which help us walk more closely with the Lord. We can also do things which take us off the Lord’s path and hinder our ability to follow Him.

One way this happens is the choices we make when we feel God leading us a certain way or telling us something He wants us to do. We can choose to listen and obey Him or we can choose to ignore and sin against Him. The more we obey and follow His leading the easier it will be for us to discern His voice in the future. 

Conversely, the more we ignore and sin against Him the harder it will become to hear His voice. If we continue to ignore God it will soon seem as though He has stopped talking to us completely. He really hasn’t but we have let the sin in our lives, and the noise of the world, drown Him out. Luke 8:14 explains what happens to the seed that grows among the thorns in the parable of the soils. In this parable the thorns which represent life’s worries, riches and pleasures drown out the voice of God and the believer falls away.

I like to think of our decisions as either building up our personal “mountain” or digging our personal “pit”; both places in which we will find ourselves dwelling. Let me explain further. Good decisions, such as when we listen to God’s voice, or follow the direction we receive from the Word of God, or even follow Godly counsel from a trusted friend, all result in our mountain growing a bit higher, or closer to God. The converse is also true, following bad council, or the lust of our flesh, and not trying to hear God’s leading will result in our pit getting a little bit deeper, or farther from God.

With this illustration I like to think of God’s love and guidance as the sun shining down on us. When we have built a mountain with our actions and responses the light of God’s love and wisdom can reach us easily and surround us from all directions. When we have dug a pit for ourselves, God’s light has a hard time reaching us; only a small amount touches us. Thankfully, with God, nothing is impossible. Some of His light can always get through no matter how deep a pit we have dug for ourselves.

The best way to live is obvious. We want to daily make more choices that draw us closer to God. This in turn will allow us day by day to grow a bit better at understanding the will of God, a bit better at hearing His voice and more and more able to feel the magnitude of the love He has for us. Paul states it best in his prayer for the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:17-18); "and I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ."