I have very emotional little boys, and I love it. They love, laugh, clench their fists in anger, and cry really big and really often. They are compassionate, and they are selfish; they are forgiving, and they hold grudges; they are grateful, and they are spoiled. All three of them experience the gamut of human emotion and temptation at different levels of maturity, and (most of the time) I am so thankful for their passion—even when it’s misdirected.
Ryan and I have the privilege of guiding them through their emotional maturity. We try to find the balance between encouraging and not squashing how deeply they feel everything while still offering perspective and tools to handle their reactions. Example: crying over hurt feelings, grief, pain, and disappointment is fine; a total meltdown because your mama won’t buy you another Skylander because you have a thousand at home and we’re just here to buy milk…might not be necessary. As they get older, they see this more clearly on their own.
One way that I have truly seen God’s work in my life through the mix of joys and trials these last eighteen months is my own emotional maturity when it comes to perspective. Losing my mom and fighting for my life has helped me to see the things I encounter each day with new perspective. I readily admit that sometimes I still have the knee-jerk reaction to freak out over laundry mountains, little boy chaos, or unwritten lesson plans. But I’ve been so thankful that now I more often react with trust and gratefulness to life’s adventures. I can more easily see what is a big deal and what is truly not. My definition of tragedy or even disappointment has been shifted. Changes in plans, failures, and unmet expectations are not tragedies. I am seeing them as opportunities to trust God to keep his promises and stay true to his character—which he ALWAYS does. The evidence in the Bible and the story of my life show his faithfulness. This perspective is supernatural, and I do not take credit for it. I am by nature a worrier who can turn a molehill into a mountain in less than one sleepless night. My being able to move forward with confidence in God’s control and provision is a new and beautiful gift he’s given me, formed by my battle with cancer and grief.
The greatest example of this has been Ryan’s work situation. His company, Creo Agency, closed around the holidays, and he started a job search. A few years ago I would have felt that this was tragic and would have worried and toiled until I made myself sick. But over the last month, I have felt peace, comfort, and even excitement about what lies ahead. I have also felt sadness over how much our life is going to change, but the lack of worry is evidence of God’s work in me.
This is why this last week has surprised me so much and showed me that my walk with God is never a finished product. I went into a day surgery to finish up my reconstruction process two weeks ago with no worries at all. I was not thrilled about being out of commission for a few days, but I was very relieved that this was the last surgery on my plate. My plastic surgeon worked his magic, and I left his office ready to begin life without so much medical intervention. Even through the pain over the next few days, I knew God had gotten me through much worse. I did not fret.
Last Wednesday I went to Medford to have my bandages removed, and all that changed. Nothing tragic happened, but it was instantly clear that something was wrong. My six weeks of radiation last year had made the damaged skin respond badly to the surgery. I looked burned and marred. With a dismaying swiftness, I lost my supernatural perspective.
Even though I knew in my head it did not matter what I looked like and God could get me through any more surgeries that may now be necessary, I felt ugly, worried, weary, weak, fragile, mangled, and oh so damaged. These feelings overwhelmed my trust and the foundation of what I had learned about perspective. I felt I was failing some kind of test; I was frustrated that I couldn’t let the history of God’s faithfulness in my life give me comfort. As I cried over my disappointment, I worried that I was hurting God by not being more thankful for his blessings. Why was I so devastated by this setback when I was able to respond with gratitude to bigger hurts?
Now this blog post isn’t going to wrap up with how I’ve come to the other side, because I cried as I bandaged my wound this morning. I keep chastising myself for not being able to see that this isn’t that big of a deal, especially in light of what so many people are going through right now. But as I move forward, I feel God giving me more peace as each moment passes. Hopefully peace will lead to acceptance and acceptance to gratitude and godly perspective again.
His peace comes through his reminders of truths that are beginning to win the battle against my feelings. He’s reminding me that even when I hurt him, he loves and forgives me. He’s reminding me that while Satan can capitalize on my weakness (self-image), God is stronger than Satan and real Kingdom-building work can be done in that same weakness. And the most healing truth is his reminder that no matter how scarred my outer appearance is, no matter how many surgeries are ahead, he has healed and redeemed my soul. By his wounds I have been healed; through my wounds, he is rescuing my body.
No matter where you are on your journey to gain godly perspective—throwing a tantrum over not getting a toy at Walmart or accepting whatever comes your way with grace—please be encouraged that God is working in you. Whether it is the big stuff or the small stuff that is tripping you up, “cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Freely feel your emotions--your hurt, and even your doubt (for our emotions are a reflection of an emotional God)--but embrace and rest in the truth of Christ: "neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans8:38-39).