"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Refining Me

I am a member of the CMDA (Christian Medical and Dental Association) and the WIMD (Women in Medicine and Dentistry) which both offer wonderful devotionals that often resonate with me.  The WIMD doesn't have a FB page so I receive this only in email format and couldn't find another way to link it here other than copying every word.  So, here it is (emphasis added in bold).  Although I completely agree with the attitude of gratitude that has turned up on FB in November, I felt her point was poignant:

Devotion - Thankful
by Tiffany Owens

The Thanksgiving season is upon us. Sadly, the holiday is becoming dwarfed by other expanding fall traditions and an ever earlier commencement of the Christmas extravaganza. The enemy is constantly on the prowl (John 10:10), encouraging us to be too busy and distracted to give thanks. In reality, this period of thankfulness is paramount for preparing our hearts for the Christmas season. Thankfulness displaces the focus from oneself to one’s Provider and Sustainer, often quieting the discontented heart, leading to a more purposeful (and less harried) approach to honoring our Savior’s birth. I desperately want to lean in deeper to my Sustainer during this season.
For several years, I have enjoyed the trend whereby social media is used to make a daily list of blessings. The posts generally start with, “I’m thankful for…” It’s wonderful to see answered prayers and appreciation of gifts beyond what many of these friends may have imagined. There have been some conspicuously missing posts, though. I haven’t seen many that say, “I’m really mad/hurt/bitter/sad/angry, but THANKFUL for my loneliness/burn out/financial problem/suffering…” Paul encourages us to “give thanks in all circumstances…” and I, for one, do not naturally lean toward that response (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV 2011). In fact, sometimes, I think I prefer to stay in my sour mood, even while God’s Word offers me the steps to “move on.” Why I would want to remain grumpy, I cannot explain; however, I do know that choosing joy and trusting in God’s precepts seems to require effort on my part and is contrary to the actions of the world around me. I feel too weak to tackle yet another obstacle, so I sulk. Paul struggled with an opportunity for bitterness. He described a thorn in his flesh, which was sent as a messenger of Satan, to torment Paul. He pleaded with God to remove it from him, but God did not. Instead, He responded with the relieving news that Paul’s weakness was an opportunity to highlight the perfection of God’s power within Paul. This led Paul to conclude, “…when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NIV 2011). Presently, I’m feeling sour and grumpy and weak because of a thorn of my own. I greatly desire to honor God through the situation, develop perseverance and authentically show others Christ’s power within me. I don’t want to miss out on experiencing the joy of Thanksgiving and Christmas because of my misguided self-focus. How might I develop a thankful spirit about a situation from which I’d rather be spared?
  1. I am going to acknowledge that God is not instructing me to be thankful for the “thorn” itself. He’s guiding me to be thankful for the all-sufficient grace He has provided.
  2. I am going to resist my natural response to sulk or get busy attempting to fix it via my own abilities. I choose to claim the power of Christ, even when I don’t feel it, by demolishing “arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV 2011).
  3. I am going to express my thankfulness. By leaning into God’s grace and making my wayward thoughts obedient to Christ, I am then able to be more comforted by the Holy Spirit’s sweet presence. Upon reflection, I’m truly thankful that the presence of the “thorn” is causing me to seek deeper fellowship and rest in Jesus than I would have otherwise experienced.
Dear God, thank you for being my Provider and Sustainer. Thank you for the abundant blessings I so often take for granted. Thank you for loving me enough to challenge me in areas where I am not resting in your best and for giving me your Word and Holy Spirit to guide me. I KNOW your grace is perfected in my weakness, but please help me to FEEL it today too. Amen.

So, let me follow her lead and try it here:

I'm thankful for my losses because with the babies has gone my pride.  Inappropriately placed pride for results that I hadn't really produced on my own but was claiming to have.  With humility, I've been able to connect empathetically in ways I'd never before been capable of.  With eyes wide open, my perspective has broadened and thereby my heart has opened. 

I'm thankful for my losses because they've helped me to learn to be mindful of the moment. 

My losses have helped me lean away from the temptation towards perfectionism. 

I'm thankful that my losses created the nidus for this conversation.  I'd been contemplating it for months and hadn't been courageous enough to share.  Although the openness of this blog has made some uneasy, it's helped the peace within me flourish and for that, I'll forever be thankful. 

I'm thankful that I've been able to witness through my losses in this way. 

I'm thankful for my experiences of healthcare this side; they're making me a better physician. 

I'm thankful that through my losses, I've had a patient partner to lean on.  I'm thankful he's endured those same losses with me.  I'm thankful that he felt our losses differently than I, because that way we were able to pull and push each other along in healthy ways. 

I'm thankful that my losses and your losses have united us; they bring us together in a unique and powerful way. 

As the song by Unspoken says, "If I'm under fire, I know it's refining me"
It's not natural for us to think this way, but it is necessary.
Because hurt, pain, loss and unfairness will continue to haunt us.
New loss will come in different forms in the future. 
Wiser, stronger, we are refined. 
We're thankful that Someone loves us enough to bother refining us.   
"All my dreams, all my plans, Lord I leave it in your hands...
have your way with me"

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