I’m about to make a confession that I would very much prefer to keep to myself. I kinda like the glowing angelic image of myself that people often have of me, regardless of the nagging inconvenient truth that it’s a wildly inaccurate image. So why am I willingly taking a sledge hammer to the angelic image and making an ugly confession? Because I truly believe there are other people who are wrestling with very hard questions in life and are afraid to say anything or admit it for fear of how they may be looked at… or even how they think God might look at them. They’re too ashamed. I’m here to tell you that wrestling is part of relationship, and what God desires most is for us to be in relationship with Him… that’s what He created us for. So wrestle. Argue your tough questions. Engage. He can handle it. He just might change you in the process.
Here is my wrestling story…
I’ve been going to church since I was 1 week old. That’s uhhhh…ummm… a LOT of weeks that I’ve been in church (Boy, I feel old). Since I was 4 years old, I’ve been singing songs about letting God use me… the first one I remember vividly. It was on a little kids album of songs. Charity the Church Mouse sang in her soprano squeaky voice…
Make me a servant
Humble and meek
Lord let me lift up those who are weak
And may the prayers of my heart always be
Make me a servant
Make me a servant
Make me a servant today
As I grew up, I was always singing songs about letting God use me….
“Here am I, all of me. Take my life, it’s all for Thee…”
“All my dreams, all my plans, Lord I leave it in your hands. I lift my life, lift my life up. Have your way with me. Take my life and let it be all for you.”
“If You can use anything Lord, You can use me. Take my hands, Lord, and my feet. Touch my heart, Lord, and speak through me. If You can use anything Lord, You can use me.”
“I wanna live with abandon, give You all that I am. Every part of my heart Jesus, I place in Your hands. I’ll drop everything to follow You. It’s only Your hands I hold onto.”
And then one day, God took me up on that offer and used me to directly impact 3 lives and indirectly impact quite a few others in the process. But it didn’t turn out the way I expected or hoped. I had it in my mind that if I let God use me, He would use me in a way that would make me happy… in a way that somehow would enrich my own life… or work out exactly like I wanted… or work out for the good of ME in an immediate way (while also coinciding with His master plan). But it didn’t happen that way at all. Over the course of 3 years, we took in 3 orphaned children, loved them with ALL our hearts, holding nothing back, and pursued adoptions that all fell through. All 3 of them, one after another, walked out of my life. Their lives were forever impacted, but all I had to show for it were empty hands and a broken heart. And suddenly I went from piously singing, “Use me, Lord,” to angrily whispering through gritted teeth, “You USED ME, LORD!!”
I began to wrestle with confusion and anger over why God would allow me to walk through so much heartbreak when all I was trying to do was what He asked me to do. Why would He ask me to do this and allow me to go through this when He knew what the outcome would be?
“You USED ME, GOD! How could you?!! You knew this would happen, and you called me into it anyway, and everybody else benefited except me.”
Now maybe I’m the only one out there who has ever wrestled with this. And if so, well I regret just confessing that, and you can all pretend you didn’t hear me say that out loud! Allllllrigghhhtyyy then. But I somehow suspect I’m not the only one.
If you think long and hard and are truly honest within the deepest recesses of your being, do you struggle with the same thing I do? We want to sing heroic songs in church about God using us for HIS glory, but when the rubber meets the road, what we’re really singing is that we want God to use us for OUR glory. We only want Him to use us when it works out in our favor… when we can associate ourselves with His display of glory and pretend some of that glory we are standing in the shadow of is our own to bask in. We only want Him to use us when He does it our way and follows our game plan.
When I look back at the past three years of repeated loss, I’ve noticed two very distinct happenings. The first is that more people have been impacted than the children I set out to impact. Yes, their lives were changed, but at least 3 other children were adopted by other families as a direct result of my being vocal in our journey. Also as we lost our kids one by one, other mothers who have also lost children through adoption loss or miscarriage would come out of hiding and tearfully look into my eyes and say to me, “I thought I was the only one.” Their pain would be validated, and they would be encouraged along their own journey to healing… simply because I lived out loud. (You’d think I’d be honored to be used by God in this manner instead of throwing a hissy fit that He used me). He was already tipping His hand and showing me a brief glimpse of a few of the cards in His hands… I just didn’t really want to see it. The second thing that began happening was a painful, wretched, agonizing purging of the ugly Katie within who is self-centered, self-focused, and is constantly wrestling in the dark with God over who sits on the throne of my heart.
You know what happens when we wrestle? He wins. Every. Time.
And I’m SO glad He does.
A lot happened in the past 3 years. I can’t point to one specific big reason why everything shook out the way it did. There isn’t one specific reason… there are a myriad of reasons. Sometimes we are called to suffer for the good of others with no purpose for our happiness at all. Oh there is purpose… but it isn’t for our own happiness. It is sometimes for the benefit of others and for growth for ourselves.
This is an excerpt from my personal journal a month ago…
It is so easy for me to be consumed with questions. Why? Why me? How could you let this happen? Why didn’t you stop it? Why 3 times? When will you stop letting our hearts be broken? What good could possibly come out of all of this? Will my family ever grow? Why… why… why? My questions thrown to the sky flutter back to the floor like confetti… unanswered. And it is so easy to get angry.
I realize who God is… how vast and trustworthy He is. I remember His plans and His promises. I remember what He has done in the past. I recognize that I can trust the One who holds the answers to my questions. He is good all the time. I don’t need to know the answers. I can trust Him. I could release control and just peacefully know that He is for me and not against me. He loves me, and my future is completely secure. My light and momentary troubles are achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. He’s never failed, and He won’t stop now. It is knowledge I have no doubt of.
So why am I still wrestling? I feel like His truth has already won the argument hands down, but I’m still beating my fists against His chest because I got hurt and refuse to let go of some “right” I seem to think I have. He whispers to me that it’s ok… in the end He knows the plans He has for me are for my good… to prosper and not harm… to give me a future and hope. And He reminds me that sometimes GOOD means smashing and remolding over and over until it becomes something beautiful. But I don’t want to be smashed and remolded. I don’t want to let go of the “me” I’m quite comfortable with. I’m so deeply flawed, but I’ve grown comfortable with the status quo of who I am. But no… He has better plans… and I guess it takes some crushing and pruning and forging and refining to get there.
I wish I could say I was done wrestling. I wish I could say I have all my answers. I wish I knew “why me” and all the other painful questions that remain lodged somewhere deep in my trachea. I wasn’t even sure whether I should write this blog post, because it doesn’t have a proper ending. There is no way for me to frame it with some sort of “resolution” or “hindsight.” I’m in the middle of this season… not on the other side. I sat on it for many days wondering what good could come out of opening the window of my heart and letting the general public peer into my mess… my wrestling… my hidden ugliness. But this is life. It’s messy. A relationship with God is not about walking around piously perfect and singing songs that we don’t really honestly mean. And when we stop pretending that we’re ok, God rolls up His sleeves and says, “Good. Now we’re getting somewhere… let’s hash this out and turn it into something beautiful…”
I think God brought me face to face with the words I was singing and said, “I want you to think about what you’re singing. Do you really mean it? Do you really trust me, and can I really use you? Will you really live for Me with reckless abandonment of the throne of your life?” I stare silently at the lyrics on the screen at church… if I open my mouth to sing the words, it’s going to mean I abdicate my seat on the throne and allow Him to use me for HIS glory, not for my warped “glory-sharing.” And if He uses me in ways that are confusing and painful, I have to be willing to trust Him in the pain. But if I refuse… if I draw a line in the sand and say “Here and no further,” I will settle for remaining the same and miss out on something really great…
And so my wrestling continues. What are you wrestling with God over? If you think long and hard, what is God’s ultimate truth in your circumstance that has already won the argument hands down? And are you willing to accept it and let it change you? This is what life is… training ground… wrestling out the weakness and ugliness… every day and in every circumstance you find yourself in… and in the process, an ocean of grace covers you and reminds you that there is no shame in this process. Shame will keep you hidden and locked away… never changing or growing or becoming all that you were meant to be. Grace will shine a light on the situation and say it’s ok… come out and wrestle. You can’t wrestle with the Great I Am and remain unchanged.