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Uncovering Unknown Issues of the Heart

22 Oct

(Facebook Post 7/26/15)
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I made a personal discovery today, or maybe God revealed it to me. It has left me feeling even more emotionally fragile than I was before. I discovered that I know a lot about God from an intellectual standpoint. I discovered that I know a lot of scripture, even if I can’t associate the Bible reference with most of them. But I also discovered that I don’t “feel” the most basic of Biblical truths; at least in regards to myself. What is this truth that has left me reeling? This truth I know in my head but not in my heart? This truth that staggered me to the very core of my being when I finally became aware of it? This is the truth that knock my feet out from under me: God loves you, Janet.

Now, I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in sanctuaries and auditoriums and heard how “it’s not about emotional responses.” That we can’t always trust our feelings – which is why we rely on scripture. I certainly understand that argument on an intellectual level. I do. I get it and I’ve practiced it. When my heart’s been decimated, I’ve clung to the truth that my circumstances are not a reflection of God’s feelings toward me. I’ve held fast to the teaching that God is sovereign but that man has free will. I’ve believed that God doesn’t cause bad things to happen but that He does allow them to happen. I’ve trusted that He never leaves me, that He walks through the bad stuff with me, that He uses the bad stuff to refine my faith and conform me into the imagine of Christ and to somehow use that testimony to bring the lost to salvation; that I’m a tool in the Master’s hand used to bring Him glory.

But somewhere along the way my understanding has become warped. All the losses and the role disease has played in our family is all intertwined with my faith. I’m messed up. If the sole purpose of my life is to bring glory to God and enjoy him forever and if God allows me to be hurt over and over for the purpose of conforming me into Christ’s image and to bring Him glory, then we aren’t describing a God of love, we are describing a self-serving or an ego-maniacal God and that, of course, is in complete opposition to scripture.

So, I know I’ve gotten it wrong somewhere along the way. Maybe I simply accepted the easiest answer to explain God’s sovereignty because I needed an explanation, a purpose, when no real answer could be found. God rarely answers the why question, so I found one I could attribute to an overall grand design. But I can no longer cling to this idea that all this pain is for my good or that it’s justified for another’s salvation. I need to “feel” God’s love for me, not just know He loves me in my head. Otherwise, I’m left feeling as if I’m expendable for the benefit of others. That God loves others more than He loves me. That I’m little more than a means to an end and that the pain it all causes me is not of concern to God. If His purpose is simply to conform me or lead the lost to Christ, then I don’t feel individually cherished or worthy, or precious in His sight. I feel used – that I’m being conformed into a Christian Stepford Wife. I think that is why the idea that some ministry might rise from the ashes of Bethany and Katie’s deaths, from Gracen’s injuries and progressive disease, has been so repulsive to me.

The logical part of my being recognizes that God loves me but I can’t reconcile my theology and my reality. I can’t feel it in my heart – I need to experience His love for myself instead of simply reading about it in the Bible. And I don’t know how to go about it – I’m not even sure there is anything I can do about it. I need God to do it – to change my heart so that I can experience the depth, width and height of His love.

I can’t even describe how broken I am, how tired I feel. I’ve got no words to enable another to understand the prison that my brain has become. The ache, the hollowness left in my heart – the utter and complete devastation not just for what has already happened but for what is yet to come. I don’t know how many more blows I can take, because I’m not fending them off, I’m taking them on the chin.

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I am worried about sending Gracen off to college but I’ve come to realize it is something we both need. She needs to experience it and I want her to as well. I feel so selfish saying this, but I need a break. Not from Gracen – I need a break from the constant reminders of the accident. From the visceral response I have to seeing or hearing that wheelchair coming down the hall. From the things I now do for Gracen that she used to do for herself. It’s about the tasks and lost health resulting from her disease and the accident – not Gracen, herself. It’s about all the unpleasant changes that have happened to the child I love more than life itself endlessly assaulting my heart and mind.

It’s relentless. I just can’t escape it so that I can somehow work it out and live with it. Not just living without bitterness but actually continue to survive the emotional, spiritual and physical destruction. Oh to be able to escape, to flee from it all if not permanently then temporarily so that I can catch my breath and get my feet back under me. So that I can quiet the constantly striving voices in my minds. So I can find some peace. I’m so desperate for a little bit of peace!

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8 Comments

Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Chronic Illness, Faith, Grief, Muscular Dystrophy

 

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8 responses to “Uncovering Unknown Issues of the Heart

  1. Melanie

    January 31, 2016 at 1:15 am

    Janet, do you still have this struggle between needing to “feel” God and intellectually accepting truth about Him? I think that’s where I am right now. The things I used to feel, I just don’t feel anymore–although I don’t think that I have to feel them for them to be true. But it’s like living a dream in a way. Or watching a play. I’m there but not there. Anyway, thanks for putting into words what is going on in my head. I hope one day both of us feel God again.

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    • Janet Boxx

      January 31, 2016 at 2:58 am

      Yes, I still struggle with feeling God’s love for me. I am no longer desperate for it – some of that is pharmaceutical help. However, just as I love my husband and daughter, I don’t always “feel” a rush of love for them every time I see them. And as you no doubt have experienced, sometimes how I do feel is less than loving. Life happens. Petty frustrations and unmet expectations result in less than loving feelings, but when their safety is threatened, or someone harms them emotionally, and my response is clearly indicative of how much I love them.

      You know, there are times you tell your children no and they just can’t understand why. Somehow, this child that you labored over, nursed and nourished, clothed and nurtured, still doubts that you have their best interest at heart and are not saying no because you don’t trust them or don’t want them to have fun. Their minds are so clouded by what they want that that can’t recognize or comprehend a reasonable and logical argument. And my response? I find myself frustrated for being made the bad guy. I think I do the same thing to God.

      It’s funny you bring this up now because just the other day I was thinking about this very thing and asked myself what exactly I expected God to do to make me “feel” His love. You know, I can’t make my husband feel happy or sad or loved at will. I can try to speak his “love language” but some days for whatever reason, the things that normally make him laugh or feel loved just don’t result in the normal emotional response. Emotions are a response to some stimuli. It’s pretty unreasonable of me to demand that God provide that stimuli at will. Even if He did that, some days it just wouldn’t work. I’d be too distracted, or afraid, or whatever for that stimuli to generate the hoped for response.

      I think I’m starting to understand that the only thing I can do is ask God to help me recognize when He is speaking my love language to me. I’m not saying this well. It’s really just coming together in my mind. So bear with me as I fumble this response out.

      I can ask God to help me not only accept his love, like a gift wrapped package, but to receive it by opening the gift and also to open my heart so I recognize and value the gift as it was intended.

      Otherwise the only ways I can see God satisfying my demand to make me feel His love is by 1) surrendering myself to become a robot in His hand, or 2) Requiring God to answer to me. For example, Janet needs to feel love, therefore I (God) need to give her xyz or abc to stimulate the feeling of love she “needs”. In this way I the creation am dictating to my creator how to satisfy me. It’s not only presumptuous but you can fast forward to the logical conclusion that should it work that way all God would succeed in doing is creating a spoiled, entitled and demanding child who felt no love in return because a demand/fulfillment or a demand/resentment cycle has been developed.

      I guess I’m concluding that to a degree I need to humble myself and ask Him to help me experience the love I know without a doubt He has for me. I can recognize my love for Him for more readily than I seem to be able to receive His love for me.

      I should probably blog about this! 🙂

      I can pretty much just copy this response, find an appropriate picture or maybe add a link to Garth Brooks singing “Make You Feel My Love” and hit publish!

      Let me know if this helps or if I got way off track from where you hoped I’d go. I wish I shared your gift for concise communication!

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      • Melanie

        January 31, 2016 at 11:27 am

        That was very helpful–thanks for taking the time to answer honestly and fully. Yes, I can see what you mean when you place it in context of our relationships with other humans. You’re right–we can’t MAKE others FEEL love even when we know we are loving them. And I had honestly never thought to ask God to help me recognize and feel His love. Submitting to Him has always been the focus of so many teachings and sermons and it has become my default answer to myself when I can’t “feel” God–it must be that I am resisting Him–so I back up and try harder (kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it) to submit. And this losing a child–on the one hand I think I have submitted. I do honestly believe that my children are given me to steward, not to own. I mean, his name was Dominic–belonging to God–and I chose it on purpose because I believe it. But then the days and weeks and months that come after losing a child. The loss really never ends. Living with the constant reminders and the ever-new daily losses (like when his friends graduate law school and pass the Bar) just add up and cloud my vision.

        Your insights are so helpful. And your honesty is a gift to me. Thanks for taking the time to answer. I will ask the Father to teach me how to recognize and feel His love. To unwrap the gift.

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      • Janet Boxx

        January 31, 2016 at 5:15 pm

        Melanie, I too have my default “theologies”. I think, and I say that because I’ve found there are often layers to my thoughts – layers of beliefs. A core belief gets layered over by insights (right or wrong) we gain as we assimilate Biblical teaching and life experience. I can’t recall right now which post It was, but I included a brief prayer in which I asked God, “Am I so rebellious that the only way you can teach me is through suffering?” Probably my biggest overall theological belief is that there are two over-reaching purposes for every experience (good and bad) we encounter in life. The first is to reach the lost with the gospel and the second is to conform the believer into the image of Christ. But really, is that true or just the theology that allows me to understand the God whose thoughts and ways are higher than mine? We want so desperately to make sense of life’s tragedies but maybe the answers are far more simple. Maybe you aren’t failing to submit at all. Maybe I’m not too hard-headed to learn. Maybe someone’s free-will intersected with our lives and God, in His wisdom, choose not to intervene, not because you or I needed to be corrected, but for some higher reason we can’t begin to comprehend.

        I’m not sure what your theological background is, i.e., different denominations teach different things. Baptist or Pentecostal. Nazarene or Catholic. Those affiliations influence what we believe about topics from salvation to grace. I believe we are saved by grace not works. But you know what? On some levels works is easier even though the opposite offers appears to be true. I like to follow rules because Then I don’t have to guess and possibly get my theology wrong. But those same rules, just like the Ten Commandments, scream conviction when things go wrong. I must have done something wrong and that’s why this terrible thing happened to me. I must be really bad because bad things, big tragedies in fact, not simple course corrections keep happening to me. Down deep inside I must be rebellious. And you and I keep trying to “fix” ourselves and another layer is added to a core belief that may have started out as simple and pure and is now buried beneath correct and incorrect assumptions and teachings.

        But what of grace? Grace is harder for me. It’s like an endless open field and I don’t know what to do because there are no boundaries. Grace says, “You aren’t resisting me, Melanie.” , “You aren’t rebellious, Janet.” This open field is your green pasture beside still waters – rest so that I can restore your soul.” But this open field of love and acceptance, of unmerited favor, feels overwhelming to me because my warped thinking doesn’t allow me to see it for what it is and so I can’t appreciate it for what it really is and instead I’m filled with anxiety as I try to figure it all out so that I don’t get hurt again.

        Was Job failing to submit to God when Satan appeared Him and asked, “Have you considered my servant Job?” No. Did Job learn a valuable truth about God by the end of the story? Yes, but did God set all that in motion in order to teach Job about His sovereignty?, No. The book never tells us that God allowed all those things to teach Job, or even his friends anything. Those lessons are an example of all things working for good, but we seem to warp the meaning of that verse into saying God allowed this for this greater purpose, thereby making God ultimately responsible for every tragedy that befalls us for the purpose of teaching us some lesson. Maybe Satan still appears before God. Maybe God asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant Melanie?” Maybe you are the shining example God proudly draws Satan’s attention to for the purpose not of correcting your failure to submit, but instead to once again show Satan, that you don’t love Him because He has richly blessed you; you just love Him because He first loved you. Maybe you will unwrap that gift and think, “What am I go to do with this? I was hoping for something else.” And maybe, just maybe, at the end of our stories we will look back on that gift that so baffled us and appreciate it for the precious and perfect gift it really is because we will find it wasn’t about God’s sovereignty or how to submit, but instead it was the peace of God’s grace. Maybe we just need to still our thoughts so we can rest in God’s grace.

        Love and hugs to you, Melanie.

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  2. Janet Boxx

    February 4, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Melanie,

    Do you care if I use your questions and comments related to this post in a blog or two? I realize our conversation was public but from my perspective this can be a sensitive topic (because it gets at the core of our beliefs) and it’s not likely that a bunch of people will read through our conversation here.

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