The Hearts at Home link-up topic today is "Love Your Struggles." This is a topic that I can write about. It seems learning to love my struggles has been my theme for more than a couple of years. There have been moments of life that have not been easy. Parenting children from hard places has felt as though I had been dropped into a particularly difficult spiritual boot camp. But just like a real life boot camp is designed to turn out soldiers who are highly trained for particular duties, this spiritual boot camp has felt as though it has done the same thing. I am a very different person from the one I was 8 years ago and it is all because of the struggles God has allowed me to experience.
Fear and worry have always been something that have been a challenge for me. In fact, several years ago, I wrote extensively about rooting out fear from my life. Let me tell you, there is nothing like facing one of the items on your "things that terrify the heck out of me and I don't think I could handle it" list to help you learn to combat fear. This isn't because experiencing such a thing makes a person stronger. I have a lot of trouble with the pithy, wrong-headed idea that God won't give you more than you can handle, mainly because it's not true. God routinely gives us more than we can handle on our own. If you read the book of Isaiah with any care, it becomes very clear that God doesn't want us to handle things ourselves, but instead wants to bring us to a point where we have to rely on Him. I haven't become stronger as a result of my experiences, instead I have learned the extent of my own weakness and have allowed Jesus to take over. He can handle it, I can't. People routinely tell me, "I don't know how you do it." I'm still not sure what it is that they I'm doing, but whatever it is, I'm sure it's not as impressive as they make it out to be. It's not me who's doing it after all. My struggles have taught me that I can do nothing, but my God can do anything.
This boot camp experience has also shown me both that I wasn't nearly as compassionate as I believed myself to be and made me a more compassionate person all at the same time. It is unpleasant to learn things about yourself that you'd rather not know, but until you learn them, you can't change. I learned that it is easy to be compassionate and loving when things are easy, but when things are hard, I discovered my true nature. It wasn't pretty. I was not better on the inside than the behaviors my son was showing on the outside. We were exactly the same. You think you understand the need you have of a savior who will forgive and change that disgusting yuckiness inside of you and it's another thing completely to stare that disgusting ugliness in the face. Your own. I am no better, and probably a whole lot worse than anyone else. That is what creates compassion.
It is interesting that in these same past 8 years, I have also experienced more joy than I could have imagined. The joy of adding new children to our family, the joy of seeing broken people heal, the joy of letting go of all the 'shoulds' and not worrying about what others think, the joy of resting in God's love and care, the joy of loving other people, the joy of following the adventure God has for us, the joy of great confidence because we are following where God leads, the joy of having hope.
I have learned through these challenging years the true meaning of Romans 5:2-5, a passage that as a younger person I always read with a bit of trepidation. "Through Him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (ESV)