Tuesday, May 13, 2014

we bought a zoo!!!!

Okay, no.  More like a house.  But the zoo part seems implied since we have all the animals to fill it with.  Plus I just love how that cute little girl says that on the movie thusly titled.  She is so stinking excited.
Just like…. everyone else in the family but me.
I'm getting there.

We've been looking for a house to buy for a long time now.  My poor, most darling cousin, is our real  estate agent and she has endured much.  Much.  We have not been easy clients at all.  When this house came on the market she asked us if we would like to see it even though it wasn't really what we were looking for…. wrong location, too expensive, missing some key "ingredients" that I had on my list, etc.  But we thought, hey, why not.
There was something about this house that stuck with us.  It wasn't love at first sight but more like see the potential over time and slowly able to see our family there.  The problem was that it was in the wrong location, too expensive and missing some key ingredients.  But it kept in our minds.  Eric's especially.
We finally came to the point of thinking that perhaps we should make an offer.  I was sort of using it as a way to "find the Lord's will" (you have to say that in a holier-than-thou voice).  The offers went back and forth - mostly over money and possession date (they started at Nov. 1 because they are building a different house…. I was very, very anti-Nov. 1!)  This was going on this past weekend when I left for my lovely Mother's Day retreat (more on that in another post) Saturday night and came back on Monday.
During that time I prayed a lot.  I pleaded with God a lot.  I begged for Him to direct us - show us if this was the right place for our family.  First of all, I had been praying through my list of desires in a house for a while already, hoping that God would chose to surprise me with checking off my list (who do I think He is, Santa?… not that He can't or wouldn't do it).  But all the while I also prayed that I really truly just wanted us to be where He wanted us to be, fireplace or no fireplace.  And I really do want that more than anything.
I also thought much about it and read various things to spur on more thoughts.  I asked Eric several questions about things I was nervous about mainly in the area of finances but also about family life, as the house has more square footage than I thought we would get.  More square footage can mean more physical distance between the members of our family, which in turn can mean more relational distance. A great concern to me.
When I got back from my getaway, Eric and I talked through all of these things.  I fully expected that I would end up saying "just forget it" to the whole thing (we also were down to Sept. 1 possession which meant spending the summer in our rental and not using that time off to fix up the house, have our own "real" backyard, etc.)  But surprisingly I was feeling like we should still do it.  And do it we did.  We signed their counter offer and signed ourselves to our new house.
All last night I tossed and turned, wrestled and prayed, cried and even got mad at God.  I slept a little and then when I woke up, thought more, wrestled more and prayed more.  Why?  Because I felt like how could this house possibly be God's will for our family?  It is too big, it is too expensive - mostly those reasons (and a little bit of "what happened to my more-open, somewhat-spacious white kitchen"?)  I felt so disappointed that God was not clear on directing us in His will and felt sure that we made a terrible mistake.  Why would He not honour my desire to follow His will by making the direction clear?

This morning as I sat down to breakfast, I opened my usual "Jesus Calling" devotional book and bible. This is what I read: "Thank me in the midst of the crucible.  When things seem all wrong, look for growth opportunities.  Especially, look for areas where you need to let go, leaving your cares in My able hands.  Do you trust Me to orchestrate your life events as I choose, or are you still trying to make things go according to your will?  If you keep trying to carry out your intentions while I am leading you in another direction, you deify your desires.  Be on the lookout for what I am doing in your life.  Worship Me by living close to me, thanking me in all circumstances."
It knocked me to my knees.  Things seemed all wrong to me.  I needed to let go.  I needed to trust Him to orchestrate my life instead of going toward my will (or my view of what I thought God's will for me should be… my putting Him in a box).  I was trying to carry out my own intentions and not realizing that He is leading me (us) in a different direction.
And what is God doing in my life through this?
And I felt (lovingly) wholloped over the head with my pride.  What I realized through this - what I believe God was finally, finally getting through to me about was that my pride was keeping me from accepting "worldly" (material) blessings from God - blessings that would often be seen as success in the world's eyes - worldly blessings. 
The verses to go with this writing are 1 Peter 5:6-7 "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  Humble myself.  Give thanks in all circumstances.  There we go.  As backward as it may appear, those were my issues.  Most people don't have a problem thanking God for material blessings - but I do.  Most people don't have pride over having more, but I do.  They are serious issues for me.
I really do often want these things but I want them shrunken down so they don't give the appearance of having them.  Because of my PRIDE.  I am much more comfortable in the martyr coat and cap.  I want to serve and give and have little because I was to give more and honour God that way.  But all too often, while there is that pure-motive part of me, there is the bigger part that wants to look holy, sacrificial and saintly.  I want to not look materialistic because I associate it with ungodliness.  Those are my wrong judgements - ones that I have regrettably made toward other people before.
Basically, I felt (and feel) downright embarassed about owning this house.  It is big - although not huge, but even the appearance of it is bigger than the inside.  From the outside it looks monstrous.  It says "I'm a huge house" even though the inside space, while very nice, isn't crazy.  And that is my issue in many ways - how do I appear on the outside - because that is what people see.  My pride of appearances.  My pride of not looking godly because I have a nice house.  Dumb!
I am so worried about people looking at me and saying They were missionaries?  They worked with impoverished people and now they left them all behind and are living large - selfishly?  They are Christians and they are spending all that money on themselves?  On and on my mind goes.
There was a little taste of this already in Quito.  We agreed to rent a house another missionary family was renting, sight unseen.  We were shocked (and honestly, a little appalled) at how big and nice it was.  We were coming from a tiny run-down shack in Costa Rica and moved into this amazing place.  It felt so wrong.  This is not how missionaries where supposed to live.  And I struggled with that over and over.  Many people didn't question it but others did, and I felt very embarrassed about it.  I constantly felt as though I needed to justify it by telling the story of how God just provided it and we didn't even know what it was like.
And now it is the same.  Only this time, I think I am finally getting it.  Oh, I acknowledged my pride back then in Quito.  But now I feel it to my very bones.
It is kind of a backwards pride, but just as ugly, horrible and wrong.  Who am I to say to anyone, including myself, that they can't be truly seeking God if they are materially blessed?  God will bless how He chooses to bless.  And honestly, I think He is trying to teach me a whole lot more than just lessons on my pride (and believe me, that is a huge lesson!)
I think that God is also trying to work on my dependance on Him even when I have my needs met.  He is trying to teach me to love Him and seek Him even when things are "good" or "easy".  He is trying to teach me that it is only His opinion of me that matters - that if I am seeking His face and will, if I am actively pursuing Him - it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks.  I often preach and talk about how we may be wealthy here in North America but that leads to our Spiritual poverty.  I believe that very often people in poorer countries (I'm not talking about those truly suffering with starvation and illness, here…. although them too…) may have what we consider to be terrible circumstances, but in reality, they have Spiritual wealth beyond what we can imagine because they are not so distracted by stuff.  And that is what I have wanted - both in purity and in pride.  But I think God needs to teach me to be Spiritually rich in the midst of material wealth.  That for me at least, my deepest relationship with Him will be found as I flounder through the mire of materialism.  It will cause me to wrestle.  It will cause me to fight for it - and way too often fall and lose.  Yet I know that I need to learn to love God beyond anything else even while surrounded by stuff.
So I need to be taught all of these things and I need to be humbled.  I never thought I would be taught and brought to humility through "abundant blessings", but I think that is what is in store.

Aside: Sometimes I do legitimately want simple and less and "humble circumstances" but I can still seek these things in others ways.  I believe simplicity is important and beneficial.  So my job is cut out for me: find the simple and the pure in the midst of abundance.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post Carla - thanks for sharing all your thoughts. I found it very encouraging. Im excited for you guys and the new adventure and home you'll be in soon. Nicole Arvin