Sunday, April 29, 2007

Optimist

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." --Job 1:6&7

I think of myself as a realist. Most people, optimists and pessimists, do. But if I’m honest with myself, judge myself with fairness, I’d have to say I’m an optimist. I tend to look at the positives, to expect things will work out, to see positive outcomes when the end is uncertain.

In the challenges which face us, my wife and I, we often see things quite differently.

Her emotions swing to and fro. I try not to grab that pendulum; rather, I listen to the rhythms of my own heart.

That can be a tricky.

Brenda’s faith has been badly shaken.

“How can a good God let all these bad things happen all the time? How can a good God do the things He has done to us? Either He’s a cruel God or there isn’t any God at all.”

It pains me to hear such things. It is difficult not to leap to His defense, to point out with heartfelt logic the blessings, the realities of God. But, as I did say to her, I think the reality of God is not based on the evidence of the world around us as much as the evidence we find in our hearts. Faith is based on an internal, not an external, reality.

The last few weeks have been filled with highs and lows, a strange potpourri of juxtaposed moments, events, and circumstances.

Getting my kids legal: The first steps have been done. The papers the lawyer needed to begin the work are turned in to him. There are the passport photos and birth certificates and certified FBI criminal background checks and school records and all sorts of arcane legal proofs of our citizenship.

There was the thorough physicals by the extremely rude, perhaps slightly psychotic doctor with the reputation of producing careful documentations which please the discerning agents of Homeland Security.

There was the disconcerting tuberculosis tests. We were to watch the spot on the arms of our boys where they had administered the tests. A hard oval about an inch long would indicate a positive reaction if it did not dissipate after 10 days. Jeremiah had such a spot within hours of the visit. It lasted 9 days. Apparently he carries the antibodies for TB but hasn’t the disease. He was probably exposed to it at some point but didn't get it.

Brenda says I am a good man. But the truth is something else. I am a man. One who is filled with flaws. One who fails often, andthough I do not seem to swing to wide with the pendulum of life, I still make my share of errors. I love my Lord. But there are things about me that aren’t so noble.

I tried once to explain to Brenda that the world is evil because there is evil in the world, not because God makes it so.

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." --Job 2:1-2

I erred the other day. I heard a whisper. I entered our bedroom, Brenda was hanging up the phone.

“Didn’t she hang up that phone just a little too quickly?”

She told me she wanted to meet up with a friend who is having a difficult time. She left.

“She is going to meet another man... she doesn’t love you anymore... Things have been too hard for her, she feels old and unlovely and some man has convinced her to come to him.”

I hit redial on the phone. A man answered. I asked for the woman Brenda said she was meeting. He said there wasn’t anyone there by that name.

I jumped in the car. I raced toward Oregon City. I sped. Seven miles out I spotted a car that looked like hers. I caught up. It wasn’t her. I turned around. I drove nearly all the way back. Then I thought I saw her headed the other way. I turned around again. I raced up to it. It wasn’t her. I turned around. I went home. She was there. I told her my suspicions.

She was sweet. Kind. Understanding. I allowed my fears to settle, to quiet. I believed her.

“Well, it all sounds plausible... but who knows?”

I’m not that good a man. There is a force of evil in the world. I have listened to his voice.

They swinging pendulum has brought me some cool things. A week ago last Friday we had the Battle of the Bands, a fund raiser for our PTA. It was so much fun! I was the lead “singer” of the staff band. The dozen or so bands ended up raising approximately $8,400 for our school!

This seemed appropriate attire for our rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song"

This past Friday we had a visitor from India at our school. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, still carrying on his grandfather’s work in promoting peace. We dedicated a peace pole in the Peace Garden (we have a piece of the World Trade Center on display there).

His accent reminded me of the nearly two years I lived in an ashram. The group of us, following the tenets of a traditional Indian monastery. What makes the memory unpleasant is the knowledge of the history of the leadership there. The guru, Anandaji, was the disciple of Sri Shuruth, who was a disciple of Ramakrishna, head priest of India’s main Kali temple. I am so sorry I was ever associated with any of that.

Had a little fender bender in a parking lot the other day. Minor damage. The other fellow put a much better spin on his story. I was tempted to do the same.

In a moment of frustration Brenda said she wanted to just leave, run away. I told to go ahead. For a moment I fantasized about it. I'm not that good a man.

The pendulum continued to swing.

I was nominated for an excellence in teaching award.

My back has gone out, my skin is splitting, I have a cold.

My lessons have been clicking so well lately, students are really making great leaps which warms me. I even had a teacher come and observe my class room last week from over a hundred miles away.

Brenda and I have been under a lot of stress. Generally we have been kind to each other. Sometimes not so much.

Poor Isaac has had too much on his mind. It is becoming clearer he may not be equipped to handle the rigors of regular class work. He got himself transferred to a regular reading class. I quietly had the school look in on him and they transferred him back to the lower level class. We have spoken about testing him later this month, to see if he would be better served in special education classes.

A week ago he cut the back of his hand with a knife. It bled for quite a while.

His confusion, his struggles, my responsibility. I haven’t helped him enough.

The weather lately has been gorgeous.

I look around me at people I love. People I know who struggle with all sorts of problems. Problems with addictions. Problems with finances. Problems with their children. Problems of every sort.

The Oregon skies have cleared and green is sprouting from every spot of open soil. Himalayan blackberries are growing several inches a day. Cumulus clouds drift lazily across God’s blue canvas, framing northbound geese.

Such beauty can seem an irony to the troubles people are carrying within their breasts.

It can seem that this beautiful world is an irony to the suffering that goes on. The sludge of filth spreading disease in third world cities... the carbon building up in our atmosphere at a rate that is unbalancing our weather... the vanishing species of this world we were given to protect... and the trillium is pushing up beneath the douglas firs.

I’m not that good a man. I have weaknesses, failures. I listen to whispers when I should be listening to Him.

Things have gotten pretty screwed up, that doesn’t mean God is doing us harm. It simply means that free will is in play, that we are on a journey through a world that is dark, ruled by a prince of darkness. But all of us have a lamp we can carry. We don’t have to carry it. It is our choice.

Things have been pretty rough.

But I’m optimistic.

14 comments:

Terry said...

Dear Curious Servant..
I think that God would disagree with you and so would we, your friends,
You ARE a good man and God sees you as perfect because He sees you as you are in Jesus,
Of course on this earth, we still have that old man in us and have to be in constant battle but that won't last forever.
When Jesus comes to take us home, that will be the end of THAT!!
If your wife says that you are a good man..take her word for it.

In a way, even though you guys are having difficulty with your son, I am a little envious because Bernie and I never could have children.
You do and in the end God will surely bless this child because of your and Brenda's not only opening your home to him and his brother, but also your hearts!

I am so glad that spring is coming your way.
It is here too, and what a difference it can make in our moods, eh?
Do you know Curious Servant , that the trillium is our provincial flower? [Ontario's].
We were a never allowed to pick them when we were children.
Our's haven't come out yet.

I just love to be driving in the car with the windows wide open and my Southern Gospel music just a blaring!
So GLAD to see and feel the Spring!...God bless you and Brenda...Love Terry

curious servant said...

First, as for children... we haven't been able to have birth children and it is something that pains us, Brenda especially, every time the struggles of giving birth appear on a commercial or plot line in a movie. It is a topic I generally avoid around her.

So we adopted. For her, it hasn't been enough.

Here is something you might find interesting about trilliums...

If you grow them from seed, it will take three years for them to bloom... and an individual plant only blossoms every third year. The bulb of the plant is 18 inches below the surface! All of that is to ensure that fires don't wipe them out.

ame said...

the "me" culture has infiltrated the church, and in so many different ways we're taught that, "if you do this ... then the other person will do that ..." which contradicts the free will God gave to man. I think of Amos 4 ... and II Chron 15. God wants our hearts and goes to great lengths, no ... extreme lengths ... to win our hearts to Him. But He still gives us the freedom to choose.

The more intimate with God, the more visible our humanity, and we see ourselves illuminated by holiness ... not pretty for anyone ... but we have to remember that for those of us who choose to believe, God looks at us through the blood of Jesus ... holy ... pure ... good.

As the world, and those around us, and those so very close to us, swing on that pendulum ... back and forth ... high and low ... God calls us to what you have found ... a constant awareness of Him ... His presence ... His goodness ... His sovereignty ... which fills us with inescapable joy ... in our humanity ... which He created ... and loves ... and cares for ... when we choose ... and even when we don't choose.

I believe God is an optomist. Continue to allow His love and goodness, joy and kindness, peace and gentleness, self-control and patience, and faithfulness ... to fill you, your heart, your spirit, your soul. God is so very good, and He longs to share and reveal His goodness to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. May you always have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Judas Hate said...

I am sorry you are struggling with all these issues. I am thankful that you remain optimistic.
There is little I can do, I know. But I remain available to you (as much as the 3,049-mile barrier allows).

Justin

Kathleen Marie said...

You know, God is just so good to walk through all of this with you. I am very much praying for you and Brenda. I am praying so much that you both see the "bigger" picture, God's picture for your lives.

Hugs!

beth said...

Thank you, again, for sharing your grief. You have done an admirable job of painting the picture of truth. Our lives are messy. We do get to choose how we react, even though it seems at times that we are buried under too much sadness, too much pain, too much LIFE.

God will bless you as you continue to look towards him as you trudge through this life.

You have blessed me.

Amrita said...

Dear Brother, you are good man and honest and humble. We are all made of clay and we aer living in a broken up world.

I"m glad Arun Gandhi visited your school. i read about him in our newspapers

ukok said...

Oh, you are such a 'good read' on a day like today when I am feeling less than human :-)

Prayers ascending for you and for all whom your heart holds dear.

God Bless

p.s. Congrats on all the bands raising so much money!

forget me not said...

Thank you for sharing your optimism. Seeing oneself in the light of reality is a good exercise in humility, but it also helps see the positive aspects. We are all imperfect, we all hear that whisper, and we all fall for it sometimes. That's part of our humanity. God loved us so much, he sent is son to live in this world and go through some really tough things. He wanted to show us that we can do it without losing our humanity. To the contrary, by following him, we can become more fully human. But he, too was tempted. He, too was desperate and frightened at one point. So much that he sweated blood. It took him a long while before he got the courage to say "not my will, but yours".

Jada's Gigi said...

strive to listen to His voice...it is within...as, of course you know...
as for the whys of life...I think of the scripture that says, He causes it to rain upon the just and the unjust alike...thats just how it is on this blue sphere we live on...
things are rough...things are wonderful...God is God..all the time..and we are His, thank goodness! i wrote a little bit along these line in my blog today...

Jim said...

Hi C.S. -- I think I'll smile at this post. :-)
and tear, ;-)

I told my long story today to a friend this morning, I'll shorten it here.
When problems came into my life a trusted friend told me what I wasn't wanting to hear, "Just remember, Jim, when things are going bad and [you don't know who could love you or thing that anybody does], God loves you."
I will always remember those words that I wasn't expecting and now, more than then, I realize how fortunate I am that God loves me.

God loves you C.S..
..

Bad Alice said...

I'm an everyday pessimist. During times of extraordinary trial, I turn into an optimist and my husband thinks I'm in denial. Then when everything is back to normal, I become my usual pessimist self and my husband becomes the optimist. You have so much to deal with I don't even know what to say. I feel for your wife, too. When I was in one of my what's the point mood, my husband had me read Ecclesiastes. It's still one of my favorite books of the Bible.

Coco said...

we are only human...
we are not perfect,
yes, we are going to make mistakes.

i, too, at times have lost my patience : (

but we must never forget God's love for us : )

as for Brenda...
patience, and LOTS of love.

take care my friend.

blessings.

ps
by the way,
i loved your costume! (he, he, he)

Serenity said...

Well said.