The apostle Paul was gnarly guy. He was a MURDERER. He hunted down Christians and killed them. He was a bounty hunter. His heart was filled with anger and pride and selfishness. God had to blind him to get his attention, but in the physical blinding of Paul, I believe God was showing him how blind his way of life was. The old Paul relied on his plan, his idea of what was supposed to happen. Years after he was blinded and reborn to a new sight he wrote to the Phillipians. He closes his letter to them with this:
"I am not saying this because I am in need, I have learned to be content in all circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Phillipians 4:11-13
The guy was in prison when he wrote that. A Roman prison, that is your worst prison image times 1000. He was possibly facing execution. He was certainly beaten and sick, and yet he was content? This situation makes me pause and examine my own life. The dude was content in prison.
Throughout life, we encounter all sorts of prisons. What that prison is changes with time and circumstance, but we are all struggling with a form of a prison. Something we feel stuck or trapped in. A job, a relationship, this economy, it all can start to take the form of a prison. My prison is often jealousy. I am very jealous person. My jealousy at times has been so out of control that it has led me to end relationships or ignore and hurt those I love because I am consumed by envy.
Jealousy is all consuming. Once you give in to it, it is all you can think about. You find every reason that you deserve what you are jealous of. You also justify why you deserve it more than those around you who have it. Who are they? What is God thinking? Those bars wrap around you quickly. Pretty soon you are alone because you have become an angry and bitter person who is afraid to trust or open up to people.
I am jealous of every person who is a mother. I am jealous of people who are pregnant and get to experience that change and growth in their body. I am jealous that these women get to give their husbands the gift of fatherhood and that having children was an easy journey for them. I don't see why all sorts of women get to mothers and I don't, and I certainly can't imagine anyone who deserves to be a father more than Justin. Sometimes I can be very angry about this. I can be angry that other families are chosen to adopt before us. Or that I don't have a magic date that I can tell people that I am going to be a mother. Sometimes this comes from nowhere, I am doing fine and than a mother yells at their child and I am back in my prison cell. Jealousy is ugly and all consuming.
In the midst of our first round of Clomid. My sister got pregnant. She was in the middle of her Master's program, the mother of 13 and 6 year old. She did not want to have a baby. It wasn't in her plan. She had her children. When she told me. I broke as I had never broken before. I sobbed for hours, my husband held me and cried with me and when he couldn't think of what else to do, he called Jill who cried with me too. How was that fair? What was God thinking? He had gotten it wrong. In my Mom's house each of us has a wall of pictures. My sister's are surrounded by their children, but Justin and I sit in the center of a very bare wall. For weeks after my sister told she was pregnant I would look at that wall and feel physically ill. The hatred and anger that consumed me was virulent. It was a cold anger a checked anger. I built a very high wall between us and shut down.
The reality of family is no matter how high a wall you have built, you can't shut out your sister. No matter what happens she is your sister. A sister, I might mention, who was afraid that I would hate her. I can't imagine what it was like to be in her shoes. It must have been just as hard. My niece, Aly, put the first crack in my wall. When they came to visit, I was overwhelmed with how amazing it is to watch this person who I saw be born grow up. I had the privilege of watching she and Gavin come into this world and I love them so much that at times my heart hurts. Was I willing to throw away my relationship with them and my new niece? Could I walk away and live in my prison?
This should be the part where I turned to God and it all got better right away. I did turn to God. I prayed and confessed and moved towards a level of forgiveness that I didn't deserve. I basked in an all forgiving love, but I couldn't go to my niece's birth. It took six months for me to heal enough to see Gabby and honestly there was one moment where it was hard and that prison began to wrap around me again. She is beautiful and has done something wonderful for my sister's entire family and God knew that they needed her.
Paul learned that he had to turn to God for contentment. Even in an actual prison he found peace. I feel that I left my prison behind and I am living in a world of love that I couldn't imagine. However, when I let my guard down and forget to turn to God and trust in him, jealousy can swiftly take over again. This week I have been freaking out about all the ways our adoption can go wrong. Convincing myself that we will never get a child, that no one will choose us. I was angry at the system and the families that are getting children. One little thought and I was headed back down a scary road. Tonight, while crying out all of my fears, my husband asked me what happened to my faith. It was a bit of a spiritual slap in the face, but he was right. I had stopped relying on God for his timing and faith. I wasn't looking to the one who strengthens me and therefore, I felt very weak.
Faith is race that takes patience and if I don't stop to strengthen myself, I will be back in my prison. I am thankful for the peace and hope that I get to experience today. Just tonight, I found that some quality devotional and praise time made me feel stronger. It is amazing what God can do when you let him.