Fish Bowl of Suffering
“The whole church is watching you. We want to see how you respond to what is going on in your life.” I can’t count how many times I have been told this. And what’s amazing is how sincere people are when they say this to me and how horrified I am. People are watching me??? In suffering? They want to see how I act with God in this affliction. I don’t know about you, as I can only speak for myself, but this terrifies me. Suffering is very much a lonely road.
One really can’t explain the depth of the pain to another. We can try, and we frequently do, but for the most part, we are in this alone. I do have a great family and great support, but as much as they want to take it from me, they can’t. They lighten the load, to be sure, and they travel with me, but the pain is a burden I carry alone.
I shouldn’t really say it that way because Jesus carries it with me. He is in the yoke, and He never leaves the yoke. I come and clamp the yoke onto myself. It’s my choice to go to Him and it’s my choice to shoulder this with Him. He never leaves the yoke, I do. I take it off all the time and I wonder why I am so tired, worn out and weary. It’s because I have walked away.
Then Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I
will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my Yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Just in typing this out, I am reminded how much my Father cares for me. The problem is that I forget that and that I am so easily distracted and walk away too often. Why do I do this? I am not quite sure, but it bothers me that I do. Create in me a clean heart, O God. (Psalm 51:10) I want a heart that desires to be in You at all times. I don’t ever want to take off the yoke, nor run from the burdens that You give me.
Back to the fishbowl. Do I really want people to watch me struggle with allowing God to Sovereign in my life? Because that is what is really going on here. Dying to self and letting God have complete control.
Ugh. That control thing again. Just yesterday I realized how far I have come in this area of my life. We are in the process of updating and remodeling our kitchen. The old was atrocious. It had speckled brown tile from the 60’s that was cracked and missing grout in many places. The cupboards were just run of the mill. No lighting, nothing special. Well, that’s not the case any more. My son has been the master carpenter behind all this. We did not change any walls or structure, but have updated the look. Stainless steel counters and table. New cupboard doors that were hand crafted by Andrew. New shelving, paint and lighting. I now have a potfiller by my stove – no more lugging big canning pots back and forth. Presto, instant water. Since I have a galley kitchen it is pretty boxy. And not a whole lot of surface area to cook. And if you know the Teravskis family – we cook. I mean cook. And bake. And eat. And we love it. So much so that we share this love with many others. Now I have a counter height table and a table that it attached to the wall but will push up to counter height when needed. And – we added an inch to the counter height!!!! No more aching back for me on those canning days. My shorter girls have had to adjust. But I love it. Ok, I got side-tracked. Oh yes, control. I had always struggled with having everything in order, having it all under control. I mean I really struggled. I wanted to have my house always clean, always ready for visitors, kept clean. It was a challenge to say the least with children, but somehow I kept it together. Well, that all changed about 15 years ago. I realized that I would freak out and become a terror to myself and others if things got out of my control. I would become a drill sergeant. It was awful. I don’t know what the true catalyst was for change, but I am forever grateful that I am not the way any more. Currently I am looking at the cupboard stuff all over my dining room. I mean in boxes, on the floor, all over the table. And, WE HAD PEOPLE OVER FOR DINNER LAST NIGHT!!!!!!! I NEVER (!!!!) would have done this. I mean never. Now, I really could care less. The rest of my house is tidy, and we enjoyed a campfire last night. That burden of control has become nothing since I clamped on the yoke and stayed there.
Back to the fishbowl.
So, what’s it like for the fish? Well, basically they swim around and eat and pass time. And watch out for predators. Most of the time they are ignored, but there are frequent times of people watching their every move. And the worst of all this is the tapping on the glass to get their attention. Maybe tank cleaning day is right up there with that. The fish are doing what they know to do. And yet people are scrutinizing their life. Maybe the people are even commenting on what is going on in the tank. Or maybe even criticizing the fish for not doing what the person wanted. Do you get the picture? In more ways than one? There are times when I feel like the poor fish swimming around. Mind you, the fish only have so big of a tank. He cannot escape. He can hide, but not escape. And his world is pretty well-defined. He knows every millimeter in that tank. Every grain of sand, every fake plant. Yet, she is content in her circumstance – until the tapping starts. Then watch out. The poor thing is hiding, doing anything it can to get away from it.
For the most part, I am content. I was just thinking last night that I have a life that I always dreamed about. I love my God, my family, my church, my friends, my farm. In the midst of that love is my affliction. And guess what? Even with this affliction I LOVE my life. That sounds weird, and even stranger to type, but it’s true. I KNOW that I am in the center of God’s plan for me, and I KNOW that He is with me. His promises are true for me as much as they are true for someone else. Even with the pain. How can that be? God’s grace. Simple as that. There really is no other adequate explanation. His grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:8). That’s what the Bible says and so I am going to believe it. I have to, it’s the only way that I can keep going.
I guess the hardest part of being in the fish tank is knowing that people are watching. My enemy wants me to hide and live out this suffering in secret. He lives in darkness and wants me to be there too. He doesn’t want anything exposed. Living so all can see makes one vulnerable, exposed and naked. Yes, naked. It’s as if I’m in the Garden again. But do you know what? I am NOT ashamed. This affliction is from Him, so I will live it out for all to see. I do not have to cover the work of God. He wants it out in the daylight because He wants man to see it and to praise Him (Matthew 5:16) for what He is doing in my life. This is what I want for my life.
I want all the honor and glory to go to Him.
One thing that I have found in being so vulnerable is that it’s hard to be so exposed. I get weary and tired. Keeping a smile on is hard day in and day out. We have a dog, Casey, who showed up on our property last August. She came with 3 (3 mind you) broken legs. The 2 back, and the upper left. She is the happiest dog on the property. She loves life!!!! She has the best expressions. And she loves to give you love. And she wants to please. I have learned a lot by watching her. I can have a smile on. Yes, it’s gonna hurt. Yes, I may not be happy at the moment, but I have a joy that can never be taken away – that’s Jesus (Yes, another topic for another post).
But – in all this I have something that only God can offer. I can hide myself in Him. He is my cleft in the Rock. He offers me a refuge away from the stares, advice and the unknown. He is my hiding place, and a strong tower. When I run to Him I am safe. I may have a life that is out in the open for all to see, yet God hides me in the shelter of His wing. Nothing can get at me that does not go through His loving hand. Nothing. That’s why He is Sovereign. He keeps me safe in the palm of His hand and He sings a lullaby over me. He whispers His love song to me. He only has eyes for me. I am the love of His life. I have open access to Him, and I can talk, and talk and talk with Him. He longs for me to just sit and chat. And my absolute favorite place to be is in His lap. Because it’s there that I can stroke His face, tell Him of my love and just worship and adore Him.
So, if I’m in a fishbowl, it’s ok. My God is with me. He’s got the yoke on, He’s leading me and He is taking me to the green pastures. My eyes are on Him. I can’t see the eyes of others because I only have eyes for one - His Name is Jesus.
Addendum: I talked about this with my daughters before I posted it and they had some interesting comments. Rebekah told me that we should remember the verse -
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1
So, in other words, bring on the fish bowl and the observers. I am following Christ as best as I know how.
I think I will explore this more in the next post, so stay tuned.