Even though we're only reading chapter 16 tonight, our 21 day fasting portion is drawing to a close. I really didn't think that giving up Facebook would be easy, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, about a week into it, I considered giving up something else too.
My biggest surprise was how often I thought about updating my status. I didn't realize how self-centered I am, and how much I crave other's interactions. I like to try to be witty, I'd like to say that it is for the pleasure of others, but I fear that it is more for self-gratification. I like to post updates about my busy days so that others will say "I don't know how you do it!"I like to post frustrations with my day so others will feel sorry for me, or share their horror stories to make me feel better.
There were a few things that I missed (and will be checking on shortly!) My friend Michelle is pregnant with twins. The first day of my fast she posted the sono video where they found out they were boys. A dear friend passed away and I need to add my memorials to his "wall". I probably have a friend request or two, and I have a couple of people that I've met who I'd like to look up.
Ironically, my church has a new ministry position as a "Facebook Greeter", several friends have asked if I'll go for that! Is it sacrilegious to end my FB fast with becoming a FB minister? LOL
The purpose of a fast (as I understand it) is to sacrifice something that is important to you and replace that time or desire with God. In my non-FB time, I've prayed more, listened to more worship/Christian music, volunteered with Women of Faith, reached out to friends in more traditional ways like phone and text (is that traditional? I don't know). I've spent time with my family reading the Bible and discussing. I've blogged about our journey (which I pray will be transparent enough to encourage others.)
Another wonderful thing happened. My joy was restored. I don't think that this is entirely due to the FB fast. I think it has been a long time coming, it happened to culminate at this time. Perhaps it is because I was more in tune with God and less concerned about myself. I was really taken by surprise at this return.
My joy departed on November 2, 2006. That's the night that our 3 month old baby stopped breathing, then spent 3 days in the hospital before he died. My joy died with him. I thought I would never smile or laugh again. I wondered if I could ever love again with the same kind of abandon.
I've been reading The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical
and Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
. I really have enjoyed each of them and have shared many passages with my husband. I found myself with my heart racing and unable to wait until the next page. I thought at first that it was just the joy of these author's stories and the passion that they stirred within me. Then the fast heart beat and anticipation for other things began to surprise me. I finally realized, as I was standing at the Women of Faith Volunteer check in, that I was joyful! I didn't know how it snuck up on me. I was excited, not for my experience, but for what God would do in the lives of the women around me. I was praying selflessly that God would use me, that I would be a small part of a wonderful get-away and refreshing for those who would be coming in.
Although there were many moments that I felt an internal conflict with the "packaged and prepared" worship being so polished and perfect, or the consumerism mentality (I was working the sales table. I actually heard one woman say "I'm coveting this Bible. I don't need another Bible but it's purple!") - I still did not have critical spirit. I was able to overlook much of what happened because the Spirit of God was so powerful during the speakers. Women were moved to tears and worship and many accepted Christ for the first time. I saw teenagers convulsing with painful tears during Nicole Johnson's
drama on abortion. I saw women embrace each other, wiping tears from their eyes. I know God moved in that place, perhaps in spite of the commercial polish?
I am so thankful for the return of Joy. I've missed it terribly. This is just one of the "bones" that was crushed in our loss. As I sat in service this morning I reflected on another blog post I wrote nearly 2 years ago. I likened our loss to being hit by a train. Not exactly a "get back on the horse" experience! God revealed to me that just as physical therapy takes time, so does restoration of all things broken. Trust, Hope, Joy, Peace - all were shattered in a few moments time. All will be restored in HIS time. The greatest thing is that when He restores, he restores to perfect. Not the imperfect image we had before that we thought was so great.
My joy before came from a shallow place, an elementary understanding of God's will, grace and timing. It wasn't wrong (necessarily), it was just imperfect. In James chapter 1
we are told to:
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing
. (emphasis mine). I've always loved this verse. Isn't funny how we love something and don't understand it? It's easy to tell someone else to "count it all joy
", it's much harder (impossible-seeming sometimes!) to live it when your world has been shattered. I used to sing that praise and worship song "Blessed Be The Name
". I would sing it so passionately in the car, loving that bridge "You give and take away, you give and take away. My heart will choose to say, blessed be the name." The emphasis (in my mind) was on the "give". I was so thankful for all I'd been given. I really was. I thought I was holding loosely the gifts God had bestowed. When a precious gift is "torn from your life" (as in the Natalie Grant song "Held")
it is much more difficult to accept the "take away" portion.
When my dear friend Laura Belt passed away, this song was played at her funeral. It was the day after my grandmother passed away and I was pregnant with Ian. Needless to say, I was a mess! The song hit me so hard that day. I had no idea that 9 months later it would make the playlist for the first funeral I had ever planned. Even to this day, when we sing it at church, I want to shout out "listen! do you know what you're singing? do you know the commitment you are expressing" I want to share the back story, Job's story, my story.
So it is with the verses in James. Do we understand? I now have a glimpse into "why" we are to "count it all joy". It doesn't say (or mean) that all things are joyful. It's an accounting term. It means that trials don't go into the "deficit" column. They are "additions" to our lives. They are an asset to us. We are to see them for the good they will bring, for the good that God will work (as in "He works all things together for the good of them who love God and are called according to His purpose.").
So, my friends, this long and rambling post is coming to an end (did I hear an "Amen" somewhere? LOL)
I hope that as you've read you are encouraged to hang onto Jesus Christ, His Father God and the Holy Spirit who comforts us and teaches us all things.