Vacation, Take I

Gosh, I haven’t been around here in quite a while. Things are crazy, and I’m using lots of my writing time to finish the second first draft of the novel and, yeah, it’s been a little nuts. But I DID want to say a few things about that vacation I came back from a couple of weeks ago. This might have to come off in multiple parts.

Last semester sucked. I don’t think I can say it any more clearly than that. It was one of the most awful experiences of my life and I’m not exaggerating (there have been other awful experiences, but this one’s definitely on the list). Don’t get me wrong–I love the people that I work with, and I think the program I’m helping to run is one that God loves and that is important in his kingdom. But it was handed to me in a shambles, along with a lot of expectations because (and here’s the catch) it didn’t LOOK like things were in a shambles until you gave it a significant examination beyond the surface. It’s always difficult to rearrange expectations, and that was definitely the case here. So I spent a semester trying to meet these high expectations while I had very little to work with. On top of that, my supervisor was on sabbatical and I found out that my very presence in the position I’m in is threatening to at least one person. Yeah, it sucked.

The thing is, it took a vacation for me to realize just how deeply the semester had cut me. I don’t know if I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, or if I just couldn’t bear the full weight of the hurt while I was still having to deal with it (though I suspect a combination of both), but stepping outside helped me feel. So I woke up at 6AM the second morning of my vacation crying. I’d dreamt about work and it wasn’t anything good. It took me a lot of tears to realize I was grieving, not so much because I’d lost things but because I’d hurt so much and carried so much so far and it was hard. Actually, the word that keeps coming to mind is “trauma.” I hesitate to use it because it seems so strong, but maybe it’s right. Last semester did trauma to my soul. I’ll recover, with some rest and some weeks that don’t involve crises, but it’s traumatic, I suppose in a way akin to the trauma done to a body if, out of the blue, it’s given a heavy load and told to walk up a steep hill for four months.

So a big part of my vacation was grief. I asked God so many times why he left me here, why he dumped me into this place and then didn’t change anything so that it didn’t hurt me. I asked him if this job was all I meant to him, if walking in this small place was all I’d ever get to do for him. I asked him if it bothered him that it had hurt me, that his people had hurt me, and no one did anything about it. I asked, and he answered. God said, “You think I left you there? You think I abandoned you someplace small and unimportant? I PUT you there. I CHOSE YOU to walk into that very place.”

I admit my first response came out somewhere along the lines of, “Gee, thanks, God, but if that’s what a gift looks like, could you refrain in the future?” but then, in a still, small moment, I could see. The place I work means a lot to God. And my particular program is close to his heart, too. He wanted the program to live, to survive the disintegrating structure, and so he brought me and the people I worked with last semester so it would. I also saw how heavily a program like ours could come under spiritual attack. We’re caring for the hearts of people who will go on to do ministry, and teaching them to watch and care for their own hearts. How important it must be to Satan to keep that from happening, and how much more attack that must bring on us!

When I saw all of this, I started to realize how so many of the things that went wrong last semester hit me right where I’m weakest. The DID do trauma, because they tore at old wounds, at questions I’d put away because I never found any answers, at deep, dark doubts I’ve carried around for years. And I truly believe that they were DESIGNED that way. It wasn’t just a hard semester. It wasn’t just a program that hadn’t been run well, and it wasn’t just a person before me who struggled with his job. It was a slow, steady peeling away at a program that has the potential to wreak some serious havoc in Satan’s future plans.

So my next question was, “What do we do now? How do we keep that from happening again? Because, seriously, God, I don’t think I can stand another semester like the last one.” And that was the second part of my vacation. And, wow. You know, don’t ask God any questions that you don’t really, really want answered. Because he has started to answer, and it’s rocking my world.

First of all, he said, “Pray. Pray over everything. Pray over your office and yourself and your co-workers and your events and your faculty, but most of all, pray over your students. Pray over their hearts and minds and spirits. And pray with others, your co-workers in particular. Let them share the burden of covering this project in prayer.”

And then he asked me, “Do I love you? Because if I love you, then it doesn’t matter what the expectations are. It doesn’t matter what people want and what they think. I know what you can do and what you can’t, when something is part of your job and when it isn’t, what you can and cannot handle. If I love you, and you walk and work and speak in that love, can you throw all the rest of that away?” And he asked, “What if my love is different than how you learned it was? What if there aren’t any expectations or any responsibilities, but instead a life lived in love? What if I’m a different God than the one you’ve worshiped all your life?”

I can’t answer those questions yet, not really. I can say words, but I can’t answer them with my life. And yet, things are changing. The expectations I encounter at work feel more like opportunities. They seem more like chances to learn rather than things I’m somehow supposed to already know through absorption. The messages I receive that reek of power-grabbing and control seem almost funny because they’re totally unnecessary. I’m learning how to do mental judo throws and turn their power against itself. And I’m learning great and wonderful things about God.

*********

I feel like I need to offer a couple of caveats here at the end, or else I either see my comments section exploding or people praying, trueheartedly but misguidedly, for the wellbeing of my soul. First of all, I’m not hearing voices. Where I’ve put quotations and noted “God said,” I’m phrasing the things that I heard and thought and read in books. While I believe God guided and directed those times tenderly and lovingly, and while I believe he can speak audibly if he so desires, he did not to me. It’s creative license, and I think it makes God smile.

Secondly, I don’t want to single out my workplace as under more or less spiritual attack than other places, or make it sound more important to God than other ministries. I do think Satan found some footholds here that might not be available other places, and he worked with what he found. Most people should probably be praying over themselves, their co-workers, and their workplace, though we don’t often think about it.

Finally, I’m not worshiping another God. I don’t think there are any others. I do think that I’ve had wrong conceptualizations of God and ideas that have hurt me and my relationship with him, and these are what he’s rooting out. In some ways, he LOOKS totally different than I’ve seen him before, but he’s the same, yesterday, today, forever.

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22 Comments

Filed under My Days

22 responses to “Vacation, Take I

  1. Your last caveat made me laugh because it’s exactly that kind of thing–well, maybe in the opposite way–that I am trying to explain in the article I am editing (still). In that case, it was that Calvin really and truly thought that those misconceptions of God meant that people were worshiping idols, and that pictures were a prime way of picking up those misconceptions. It strikes me as such a fearful way of living, as though God was not capable and loving enough to help us see those mis-sightings of him.
    I am *so* glad you had this vacation so you could process these things. I hope and pray that you will both be and feel much more free this semester.

  2. WOW. This post rocked on so many levels.

    I am blown away by everything you shared here. Everything. The parts about the trauma, and the parts about the revelations of God’s part in placing you there. The parts about asking questions, and the parts about God’s response to begin by praying. The parts about the mental judo taking place every day, now that you’ve got some perspectives to bring to the table to counter them.

    All the caveats at the end blew me away, too. I got what you meant, but I love the way your mind works, that it would anticipate questions like these coming up and seek to tell the truth ahead of time, just in case.

    You’re so lovely. Did you know that?

    Man, I hate knowing your soul experienced trauma this past four months. I. HATE. THAT. I want to do actual judo against the forces bringing that onslaught against you.

    But I’m thankful like crazy that God showed up in all those questions over your vacation, and that he’s guiding you still. It feels like a deepening.

    I love you.

    Love,
    Christianne

    PS: I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to talking in real time with you about these things, of getting to see the light in your eyes and of getting to wrap my arms around you in a big, gigantic hug. The real-time thing . . . yeah, that’s gonna rock.

  3. Okay, the two things that struck me:
    – you’re struggling with working in a small place, maybe feeling insignificant to God’s ministry. Oh, I hear you! I feel this! I often wonder, why don’t you want to use me, God? What’s wrong with me? In fact, instead of making a New Year’s resolution this year (though I rarely make those anyway), I prayed that I would be insignificant. I know, backwards, right? For me, that’s what I need to do. Every day. (Of course I’m not saying this is for you at all!) For me, the only way to get free of feeling insignificant is to be insignificant. I realized that mixed with these good motivations to serve God and work for his kingdom snuck in these bad motivations, like people looking to me (rather than through me to God).
    – you said something to the affect, what if God’s different than you worshipped all this time? I suspect we’ll always be relearning God. He’s bigger than I can ever imagine. Sometimes I have misconceptions. Sometimes I limit him to one piece of who he is, thinking that’s all he is. It’s hard, not knowing all of him.
    These things hit me because I’ve been (and am) there. You’re not alone.

  4. Tammy

    Sarah
    There is SO MUCH wisdom in this blog. I can tell by the tone of your words that you heard the voice of God. Does that sound kooky? Well, even if it does, i hear what you are saying. You can come away from some things that people say and you think to yourself, “that person has been with God.”

    You said that God spoke to you about looking and being different than you have imagined that He is. That is so powerful. God spoke that to me a few months ago. (when i was on one of my mountain top experiences.) I am not so much on that high anymore.

    It seems to me, (maybe i am the only hard-headed one) that the lessons God teaches me so easily slip through my fingers. I find myself mad at Him again, accusing Him again. So your statement was a gentle reminder to let God off the hook a little.

    It is a wonderful thing to me to hear the willingness in your voice to be pliable in the hands of God. That openness to Him despite your own pain. One of the most powerful definitions of love that i have ever heard is this: “I can learn to see others through God’s eyes rather than through my pain.” I wish i said that but i got it from a book called “Voices of Hope.” It is a book of daily meditations put together by people who survived abuse.

    Also, i wanted to throw something out there to ya. This may not apply to your situation but your blog makes me think of this. Last year i worked with this lady, she was hateful, spiteful and backbiting. We worked together she was the weekday house manager and I was the weekend manager. For work to go smoothly it was pretty vital that we get along.

    BUT WE DID NOT. This woman channeled Satan on an hourly basis, and that was when she was in a good mood. I am not joking, I examined myself a lot during this time. And this situation was at least 65% her fault. The other 45% was my lack of tolerance and impatience with her, which was my fault. That sounds self-righteous i know. But here is the deal………… this woman managed to piss everybody in that house off (staff and clients.) My staff would come to me and say, “Tammy why are you putting up with this woman? Can’t you see what she is doing to you?”

    Was i blind? Nope! I knew exactly what she was doing. Also during this time i had a dream. this person was in my dream and she was practicing some kind of witchcraft or voodoo. Yes, i know how weird that sounds but this was just a dream. But i remember before i woke up saying in the dream, “oh, i understand this now, this is not this woman, this is demonic.”

    Still that situation was hard. I endured, I endured, i prayed, and one day i had just had it, and i said “God, i am sick and tired of praying for mercy on this woman, i want you to judge this situation NOW! I was ready to call fire down from Heaven. And i am not joking.

    Not long after that prayer i plopped down on the couch exhausted from bringing this home with me. And when i got quiet God spoke to me and this is what He said………”Tammy if you managed to irritate and anger everyone around you and you were too blind to see that people hated you, would you want someone who “sees” you to ask me to judge you, or would you want them to pray i have mercy on you?”

    That situation changed my life. I will never forget those words God spoke to me. Did I go through that trial without mummering and cursing under my breath? No i did not. I still wanted to choke her and her demon. But i was less angry, and a little more understanding everyday.

    Oh Lord, i wish patience grew on trees.
    Well Sarah i have written you a mini-novel. So there ya have it. Love ya This post really made me think.

  5. Tammy

    Oh Sarah i forgot to mention that lady doesn’t work for the agency anymore. Honestly i think prayer does several things it brings blessing upon you when you pray for mercy, but it also removes people when they continue to be a hindrance to God’s purpose. That was true in my case.

    Plus that lady went on to fulfill her destiny……she has moved to Israel waiting to set on the throne at the right hand of Satan when the anti-christ arises. Guess all that channeling paid off.

  6. Stef’nie (you like that…I think it looks cool)–that’s funny! Me and John Calvin…is not something I ever thought I’d say!

    Christianne–it buoys (is that how you spell that?) my heart that you hate it. Ok, that sounds a little strange, but it does. It makes me feel like I’m not alone, and I’ve felt so alone this semester.

    I hear you on the deepening. I definitely feel like that’s where God’s inviting me. At the same time, just writing this yesterday brought a lot of the feelings up again, and I found myself pissed off last night and I didn’t know why until I sat down and thought about it. So it changes, all the time, this “how much I can enter the deepening.”

    I want to see you, too. Looking into your eyes will be so GOOD!

    Heather–thanks God-sister. Praying for insignificance, huh? I don’t think I could do that right now…I think I’m too afraid of it. Your courage encourages me, though. It’s so…hard and weird and frustrating and other things…to see what you really think you’re called to do and then see God closing those very doors.

    And you’re right again, that we WILL be relearning God, forever and always. This time feels so BIG, though…bigger than when it’s happened before, I think. Like, going to chess from checkers, or something like that.

    You’re not alone either, for what it’s worth. Love to you.

    Tammy–oh, girl, I love your words…even your novels πŸ˜‰ I know what you mean about God’s lessons slipping through your fingers. It’s like our old ways of relating to him sit so deep inside us that they need as long to change as they did to develop (or it feels that way, sometimes!). I totally know the feeling of having something change inside only to find myself acting the same ways I used to 5 seconds later.

    And your story…wow. I don’t think any of the people I work with here are demonized…just sad, lonely human beings fighting their own fight as best they can. But I hear you…sounds like that woman made you miserable for quite a while. And I love God’s words to you about praying for her…sometimes I wish I didn’t see people as clearly, so I could just be purely angry at them and not have compassion, even though I know the compassion is a gift from God. For what it’s worth, I’m so glad she’s gone and you’re not.

    Love you all!

  7. Tammy

    Yeah Sarah
    Your situation is really different than mine, just thought i would throw in a little humor. Well, it was not so humorous when she was torturing me. I say that, but after my temper piped down i would laugh about the whole thing. In much disrespect of this person, to my shame. Girl i am dangerous, everything even misery, (mine) begins to be funny after a while. Go figure that out.

  8. Tammy, that was an amazing story. I think you shared a little bit of it with me once, but that conversation you had with God on the couch was new to me. Blew me away. Just like Sarah’s post.

    I’m surrounded by so many amazing gems, including the two of you. Love it!

  9. For the record, when you said you heard God’s voice I did not think you were nuts, creative license or not. He speaks through everything, we just have to be in tune to his channel, and that takes time and energy.

    You share so much of your angst here and it is awesome. I get to see some of Sarah Grace at her gut level, and then see her start to rebuild. It is an awesome thing, and something I do not take or tread on lightly.

    God is so great at taking our pre conceived notions and worries and things that we think are driving us in the wrong direction and using them break us down to our core, then rebuild us one brick at a time, just as Nehimiah did in the O.T. to the walls of Jerusalem.

    Be at peace dear friend. Please know that We love you, respect the place that you are in and the bravery it took to get here, and in time look forward to hearing more about what God is doing in you. My guess is it is a good work, a work to HIS glory.

  10. hi sarah,

    i’ll just say this: there’s a picture i just posted of some wild yellow flowers growing up out of huge boulders (not a very hospitable environment), and when i was snapping that picture i was thinking to myself, “this is sarah.” bless you sister. i can’t wait to see where God is taking you.

  11. Tammy–Oh, I loved your story…just wanted to make sure that anyone from work who reads this knows that I wasn’t thinking along those lines πŸ˜‰ And I love how God speaks to you!

    Carl–wow…my soul, like the walls of Jerusalem. How encouraging that is! Awesome words, friend.

    Terri–Thanks for the benediction, and the picture. wow…

  12. Tammy

    Sarah,
    Hey no worries, i kinda thought you were clearing the air there. Anyway, more about my friend, she was not a Christian, well hmmm i don’t know, she said she was so who am i to throw a stone?

    Although the part about her channeling Satan had me a little stumped, until i realized that Satan was channeling her. Satan thought to himself, “damn this woman has possessed me, i need deliverance. I’mma go to a pentecostal church and some oil slapped on my head.”

  13. hi girl. WOW.

    WOW.

    i wish i had something more profound or insightful, but that’s all i’ve got for you. at the most basic level what you talk about is so simple, but it’s HUGE too.

    i love how you were given new sight into your workplace and into your place in it.

    it means something to me in this place, to see you walking, to see Christ claiming victories in & through you.

    i celebrate with you!!

  14. Funny thing about vacations. I think I probably always cry at least once when I take one. (Indeed, I must have cried at least five times while on retreat this past week.)

    But I’m glad you grieved. Grief was just waiting for you to give it space, for all it had to say to you.

  15. linni

    Hi Sweetie,

    Want to say so many things…but just want to talk from my heart….and it is…

    mmmm….closing my eyes and feeling what is coming from there…..

    embrace it all….

    open your heart….

    and embrace it all…

    opening my eyes….:-) your last paragraph made me giggle…where you explain everything and what and who…it’s so funny how people can sometimes misinterpred what we say…

    I felt your post was written from your heart…and mind…and the conversations you were having and hearing…(crazy girl! πŸ™‚

    know that we are always exactly where we are meant to be….

    what did you learn about YOURSELF through all these experiences….

    we will ‘bump’ into people and circumstances that will open us up for the next phase in our lives…if there is things we need to deal with, people and things will come across our journey to help us (even if we don’t like it)….all we have to do is to open our hearts…and be available to listen to what it is God want to teach us….

    His time is not our time…His time is perfecto! (even if we don’t think so!)

    He just knows…and in that is the comfort… and in the meantime we just have to live this life we were blessed with as best we can…

    I’m embracing all of you! your heart! your soul! your ‘battered heart’…and jumping with joy because your joyfulness is still there…and YOU are magnificant!

    Big hug to you… and honoring all you said right here!

    Sometimes God’s humor is not that funny! heehee! xx

  16. Tammy–ok, that was funny. d*%# funny.

    Kirsten–yeah, I know. This post took me forever to write, oddly enough. There’s so much, and the words didn’t come and didn’t come and then they did. Thanks for the party.

    LL–isn’t grief a funny mistress? We all do serve her, whether we choose to or not…she’ll give us all the space in the world, though. And her tears are good…though I think it’s still strange to Dave that, when I relax, I often start it out by crying.

    Linni–wow…I feel so much love from your comment…and the last part is SO true…God’s sense of humor is so different from mine.

    So…what did I learn about myself? I’ve learned so much on this job…that I can have an indomitable will, that implied criticism gets under my skin more than the direct kind, that I can handle and do and be more than I thought I could, that my intuition is right enough of the time that I should just trust it even if it doesn’t make sense, that I hold within me competing definitions of life and happiness and that conflict hurts, that I do not have to interpret conflict (despite how it feels!) as implied criticism, that I really don’t feel a need to panic about things outside of my control…and so much more!!! Thanks, Linni, for asking that question…there’s so much there!

  17. Tammy

    “Finally, I’m not worshiping another God. In some ways, he LOOKS totally different than I’ve seen him before.”

    I had to pop back over here to say something to you, now Sarah when God starts looking like a Buddha statue call me………you have gone over to the dark side of the force.

    I am just foolin with ya. Isn’t it amazing what taking words out of their context can do?

    Imma bout to start up a snake handling cult, (cough) i mean church. I was wondering if you would consider handling the financial part. I don’t have the tenacity to con money out of deceived people, but i don’t have a problem hiring someone who can.

    You can kiss that BMW HELLO.

  18. Tammy, if they ever offer you drugs, DON’T TAKE THEM. You’re perfectly wonderful as you are. There is literally no one else who regularly makes me want to roll on the floor with the giggles. I know you’re walking through some dark times, but I see your heart in comments like this one, and I LOVE IT.

    And he doesn’t look like Buddha…nor like Shiva, either, thank goodness (Shiva scares me).

    Also, I’ve actually decided I’d like a Ferrari. Not because I really like the cars, because mostly I couldn’t care less, but because they have horses on their logo. Yup…that’s how I’ll spend my millions.

    So, wait…you’re going to PAY me to con money out of people? Does that mean I get paid twice?

  19. Tammy

    Note to self: never hire a con-artist to handle your financial affairs.
    Note to self part two: In the event of a suicide attempt in the future, find less agonizing ways to die than poisonous snake handling.

    Too late Sarah, i am already a pot head where do you think all of this foolishness comes from? There is just a little too much weed in my garden. πŸ™‚

    I am going to have to ditch selling drugs and come up with another money making scam i keep smoking all the profits.

  20. Hmm…you should have been on my vacation. I didn’t mention this in either of my posts on it, but Dave and I found pot growing in the woods in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was really, really sad pot (since it’s not supposed to grow at all at that altitude) but it was pot nonetheless. You could have had your own, fresh joint.

  21. linni

    have you read “women who run with the wolves”?

    you should! xx

  22. Nope, never even heard of it. I’ll look into it. Thanks!

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