Monday, August 20, 2012

This might be the most important thing I’ve ever written

If you recall, June was a hard month.

I don’t need to rehash it because I know many of you had (have) hard months too:
Your spouse isn’t sure if he/she wants to stay married. The past is painful. The present hard. The future unknown. The counseling is helping some…but every day is a fight to remain positive and stay the course to the commitment made years ago.

You’re loved one is battling an illness. The illness is winning and they’ve chosen to stop treatment. They’re letting go…it’s freeing. It’s devastating. It’s difficult to envision life without them. You grieve a little more each day.

Your career continues to be an uphill climb. Just when you think you’re getting a grasp on your finances, and not living paycheck to paycheck, you’re outta work for a week and you get behind on bills again. You work more and get paid less and all for….what?

We all have our hard things and that’s why what I’m about to tell you is so important.

What I’m about to explain offers peace and freedom and joy to replace the hurt and frustration and confusion that comes with hard times and tough situations.

On June 2nd I started the Daniel Fast. This is a 21-day fast according to a few Biblical passages in Daniel about abstaining from meat, dairy, sugar and processed foods for a period of 21 days in order to seek the Lord in a deeper, more focused way.

June 2 is the day Ryan’s journey with his new career came to an unexpected halt.
Through my tears and frustration I spoke with my brother, and he told me he didn’t think it was a coincidence that the same day I started fasting, we received this news. He texted me on day 2 of my fast that he was fasting for Ryan and I and to continue to stay the course.

I dislike fasting. I mean really, who doesn’t? It’s abstaining from food. And I really really really love food. I bake and cook and look up recipes and swap recipes and find ways to make recipes healthier for my family. And sometimes I throw healthy out the window and I make really good homemade brownies that we eat by the spoonful (mostly me but I share a bite or two with the other humans living in my home).
Fasting forces me to reject everything in me that my flesh cries out for: eating food when my stomach says it is time to eat.

In the midst of our heartache in June when I wanted to comfort myself with sweets or whatever homemade goodness I could create out of my kitchen, I chose to eat food within the Daniel Fast guidelines. And on day 4 of my fast we got more news that the other employment option Ryan had been pursuing, one that seemed so promising, was no longer available.

It seemed the longer I fasted the more bad news we received. But fasting requires such a Spirit-centered mind and such God-dependence, that looking back now, I believe I was exactly where I needed to be during such a time.
As I wrote previously, it was emotionally draining walking through those weeks. When people asked how we were doing and tried to encourage us, it led to awkward, hard and frustrating conversations.

It wasn’t just that Ryan still didn’t have a job. It’s that what he had poured his heart and soul into for two months, what had cost us more than $1,000, had unexpectedly ended. We started looking at our future differently because he was going to be self-employed and we talked to family members who are also self-employed. We interviewed daycares and preschools and chose to enroll the kids in a Montessori school.

And two months later this future we were working toward abruptly ended. And two years of unemployment snuck up and slapped us in the face again.

So when we told people there were few words to truly explain the depth of pain associated with what happened. Yet the expectation that they would respond appropriately was there.

And, of course, no one met my expectations. Because how could they….unless they had walked our exact road and felt my exact feelings and knew exactly what I was experiencing.

The second week of my fast, during my lunch hour, I left the office and walked outside. I sat on a bench at the park across the street and lamented to the Lord.

“No one understands.”

“I understand.”
“It hurts when I’m relying on someone to comfort me or encourage me and all they really do is let me down because they say the wrong thing.”

“I understand.”

“I know I shouldn’t have expectations, but I do.”

“I understand. You need to release everyone else from your expectations Stacy. They can’t understand. They are not walking your journey. Only you are. Even those who care deeply about you cannot truly understand.”

“I know. But that's so hard to do.”

“Think about your friend D. You love her so much. You have cared well for her these past 8 months as she has been walking a new road and journeying through a diagnosis she never expected. But even you can’t completely understand. Not really. Because you’re not in her situation and you have never journeyed through what she’s facing.”

“I try to understand.”

“I know you do. And so does she. Just like others in your life. They try to understand, but they don’t always. You’ve got to release them from that expectation. Expecting them to understand only leads to blame and hurt and frustration and impatience and discouragement. It’s not their job and it's not your job to understand everyone’s situations. It’s your job to love in spite of not understanding. It’s my job to understand.”

"Letting go of expectations God...that's not an easy thing to do. I don't know how to do that. Yet, it's caused me such pain through my miscarriages, infertility and now unemployment when I have expected others to understand what only you can."

As the sun warmed my face on that sunny June day, God's words spoken to my heart warmed me through and through.

God understands. When the dishwasher and the stove and the hairdryer and steam mop and the docking station and the cars break, God understands. When the 401k is emptied, God understands. When you walk into the WIC office, hating that you need to be there to receive government support, God understands. When depression and discouragement beckon every single day, God understands. When household roles are reversed and arguments are often, God understands. When job advice is frequent and work opportunities are few, God understands. When tempers are hot and job leads are cold, God understands.  

“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.”-Job 12:13

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”-Isaiah 40:28

“But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.”-Jeremiah 10:12
Know this friends: when hard times knock and pain comes and life doesn’t turn out as you expected, the God of the Heavens understands. When friends and parents and spouses and siblings and co-workers and pastors want to understand, it's only God who truly does. Release others from the expectation that they should understand.

In your singleness, in your longing, in your grief, in your weariness, in your confusion, in your trusting, in your waiting: release.



And grab tightly to the freedom that comes with recognizing what only God can do. Releasing expectations replaces hurt and misunderstandings with joy and peace.

God longs to comfort you with His truth, embrace you with His love, show you His grace and overwhelm you with His understanding. 


JellyBelly said...

You do not know how much I needed to read this!!!! Thank you for this beautiful post!

Julie said...

Amazing gift you received during your fast!
I "want" to do this too, but am too weak. My problem is I want that deep relationship with God, without the trials. I feel like I cannot handle another single trial in my life (i.e. fasting).

Thanks for sharing your heart!

Becky said...

This is such a beautiful post; I really needed this message today. I have been struggling with disappointment and discouragement over the lack of understanding regarding some news we shared recently. Thank you.

Mrs. Lovett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeri said...

Sorry I'm having technical difficulties. I was just trying to say how much I loved this. Thank you friend for your honesty and wisdom in making this lesson apply to so many of us.

TaShena said...

I have never been to your blog before, but I thank God for leading me here today. Thank you for your transparency!

silverbeetle said...

An absolutely beautiful post. Wishing you the deep peace and joy only God can give.

Leslie Broussard said...

Once again, you have blessed me greatly, Stacy. I am so thankful that you continue to write publicly, regardless of your circumstances.

Many blessings to you and yours,
Leslie Broussard