Friday, June 15, 2012

Much love from...

 This week, in doing the ladies' Bible study, This Is My Story, I found that my middle name, Elizabeth, means "promise of God" or "oath of God". This brought tears to my eyes.  Why? Because my favorite verse for the last 30 years has been Romans 4:20-21. The verse is about Abraham and it says, "Yet with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able to perform."    I have memorized that verse and said it so often that there have actually  been a few  times  when, upon waking, I would realize that the verse was running through my mind as I transitioned from sleep to full consciousness. When I get really stressed, it  is usually the first thing that rolls  through my mind, playing  like a tape and sometimes when I start to say another verse, before I realize it, I'm starting to say the Romans verse instead. I can even remember when I first tried to learn the verse - for some reason it wouldn't stick and I can vividly recall standing in a  warehouse-like grocery store, waiting on someone, trying to learn parts of  the verse unsuccessfully in order to pass the time and then  finally giving it up, thinking, "I've been at this for a week; For some reason, I just can't learn this verse; it's like I've got Teflon brain or something."  Yet by God's grace, the verse obviously finally did "stick" and has stayed with me through thick and thin throughout my life.
     When I came into a relationship with the living God, I was only 8 years old and knew next to nothing besides John 3:16.  Certainly I didn't know the meaning of my middle name nor did I know Romans 4:20-21.  I probably didn't even know who Abraham was.    I just knew  that the world was a scary place (my home was a scary place) and that I needed Jesus.  After I told my mother that I believed in Jesus as the Son of God, I went outside to play and ended up swinging from the "monkey bars" in my backyard.  I imagined alligators were snapping at my heels (unusual in that these alligators lived in dirt and grass on Maple Street in North Little Rock.. ha!). As I reached out and grabbed one metal bar after another I was very  careful not to let my grip slip because I didn't want  the horrible, imaginary creatures below to get me!  I was, I guess, in my own mind, a skinny, female precursor to Indiana Jones!
      On the Sunday that I entered into a relationship with Jesus, this play acting took on  a spiritual meaning in  my unformed, childish  mind.  I remember thinking that the  "alligators" were the bad things in life that could happen to me but it was okay because the monkey bars were like God's hands - I could grab onto Him and He would keep me safe no matter what.  And He had a lot of "keeping safe" to do in my case!  Even at school, I seemed to invite rejection and occasionally, worse, a legacy from my home experiences  where I was loved, no question. But where love seemed ineffective against everyday realities and abuse translated into rejection. Basically I grew up feeling inadequate and without knowing it, I carried an invisible sign saying, "Reject me" throughout my public school years.  Thankfully, that changed when I hit college, formed deep  friendships, found my "niche"  and really began my walk with Christ.
     Today, it hit me like a ton of bricks that God gave me my middle name - how else could it be that Elizabeth would refer to God's promises and my life verse, for the past three decades, would be about the promises of God?  In fact, my whole adult life has been held together by His word, glued together by promises given to me at critical times.  When my sister had a total breakdown and gradually descended into paranoia that was to be the hallmark of her whole  adult life.  When extended family members went through painful things. When we were cut off from loved ones due to divorce.  When I needed to know whether to stay in teaching or not.  When I needed to know for sure if it was His will for me to marry. When we were trying to decide whether to start a family or not. When my mom's health was declining.  When we lived next door to a violent, drug-addicted family for years and needed His protection, His guidance. Even  as recently as Nov. 2010, when I wrestled with whether I should retire or not, He gave me the right promise at the right time. (Joshua 1:9)  At each juncture, when I had to let go of one "monkey bar" in order to grab onto the next, He always had a promise  ready  - a timely word -  waiting for me, guiding me.  Sometimes the fulfillment of those promises would come relatively quickly; others  were in the making for years.  Without them, I simply wouldn't have stayed the course; I would have made the wrong choices and my loved ones would have witnessed  the shipwreck of my faith if not my life. I'm telling you straight - this is the way it would have been. I'm just not a female version of Indiana Jones and there have been a lot of alligators in my life!
     With those promises, however,  He has strengthened my faith and kept me on course.  And I hope He has also received some glory for all the gracious things He has done for me. If you know me personally, you know I'm an accident waiting to happen.  You can tell what I had for lunch by looking at my shirt.  You've heard me complain, numerous times. You've seen me be petty, lazy and selfish.  That's me.
     Today it hit me:  by God's grace,  that's not all of me.
     I am also, truly,  Elizabeth.  Someone who has, by God's grace, been able  to hang onto the monkey bars of God's promises:) and in the process has   grown from faith to faith.
     Today, I really  hope He receives  glory for all that He has done for me.  He's spent a lot of years walking me through one mine field/promise field after another.
     Today, although it may sound funny,  I would like for this blog to be my thank-you note to Him, my Heavenly Abba.
     And, although this is not my normal signature, today I would like to sign it:

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