Remember in school when certain teachers would let you retake tests you did poorly on? Sometimes they'd let you redo the whole thing, sometimes just the portions you really messed up. Then they'd average in the new score with the old score so you could end up with a higher grade. Remember that?
Well, yesterday I felt like I needed a retake. This post was supposed to be titled "Not Complete Without the Heat". It was going to be a lovely little thing about how the process of baking bread has reminded me of the value of heat in our lives.
You know -- just like the dough has to spend time in a hot oven in order to become yummy, edible bread, so we sometimes have to face the heat of trials and suffering in order to become complete.
We are told in Scripture to expect the heat (I John 3:13 says "Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you." and 1 Peter 4:12 says "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.")
And we are told to appreciate the value of what the heat produces (Job 23:10 says "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.")
I was going to share Jeremiah 17:7-8 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."
And then I was going to talk about trusting in the Lord and not being anxious, or fearing when the heat comes.
But before I could write up this post, I found myself failing the test on this very issue.
Some things have recently changed in our finances, leaving us paying a few hundred dollars a month more for a few select things. This was certainly irritating, but not completely devastating. I mean, "trust the Lord", right? Don't be anxious. I've seen God provide time and again when unexpected bills have come our way.
But yesterday, when I sat down to organize our finances, I opened a bill that was way beyond unexpected in my book. This bill was just under $1000, and was going to be a monthly expense, not just a one-time thing.
So, I freaked out! I immediately went into super-stressed reaction mode. I'm not really sure what happened to "not fear[ing] when heat comes." I was panicked. Frantic statements were made to my husband. Unkind things were said about those sending the bill. I had lost all joy and didn't even stop to pray.
After a few minutes Jon took over the bill drama and related phone calls and I began pouring all my frustration into five loads of laundry and a sink full of dirty dishes. (That's really the only positive point in this part of the story...when I'm angry or irritated I seem to get alot of good cleaning done!)
While I was cleaning I listened to a sermon on (drumroll please!) suffering. It "just happened" to be the next sermon in a series I'm listening to. And by the end of the hour, I felt encouraged. I was reminded of God's Sovereignty and that suffering and hardship are tools to help us mature in our faith and grow closer to the Lord.
And finally I was thinking rightly -- Biblically. I told the Lord that I trusted Him and I knew He would take care of our finances. I began thinking through things we could cut from our lives to free up the money. I told the Lord I was willing to do whatever drastic thing He wanted us to do in this situation.
About an hour later I got a call from Jon. False alarm. It was all a mistake. We were not responsible for this bill.
Ok. Wow. Isn't it amazing how our emotions can swing from one extreme to another in such a short time? So I sat there, and I thanked the Lord for taking care of it, and I realized how crazy I was for getting so worked up.
And maybe, if I'm honest, "crazy" isn't really the right term. Maybe "lacking in faith" or "sinful" more accurately hits the nail on the head. Guess what verse comes right after that inspiring passage in Jeremiah 17:7-8? Verse 9 hit me with "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"
I'm reminded that while God has brought me so very far, I still have lots farther to go. I want to trust in the Lord. I want to bear fruit regardless of what kind of drought is happening around me. But sometimes I find myself failing the test, desperately wanting a retake (or even wishing we could just completely drop that lowest score!).
But God is so gracious. He is not keeping score. When we fail or fall, He remains constant. He remains loving. He is willing to forgive. And He uses even the failures to teach us and train us. To mold us and shape us into His image. He takes the mess and makes it a miracle.
"Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise." Jeremiah 17:14