Thursday, October 20, 2011

One Breath

I started this entry weeks ago, but couldn't find the words until now.  I knew what I wanted to say but was too overcome with emotion to coherently write it. I sat in front of the computer with hands on the keyboard and tears so full in my eyes that the screen became a blur. My mind raced with how to say what I wanted to say, yet my page remained an antagonistic white glare. I've learned that it's often best to hold my tongue in conflicts or arguments until emotions have passed, and the same seems to ring true for messages delivered with the intent of inspiration. It's not that today finds me without emotion, but it does find me with a deeper trust in God's goodness and sovereignty as He refuses to answer my prayers in the way I would like. The emotions over what I'm about to share still run very deep, yet I somehow seem to have moved further away from the frequently catastrophic effects of them and closer into the arms of a comforting God and Father. The following is how God turned my grief into joy with just one breath.

If you've read my post titled Jasmine Abigail, then you're aware of my desire to have another child, but what you may not be aware of, at least not in intimate detail, is the daily battle I enter into against bitterness and resentment, both of which, by the way, can turn a beautiful life ugly in the blink of an eye.  To fuel the temptation of allowing both states of mind to take root in my spirit is the ever continuous flow of baby and pregnancy announcements that surround me.  It seems everyone I know is either pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or just gave birth.  I see the pictures, I hear the joy, and I feel the miracle of new life - just not a new life to call my own.  That new life always belongs to a different mother. I'm genuinely excited and happy for those who are in the midst of bringing a new child into this world, but I would be lying if I said I reached excitement's end and didn't question "Why not me? Why, God, wont you allow me to also have a second child?"

I recently told someone that the "why's" of God's doings are often less important than the "what's."  In other words, instead of asking God "why" He does or does not do something, the more appropriate question is "'what,' God, do You want to teach me or show me from this?"  If we ask God to tell us "why" we'll drive ourselves and everyone around us crazy because the simple truth is - we can't possibly understand why.  God's ways aren't ours (Isaiah 55:8) and if He even attempted to give us a small glimpse into "why" He does or doesn't do something, it wouldn't make sense to us at all.  Think back to Job's sufferings. If you remember all the pain and suffering Job endured (he lost all of his children, wealth, and health) over what appeared on the surface to be a little bet (though as we know, it was far deeper than some "bet") between God and Satan in the book's prologue, you'll also remember that when God finally answered Job's cries, He never told Job why. He simply responded by letting Job know that Job couldn't possibly understand why.  In the end, God restored to Job what had been lost, but what God told Job and, through His Word, tells us, is that He doesn't owe us an explanation; we, however, do owe Him our trust - even when He denies our requests and remains silent to our prayers.

In recent months, I've seen around me a surge of both death tolls and birth rates. While every family I know seems to be experiencing the loss of a loved one, others seem to be eagerly anticipating the arrival of a new life.  I've been emotionally captivated by both, but while only the births have given way to joy, they, like the deaths, have also generated within me, feelings of sadness and longing - until recently.  I left for a walk a few weeks ago and as I was crossing the street I saw a new mother strolling with her infant child.  Immediately, I smiled and felt joy over the baby's presence, but within a matter of seconds tears began to well up in my eyes as I fought the urge to once again ask God why not me?  I knew if I asked Him I would again be met with silence, so I fought back the tears and kept walking.  Well, on my walks around our neighborhood, there are certain pockets where the smell of jasmine radiates strongly.  I know the exact places and look forward to them before I even get started.  Along with freshly cut grass, jasmine is one of my very favorite smells.  I can't smell it without also smiling.   It's one of the "little things" in life that just makes me happy in a big way.  Every time I smell it I marvel at God's goodness, creativity, and power.  It simply inspires awe within my spirit, and trust me, there's a reason for the detailed explanation of my fondness for jasmine.  So, as I fought the tears that followed my sighting of this child and I continued to walk, I couldn't help but glance over at the baby one more time.  However, at the very moment I turned my head to the left I caught a whiff of jasmine coming from the opposite direction, but "it can't be," I thought to myself. This wasn't one of the pockets along my walk where jasmine grew. I took a deep breath in to test my sense of smell and, in an instant, my entire being was saturated by the very fragrance that brings literal joy to my spirit. I closed my eyes and smiled.  In the instant it took me to take one breath, my pain coincided with joy, my resentment with acceptance, and my turmoil with peace.  My doubt was washed away by trust and I suddenly "got it."

I was so moved by the moment in which I found myself that I didn't want to leave.  I knew God had just caressed my cheek and wiped my tears in a beautifully soft way - and for the first time in months my cup of gratitude overflowed.  How thoughtful of Him to meet me in a moment of pain with the one thing He knew would instantaneously turn my downcast face upward.  As I turned to focus my gaze on the image of something I want but can't have, He redirected my focus to something that literally makes me light up inside. It was the most beautifully crafted moment of emotional collision I've ever had.  Never before have I simultaneously felt, really felt, both pain and joy, resentment and acceptance, doubt and trust; and in that instant I had to choose on which side of the emotional spectrum to keep my focus.  I chose the ones inspired by jasmine.

We are daily given the choice of where to maintain focus.  For me, focusing on a baby that I can't have brings pain and emotional suffering, but focusing on the invigorating smell of jasmine brings a light to my face and a smile to my lips.  Though this may all sound simple or even silly to some, for me it was a moment of clarity and change.  No jasmine could be seen growing from where I stood that day, yet the fragrance of it filled the air around me.  God used something so simple to redirect my focus, and yet the symbolic nature of what took place can't be ignored.  Redirecting our focus takes physical action, not just a mental choice.  I literally had to move my head in one of two directions.  To my left was the image of something I want badly, but don't, and for now, can't have.  To the right, the simple, but fragrant gift from God that I can have every time I breathe in if a plant is nearby. While looking in one direction made my eyes well with tears of pain and hurt, the other caused them to well with tears of joy and gratitude.  It was as if God physically opened my eyes and cleared my vision because I never looked back at the baby.  Instead I buried my head in the greenery in search of the jasmine that filled my nostrils.  I didn't find it, but I knew before I started looking that it was never there, at least not in the form of a physical flower. It was never the flower; it was always God.

What are you focusing on?  If what you're looking at each day brings anger or hurt to the forefront of your mind, then you're looking at it for too long.  Did you know that when we're in pain, we can become so consumed by it that we actually become that pain to everyone we meet? In other words, we're unable to be around people without inflicting pain upon them as well.  When we remain focused on anger, hurt, or suffering from our life or circumstances, we begin to grow thorns and everyone who comes close feels a prick. Though we can't always avoid seeing the things or people who bring us pain, we can cry out to God and ask Him to give us a new focus.  I cried this very plea to Him a number of times in the last few months, and though He remained silent for what felt like an eternity, the moment when He finally answered was literally breathtaking.  If you're angry over an injustice done to you, don't focus on it because God already sees it and He's focused on it for you.  It's your job to focus on how to keep yourself in right standing with God.  Let go when someone hurts you. You have the Almighty Creator of the universe guarding your back. Don't insult His capability by trying to vindicate yourself as you tear another person down.  Focus on the good that surrounds you.  If you're in a situation similar to mine and wanting something to which God says no, then focus on all the amazing things to which He says yes.  Ask Him to guide your focus; in an instant or just one breath He can open your eyes, heal your pain, and restore your hope.  Let Him. 

If what you're focusing on hurts your heart, start focusing on something else before you become the very pain on which you're focusing.  

Isaiah 55:8 - "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. "(NLT)

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