Out of the Mud

I love to read and I seem to always be doing it.  If there’s text in front of me anywhere, I’m reading it…labels, branding, billboards, books, magazines, shampoo bottles, etc.  It’s like words jump out at me and must be read.  I just have a thing for words and really always have.  I guess that’s why I’m traditionally the one in our marriage who reads to the kids.  It’s one of my favorite things to do with them.  (Yes, I’m the nerdy parent and my husband is the fun one. Ha!) Every once in a while, my hubby is coaxed into reading to them and even I’m captivated.  It’s not his favorite thing to do but he’s so good at it.  He uses all the fun voices and his timing is great it’s just fun.  Last week, I was cooking dinner and I heard one of these sacred moments happening in the adjacent room.  I snuck in to steal this pic …IMG_1332

They were reading Otis by Loren Long, a very cute book.  I returned to my cooking but kept an ear on the story and as I listened, I began to hear God’s voice instead of my husband’s.  Let me explain.  The story is about the relationship between a tractor named Otis and a little calf .  The calf is dependent on Otis as both caretaker and closest companion until one day Otis is replaced by a brand new shiny tractor. The calf’s life quickly becomes sadder and sadder until one day, she gets hopelessly stuck in a mud pond.  The farmer and his friends try to pull her out, the shiny new tractor tries to pull her out, even the fire department gives it a valiant effort, but nothing works.  She sinks deeper and deeper into the mud pond until only her head is showing.  Then she hears the puffing and chugging of her favorite friend coming from the distance and growing closer and closer.  When Otis arrives, he locks eyes with his little calf friend and begins to circle the pond repeatedly.  “He circled  and he circled, and the little calf turned and turned, never taking her eyes off her friend.  With each ring Otis made around Mud Pond, the muddy grip loosened until the calf was to stumble out of the pond on her own.   The two friends had found each other again.” (Otis)

I’m not sure that the author intended anything spiritual when she wrote this book but I do love how God has so many languages through which He speaks, because He spoke to me through this little children’s book that day.  You see, sometimes I get stuck in the mud… whether it is destructive patterns in my own thinking, or a lack of spiritual discipline, or selfishness or whatever.  I may try many things to get “unstuck” such as more organization, exercise, shopping, etc. but none of them work.  I’m still just stuck.  It’s not until I hear the familiar voice of my Savior that change begins.  It’s not until my eyes are fixed on Him, that the grip of the mud starts to loosen.  Sometimes being “stuck in the mud” is the very blessing I need because it’s then that my lazy ears are re-tuned to His loving voice.

This moment in our home, both sacred and ordinary, reminded me of the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full into His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”  Thank you Lord.

Life is hard. God is good.

 

Life can be such a collection of contrasts.  Good and evil, easy and hard, young and old, healthy and sick…all living under the same sky.  In my over-thinking head, I sometimes find that hard to deal with. It seems like everywhere I look lately, there is a friend dealing with something very hard.  I can think of several who are deeply tested and tried at this moment.  Yesterday afternoon, I was thinking of a few of these beloved people in my life and began to cry, feeling their burden and hurting in their hurts. About an hour later, I spoke with someone who gushed about the perfection of her life…how her kids get along, how soundly they sleep, how amazing she feels, how well they’re doing in school, how happy they all are, etc.  This was an unexpected, unprepared for contrast to what so many are living through in my world.  There is nothing wrong with anything this person said. How wonderful for her that her life is that great.  None of that bothered me.  What bothered me is that throughout her descriptions of her life of ease, she kept saying, “We’re so blessed. God is good. Yes, just so blessed.”  I walked away thinking, yes God is good and yes, you are blessed.  We all are. BUT, the circumstances of life do not influence God’s goodness.  It’s easy to say God is good when life is good, and we are right in saying it.  It’s hard to say God is good when life is hard but we’re still right in saying it.  God is good when we’re depressed.  God is good when we’re grieving.  God is good when we’re rejected.  God is good when we’re on the verge of bankruptcy.  God is good when our kids rip our hearts out.  God is good when life becomes too overwhelming to bear.  God is good.  I’d love to hear someone say, or better yet, I’d love to hear myself say, “Life is hard. God is good. And yes, we’re blessed.”

Years ago, I went through a really dark and difficult time of life.  I learned so much about God’s goodness and how different it is from the way I define goodness.  I naturally think of “goodness” as an absence of “badness”. Using that definition, that means that God displays His goodness to me by keeping bad out of my life.  I cringe to even type that because it is SO far from the truth.  The badness in my life was the perfect canvas for God to paint His goodness on my soul.  I specifically remember a time during this dark period in which I was praying to God and asked, why can’t my life just be easy?  His answer was so clear…because ease is not good for your soul.  At that moment, I realized that God would always do what is best for my soul, not necessarily what is best for my body, portfolio, confidence, etc. I have found so much rest in that truth, especially through trying times.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things, God works together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” This verse seems often misquoted to me.  It seems like people interpret “the good” mentioned here as an earthly good, equated with ease or lack of difficulty.  I believe the “good” in this verse is defined in the next verse, 29, “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  If something is conforming us to the likeness of His Son, it’s good! Repeat, if something is conforming us to the likeness of His Son, it is good!  Therefore, let’s all heartily say… Life is hard. God is good.  We’re blessed.