Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Do you ever wonder what God meant by "new creation"?
It's something I keep coming back to, but I just can't help it. Change is a chain reaction. When something changes, everything within it's immediate reach is deeply impacted, and that impact leads to more changes.
Looking back at the landscape of my life and witnessing the renewal of my marriage after many years of hardship... I am in awe. I am overwhelmed. It would have been enough for God to simply bring peace to replace the anger, bitterness, judgment and resentment... but God wanted so much more, and deep down, so did I. My life and my marriage needed to bear fruit. Much fruit.
That required change. Much change.
I didn't know what He could do, what He would do... if He would even do anything at all to change my marriage, to change my husband... all I knew was that I had to be the one willing to change first. The rest was up to Him, and I trusted His plan no matter what. Even if I was the only one who would ever change at all.
That is all that I believed, that's the only thing I was certain of. I needed an Extreme Heart Makeover.
God couldn't do it all at once, I had much to learn, and I still have much to learn. Step by step, though, the transformation took place. As I learned and saw things from a new perspective and changed my life to honor Him with what He was teaching me, as I softened my heart, my husband began to change. The more I changed, the more he changed... and the more our marriage changed.
What I love the most is that given how difficult things used to be, every small blessing is now a beautiful and sacred gift. It's the little things that speak volumes and touch my heart. Every small change speaks of hope. The big changes still overwhelm me. I can only handle God's blessings in small doses, so great is He in His mercy, grace and abundance.
Sometimes, though, even in the small changes, I still feel overwhelmed by His love.
It's been happening more and more lately. Those little things that mean so much. For example, years ago, if I had mentioned to my husband that I wanted to learn a song on the guitar, he might have shown some interest, but it would have been minimal.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned to him that I longed to learn one of my favorite Joy Whitlock songs on the guitar, and wondered if he'd be willing to teach it to me. I believed he might, he said "we'll see", but I wasn't sure how committed he was. I knew that traditionally, "we'll see" was his way of being nice when he meant "no". Furthermore, let's face it, for a secular husband and guitarist whose repertoire includes Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and bands such as Def Leppard... uhm, Joy Whitlock is a ways off his beaten path.
My marriage looks so different these days, it's hard to get my bearings and readjust to the changes. It's much like the process of losing a lot of weight, and yet still seeing your reflection as you were before the weight loss. I wake up feeling like I'm going to miss something new if I don't keep my eyes open to His new mercies. How many opportunities for blessings have I missed simply because I've assumed that certain areas of his life haven't changed? I'm realizing in shame that it's likely been many. Likewise, how many more areas has God not unlocked because I haven't yet changed enough?
A few days later after that conversation, while I was finishing reading to our youngest daughter at bedtime, he came into the room. Tugging at my feet like a little kid, he told me it was time for my lessons. I was exhausted, but he insisted. "Come on, honey, time for your lessons!" He tried to sound stern, but there was a hint of mischievous eagerness to his voice. I looked at him as though he had completely lost it, but didn't share that impression with him verbally. I said goodnight to our daughter as we looked at each other in shock, with a puzzled look in our eyes. She said it best "What's gotten into Daddy?" I grinned and shrugged. I gave him a grin too, feeling curious enough to follow him.
It took a degree of faith and trust to walk downstairs to the studio. There has been so much hurt and such a long history of disappointments, sometimes it's easier to believe things haven't changed when the only reference point I have is the way he used to be... but unless I give him a chance, he'll never have the opportunity to show me what he's capable of.
The truth is, I'm not always aware of what God has changed until God surprises me with it... and each time, it takes my breath away.
When it became obvious that he was really going to teach me to play, I let my guard down and got comfortable, thinking I'd learn which cords to play, and be dismissed once his "job" was done.
That felt "safe" enough, right?
Yet God wanted more.
God always wants more for us than we know to even ask for. And He's capable of delivering beyond what we can imagine.
The man across from me in the studio was hardly recognizable in his mannerisms and patience as he searched for the music video on Youtube and played it, studying it quietly. He then grabbed his guitar to pick out the chords by ear. He learned the chords quickly and expertly, but I asked him if he could teach them to me in the same way they're played on the video, with a slightly higher pitch. He didn't dismiss my request at all, and patiently grabbed a capo/clamp, rewinding the video a few times to see where she had set it up. Once he determined on which fret she had placed it, he tried the chords again, and knew that he had found the right pitch.
He handed me another guitar, and told me to try the chords. I felt like a fool, awkwardly handling the guitar and struggling to put enough pressure on the strings to make it sound anything like it should have. It gave me a new appreciation for the way he made his guitar sing in sweet surrender, he made it look so easy.
He smiled, but sweetly rather than condescendingly. I managed to learn where each of the chords were, then thanked him and started to get up. I had really appreciated his time, and didn't wish to keep him from his other work. Let's be honest, I also felt ridiculous sitting there playing guitar with someone who had been playing 27 years, each strum of the chords sounding painfully like a dying moose while my fingers throbbed from the tender tips pushing hard on the metal strings.
He wouldn't have any of it and insisted that I stay and practice until I got the hang of it. So I stayed, as he giggled while watching me try clumsily to strum the rhythm, so badly messing it up that I couldn't even change cords on time... I stayed until I simply managed to play each chord as I listened to the song over, and over, and over again while he played along on his guitar. I stayed even longer as I tried to strum along with the beat, and aimed to somehow still manage to change chords.
When I mentioned that there was something she was doing that I didn't quite understand but didn't hear in the way he had taught me to play it, he listened to the song again and demonstrated how she tapped one of the strings with her left hand at a certain beat on the chord... I watched and watched as he played it again and again in order to show me this technique, all while laughing at how badly I was messing it up. It went from sounding like a dying moose to resembling the sound of a car crash. There are no words...
I was doing my best to focus on what I was doing, but pretty soon, I became overwhelmed by God's presence, right there in that room, sitting across from my husband as we practiced working on the harmony of our marriage. I knew I was watching an ordinary miracle unfold.
That's the only way I can describe it -- an ordinary miracle. The little moments that really seem like "nothing" to others... yet make all the difference to you. The same moments that remind us that God has done the impossible with this marriage... that God has breathed life into it in such beautiful and unmistakable ways.
Two hours later, when the moose sounded happier and the music became a little less accidentally painful, when he became satisfied that I had established a good beginning... he allowed me to return upstairs. Upstairs, all I could manage was to sit in the dark, stupefied beyond words, trying to wrap my brain around the easy and teasing banter, the time invested, the patience he had, the willingness to teach me a song so out of character for him, a Christian song, no less... but most of all, the love.
I felt overwhelmed by love.
He was not the husband I had known all these years. This man, this man with patience and kindness, willing to give of himself and nurture someone... this new creation of God.
He was not the same man who wouldn't let me go to church a few years ago, but he was now the man would made sure the gas tank is filled on Saturday night for me to go to Small Group and church the following morning... the same man who has accepted with grace that I also have a Small Group on Sunday nights, even though his heart longs for me to be home.
He was not the man who refused to speak of God in anyone's presence, but he was now the man who said grace as we gathered around the table to celebrate our son's 14th birthday.
He was not the man who refused to set foot into a church unless someone was dying or getting married, but he was now the man who came to church last weekend in celebration of our daughter's baptism, the man who shared with the kids that he himself was baptized as a child. The same man who asked questions about baptism as we shared and discussed the day's event as a family that night at suppertime.
He was not the same man who rolled his eyes at "all things religious", but he was now the man who willingly watched a Christian movie with the kids and I tonight, our first family movie night since watching Fireproof together last fall... The same man who took interest in the movie and admitted that it was a good movie, even though he had observed and commented a few times on the strong religious undertones throughout the previews and the movie.
He was not the same man who was holding back from the adoption process several years ago, but he was the man who had since initiated the adoption process again this summer and continues to actively show interest and initiative. The same man who went over all the forms with me, and later asked questions and checked with me to see when they were due, teasing me tongue in cheek about flooding his inbox with "junk" to fill out.
He IS... the man who when sitting across from me while working on our adoption paperwork tonight, answered "Christian" in the "Religion" block on the form, and brought me to tears.
The same man God is breathing hope into, and that hope is irresistible and intoxicating and beautiful and it leaves me overwhelmed by love.
He may not be the same person he was a few years ago... but you know what? Neither am I.
This evening, I looked back on the last few weeks and marveled at how quickly the landscape of my life seems to be changing. When we allow God to change us, it changes everything... and it can very well leave us overwhelmed by love.
Change is possible... but it has to start within.