Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Christmas Letter to My Parents

     My mother and father are two of the most unselfish people I know. Maybe they weren’t reared Baptist or reared in perfect homes but they were reared in what counts as a Christian: to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
     I remember Dad taking on a second job so I could get treatment for the cancer that was eating my body.
     I remember the little sums of money Mom handed me when college costs had me behind some months.
     I remember Dad sitting in a theater watching my plays when he really wasn’t that into the arts.
     I remember Mom re-scheduling her personal life to take me to doctor’s appointments and to take my brothers to activities of all sorts.
     I remember Mom and Dad working hard so my siblings and I could have a Christian education, an education that would benefit us if we were to ever forget the love of Christ.
     I remember Mom and Dad supporting endeavors and dreams I had as I told them how I felt God wanted me to do so.
     I remember Mom and Dad praying for my brothers and I and Mom and Dad giving to us so that we would be successful in this life.
     As I write these things, I look down at a beautiful ring adorning my finger. It has an emerald in the middle for the month of my birth. Right now my mother is cleaning the jewelry shop of the man who designed this ring. She has been doing this for the last few months to make payments on this piece of jewelry. This act makes me feel amazed that my mother and father would love me enough to sacrifice for this gift of beauty. This act makes my heart fathom how Jesus Christ, who loves me more than they, could forsake Heaven to live on earth only to be crucified on a brutal Roman cross so that I might put on the garment of salvation and live with Him in Heaven someday. But not only this great gift…Jesus Christ is alive and sitting at His Father’s right hand making intercession for me because I still do those things which are displeasing to God the Father. Jesus is using His Holy Spirit to keep working on me!
Thank you Dad and Mom for giving me what matters most…not this physical ring on my finger, but the reminder of the love of Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas Dad and Mom!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Anything worth having is worth fighting for and anything of worth is worth the fight. I learned this applies to many things in life…an education, a home, a faith, even a relationship.
     In my young adult heart, the most important human relationship was a man and a woman in love. No matter the sacrifice, love kept two people physically together. I was willing to pay any cost for the sake of the love of my life…until the day the price tag read, “Hell on earth”.
     “Hey Mom…did you feel butterflies in your stomach when you met Dad?”
     “Did you hear music…like in your mind…Dad singing the same words?”
     “Rachel. I felt nothing. Marriage isn’t like that…it’s…it’s…W-O-R-K. It’s a full-time job 24/7. It’s security.”
     “But…didn’t you marry your best friend? The one you share everything with?”
     “No. I married the man I thought I was supposed to rear a family with…the man who offered me stability.”
     “Oh. Well what about love?”
     “Honey that is love. Not how you feel about someone. Love is action and keeping promises to the man you marry.”
     “Don’t you and Daddy at least have a song?”
     “Rachel, I love your father but take my advice…stay single and get a dog!”
     So many times and so many different ways I asked my mother questions about the happily ever after, the zenith of life’s happiness. So many times and so many different ways my mother gave me the same answers. At 14 years of age, I wanted to experience love the way I perceived it. I was waiting for that spark, that connection with someone that told me we were soul mates. I would be married by 18 and be happy with a career and children on the way. At the age of 24, and one college degree later, I was questioning if I somehow misread love.
     That was until I met Alex. I hadn’t even wanted to say hi the first time I saw him. I remember thinking in my head, “Huh”, and walked away.
     The next time I saw him, he was at my family’s as a guest for Easter dinner. The assistant Pastor asked my Dad to be so kind as to have the visitor to our church over for the holiday. He was easy to talk to….but something inside me told me to hold back. It was like I was unnaturally drawn to this man like a fly is strangely attracted to a light fixture.
     It happened at the library. I was volunteering and he was on the computers. He asked me to coffee…my heart skipped a beat. Like a good Baptist girl I calmly said, “Ask my Dad.”
     A new convert, a past with a jail record, my Dad told him no he could not take me out on dates. I decided to give him a chance. So I gave him my all…in prayer, in developing a friendship, and in someone he could talk to. We listened to the same music at exactly the same time at moments. We both loved to read. He wanted to learn more about God and I loved to talk about God.
     The pain began about a week later…phone calls that he was at the bar and getting drunk, phone calls that he was going to commit suicide, emails and texts arguing Scripture back and forth. He argued that my Dad was God to me because I wouldn’t go out with him on the pretext I was told no by my father and if he couldn’t have me as a girlfriend and eventually a wife, he didn’t want any part of me.
     The path I began to go down hurt like a knife at every step. It was as if the very fibers of my soul were changing. The wings of life so desperate to soar were becoming wrinkled and meaningless. This wasn’t my heart, my other half. I yearned for my life to be used by God and this man’s life was nowhere near that and not soon heading that direction.
     Are my personal feelings about marriage worth the searing pain seeping into my soul? Should I succumb to desire, and become a different person or should I succumb to the direction my life was meant to go?
     I answered the family phone. It was a friend of my mother’s and mine who had supported my family during my transplant that hospitalized both mother and me.
     “Hi Rachel. I was looking out my window and noticed the tree Glen and I planted when your mom gave you her kidney. It’s a beautiful, strong tree now, even in the wind. You’re a good girl and we pray for you every evening.”
     My heart laid aside the pen of destruction that was about to sign away the deed to my life. Everything has a cost. My Dad and Mom had put so much time and love and sacrifice into who I was….who I am. Not to mention friends and acquaintances, people I barely knew, who had bombarded Heaven’s throne with prayers for my life. And I was going to trade this precious gift for love. For someone who claimed he was a Christian and willing to be a good one, but whose life mirrored Hell.
     If being married, if my dreams coming true cost that price, I wanted to stay the wonderful soul God created me to be.
     Is love worth fighting for? Yes. My parents and those I admire fought for me. When the love you desire is not fighting back for you, sometimes the most loving act you can commit is to walk away. Because love is being able to reciprocate and when one is not giving but only taking, that is not love. It is abuse.