Monday, July 12, 2010

Growing Pains

The first time I went to ballet class I discovered that my hips were uneven and that one leg was slightly longer than the other. I was four years old and my ballet career was already over!

Eight years later I was diagnosed with Osgood Schlatters disease, which sounds much worse than it actually is! Quite simply, it’s a very common cause of knee pain in children and young athletes. The condition occurs in active boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 18, and coincides with periods of growth spurts and a high level of sporting activity. At 5’9", I was too tall to be a ballerina, but my height was perfect to be a competitive swimmer, which I was for ten years.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing easy about growing up – physically or mentally – even when you’re an adult, because it seems like the older we get, the more "growing pains" we go through, whether we want to or not!

Here’s an example of what I mean: One of my biggest personal challenges is when the people in my life die. So far I’ve lost about 25 people, including 18 very close family members, as well as friends, my favorite boss who died while I was on vacation (thank God the studio waited to have her memorial service until I returned), and my voice teacher, who dropped dead of a heart attack after seeing a Broadway show in New York (he was like a father to me and I still miss him to this day). Needless to say, I do NOT handle death well!

As I was speaking with one of the ministers at my church about this the other day (in relation to a woman at our church who is currently sitting in “God’s Waiting Room,” as my grandmother used to call it!), we both agreed that while the glory that awaits those who are called Home is far better than anything we can possibly imagine, the pain that awaits us after they depart is something we all want to avoid simply because, in our selfishness, it’s so easy to make their death about us. (At least it can be for me!) Of course, that realization still doesn’t take away the mental, and sometimes physical, anguish I feel after a loved one has left my life.

So what does all of this talk of death have to do with “growing pains?” Here’s what I’ve discovered so far: it’s the things that are the hardest to experience that enable us to grow the most. And let me tell you, I feel like I’ve done more than my share of “growing” in the last 10 months and I’m about ready for it to be over!

One of the books a few people in my church are reading right now is Randy Alcorn’s book, “If God is Good.” Here’s one of the things I read tonight that really made me think:

“We often define love in superficial and trivial ways, setting us up to question God’s love in hard times … We cannot see the end God has in mind. If we could, we would likely see that the hardships God allows prevent even more debilitating hardships – the by-products of the diminished character that results from a life of ease.”

And, here’s where it really gets good …

“Our problem is not that we make too much of divine love, but too little. God does not love us on our preferred terms, but on his own. His infinite wisdom ensures us that he gives to us a higher love, not a lower one.”

Isn’t that awesome?!!

I cannot tell you how much I needed to read this sentence: “God does not love us on our preferred terms, but on his own.” Even more importantly, I need to find a way to remember it on a daily basis – especially when things aren’t going the way I think they should and I struggle to understand what God is doing in my life, or when I don’t like what He’s doing and try to take control of the situation myself (i.e. put myself back on the throne of my heart!).

As I was looking up the word “pain” in my Bible tonight, I came across this verse in First Peter:

“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.” (1 Peter 4:12 ESV)

And here’s Charles Swindoll’s Living Insight (NIV) around this verse, which I really needed to read, as well:

“When we have responded as we should to life’s blows, enduring them rather than escaping them, we are given more maturity that stays with us and new measures of wisdom that we can draw on for the balance of our lives.”

Just as we’ve heard that we cannot “out-give” God, I have no doubt that we cannot “out-love” Him, either. Therefore, as I’ve mentioned in my previous blogs, while my life has been turned completely upside down and inside out, and every safety net I ever had in place has been destroyed over the last few weeks, I can honestly say that I’m extremely hopeful that this is only the beginning of a new and stronger relationship with the One Who loves me more than I will ever know or understand … or possibly love in return.

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