One of the ladies in my Bible study picked, as her word for the year, "Uncomfortable." Most of us had words like "hope," and "joy," and "trust." I imagine that for this lady, even reporting to us that she had picked the word, "uncomfortable," might have been uncomfortable. I admired her courage; how many of us are willing to step out and embrace the uncomfortable things?
God is a God of comfort. Jesus was born amidst tidings of comfort and joy. The Apostle Paul refers to the Lord as "the God of all comfort," (2 Corinthians 1:3). And yet, God does not primarily concern Himself with soothing us in the near-term. He comforts us when He knows we need it; this is not necessarily when we think we need it. He often stretches us, pushes us to grow. This is not usually what we consider comfortable. It is uncomfortable, and He does it anyway, because He knows what is required to strengthen us, to make us fit for the journey to eternity. He knows that our holiness, our sanctification, achieved through challenging and uncomfortable exercises, will result in eternal comfort and unending peace and joy. Many people undergo terrible calamities, and many people wonder why God would allow such pain and suffering. It's a hard thing, this trust we think we want. It's hard to put aside our present trouble and believe that God has wonderful things planned for us, things He knows will delight us beyond anything we've ever imagined, if only we will persevere in the present. The present can be so hard.
Today I am uncomfortable.
It's small, in the scheme of things. Not a death or a divorce or a disability. Just discomfort. Have you ever noticed how your doctor never tells you, "This is going to hurt like no pain you've ever felt before." No. He says quietly, "Now, this will be a little bit uncomfortable."
This morning I awoke to gorgeous, bright sunshine streaming in my eastern facing window. What a beautiful day, I thought, as I rolled over to see my clock. It was about 6:45, and my alarm wasn't even sounding yet. I decided to bask in the beauty of the day, and pray a little bit while I waited for the alarm to signal time to get out of bed.
I snuggled into the soft bedclothes, warm and bright, rested and relaxed, turning to the Lord with that thing which is always foremost in my prayers these days.
The doorbell rang.
"Who rings the doorbell before seven?" I asked Shawn, who groggily began trying to put on his pants.
It was roofers. Surprise! Here we have it: The Surprise Roof Job of 2017. I'd had this job quoted back in October. Last week, Shawn finally called the guy to see if he was still planning to come, ever. This morning, a crew magically appeared on our doorstep at 6:55am (well, a little before that--6:55 was when Shawn had finally made himself decent enough to answer the door, after the bell rang several times).
What ensued has been a day of earth-shaking shudders, booms and crashes. When we had our kitchen renovated, I couldn't keep workers here much past 2:30 (probably part of the reason it took over four months). It is currently 5:43 p.m. and these guys are still working. Schubert is distraught.
They threw tarps all over my plants, and threw all the refuse from the tear-off onto the tarps. I quail to think what has become of my sweet columbine that was just about to bloom. And my bleeding heart. And the tender new little bedding plants I'd put out and mulched over the weekend.
Yes I am uncomfortable.
I took Schubert on a walk to escape the noise for awhile, and we had to dodge quite a lot of sharp objects in the yard, particularly roofing nails. The roofers will probably pick up some of them when they are done. We will find the rest over the course of the season.
I've been uncomfortable lately.
Sometimes discomfort makes me feel guilty; I must be being punished for something, I think. But this is not strictly true.
There is gain in bearing discomfort and trusting God to sustain us and bring us through.
A few days ago, I sat down and wrote about an issue that was troubling me. It was hard work, soul-searching work. At the end of it, I felt drained, exhausted, physically spent, although I'd only been sitting and writing, not lifting or digging or vacuuming or planting. Breaking an issue down, working through it, examining the different sides of it, trying to understand my own perceptions, and then also working to understand other people's perceptions, this is exhausting work. I worked for hours, and at the end I had a long document.
The next day, I was working on something else, some little mundane computer task. I don't remember what it was. I didn't have my glasses on. A document came up on my computer screen, and a pop-up window asked me if I wanted to save it. I thought it was this mundane thing I was working on, right then, so I quickly, without considering, clicked, "Don't save." And thus, in that one single fraction of a second, I unintentionally wiped out everything I had worked on for hours the day before, the expressions of the depths of my heart, scrutinized through my mind and painstakingly formed into words and phrases. (aside: It was a Pages document. Pages is a terrible program, and Mac software engineers ought to be ashamed of it. I am still beside myself that they simply took away the "Save as" function when they updated this program from my original version. How could they think this was a good thing? Why? It's awful!)
Anyway, unlike Gmail and Blogger, and all the places where I ordinarily compose, this program, Pages, does not autosave. You have to remember to save, like back in the old days. I did not remember. It was a brand new, unnamed document, and when I clicked on "Don't save," it was gone forever, not even stashed in my Mac trash. Shawn, who is a master at retrieving things, searched for a couple of hours and tried every trick he could find. Nope. Nearly a full day of my life and unmeasured quantities of my energy have vanished forever. It is hard for me to comprehend the utter goneness, something that simply can't happen to you if--for instance--you write in a notebook. God has graced me with an unexpected and unexplainable peace in the aftermath, though, and that, in itself, is a beautiful thing.
Trusting God. Having faith that He knows, that it is all for the best. My Father in heaven knows how many hairs are on my head. He knows my name. He knows when it is best for a document to vanish from the earth. He sees the roofers crawling over my house, and He sent them today for a reason, and it is good, even though it is no guarantee that the roof will come out nice, or that my plants will survive the onslaught.
I can thank Him because He is in control, and He has purposes and plans that I could not hope to understand today, but I can trust Him with the future because He is good.
I can thank Him even if my pink and white columbine doesn't bloom this year.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Kind of puts a perennial garden into perspective, doesn't it?