Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Have Learned

One of the things that the apostle Paul had to say that has always encouraged me includes simply three words: "I have learned.." (Philippians 4:11) This world that we live in is often very hard. There are good times when everything seems to be going our way and then, suddenly and without warning, great tragedy and difficult trials appear on our horizon; things that we have no idea how we will ever handle. But Paul was careful to say that "....I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am."(Philippians 4:11) He continues in verse 12 to say, "I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need." In my early days, I lived by the "good girl theory". I felt that if I were good and obeyed God that I would remain under His umbrella of protection and that nothing really bad would ever happen to me. There were some exceptions to this rule in my growing up years but for the most part, the "good girl theory" was true more often than not! As I grew older, I found myself in varying degrees of difficult circumstances that challenged that theory. The horrific car accident that I was in with my son when he was about eighteen months certainly didn't fit my theory. But everything turned out alright and life went on pretty quickly and my worldview wasn't shaken too badly. In 1985, I began to take Precept Bible courses since I had stopped teaching deaf children in the public education system when my own children started having more homework than me and we felt that they needed me at home. That opened the door for me to enroll at my church in some of Kay Arthur's Precept Bible classes. I didn't know it, but what I learned in those classes would not only change my worldview and demolish the "good girl" theory but those classes were preparing me for the greatest trial of my life; one that I could have never imagined in a million years. The first course I took was I Peter and it was all about suffering. I learned that Christians should expect to suffer because Christ suffered. Now it wasn't like I hadn't heard these things before, after all, I was a preacher's kid and then later, a Chaplain's kid. I had heard the Bible all of my life. But this was intense training that minced no words and I must admit, it was rather scary for me, as if it was a foreboding of things to come. The second course I studied was "Philippians: How to Have Joy in all Circumstances". Wow! First we studied suffering and now we were studying joy. I believed every word in the Bible but still it was a challenge to see how one could really have joy in suffering and in some of the circumstances that Paul went through. But there it was: "I have learned.." That tells me that Paul didn't just jump out of the womb as an apostle who knew everything like some might think. He had to learn these things the hard way. I was soon to find out that I was going to have to do the same. But, I reasoned, if Paul could learn these things, then so could I. That was true but I had no idea the kind of fires that God sometimes permits as our "school". In 1989, my world came crashing down around at my feet. Through a series of events, I not only learned that my precious husband of 16 years was bi-polar, but I also learned that in his disassociative spells when he was traveling on the road for work, that he had actually robbed several banks. Sometimes he only asked to see the money and other times, he took a little of it. It all amounted to very little money which he stuffed in the car pocket of his work vehicle but it was robbery just the same. He would "come to" across the street from a bank that he had just robbed and wonder why there were police cars over there at the bank. At home, it was all like something he had dreamed and was not a reality to him. But it all caught up to him on December 22, 1989. Our world literally fell apart. As I watched my husband go off to prison for five years, I felt like the "good girl" theory was the biggest sham I had ever heard of. I had been so careful and so cautious. Bill was a real Christ-follower who was a leader in our church. He was no fake. He was, we were to find out soon, a man with a very serious mental disease. But that is a story for another day. So I wondered in the midst of all of this: "Okay, Paul, what exactly did you learn that is going to get me through this, the most frightening time of my life?" I only had to go down one verse to find out. Philippians 4:13 says "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me." All things! Did that include consoling two heart broken children? Did that include becoming a single mom in an instant? What about going back to work? How would we survive? Did I even want to survive? But Paul's words haunted me. "I can do ALL things through Christ Who strengthens me." I would live through the ordeal and in the process, God would display His sufficiency to me through His various names. I would get to know my God and I would find out just how intimately He knew me. (Psalm 139) What are you going through today? Did you know that you can learn to survive and thrive just like Paul? It's not always an easy process but it certainly is a growing process. I am a better person today who knows her God much more intimately because of what "I have learned"! By the way, Bill has been home for almost twenty years now and "I am still learning". You would think that you could learn something once and that would be it but God is ever making us more like Jesus and He loves us too much to let us stay the way we are. What are you learning?

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