Running Ahead of the Teacher

Don’t do that, kid. You’ll just confuse yourself.

One of the advantages of being a fairly smart kid is that you usually pretty well know where the teacher is going before she gets there. (Smart on paper, anyway. Not too swift, some who know me might note, in other respects.) Either you’ve already read that chapter, plus a couple of big books on the subject on your own time, or it’s just intuitive. So you rest your chin in your hand and daydream through the rest of the class, make a respectable or better grade on the test, and never break a sweat worrying about academics. Nice way to go through life, right?

Well, yes, I suppose so. Except that when we become used to that state of affairs, it can be very uncomfortable when the answers aren’t so plain. There just hasn’t been that much opportunity to practice not knowing. In all my school years, the only topic in which I couldn’t jump at least a chapter or two ahead was trigonometry. That, I needed some teachin’ in. (It didn’t help that our super-competent trig teacher was sent to jail for some unwise doings with a student mid-year and he was replaced with a substitute who probably didn’t know very much about the subject at all. But I digress…)

In real life, though, this kind of intelligence isn’t much of an advantage. What it leads to, is impatience, laziness, and when things go wonky and suddenly the answers aren’t so obvious anymore, anxiety. God, unlike high school biology, is unfathomable no matter who you are. You may fool yourself into thinking you know what’s going on, but at the end of the day, He’s still asking “Where were you when I laid the Earth’s foundation?” and you’re still all, like, “um…duhhh…I dunno.”

I spent my late teens and early twenties depressed, agoraphobic, and substance-addicted. Even after I became a Christian, Satan was constantly at my throat, asking “Where is your victory, Cindy? Where’s that perfect life you’re supposed to have now? You’re STILL no better than you were!” And all I could do was cry out to the Lord. I didn’t even have words, most nights. Just sobs.

At the time, I didn’t think God had much to do with the situation I was in. I spent my nights in mental torment, questioning why God had made me the way I was, and why He didn’t rescue me, if He really wanted to save me. I wanted to run ahead of the teacher and have all of the answers right up front. Let’s skip all this practice and go straight to the test, God, OK?

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.”

I was being saved, though, not from that anguish, but through it. Even in my most confused times, there was mercy being poured out on my broken life. I couldn’t see it then, but nine years later, here I am, clothed and in my right mind.  Not agoraphobic, or socially phobic (most days), or even depressed unless there’s a good hormonal reason for it.

God, in His wisdom, kept me in that very weird, very lonely place, during what are for most people the most exciting years of young adulthood. But I, slow learner that I am, took some time to realize that I should be grateful for that. You see, “kept” is exactly the right word for what God did. Even though I was in pain and, frankly, worthless by most standards, I can see now that what I thought was a dry and desolate wilderness was a safe cocoon of convalescence. I was weak. I had no defense against the world. I needed to be in that place in order to become strong enough to be different. I’m not claiming to be a lovely butterfly now, but I am at least a respectable moth!

Maybe I’ll explain my past further someday, for the curious. Probably not, though. Any Christian who has stumbled through the difficulties of life with faith intact can relate. Every year that passes reveals yet another surprise benefit of the sufferings and (not insignificant, let me tell you) humiliations of the past.

We are being refined. However, we need to be careful not to look too hard for the material benefit in our problems. Sometimes there isn’t one that we can detect for years…or ever. Unfortunately for the student who hates not knowing the answer, this is one Teacher that is so far ahead that there is no catching up. We can only take the lessons as He gives them.

Running Ahead of the Teacher

Now I’m walking through another wilderness—have been for a few years—and, lazy student that I am, I’m still trying to run ahead of the teacher so I can find the shortcut to my happy place where it all makes sense.

As we’ve noted many times on this blog, Jesse’s debilitating headaches have put quite a strain on our family. He manages somehow to make it through work most days (thank God he doesn’t operate a jackhammer for a living!), but by the time he gets home, he has no strength left to fight the pain, so he spends most of his time at home in bed, and I spend most of mine without him. It has been this way for four years next month, with only a few weeks’ worth of pain-free days, scattered here and there.

I don’t know why God lets this go on. Perhaps this suffering is the kind that sanctifies. It could be that all of this pain is necessary so that we can minister to others in some way through it. Or so that others might have a chance to minister to us. Maybe God is trying to toughen me up, or make me appreciate my husband more. (Or maybe, as Jesse has not coincidentally been pondering in his own writing, it is to make him less of a brat. I wrote this post first, but he got published first, so now you have both sides of this thing.)

Most likely, though, it’s just the way life is on this fallen planet, and this is the hand our family drew.  Even the most intelligent people can make fools of themselves when trying to discern God’s purpose in any given situation. I know this by now. Still I run through all the possibilities my finite mind can muster, thinking that if we can finally grasp whatever lesson it is that God is trying to teach us, the pain will go away and I’ll get my husband back. This is, I know, nothing but magical thinking, and it is far from Biblical.

The temptation to make meaning for ourselves out of the difficulties, rather than letting God add the meaning to it for us in His own time is too strong, at times. I’ve seen it dozens of times in other lives, as well. When tragedy strikes a family, often the response is not one of humbly submitting to God’s authority over our lives, but in our impatience, we try to wrest meaning from it by sanctifying it with our own actions. I’ve seen people do everything from starting a charitable foundation in a child’s name, to forming a political action group (oh, Lord, help Americans who trust in government solutions!), to simply trying to apply their hurt to their own growth in some way. None of these things may be wrong in and of themselves! But it is wrong when they are done in order to create meaning where we can’t seem to find any.

God gives our sufferings meaning in His own time. We don’t have to make meaning for ourselves. Just walk through the valleys with Jesus, leaning on Him, and the purpose in them will, someday, possibly only on the other side of eternity, be so obvious that you’ll thank God not only in spite of your pain, but because of it.

So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good. –1 Peter 4:19

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • kelli- AdventurezInChildRearing
    Twitter: AdventurzNchild
    February 18, 2013, 3:54 pm

    yes yes “not thank him in spite of it – but because of it” wonderful! I’m going to use that verse in my chronic pain group – thank you ma’am!

  • Rebecca
    Twitter: momsmustardseed
    February 18, 2013, 4:19 pm

    ya know – this country we are living in – it’s not thinking because it hasn’t been taught to think…and doesn’t want to think -it’s numb. This quote “The temptation to make meaning for ourselves out of the difficulties, rather than letting God add the meaning to it for us in His own time is too strong, at times.?” is me. I’ll be honest – we pay our bills, but I don’t want to refinance because SOMEONE has to give the government money to pay those closing costs and we are already paying for other people’s health care – we are at almost $600 per pay check. We are healthy people – we ‘might’ go to the Dr once/year. I don’t know how much more Americans can last with this ‘non-thinking’ attitude… I really don’t. But, I will continue to follow, praise and give thanks to God. Somehow, this is all part of His plan and His will – will be done. Thank you for this reminder.

  • Heather Bowen February 18, 2013, 9:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing your heart, sweet friend! This post resonates with me deeply. I also have quite the past before I knew Jesus and it simply amazes me to look back on those times and see how He carried me through even when I denied Him…not by word, but by action. I am so grateful that He loved both of us enough to not leave us where we were then, but also that He loves us so much that He can’t leave us where we are now either. That my friend is amazing. (Hugs)

  • Melissa February 18, 2013, 9:51 pm

    Thank you, again, Cindy, for your wise words. I, too, have been going through a seemingly never-ending valley with my husband for the last five years. Sometimes I’ve wondered, what is it we’re not getting, because if we could just learn the lesson then maybe the pain will stop. Thank you for reminding me again that the pain may stay; it’s the perspective that matters. His ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are his thoughts above ours! More walking by faith and not by sight, because looking around down here, things are pretty bleak. But faith’s eyes are confident of what our fleshly eyes cannot see.

    You are a blessing to me!

    • Cindy February 19, 2013, 6:47 am

      You’re a blessing to me, too!

  • Diana February 19, 2013, 12:47 am

    “The temptation to make meaning for ourselves out of the difficulties, rather than letting God add the meaning to it for us in His own time is too strong, at times.”

    Yes, yes, YES. That is me. I try to make sense of it at the time, unsuccessfully, but find that over time, God adds the meaning. But waiting is hard!!

    Printing this one off for my notebook! 🙂

    P.S. Out of curiosity, did removing gluten/wheat not help your husband’s headaches? Or am I imagining that you were going to try that? (Perhaps it was someone else.) We discovered that wheat, and to a lesser degree grains in general, were the cause of my husband’s migraines. Not that he stays faithful to a grain/wheat-free diet, but at least we know the cause now! Hoping that you guys find a cause as well.

    • Cindy February 19, 2013, 6:46 am

      He did try it, though I’m not sure how successful he was at getting all the gluten out. We’ve kept food records and stuff. No correlation that we can find. He’s got some appointments to get his jaw looked at. Hopefully treating the tmj problem will sort all this out.

  • Heidi February 19, 2013, 7:34 am

    Thanks for this post! My husband also suffers physically. When he has a good day, I rejoice and enjoy it. On the days he can’t get out of bed, I just love him and try to keep the kids as quiet as possible. God has given us the grace to get through this difficulty. Although I do admit, we both get discouraged. One thing we have learned from his struggles; we can now truly sympathize with people who struggle daily with physical pain and illness.

  • Joy February 19, 2013, 7:45 am

    Thank you for this post which I was helped by this morning. I, too, used to scream at God “why did You make me this way!!!!!”. Time has brought acceptance of who I am, for the most part, and joy in what God has given me, all of which I do not deserve!

    On a side note, I’m reading a book that may interest you, It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. They mention migraines and say their program is helpful. Just a thought for what ever it’s worth.

    Blessing to you and your family.

  • Brandy February 19, 2013, 10:39 pm

    Just wanted to tell you I’m praying for you and your husband.

  • Christina February 20, 2013, 2:58 pm

    I have TMJ headaches as well… mine are solved (for the time being) by my retainer which works as a mouth guard. By day #4 without the mouth guard it’s terribly painful, I can’t imaging having TMJ issues not solved by the guard 🙁 How do his sinuses look? lol…

  • Sue March 9, 2013, 3:19 pm

    Once upon a time, a lady came to me after church, when nearly everyone else was judging us for the struggle we were going through, opened the book of Joel and said “He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten….” There were years yet to come that the locusts would eat, but He has restored. Be faithful. Keep looking for answers, but He will restore, He alone.

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