May 16, 2011

Holy Misery

We're moved in to our new apartment now... wrote this on the drive down, but due to spotty internet access right now, just now posting it!

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If I founded a church, it would be called The Church of Holy Misery located at the corner of Hard Road and Difficult Way. We'd only read the scriptures about God pruning us and about how all of our human desires are wicked and sinful. Decisions would be made by asking what we wanted and then doing the opposite, and the counseling ministry would center around the philosophy: "Just Suck It Up and Deal With It." Considering how many of my fellow humans also think there's something character-building about being a little bit miserable -- after all, that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger (wait… is that not in the Bible?!) -- I think attendance would be good. Oh, and the pews would most definitely be unpadded.

But I'm pretty sure my church would make the Father sad.

I'm joking about the church. My heart knows enough to say that such a church would be disastrous. But the reality is, I worship there a lot. I often feel like God wants me to be miserable, and that somehow that's more holy. It's twisted and bizarre, but I've come to realize that I often equate what I want with my own selfish desires, and therefore what I don't want with God's will.

When Jacob was offered three jobs at once -- two in Portland and one in Midland -- it was easy for us to decide which place we wanted to live. Portland, OR, hands down. Ranked as one of "America's Most Livable Cities," we could both easily imagine ourselves picking berries, camping in the mountains, driving to the beach on a Sunday afternoon, and visiting cute little cafes. It's a city that we both know we would love, and my extended family lives in the area. Easy choice, right?

(Side note: I am aware that you Pacific North-westerners would be quick to remind me that it rains 6 months of the year. Life isn't just a bowl of cherries, or berries as the case may be.)

Problem was, the jobs just never really panned out. Jacob knew he didn't want one of them, so we eliminated it right away. But the other one seemed just about perfect! Although it payed considerably less than the Midland opportunity, we were ready to turn down the extra money -- after all, it isn't everything -- for the chance to live in a place we both love. (Though admittedly we couldn't help but question the wisdom of that.) But we just kept going back and forth... then things sort of stalled with the Portland offer, and we both froze up. We had to make a decision about the Midland job, but the Portland job wasn't moving from from verbal to written offer.

I woke up one morning in tears, convinced we were going to Midland. And all I could do was cry. The wind, the desert, the middle-of-nowhere. There was nothing about any of it that I wanted. And somehow I felt like God was making my life out to be one giant object lesson. I could almost hear Him up above, shaking his head and muttering: You see, Carrie, you need to learn a little more patience. I know you don't like the wind and the dirt, but perhaps if you have to live with it, you'll learn to be content in all circumstances. (Which, by the way, is something you've never really mastered.) Oh, and perseverance… we're still working on that one. Not to mention the fact that this is silly. Do you remember those starving children in Africa?! Do you think they have the luxury of deciding where they want to live? No, no, no, my dear. They're lucky if they just get to live. Don't you think this is all a wee bit selfish?

As I listened to this god of my head lecture me, I would move from anger to shame to guilt. Jacob asked me that morning, in the middle of my tears, why I was so certain we were going to go to Midland when we hadn't yet made our decision -- and were actually leaning towards Portland.

With a fresh fury of tears, I answered, "Because I don't want it."

I don't like that my picture of God is one in which He gives me the opposite of what I hope for; the opposite of what I ask for. I can think of several scriptures right off the top of my head that completely counter that kind of thinking. But as a founding member of the Church of Holy Misery, this kind of toxic theology is buried deep in my soul. Though I'm pretty sure it breaks His heart, I can't seem to fully shake this image of a chronically-disappointed, shaking-his-head-in-resignation, eye-rolling, annoyed heavenly father who is going to teach me a lesson if it's the last thing he does.

To me, the happy kum-ba-yah ending to this story would be if I told you we were moving to Portland. But those of you who regularly read this blog already know that isn't how the story ends. Because right now I'm in a truck loaded high with all our belongings on the road to Midland.

He's taking us to the desert.

The day after my I-don't-want-to-move-to-Midland-sob-fest, Jacob got an email from the Portland company saying that some contracts fell through and they were no longer hiring. With that job off the table, Midland became an obvious choice.

And it's ok. With the decision essentially made for us, I was somehow able to rest in the fact that there must be something good down this path. I still can't say that moving to Midland is what either of us would choose above all else, but I also don't feel quite so hopeless or resigned about it. He opened so many doors in this direction -- from the job, to providing a place to live, to giving us new friends -- that it feels like the right way to be walking, at least for this season. There's this little bird of hope in my soul, warbling a new song whenever my complaint rises up and I start to sing the opening hymn at the Church of Holy Misery. She's singing, "He is good. He is good. He is always, always good."

Can't wait to see what His goodness looks like, because I know beautiful things can bloom in the desert.

12 comments:

Tara Anderson said...

You sound SO much like me when God took us to South Carolina!!! And I have to say...as big a fit as I threw and as much as I wanted to be ANYWHERE but there when we arrived for our house-hunting trip...God blessed us HUGE there! I'm praying that he will do the same for you in Midland!

susieloulou said...

It rains more than six months - what month doesn't it rain? And we love Midland, since we have sweet family there - my kids seriously thought Midland was practically Disneyland growing up - ha!
Love this post!

WilxFamily said...

oh wow...I could have written this post 4 years ago! God moved us from my home area of northern IL to the outskirts of Philadelphia...of all places. :( I was NOT happy. Adventure sure...real like, not cool. It was also 6 hours away from the nearest family.
However...God knew what he was doing. We met the best friends, THE BEST ever. They are now more close than family. Our church was awesome, and we really grew to love it out there. Now that we are back in IL...I'd love to go back to PA.
God obviously wants you there, and He will provide WHO you need there as well as what you need. I promise He will!

Holly said...

oh my Carrie! I have been at that church too....way too many times! Thank you for being real and for sharing...for our benefit! I too struggle with God's tenderness, His compassion, His LOVE and His grace. So many more thoughts but have to go play taxi driver again.
Blessings on your move,
Holly

Laine said...

Me too! I could've written this post too!
And here's the thing...whenever I AM somewhere I really want to be (like right now ), I feel GUILTY! What in the world?
I just love your sweet heart. Let that little songbird sing away! He IS always GOOD!
Hugs!

Erin said...

thank you for taking words that I too have been reflecting on these past few weeks and putting them into paragraphs. I'm in my own Midland right now and it's been a journey of wrestling with that reality.

Kim said...

I know that church!
And I also know how He loves to surprise us.
Wonderful post.
Can hardly wait to read what's around the corner!
Love & Blessings from Hong Kong,
Kim

Danae said...

Between you and I, Portland is a bit overrated;-) Of course had you been moving here I would have kept that bit of information to myself!

You are obviously where God wants you to be and I can’t wait to follow your journey…thank you for sharing it.

And please, if you are ever out here in Portland again, promise me you will let us know…we would love to have you over for dinner and meet face to face!

Sarah said...

GREAT post, Carrie! Next time you guys are up here I want to meet your Little Precious! (She's beautiful!)

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BB said...

Carrie, I read your blog for months before and after China. I have always appreciated your openness, especially when things are hard. It has been a while since I read any of your posts, but for some reason I did today. I struggle with the same thing- it's so easy to be deceived into thinking that you should feel guilty for happiness because all you deserve is misery. As sad as it is, I would probably go to your church and think you were speaking truth. I really needed to read this.

Jenna said...

Yep.....kinda how I felt when we moved to Lima, Ohio. It's not a desert. In fact, I'm pretty sure I would have rather been in a desert!

Church of the Holy Misery.....oh, yeah, I've DEFINITELY been a member there. FOR. SURE.

I'm glad you remember that good things bloom in the desert, and I'm pretty sure God did bless you by taking the choice form your hands. Sometimes, I know Scot and I make choices into BIG SPIRITUAL matters, and sometimes they might be, or sometimes....they are just choices! :) I've often found the biggest blessings when God just turned me pointedly in a direction and I could just simply follow.

Praying you start to see some budding soon! :)

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