Why I'm quitting #blessed

Over the last month I have felt a heavy weight on my heart that something just wasn't right in my heart. If you follow along with me on social media, you may have seen a post I put up stating I kept hearing the words "work in progress" play in mind. I prayed that God would continue to refine in me. That He would tell me whatever I needed to fix. 

Slowly, a post came to my mind that I made on my private Instagram and Facebook accounts showing my husband and three beautiful children on my birthday. I put in the caption that God showed me abundance in my 20's through the gift of them. While I do believe that my children are a nothing short of a miracle, I realized this wasn't the most accurate or fair way to describe Him. 

Actually, I feel convicted it was borderline rude. 

As I reflected deeper upon whatever God was up to in my heart, two incidents came to my mind. 

THE FIRST: I remembered myself as a child sitting in the pew at church. I couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 years old at the time. A team had just come back from a missions trip and we were watching a short video of what they accomplished overseas. 

I saw tiny children in t-shirts too big and some that were nude. I watched kids get fed, hugged, and played with. They didn't have parents the video explained. I looked around me and saw people's eyes well up with tears. I wasn't sad. I was angry. In my adolescent brain I couldn't believe that this many people in the audience thought these kids had it so much worse than myself and plenty of other kids I knew. The pastor got on stage and thanked the missionaries for being God's hands and feet. He then thanked God for the blessings we have as Americans. 

Again, I scanned the pews around me. People were nodding their heads in agreement. My brain just kept screaming, "WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!!" In that moment, I felt like no one there could relate to me. I felt alone. I felt an invisible wedge between me and everyone next to me. 

These members must have never felt the pain of feeling like an orphan in the same room as their parents. They must have never experienced the embarrassment of asking the cafeteria staff to let you charge your account just *one* more time because even the reduced lunch rate was too much for their family. They must have never went to their Christmas tree and wondered why Santa didn't think they behaved as well as the other kids. The ones who got Game Boys, clothes, Barbies, AND a vacation for Christmas.

Like most kids, I asked an adult after the service to explain the situation to me. To explain why these kids were deemed "worse off" than kids like me. The adult explained that in America we work really, really hard. We have worked hard since we established this country. We have programs to help our own, unlike third world countries. The person explained that if I wanted better things in life, I would need to work and pray hard. I would need to go to college because that is the cure to poverty. I would need to do my best in life to obey God. I was told He would reward me for my faithfulness because all gifts are "from above". 

"Oh, so that's how God works?" I thought as I walked away. 

I went through the next few years of my life assuming that my family was cursed. I assumed we didn't deserve the things others had because if we did, God would have already provided them. I set out with a personal agenda to be the absolute best that I could. I didn't want earthly blessings like money, large homes, or jewelry so I figured the things I prayed for would eventually be given to me by God if I worked and prayed hard enough. 

As life went on I began to crumble under the weight of this desired perfection. I started to question the advice I had been given. In many ways, the roots of my faith had developed deeper than I ever imagined. I was far from the confused child in the pew. But, there were several instances along the way that made me realize the advice I had been given didn't really add up. 

I watched some of the most spotless humans I have ever known pass away from cancer. I watched friends get braces and wondered why I didn't deserve something as simple as straight teeth. I watched layoffs happen in my family while others still had a job. Didn't my family work as hard as theirs? Didn't we pray as hard as they did?

Later in life, I was even more confused. A friend who went to college was drowning in student loan debt making less per hour than I did. That friend lost his home. Wasn't a good, American education supposed to prevent that? A relative whose health I prayed for most of my life never improved. Wasn't American healthcare supposed to fix that? Wasn't God? A friend with unexplained infertility asked, "Doesn't God think I would be a good mom? Haven't I prayed hard enough?" as we watched a dead baby be pulled from a dumpster on the local news. I watched a local church close its doors with deep sadness. Hadn't they prayed hard enough? Wasn't God blessing their work? Where did they do wrong? 

As these questions filled my brain I reached out to a friend from high school who had just finished college for pastoral studies. "It's easy to understand why you are confused. What the person explained to you is pretty much prosperity theology, which I do not believe is the gospel," he replied. 

I had never heard of prosperity theology, but began diving in. I soon realized that most of my life had been spent associating earthly comforts as a sum of faith. You know what that means? It means that every time a less than desirable event would occur in my life the beliefs I had in not only my faith but also God's identity would be shook.  


THE SECOND: More than 20 years after the unintentional bad advice in regards to how God "works" was given to me, I was in the drop-off lane at my daughter's elementary school. It was early December and chilly. The car in front of us was a bit older and it stopped running in the middle of the lane. As the driver repeatedly attempted to start the car, Hannah asked why we weren't moving. I explained the person had engine troubles.

"Why doesn't he just buy a new car?" she asked. 

"I'm not sure," I replied. As I drove away, I wondered if that was an appropriate response.

The next day we happened to get behind this car again. The same thing happened. In a row full of warm parents sitting in their mostly new vehicles, he tried to start the engine. Over and over. 

"Why doesn't he just pray for a new car, Mommy? Does he have a job? That's why we have this car right? Because you and Dougie work? Or did God give it to us? Why doesn't God give him a new car?" she asked. 

There it was...the same questions I had.

They were coming back full circle through the eyes of my six year old daughter as she tried to understand why our car started every single time it needed to, but his didn't. Only this time, I was on the other side of it. 

I wish I could tell you that I wasn't disgusted that the first thought that came to her innocent mind was that this man needed to work and/or pray. Not disgust with her, disgust with myself. At some point had I mistakenly regurgitated the same prosperity theology that was passed down to me?

The answer to those questions as I reflect back on that social media post made just weeks after that morning in my car, is a big no. I most likely haven't properly explained anything to her. As a grown woman with almost three decades of life lived, I sat behind the screen of my brand new iPhone in my cozy home and wrote a post for my friends about the abundance God has shown me through my husband and my children - the gifts I believed to be His personal blessings for me. 

"What is wrong with that?" you may think. "You thanked God for your family, not material possessions."

That's the lie I believed, too. But, I feel that post can be seen as a wedge between me and someone else. The same wedge I felt as a kid in the pew at church. I unintentionally declared a comparison: God gave me 29 years of life along with three babies and a great husband...what about you? 

That isn't who I want to be. That isn't the line I want to draw.

I don't know if I will ever understand why He found me worthy of these precious girls or my precious husband. I don't know if I will ever understand why I grew up the way that I did. I don't know if I will ever understand why there are still kids growing up the way I did. I don't know if I will ever understand why I have the material objects I do. I don't know if I will ever not cry when I look back at a decade of being on my own...a decade where utilities have never been shut off (although, there was that one time where I forgot to pay the electric bill for 4 months after Lindsay was born, haha!) and the mortgage has never been late. 

Most importantly, I don't know if I will ever be able to fathom that God thought I deserved the blood of His Son..the most perfect blessing I have. The blessing I would still have regardless of my home, my job, electricity, health, my husband, friends, or my children. The blessing that is available to any of us as the price was already paid. The mystery of His grace described by Paul in Ephesians 3. The gift that brought all of us together. That is the blessing I want to declare. 

I think the weight I am feeling over the last few weeks is a reminder to acknowledge the word of Jesus Christ in Matthew 5 and Matthew 18. I no longer want to see the ways I have grown and healed and as a destination. I want to continually humble myself back to who I was as a child that had very little pride or ownership in anything. I don't want to measure who I am by any type of blessing outside of the deity of Jesus Christ. 

I want Him to know that I still have room for Him.

I want Him to measure me. 

I want Him to use me. 

I want Him to refine me for whatever purpose He sees fit. 

I want to continue living like the work in progress that I am.