"Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase." ~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Don't Know My Story...

One thing that I love about the Bible is that there is never a dull moment that lies between its pages. It may sound like a cliché, but there are many treasures waiting to be unlocked. In my study today, I found the story of a young woman named Tamar. Tamar's story is not one that we learned about in Sunday School, nor is it one that we hear often being bellowed from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. Tamar's story is important, however, to each and every woman and man who has a story that has gone untold.

I'm sure many people wondered about Tamar. I'm sure they were asking questions. "What happened to her, she used to be so beautiful?" "Why does she not mingle with others?" In the last account that I studied of Tamar tonight, I had the ever so popular picture from children's movies where there is a lady in the neighborhood that all the kids are afraid of because of all the myths and legends that they have been told about her, only to discover by a chance encounter that those things are not true at all. Here is the meat Tamar's story.

2 Samuel 13:7-20
David sent word to Tamar at the palace: "Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him." So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat. "Send everyone out of here," Amnon said. So everyone left him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, "Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand." And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, "Come to bed with me, my sister." "Don't, my brother!" she said to him. "Don't force me. Such things should not be done in Israel! Don't do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you." But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her. Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her "Get up and get out!" "No!" she said to him. "Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me." But he refused to listen to her. He called his personal servant and said, "Get this woman out of here and bolt the door after her. She was wearing a richly ornamented robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went. Her brother Absalom said to her, "Has that Amnon, you brother, been with you? Be quiet now, my sister, he is your brother. Don't take this thing to heart." And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom's house, a desolate woman.

Can you envision Tamar standing before you, broken into a million pieces? Her body, heart, and spirit were probably throbbing in pain all because of the selfish desires of a family member. You see, Amnon desired to have Tamar so, that he became frustrated and ill. (verse 2) Tamar was a beautiful virgin with the intent to stay that way until she would be married off. Her intent was to keep her purity and to be ready for her future husband. She ended up in a situation that she had little to no control over.

In Biblical times, a woman would remain desolate, not married off, if she was "used". What this means is that she was no longer a virgin. So, there Tamar sat for years, alone and bewildered because she not only had been used, but also was unable to tell her story because she was embarrassed and knew she would be isolated. In turn, she decided to desolate herself from society, in hopes of saving herself from more shame and hurt. And, she felt as though even those that should love her and understand her story the most, didn't.

There are many Tamars walking around today. Many people's souls have been broken, battered, and abused and have been left with the bewilderment of what happened to them. Not all have been raped like Tamar was, but I'm sure they have been left with scares where they have attempted to patch up their hurting souls.

I am a Tamar.

Just like Tamar, we all have a story that other people just simply don't know about. These stories have brought us closer to Christ because they are the situations and circumstances that we have strived so hard for so long to overcome. These are the scars that God keeps hidden so that when people look at us, we don't look like what we've been through! Some of us may live more boldly than Tamar did and choose to tell our story one day. Some of us won't. So, before we judge a person's decisions or actions, let us remember that each of us has a story that someone else doesn't know. That story has been a chapter in our life that God has used to shape and mold us into who we are today, and who He wants us to be tomorrow. When you look at what a person may have, or does not have; who they are or who they aren't; please remember... YOU DON'T KNOW THEIR STORY.....

                                                              Spiritual Reflections

1. What are some things about my story that others may not know?

2. How have I dealt with the issues listed above?

3. How can I see God’s presence in my unknown story?

4. What role will these issues play in my future spiritual growth?

5. Talk to God about your unknown story. Praise Him or ask questions. If you have unresolved issues, ask God to help you with them. He is available for you!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places

Genesis 29: 25-30
When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?" Laban replied, "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work." And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant. Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

Have you ever found yourself looking for love and value in all the wrong places? That is exactly the predicament that Leah has found herself in here. You must know about Leah's past in order to understand her present and future decisions.

Leah and Rachel were sisters. Rachel was the youngest sister, but she was also known as the beautiful one. Rachel seemed to have it all, and Leah reaped the poor self-esteem from her sister's beauty. Along comes Jacob, and he instantly falls in love with Rachael and all of her beauty. He makes a deal with the girls' father that he will work for seven years in order to gain Rachael as his wife. The father agrees, and on the night of the marriage consummation, the father sends Leah out instead of Rachel. I'm assuming it was dark and Jacob thought that he was receiving the love of his life. When he awoke the next morning, Jacob was stunned to see the unattractive Leah lying next to him. He went to Laban, the girls' father, and made another deal for Rachel even though he had been tricked into marrying Leah. What a blow!

Can you picture Leah with a saddened heart over the fact that her father had to trick someone into marrying her in the first place; but now, she loves a man that clearly loves and desires to be with her sister who has always dominated and come out on top? God felt Leah's pain. For this reason, He shut up the womb of Rachel, making Leah the wife that must bear Jacob's children. In this time, if a woman was unable to bear a child, they were looked down upon, and women who could bear many, especially sons, were praised. Finally, Leah thought that she would be the one on top! She thought that Jacob would love her because of her ability to give him many sons. She thought that other women would not focus on her lack of beauty, yet they would praise and envy her for a change because of her fertility. Leah was looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places!

Leah was already loved and accepted by God. He felt her pain and wanted to let her know that there was good within her. He wanted to let her know that He loved and accepted her even if others didn't and wouldn't. Unfortunately, this love was not enough for Leah. She still longed to make Jacob love her. Because of this she bore son after son after son, hoping that with each birth, he would fall madly in love with her. But....HE NEVER DID! Rachel had always had Jacob's heart and there was nothing that Leah could do to change that. And while Leah was searching for Jacob's love, Rachel was sitting back saddened because she knew that she had Jacob's heart but was unable to have him any children. Neither of the sisters was satisfied, and spent the rest of their lives competing to find love and acceptance through others, while God had loved and accepted them all along. You can read the entire story in Genesis chapters 29-31.

Let's think about Leah and Rachel for just a moment. How many of us are just like both or either of them. We look for love and acceptance in all the wrong places. Some people feel loved if they have an abundance of "friends". Some people feel loved and accepted if they have people supporting and cheering on their life accomplishments. Some people feel loved and accepted if they have a spouse of children. Some people seem to have it all and are still unsatisfied and lost, searching for whom they really are. No matter what the issue is, the bottom line is that all of these people are focused on something other than God, who has the ultimate love and acceptance!

I encounter a lot of people through this website and speaking that I have done in the past. One thing that I hear a lot of people say is that they feel like something is missing in their lives. And yes my friend, these are Christians who are in church every week! I think the missing link to our ultimate joy and happiness is to keep our eyes focused on God. When we totally love, adore, admire, and accept Him, all of the other "stuff" shall be added. Sometimes God wants us all to Himself, and that is why we do not receive some of the stuff that we pray for that we think will give us the love and acceptance that we are so desperately searching for in this world.

I love my husband and children greatly! I realize that I am blessed to have them in my life. I also realize that it is God that receives my total love first, and because of that, He allows me to love my family so! I remember being just like Leah, wanted to be loved and accepted by everyone else around me and allowing that to define my popularity and who I am. Now, I know that all I need is God. If I have God, He will give me all that I need to feel loved and secure and I will no longer have to look to people, places, or things in order to feel loved or accepted! And, even though the Leah in me may pop up every now and again, I thank God that He reminds me that I am His child! All we need is His love!

Spiritual Reflections

1. I shared with you how I am like Leah. Are you more like Leah or Rachel? Explain how.

2. Leah lacked beauty. What is it in your life that has made you look for love in all the wrong places?

3. Have you overcome those feelings ? If so, how did you do it? If not, how can you overcome them?

4. Write three positive statements that you can tell yourself the next time you discover that you are looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places.