Random Blog Clay Feet: November 28, 2009
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beyond Coincidences

Some answers to prayer and miracles are dramatic, jumping up to catch your attention in a spectacular way. Those are the ones that most people prefer and are exciting to talk about in testimonies and stories.

But then there are the more subdued versions that are a little harder to sell as being spectacular, at least initially. But I wonder if upon reflection a little farther along that they may be seen to be at least as significant if not more in the story line of our lives.

I think that I had some of the latter kinds over the last couple of days and am waiting to see how the “rest of the story” plays out in each of these situations.

Two of these cases involved a deeply estranged relationship between myself and someone else. Both of these have been sources of deep emotional pain to me over the past couple years and have been a subject of prayer. I have been insistent on putting these relationships into God's hands and leaving them there for Him to work behind the scenes as only He is able to do while at the same time keeping close tabs on my own heart to be sure I am not harboring resentment toward these individuals. Whenever I feel some of it inside I try to flush it out into the open and choose again to consciously forgive them.

In the last two days both of these situations have come into focus in my life and with both I have had surprising encounters that I was not expecting or even trying to orchestrate. Neither of these relationships are to the place where I could safely claim that they are fully reconciled, but at the same time I have been encouraged by the small things that have taken place to diffuse some of the tension that has existed for too long. In both instances I have been able to speak with someone on a friendly level and in one relationship we even spent several hours sharing openly almost like old times again – and this after several years of complete incommunicado.

A couple of other things have also transpired in just the last 24 hours that have also affected other sensitive areas of my life. One of them involved tapping into some intense leftover emotions and triggers from my relationship with my own Dad in previous years, and another involved a potential change in my form of livelihood. The later is much, much more tentative and I am certainly weighing a number of factors and options to look for more clear guidance from God's providence. But the issue involving my intense and surprising arousal of old emotions from my Dad was much more interesting.

As I sat in church this morning during class time I was almost blindsided by some comments from another person in the class whom I had never met or known before. But the subject matter, the spirit and amazingly even the tone of voice and vocal pronunciation of certain syllables were so very close to what my Dad would have done just a few years ago while he was still alive that I was almost stunned. Needless to say it was not a pleasant experience because the memories aroused involved some of my Dad's most controversial weaknesses that caused many people who knew him much pain. In his later years he had become so involved with some critical religious organizations that perverted his perceptions that his life became filled to overflowing with bitterness and faultfinding.

I can distinctly remember the last time I ever attended church together with my Dad – in the very same church that I now regularly attend. He acted so confrontational and abrasive during that time that I was humiliated and embarrassed beyond anything I had ever experienced in my life. I had some of my family with me that day and I was seriously wishing that I could just slink down and crawl to the back of the church underneath the pews and escape out the door hoping no one would notice. I also vowed emphatically that I would never, ever find myself sitting in a church with my Dad again for as long as I lived.

I think I may have actually attended church again with him later on, but it was never in that particular church and it was some time after very painful and traumatic events took place that literally banned him from ever entering that church again. Some time later my parents began attending another church some miles away and were much subdued in their interactions with the people there. But it was also not long after that that he started having strokes which landed him in a nursing home finally where he was never able to attend church again anyway.

Not long after entering the nursing home God arranged a series of events in my life so as to bring about a very dramatic reconciliation between us as well as a genuine conversion of my Dad's heart. It was a spectacular miracle to say the least because of the sheer impossibility of the whole event, but I had been daring God for some time to do just that and He did do it, but not without making sure that I was involved in the process as part of my own healing journey.

I suppose that is a lot of background information to create the context for what happened today. But for many years my Dad's virulent attitudes and actions involving strident views he had about certain religious topics were a constant source of friction and triggering between us nearly every time we talked together. Whenever I visited home for a few days I was certain to feel triggered by the worship periods that were required each morning with him. The internal triggers were linked not only with the things that he wanted to emphasize but very much by the tone of his voice, the word inflections and the hidden messages conveyed that only I knew about because I had known him for so long. Other people were sometimes baffled by how many triggers I could receive just listening to my Dad read something or talk about something because they did not have the inside repertoire of links to the many subtle things my Dad inferred whenever he spoke about certain subjects.

What amazed me and elicited these same emotions this morning was the fact that this complete stranger was so closely aligned with the same beliefs and attitudes and spirit that had so hijacked my Dad's attention the last few years of his life, and listening to this man was like being in the presence of my Dad all over again. It was so similar that I could almost predict what this man was going to talk about next – and I was right. His logic and arguments were the very same ones that my Dad had always used and when I heard the same tone of voice and word articulations I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Needless to say I had some rather strong emotions stirred up that I had to deal with right away.

When I decided to make a comment in class to counteract the poisonous sentiments being spread by this person I knew that I might become the target of his anger if he was not willing to take what I said to heart. I was not mistaken in the least as he suddenly turned and fired off another predictable quotation at me meant to stop me in my tracks. But instead of withering away I decided to answer him with what I have come to about this passage after years of reflecting on that particular statement. This caught him by surprise and he was about to launch into an all-out assault on me when the teacher immediately shut down the conversation to bring the class to an end and stop the damage before it got any worse.

I was quite relieved at this because I really have no stomach for getting into a pointless, fruitless argument with a person who is not in touch with his own heart and is so infected by a root of bitterness. I am all too familiar with these roots and the fruits that they always produce and I know that trying to reason with such a person only adds fuel to their fire instead of bringing anything closer to resolution. The real problem is not a lack of correct information or proper interpretation of some passage as they suppose but lies in the condition of a person's spirit. What must take place is a change of heart and attitude, not corrected information or the argument of a better formula.

After the church service had finished I was a little surprised but encouraged when this same man came up and apologized for getting upset with me in class. I cannot judge his motives, though I still think I can read him almost like a book because he seems so similar to my Dad. But later on I took opportunity to have a long talk with the class teacher where I was blessed to have much more insight into the other side of the story and some of the dynamics taking place in that church. I was blessed to see how God was working more than could be seen on the surface and I also spent some time sharing with several people who gathered, my own experience and the story of my Dad and his conversion experience before he died.

Immediately after leaving there we went to meet our girls at another small church that was coming to a close and getting ready to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner together. As our girls related to us the incredible stories that were shared in the group before we arrived I was wishing that we had been there for the whole service so we could have heard these stories ourselves. A number of things also happened during our time in this place that I believe were significant but again I do not know how it all fits together until more developments mature. But it was unavoidable to see that God's hand was in a lot of things that were going on through all of this.

I cannot say why all of this happened today and over the last couple days, but it seems that they were for some specific purposes, many of which I may never know for some time. But the range of emotions that were experienced or resurrected today were certainly unexpected and had a variety of effects on me this weekend. I don't know what it all means, but I do have a sense that I might understand it more as time goes by.

Father, I simply accept all of this from You and trust that You are doing things to bring about more reconciliation on a number of fronts that need to be healed. I ask that You continue to change my heart and my attitudes that get in the way and to also work in every way possible on others who are still resisting Your love or Your convictions in their hearts. I praise You for what I have been able to perceive today along with all that I can't see that You are doing behind the scenes. I trust Your heart and Your plans and Your ways. Bind our hearts together as we all learn to trust You more completely. I give myself, my plans, my will, my life to be used as a testimony for Your goodness and faithfulness.