Hard Dreams: Olympic and Otherwise

We are pretty big Olympics fans in our house, in case my posts on social media have not made that clear. We have trained for the the last four years to get ourselves in condition to sit on the couch for five hours straight every night like a true American, and occasionally during the day if the right events are on...or if there is a sink full of dishes to avoid. We in the sports world call this "two a days". And guys, its not for the weak. This is where it is important to stay hydrated, take stretch breaks as you fast forward through commercials (a DVR is one of the perks of being a wife of a cable man) and make sure you are eating Olympic size snacks. Gotta fuel up. Our training also includes time invested in reading articles about returning athletes, newbies and obscure athletes in obscure sports that have backstories that may make you shed a tear. Education is key. We aren't super political ( as in we hover somewhere around "let's never talk about politics ever or I might pretend to be choking on an imaginary meatball just to skirt the conversation") but we earn big patriotism points by doing our part in supporting our athletes. Its the least we can do, really.

We promised our kids we would have an Olympic viewing party. Since NBC gives us a little snack of the events we actually want to see and then ropes us into to staying awake until the wee-hours to watch tape delays of the other half of said desirable events (its like they have some marketing gurus over there at NBC or something!) we knew the best way to do this would be to use the trusty old DVR and watch the gymnastics final a day late with the kids. (Peter and I watched it live. I mean what are we, communists?!)

Last night was the night. Since you weren't there to witness it, let me paint a picture of the scene for you. We went shopping for red, white and blue themed snacks. We busted out the glow sticks leftover from the 4th of July debacle. We ate pizza on beach towels on the floor in our PJs. Real classy stuff because #merica. Let's just say that for a moment in time Peter and I were gold medal Olympic fans and gold medal parents. Watch out Michael Phelps. You might be an okay swimmer but we can watch you swim with the best of 'em. And Boomer might have some snazzy noise canceling headphone thingys, but my kids are wearing almost clean pajamas and sitting on not at all clean beach towels...which, strangely enough, might be cleaner than the floor they're on. So yeah.

As Peter and I climbed onto the podium there were kids clamoring at us, waving hands up at us like something out of a 90's R&B song. There were tears. Signs made in our honor complete with hearts and pledges of undying love. Guys, Peter might actually have enough supporters to run for president on a third party ticket. (That is my only political mention. If you try to engage me further I will find the nearest patriotic party meatball and gag myself with it.) The kids were making bold claims, ones I may have documented to rub their faces in later  look back on fondly. At the mere mention of pizza we were dubbed "the best parents in the whole world". As ridiculous as that title is, it felt good for a minute. And all it cost us was a cheap pizza and some stale bulk gummies in patriotic colors.

 As I heard the absurdity of "best mom EVVERRRR", I may have smiled coyly, blushed and fanned myself a little, but inside I was thinking "what about all the other stuff I do for you? The things you don't even notice, or worse yet the things you fight against or whine about? The things that are really way more of a sacrifice of love than a floor pizza party? I mean I didn't even let you on the furniture for goodness sakes! You are only saying these things because right now the gift feels and tastes good!" 

Those thoughts were very quickly followed up by a bit of a "punch to the gut" feeling that came with the (not new, ugh!) realization that in many ways this is how I treat God, my heavenly father. My kids aren't the only ones throwing around their love and affection at the promise of glittery (or in this case gooey and greasy) gifts.  When the gifts look, feel and taste good I am quick to proclaim things like "You are the best God in the whole world!! I am going to color you an award on a paper plate!" But what am I saying when the good in the gifts is not so easy to find? What about the times that He disciplines me? Or doesn't answer my prayers the way I hoped? What about the times He makes me wait...and wait...and wait? Or the times where the suffering just seems to keep coming in waves? What about when life hurts and it makes no sense? What am I saying then? Am I proclaiming His goodness, his "bestness"?

Lately I have had to battle hard against the temptation to believe a lie- a slightly tweaked version of the same lie Satan told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It's the lie that God doesn't give good gifts. I have looked around me and sure there are plenty of good gifts to see, but there is also plenty of hurt, personal chaos and repeatedly unanswered prayers. Two months ago we had a potential answer to literally years of prayers within our finger tips, then it was absurdly yanked away. It seemed unnecessary. It felt cruel. Why would God dangle this in front of our faces, let us touch it with our fingers and then pull it away? I cried out loud to Peter saying "if we did that to our children I would call us mean parents! How on earth is God a Good Father when He does this?!" ( Side note: I should probably make it less of a habit to compare God to my parenting style because, yikes, just no. )

I've wrestled with this, believing what I know to be true despite what my eyes can see and my heart can feel. Faith is hard.

I've been pouring through the Psalms because David and I just get each other. I've said this before, I'm sure, but I just love how David pours out his thoughts, asks real heart-wrenching questions and then suddenly, almost awkwardly pivots and starts preaching truth to himself. He lays it all out there before God, leaving nothing left unsaid. At first glance it might seem like disrespect. But I think there is a difference between questioning God and asking God questions. David shows the utmost respect because he trusts God with his deepest emotions, his hidden thoughts and his ugliest temptations. He trusts God with his questions, knowing God has the answers to give, or not. Then David stops himself and starts running off truth, truth of who God is- his character, and what God has done, whether for David himself, or for the nation of Isreal. I have needed this so much, this speaking of "my own truth"-my feelings, followed up by the preaching of some real truth to myself in my weakest moments.

It has always irritated me a bit when someone shares something that went "right" and a person responds with "Oh, God is so good!" I know that I probably should not be irritated by this, because after all it is true, God is good. We should praise Him for the way He orchestrated what went right in someone's life. But I have often wondered "so if that had not worked out that way what would you have said? Would God still be good? Or is His goodness contingent on Him answering that prayer in that specific way?"  

I have prayed for years that I would be the person who claimed, in whispers and in shouts, God's goodness no matter what the outcome, no matter what the season or circumstance. I guess God has decided, in His goodness, to answer that prayer, even though when I prayed it I didn't know what it would cost.

I picture Him grimacing, maybe His eyes swelling with tears as He knows what it will require to answer this prayer, and many other prayers I've prayed. He knew it would hurt and almost break me, but I am thankful that He is loving enough to endure the pain along with me, because He sees the other side. That's a good father. I might question Him wondering if this gift really is good, kind of like my kids do when something seems hard or unfair but I know its best. But in reality all along He has been answering my niave but heartfelt prayer to be able to see and proclaim His goodness no matter what. Along the way I realized how mistaken I was to think that in order to proclaim His goodness, I had to see and feel it. 

A wise and gentle friend pointed me to Psalm 119:65 "You are good and you do good. Teach me your statues." I am treating these recent days as my own training, of sorts, so I have made this verse my mantra, my lens and my measuring stick. I chant it to myself in the moments when the temptation to lose faith is the biggest. I hold it up to my surroundings and view the world through it instead of looking at truth through my circumstances. I take a thought captive, a thought that might tell me "this isn't good. You have dealt with enough. How is this love? God isn't good, or at least He isn't being good to you." and I hold that thought against this verse. When it doesn't measure up, I toss the thought aside. And when it comes back again and again I beat it with the measuring stick. Sometimes in training, that's what it takes.

Life is hard. Training is hard. I know I don't have to tell you that. But I am learning the weariness that comes from being controlled by emotions and circumstances, is much different from the fatigue of battling for truth. Its just plain worse. There is a satisfaction and an undercurrent of lightness that comes from choosing faith. It's that carrying you on eagles wings stuff from Isaiah 40.

I have come a long way, because of this hard, good grace. But I still have a long way to go. More than any Olympic dream or parenting dream I long to be the person who says at every turn of life "You are good and you do good. Teach me your statues."

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