Category Archives: wrestle

The Shack

I read the book “The Shack.”  Twice.  I also saw the movie … with a friend who also read the book.  We both teared up watching God’s love in action.  For one broken man, lost in his grief and drowning in his anger.  A man who lost much, including his faith.

The Shack

A fictional story.  But one I believe is totally possible.

 

Now let’s stop here for a minute.  Because you may want to argue and fuss and disagree with me.  To convince me I am wrong.  To badger me into changing my mind.  But you won’t.  So please save us both the headache.  I am not asking you to agree with me.  I am not asking you to affirm I am right (or good).  I am only asking you to respect my faith as I respect yours.  I know who I am, and I know who God is – and these deeply rooted truths cannot be swayed with any argument or persuasion.  So if you don’t agree with me about this book, please, let’s agree to disagree – respectfully.

 

Yes, I know “The Shack” is a work of fiction.  But I believe “The Shack” can happen.  Today.  To anyone.  Because I believe in an all-powerful God who performs miracles all the time.  I believe in an agape-loving God who loves us more than we will ever know and works us toward maturity within that love.  I believe in an omniscient God who knows all and therefore knows how to get us to the best version of ourselves.

 

I believe He is a loving Father who meets us exactly where we are.  In our mess.  In our anger.  In our suffering.  In our pain.  In our fear.  In our hardheartedness.  In our apathy.  In our indifference.  In our carelessness.  In our selfishness.  In our angst.  In our hopelessness.

 

And none of this scares Him away from wanting to be with us.  None of this causes Him to leave us or walk away from us.  None of this effects how much He loves us.

 

In fact, I think any of these things compel Him to pursue us.  Because He knows we need Him.  Because He knows only His love can fill in our gaps.

 

Which is, again, why I believe “The Shack” is possible.  Because Mack was lost.  Mack was angry.  Mack was hurting.  And Mack was so wrapped up in his great grief that he wouldn’t let God’s love, mercy, and hope in.  Mack was so consumed in his great anger that forgiveness would never be an option.

 

And Mack’s darkness and anger were so great that he was stuck.  He was clinging to the past and slowly destroying his family in the present.  He was constantly reliving his grief, slowly massacring hope and peace in the present.  He was refusing to forgive and let go, slowly eroding his sanity and compassion in the present.  And as he ruined his present, he was also ruining his future and that of his children.

 

And here is the brutal truth – we are all Mack.  We all have at least one person, place, or thing that has hurt us deeply.  Possibly shaken the core of our faith and caused us to doubt God’s love.  We have all come to the intersection of pain and truth and had to choose which way we would go.  We have all had to wrestle with our feelings that were pulling us away from God.  Just like Mack.

 

And eventually, like Mack, we come to the place where our pain is so great that we have no choice but to face it.  We return to the shack, the place or event that broke our spirit, and we wrestle with truth in the quest to find it.

 

And there we find ourselves.  For we are the shack.  A broken place more prone to darkness than light, with an air of desolation and unworthiness.  A place of pain and sorrow – whether self-inflicted or at the hand of someone else.  A lost place in the middle of a forest, stuck in isolation and separation.

 

And just as God met Mack at the shack, at his lowest point, so too He meets us.  He invites us back to our place of pain – and mixes our tears with His love to sprinkle it over our desert-laden heart.  Where He plants the seeds of love, joy, peace, hope, forgiveness, endurance, steadfastness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness within us – cultivating out the weeds one at a time as we accept His work in us.  And the whole time He whispers “I am especially fond of you” to us, encouraging us to (once again) believe in His love and surrender to His grace.

 

God wants us to love at all times.  Just like He taught Mack.  The man whose hardest moment was having to say, out loud, “I forgive you” toward the man who killed his youngest daughter.  It was so painful for him, having held on so tightly to his anger, to even consider opening his heart a little to let love in.  But he had come to the place, with God’s help, of wanting to be free of the pain that was eating him alive.  So he said it.  And with every step he took from the cave containing his daughter’s body back to the shack, he repeated it.  Praying with each declaration that it would take root in his heart and he would be able to say it and mean it and finally be free.

 

And the best part of the story is that Mack does find freedom.  He does come to embrace the love God so openly and graciously offers him.  The love that he realizes never left him.  The love that inspires him to go back and live life to the full.

 

And so too can we.  As individuals.  And as a group of believers.

 

Because we are each part of God’s story.  We are included in His chapters of love, grace, hope, and forgiveness.  We are worth redeeming.  Just like Mack.  Just like the shack.

 

So if you didn’t read the book or see the movie, here’s my takeaway – God loves you.  More than you can ever imagine.  Mack is proof.  His story may not be real, but God’s love always is.

 

Marie Fremin.  6/4/17

Boiling Point

NOTE: An apology/addendum has been added to the end of this post on 3/13/16, since a lot of emotions and reactions resulted from the original post.

 

I am a natural redhead, which means that all of my life I have comments in the genre of “wow, you must have a wicked temper”. And I used to. I may have been a great mobster, because in those moments of anger I didn’t care what I did and who got hurt. Because I was intensely angry. Now, I won’t say the temper has anything to do with the hair color but think what you want.

 

Now I have what I lovingly refer to as “flash and burn” moments. When something crosses my path that doesn’t agree with thinking or agenda. When someone says something that doesn’t agree with my ideologies. But it has to be something big. Something that basically calls me stupid on multiple levels. Something that calls my God or my faith onto the carpet in very obnoxious or judgmental ways. Because most of the other stuff is now in the “too piddly to worry about it” category. Life is too short to be bogged down in that minutia. So for the small stuff, I flash mad and then calm down, realizing that it isn’t worth the effort.

 

But when someone comes to me and says I am taking liberty with God’s holy Word, I get mad. Not a quick moment of mad. A boiling furnace. A raging river. A four alarm fire. Because in those moments who I am is being challenged. What I think is being denigrated. And I am being told I am wrong on so many levels that it becomes very personal.

 

And when that person doesn’t have the authority to be saying this, doesn’t have any kind of conversation with me about my thinking to have an adult discussion, and comes out publicly to declare my errors, the flash is long lasting. The burn continues. And it rages for a while.

Boiling Point.jpg

Because who among us really knows anything? Who can declare himself/herself most knowledgeable about God? When we are honest, we admit that we know nothing. We have a minuscule understanding, a brief glimpse, and a tiny speck of truth in His Word to go by to try to understand an infinite, eternal, and sovereign God. He even tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that we have no idea the scope of God’s love and plans: ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

 

His thoughts are light years and centuries beyond ours. Deuteronomy 7:9 says God thinks many, many generations into our future – ““Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” Psalm 90:4 says that God sees each day in the scope of eternity – “For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night.” Ephesians 3:17-20 tell us we cannot even begin to comprehend God’s love for us and the blessings He wants to give us – “17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”

 

So how can one person say that he/she knows more than someone else? How can one person be declared wiser or more knowledgeable than the next?

 

Because we’re all on the journey together. We all learn the most about God from our experiences – in life, with people, with Him. Some of us have had more experiences and learned more lessons. Some of us have to learn the hard way, but we eventually get it.

 

It is in sharing our experiences – in having conversations, sitting in group circles, telling our story – that we refine our faith. In seeing and celebrating God’s goodness in each life. In recognizing God’s grace in our life. In seeing God’s footprints on the path with us, guiding us away from our selfishness and closer to Him. In honoring God’s blessings in all lives, no matter how big or small.

 

But to try to be part of the conversation means risk. It means feeling safe enough to express an opinion or share a thought. It means sharing the whole journey – what you think, what you feel, and what you believe. Because the whole point of community is shared faith – to learn from each other, to grow with each other, and to share from our life experiences. And so what if we don’t agree about an interpretation of a verse? That’s not what it’s about. For we each have something valuable to say and something important to share. There is something we can learn from each other, whether we agree or not.

 

And to say we can talk about anything and everything within a face-to-face setting but not on a daily message board? To say we can’t share an opinion or a thought that would cause people to question their ideology? And to give one person free reign to say and do but everyone else has to be monitored? That’s ludicrous. That’s audacious. That’s ridiculous.

 

So right now for me the struggle is real. The anger is kindled and keeps refiring. The hurt is festering as an open wound. The audacity is glaringly evident and continues to slap. The journey together has been suspended.

 

It is a hard place to be. To feel like Joseph in the pit, wondering what will happen. To not know if or when a conversation can take place to heal toward reconciliation. To see the root of bitterness trying to give itself life in the heart. To wonder how this will all turn out. To be torn – to feel the conflicting emotions of being offended and being humored.

 

For I know at the end of it, I will have to let go and forgive. Whether an admission of error is made or not. Whether a conversation is ever had. Whether a (fragile) peace can be made. And I will.

 

Right now I am walking through it and trying to filter the offense through the lens of God’s love. Right now I am wondering how personally it should be taken.

 

Because it feels very personal. It feels very wrong. It feels very offensive.

 

So I will continue to struggle with it. I will continue to weigh my feelings against the grace of God, knowing that I can end the struggle anytime I wish. I will continue question what happened and what I can learn from it. I will continue to wonder how something so innocent and honest could explode into something so ugly and hurtful.

 

In this moment, I don’t have the answer. I don’t have the solution. But I know one thing – God is good. God won’t waste this opportunity to teach me something important. God won’t let this moment pass by without covering it with His glory and giving me a testimony. God won’t stop loving me or give up on me to make it right and do it better.

 

Because no matter how angry I am, whether I am at my boiling point or not, God has covered me with grace. God has given me the chance to forgive and repent, to make it right. God has given me the chance to grow.

 

God never promised the journey of life would be easy. In fact, Jesus taught repeatedly about trials and struggles in life – to let us know that there will always be curves that come up unexpectedly and hard times we will have to contend with.

 

What we are promised is a divine peace that can supersede all the stuff we deal with – “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). A Savior who understands all our struggles and walks with us through them to the other side – “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). A command to not let anything or anyone stop us from approaching our loving and generous Father – “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). And a heavenly Creator who is waiting for us to run to Him, no matter what we have done, what we have thought, and how we have reacted – “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy” (Psalm 145:8).

 

And what more could a mere mortal ask for?

 

Marie Fremin, 1/17/16

 

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Addendum written 3/13/16:

I have been thinking and praying about our situation. I know there are a few words I owe you.

 

I don’t hate you. I never hated you. Yes, I did get furious, but it never turned to hate. Because hate is such a powerful and overcoming emotion that is not easily shaken off. Hate absorbs and hate controls. Hate refuses to let in the light of God in any way, shape, and form. Whereas anger is reactive and temporary. Anger is confined in the situation and not carried over. I was angry, but I never hated you. I never will hate you. If you got that impression, I do sincerely apologize.

 

I should have talked to you. I should have sat down face to face and worked out whatever we could. But in that weekend and in those feelings, I honestly could not. I was unable to have a reasonable and rational conversation. I was unable to behave in any kind of sane way. Because I was still working on processing the overwhelming emotions I was feeling. Because I am deeply scarred and wounded by people in my past – who have repeatedly taught me that opening my mouth results in verbal abuse and accusation. So I let my hurts and my brokenness stay my tongue from resolution. I need to work on this. I sincerely apologize you were caught in that wake.

 

And finally, I apologize that you were offended by the blog. My intent was never to publicly condemn or criticize. My intent was (A) to work through the dangerous and damaging emotions trying to manipulate me; (B) to open a door for God to speak truth and peace to me; and (C) be real about my journey. I see my blog as a mirror to who I am and who God is – and who God is calling me to be. I will never be all sunshine and rainbows, painting a fake ideal of real. My blog is real, and the emotions – as bad and as deep as they are – are real. Because Jesus didn’t come to heal the well – He came to save and guide the sinners. And I readily admit I am a sinner. I am not proud of how I behaved, and I am not proud of how it made you feel. But it is real life that once again points me – and hopefully others – to grace. Unfailing grace. Unending grace. Unconditional grace.

 

I will be honest and say that I will most likely not take this blog down. I need the very real reminder of how dark and low I can go without looking to and leaning on God first. I need the realness to remind me how much I need to trust God with every emotion. At this point, I feel that taking it down would be untrue to the purpose of my blog and would be a minor victory for the enemy, who would turn it into an instrument of shame. If it does stay up, I will definitely post some kind of intro or addendum to clarify. If this hurts your hurt or upsets you, I sincerely apologize. I don’t want to hurt you or offend you, but I do need to be true to myself and my journey.

 

I honestly don’t know where to go from here. You were entirely correct in it now being an unsafe space. I don’t fault you for being wary, and I assume you don’t fault me for being skiddish. I have no comfort level sitting with my mouth closed, feeling unable to share. And I understand you will constantly wonder when (not if, I know) I will “blast” you again. That’s not healthy for anyone.

 

So I am officially stepping back and allowing myself a season to renew, refresh, and regroup. I need time and space to come to a place of full healing.

 

Please know, again, that I do not hate you or want to see harm come to you. Know I appreciate your gifts and talents. Know I appreciate your willingness to apologize (something I have not experienced in the last 10 years). Know I understand we are all human and make mistakes – thank God for grace! Know that wisdom and growth are coming out of this situation.

 

I do hope God continues to bless you, keep you, and guide you. I hope His hand and His favor are obvious on your life. I hope you are well and healthy in all areas.

 

Flow in grace! Marie (3/13/16)

Wrestling with God

I’m sitting here at work contemplating how we as humans wrestle with God.  I smile as I think of the oft-told story by Joyce Meyer of how she literally held onto the chair legs and begged God to help her as she wrestled with her dark and hurting heart.  She prayed as hard as she could and told God she refused to let go until He showed her a different way to live.

I think God and I have been engaged in the same battle this year.  I guess if I have to classify 2015 as anything it will be “The Year Marie Wrestled with God”.  But the funny part?  I’m the one doing all the work.  I’m the one wearing myself out.  I’m the one throwing the fits and refusing to move.  God is as He always is, stable and calm and constant and loving.  He isn’t arguing with me.  He isn’t debating with me.  He isn’t dragging me to where I should be.  He isn’t condescendingly criticizing me.  He is just patiently waiting for me to get to end of myself – and my temper tantrum – so I can finally hear His still, small voice of encouragement, hope, and love.

And I realize that the issue is mine. I know I’m wrong. I know I’ll eventually do it His way. I know He won’t change His mind, though He may give me what I want just to shut me up (even though it isn’t His best). But my human side wants to wrestle, knowing it can’t win but determined to put up a good fight anyway.

At least I know I’m in good company. I can always go back to Genesis 32 and read the story of Jacob and how he wrestled with God: 22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”  But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”  “Jacob,” he answered.  28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”  29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”  But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.  30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”  31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

Wrestling with God

So what does it mean to “wrestle” as Jacob did?  There are no hidden meanings in the original Hebrew. It means to grapple or wrestle. And Jacob did. Jacob was determined. Jacob was persistent. Jacob was tenacious. Jacob was fierce. Jacob was untiring. Jacob was (almost) obnoxious.

But why? Because he knew God was ready to bless him, and he wanted it. More than that, he needed it. He needed God’s approval as he ran away from his wives’ father Laban and ran back toward his homeland. He needed God’s strength as he prepared to meet the brother he had repeatedly cheated. He needed God’s direction as he attempted to live out the blessing of Abraham he had been given.

It can be easily summarized this way – he needed God. No other way. No other options. Nowhere else to turn.

Jacob had lived life his way, according to his rules and his methods. He had gone along with his mother and lied to his father to steal the blessing. He had tricked his brother and taken the birthright. He had run away and found love with Rachel. In the course of their relationship, he was tricked into having three other wives – Rachel’s sister (by their father Laban) and the sisters’ maids (by the sisters). He had worked as a slave for this love for 20 years and was ready to leave with his family, but he had to leave by stealthy means. I have to believe at this point in his life he was tired of living up to his name of trickster. He was tired of lying, tired of running, tired of trickery. I have to believe he wanted peace and quiet and a somewhat easy life.

And he met God at this point of desperation. He knew something had to change before he met his brother and made it home. And he knew it had to start with him. So he grabbed onto God and refused to let go until God met him where he was. He clung to God at the complete end of his rope, needing a new direction, perspective, and hope. God found him at that riverside and met him. God saw his need and rewarded his perseverance with just what Jacob needed.

And he’ll meet you too.

What are you wrestling with God about?

Are you determined to get your way at all costs, even if it isn’t His best for you?

Or are you ready to wrestle Him until He has His way with you?

You don’t have to wrestle with your thoughts as longer, as David does in Psalm 13:2. You don’t have to let that habit or addiction or behavior control you any longer. You don’t have to be persuaded and controlled by that mindset. You don’t have to walk alone or handle life without help.

There’s another way. It’s God’s way. There will still be challenges and bumps and bruises, but with God, He will uplift you and guide you and get you through all these things. He will give you a new and better way to live, to think, to act, and to feel. And He will show you a life where the only thing you will wrestle with is how much good you can do for other people.

So will you continue to wrestle at this point? Or will you give up the fight and give it all up to God? The choice is yours, and He’s ready to meet you where you are. It’s time to come off the wrestling mat and into His open and loving arms. Let go and move toward Him. Stop wrestling and allow Him to love you and guide it. You can do it!

Marie Fremin, 6/15/15 and 7/12/15