I was about eight years old the first time it happened. I was playing outside with my friends when the dog across the street broke loose. He charged, I ran, he attacked. I kicked and screamed as he bit and tore. Finally, my friend Victoria got my parents and my dad was able to get the dog off. I really have every right to fear dogs, but I don’t.
Around nine, my friend Victoria dared me to swim across her pond. Not one to turn down a dare, and feeling pretty confident in my swimming skills, I gladly accepted the challenge. Kicking my shoes off, I stared across the dark water and a memory of nearly drowning in a different pond a few years earlier, flashed through my mind, but, it was a dare, so I jumped in. I made it almost all the way across before I started to cramp up. My logic was to drop deep, kick off the bottom and finish the swim. As my feet sunk into the thick mud at the bottom, panic set in. I was stuck, fully submerged, and fear made logic seem ridiculous. I’m still not certain how I got free, but as I crawled out of the water on the other side, I vowed not to swim in that pond ever again. I really have every right to be scared of the water, but I’m not.
It was September 2001, we had just gotten back from a family vacation, when I woke up unable to feel my legs. Being only 12 weeks pregnant, I knew something was wrong. I woke Jim up and feared the worst. Knowing that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal, we rushed to the ER where they quickly prepped me for surgery. The baby was gone and my life was hanging in the balance. I really had every right to be angry at God, but I wasn’t.
In January, I sat in a hospital waiting room, surrounded by family and friends, struggling to understand how and why I was chosen to live the life that was laid out before me. I have every right to be bitter, to be selfish, jealous or full of rage, but I’m choosing not to be.
I was thinking about my rights today, as I was evaluating how far I have come in 9 months and how far I still have to go. I wondered about the stages of grief and the fact that, although all those feelings are perfectly normal (believe me, I have gone through all the stages, multiple times), they are not campgrounds for me to pop a tent at and vacation.
As a believer, I have the Spirit of the living God dwelling in me. He has called me to live a life filled with things like love, joy, peace and patience, not hatred, jealousy, envy and strife. Of course, there is room to let feelings come and go, God understands that about us, but I don’t have the right to live in that. If I choose to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh, then I need to deal with any emotion that doesn’t line up with the Word of God as a potential threat. When I begin to believe that God has somehow made concessions for me because of what I’ve been through, I am essentially saying that my flesh has the right to lead my Spirit, His Spirit.
Allow yourself to feel what you feel, especially when your grieving, but don’t set up camp. I heard someone say once that we can’t judge ourselves on what we feel but by how we act, and I agree, but the Bible says that out of the heart the mouth speaks, so how I feel can quickly become how I act if I’m not careful.
Maybe I do have the right to feel and act a certain way right now, but I believe I laid down my rights when I picked up my cross.