Bargaining

letsmakeadeal

Bargaining is a time of grasping. You are grasping for things to be what they once were. You reach for any sense of control you can find. You are no longer blinded by your anger and reality begins to surface.  Being in the present is too hard. You fruitlessly reach into the past and beg to change things, “If I had just done this..” “If we had not gone on that walk..” Or people look to the future, “If you just make my mother better, I will be a good person for the rest of my life.” The present reality is too hard, so we either reach forward or send our gaze backwards.

As I have read about grief, people say that often times bargaining is the shortest phase in the grief cycle. Some people don’t even include bargaining in the grieving process. When I started looking at my own grief journey I thought for a moment that I had bypassed that phase.

I was very wrong.

My bargaining was not the shortest phase in my grief cycle and I certainly did not bypass it.  No, I bargained hard. I dove in deep and stuck in it for the long haul.

The problem was that the one that I was bargaining with was the creator of the earth and sky. My odds were stacked against me from the beginning. Even knowing that, my hardened heart approached the throne of grace.

I had demands.

It sounded like a lot like this. “If you love me, you will not let things like this happen again (reaching forward). I am a faithful follower. I have always done what you asked, crazy things even (reaching into the past). I will continue to follow you on my terms. You must protect me in the way that I feel protected. I will take care of myself and you can fill my life up with blessings. I have done my share of suffering. Take it or leave it. That is my deal.”

Let me spare you of YEARS and YEARS of heartache.

We don’t get to bargain with God. At certain places in my faith journey, hearing that would make me mad. If you are there, know that I have been there. I’m with you. I get it. Please continue to read and learn from my mistakes.

I spent 16 years bargaining with God (in fact, I’m still pretty good at it).  Bargaining with God became a key pillar of the foundation of my newly rebuilt faith.

In Words, I talk about a conversation I had with a friend. The condition of my heart and the innocent question he asked turned into a perfect storm that shattered the faith I had built my life upon. I was grieving, bargaining with God, and rebuilding my faith at the same time. It was not a good combination.

Let me explain.

My faith crumbled within the first year of my transplant. I couldn’t handle it all. The God I knew was good and safe. He loved me and I loved him. That had all suddenly changed, yet the depth of faith that I had wouldn’t let me walk away from God. I’ll tell you one thing for sure, things were different. I had come to the bargaining table and freely shared my demands.

My demands became the foundation on which I rebuilt my faith on. IF you protect and bless me-the way that I want you to, then I will follow you.

Matthew 7:24-27 says “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

In that season of rebuilding, I read the bible. I read these particular verses many times. In fact I got a double major in bible and ministry. I had read the words, I knew God that never promised that we would be without struggle. I knew that I should expect suffering. I knew that in my mind, but not my heart. And whether we realize it or not, the foundation upon which we build our faith is based on the condition of our heart, not the words we speak.

 Needless to say, my house crashed a lot.

I have had some really hard things happen to me since. And because I built my faith on the idea that if I took care of myself and continued to follow Jesus, he would protect me in the ways I wanted and bless me in the ways I wanted. But then something bad would happen that was out of my control and my faith would crumble. I couldn’t accept the reality that bad things would happen, so I would reach into the past. I would remind God of all the things I had been through and how faithful I was. Instead of sitting in acceptance, I would reach into the future and think,  “Okay God, lets try this again. This is the last time. Next time I’m serious, I’m walking away.”

Unfortunately, God doesn’t work like that. When it comes to bargaining with God, we don’t get to set the terms.

Isn’t that truth so unsettling?

That is the thing that I hate the most and love the most about God – he’s in charge.

Like I mentioned earlier in my post, I bargained with God for 16 years. I built my faith upon the truth I was willing to accept, even though it never worked. Trusting God fully again felt too scary. I didn’t care that my house continued to fall, at least I felt in control as I built it back up again.

About two years ago a few things happened (which I’m sure I’ll share about soon) and my heart began to melt. My bargaining chips had never really worked and I was exhausted by continuing to build my house back up. I gave in and approached the throne of Grace. I did not come with terms or stipulations for my faith. I came broken and humbled. I accepted the truth.

God may never protect me the way I want him to. Really hard things are probably going to happen to me. God never promised that I would be safe.

But when I met him there he reminded me of his truth.

He reminded me that he is on my team. He reminded me that he will make good where there is bad. He promised that he will carry me when things are hard. And that he will protect me, but not necessarily in the way I want.

I began to rebuild my foundation. Not on my terms, but on the truth. I take one step forward and two steps back. But I know from years of experience that if I don’t build my house on the truth of God’s word, I will continue the cycle of crumbling and rebuilding. It’s exhausting.

Let me encourage you. Since I have accepted these truths, my faith has accelerated. I have had more breakthroughs in my faith in the last year then I have had in 20. The lies that I had believed created a barrier between me and God. I am truly becoming a new person.

I encourage you to take note. Take note of when your faith begins to crumble. What truths have you built your house upon? If they are not from God, I promise-your house will crumble.

The good news today is that God’s not leaving his throne of grace. In fact, he is graciously waiting for you there. He is there waiting to remind you of the truth. The truth that life is going to be hard and that a lot of times there is nothing you can do about it. The truth that protection will look different than you want. His purpose is not to make you feel safe. But he will also remind you that makes good in the midst of the bad. And even in the midst of your pain, he will remind you that his is on your team. And then he will help you start to rebuild. And together as you walk in the truth, you can rebuild your foundation.

Because there is more,

Lisa

Anger

I’m sorry its been awhile. My life took a different (good) direction than I expected this fall and I’m just finding my footing. There are so many things in my life that often don’t feel clear, but there is one thing God has made clear to me over the last few years- I need to write. Not for you. Not for me. But because God asked me to. I want my pain to matter. I want my story to impact other people. I want people to learn from my mistakes. And if there is one thing I have not done well is grieve.. If you haven’t read any of my blog posts before, stop reading. Go back and read Transplant, maybe a couple posts in between and then read Denial.  Meet me back here. Not much I will share today will make sense without context.

Denial was exhausting. From an outsider’s perspective, I was thriving. Below the surface I was  constantly pushing down the current of emotions that was just waiting to burst through the surface.

Then Bryan…

Bless his heart.

I mentioned in Denial that I had a lot of coffee friends. Most of us can rally for an hour or two. But when Bryan and I started dating I couldn’t fake it anymore. We spent more than 2 hours at a time together. We traveled together. We had class together. We studied together.

We ran together.

My lifelong dream prior to my transplant was to run a marathon. We had recently started dating. Bryan and I were in the library at school. I saw something about the Twin Cities marathon and I nonchalantly said to Bryan “Do you want to run a marathon with me in October?” Without much hesitation Bryan said yes. He is generally game for anything.

So we ran together. That’s how we got to know each other. That’s how we dated each other for the first months of our relationship. At that point after my transplant (I was about 3 years in) I went in and got my blood drawn every month. As Bryan and I continued to run, my liver enzymes continued to climb (they are supposed to be low) and they couldn’t figure out why. I was put on a few new medications and you cannot even imagine the fear I was experiencing. My recent episode of rejection was still so fresh. I could not, would not, go through that again. But as much as I was full of fear, there was a bigger force at play. A force that had become my shield and my sword – it was denial. I didn’t care if liver enzymes were rising. I was going to run a marathon. I was not sick and I was going to prove it. To myself. To my doctor. To my family. To God.

I will spare you all the details. But I will tell you one thing.

I didn’t finish.

I was angry.

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Let’s pause for a minute. I do recognize that running a marathon is not an everyday thing. Being able to run the marathon is not a good measure of whether or not one is healthy. But prior to my transplant, this would have been a very attainable goal.

For me, the marathon represented so much more than the miles I ran.  It represented control. Somewhere along the way I had decided that if I was able to run a marathon I was in control of my body. It represented health. It represented a life that I had lost on August 13, 2000, a life that I so badly wanted back.

And  when I did not finish the marathon, it represented a loss of a dream. A loss of control. A loss of the life I had known and the one I had dreamed of. My body, mind and soul were not the same and would never be the same again. I couldn’t deny it any longer.

The thin layer that was keeping my emerging emotions cracked. I was no longer in denial. I was angry. I was angry at God. I was angry that God didn’t stop this. I was angry at my classmates whose biggest problems revolved around a recent date or exam. I was angry at everyone around me who was healthy. I was angry at people who would tell me that God had a plan for me. I was angry at anyone who would try to comfort me.

I was angry because I was grieving.

But I didn’t know that was what was happening.

I knew one thing, I was angry. I have always been intense and I always will be. But this level of intensity is like nothing I had experienced before.

I yelled a lot. Bryan and I fought all the time. I was mad about something all the time and he was my person. He couldn’t do anything right. He was my safe place and my punching bag.

Like any respectable person would do, Bryan broke up with me.

I would have broke up with me too.

Our grief journey tends to be tough on the people we love. Because we often times don’t understand that grief is the driver behind our outbursts, we search for someone to blame. Not only do we blame people we love for how we feel, but they also get the worst of our emotions. Our anger comes out sideways. Instead of acknowledging our grief, our anger is projected on the people around us.

We yell. We scream. We blame.

We don’t mean to. We feel guilty. But we do it again. It feels as if it is happening to us and we have lost control. We suffer. You suffer. And then we do it again.

Does that sound familiar? Is there someone in your life right now that is angry all of the time? Are you angry all the time? Do you make small things big or big things small?

Could it be grief?

Don’t try to evaluate whether or not your loss deserves grief. It’s not about the experience itself, it’s about how you internalize it.

Just go there.

Examine your heart. Do it for the ones you love. They don’t deserve your misplaced anger. But more importantly, grieve because you can. God never promised that our lives would be without pain, but he promised to meet us there. He created a beautiful pathway for you as you process loss; it’s called grief. He will walk with you along the journey. Your process may take a while, but I promise you in the end it will be worth it.

Just ask Bryan. Your family will thank you.

Lisa