Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 28th

Lately, I've been thinking back to the journey that got me where I am now.

For some reason, I keep getting drawn back to this one time, the winter before last. It wasn't anything extraordinary and at the time, I didn't even publish the blog entry that I wrote, but I think I'm understanding the significance of it a new way, now.

On January 11th, I wrote this unpublished blog:

Last night I read in Luke 14 how Jesus warned His disciples to count the cost before following Him.
As I remembered this when I woke up in the morning, I felt scared, thinking of the day ahead, and the years coming up. What terrors could Jesus be leading me into?
Should I count the cost? What if I didn't have enough to complete this life in Him?
"That scares me," I told Jesus.
He brought my mind back to the scene itself- how He was traveling with great crowds up into Jerusalem to be crucified, and how many of those who were following Him were doing so because they had gotten all caught up in the excitement of the moment, and all the crowds and the miracles, and hadn't thought things through.
They didn't understand yet how it would end. They were perhaps thinking that they were about to gain everything- an earthly kingdom- when in reality, it was likely they would lose everything.
I took all this in, and it all made sense to me. It was comforting for Him to pull the phrase firmly into its first context.
"So," I asked Jesus, "should I count the cost now too?"

You have-- many times, Jesus replied tenderly.

As He said this, my understanding opened up in this new way.

It was as if, after our first argument as a married couple, I had come up to Keith and said:

"Keith, I love you so much! I'll marry you! I'm going to be your wife in every way! I'm going to spend my life with you, until death does us part! I'm going to be your partner in all the things of life, good and bad, in sickness and health. I promise you!"

Keith would be all,"Um... you little kitten, I love you too, and I'm damn glad you feel that way, but we are married."

If I kept coming up to Keith, as the months and years passed, passionately declaring that I was going to marry him each time we argued or went through a rough spot in our marriage, declaring that I was giving myself to him in marriage for good this time, the poor guy would begin to get concerned.

Of course, this is a very imperfect metaphor, but in a deeper way, the same is true of my relationship with Jesus, as it grew over the years. Each time I made a mistake or felt disconnected, I had pledged myself to Jesus again, counting the cost, and giving up all, over and over again, passionately, desperately, thinking that this time, in this church, or in this environment, or understanding this new thing, it would be perfect, it would all work out; I would do it right this time.

And all the time, I was already His. I couldn't have been more given to Him, or belonged more completely to Him, than I already was.

He wasn't waiting for me to be perfect, to understand things perfectly, or to do this great thing, or to feel this great passion, to claim me as His own. I simply was His.

I could simply rejoice in it, rest in it, delight in it.

That January morning, as I was realizing these things, He drew my mind back to one of my favorite passages in Galatians:

"Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.

"If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

"Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?"

-Galatians 3:2-5, The Message

So I lay there in bed, pondering this, and He reminded me, again, that it's His responsibility to perfect and finish my faith, that He will be faithful to finish what He began in me.

"So...." I said, tentatively, trying to feel my way along this new way of thinking, "all I have to do is walk beside You, day by day, trusting in You to guide and strengthen me and to complete the work You began in me, until we're finished?"

We're never going to be finished, Jesus said to me, with tender love.
If I hadn't figured this out, or had this revealed to me- that I was already fully given over to God- I would have continued on being too busy trying to earn what was already mine, or always caught up in guilt that I wasn't living up to what was already true.
That way, instead of fearfully pledging myself to my Beloved all over again, I could simply rest in the truth that I'm His, always.

And, in my experience, I have found that rest leads to joy, and joy leads to delight. And the end of this is love, which is plowed back into the life that we're in, right here and now.
That's why I keep going on about "being in the moment." Striving and guilt and fear keeps our attention on the future, just out of reach- that perfect moment when we have the perfect attitude and feelings and thoughts and belief systems.
But it's in the present, it's right now that we're loved by Him. It's true now.