Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12th

Here is another piece of my story.

You can see, from reading it, that God layered in His teaching, again and again, until I was able to grasp what He was saying. He's very patient that way.
 
On October 22nd of 2011, I wrote this, some of which I posted and some I did not:

"One night, two weeks ago, He told me to read the Song of Songs and I absolutely did not. So the next night, He told me again to read that book. He said that I was trapped in shame and reading that book was the way out.

And I was flabbergasted to remember how easily I used to read that book- when I was fifteen or sixteen- and how naturally I just claimed it for myself, sitting by myself in my room, in that old wing chair by the window.

I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever read; I was astonished that it was in the Bible. It was like a beautiful, green secret hidden in the middle of the frightening and unintelligible books around it.

It didn't seem presumptuous then, to realize that it was speaking my heart out in beautiful images. It just felt natural.

But that was long ago. By the time I heard His voice telling me to read it again, it did not feel natural- it felt embarrassing and ridiculous.

As I was reading it that next day, He said, This is yours- this is a part of your identity in Me.

I rejected this immediately.

"No way!" I argued. "I'm not Your bride; that would be absurd and arrogant. Anyway, the church as a whole is Your bride."

Yes, but I'm not taking to Myself a building and I'm not in love with a faceless mob- I love people as individuals, He explained.

(You can see that this conversation worked its way into my poem.)

I once asked Him for all of Himself- by which I meant, I wanted to see Him.

But His answer didn't address my specific request; He addressed the overarching principle.

You do have all of Me, He replied.

In some extraordinary way that is beyond human comprehension, He is fully and completely with you, in a way that He is not with anyone else, and yet, He is fully with everyone else, having with each one an intimate and individual relationship.

Or, to put it another way, when He says that He loves you, He means that you are one in all of human history, the only one of you in all of creation and that He loves you completely, with all that He is.

Anyway.

There were still some phrases in the Song of Songs that I just couldn't accept, like "Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck."

I thought, there is no way that that could apply to Christ. I refuse to believe that God could be overcome by His own creation, even in love. That must apply only to the human author, Solomon.

I looked at that line in a dozen different translations and read a lot of commentary on it and surprise- other people tend to think it does mean that. So then I had to consider it.

He said, Would I have died for an insipid, symbolic love that could not move Me?

I never forgot His comment. I kept remembering how His agony had brought Him to His face in the garden. And yet, I expected His joy, His love, His desire, to leave Him unmoved. It did not seem reasonable, when I thought of it that way.

But I kept on wrestling with this. I just couldn't accept it, but He kept on offering it to me.

A few days later, I wrote a blog I never published. Many times I wanted to; I would cut and paste and reread and then reconsider. I've since rewritten it and clarified some of my writing and my thoughts.

I began it with a quote from Thomas Merton, that had suddenly been illuminated for me, in a very personal way, by the experience:

"Suffering, therefore, must make sense to us not as a vague universal necessity, but as something demanded by our own personal destiny.
 
When I see my trial not as the collision of my life with a blind machine called fate, but as the sacramental gift of Christ’s love, given to me by God the Father along with my identity and my very name, then I can consecrate them and myself with them to God.
 
For then I realize that my suffering is not my own.
 
It is the Passion of Christ, stretching out its tendrils into my life in order to bear rich clusters of grapes, making my soul dizzy with the wine of Christ’s love, and pouring that wine as strong as fire upon the whole world.”
 
-No Man is An Island, Thomas Merton

October 28th:
 
Last night, before bed, I read the Song of Solomon again. I'd wanted to read it all day, so I read it then. I put it away and turned out the light and I settled down with Him, to talk over the day and everything that happened in it.
 
It had been quite a day. And then, He reminded me of what I'd read and suddenly, I decided I would no longer defer. I had been; I had been pushing Him away, telling Him and myself that it could not be possible, that I could not truly be the beloved of God, that He could not be the Lover of my soul.
 
I kept saying, this a metaphor for something else- for Christian marriage, or Solomon’s imagination, or it’s the way You feel about the church as a group, collectively. It can’t apply, as a spiritual reality, to myself, because, I said to Him, God can’t feel that passionately. It’s not dignified.
 
But that night, He wore me down; my own desires wore me down. I couldn’t keep pushing Him away, when He kept offering me the very thing I wanted with all that I was, but never would have dreamed of asking for.
 
So it was as if I threw my hands in the air, and fell back, exhausted, into the truth. I dropped my defenses.
 
I said, I agree, I accept. That is how You see me, that is who I am to You. I yield to this, I won't push it or You away any longer. You love me that much; You find that much pleasure in me, You find me that beautiful.
 
It's only because You made me this way; it was Your plan, I'm Your creation. I could never earn this or become this by my own power. But since this is Your plan, I won't fight You anymore on it. I yield to You.
 
I told Him, You are God. All my times are in Your hands. Everything that I am and have come from You. My very soul is Your own breath, my substance is held together in You. You are sovereign and may do as You like with me.
 
Unsurprisingly, this delighted and moved Him very much. He reminded me that I was His precious dove, perfect in every way, belonging to Him, and that I delighted Him. I was beautiful to Him and He took pleasure in me, He made me for Him.
 
And I did not fight Him; I yielded each time to His own definition of me. And it was like drinking wine- it was heady stuff. It was dizzying, overwhelming, intoxicating. I had no idea that God was that passionate.
 
He reminded me of how far I had come in just a few short weeks, how much shame had fallen off me. When I saw this, I was amazed, astounded. I told Him that was all His work. He was marvelous at what He did. In His healing work, He is subtle, exact and skilled.
 
Then I remembered and brought into focus the wounds around my abuse. It's not that I had forgotten about it, I just hadn't brought it up before. I had been at peace with it in a vague way.
 
This time, however, I drew it right into the conversation. I said that my entire perspective on it had changed because, for one thing, He'd been there and as it had happened to me, it had happened to Him.
 
As I said that, I had this glimpse into His agony, in and for me, at that time. It was only a glimpse, because the entire depth of His emotion is too much for a human to compass. It would undo us, as we are now, to feel as He does.
 
It was something I can’t describe. The agony of God is impossible to describe and it’s hard to feel, even a small piece of it. But I knew what I had just said to Him was true; I knew it then by experience, as well as by faith.
 
I won't lie, I was shaken and overwhelmed. But by then, I'd grown used to feeling Him so overwhelmingly intimate and real. I had become accustomed to feeling the emotions of God, though I had never felt that particular emotion from Him before.
 
So after a moment, I kept talking to Him. I declared that I knew His healing and regenerative powers were so overflowing and unstoppable that there was no wound or mar that He could not completely heal. In fact, He could make it better than I had been before.
 
So I threw away every scrap of bitterness or fear or shame- I threw it all away like rags into the fire, exuberantly, boldly.
 
And I broke God's heart wide open in love; I shook Him right to the core. Or it felt like that. In the same way that His agony had almost overwhelmed me, so did the outpouring of His heart-stopping love.

I'm beginning to realize more and more clearly that we really can delight the heart of God. He is so huge and vast, but we can actually make a significant emotional dent in Him. He's never indifferent to us.

Or, as Richard Rohr puts it:

"To allow yourself to be God's beloved is to be God's beloved. To allow yourself to be chosen is to be chosen. To allow yourself to be blessed is to be blessed. It is so hard to accept being accepted, especially from God. It takes a certain kind of humility to surrender to it, and even more to persist in believing it.

"God's love is constant and irrevocable; our part is to be open to it and let it transform us. There is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us more than God already does; and there is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us less. We are stuck with it! The only difference is between those who allow that and those who don't, but they are both equally and objectively the beloved."

-Hidden Things: Scripture as Spirituality, ch. 8 The Resented Banquet, p. 168