Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 25th

We've had guests over this weekend and so I've been too tired to spend much time meditating- I will use this word- I'm tired of using the word "experiences."

Perhaps, as you read my blog, you are noticing that God's love seems to be almost undignified. I find it unsettling myself, and it still takes me by surprise sometimes.

I have far more regard for His dignity than He does. Of course, we can see a picture of this undignified love in His parables, the classic example being the father running down the road, and falling on the son's neck.

Oddly enough, one of the most difficult things I've had to learn has been simply to accept His love, but I've been getting better this.

On Monday night, when I opened my heart in the quietness and saw Him in the room, I felt as if I hadn't seen Him in a while. I went walking to Him and looked up into His face, so quiet and receptive.

"How are You?" I asked.

Missing you, He replied. It's not the same without you. I miss My little place of rest.

He meant, from this verse:

"The Eternal your God is standing right here among you,
    and He is the champion who will rescue you.
He will joyfully celebrate over you;
    He will rest in His love for you; He will joyfully sing because of you like a new husband."
(Zephaniah 3:17)

This is exactly the sort of statement from Him that used to drive me crazy- it's sounds so heretical. Why does God want to rest? He doesn't get tired. And aren't we always together, in one sense, so how can He miss me?

This is where I get to practice letting God be God- I must accept Him as He is, or else I'm just hitting my head against something far too large to understand.

Also, I keep worrying that my head is going into explode into a massive ego balloon if He keeps saying lovely things to me. So, for a long time, whenever Jesus happened to say something lovely, instead of swooning with love, I got angry and upset at Him.

I talked with Him about this recently- about a week ago.

"There's something else..." I told Him, reluctantly. He was, as usual, quietly and completely listening, so I just went on working through it.

"As I grow into You, and begin to accept this way of being with You, and my inherent, created identity in You; as I begin to accept Your love and to let the things You say sink deeply into me, instead of resisting them.... I feel... Sweetheart, I guess that is Your business and I won't deny whatever You are doing with my life, but it makes it so difficult for my ego not to go ape crazy with it and I feel so burdened with this fear that ego will completely take over and I'll become a kind of manic, arrogant, prideful ass."

You've worried about this before, He gently reminded me.

"Yes, that's true..."

And what did I say then?

"You said... Goodness! I guess it is applicable..." I replied, remembering it all over again. "You said that You wanted me always to be thinking of myself in the way that You think of me..."

Keeping one's mind on things above, He said, emphatically, on your lasting, whole identity in Me, not constantly self judging, weighing yourself in the balance and coming up short. You are a part of the Kingdom of God on earth- you are a living piece of My love on earth. Think this way. And what else did I say?

"You said that my character is Your work..."

That is My work, He insisted, almost before I had finished my thought. You are My workmanship. I am the One that produces the good fruits in you-  the love, joy, peace, self control- all that makes your character. Apart from Me, you can do nothing. Rest in Me.

"That's so scary!" I protested. "I don't want to let go control over my own character! What if I turn into a horrible monster of arrogance, lack of self control and conceited? I don't want to let go control."

It's difficult to trust that deeply, to trust Me with your complete self, He affirmed.

"Help," I whispered, leaning into Him and wrapping my arms around His waist.

He bent down to me and spoke softly. I have- I am, He said.

At the beginning of this month, I was talking to Him about obedience. I always think of myself as being a disobedient person- that I am incapable of obedience, so I never use the word. For me, it's a word loaded with failure, guilt and shame.

But I had realized, just then, that I had been naturally and completely obedient, with hardly any thought or effort at all- even if it was in a small thing.

"That was obedience!' I told Him, delighted with myself.

Part of obedience, He said, tenderly.

"What's the rest, the other part?" I asked, curious.

As obedience is the stairway to pleasure, He replied and it sounded familiar and as if He were quoting something.

I burst out laughing and turned around again. "Jesus!" I said, full of love. "Only You would say something like that- to link obedience so inextricably to pleasure."

Later, I looked that phrase up- it is a quote. In fact, it's a quote from That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis. The quote is incomplete even in the book.

I first read this series, the Space Trilogy, when I was in third grade. At that young age, I managed to make my way through the first two books, but I could only get the first chapter of That Hideous Strength before I gave up on it.

I read it again when I was sixteen or so, and I wrote that quote down in my journal.

April 21st, 1994:

"It must be that God is working on my pride, because I'm beginning to really become a bride of Christ. I am created just to please God. In one way it's humbling, in another it's more than I ever imagined. It brings to mind my favorite quote:

"'To desire the desiring of her own beauty is the vanity of Lilith, but to desire the enjoying of her own beauty is the obedience of Eve, and to both it is in the lover that the beloved tastes her own delightfulness.  As obedience is the stairway of pleasure, so humility is the--'
-C.S. Lewis"

It's rather mind boggling, actually, when I consider this whole picture. How was I coming to know that? I can't remember any more- but I do remember that time in my life, how it was full of dawning wonder.

Who are you to Me? Jesus is very often asking, and although the answer to this has many layers, I know exactly the response that He is looking for.

"I'm Your sister, Your spouse- Your dove in the clefts of the rock," I reply now, and even though I've said this so many times, I still can't help but feel almost too shy even to speak it.

I was with Him a few days ago and something that I had read earlier in the day had triggered my latent religious fear and the anxiety was still all through me. I was curled up with Him on the couch, trying to let the fear flow up and out of me.

Do you want to pray? Jesus offered, His voice full of tender loving kindness.

"Oh yes!" I cried, feeling relieved just at the thought. "Let's pray."

Our Father, He whispered.

"Our Father," I repeated softly, and then stopped and considered it.

I remembered how Jesus called the Father Papa or Daddy. I wondered if maybe I should try doing this, if that might help heal some of the lingering religious fears that I have around the Father.

So I tried it. "Our Papa," I whispered and goodness.

Joy went right through Jesus like a flame. When this happens, my spirit flares up in immediate, almost symbiotic response. I think this must be because we are one spirit with Him, which I am coming to believe, is at the heart of the metaphor of spiritual marriage.

I thought I must be on to something, so I continued. Eventually, I reached this way of understanding the prayer:

Our Papa who lives in the center of perfect light, peace and joy,
which radiate outward from Him,
You and Your name are the only perfect good and perfect Love.
Let that light, peace and joy break in upon us,
Let Your love be made manifest here
as it is with You in Your presence.
Let us have today the bread to fill our stomachs-
and the Living Bread from You that fills our deepest hunger.
Forgive me and set me free from any prison- release me!
as I forgive and set free others- let them be released!
Let those captives go free!
Keep us safe from tests and from evil, harm and suffering.
Everything is Yours.

As I said, "Let them go free!" joy rose up in me in a way I can't describe and I threw my arms wide open.

As I had been working slowly through this prayer, Jesus' love had begun to burn higher and higher, and as I spoke, I was being drawn into it, like one small flame into a larger one. It became more and more difficult to speak and eventually, I was completely caught up into His love and could not speak for a long time.

I'm doing a terrible job describing this. This is the problem trying to describe something that really is beyond words. But I believe the word ecstasy was invented for such moments.

This is the heart of who we are, Jesus told me once, when I was caught up in that kind of ecstasy. I think because we're one spirit.

Letting go of the perception of separation is where the pleasure lies and that is very much like letting go of a whole bunch of veils- some thick and some paper thin. Letting go of them is always a choice; I can choose to succumb to the deepest definition of myself in Him, to His consuming, out-pouring love, or I can hold myself back.

Choosing to succumb to this feels as if I am completely giving myself up, wholly surrendering to Him. In doing so, I do not lose myself. I am not pouring myself out and being lost- I'm being contained, found, met- I must receive Him as much as He is receiving me.

Because, and this, to me, is one of the most unbelievable things about Him-He is overflowing with desire to give Himself away to another- to us.

Why do I share this? I share this because I just have this suspicion that as human beings, we all have this aching desire to be seen for who we truly are, to be loved, to be recognized, delighted in, cherished.

Of course, we find some of this met in our warm and loving human relationships- but there is an ache that goes deeper than skin or words, it's something tied up with wonder and desire and longing that is never quite met.

I think we were made for relationship with Divine Love and we feel this and know this. It's what makes us want to sink into the landscape, to run for the horizon, to speak a perfect language that we haven't yet heard but we know, somehow, would be our mother tongue and the syllables of this musical, haunting language, finally spoken, will light up every corner of our longing.

What prevents us? When I was sixteen, and I wrote, "I'm beginning to really become a bride of Christ...," I hadn't the faintest clue. It seemed to me that I was hearing the sound of bells from miles away through the quiet, warm air of summer, and I was beginning to walk toward the sound of it, but I got lost in the underbrush.

I had this idea in my head of what it looked like and how I would get there. These ideas were so wrong that they actually prevented me from simply entering in: I thought I had to understand it and earn it and those things are impossible. It's like a mirage of spring water in the desert, but which turns only to dry sand, always moving just a little more out of reach.

It would have been better if I had been able, in my innocence, to simply surrender to my longing and to say yes, right where I was.

That evening, when He told me that He had been missing me, instead of arguing with Him, I put my arms over His shoulders, looked up at Him and said, with everything in me, "I'm here, I love You and I'm Yours."

If only I had been able to say that earlier in my life! If only I had been able to go outside, to stand under the night sky, open my arms and declare, "I'm here! I love You and I'm Yours!" If only I had lain quietly on the grass and whispered those words in the quietness of my own heart.

In the Awakened Heart, Gerald G. May writes:

"Our assent, our yes, finally comes from nothing other than our own yearning, from passion itself. It may surface temporarily as desire for self-improvement, functional efficiency, moral virtue or social justice, but ultimately it will take us beyond and beneath all such ends. Love will bring us to our ever-present beginning, where our only reason for saying yes is simply that we want to. Here it is only our plain desire that makes true assent possible: the desire to respond to a larger love already given, the desire to love and to be loved and to be fully, consciously present in love as an end in itself. It is a matter of simple caring, our hearts aching for the fullness of love for no other reason than its own essential goodness. In this simply, exquisite longing, awakening in each precious moment, we know who we really are. It is the likeness of God."