Monday, February 17, 2014

February 17th

"Who tastes what it is to rest in union with God will seem to himself to have won to Paradise even in this life." -St. Catherine of Genoa

(Taking up again early last summer.)

June 2, 2013

After blogging, last night I was very eager just to rest. I went to bed and thought over everything that I had written. Whenever I let my thoughts go, I knew I was also resting in the arms of Jesus, in the front room.

In the times when I was aware of myself being there, it seemed that I had some kind of coiled up and elegant hair style, which is unusual. I had mixed feelings about this updo. I liked its beauty, but I felt anxious about whether or not it would stay in place and I kind of just wanted to run around freely without worrying about my hairdo, but I didn’t want to hurt Jesus’ feelings.

Each time I let myself be in the inner place, I would take in a long, deep breath and the stress would ease out and then I would want to follow another thought, and I would follow that thought back out of the inner place.

Jesus was nothing but compassionate about this. Finally, I was done processing, mostly and began to let myself just be. I was so tired. Jesus Himself seemed not His usual self either- slower, quieter.

“How are You doing?” I asked, looking up into His face.

I’m tired, He replied.

I paused and looked up at Him again, searching His eyes and face. “But… God doesn’t get tired,” I said, uncertainly, thinking of those verses about how God never slumbers nor sleeps.

Then I tried to consider what Jesus might mean, instead of tripping up over my literal human sized understanding of what He was saying, but I was having a hard time believing or allowing for it.

I’m also human, He offered.

“But You're different, now that You’ve been resurrected,” I insisted, dismissing this. “You’re perfect.”

But now I wonder. If He ate, maybe He slept as well? And He is not exactly perfect- anyway, not visibly- He clearly has scars.

Then I decided that even if He does not get tired, Jesus still enjoys resting. Maybe, I thought, what He means by tired is something different from what I mean. Maybe He just wants to rest for the same reason He rested after creation- He just wants to. Maybe it's the Spirit of God that never sleeps.

Then I decided just to accept the mystery of what He said, and love Him just the way He was- even if I did not understand it. His being or expressing tiredness caused me to feel sober, serious, full of care and comfort. I remembered that I am unique and I can inhabit my self-space, so I let all my loves for Him flow up and be expressed without self-judgment, because they are unique and inherent to me.

I saw His face so clearly as Jesus rested with me- His eyelashes dark and His thick, straight brows and His brown eyes luminous, His face lost in some deep feeling. I thought- it must originate from God, this willingness to become vulnerable, to rest and receive.

I became aware that my hair do had fallen down and I felt relief and then I felt guilty and I tried to hide this entire emotional sequence from Jesus, but of course I cannot, and without words, Jesus told me to release those feelings- not to hide them- so I released them and He loved me so much.

“I don’t want to hurt Your feelings,” I admitted.

That’s not possible, He said, tenderly.

He said a lot of things that I will try to paraphrase- it was as though love must be freely given, or it isn't really love. So, I must be free to accept and that means also free to reject. Without this freedom, the love is not powerful, not living, not satisfying, not everything that He longs for.

I understood the general concept, but it still worried me. I don’t want ever to turn Him down, but Jesus seemed to be saying that our relationship was not codependent.

Codependent is where you take responsibility for the way the other person is feeling and try always to manage that person’s feelings so they never feel bad. Jesus said we are not like that; our loving relationship is of two free but deeply loving people who are also one.

(This concept was next to impossible for me to grasp, because my religious background taught that I must always, always manage God’s emotions, lest something terrible or something less than awesome happen to me.

If I could keep God pleased and happy with me, I would be okay, even blessed. If I could not keep God happy, I ran the risk of being ignored or even stirring up His displeasure or wrath. I was well trained to always keep God’s feelings in the back of my mind, and to subject my own to His out of a sense of self-preservation- which, at that time, was the way I defined “loving Him.” But anything coerced is not a free gift- after all, the commandment is to love God. Obedience is the natural outflow of love, not the other way around.)

Even though I could not really grasp what Jesus was saying, I still felt much better just from pondering it. I rested against Jesus, curled up close in His arms. It was still and peaceful and I let myself fall deeply into that place. Looking up, I saw how the ceiling went up to a peak, like a cathedral ceiling and I could hear the soft sound of water and feel the warmth of the air, so still and quiet. I looked out the window, or open wall and I saw the sky beyond the thick leaves that crowd close to the room. I saw the way the wind moved over them and the shadows that fell on the stone and the water moving and I could see through the door into the inner room and the door into the outer room.

It was borne in on me, how naturally and quietly we were secluded, living in some place that belonged only to us, because it was like a living or visual expression of our relationship. It was a part of myself and a part of God and something new that is both together. It was our own.

I stirred and the moment was broken, but the peace still lingered. Then I remembered something- an e-mail that had arrived in my in-box inviting me to join this spiritual site as a writer or something.

“What do You think? Should I?” I asked Jesus.

No, He replied simply.

“Really?” I asked, surprised somehow by the clarity and simplicity of His answer. I had to ask Him again, just to be sure. “Do You want me to write for that site?”

No, He repeated gently, shaking His head.

“Okay then,” I said easily- then I realized something. I always think of myself as a disobedient person, that I am incapable of obedience, so I actually almost never think of the word, because it’s just a loaded word- a word loaded with failure, guilt, shame.

But suddenly I realized that I had, just then, been naturally and completely obedient, with hardly any thought.

“That was obedience!” I told Him, delighted with myself.

Part of obedience, He said, tenderly.

“What the rest, the other part?” I asked Him, curiously.

As obedience is the stairway to pleasure, He quoted, but I didn’t know who He was quoted; it sounded like C.S. Lewis. (It is- it’s from a footnote in the third novel of his Space Trilogy- That Hideous Strength)

I burst out laughing. “Jesus!” I said fondly. “Only You would say something like that- that obedience leads to pleasure.”

Things I don’t want to forget:

The night before, or two nights before, we were together and He said, do you want to go out? And I said okay. And we went to this garden that was lit up with lights and filled with people. I could see the people better than usual, but still, I had to look closely to catch details and then I was worried that I was staring and I didn’t want to be rude, and I still couldn’t understand what they were saying, or even hear their voices.

Two or three people came up to Jesus and then they led Him away to another group. I didn’t mind; I knew He would find me or that I could always find Him. I didn’t mind exploring on my own for a while.

There was a huge oak tree that I peered around and there seemed to be benches next to it. I looked and there was a corridor made of high bushes and I went there and there were steps down, and there was an opening in the hedges and I could see through it to another lawn, with more people and lights, laughing, and I was too shy to go in there, but the corridor itself was shadowy and quiet, so I went down into it and then I saw Jesus come down the steps into the corridor where I was, so I ran to Jesus and threw my arms around Him, happy to see Him again.

I went to walk down the corridor, holding His hand, but Jesus held me back and I turned and looked at His face, so lost in emotion, so quiet and I was drawn back to Him. I let all my love for Him rise up out of me, because He is Jesus, because He altogether lovely and He is mine and I am His.

We went walking down the corridor, away from the lights and we passed by a blossoming apple or crabapple tree that was white in the moonlight, and walking down through the meadow and then we were flying over the meadow, down the long rolling hill to the sea and we stood on the sand and then we climbed up the rocky ledges and Jesus leaned back against the rock and I leaned back with Him and we watched the sea.

“You bring me here because You love me,” I said to Him.

Yes, He replied, softly.

(I changed this in my blog, when I posted this, because I didn’t want people to think He loved me more or anything- which is not possible. The point is that He loves- He is not utilitarian. Jesus doesn’t use people, He loves people. When people know, deep down, that they are loved, they naturally begin to pass this love outward in the unique way that belongs to them and their life. But that isn’t Jesus using them- that’s Jesus’ life and love being expressed through them, naturally.)

“I am uniquely me,” I said.

Yes. He replied.

“And You… You allow Yourself to need me,” I continued, daring to say it.

His response was immediate. I do need you- giving myself away in love is the greatest pleasure I know, Jesus said. This understanding soaked into me moment by moment. I leaned against Him for a long time, thinking about that, that confirmation of the way we are together.

We went walking out onto the sea, following the moonlight that shimmered over the waves. I began to dance on the ocean as though I were ice skating. We rose up into the sky and stood before Saturn, with its rings of bright color. It seemed to be red and vast and filled the dark sky.

We went back home, to the room and the rooms were familiar and personal and comforting- they had a lot of history. You bring me so much joy, Jesus whispered to me, before I fell asleep there.

June 3, 2013

I went within and I was in His arms in the front room. For a long time, I simply was there, resting. When I sat up, I was swept away by the clarity of His face- Jesus keeps answering my requests to see Him better and actually I felt shy. It’s the same face, but more so. He’s so Middle Eastern it’s almost unsettling. His eyes though, gentle and filled with light and kindness- I always recognize them first.

“I love Your humped nose,” I said shyly. He has slightly bushy eyebrows and there were these small dimples by the sides of His mouth when He smiles- it’s hard to see them under the beard, but they are there. He has this certain smile, a quiet, gentle smile- often times when He is looking down He is smiling this way and then suddenly He will look up at me and the smile will widen. His beard is thick and trimmed and goes from his cheeks down His throat.

We were caught up in love and I was worshiping Him with all of myself and at one point, I looked at Him and I mean, I really saw Him- awe, wonder and shyness swept over me all over again. I knew I was looking at Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and my Beloved One, and that one day I would see Him perfectly clearly and be fully in His presence and never be away from Him and always see Him.

I was caught up in recognizing that my worship and adoration of Jesus- being the complete surrender of myself to Him in love, and His love for me- for whom He gave up all that He was, even to death on a cross, all caught up together is an affirmation of profound and profoundly pleasurable truths that are contained within the being and very expression of God.

Affirming this was so overwhelming that I thought it would break me apart; that I would shatter apart. I was purely melting. At one point I was sobbing and there were tears running down His face. It took a long time to recover from this.

“What if being this way with You and thirsting always to be this way with You, makes me miss out on my present life?” I asked Him, later.

That won’t happen, He assured me.

“Really?” I asked doubtfully. “So I can always be thinking of this, and yet be fully present in my outer life? What if I just move through, withdrawn from my practical life and the people I love and the practical things I must do?”

Has that happened? Jesus asked, reasonably.

“Well, no,” I said, slowly. “Actually, I see people in my life even more clearly and I love them very much and I’m more emotionally authentic and more and more often, I am able to recognize even strangers as people who are meaningful to me- as having value and uniqueness- things they could teach me. Just as I know You in a way they do not, they know You in a way I do not, and so there is always something I could learn from them.”

He smiled.

I asked Him also, just actually as mostly a joke, if I should blog about how, if He were to go through an airport, He would certainly be stopped and searched, and Jesus said, very seriously, no.

(Obviously, that initial no has changed, or I wouldn’t now be posting this. However, the things that He went on to tell me are, I think, beautiful to consider.)

“Really?” I asked, disappointed. “You really mean that? I shouldn’t?”

He meant it.

“Gosh. I won’t lie, that’s disappointing,” I admitted. “I was kind of looking forward to blogging about that.”

Jesus explained that each person has an idea of what He looks like to them. They might not even be aware of this, within themselves, but they are comfortable with this conscious or unconscious image of Him and it would be upsetting and unnecessarily confusing for them to be presented with an image of Him that was outside of their comfort zone.

He pointed out that I have grown to see Him slowly over time- that when I began this process, I had a very different idea of what He looked like and that He has slowly been revealing Himself to me and even then, it’s sometimes unnerving to me.

Jesus said that revealing Himself to each person is a personal thing, each on their own time table and each in their own way. Furthermore and perhaps more importantly, the way in which they see Him or do not see Him is not an indication of how deep or intimate their relationship is with Him.

This made so much sense to me.

June 5, 2013

So, for some reason now, when I’m with Him I feel even more free and there is a lot of joy. I think because here is the deal: He is God and therefore, I will never completely understand Him and that is okay.

“Besides which,” I told Jesus, as I was thinking this through, “You were always stretching people beyond their comfort zones.”

Especially those close to Me, Jesus said, His eyes dancing.

I gave Him an exasperated look. Then I had to admit that it was true.

Then we almost got into an argument over free will vs. God’s sovereignty, because Jesus said people can choose to be close to Him, whereas I want to think that people are drawn by God to Him and that eventually, everyone is/will be drawn.

“But the Father has to drag people to You- I read that somewhere,” I said, earnestly. “The Father teaches their heart and that way they can hear Your words and come to You. Can they choose that teaching? Who can resist the Father when He draws them? Besides, how can it be a choice if You created me with a nature that inherently longs for You? That’s not a choice, that’s the expression of my truest nature, and it must be that others also have this as a part of their original nature.”

Jesus is so tenderly patient. He seemed to suggest that there was some kind of choice at work there too.

Then I just let it go. This is an ongoing argument and has been for almost the entire history since Jesus’s ascension and it seems highly unlikely that suddenly, here and now, I will figure it out myself. And maybe both are true, in some way. It seems likely that He invites and gives us space to choose and we remain in the space of choice. Eventually, though, I can’t help but think that God seduces us all.

I guess in the meantime, it is a good possibility that we have relational freedom with God. Maybe we always do. Maybe even in the end, there is still relational freedom. I guess we can always choose to go against even our best nature- otherwise, we would be robots programmed to love and God wants space for us to choose Him.

There is increasing freedom between Jesus and I- these are His lessons lately- that our emotions are not meant to be co-dependently entwined.

When we were first together, I was fragile and uncertain and often triggered by guilt or shame, trying to work through how this could be possible or in what way it could be possible, and needing a lot of encouragement and context. When I was this way, He was patient, waiting, encouraging, responding, gently leading out.

Now I’m more relaxed and He is more comfortably direct. It’s almost odd, how much like a relationship our relationship is.

There’s so much I can’t begin to capture it.

But I kept remembering choice. I am free to choose Him. So I did and I did and I did. I consciously chose Jesus, knowing He made it possible for me to choose Him, and to know Him as the One I always belonged to, and myself being to Jesus His own flesh and blood and He to me- my life, my beloved, the One within Whom I am whole.

And I remembered that He is God and He will be as He will be- that He is the I Am that I Am and to let Him be God and not to try and make Jesus make sense to my human understanding but to let those mysteries go back into Him- to trust Him.

Also, I kept drawing my mind back to the knowledge that I did not have part of Jesus, but all of Him immediately, right then, as He told me once, so long ago, that He was with me, that I was with Him and that I was free to express and interact and pour out my heart to Him. I’m with you now, as He whispered to me once, when I was thinking back about something.

So I chose Him and I trusted Him and I opened my heart to the wonderful fact that Jesus was present with me, and I let Him be Him again and again and again. And we were caught up in an almost continuous stream of love that was beyond description. At one point He was entirely fire and light.

I kept drawing on all my lessons, all my awareness of Jesus- without questioning how or whether I was worthy. I let myself fall into the knowledge that what I was doing was allowing myself to be completely vulnerable to God, to let myself be for Him an occasion for joy, as He is for me and to be shaped by His perception in mutual trust that is deeper than words- that words could never begin to express and that can’t be explained, and He was saying, Jenny I love you, and this was echoing again and again through my spirit.

I put my hand over His heart and I could feel it beating so powerfully against the palm of my hand and the knowledge that He was Jesus was going through me and through me and all that He had done to reach this point and all that He was and my love for Him was rising up- freely and strongly flowing up from within me like a fountain gushing and I was falling down to my knees and I said, Let You be blessed and I whispered, worthy, worthy, worthy and I could hardly move my mouth to speak the words and I was melting down under the heaviness of that love. And Jesus picked me up in His arms and His love was pouring through me without words.

He carried me in His arms down the steps of the pool and through the bushes to the lake, bending carefully and shielding my head with His hand, turning so the branches fell on His side and arms, instead of on me.

“You like this, don’t You?” I said to Jesus, suddenly realizing it. “It’s in Your very nature to be like this.” Because I thought of that verse that says He will carry the lambs in His arms. And He looked at me with this expression I can’t begin to describe, but it was as if I had reached in and laid His heart open.

And at some point, as we were on the edge of the lake, I was describing Him to Himself- what He had done.

How did I do it? He asked me, so softly.

And I described to Jesus how He had done everything He had told us to live- that He had loved His enemies and turned the other cheek and given His life and not resisted, that He had suffered hate and violence and pain and that He had suffered His own body to be beaten and tortured and torn and that He had opened His arms and received it and loved His enemies as He told us to do, the entire time, and forgave the entire time and in the end, laid down His Life and that He had this power from the Father, to lay it down and to take it up and then He gave His life over to the Father at the end, gave His life back into the hands of the Father and that the Father did not allow His Holy One to suffer corruption, but powerfully drew Him back up, and that same powerful resurrection life that the Father had drawn the Son up was also in me, in everyone, in all creation, so everything was alive in Him and that He did this to fulfill His purpose.

What was My purpose? Jesus whispered, caught up in delight, given over to sheer love that was, again, beyond anything I had felt before and I had to try and speak through this current of love that was flooding through my entire self.

I could only get a few faltering words out- it was almost impossible to speak at that point, but what I was trying to say, and what Jesus must have been hearing, was that He brought forth life twice- once when through Him, everything came into being, and again when through Him, everything was born anew, reconciled to the Father, and that the fruit of this work was for God to have subjects to love, created in Their own image, able to freely participate in Their own fellowship.

The weak word love is the wrong word to describe Jesus' response to what I was trying to say- there is no word in any language for what I was receiving. Love does not even begin to describe Jesus or His emotion- His way of being- which is to completely give Himself over to another- which must have been why He was willing to give up everything that He had and to die. It’s His very nature to give everything He has to love, to grasp at nothing, to surrender everything and by it, to gain all in return. This must be why He is the Father’s joy and delight, and the face of God.