In the park, the heat acts like water and magnifies the sounds. The layered green of the trees shimmer like the far away surface of this water. Beneath them, where I walk slowly, there are green shadows and splashes of sun.
I hear a morning dove call, a perfect sound for the mid afternoon, but it is only nine thirty in the morning. Merissa is quiet in her stroller, but she leans forward, taking in everything. Her head is golden brown, her feet bare.
I am lost in thought as I push her slowly through the sun and shadow.
"Why don't You give me an actual vision?" I had asked Jesus, the night before.
I meant, an authentic vision, the real deal, according to the definitions I had learned in my brief time at that online community. An authentic vision has no doubt and there is no choice- it comes to a person and sweeps through or past the person. This is a sharp lens with which to view a spiritual mystery, but it's very definiteness attracted me.
You want a vision because you want validation, Jesus pointed out, kindly.
You know what's awkward about talking to God? (Besides the fact that it does make one sound crazy?) It's that no matter how much in denial about oneself one might pleasantly be, God never is.
Jesus had taught me to come to Him in faith, to step into the mystery of it and to trust Him with all that I was, but now I saw that others had made strong, clear definitions for their ways of relating to Him, and I wanted to fit into those definitions, so that I could be approved by them and so that I could clearly know where I stood in terms of spiritual gifts.
I had to admit that for me, I was being motivated by a kind of vanity- the desire to see myself clearly and to be admired. If my spiritual life is constantly muted by the mystery of it, outside of acceptable definitions, then I remain largely unseen by anyone but God, and could not be admired, only wondered at in a doubtful way.
"Yes, that's true," I had to admit. "But it's also because I love You! I would love to see You in an absolute way."
Isn't it enough that you have Me? Jesus had asked.
How I wish that I could report my answer to this as an immediate, "Yes!"
But that would not be true and I could not hide this from Him.
"But does it have to be either/or like that?" I pleaded. "Can't it be both? Can't I have You and absolute clarity at the same time?"
But there was no answer to this and I had to wrestle with His last response.
(I wrote this a week or so ago, and then got sunk, but now I have more energy and time, and Keith is doing much, much better. Now if I can only get him to eat healthy... If only tofu tasted like hamburger...)
That's what I was thinking about as I was walking through the still heat of the park that morning, and I was thinking of a poem that Amy Carmichael wrote in her devotional, I Come Quietly to Meet You:
"I remember in times past almost desperately repeating to myself these lines, written as though spoken from the lips of our Lord:
Am I not enough, My own-
not enough for you?
Am I not enough, My own?
I, forever and alone,
I, needing you?
"It was a long time before I could honestly answer, "Yes, you alone are enough for me." I remember the turmoil of soul I experienced before committing myself to follow Him on whatever path He would lead- remember as if it were yesterday. But at last- oh, the rest that came to me when I lifted my head and followed! For in acceptance there lies peace."
-Amy Carmichael, I Come Quietly to Meet You, Chapter 31: All means All!
I remembered that there were only three tasks that Jesus had asked me to do with my life: to love my husband, to love my daughter, and to write about Him.
I remembered Jesus telling me that He created me with the longing and the capacity to relate to Him as I do, that this was a central part of my identity and that it pleased Him and that He also longed for it.
I was making my slow way up a green hillside as I was thinking about these things. Down to my left the wooded slope ran down to water and smooth rocks, to my right the great pines provided shade and avenues carpeted with golden needles.
As I was walking along, Jesus spoke to me, His voice unfolding thoughts into a clear pattern and opening my understanding to grasp them. Some of these things I'd been starting to understand in the last few days, but He brought them into focus and spoke them into my heart:
If I gave you a vision in the way you are thinking, Jesus said to me, it would be something you could not choose. You would not receive the vision because you loved Me, but because I willed you to see it. I want you to come to Me because you love Me, because you choose Me. I want you to talk to Me, to relate to Me, to respond to Me. I want to be in a living relationship with you.
Receiving a vision in the way you are asking would require no extension of faith, because you would receive it absolutely. But I want your faith to grow. It is My purpose for you that you should constantly step out toward Me in faith. The vulnerability of your faith as you reach out to Me in love is precious to Me and that is My will for you.
The things Jesus said to my heart sunk in and grew there, opened up into deeper understanding with each step I took up the hill and down beside the water. For the next few days, these thoughts kept sinking down and opening up.
It was as though I were allowed to see myself, but not through an outside definition. I was seeing myself through His own lens for me. There was no room for vanity in this, because there is no way for me to prove or disprove this mystery. There was only invitation and the space to accept it or not.
In October 10, 2011, I wrote this:
It's been dawning on me lately, the multitude of thoughts and beliefs that are out there and available, even just within the Christian community. One person says it's this way and another person experiences it another way.
It's mind boggling, really. It makes me start to feel all anxious and confused, as if not sure in which direction to go. Then, it's as though I want Jesus to lay everything out for me, like a detailed map, with routes in different colors and a way to measure distance and what belongs where and how.
And I keep hearing Him say, Just keep looking at Me. Never mind what other people are doing or how they are living their life; that's between Myself and them. I want you to stay right here, in Me- I am enough for you.
So, I was thinking and thinking about that this morning, and how well that suited me and how much comfort that held. It's such a relief not to have to figure everything out. If I live out the truth He is leading me into, that's a good testimony. I just live in Him.
So, I was reading, and I came across this:
My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you've been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You're deeply rooted in him. You're well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.
-Colossians 2:6-7, Message
It's not that visions, according to any definition, are a lesser way of expressing love and faith toward Jesus, it's just that it's not the way He is personally asking me to express those things.
I keep thinking of how Peter was following Jesus away from the beach where they'd had breakfast and turned and saw John following after them and asked, "Lord, what about him?" (John 21:20-25)
That's sort of what I was saying to Jesus. I was saying, "What about these brothers and sisters of mine who are receiving these incredible visions? Why do they receive them and I don't?"
And it's as though Jesus said to me, "If I will that they, like Paul, are caught up into the third heaven and see things so glorious they are not allowed to even speak of them, even if they had the vocabulary to describe them, what is that to you? As for you, you follow Me."
The last Sunday we went to church (which was a while ago) they prayed a blessing over the children returning to school. They called it a Blessing of Backpacks, but I think it is a wonderful prayer in general, and as I have saved the program and have it here by my desk, I will share it:
May Jesus, who calls us each by name to follow him, give you courage and confidence to be his disciples wherever you may be, at school, at work, and at home. May the gifts God has given you be a source of blessing for you and for others.