Friday, November 6, 2015

Because First He Loved Us

Continuing on with the back story, and as I review these, I find myself editing my original narrative voice. I often spoke in an almost off hand manner, partly because it was one way at the time of dealing with the anxiety of blogging about God, but also, because Jesus wasn't talking to me in a formal manner.

While I don't want my casual tone to terribly offend anyone, neither do I want to take it all away. I think it's an important part of the story- that Jesus came to me exactly as I was and worked with me from that point onward. My testimony would not show His grace so beautifully if I were to try and hide these things.

October 8, 2011

I was reading today. And I found this!

“The Lord is my chosen and assigned portion, my cup;
You hold and maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
yes, I have a good heritage.
I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel;
yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set the Lord continually before me;
because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad and my glory [my inner self] rejoices;
my body too shall rest and confidently dwell in safety,
For You will not abandon me to Sheol (the place of the dead),
neither will You suffer Your holy one [Holy One] to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life;
in Your presence is fullness of joy,
at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

Yesterday we had guests over.

For some reason, the wife's usual negativity really, really hurt- worse than usual. In fact, I found myself actually on the verge of tears on more than one occasion.

For some other reason, I felt as if this were a failure on my part. I kept asking Jesus, "Why aren't I doing better? Why am I actually doing worse? This is horrible. I have to pull myself together. This is a train wreck."

By the time I went to bed, I felt as if I were bruised, bleeding and battered on the inside. I felt as if I'd done nothing but let Him down by my vulnerability. I hadn’t been strong, bright, impervious- only speechless, stumbling, wounded.

(Looking back, it's obvious to me that layers of protective covering over my heart had been removed by Jesus in the healing process, leaving me much more open and authentic. When I tried to think how I eventually got through this, I realized that Jesus never did close my heart back up, He just taught me increasingly how to see through His eyes and respond through Him and according to His heart. This happened over years of Jesus' refining work. The work itself is painful, but the pain matters less and less, because the further along one goes, the more Jesus reveals His heart and pours out love, and knowing Him this way is worth any cost. But first one has to learn this, and then grow in the learning, and then keep growing.)

When I went to bed, I just started pouring out my distress. The first thing Jesus said to me was: I empathize. I also was insulted, scorned and deliberately misunderstood.

My first and overpowering instinct at this was to feel outraged on His behalf. "How can You even compare Your incredible anguish to my slight suffering?" I said to Him, shocked.

It actually took me a little while to get over the outrage so that I could accept the comfort Jesus was offering me. I kept wanting to chide Him for making light of His own suffering, when all I had were hurt feelings. And that should surely be good for me, right?

But Jesus didn't see it that way. He didn't diminish my pain- He acknowledged it. It occurs to me now that something cannot be healed unless it is first recognized.

But still, I had to ask, why do I keep failing?

I do, too. A hundred times a day, I feel as if I have failed- been impatient, judgmental, self-centered. All day long I was judging myself viciously for these things, just beating up on myself.

Two days into this experience with Jesus, I had done this for like the twentieth time, and I heard Jesus speak sternly to me for the first time ever. But it was still loving. I don't think I've ever before experienced sternness and love both genuinely combined.

Jesus said, Enough. No more judging yourself. All judgments and the whole business of judging were given to Me.

So I don’t try to punish myself as much, but I still feel bad. Each time I feel as if I’ve failed, I reach out to Jesus in confession and in need of His forgiveness, compassion, mercy and love. It's wordless now. It's a swift process of yielding back into Him. Immediately, I feel refreshed and relieved. But I do this about a hundred times a day.

When I asked Jesus why I had to do this so often, He replied, Because you're human.

What a surprise, right? It made me laugh. Jesus knows our frame is dust. We produce fruit with patience- He said this Himself, so Jesus doesn't have impossible expectations, dangling them just out of reach and punishing us when we don't achieve them. Then Jesus reminded me of how much I'd already grown, and I realized that I actually have been getting better.

I understand now, more and more, why John described Jesus as full of grace and truth.

I read this verse in the Bible, it says, "Who taught God? What school did He go to, to learn Justice?"

I thought about that. He didn't have to learn justice, because He is justice. The same with love and compassion and mercy. He didn't have to learn these things, because they flow out of who He is.

So, Jesus doesn't run out. It doesn't tax Him. He loves the work of restoring and healing us.

October 9, 2011

It's a lovely, soft and rainy morning.

I keep thinking, I really have to stop talking about how I experience God or people really are going to think I've gone off the deep end. This probably reflects as much my own amazement as anything else.

When I was growing up in church, I learned that it was possible to experience the presence of God- usually in church, though not always. I also learned about hearing the voice of God. I learned that this can be through a verse, or something is impressed on our hearts- which I think means through our spirit, or by some outside source that confirms our internal question.

I was familiar with these things growing up. I was cautioned though, to double check everything I might have heard to the Bible, to verify that it was from God. I still do that, and I like it best when He answers me with a verse, but often Jesus says something to me and then deepens my understanding with a verse He later brings to my attention.

So, what I am experiencing is not actually all that strange, it's just that, I've never experienced it in such a prolonged way- day after day and night after night. And never with such tender and loving attention to detail.

And when I say that I heard Christ speak, just in case you are wondering, I am not audibly hearing a voice. I hear Him in my spirit, as He illuminates an idea or concept for me. And lots of times, I ask Jesus things and don't get an exact reply. He's not like Google or; I can't shake Him until the right answer comes out.

I was talking to my dad this morning about a particular quandary and Dad said "Why don't you try asking Him?"

And I was all, "I did, but He didn't answer and I can't conjure Him. He's sovereign."

Dad laughed. "What! You mean, you can't control God?"

"I know, right? What's up with that?"

As C.S. Lewis has said so well- He's not a tame lion.

But we can talk to Jesus, and He hears us. And He is right next to us, whether we feel Him or not. And even when He does not answer, He cares intimately about what we are saying and feeling. He doesn't forget anything we tell Him.

That alone is such wealth! The fact that sometimes, Jesus speaks directly to us, in our heart or spirit, or whatever, is beyond amazing.

October 10, 2011

Another soft, rainy morning! I love these mornings.

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 says it's another way.

It's mind boggling, really. It makes me start to feel anxious and confused, not sure in which direction to go. 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 instead, I keep hearing Jesus 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, looking to Me- I am enough for you.

That’s always His answer. 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 lessons He is teaching me, 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.

"Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that's not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don't need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything."

Isn't that marvelous? When I read it, I laughed out loud. Keith was in the room and asked me what was so funny. But it wasn't so much that it was funny, as it was joyfully liberating.

Jesus is just so good.

October 11, 2011

What has happened to my blog? Seriously. A week and a half ago, I was happily blogging away about writing, with the occasional blog post dedicated to cooking and military wife experiences and infertility and adoption thrown in for good measure.

Every time I look back and wonder what the heck happened, I remember writing these words:

"It feels like the church, no matter which one I attend, wants to play three important roles in my life: to be a direct pipeline to God, to be a translation for His voice and to verify that my actions are acceptable...
But when I was not attending church, Jesus began to fill those roles. He was my pipeline to God. He is the Word of God, and through Him my life and my actions are redeemed and directed. This happened naturally and by necessity. Now when I attempt to return to church, I find there is friction between the place Jesus has in my life now and the place the church wants to take."

I cannot help but think there is a correlation between what I blogged then and how I began to experience Jesus, beginning the very next day.

But it's much more than that. I can look back further, even in just this blog, and see how my experience and understanding of God has grown. I remember in Kentucky, being incredibly, overwhelmingly angry at Him, and how terrifying that felt.

Still, I continued to experience moments of incredible grace and love and I wanted to know what it meant to serve and follow Jesus, to know God. That's why I wanted to go back to church and kept going to church, even when it was painful.

But I didn't find this revelation in the churches I attended, and I couldn't find it just on my own. So, now I am realizing, Jesus came and did the work Himself. It throws me into the most incredible awe.

Lately, I just keep thinking that ultimately, the purpose of life is to know God. For me, this is what makes everything good in my life even better, and everything bad in my life endurable. Growing in knowledge of Him holds all of my life together. It's the common, golden thread that makes its way through every experience and every stage of my life.

October 12, 2011

I keep coming up against these old ideas. Like, here's an old idea- God should have His proper place, which is at a respectful distance.

Where I got this idea, I'm not entirely sure, but it was there. But the way I experience Jesus now is certainly not at a distance and not on my schedule. It's almost as though.... gasp... He was His own Person, and not just a slogan or an idea or a pretty picture in a frame, or just a story from long, long ago.

Instead, Jesus is the sovereign, omnipotent Son of the living God, who for reasons I cannot fathom, loves and values me.

I keep thinking, this has got to end sometime soon. I mean, for Jesus to once in a while come down and shower me with His presence and grace- sure, that's beautiful but still within the realm of reason. But why is He sticking around? Isn't His work here done? Shouldn't Jesus be moving on to the next project, or something? And why would He care about the smallest, most ordinary things in my life, like what I eat?

And the things Jesus says to me sometimes! It shouldn't surprise me though, because He was often shocking and bewildering His disciples as well. Frequently they are in some nervous huddle, whispering together about what He could possibly have meant, or they are pulling Him aside and asking Him please to explain it. It's amazing to me to notice how often they did not get it. It's kind of comforting.

He never turned to His disciples and said, “That's it! I've had enough of you dimwits! I'm starting over from scratch!” Even when it seems to be apparent that He was quite frustrated by them.

Instead, Jesus kept on steadily teaching them, and building them up into the truth of who they were in Him and the roles He was equipping them for.

Here's another thing I'm sort of considering- Jesus may actually like to be around us. I know I've blogged about this before, but it's just such a hard thing to keep hold of. I keep wanting to add conditions.

He likes to be around us... when we're in church! When we're being especially good! When we're having quiet study time!

But because Jesus is perceptibly near me nearly all the time, I'm almost forced to realize that He may like to be around us… all the time! I'm beginning to consider that Jesus actually enjoys our company, just for who we are. He likes us.

This makes sense when one considers that He created us.

October 14, 2011

I am still having just the hardest time trying to figure out how to blog about my life lately. I feel completely unqualified to talk about God, and yet that is almost all that I’ve been talking about.

I'm pretty sure that today I'm going to get back into my novel. I've been re-reading it, and I really like it, but oh my goodness! It needs so much work.

In the meantime, this is something I've been mulling over-

Recently, I was reading the story where Jesus is walking on water and terrifies His guys, who are struggling against the storm in the boat.

And Peter, in a moment of courage, says, if it's really You, call me to come to You.

Jesus says, Come ahead.

And Peter begins walking across the water to Him. But he looks away and sees the wind and the waves and his terror envelopes him.

It doesn't say, but maybe, in that moment, he can't think how he got there and the sheer impossibility of where he is swamps his human mind like the waves swamp his feet and then rise to his knees as he sinks in.

He cried, Lord, save me.

And without hesitation, Jesus grasps hold of his hand and pulls Peter out of the water.

"Faint-heart, what got into you?" is how the Message translates Christ's words to Peter. This translation makes me smile every time. It just seems such a fond and tender thing to say.

It makes me think of this verse from the letter to those crazy Galatians:

"For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love."

I like that phrase very much- faith expressed in love. It seems that was what Peter was expressing. By faith he walked over the water- but I'll bet he left the boat out of love. Anyway, that's why I would have left it.

Being in His presence is a little like walking on water. I can't see Jesus, but I know that He is there. If I look away from Him and focus on what I see around me, or what I am in my own strength, it's as though I begin to sink into that. I feel scared and overwhelmed.

Then I call out to Him and it turns out that Jesus is right there. He was right there all along. He takes my hand and pulls me right up close to Him and all my fears fall away.

If we ask if we can come to Him, Jesus will say- By all means, come here. We can come right up to Him; we can walk right over the water to Him.

Naturally, this causes me to love Jesus even more. I like how John put it so simply: "We love Him, because first He loved us."