Friday, December 18, 2015

As Strong As Fire

(Next week, because Christmas is that Friday, I will be posting that week's blog on Thursday, Christmas Eve.)

October 27, 2011 Our Father

I had the most extraordinary experience last night. I was in bed and Keith had fallen asleep, and I was fellowshipping with Christ and my heart leapt in joy- my heart does that often, when I am near Him.

But this time, because Jesus caused me to remember that I belonged to the Father first. I was the Father's and the Father gave me to Christ, just as Jesus said- All that the Father gives Me, comes to Me, and, no one can take them out of My hand.

This just took my breath away. I realized that it was God the Father who had been getting my heart ready so I could hear the words of Jesus and go to Him. He gave me a soft heart and ears to hear and eyes to see, so I could draw close to Jesus.

And my soul leaped up in joy, I reached past Jesus and I fell into the arms the Father in love and worship- I was filled with such passionate, wordless thanksgiving that I took myself from Jesus's arms and threw myself down before the Father and worshiped and thanked Him for making me as I was, so that I could be given to Jesus, which is the best thing in the world and the best thing I could ever wish for. I poured out my heart in thanksgiving and wonder.

It took me a moment to comprehend what I had done by instinct. Then I realized it and I was terrified. My soul flew away fast; I didn't know where to turn at first.

Then I floated back down, like a leaf, like a little bird blown by the winds, but safely. It took a little while before I was resting quietly with and in Jesus again, because I was vibrating with the largeness of what I had done.

It's confusing because They are One and yet different.  I've always been much more comfortable with Jesus. He told me last night, it's because I was taught not the reverence of the Father, but the dread of the Father. This was worn right down into my trembling soul and that takes a long time to heal.

But it is healing, because that is what Jesus came to do- Jesus came to reconcile humankind to the Father, to Our Father. Jesus interprets and makes plain the Father by doing and saying those things that the Father wished Him to do. And because I'm beginning to see Christ so well, I cannot help but also see the Father at the same time.

I am so scared of talking directly to the Father. But this fear is beginning to crumble away. Nobody will understand this. I will never, ever post this. I write this just to remember that moment of recognition and thanksgiving.

(Obviously, now in obedience I am posting this. My first journal post of this year,  that I shared back in January, will put perspective to this healing work of Jesus.)

October 28, 2011 Claiming my Identity

“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

(I include this quote here because it is included in the original journal entry- I think I had found it on facebook that morning. I find it powerful and beautiful, but I do not agree with the idea that suffering is a personal destiny given by God- that is, I do not believe that Jesus intended that I or anyone else suffer abuse of any kind. However, realizing that one's suffering is indeed a part of the Passion of Christ- that He did not withhold Himself from one's suffering, but entered into it, has a transforming and healing power that is truly difficult to express and is, in my experience, foundational to healing and redemption- just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so too we are raised through our suffering with and in Him to an even greater life- the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.)

Last night, before bed, I read the Song of Songs 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 Jesus, to talk over the day and everything that happened in it.

It had been quite a day. And then, Jesus reminded me of what I'd read and suddenly, I decided I would no longer defer. I had been largely withholding myself from this- thinking about it and wondering about it, but not really surrendering to it. I had been pushing Jesus 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 really apply, as a spiritual reality, to myself, because, I said to Him, God can’t feel that much about a person. It’s not dignified.

But that night, Jesus' persistent love wore me down; my own longing wore me down. The fact of the matter was, I yearned, from the very marrow of my bones, from the depth of my spirit, for that to be true- for Him to feel that way about me, for me to belong to Jesus that immediately, that much.

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 this identity and 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 Jesus, 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 will.

Unsurprisingly, this delighted and moved Jesus very much. He was overflowing with joyous love. Jesus 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 this; 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.

Jesus 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, Jesus is perfect, exact and skilled.

Then I remembered and brought into focus the wounds around the abuse I had endured as a child. 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 I couldn't regret what had happened to me, or be afraid of it or be angry about it because, for one thing, Jesus had 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- not in a visual way so much as an emotional way, though I did see again a fraction of my old memories. But I could only receive a tiny part or glimpse of Jesus' anguish, 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.

But I knew what I had just said to Him was true; I knew it then by experience, by emotional perception, as well as by faith.

I was shaken and overwhelmed. But by then, I'd grown used to feeling Jesus 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 Jesus.

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, Jesus could make everything better than before.

So I could even thank Him for that experience and I knew that it would be to the praise of His glory, because the glory to Him would be surpassing great, far exceeding the original wounds. I threw away every scrap of bitterness or regret- I threw it all away like rags into the fire, exuberantly, boldly.

And I broke open the heart of God. I shook Jesus right to the core; I broke His heart wide open in love. Or it felt like that. In the same way that His agony had almost overwhelmed me, so now the outpouring of His heart-stopping love was almost overwhelming. I held myself very still, because it was like being caught up in a roaring ocean of 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, either in grief or in love, in pity and compassion, or frustration and anguish. He's never indifferent to us.

And I'm beginning to realize what are the things He loves. Believing in Him is a simple thing, but obviously, that pleases Him. And trust in Jesus is very good- I think that's precious to Him. He's frequently telling people "Don't be afraid..." Any kind of simple, loving trust in Him, He loves.

And anytime we claim the identity Jesus bought for us, it pleases Him deeply. Any time we cast away our shame and guilt and self-hatred and instead, claim that nature and perfection and beauty that we have in Him, He loves that.

And even better, once in that identity, to draw near Him, that is the best. Every time I think of that phrase "I have held out My hands all day long to an obstinate people," it just breaks my heart and then, in my spirit, I run into His arms myself, and Jesus catches me up in His arms and He loves me, loves me, loves me.

I believe and hope and have faith that He will open everyone's eyes and everyone will worship Him, but for now, He's already opened my eyes, so I can run right to Him. My faith and hope is that eventually everyone will run to Jesus, and His joy will be complete. Until the very last minute, and Jesus Himself tells me that such a thing cannot be possible, I will continue to hope and pray for it.

In the meantime, He could not possibly love me anymore than He already does- it overflows.

So, it was quite a night. I couldn't fall asleep for a long time.

I even spoke to the Father. When I did, instead of perceiving vastness and beauty and power as I normally do in my spirit when I'm in the presence of the Father, I felt Him near and warm and overflowing with goodwill.

Maybe someday I will talk to Him as I do to Christ. Though this makes me feel odd. My dread of the Heavenly Father is quite rightly lessening. But I feel odd about what is the difference between talking to any One of the Trinity. I mean, in one way, there is no difference.

Anyway, I don't have to figure this out, because whatever is true, is true. I don't have to understand it in order for it to be true. Jesus will lead me into this understanding just as He's led me into other understandings. I don't have to worry about it.

October 28, 2011

I had such a moving insight yesterday evening. It was of something very simple, and of something I already knew, but it just came together in a new way. I was reading this passage:

"However, I am not in search of honor for Myself. [I do not seek and am not aiming for My own glory.] There is One Who [looks after that; He] seeks [My glory], and He is the Judge.

I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone observes My teaching [lives in accordance with My message, keeps My word], he will by no means ever see and experience death.

The Jewish leaders said to Him, Now we know that You are under the power of a demon (insane). Abraham died, and also the prophets, yet You say, If a man keeps My word, he will never taste of death into all eternity.

Are You greater than our father Abraham? He died, and all the prophets died! Who do You make Yourself out to be?

Jesus answered, If I were to glorify Myself (magnify, praise, and honor Myself), I would have no real glory, for My glory would be nothing and worthless. [My honor must come to Me from My Father.] It is My Father Who glorifies Me [Who extols Me, magnifies, and praises Me], of Whom you say that He is your God."
-John 8:50-54, AMP

So, I read this, and I thought, when they asked Jesus who He was, why did He respond as He did? He didn't answer them straight out.

I've actually wondered this many times before. (Though Jesus does eventually declare that before Abraham existed, I AM. Which is a spine tingling thing to hear Him say.)

Then I realized that Jesus certainly could have declared to them who He is. He is the Son of God! He could have suddenly called down hosts of angels, He could have made the earth shake or stopped the winds or thrown the Temple to rubble, if He wished.

Instead, He says that He will not glorify Himself, for that would mean nothing, would be worthless. He rests completely in the knowledge that His glory comes from His Father alone, as a gift. Jesus stays faithful to the message His Father sent Him to give.

Then I realized that He is meek. I never saw that aspect of His personality in quite that way before. Now I see it. He defers constantly, continuously, to His Father, to His Father's message and His Father's work.

Jesus is not in search of honor for Himself! What a statement for the Son of God to make. Astoundingly, despite His high position, power and glory that His Father's given Him, Jesus is by character, meek and humble of heart. That is how He describes Himself.

Then, I searched out other verses, and they made this incredible picture (no doubt heavily influenced by Handel's Messiah!)-

"My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care."
-Isaiah 53:2-3

"The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away.

I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.

Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame."
-Isaiah 50:4:7

"Have this same attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus-
[look to Him as your example in selfless humility],
who, although He existed in the form and unchanging essence of God-
[as One with Him, possessing the fullness of all the divine attributes—the entire nature of deity], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted; [as if He did not already possess it, or was afraid of losing it];

but emptied Himself [without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of divine equality and His rightful dignity] by assuming the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [He became completely human but was without sin, being fully God and fully man].

After He was found in [terms of His] outward appearance as a man [for a divinely-appointed time], He humbled Himself [still further] by becoming obedient [to the Father] to the point of death, even death on a cross.

For this reason also [because He obeyed and so completely humbled Himself], God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow [in submission], of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess and openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (sovereign God), to the glory of God the Father."
-Phillipians 2:5-11, AMP

It was as though I had a sudden glimpse right into Jesus’ heart, and it just took my breath away. The beauty of His heart just astounded me. It made me worship Him in loving adoration.

I think Jesus loves to be found out, He loves to be searched out, to be required above all else. It must be, because all through the Bible it says to seek your God with all your heart and He will be found, and then to cleave to Him.

Recently, as I was reading the Gospel of John, I remembered something I had read earlier, which had pointed out that Jesus didn't love John more; there's no way He could love any of us any more than He already does. His love for each of us is overflowing and uniquely expressed for us- that is, He has a unique relationship with each of us. Each of us is irreplaceable to Him.

What John did was to claim Jesus's love as his own identity. So, when John wrote his Gospel, he referred to himself as "the disciple Jesus loved" because that was the identity most important to John, and all his life, he never forgot that love. Which is a beautiful act of worship, I can't help but think.

It's right there, that identity belongs to all of us. We can claim it, we can make ourselves at home in it, as Jesus invites us to do.

We could sign all our letters, "the person Jesus dearly loves," with impunity. We could even answer telephone calls with it, if we liked: "This is the girl Jesus dearly loves speaking, how can I help you today?"

How would that be, for a conversation starter? Anyway, the housewife Jesus dearly loves has to go and clean the bathroom before the house guests arrive, so I'd better finish this up...