Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Will

Continuing with the back story, this begins with another blog that I have posted several times before. I apologize for these things showing up repeatedly, but I must put them in order as I go along. I have edited it somewhat.

December 11, 2011

This is normally a blog that would remain private. However, I'm going to go ahead and share it.

Yesterday evening, I was just at the end of my rope, feeling frayed and worn thin and miserable. I had raging headache and I was exhausted. I went to bed early. Even then, I felt the presence of Christ close by me.

"Don't talk to me!" I snapped at Him in the quiet room. "I can't take any more of Your mercy!"
The intensity of my stubborn resentment of His grace now seems like that of a small child and fills me with humor at myself in the same way that it would for a child, but at the time, I was taking myself seriously. Sometimes His loving kindness just drives me nuts. I don't understand why Jesus doesn't punish me, why He doesn't get angry at me, why He doesn't just shout at me.

"Why is it that my behavior doesn't drive You away?" I asked, desperate. "How can You stand to be around me when I'm like this? I'm not good enough, my behavior isn't good enough for You."

It wasn't because of your good behavior that I came in the first place, He stated, quite firmly.

Jesus reminded me, all over again, that it is His part to give and my part is to receive, to surrender, to yield. I can't stand apart from Him to fix myself- I must yield myself to Jesus just as I am in each moment and let Him do that work. How many times must I relearn this lesson? I suspect my entire life.

When Jesus calls to me, when He refuses to leave me even when I push Him away out of shame and fear and deep disappointment in myself, I remember that He wept over Jerusalem, so great was His longing to gather her children up under His wings, and so great was His sorrow that they would have no part of it and what would soon befall them.

All day long, Jesus says, I have held out My hands to a stubborn people.

When I think of these things, my unworthy state, my failures, no longer matter. I remember only that Jesus is meek and lowly of heart, and will not compel anyone to come- He invites. He calls to me with open arms, and I must go to Him, because I belong to Him. I am His.

I surrendered, as the hymn says:

Just as I am - Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come!
-Charlotte Elliott, 1835

I went to bed and read some of the psalms, but I was so tired, eventually I had to just put the Bible down and rest in His healing love.

I was full of peace, within and without. It was as though I was being warmly sheltered under the shadow of His wings, close to His heart. All my wounds and all the tightly wound up places inside me eased into the warmth of His love.

We have a Christmas tree in the bedroom, a green one with colored lights, and when I put out the lamp, the room was full of the lovely, peach colored glow from the blended reds and yellows, greens and blues that pooled together in the darkness.

Lynn was curled up at my feet, a quiet, breathing lump of warm fur, and through the walls, I could hear the quiet murmur of the movie Keith was watching in the living room.

Into this peace stole a fear that had been growing in me for some time. This is the fear that one day, I'll wake up and find Jesus' presence gone. I don't know how I could survive if I lost that deep and living connection that I have with Him, in my spirit, now that I have known it.

I decided to give voice to this fear, instead of trying to push it out of sight out of shame of feeling doubt or fear. I felt His strong and loving desire that I should pour out my fear to Him, to release it to Him. So I did.

"I'm scared You'll leave me!" I cried. "I'm scared one day You'll take Your presence away from me. I can't live without You. I won't be able to bear it."

I am your life, He said. You have My Spirit. I cannot take Myself away from you- if I did, you would die, and I have promised you that in Me, you would find eternal life. You cannot lose Me; your life is bound up with Mine.

I was so deeply resting in Jesus that the fact that He answered me so clearly, and with such detail, did not amaze me as much as it might otherwise have done.

"But what about David!" I protested. "You took Your presence away from him, and he had Your Spirit poured out on him."

You are born of My Spirit, Jesus said.

As He said this, in my mind I saw a fleeting image of the three crosses standing silhouetted against the sky, on the top of the hill- I saw the empty tomb. They weren't unfamiliar images to me- He just brought them back to my remembrance.

It took me a while to digest what Jesus was saying, even though this was actually not new information- I'd understood these concepts long before, only now they were sinking deeper into me.

I kept bringing up different avenues of thought, and Jesus kept patiently taking me back to the heart of the concept- that my spirit was of His Spirit, and therefore, I could not be severed from Him.

It all made sense to me, by that time. But still, I doubted. I still worried that one day, I would wake up, bereft of His loving presence.

I cried out in my heart, "Continually help my unbelief!"

And Jesus caught me up in His arms and poured out His love on me.

I just will never understand how He works. I don't understand His love or His grace or His mercy and compassion. But it seems safe to say that Jesus loves us to call on Him and to yield to His love and to lean into His strength.

"How precious is Your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge
in the shadow of Your wings.

They feast on the abundance of Your house,
and You give them to drink
from the river of Your delights.

For with You is the fountain of life;
in Your light do we see light!"
-Psalm 36:7-9

December 12, 2011

This morning, I saw this on my dad's facebook page, and loved it:

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild,
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.
"After Annunciation"
-Madeleine L'Engle

Here's another thing I've been thinking about- in the parable of the prodigal son, at the end, the father says to his oldest son, "My son, you have always been with me and everything that I have is yours."

I can't help but think that if the eldest son had wanted to, he could have put his hoe down, gone in search of his father, and said, "Dad! I love you! I miss you! I'm slaving away out there in the field and you know what? I just want to spend some time with you. Let's kill the fatted calf! Let's go fishing! I miss you, let's spend time together!"

I bet the father would have been overjoyed and opened his arms to his oldest son.

And they would have gone fishing, or something.

December 12th Good Will

Yesterday, after I blogged, I went for a walk.

As I got to that place at the top of the hill where all the lovely, stately pines stand on the level ground, I heard the song "Good will towards men," repeated, over and over again, and joy -pure, simple joy- welled up in my heart.

It was as if Christ put His arm around my shoulders and we were walking along together. Tears filled my eyes, just from the joy of it. Peace filled my heart.

Heaven has good will towards men!

What a simple and beautiful thing.

December 12th Taking God Seriously

It's been occurring to me lately how many things that I said I believed as a Christian, but as it turns out, wasn't actually taking very seriously.

It seems to me that we've been given some of the most mind blowing wealth and promises and identities beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, but speaking for myself, instead of walking around dizzy with the glory of it, I neatly packaged it all up and put it away for later.

Just to pick a recent example, I grew up believing that God talks to us. But it turns out that I didn't believe it- not really. I wasn't taking that seriously.

I didn't really expect God to talk to me- when He did, I was shocked! I kept thinking, how can Jesus be talking to me? Why is this actually happening? And then, when He persisted in being in relationship with me, I struggled with sounding like a crazy person anytime I talked about this.

For some reason, I used to have this mindset that God wanted us to "muddle through somehow", as the song goes. As though, essentially, it's just us chickens down here. I persisted in reading the Bible as though I didn't have the Author standing right beside me, available for questions and an actual, living, growing, personal relationship.

I had heard, so much, all my life about how Jesus is a personal Savior, and about my Christian walk, and how Jesus is my friend, etc.

Was I taking that seriously before? No, not really- or only sporadically. It turns out I was believing more in the slogans than the living Truth behind it.

I didn't really believe Jesus was my friend. Who was I kidding? He was my Judge! A judge can't be a friend. How can God be a friend?

I had difficulty with this idea of relationship because, as it turns out, Jesus is not so much standing beside us, as He is within us. And, we tend to distrust this because so often it's stuck in our heads that we still have our old heart, not a new, living and receptive heart that Jesus has given us through our new life in Him, and also, because even though it’s written that greater is Jesus who is in us than that which is in the world, sometimes it seems like our faith is not resting firmly on that truth.

When we shut our hearts down- out of fear or shame or distrust- how can we hear Jesus when He speaks in His still, small voice? And if we are not in open communication, it's hard to be in relationship.

What complicates things further is that I was so worried that I didn't have everything exactly figured out, as though that would be devastating, as opposed to merely inevitable. Of course I don't have it all figured out! That's not the point.

The point is to allow Christ to grow us deeper into Him and into knowledge of Him. To paraphrase, we forget the former things, and press into more and more of that perfection which is in Christ.

I used to focus on everything in the Bible that told me what to do. I liked that- that seemed pretty cut and dry to me- fairly easy to understand. I liked being told what to do and then pushing and striving to do it, even if it left me exhausted, burned out and lonely.

The parts of the Bible that talked about who I was- I largely skipped over those. I wasn't quite sure what to do with all that. I have Christ's Holy Spirit? I live in Christ? What is that about? How do I package that?

And so, for a long time, I ended up glossing over or missing the heart of the matter.

December 13, 2011

I see a lot of things differently lately. Lately, I read one of the many times where Jesus says, If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. (John 14:9)

And I just had to stop, right there, and consider exactly what Jesus was saying. As I contemplated it, it was as if an old and massive edifice -already cracked and damaged- began to crumble and fall completely away.

My old image of God just fell away. I suddenly saw Him differently.

He's not some crabby old patriarch up there with a long white beard and a lightening fork in one hand- thunderous, displeased and threatening.

If Jesus revealed God to us, and that is what Jesus said He did, then we have this astonishing and heartrending translation of who God is.

This is God- our God is self-sacrificing. He is humble. He is moved to tears at our pain and grief. His longing is to heal and restore and to teach and to guide. He takes joy in creating, in relationship, in life. He is love itself.

He is actually slow to get angry. He stores His anger up for long, long periods of time. He prefers to be turned aside from His anger, even when His cause is just and right, as it always is. God is merciful, takes no pleasure in any one's death, and is unwilling that any should perish.

God could crush us- instead, He pleads with us. We rebelled and went our own way, and death was the consequence, but He died in our place, reconciling us back to Him. We turn our backs to Him- He goes on speaking to us. The sight of His glory would kill us- He put on humanity, and walked among us.

God was born into poverty and hard labor. He got tired and bruised and worn out. He got sweaty and dirty and crushed in the crowds. People jeered at Him. No one understood Him. People hated Him. His earthly family thought He was insane.

His closest friends betrayed Him, denied Him and couldn't stay awake even to keep watch with Him. His own shouted out for Him to be put to death.

God died the most humiliating and painful death possible. People mocked and jeered at God even as He hung on the cross, dying.

When He rose again, He appeared first to a woman. He told Thomas to actually put his hands in the scars. He broke bread and cooked us breakfast.

That's God.