Friday, April 15, 2016

Learning the Lessons

December 16, 2011

Last night, I was reading Christy, by Catherine Marshall. I love that book. I came across this passage:

"Then the unexpected happened. Another series of thoughts- quite apart from the fear ones- swirled upwards as though out of some deep cavern from the depths of a sea of churning memories and ideas. The new ideas surfaced into my conscious mind with peculiar clarity. And whereas the panic had been so chaotic these were orderly thoughts, presented to me with slow deliberation...

It was not a case of Miss Alice adjusting. You know that. You have watched her listening and waiting. Get your attention of the problem- yes, even off your stomach- and look at Me. I am greater than any problem. Light follows light. You are about to discover this for yourself.

Then my own mind took over again. Had I prayed? No, not consciously. Then how odd that I no longer felt alone in my difficulty. And this intimate understanding of all that had been troubling me, with humor thrown in. The humor was the last thing I expected."

After I read this, I sat there and felt deeply comforted. "Thank you, Father," I said. "I love how You provide for me from all over, from many directions."

Reading that passage took off the sharp edge of my strangeness, which I often feel at hearing God speak. The author, Catherine Marshall, must have experienced God speaking in the same way I have, or else she could not have described it so well- even to the humor of God, which I did not expect, though of course, we do have the platypus to give us some hint of it.

I loved this passage as well:

"That longin' inside me burned and ached and cried for something, I didn't rightly know what. Then one day- seems like 'twas only a week ago- I was goin' acrost the foot log bridge, along that path windin' through the thickets and the blackberry brambles. And at one certain point- I could show you where- why, He met me. Somethin' happened to me there. It was simple-like, but clear as mornin' light. I says to Him, 'Lord,' I says, 'I don't rightly know whether I'm gonna live or die, but it don't make no differ. From here on, my life belongs to You.'

"And it did, too, for a fact. From that day I could feel His love a-feedin' my starvin', thirstin' soul. And the more I tried given' His love away to my young'uns and my man and the neighbor-folks, the more love He gave back to me. Reminded me of openin' up a spring: first, a muddy trickle. Then a leetle stream, gettin' stronger and clearer with every day that passed."

Lately, I’m getting better at not pushing away what Jesus says to me. It’s odd, because at first glance, a person would think that saying to God- “That can’t be for me” or “I’m not good enough” or “that’s too much riches or love or what have you…”- you’d think, saying those things would be humility in action.

But it’s not, I'm learning. It’s a weird form of pride. It’s a way for me to stay in control- it’s like having a stiff neck. In essence, I’m saying to God, “I’d rather suffer according to my judgment than surrender to You and the free gift I have not earned.”

It’s like I'm saying to God, “My judgment in this matter is better than Yours.”

Clearly, Jesus does not want us to suffer alone. Clearly, He does not want us to get what we deserve. He wants to lavishly bestow His gifts of love and grace and mercy and comfort on our lives; He wants us to say, "Yes, Lord. I accept."

Every time I say those words, I feel a profound sense of humility, because I know with certainty that I don't deserve with He's giving me, but still I yield to His gift. And then I feel an upwelling of love and gratitude and wonder.

December 16, 2011 Acceptance

Oh, I had the hardest time last night! I felt so distant from Jesus, as though there were some veil or something between us. Oh, it bothered me!

I mean, I still felt Him there, but it wasn't the deep down, heart connection that I've gotten used to, that I long for now.

It took me a little while to understand why this was happening, but I realized that I was holding back because I was afraid of where my longing would take me. I was holding back my heart from Jesus.

I realized that the experience of calling for Him, and finding myself standing, as it were, right before the throne of heaven, had thrown me off just a wee bit. I have been unable to understand it. It is too large for me, the implications beyond any ability of mine to grasp.

I have thought- I am insane. Insane. Just, completely psychotic.

And I have thought- I cannot, cannot, go through that again. Okay, so God had mercy on me once. But if my longing lands me right at the foot of His throne, and interrupts Him again, I'm in for it!

(It may seem strange to hear the intensity of these anxious fears from the current point of my testimony, but five years ago, I did not have the same perspective. I was barraged with intense fears regarding my sanity, and in addition, it took a long time for my mind to firmly grasp and be permanently settled upon the love of the Father that went so against former teachings.

(These fears did not stop me from being obedient to Jesus in sharing what He asked me to, but they were intense enough that I was unable even to reread my public posts, because I was so afraid that the tone of the posts would only validate the fear. Perhaps six or so months into this journey, I finally sat down and read all of them, and it was clear that I did not sound like someone having a psychotic break. I sounded like an every day person who was having a life changing experience with God and was trying the best she could to come to terms with it as it continued. The relief brought me to tears, and then made me angry at the lie that I had suffered under for so long.

(Walking in obedience to the call of God is, I have found, a long process of being refined and tempered like metal. I used to stumble over this difficulty, wondering why Jesus wasn't making everything easy, making everything perfect all at once. Jesus could have come and taken all the difficulty away, but instead, He asked me again and again to step right into the fear, believing each time in His goodness and His faithfulness over it. Jesus is good. He is faithful. The fear lies. It's not that I have gotten stronger in myself. If I tried to follow Jesus in my own strength I would fail just as much now as then, but over a long period of time, I have come increasingly to trust the ability, goodness and wisdom of Jesus over any fear and any lie.)

I couldn't come to terms with what had happened, how to understand it. And so I couldn't yield to Jesus- I couldn't pour out my longing for Him, my deep down, burning longing to see Him, to be with Him, to be near Him. Which is a longing that is never ending.

I'm jealous all the time. It's terrible, but it's true. If He speaks to anyone else, then I want Him to speak to me, too. If I read about Him in a book, then I want to be with Him there. I want to be with Jesus in the Gospels- so much! Beyond expression. I want to actually see Him. I want to see what He is doing and I want to sit huddled up by His side and listen to the sound of His voice while He speaks. I want to be always tagging along.

And then I had to wrestle through my dream of Him the other night- how it was such a mix of what was only emotionally true -what was subjective- and what actually reflected His nature.

And it slayed me, the dream, because in it, Jesus was there- there to see, there in person. There, and making His way to me. There, and switching seats, so He could sit beside me.

Between us there was a kind of recognition that didn't even need to be exclaimed over. I was His and He was mine and that was that. I went with Jesus, just as a matter of course, to the next place. I would always be with Him.

(In the dream, Jesus was traveling in an airplane, going from city to city, and when He was leaving to go to the next place, I came aboard to leave with Him.)

But it was just a dream, and there is no place on earth that I can go to find Jesus. I can't actually hold Him in my arms and I have never seen His face and the thought of actually seeing His face feels me with something close to fear.

I will be like John- I know I will be like John- and end up falling on my face.

Actually, Jesus keeps telling me that this will not be so. He keeps saying that because of all this searching Him out and yielding to Him in this life, I will immediately recognize and go straight to Him in the next life, with no fear, only joy.

I can't imagine it, but I yield to Him anyway. If that is the way Jesus says it will be, then let it be so.

So, I woke up this morning just conflicted, deep down inside, and grasping at Jesus at every turn. Every time I felt Him there, I clung to that and thanked Him, and looked for the next thing. But my soul was still blocked, by a self-imposed block.

And Jesus kept saying to me, talk to your mother. Tell your mother.

And I kept saying, I can't! I can't burden my mother with my absurd idea that I landed myself before the throne of God! She'll think I'm insane! She won't know what to do with it! It would trouble her- I don't want to trouble my mother.

Call her, He kept saying.

Finally, I had to stop everything and just be still and seriously ask Jesus if that's what He really wanted me to do. And it was yes, yes, He did.

So I called her. And it was the perfect time to call her, as it turned out. Upon hearing it, she confirmed it. She knew the rightness of it, and could even empathize. It blessed her to hear about it. She thought it was amazing and precious and wondrous. She laughed and cried along with me.

I felt so much emotion as I spoke about it- as I spoke about my intense longing- the deep, the burning longing that drove me, without thinking, to call upon my Father. It was instinctive, like a homing device- my soul went straight home. I broke down in tears all over again as I spoke about it.

I told her about the complete love and understanding of God- how it completely defined the experience. And the mercy of God! The tender mercies- the tender and understanding loving kindness.

I told her about how I had chosen to complete my race, but how I had asked Jesus to help me balance the longing with gratitude for my life here.

In the course of talking with her, I understood that I was holding my longing back from Jesus, for fear of where it might take me. Mom helped me to give up this fear, because the longing comes from and goes to Jesus- He's the one who gave it to me- He's my Creator and I am the work of His hands.

Jesus knows the longing and where it takes me won't take Him by surprise. Anyway, Jesus told me, more than once, that I didn't trouble my Father by appearing there.

But it's so hard to wrap my mind around. It seems so inappropriate. But that's a human thought. If my longing for Jesus lands me before the Father, than all that does is confirm exactly what Jesus Himself said- that no one can come before the Father except through Him.

Through Jesus, we can and will go to the Father. The natural result of being in and with Jesus is to be in and with the Father. So, being with the Father is not to be afraid of.

Then, in talking with Mom, I realized that I myself was trying to balance the longing and gratitude, on my own. I was trying to do that by shutting down the longing. Of course I was getting it wrong! I can’t do that on my own- I have no idea what I’m doing- that sort of thing is totally beyond my abilities. I have no idea what the right balance would look like, for one thing, or how to get there.

I just felt so released after talking about it. Afterward, my heart poured itself out to Jesus, and He was there! There as He normally is, loving and affectionate and generous in His love. Just as He normally does, He delighted in and satisfied my longing for Him- as much as He can in this life anyway.

Jesus seems to be crafting me in a certain way. So, I’m back to just being in His hands. I pour my heart out into His hands, and He is the one that teaches and guides and upholds me. I do not need to be afraid of where my desire for Him will take me. I can freely pour it all out to Him.

I don’t have to be afraid.

December 17, 2011 Unpublished

Last night I was reading a blog and I thought with a jolt, oh goodness. This girl loves Jesus more than I do!

I was jealous of her. I hate that feeling. It makes me feel puny and stupid. And just ridiculous. But, as embarrassing as it is to admit to it, I can't lie. I do feel it.

I kept handing the feeling over to Jesus.

When Jesus first came to me, I kept struggling with this incredible feeling of possessiveness. It was as though this experience with Him was so necessary, so astonishing, that I simply had to have it all, all of Him. I was like a child that grew up not getting enough to eat, and when they do, they take it and hide it, due to constant scarcity and a fear of loss.

I lashed out at myself for this. I was vicious to myself about it. I was so embarrassed to be feeling so selfish, right in front of Jesus, about Jesus.

It was the height of humiliation.

Finally, one night when I was wrestling with this feeling again, Jesus came close and took me in His arms of loving kindness, bending His head down toward me in loving attention, drawing my heart toward Him. I felt all bundled up in His tender love.

Jesus said, with Me right now, you are just a small girl. Remember when you were younger and driving along with your brothers, pointing out the window and laying claim to everything that passed by?

I did remember that. We would sometimes actually end up fighting over something that was already miles down the road in the rear view mirror!

Jesus said, children lay claim to things, fiercely and passionately. This is just a part of childhood. Eventually you will grow up and be able to trust that you have Me without grasping so tightly to Me. But you don't bother Me- I love children, just as they are.

He caused me to remember how bruised and deeply wounded I was, so of course, when I found love, the healing love I deeply needed, I would hold fiercely to it and lay fierce claim to it.

Jesus said gently, you can be gentle and kind to yourself as you grow in Me. Remember that I am never going away and that I will never leave you. In fact, there is a place in Me that belongs only to you. No one else can take that place, no one else could fill it. It belongs only to you.

I can love you, Jesus said, with all of Myself and yet still love everyone else with all of Myself, and not be stretched thin. This is hard for your mind to grasp now, little one, but as you grow up into Me, you will begin to understand and trust these things more and more. You don't have to punish yourself to learn this lesson. You can be gracious and kind to yourself as you grow.

I lay in bed for a long time, quietly marveling and thinking over and over again about what Jesus had said. There was so much peace and gentleness and healing in His words.

When I wrote, in one of my blogs, "He did not hesitate to reach right into the heart of my wounds," this experience is, in part, what I was referring to.

After that, I wasn't so bothered by my own possessive desire to lay claim to Jesus. Each I felt this, I would repeat to myself the lesson that Jesus had taught me- that I could be gracious to myself while I learned to trust His love, and that I would trust His love more and more as I grew in understanding of His heart, and that Jesus was not judging me like a pass/fail examination, but knowing right where I was and loving me right where I was and Jesus knew and believed that I would grow, so He was not anxiously watching my progress. He was peacefully sure of Himself and His work in my life and in my heart.

It does not escape my notice, of course, that Jesus loves those of childlike nature. I begin to understand why. Children have few emotional reservations. Once they are won over, they are won over- they don't hold their love back. They have a quality of surrender that is difficult to remember once we learn the reserve and self-sufficiency of adulthood.

So, last night, when I felt this feeling rush up, it wasn't an unfamiliar feeling. It just had been a while since I'd felt it so strongly. Miserably, though I wanted a hundred times more to hide, I confessed it to Jesus. I must confess it. He's right there. There's no where to hide.

Jesus came close to me- I felt Him very near me, bending down and taking my chin in His hand. He said, No one else can love Me as you do.

In His voice, I felt His possessiveness toward me. Jesus was making it clear to me, through His words and the feeling in them, that I meant a great deal to Him- irreplaceable, in fact, and no matter how well or passionately others may love Jesus, they could not take the place in Him that was meant for me.

Sometimes I look back at the earlier period in our relationship and I think fondly. I say to Him- wasn't that wonderful? I miss those times. What if those were the best times? What if I begin to take You for granted and those precious times of being close and learning things and accepting You are past?

This is a silly thing to worry about, but still, it's true.

Jesus always assures me that the best is yet to come.

My goodness, I am just completely and utterly ridiculously in love with Jesus. It is just silly, the extent to which I am. But if He wasn't so good to me, I wouldn't have fallen for Him so hard! How could I have helped myself? I don't see how I could have.

Anyway, I can't make myself something I'm not. I can't pretend. I don't have a religious love of Jesus, I have a deep, burning, intensely personal love of Jesus. It's not a distant love or a formal love or a discreet love- it's human, it's up close and personal.

But all of our human relationships are reflections of a deeper spiritual truth that waits for us to enter. Mother, father, siblings, spouse- all these tell us a beautiful and compelling story about belonging, intimacy, connection, legacy and involvement. All of these things are found in their deepest and most satisfying form within God Himself, within the family of God.

So, how else can I praise Him and how else can I love Him but with the language of my human understanding, the language and the gifts He gave us? I can't love Jesus in theory, in thought, abstractedly. I love Jesus as I am, and I am a person.


Now that you have welcomed the Anointed One, Jesus the Lord, into your lives, continue to journey with Him and allow Him to shape your lives. Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.

-Colossians 2:6-7, Voice