Friday, September 23, 2016

Living Awake

January 24, 2012 Confessing Thoughts

"I wrote a blog that clearly showed my ridiculous humanity," I told Jesus, and I felt His humor in response. He reminded me that humility and honesty is of great value to Him.

"But I worry," I admitted. "Maybe when they read the part about my doubting You, they won't understand that I was confessing that to You, because my writing wasn't clear. What if they think I was being rude? What if that causes someone to stumble?"

Jesus countered, What if seeing you trusting Me enough to confess a troubling thought to Me causes someone else to bring their thought out of the dark, so it can be dissolved in the light and no longer trouble them?

"That would be great," I admitted, feeling better.

Why not believe that, then? Don't you think I'm capable of bringing something like that to pass? Jesus asked, humorously.

"Yes, of course You are," I admitted, feeling shy.

I realized that this was an obvious opportunity for me to trust Jesus, which is something I have a problem with, so with joyful abandon, I let go of my fears. I released them all to Him. Doing this caused me so much joy that it ran like fire all through my spirit.

Being with Jesus, caught up in His love and closeness, actually made me less tired. After a while, I had to get out of bed and turn on the lamp and read, to make me sleepy again.

This actually happens a lot. I have a hard time getting to sleep when Jesus is that close to me, just because of the joy and adoration that keeps bubbling up.

I got a glass of milk and read the psalms for a while. I read this:

"The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step].

"Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him."
-Psalm 37:23-24

Boy, did that ever make a lot of sense to me! I don't remember ever reading that before.

January 24, 2012

This morning, I found this on facebook:

"Lord, I am yours,
and I must belong to no one but you.
My soul is yours,
and must live only by you.
My will is yours,
and must love only for you.
I must love you as my first cause,
since I am from you.
I must love you as my end and rest,
since I am for you.
I must love you more than my own being,
since my being subsists by you.
I must love you more than myself,
since I am all yours and all in you."
-Francis de Sales

In the quiet night, Jesus was very close to me. It was as though I were enclosed and held up and surrounded by His love. I surrendered my tattered, torn and confused self completely to Him, and was comforted.

I have a hard time describing my experiences. They come out sounding dry. But I can't capture them every well in words. What I'm experiencing is happening in my spirit, and it's alive with emotion and nuance.

The entire time that I am speaking with or resting in Jesus, my whole being is full of worship and adoration. This doesn't come across very well in words.

This sort of experience used to throw me for a loop, but now I welcome it with open arms. It is exactly this sort of experience that makes it impossible for me not to long for Him.

When Jesus spoke, His voice was full of love.

What did you learn today? He asked me.

This is a question He frequently asks me at the end of the day, which is interesting, because He was with me the entire time. But usually, thinking back over it helps me understand it better.

Last night, as I thought back over the day, it seemed like a wasteland of nothing but confusion and dissatisfaction.

"Not very much," I was sorry to admit. One thing occurred to me. "I learned all over again I'm an strongly emotional person."

I made you that way, Jesus said.

"Yes, I am Your creation," I affirmed, feeling better about myself.

I thought of the walk I had taken in the rain, and the rushing, rain swollen river in the park, and how in the afternoon I had been dissatisfied with the television, with my writing, and hadn't wanted to read anything, even the Scriptures.

"I learned that my longing for You can make the entire day miserable," I confessed, feeling very badly about this.

Instead of judging me, Jesus sympathized with me. He reminded me that He also is waiting and He knows what it is like to feel longing. He is waiting for the time when His judgments will make all things right, and there is no more pain and no more sorrow, and He can wipe away every tear.

Even after all this time, and seeing it in the Scriptures, and experiencing it in my own life, I still have a hard time recognizing the fact that we make a huge impact on God.

My mind tends to get stuck on the erroneous idea that God is impervious to us- it probably has to do with my childhood. But Jesus is not impervious to us- His heart is wide open.

But I have to learn this lesson over and over again.

When I worry about I am not making any progress and become discouraged, I remind myself of those gentle paths of righteousness. I might get discouraged by the slow progress, but I forget that this progress is also steady. We are moving steadily along, higher and higher, and while some things might appear the same for a long time, they are actually changing. We have a slightly higher perspective on it than the last time, only we may not realize it at first.

Sooner or later, we will realize that the lesson has been learned, worked right into us like muscle tone from steady exercise, and we will forget what used to trouble us. Sometimes Jesus reminds me of just such a thing- something that I have forgotten, because I have moved past it. And it fills me with wonder to see how far He has taken me.

I remembered yesterday that faith grows by being stretched out of its comfort zone. So, feeling stretched and uncertain of the way ahead can actually be a sign of impending growth. I hope so.

Weeks ago, I asked Jesus to help me balance my longing for Him with the ability to live fully in my present life, which He has given me as a gift.

Clearly, I'm still very much a work in progress in this, but I know Jesus will continue to teach me.

January 25, 2012

One of the blogs I read this morning described a person doing something amazing for Jesus, and wow, did I ever feel like a slob after reading that.

Actually, it fit right in to this new pattern of condemnation I've been moving through lately.

The condemning thought is this-

If Jesus has given you all this overflowing grace and love, why are you giving back so little? Why aren't you doing extraordinary things for Him? Why aren't you doing anything for Him?

Why are you sitting here like a bump on a log, absorbing everything Jesus gives and then wanting more, and worst of all, not becoming perfect to reward Him for His considerable investment?

(I didn't write this in the original blog, but one of the worst parts of this type of condemnation was the final statement or doubt that it couldn't really be Jesus teaching me if I wasn't being immediately and miraculously transformed into something extraordinary. For a long time, I had no response to this statement other than to run immediately to Jesus and confess to the whole thing to Him, which always addressed in a clear and compassionate way that encouraged me into trust in Him.)

That's the kind of thinking that keeps coming back to me lately.

When I brought this up to Jesus this morning, feeling desperately guilty that I wasn't doing the same thing that this person was doing, His answer was very simple.

I did not call you to that, He said.

That should be fine, right? But it's not fine. I keep thinking I should be doing more.

"What should I be doing?" I ask Him. "Why aren't I suffering more? Why aren't You asking more from me?"

And Jesus turns my heart first to my husband, and to my writing and to the prospect of adoption.

It's so easy to get caught up in this incredibly guilty feeling. But I've been considering the idea that most of Jesus' ministries are small, personal ministries.

They are centered around people's hearts, and homes and conversations and friendships. They are small communities of individual, unique people who were planted in each other's lives for a reason.

Every once in a while, Jesus calls one of us to something visibly extraordinary. But that doesn't seem to be very often.

Most of us seem to live ordinary lives, but just because they seem to be ordinary does not mean that Jesus is not using them in His own perfect way.

Jesus has clearly called me to a certain kind of ministry. Who am I to say to God that it is not enough, that His plan is not perfect, just because I am feeling guilty and envious of someone else's calling?

For some mysterious purpose of His own, Jesus has reached down into my life and lit me up like a torch. I don't know why. I may never know why in this life time.

But I must stay where He asks me to stay and do those things that He has prepared for me to do, even if I think they are very small things. Jesus leads, even on those paths of righteousness.

You know what would happen if I tried to lead? Not much, that's what. I'd burn out, become exhausted, bewildered and lost. I would throw myself into the arms of Jesus, confess to Him what had happened, and return to trusting Him.

January 25, 2012

Here's some other stuff I've been thinking about lately. This is actually what I was going to blog about, but I got temporarily side tracked by that other blog.

Growing up, I absorbed a lot of teaching about the importance of remaining separate from the world. I understood this to mean that I should never participate in pop culture.

I believe this type of thinking is fairly common to the traditional Christian experience. Unfortunately, in my case, it led to fear, arrogance and isolationism.

As I hit my early twenties, I questioned and discarded this whole line of thinking.

For one thing, through my failed first marriage, I believed I was already completely tainted by the world, so there was now no more hope for me. There was no more innocence to protect, I thought.

Guilt and despair aside, I thought then that it was an unproductive doctrine based on fear.

I wanted to engage life, not hide from it, and I hoped that this authenticity, even with its scars, would be a better witness than the false front I had hidden behind earlier in my life.

Now, however, it seems that I am coming back almost to what I had believed at first, but with a slightly different perspective.

"If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. You do not belong to the world. I have chosen you out of the world and the world hates you," Jesus says, in John 15:19

This may explain why I have been feeling as I have- I am feeling the reality of not being a part of this world.

But I no longer believe that "the world" necessarily refers to pop culture, or any culture at all.

I think now that it's a spiritual reality, not a physical reality.

"I have been crucified with Christ," Paul declares, in Galatians 2:20, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

We don’t live in the world, because we live in Christ. The life of Christ in us is what sets us apart, sets us free from sin and is the promise of greater things to come.

That way, we are in the world, but not of the world.

But my longing is so intense. My heart doesn’t lie here, but how does it serve Jesus, or others, if I spend my entire life longing for some place I’m not?

I know He said that we should hate our life in this world, but surely He doesn’t mean that literally?

Didn’t Jesus come to give us life, and that more abundantly?

I was thinking about this, and it occurred to me that maybe it’s our former life that we hate- the dead in our own works and lost in the dark life.

And why wouldn’t we hate that life? It’s a miserable way to live.

We cast that away –we lose our life- and we follow Jesus, and He gives us His life, abundantly. Along with, surprise, a fair amount of sorrow and suffering.

When I first was reading through the gospels, I noticed how many times Jesus talked about staying awake, and watching.

At one point as I was reading along, I felt Jesus check me at one of those verses.

Staying awake is not the same as staying afraid, Jesus said.

And oh my goodness! I realized that I had been doing that. Every time He said to stay awake or to watch, I myself was understanding the meaning as to be afraid, be very afraid!

Obedient to my own incorrect interpretation, each time I read such a verse or parable, fear and dread would fill my heart.

“Well, if awake doesn’t mean stay afraid, what does it mean?” I asked Jesus.

But He didn’t answer me then.

Now, I am wondering if maybe staying awake is to be full of longing for Jesus while at the same time, alive in His Spirit where He has planted us- here and now, in the world, doing the work He's given us to do.

That definitely requires us to stay awake. It is impossible to live like that on autopilot.

In fact, it’s impossible to live like that at all, without Jesus living in us, giving us His own life.