Friday, February 10, 2017

Now You Shall Be Fishers of Men

March 26, 2017 Unpublished

I glanced up at Him, as I paused at the threshold today, on the verge of going for a walk.

"Do You want me to?" I asked Jesus, without words, and I felt His hand, warm, on my back, and He ushered me out the door.

On the way, Jesus stopped and reminded me, through the running of my thoughts, that I was wanting Him, and that I should surrender to that. So I put my thoughts aside and He took me up in His arms.

I reached the curve of the road where I had listened to "O Daughter of Zion," and I reminded Him of how wonderful that had been, that time of uplifting joy and complete peace and His presence, all bound up in the place itself, in the beauty around me, and in the words of the song.

Jesus put His arm around my shoulder.

And I am still here, He reminded me, lovingly, and He turned toward me and put His face in my hair for a moment.

"So You are," I agreed without words, with welling gratitude and contentment.

It's a gorgeous day, all cool and full of wind and the quiet rustling of new leaves. The lake was lovely.

From Richard Rohr today:

When I was young, I wanted to suffer for God. I pictured myself being the great and glorious martyr somewhere. There's something so romantic about laying down your life for something great. I guess many young people might see themselves that way, but now I know it was mostly ego, but sort of good ego at that stage.

There is nothing glorious about any actual moment of suffering—when you're in the midst of it. You swear it's meaningless. You swear it has nothing to do with goodness or holiness or God—or you.

The very essence of any experience of trial is that you want to get out of it. A lack of purpose, of meaning—is the precise suffering of suffering! When you find a pattern in your suffering, a direction, you can accept it and go with it.

March 27, 2017 Unpublished

I've been thinking a great deal about becoming a mother. It's interesting to notice the change in my perception of myself.

I think in many ways I now process life as though I were at the end of it, coming to many realizations which I think normally occur after the children have grown and left the home.

Maybe it’s when the children are grown and fly the nest that people begin to think about their mortality and begin to look for meaning, because the role that had so largely defined their lives has concluded.

I’m doing this now, though, because the infertility brought me right up against my mortality. It was a significant death, a death of a part of me that biologically speaking was my birthright.

Any hope I'd had, before then, of life ever being free of suffering was killed at that point. I had had the dream, a mostly unconscious one, that once I became a mother, my scars and imperfections would be swallowed up by my new, absorbing role.

I thought, once and for all, I would leave the brokenness behind and step into the commercials, into the rosy human ideal. This dream normally recedes as we reach for it, but I thought I might get there, that for once I would catch it.

Of course I couldn't. The whole image was shattered like a mirror. At first, I hated God for doing that to me, for slapping my hand away just as I reached for the loaded table.

Without the dream, I was left with merely the present moment, and with what value I could glean from the suffering, and I was left with God. I had only those things that are behind the rosy facade and that are of much greater value in the end.

It doesn't have to be infertility to cause us to see life this way. Sickness or death of a loved one can do this. Marriage can do it. Life itself will, if we let it.

I could have kicked against the pricks the whole way along. I could have continued to fight the loss, reached and reached again for what it was I thought I wanted, or deserved. But He kept closing the doors. Everything I tried ended up going nowhere.

I wonder what would have happened if I had gone on like that? Could I have built an entire life for myself out of denial, outrage, and determination to have what I believed I deserved- what I thought life was supposed to be like?

Or, when that finally collapsed, would I have then defined my life by bitterness and grief?

I think it likely, but who knows. Something else happened. I grieved the loss, accepted my mortality and found meaning in my suffering. I fell in love with God. But why? How was I able to do that? Why am I like I am?

I am a mystery to myself. And because of this, everyone else is a mystery to me. I've felt this all my life, actually- the fact that I simply cannot take credit for myself, therefore I cannot judge another person.

I don't know how I'm able to stand, so how can I judge another person for apparently falling? And anyway, I don't know why they appear to be on the floor. They might have just made it out of the basement.

(I wrote about the following in a previous blog entry, also unpublished, and I tried writing about it here, because it was so much on my mind and I was trying to understand it. I didn’t end up publishing this either.)

When I was seventeen or eighteen, I was caught up in a kind of drunken rapture on God, partly caused by who I am, and partly by the fact that I was attending a Pentecostal church at the time, and my love for Jesus had gone up into flames of tongues and singing.

I got prayed and prophesied over a great deal. This left me with the impression that I was meant to do Great Things For God. Because I did not know God very well yet, this prospect terrified me.

I have a clear memory of being on the front porch of the church in which I had been raised- we were still living on the grounds of the Bible School, though we weren’t attending the church there. I was reading a biography of a Pentecostal woman preacher. She had no family- no husband, no children. Instead, she was filled with the Spirit and had an incredible ministry.

Immediately, I was struck by the premonition that God would not allow me to have children. Not because children are a hindrance to knowing Him- but because it was my deepest desire. I felt certain He would remove my deepest desire from me and put Himself in its place.

As the years went by, this thought remained ever in the back of my mind. In my twenties, every time I might have been pregnant and was not, I remembered, and wondered. But I kept dismissing it- God is not really like that. That was the fevered imagination of my youth.

So you can imagine my outrage when this premonition, despite everything, came true. I can't bear children. He did fill my life with His presence, and He has been using me.

It's a mystery.

March 27, 2012 Unpublished

Boy, I have been introspective today!

I realized, after writing that whole last blog, that I was certainly not going to publish it.

And I was wondering about life. Still. And still trying to put it into words, because I'm a writer, and that's what I do. And also trying to put it into perspective, because I'm philosophical like that. I want the big picture of everything.

I was wondering about this two week period (where Keith has gone to military training out of state right before officially starting the adoption process), and what it means for Keith and I, and I had to give up wondering, because I don't know.

But I am here, Jesus reminded me, tenderly.

When Jesus spoke, I knew He was there and I knew where He was; Jesus was standing right beside me. I was in His embrace and He was bending His head down toward me, His cheek against my hair.

“That I always know,” I told Jesus in relief, because Jesus has said and demonstrated it to me so often that I really am starting to know it.

Then my thoughts wandered away, and then the dogs barked, all of a sudden, and a little jolt of fear when through me- who was there, what was happening, and the fear caused me to leap out for Jesus by instinct, and I knew Him right beside me, still where He had been when He spoke. It was just for a moment, because the fear caused me to leap out and there Jesus was, like a shield, right where He had been.

This was my verse:

"But as for me, how good it is to be near God!  I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do." (Psalm 73:28)

March 28, 2012

Yesterday I got to work on the overgrown flower bed in the back yard and I filled out the home study application- all but some of Keith's information. There were six pages of it.

The papers are waiting now in the expanding file folder that Keith and I bought a couple weeks ago, just for that purpose.

When he gets back, we'll mail it in and in seventy two hours, we'll know if we were accepted or not, and if we are, we'll begin gathering up all the documents to complete their program.

I've been resting and slowly moving from one task to another and thinking. Last night I was reading in Genesis and I was astonished at the story of the Garden of Eden. It struck me suddenly that Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.

I saw this in a new way. It meant they could not tell the difference between good and evil. If you do not know the difference between good and evil, how can you have a conscience? Isn't that the very definition of a conscience?

This was on purpose- in fact, it was the Divine purpose. God Himself forbade them to eat from that tree.

Why? Why would God do this?

So I asked Him. Jesus reminded me that, even though they did not know good and evil, they knew Him.

They were in intimate relationship with God Himself. They understood the world around them through God, their Creator, their Father, their Friend.

You might even say that God Himself was their conscience. After all, God perfectly understands the difference between good and evil.

But they choose to take this knowledge apart from Him- to take it for themselves.

I think we still do this. We want to be like God, we want to make judgments on our own, even if this means we're secretly ashamed of ourselves and lonely, wearing smelling skins and eating our bread by the sweat of our face.

But we tell ourselves- surely it will nourish me, and it looks so attractive, and most of all, it feels so powerful to have what looks like wisdom!

For some reason, we aren't satisfied to be His child in the garden, and walk with Him in the cool of the day, trusting Him completely, without shame, and free to eat of every tree in the garden, but for one.

Because didn't Jesus come to fulfill the law- to absorb it back into Himself, as it were? We are converted, and become, again, as children- His trusting, dependent children.

Then God Himself becomes our conscience all over again- we need know nothing more than that we love Him and follow Him and know Him and imitate Him.

March 28, 2012 Unpublished

As I was walking, I was thinking about my last blog, and how it is not universal- that is, it is even contradictory to other verses in the Bible, like the fact that we wear the robes of salvation and righteousness, and that passing from the law to Christ is illustrated by coming of age.

But I realized that what I had written was merely a story or metaphor, used to illustrate a deeper truth, a truth that could be illustrated just as well in other ways.

Like a parable? Jesus asked me, teasingly. He put His forehead against mine and drew me close. I felt His love and tenderness and possession of me so strongly- I knew He meant: like Father, like daughter.

"Kind of like," I admitted, smiling, and leaning in toward Him. The moment was just full of cuteness.

April 1, 2012

"Today the goodness of God cries out,
and the waters come to life with Your saving grace.
Radiant is Your joy, O God,
and the splendor of Your love is alive, alive."
-The Monks of Weston Priory

I got back from my walk, and those words leaped out at me from the song.

What a beautiful day it is today! The light shimmered on the edges of all the tender green leaves. It made a haze of light at the edges of everything.

One could look down through the lace of light into further vistas of green edged light and further down into bottle green and dappled shadow.

A lilac tree grows at the edge of the lake there, and as I walked toward it, the smell of the lilacs and the smell of the warm water and the smell of fish were all mingled together, as though to capture the very essence of early summer.

Today is Palm Sunday, and it seemed as though the very landscape were crying out in joyful worship. I was caught up in this worship, in the recognition of my Lord, my Creator, my triumphant and humble King.

As I passed through my neighborhood, I smelled pancakes and bacon from someone's open window, which evoked a whole host of memories and longing for my own family breakfasts on a sunny Sunday.

Maybe one day, I will be making pancakes for Keith, and children of our own. In the meantime, I have so much already.

April 2, 2012 Unpublished

I had such an interesting insight on my walk this morning.

In looking for meaning in everything, I am going to find lots of fascinating and useful insights that enrich my understanding of life and of God, and I am also going to find lots of meaningless nonsense.

That's just the nature of looking for meaning in every moment.

I remembered that parable about the Kingdom of Heaven being like a man who was fishing with a net, and he caught all kinds of fish that he then had to sort through. I thought again about how Jesus had said to Peter, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch."

Then I thought about how one could look for meaning in life in two different ways. One could line fish on the shore or one could drag net in the deeps.

One day, you could be squatting on the beach, trying to fix the net, and someone calls your name.  A Man is standing there, a perfectly ordinary looking Man and He wants to use your boat.

Don’t say yes, if you value your routine and easy answers.

This Man will stand in your boat and say what seems to be simple things to crowds of people you don’t know. You yourself will hardly be able to understand what He is saying.

But that’s not all! After He has finished speaking to the crowd, He will turn and look at you. He will tell you to launch out into the deep.

On the shore are the boats and the houses, and out in the lake, the water is glinting and the wind is moving and fear runs like a shiver up your spine, but you do as He asks.

We don’t even know why we obey Him, except that all our inexpressible longing is running into Him, drawing us. It’s the same for flowers turning their faces to the sun.

When we let down our nets, the catch is so large that the net is breaking and the boat is sinking.

That's the point at which one realizes one's previous construct is too small to hold all of God. It’s very frightening. The illusion of control is gone.

God is huge and you are small, and much of what you felt was certain is breaking apart under the weight of all those scattering silver scales, those thousands of liquid eyes, the fragile gills, that strange and living heap of water and light and life. You can’t even begin to sort through everything.

That is the point at which you fall to your knees in terror before God and plead, "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man."

And what is the first thing God say in response? He says, "Do not be afraid."

Why? Because the lake itself is God, that's why, and in His lake, we are the fish. Who cares if our boat falls apart, if all that means is that we are plunged into God Himself?

We are in God and God is in us, and He is infinite, and large enough to hold mysteries without end. He is fishing for us, not the other way around.

But until God Himself steps into our lives, we cling to our ideas. It keeps us afloat on a small wooden shell, above the infinite mystery and love of God Himself, which is so large that it is terrifying to acknowledge.

"Here are the boundaries of God," we say. “Here is what is clean and here is what is unclean. Here is the right way and the right method. This is what my father did and his father before him. We are suffering in poverty, our catch is small, but it is correct, and that is enough.”

This comforts us. We’re unable to let go of the boat, unable to let go of our comfortable hook, line and sinker.

When God does step into our lives, things will start to fall to pieces. Our cherished constructs begin to fall to pieces. We know that we are sinful, small, helpless.

But God is right there, right before us and His eyes are full of love. The spray of the ocean is thrown in the air by the catch of fish, and everything is full of light and He tells us not to be afraid, now we will be fishers of men.