I read this today in Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation:
"Real holiness doesn’t feel like holiness; it just feels like you’re dying. It feels like you’re losing it. And you are! You are losing the false self, which you foolishly thought was permanent, important, and you!
You know God is doing this in you and with you when you can somehow smile, and trust that what you lost is something you did not need anyway. In fact, it got in the way of what was real."
That really resonated with me this morning.
I read in Mark again about the woman who broke the alabaster flask and poured the oil over Jesus' head. Everyone got so upset with her because she had, in a sense, wasted her best and most valuable resources.
Which sometimes, I feel like I am doing. I feel like I'm not achieving anything that appears to be of practical use or value with my life right now.
My husband would disagree; he would say that I am at the heart of his life and the reason why he goes to work.
When I bring this up to my God (which I do, frequently) I am reminded (again) to wait, and to live deeply in the present moment and to give myself over to those things I have been given to do.
And the deeper secret, the thing Jesus tells my wondering heart, is that He is not interested in using us as if we were His tools, He is interested in our company.
That's what He created us for- for fellowship. Jesus wants us to keep company with Him.
I'm sure that when we do that, when we stay with Him just because He loves us and we love Him, then He ends up using us in ways we don't imagine.
But the love comes first.
And I forget sometimes how much I've grown, because it's not in my own strength or on my own timeline, and I'm always only noticing the things that I want perfected or cleared away right now.
Instead, it really is like noticing fruit growing. Have you ever noticed how slowly that goes? It takes forever, it seems like.
Not to mention, I realized that in order for the fruit to grow at all, the blossom must wither and fall to the ground. Here is this beautiful blossom, a beautiful promise, and then it withers away! If I was a plant and it was my first growing season and that happened, I'd think something terrible was going on, but really, it's a sign that fruit is growing.
The growing season is only one season. I realized that recently. The rest of the time the tree is closing down for winter, and then appears to be dead- when they are dormant.
And they get pruned.
So, in the winter they are dormant and pruned. In the spring, they bud and blossom, which is lovely, but then blossoms die.
In the summer, they are slowly producing fruit. This takes all summer. In the autumn, they are harvested and then they begin to close down and turn inward for another winter season.
No wonder I'm getting frustrated with myself! There are no instant results.
So I might as well curl up with Jesus and rest quietly and enjoy Him- and the sunshine and the rain and the quietness.
March 17, 2012 Unpublished
Still sometimes wrestling with guilt. Went to bed and Jesus was there, and I rested in Him and in His love.
He is beyond understanding. I don't understand Him. Jesus tells me that He doesn't see me the way I see myself. And then I read an article today that talked about how Jesus sees us as a finished work.
It must be true. Jesus is so much larger than anything we can possibly imagine. He's large enough to encompass the entire world, every person and all of history. He's that large, He's that powerful, He's that mysterious.
I woke up and I felt Jesus take me in His arms, and I remembered everything I had thought about the night before- all the guilt about not producing results.
Jesus kept pulling me back to Keith, and how much I meant to Keith, and how much I help and support him in his life.
I kept discounting it because Keith is just one person. So how could that matter, since I'm only helping one person?
But over and over again Jesus impressed me with the knowledge He doesn’t see it that way- to Him, one person is incredibly important. One person is huge. One person is worth everything He has to give.
Jesus is not interested in the numbers game. He is interested in the big picture, and right now, I’m right where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing.
And Jesus is interested in seeing how I express myself- He likes watching my creative expression. He is okay with that. I can do that with my time if I need to- be creative, even if it takes a long time and doesn’t seem to have any larger value. Jesus is not all about efficiency.
Is this not a really, really puzzling thing about God? He is not interested in efficiency. That’s perfectly obvious if one reads His book. Nothing that He did is terribly efficient, or makes perfect sense- even when He does a perfect work.
It’s messy, it's not very well explained, always though faith, takes a long time, has weird details- walk around Jericho seven times? Stand in the river? Make paste out of spit and dust? Run alongside someone’s chariot? Years in a dungeon, years in the wilderness, a hundred years old by the time Isaac arrives, generation after generation after generation before Jesus arrives.
I mean goodness! He does things in a mysterious way.
So that’s what I’ve been learning. Jesus loves me. He sees me as a finished work and right now, I’m living right where He wants me to be, even if all I’m doing is keeping the house clean, managing the bills, cooking meals, taking walks, writing blogs.
How unexpected He is!
March 17, 2012
I finished The Weight of Glory. It took me a while to work out C.S. Lewis' meaning in some passages, but it was well worth the effort. I kept turning down the corners of pages, so I could go back and read them again:
"May we not, by a reasonable analogy, suppose likewise that there is no experience of the spirit so transcendent and supernatural, no vision of Deity Himself so close and so far beyond all images and emotions, that to it also there cannot be an appropriate correspondence on the sensory level? Not by a new sense but by the incredible flooding of those very sensations we now have with a meaning, a transvaluation, of which we have here no faintest guess?"
I do so suppose.
"So it is and so it must be. That is the humiliation of myth into fact, of God into Man; what is everywhere and always, imageless and ineffable, only to be glimpsed in dream and symbol and the acted poetry of ritual becomes small, solid- no bigger than a man who can lie asleep in a rowing boat on the Lake of Galilee. You may say that this, after all, is a still deeper poetry. I will not contradict you."
I tell you what, that deeper poetry will steal your heart and soul away.
"Equality is a quantitative term and therefore love often knows nothing of it. Authority exercised with humility and obedience accepted with delight are the very lines along which our spirits live."
I don't know quite what he is saying here, but it sounds very attractive. In my experience, obedience can be delightful when the authority is humble- usually because the authority is humble.
And then, just because I haven't thrown enough quotes at you this morning, here is a last one, from Richard Rohr:
"When all of our idols are taken away, all our securities and defense mechanisms, we find out who we really are. We're so little, so poor, so empty—and a shock to ourselves. But God takes away our shame, and we are eventually able to present ourselves in an honest and humble form. Then we find out who we really are and who God is for us—and it is more than enough."
-Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 130, day 140
March 18, 2012 Unpublished
I had a sudden, ridiculously obvious insight this morning.
I was remembering those times when I was in my late teens when I felt distant from God. I interpreted this to mean that I was displeasing Him, so I searched around for what could be displeasing to Him.
Knowing me, you can guess that such things were easy to think I had discovered. I threw away objects, music, ideas, dreams- anything, in fact, that my guilt could get hold of. And my religious guilt, if let loose, can grab hold of anything and everything.
This placated the guilt and calmed the anxiety, and those sensations I interpreted as God's favor. Eventually, however, my guilt and anxiety began again to rise, and eventually to trigger the cycle all over again.
Have you ever seen that interesting show "Hoarders"? I love that show. I love seeing the horrible chaos and brokenness transformed. Usually there is so much grief behind the rubble.
In the show, sometimes the therapist does an exercise with the person. The therapist takes one item from the hoard and either takes it away, or asks the person to imagine that it is being used improperly or taken away by someone else.
This raises the person's anxiety to a nearly unbearable level, but what does the therapist do?
She asks the person to sit with it. She doesn't take it away, she doesn't alleviate or placate the anxiety, and eventually, the anxiety goes back down to a more manageable level on its own.
This way, the person learns that they can handle their own emotional reactions, instead of being dictated to by them.
I think this is what Jesus is doing with me lately. My old religious guilt and anxiety has been, for some reason, at a fairly high level lately- for the past week or so.
You can probably tell from the blogs I've been writing, as I've been processing my unfinished state and my impatience with this. I want Jesus to change those things right away. I don't understand how He can be with me and not do that.
So I'm constantly tempted to do something about it- to attempt to alter myself, on my own, in my own power, on my own time line. In essence, to do something, anything, to placate the religious anxiety.
Instead, I'm being asked to sit with it- to sit in the tension of knowing myself to be small, weak and poor- and to feel the accompanying religious anxiety and guilt- while at the same time, knowing myself to be wholly loved and wholly accepted by God.
This sounds easy, but it is awfully hard to do. There is the constant temptation to take an object, any object, out of Jesus' hands and frantically fix it myself, there is the constant temptation to tell myself that He cannot love me as I am, and there is the constant temptation to believe that He requires my help instead of my surrender.
But I'm certain now that if I can just sit with this anxiety and merely notice it, that eventually this anxiety and guilt will ebb away and I will be released from it.
I will do this over and over again until the feeling has no power over me. I'm pretty sure now that this discipline will eventually produce in me a truly lovely combination of humility and joy, long suffering and love.
This is clearly, for me, a central life lesson and I think all my life I will be growing into greater skill at managing it.
March 20, 2012 Unpublished
I was feeling pretty miserable about something and wondering how to work through the feeling. And Jesus opened His arms and said, Complain to Me. It was a lovely offer, given with such easy simplicity.
Like lightening, I remembered that verse- cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.
So it was as though I dropped my head dramatically upon His shoulder and flung my arms up over His shoulders and said something like "Gahhh!"
Only, I was so filled with love for Him that my frustration faded fast.
At one point, I thought of Him, and just thinking of Jesus filled me with a poignant longing and some kind of uncertainty- are You still here, do You still love me, am I ok?
I tilted my head up and called His name, wistfully, and Jesus was there, and He bundled me warmly up in something- a robe or cloak, so lovingly.
March 20, 2012
Lately, Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations have been about the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, and I must admit, I wasn't really getting the connections Rohr was pointing out.
Yesterday, he talked about the temptation to turn stones into bread, and last night, I found that I happened to be at that exact spot in Luke.
I thought, "Hmm," and read on.
Immediately, I was struck by all sorts of things I had never noticed before.
The first thing I noticed was the word "If":
"If you are the Son the God..."
Wow, did that ever leap out at me!
Jesus was being asked to do something immediate to prove His identity. Now, does that sound familiar, or what?
How often do I feel the same temptation, the need to prove that I am the daughter of God, by some immediate transformation- usually of myself.
I feel the need to turn something in my life that seems unfinished and worthless- like a stone- into something that seems good and acceptable- like bread.
Furthermore, Jesus was being asked to alleviate His suffering- He was starving, after all.
The temptation was to say, if I am a son or daughter of God, I shouldn't have to suffer! All these things that are hurting my feet should be things that feed my belly.
But what does Jesus say?
First of all, He quotes a Scriptures that begins: "Man..."
I was dumb struck at that. Here Jesus is being asked to prove His identity as a Son of God- as the Holy One of Israel, and what does He do? He emphasizes His humanity.
"It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God."
He is so supremely confident of His identity in His Father that He apparently doesn't even bother to address the question. Jesus is supremely confident in His identity as the uniquely begotten Son of God. He knows His place in His Father can't be revoked and needs no defense.
This astonished me. I'd never seen that before, but of course, it makes me think of this passage:
"Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained,
But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.
And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!
Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name,
That in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
-Philippians 2:6-11, Amplified Bible
Not only did Jesus refuse to prove His identity, but He refused to alleviate His suffering.
Sometimes, suffering is a greater gift than immediate gratification. However, this is a truth that's lived by faith, in the Word of God, because we know that our Father gives life to the dead, and calls those things that do not exist as though they did.
I wonder if that's why, when we lie down with a stone for a pillow, we can sometimes see heaven.
March 22, 2012 Unpublished
Still facing incredible amounts of condemnation, about everything. But, I keep on merely noticing this "passing human show," as Rohr puts it.
It's almost like Jesus is forcing me to accept that He loves me as I am, intrinsically. I don't want to believe this and I keep fighting it; Jesus keeps embracing me just as I am.
I can have intense moments of spiritual awareness and joy, like on my walk yesterday, listening to "O Daughter of Zion, Rejoice!" and then, a mere hour later, feel like a worm.
It's astonishing, these highs and lows. I've been noticing them. One minute, I know myself to be delicious to Jesus, a delicious morsel that He delights in and enjoys and keeps and the next, I feel like a lazy slob.
But Jesus, and who I am in Him, is always the same, regardless.
I wonder who I will be when I know this all the time, no matter what the highs and lows?