Friday, March 24, 2017

I Know I Am Thine

May 2, 2012

The sink drains have stopped up, I still can't go for a walk, we had to reschedule the appointment with the adoption agency due to Keith's job and I have a horrible case of writer's block.

That's how I'm doing, how are you?

I'm not my usual self. I guess pain will do that to a person. I do have skin on both my hands now, so that's good.

I underestimated the amount of damage I did to myself. I scraped off skin and flesh on rough concrete as though it were a grater and I were a piece of soft cheese. First the flesh had to grow back, and then the skin.

On my foot, I think I exposed the bone, which may be why it's taking so long to heal. The yellow white surface of bone is slowly being covered by a red layer of flesh. It's fascinating and repulsive at the same time.

When I first stand up in the morning, I feel the blood surge into my foot and expand out into shocking pain. It swells up with this pain and then it slowly subsides and then I can walk.

I don't think I realized before how much energy it takes to manage pain. It sheds some light on the energy it must take to manage emotional pain.

No wonder so many people have times in their life when they can barely limp through their day! It's because they're ragged and bleeding and bruised on the inside.

Those kinds of wounds take a lot longer to heal, and they leave scars that never go away. I know, because I have lots of them. I have scars from all kinds of things, including sexual abuse, but the hardest to heal has been those from my childhood religion.

My entire childhood, I grew up absorbing the ideology that God valued me not intrinsically, but because of how I lived my life for Him and what I believed about Him. I did not believe that God loved people unconditionally. I believed His love was very conditional; it was measured out in precise ways, and His love was demonstrated with graduated rewards for varying levels of perfection- perfection of doctrine, attitude, behavior.

Grace is always going to be a radical concept for me. It will always take me by surprise. The sublime art of weakness will, at first sight and according to my initial religious training, appear like a poor excuse for cheap grace.

Realizing this is helpful, because now I can recognize my resistance to grace more easily. "Oh that's why, and that's wrong," I can think to myself.

It is similar to what I realized in Kentucky. I can't, by any future or imagined happiness or perfection of life, cause the sexual abuse not to have happened or to become a different person with a different history. It's the history itself that provides a kind of stunning backdrop of the healing work of God.

May 3, 2012

We got one side of the kitchen sink working, so at least there is no longer a greasy pile of dishes stacked on the counter and last night I took my first shower! Yay! Progress.

I've been taking all my blog entries from last fall, from when I first began experiencing Jesus' presence, and putting those blogs into a Microsoft Word file, and editing them. I'd been wanting to do that for a while.

Reading over everything that I had written- the posted and unposted blogs, and bits of letters- brought me such a feeling of relief, because the distance allowed me a clearer perspective on what I sounded like.

I sound like a normal person, like a creative introvert by character, very comfortable with the written word, who is attempting, on a public blog, to articulate and process an intimate and spiritual experience with God.

Another words, I sound like exactly what I am. That's how I relate to God. I don't have to relate to God in some other person's way, and no one else should feel as if they must relate to God in the way I do.

Because He's personal. He's a personal God, who delights in relationship- unique, intimate, mutual relationship with His children, who are all different.

It makes me think of this passage:

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

-Micah 6:8

I saw another woman's blog- artistic, articulate, poetic, full of light.

Shortly thereafter, I faced the humbling realization that I was jealous and intimated by her. It seemed like she must be ever so much more pleasing to Him than I.

"I'm jealous of the way she is," I confessed to Jesus.

I love you the way you are, He assured me.

"As I am," I said to myself, relieved. Because Jesus made me uniquely this way on purpose.

But sometimes, I feel as if I am the ugly, callused foot of the Body of Christ, and other people are the lovely, limpid eyes.

This is so funny, because I'll bet you a hundred thousand dollars that I do not have that somebody, at some point, has read a blog entry of mine and thought something similar about me that I thought about this other woman.

Why do we do this to ourselves? It's just mean to do that to ourselves, and wrong. We're missing the whole point, which is that He delights in us because we are who we are, not because we're someone else.

Besides which, if we really are the foot, chances are we'll experience having a foot bath, which is very nice.

I've been thinking on this passage, where Jesus is saying that He is going away to prepare a place for His disciples. He concludes by saying to them:

"And you know the way to where I'm going.”

Last night, I remembered the way to where He was- I opened my heart to the truth that Jesus was with me. And then I rested in that truth, and in His love.

You know the way, Jesus reminded me, fondly.

"You are the Way," I reminded Him.

And this morning, my calender read:

"Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to You for refuge. I said to the Lord, 'You are my Master! All good things I have come from You.'"
-Psalm 16:1-2

May 4, 2012, Unpublished

Last night, feeling lost in a sea of guilt and misery, I tried singing to Jesus a little line of a song (that holds a slight alteration of the original words, reflecting a precious time with Jesus,) and which many times I have sung to Him in worship and wonder and love, only this time, it came out in a limping and hesitant sort of way:

"My Jesus, I love Thee; I know I am Thine..."

Do you? Jesus whispered to me.

(When I said this to Him, my sense of His presence was only a general one, but as soon as Jesus spoke, I knew exactly where He was, which was behind me, holding me close in His arms. It wasn't only His nearness or His words that I knew. I became saturated with His grief over me in the way that white paper will absorb watercolor paint. His grief and sadness seemed almost to have no depth, almost to be a sea. I was not believing in and relying on and holding to His love and faithfulness toward me, and my inability to believe that I was His- His own work, His own responsibility, my inability to believe that He would finish what He started and my readiness to believe Him capable at any moment to disown me, reject me or give up on me, caused in Jesus a grief like a rising sea because of a loss of something that could be priceless and living and lovely to Him and to me. Jesus' sadness did not carry any guilt or anger. It was a pure, openhearted, openhanded sorrow.

(I had a very difficult time understanding this gift of Jesus- the gift of His sharing His heart with me, and so I did not write this part down, but I never forgot it. It was that very gift of knowing His heart that made the most lasting impression on me. Previously, I had believed that God approved of my feeling guilty and ashamed all the time. I had grown up feeling that a sense of insecurity about God's love and a constant focus on and wrestling with guilt was almost a sign of holiness. When I saw how deeply this hurt Jesus' pure heart, how openly His sorrow welled up without ceasing, I was able to see over or beyond my old assumptions.)

And oh my goodness! Because of course I have the hardest time truly believing that. Whenever I see a weakness, an imperfection, a bad attitude, a failure on my part, I think that I cannot be His.

I thought about this and opened my heart and my mind more and more to the reality that Jesus loves me completely, absolutely, as I am, right now, even with the whole background of my life and all the unfinished work.

His love is not conditional. I am His, no matter what.

A feeling of awe and relief began to seep into my soul, as I meditated and thought on this.

(I grew up about a mile away from a small lake, really a pond, that was spring fed, and it was believed that no one knew the true depth of the lake because the bottom of the spring had never been discovered. I would go swimming there at night when I was a young adult. I would float on my back way out at the edge of the cove and look up at the night sky. Truly opening my heart and truly trusting in the love and work of Jesus in my life was like that feeling of floating within unknowable distances and yet held safely in the midst. It was like unclenching a fist and when you do, realizing with surprise that your fingers hurt from holding on so tight, but the fear was so great that one never knew it was hurting until letting go.)

Then my mind opened up to another thought.

"You will teach me this," I said, (understanding with certainty that Jesus will, in the end, have this truth settled in my heart like bedrock.) He will do it. Because, of course, He has been. That is what He does; that is what He came to do- the lead the captives out of their prison and to open the eyes of the blind.

I am responsible for you, Jesus said, His voice full of quiet certainty.

I woke up this morning and remembered with warmth: Jesus. He's here; the Author of my life, the Lover of my soul.

He was behind me, holding me in His arms. As you are, Jesus said to me, drawing my mind back to the lesson of the day before.

Another words, the day does not have to be dramatic or awesome or have some great task. I do not have to be perfect. The day can be miserable, restless, empty, and that is okay. It is okay to acknowledge the way that I am feeling- to be as I am. It doesn't impact His ability or His purpose or His resource.

In fact, He wants me to be as I am. Jesus prefers me to be honestly weak, instead of desperately, by the skin of my teeth, strong.

The task, or the gift I can choose to receive, or the opportunity I can choose to take, however you want to think about it, is to give myself, more and more deeply and more and more honestly, over to Jesus.

Visible or re-occuring weakeness is just that- a greater opportunity for intimacy with God.

Will you trust Me with even this? He asks, so tenderly. Will you lean into Me, even as you are? Even now?

So I leaned back into Jesus, feeling relieved and free of that burden of making the day mean something, whatever that means.

That was the lesson He wanted me to learn through the pain. It was not to prove how strong I had grown.

It was the opposite. It was to throw my weakness into clearer perspective, so I could give myself away to Him even more, trust Him even more deeply- with all those fragile, broken pieces, the bleeding skin, the raw emotion.

And this is what I read on my calendar for today:

"Now I can rest again, for the Lord has been so good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord's presence as I live here on earth!" (Psalm 116:7-9 NLT)

May 5, 2012 Unpublished

Just so you know, I do not wake up every single morning with this awesome, apropos verse on my flip calendar.

A couple weeks back, I turned the page and read this:

"Those who love Your law have great peace and do not stumble." (Psalm 119:165 NLT)

I groaned.

If you are not familiar with the 119th Psalm, it is massive. When I was first re-read the Scriptures and stumbled over this, it was dizzying. It's just verse after verse after verse glorifying the Law.

Horror gripped me. Every lesson about grace and love and the work of Jesus fled from my mind and the terror of my childhood religion returned in full force, because surely following every single law perfectly was right, was required. (We followed much of the Old Testament law- for example, we did not eat food that was listed as unclean- believing this was our purpose and high calling.) How else to understand this psalm?

"What am I supposed to do with this?" I asked Jesus, in desperation.

I fulfilled the law, Jesus replied. You can put My name there instead.

I tried that, and wow.

Here's a small example of what it can sound like, that way:

"Blessed are the undefiled in Jesus,
Who walk in the Christ of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep Jesus,

Who seek Him with the whole heart!

They also do no iniquity;
They walk in Jesus.

You have commanded us
To keep Jesus diligently.

Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Jesus!

Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into the eyes of Jesus.

I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn about Jesus.

I will keep Jesus;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly!

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Jesus.

With my whole heart I have sought Your Word;
Oh, let me not wander from Jesus!

Your Christ Jesus I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.

Blessed are You, O Lord!
Teach me about Jesus.

With my lips I have declared
All about Jesus, the Word of God.

I have rejoiced in the way of Your Jesus,
As much as in all riches.

I will meditate on Jesus,
And contemplate the Way, the Life and the Truth.
I will delight myself in Your Christ Jesus;
I will not forget Jesus."

(Psalm 119:1-16)

And so on and so forth, because that psalm goes on, well, forever.

So, when I saw that verse, I carefully wrote "Jesus," on the calendar (It's still there):

"Those who love Jesus have great peace and do not stumble."

I used to wonder and wonder about the difference between conviction and condemnation. I had no idea what conviction felt like, so they ended up being exactly the same thing to me.

I wish I could begin to illustrate just how destructive that is to one's understanding and relationship to God. Every time I felt condemned or shamed or punished, I embraced that feeling as though it were the heart of God toward me. I did this for years. I did this as a child. I did this thinking it was the truth about God.

It's possible that my blog, with post after post that describes my inner struggle with harsh self judgment does a pretty good job at illustrating those effects.

May 11, 2012

I love noticing how often Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man. It causes my heart to crack in a pleasurable way, how often and how persistently He points out His human nature.

It's astonishing to me, that my God took on my own nature. He became like me! God did that!

What an astonishing God that is. What humility and tenderness that demonstrates about Him. There is no barrier He did not cross over or dissolve, in order to be fully with us, and us in Him.

It is interesting to notice that His greatest victory came through helplessness. He didn't achieve it by might, by right, by power. He achieved it through humiliation, suffering and surrender.

It was in this way that He conquered the darkness, making an open show of them, and taking captivity captive.

He could have smashed everything to bits. He could have brought the whole show tumbling down to pieces but that wasn't His gospel. That wasn't His message of victory.

A person could meditate for a long time on what that says about God- how extraordinary His plans are, how supremely confident He is.

Evil can lay God in the grave, and still not win any ground, but lose the keys to hell's own broken gate. God can die as a Man stretched out on a cross, and by it, draw the world to Himself, and return to us three days later, holding all authority in heaven and on earth.