Friday, March 17, 2017

Love That Will Not Let Me Go

April 25, 2012

Well, it never rains but it pours here in the Indiana household.

Yesterday, I got a call from Keith telling me he was in the Emergency Room and that I had better come down because it was very likely that he would be going into surgery for gallstones.

So, wincing, I wiggled my foot into sneakers, tied the laces with one hand- not easy to do- and drove down to the on-post hospital.

I limped up to the front desk, where the receptionist looked a tad surprised that I declared myself a visitor and was not admitting myself.

Keith wasn't in his room when I got there. He was getting an ultrasound. When he came in, he was in a wheel chair, wearing a hospital gown and socks, all of which rung my heart. When the doctor returned, it turned out that Keith does not have gall stones, so again, no one knows exactly why he is feeling the pain, but at least he didn't have to go into surgery. The doctor thinks it might be another condition and gave Keith medication to treat the symptoms, but it's really just another shot in the dark.

We came home to a musty house because it hurts too much for me to open windows, take out the trash, vacuum, or wash dishes. The past couple of days, I've just sort of limped around the house looking at things I used to do, and wearily limped on by, because I know I cannot do them without an inordinate amount of pain.

However, last night I was able to wash some dishes, which was great. Is that not a strange thing to declare? Who knew that a person could actively desire to clean their house?

The open wounds are slowly healing up, but it's taking a while. I didn't just scrape the skin, I shaved entirely off along with layers of flesh, and not smoothly, and across a large portion of the palms of my hands. But it is healing, and I love me some Neosporin. That stuff is great. Our bathroom looks like a ransacked first aid station.

Tomorrow is Family Day. This means that I, here in the state of Georgia solely constituting the family of Keith, will have to show up to experience some Mandatory Military Family Fun. I will stoically endure the fun times and then the next day, we have our first meeting with our case worker at the adoption homestudy. We meet with her up in Atlanta.

Hopefully, by that time, I will be able to shake her hand. I met Keith's boss in the parking lot at the hospital and had to ask him to hold my hand gently, which, let's face it, sounds a little strange at first. Apparently, I'm famous, because even he had heard of my accident. I have become "that wife." Lucky Keith.

So, it has gotten rather busy and messy around here, which is good practice, I think, for when we become parents.

April 26, 2012 Unpublished

I can't wash my hair- or anything else but my fingers, for that matter- so Keith has to wash my hair.

He has maybe... a quarter of an inch of hair per Army regulations? Me, I have almost three feet of thick, uncut black hair. It's thirty three inches long, from root to tip. When it's wet, it's very heavy and pulls tight against my scalp, so I have to wash it in segments and it takes a loooong time for shampoo and/or conditioner to rinse fully out. If I leave it unwashed for even two days, when I do wash it, I must do it twice to get all the grease and dust out of it.

All this to say, he washed my hair yesterday after three days of no showers and this morning, my hair is still greasy. This would be fine, no problem, no cause for comment, except today is Family Fun Day.

I'm going to look like Alice the Goon, limping around with greasy hair and unshaved legs and smelling like Neosporin.

I wish I were healing faster. There's still no skin on the palm of my right hand. It's just open flesh. It's clean and healing at the edges a little, but it's just open.

So is the one on my foot. It's right on the spur of my foot, just below the big toe, and I'm beginning to wonder if the white part of that wound is actually the bone. I think it might be, because on my other foot, I can feel that there is really nothing but a layer of skin and maybe tendons over the knobby bone.

And then to make things worse, everything is itching. But there's nothing to itch. There's no scab to pick at. So I just limp around the house in my PJs, itching, sore, greasy and with the bone of my foot aching. What an awesome time to meet with all the other wives in the company!


Three times in the Gospel of Mark Jesus prophesies of His Passion. The first time Jesus tells the disciples that “The Human One”—as He calls Himself—will suffer grievously and be rejected and put to death, and after three days be raised up (Mark 8:30). Peter argues with Him, and Jesus rebukes him—this is the only time that Jesus calls someone a devil (Mark 8:33)–saying that man’s way is not God’s way. Jesus is insistent that the way to God is the way of the cross. It's not the prosperity Gospel of “The American Dream” with a little icing of Christ over the top.

In faith, there is no possibility of an uninterrupted success story.

-Richard Rohr, Adapted from The Four Gospels (CD, MP3)


Teach me the way to live and die.

April 28, 2012

When I flipped over my calendar and it read, "When doubts fill my mind, Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer," I thought to myself, "Rats. I'm going to have to blog about this." (Psalm 94:19)

Whatever it was that made it possible for me to be vulnerable and open about my spiritual experiences in the last six months- call it naiveté, innocence or whatever- I don't have it anymore. I feel extremely self conscious.

In fact, I pretty much assumed that part of my blogging was behind me and that I would go on and blog about far more common subjects, like adoption and crazy capers by the pool, and eventually, far, far into the future, about motherhood.

And for the most part, I think that is what I will be blogging about. But I guess my experiences of God are part of how He's writing my life, and so it seems likely that I will blog about this from time to time.

For the last few days I have been irritable and cranky, mainly because of lingering pain/itchiness and the continued inability to do much for myself. I have been getting better, but slowly.

On top of this, I've been judging myself because of my bad attitude.

"Love is long-suffering, Jenny!" I tell myself, mercilessly. "Love is patient! Love is kind! Love does not snap at one's husband (who, by the way, is feeling much better and is eating healthier) or resent the dirty house or the necessity for Mandatory Military Family Fun! This whole situation is a great opportunity to demonstrate how far you've come, and you're failing the test."

Because of this, when I feel the presence of Jesus, I feel miserable and guilty. That happened last night. In the perfectly natural and yet inexplicable way that I know, I knew He was there, and that He loved me.

"Go away," I muttered, into the pillow. "I don't deserve You."

No one does, Jesus replied, with His tender love.

And, as usual, my understanding opened right up. I remembered, all over again, that no one has earned His love by their good behavior or their great attitude. It's simply not earned at all. It's a free gift, it's without end, and it's always offered. We either accept it, or we don't. But His love is constant.

"That's true!" I told Him in relief, and surrendered my weary self to His love- the line, "Oh Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary self in Thee," from the hynn by George Mattheson comes immediately to mind.

And this love is passed on to everyone else around you, Jesus continued in His quiet voice.

Right away, I thought of this verse:

"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

This morning, I thought of this quote:

"We do not have to work out how to get ourselves into a good position for having a relationship with God, we do not have to design ways of explaining our position to him, we do not have to create a pretty face for ourselves, we do not have to achieve any state of feeling or understanding. The newness inherent in any situation of encounter with God is brought by him, not by us..."

" of the arts we have to learn is the sublime art of weakness."

-The Beatitudes: Soundings in Christian Traditions, Simon Tugwell

Then I read this morning's verse, which led to this blog about how His comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer when doubts had filled my mind.

April 30, 2012 Unpublished

This morning, I opened the French doors rather tentatively. That feeling of joy, wonder and anticipation that used to fill me each morning was elusive- a vague though appealing memory.

"I don't remember how I did this," I told Jesus.

I do, He assured me, right in my ear. I knew Jesus was behind me and that He had me in His arms. I’m feeling that a lot, feeling Him behind me, with His arms holding me so securely. I feel safe and centered and secure that way.

I felt that when I reread my verse from yesterday, which began, "Create in me a clean heart, O God..." That verse brought up a lot of spiritual baggage from my old church. It was very unpleasant. (I believed myself to be inherently unacceptable to God, and that pleasing God required a constant maintaining of great effort by keeping every rule as constantly as possible, in order to be acceptable to God, Who I believed to be hostile, demanding and distant.)

This morning, I forced myself to read it again, and I felt Jesus holding me tight in His arms. I was secure in Him, as though I were enclosed in Him. I know I am misunderstanding that verse, but it doesn't matter if I can't figure out exactly how right now, because Jesus is my everything- my life, my spirit, my righteousness.

The verse this morning was:

"How gracious and merciful is our Lord! All He does is just and good, and all His commandments are trustworthy. They are forever true."
-Psalm 111:4, 7-8

Last night, I was thinking over the many extraordinary ways that Jesus has communicated Himself to me, and it was amazing all over again.

I was tempted to feel arrogant about it- to feel better than others. As usual, this temptation caused me horror. I was repelled by the idea and horrified by the consequences if I made that part of my identity. I want no part of that way of thinking.

I handed this thought to Jesus as though it were a package.

"Here," I said, "this is for You."

I felt His presence, large and immediate and loving and right there. Jesus was bending down to me from above. He took the package from me and kissed my cheek.

I felt loved, free and relieved all at once.

I thought about how my life is His work, and how He is constantly developing me.

For eternity, Jesus assured me, and wonder filled my soul.

Forever. He will always be invested in my life, drawing out who I am. He will always be drawing me deeper into Himself. Jesus is infinite, so there will be no end of knowing Him.

May 1, 2012 Unpublished

I feel very blah today. In fact, I could not think of a good reason even to get out of bed.

"Today is going to be a bad day," I told Jesus, before I even pulled the covers back. "I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with today."

But I know, He said.

"Sure, You know. You always know. But You won't tell me, will You? I have to blunder through, wondering what on earth I'm doing that's of any value."

Suddenly, a realization dawned.

"You want me completely dependent on You, don't You?" I asked, resentfully.

Yes, yes, that is the point. Jesus didn't have to answer that in words; the truth was too perfectly obvious and echoing within me in His words- Abide in Me; apart from Me you can do nothing.

It turns out, after all this blogging about it and a multitude of inspiring quotes, I don't really like grace. Mercy annoys me. I don't know why Jesus loves me. I'm a poor student, for one thing- a slow learner.

That's who I am, some days- I am a person with a terrible attitude, having a ridiculous dialogue with God in the morning.

It's pride, is what it is, really. I want to feel like I earned something. It turns out, I don't want to learn the sublime art of weakness.

I want to be a normal person, with a normal distance from God. A lovely, formal distance. I want to meet with Him formally on Sundays, safely.

In the morning, I would have a respectful, civilized quiet time with Him as I study in some subdued, encouraging devotional.

During these quiet times, Jesus would never actually talk to me, because that would be weird, and He would have too much respect for the integrity of my normalness (yes, I just made that phrase up) to do that to me.

Instead, I would feel a lovely, warm peace in my heart, enhanced by the sunshine streaming from my kitchen windows.

In this life, I have children and they are at school and later I will run errands and I do charity work and my mother lives nearby and we're going to have my parents over for dinner on Mother's Day, with my best china.

My children have lovely rooms with their names in painted wooden blocks over their beds and in the evening, I help them with their homework and counsel them gently, when needed. I would teach them moral object lessons, about how to be good people.

Why can't I be that woman?

Instead, I'm thirty four years old, infertile, with greasy hair because I still can't take a shower due to the open wound on my foot.

I can't write anything worth publishing. All the things which used to inspire me no longer do so. I'm stuck in creative limbo.

I forgot to put Keith's uniform into the dryer last night and so he had to wear his second best this morning, and I have no idea what to make for dinner tonight.

I live in a rented house in a random state and in two years, I'll live in another one somewhere else completely random.

And God has no respect for the integrity of my normalness. He impresses Himself on me in such a way that I can't deny it or escape it.

This is what I read, when I got up this morning:

"I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night- but even in the darkness I cannot hide from You. To You, the night shines as bright as day." (Psalm 139:11-12)

Jesus is relentless.

I was riding in the truck on the way to Family Fun times and talking with Him. I felt His love all around me, His invitation that I rest in His love.

"I'm failing this test," I told Jesus, instead. "I'm being a miserable person."

I felt even more the strong draw of His yearning love like open arms, I saw His arms open, inviting me to sink down into His embrace.

I refused. “I am failing this test. You’ve been with me all these months and I have not improved at all. I will never learn if I’m not punished. If You won’t punish me, I will punish myself.” And so, in order to punish myself, I denied myself His love; I stubbornly kept away from Jesus.

You are misunderstanding the entire experience- this whole time I have been with you, the whole purpose and meaning of it, Jesus said, and I saw a telescope, only I was looking through the wrong end, which made things appear needlessly and almost comically small and far away, and Jesus switched it, so they could be seen close up. At the same time, Jesus flipped my understanding.

The test wasn't for you to succeed, Jesus told me. It was for you to learn an undisguised surrender, to trust Me completely with your weaknesses. Now give over your cranky, self-centered, prideful self to Me and let Me love you, you impossible girl.

(Jesus gave me a visual understanding at the same time as His message. This visual was of a branch that has been cut off of its original tree, and I saw the wound at the end of the branch, where the sap is still flowing. In order to graft it to a new tree, that wound must be deep and wide, and the tree to which it is going to be joined must have an even larger, deeper cut made into it. The two cuts must be bound together and left to heal, and the healing makes one tree. If there aren't those cuts, the graft won't take, and the branch will die. But if the cut is down into the life, the branch will become a part of the new tree. Jesus was saying that if I tried to perfect myself, either by self-punishment or by reward, I would have no way of connecting to His life. I would not be acknowledging any need for Him. But if I could be honest with Him about the gaping wounds, instead of hiding them from Him, I could let those wounds be the places where I am joined to Jesus, because I had surrendered myself to Him and remained in Him. The healing of those wounds would be the receiving of and abiding in His life.)

You know what made it even more astonishing and impossible to escape? There was a song on the radio station, and Jesus was filling those words with His own meaning, so that I was hearing Jesus saying, repeatedly, I see My love offends you, please forgive Me! But I will never and can never stop loving you. You must believe Me and accept the truth of what I'm saying, because every word I say is true.


O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

-George Matheson