Friday, April 21, 2017

The Room of Grace

August 11, 2012 Unpublished

I've noticed that this summer I just haven't been blogging as much as I normally do. I don't think it could be the stress or anxiety of the adoption process, because normally, stress or anxiety increases my need to write.

It must be that I'm having a hard time trying to articulate the lessons I've been learning. Each time I try, they fragment. At night, I compose wonderful blogs in my head and in the morning, they're gone.

Anyway, I will try to summarize. I will try to use this blog like a sounding board.

I can't yet move on from my experiences of God over the winter and spring. I'm still working through them.

I didn't understand what God was trying to do in my life until I fell at the pool.

It's so fascinating to me, looking back.

It offended me, that He was around me and not making me immediately perfect in every way. After I fell, during the long time I was healing, I saw my imperfections clearly, hourly.

Keith and I were driving on post, and I was feeling the personal presence of Christ near me, inviting me to rest in His love, as I had before.

And I wouldn't. I just refused. I thought, if God won't punish me for my bad attitude, my failures, I will punish myself.

"I am failing this test," I informed Jesus.

You are misunderstanding this whole experience, He replied.

I heard the words clearly in my spirit, but also, my entire understanding flipped, as though I had been attempting to look through the wong end of the telescope, and someone flipped it over for me, and voila! Clarity.

I had thought the point was to see how strong, how good, how loving I had become over the winter. I thought it was to test my mettle. It was not. It wasn't a test at all; it was an open door into a deeper intimacy with Him, an intimacy that arose from my trusting Him with my weakness, my wounds, with what I was.

Jesus had been saying this to me all along, but I hadn't been getting it. I couldn't really believe Him.

Later, I attempted to rest in Him like I had before, when I had felt reasonably good about myself. I told Him that little line that I had told Him so many times before: My Jesus, I love Thee; I know I am Thine.

But the words, even in my inner voice, came out so uncertain. It was as though it came out like a whisper.

I had been feeling His presence all around me, as though I were overshadowed and surrounded by Him, but when I heard my own voice, I felt His presence become much more distinct and immediate.

I felt very much as though Jesus were behind me, holding me against His chest. It felt very much as though He bent His head to whisper into my ear, just two words, and they were full of this grief.

Do you? He whispered.

A lot of things broke apart for me in that moment. I had been dropped into His grief, which was for me. It was an undefended and opened ended grief, that is, there was no element of guilt in it.

I saw clearly how I did not believe that I was His, how I rejected Him over and over again, refused to believe Jesus when He said that He loved me or that I was His.

So I began to let myself fall back into His love. It was like unclenching my fists. It was like swimming in a bottomless lake at night, and completely surrounded by the water and sky.

I saw how I had been growing into trusting His love and faithfulness more and more, and I saw how the only reason I had been, was because Jesus had been teaching it to me. It was like a light bulb went on over my head. I knew I would absolutely learn this lesson. There was no way I could not, because Jesus doesn't fail at what He undertakes.

"You will teach this to me," I said to Him.

I am responsible for you, Jesus assured me.

As you can imagine, this experience had a profound effect on me. All summer long, I've been growing into this lesson.

I'll be growing into this lesson all my life.

All summer long, I have been recognizing what I am truly feeling, without rejecting or condemning myself. This is very difficult to do.

Sometimes I feel as if I am in over my head, and I reach out to Jesus and He catches me, and He draws my heart back to that lesson.

August 12, 2012

I'm being a terrible blogger. Normally, I write so much more.

I feel quiet. That, and the things I do blog about, I don't publish.

I have written three different blog versions of something, I have rewritten them several times, and I have posted none of them.

Keith is away at class, so the house has been still and quiet. It's full of smells. It's amazing how the A/C kills any scents in the air. Now that I have turned it off, the house is swimming in scents: cut grass, chlorine, air freshener, wet dog.

I realized how much we are surrounded on all side by sensations- the feel of the air, and the taste of water and the scent of pine and all the sounds that pulse through the air. I was lying in bed last night listening to the trilling of the insects; how they wind up and up and up into this almost unbearable pitch and, abruptly, the sound stops. Then it winds up again.

In the evenings, I open the doors to the pool and read on the bed. Sometimes even the book can't keep my attention, I just watch the sky and the leaves rustling.

I miss Keith, but I don't feel lonely. I am at home. I am small; I am finite, and in knowing that, I am somehow dropped right into that one moment of time, with the moist warm air of late summer and the shrill of the insects. I am floating in the quiet heart of my finite, present life.

I feel the presence of God all around me in the quietness. I know Him. I call Him by name.

August 16, 2012 Unpublished

I wake up, and as much as I feel the comforter around me, and as much I feel the sun, as much as these things, I know am held by God.

I don't know Him as a faceless, impersonal presence, as only a feeling of well being or peace; I relate to Him as a person. I can't help it. I can't know Him in a way other than I know Him.

It's been a long, torturous summer. It's not over yet. I have been stretched way out of my comfort zone on so many levels.

Now I am reaping some of the rewards of all that risk taking. I have gone down deeper.

In my experience, it is true, the idea that the more honestly we can see ourselves, the greater the intimacy we can have with God. I remember hearing this before, and thinking that it made a lot of sense. But now I know how that works by experience.

You see, over the winter and spring, I assumed that God had come to instantly perfect me. I operated out of this assumption for a long time, but I was wrong.

God comes to us where we are, and then walks with us from that point, at the pace we can support. He doesn't give any of us more truth than we can take at any given time. Instead He lovingly and faithful guides us into it. He compassionately bends down to where we are.

August 22, 2012

When I see people still landing on my blog, even when I have not blogged, I feel this interesting mix of guilt and gratitude.

I think, what can I tell them, what interesting thing from my typically boring and routine life can I offer up to them? I have tried blogging about the things I have been pondering, and it does not come out right.

As a writer, this has been a frustrating summer. I can't articulate the things I've been thinking deeply about, and living in.

Here, let me try. I'll give it a go.


Ha! See. I can't. I can't write about it. Okay, wait, I'll try again.

My concept of forgiveness has expanded outward.

My understanding of the parable of the good Samaritan has expanded outward from simply a commentary on how to be a good person in society, to include an illustration of one's inner life.

That is, I have been the wounded, and the priest walking past my own wounded self, and I have been the good Samaritan extending to compassion to myself, before I was able to do so to anyone else in any authentic manner.

And this guy who gets beaten up- who is he? We know nothing about him or her. But I'll bet that you, like me, assumed at one time that he is the perfect victim- a nice guy, a good girl, simply going about their business, whistling to themselves as they walked along on a summer day.

What if they weren't? What if that person lying there was cruel or selfish or bitter? The parable does not make this clear; Jesus doesn't say.

It makes me think about Jesus declaring that among us, it is He that is the hungry one, the sick one, in prison, naked, thirsty and a stranger.

There are many kinds of prisons, there are many kinds of sicknesses. I have lived in several.

Now, when I catch myself being the priest, I notice, and I grieve. I grieve my complicity in this tendency we have to pass by, to fail to see that the stranger is God lying there, naked and bruised, in the road.

Grieving is different from self-condemnation, which was what I used to do. It's not as hurtful, and it opens my heart up. It causes me to feel surrounded by the love of God. I am the one on the road, and He has picked me up in His arms. It's who He is.

I recognize that I am forgiven. It's humbling- because I recognize then that He has forgiven everyone. Freely I have been forgiven; freely I forgive.

This is what I began to understand this summer, when I stopped trying to stifle my emotions, when I allowed myself to feel.

I feel comfortably small now, human. I do not need to be anyone else, to pretend to be other than what I am.

August 23, 2012

If I were to write what I really wanted to write, I would write about how delicious Jesus is, and how much I am in love with Him.

I know the way others experience and know God is a sacred mystery, one that lies between their spirit and God's Spirit.

I've absorbed this lesson so well that sometimes I hesitate to talk about the way in which I know Him, because I wonder if it is of any use to others, who have their own deep and personal relationship to Him.

But I think we tell our stories, in the best sense, to be encouraged by another person's journey to go deeper into our own. That is what I have found to be true for myself, in any case.

So, if I were to tell my story right now, I would want to talk about how I wake up to Jesus and go to sleep to Him and I find Him with me all day long. And He is tender and loving and true.

I read His written words and I feel an awe that is close to fear, because of the authority with which He is speaking, and because I understand so little of what He is saying.

It must be something like being married to a royal person, and knowing them as a person in the house, and then hearing a bit of their official speech, and remembering all over again with a kind of fear and wonder, that they have the whole kingdom under their authority.

A couple days ago, I was skimming quickly through St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Commentary on the Song of Songs. In one chapter called In the Rooms of the King, St. Bernard talks about his contemplation of the verse, "the King has brought me into His rooms," Songs 1:4.

Bernard describes his vision of three specific rooms of the King that he feels he has been in, in a spiritual sense. He sums them up as discipline, nature and grace- the last one, grace, being a bedroom.

He talks about the bedroom being the place where God goes to find ease and intimate companionship, as opposed to the other rooms, where God is operating out of His place as Judge and Creator, which are solemn and unnerving places to find oneself.

I was fascinated by Bernard's description. I had a similar experience last fall, when I was reading the book of Revelations for the first time in years, which was a purely terrifying experience.

In fact, I was so terrified that I was understanding almost nothing of what I was reading. It was merely a moving jumble of violent, vivid images without sense or perspective. Not that I've ever really understood that book at all.

I had to stop reading. Jesus reminded me that my life was hidden in Him, so no matter what was happening or why, I was safely tucked away. I continued reading with half my mind on the book and the other half constantly holding on to the thought that I was hidden in Him.

I reached the part where it talks about the throne room, and it seemed to me that the room was full of sacred and important persons. The room was full.

My heart dropped as I realized this. This is a ridiculously childish thought, taking as it does this whole thing literally, and I am embarrassed to be admitting to it, but I had always this idea, in the corner of my mind, that I would find some small corner near Jesus and hide out there, as close and as inconspicuous as possible.

But at that time, when I was reading, I thought there was no place for me and that I would never be near Him at all. I felt there was no way I could even enter that room.

I thought to myself, "I'm never going to see Him! I'll be like Zacchaeus, trying to get a glimpse of Jesus merely as He passes by on other business. There's no place for me."

And then He spoke. He said, There is a place for you, and it is very close to Me.

And I saw a room. It was a lush, opulent room, dimly lit. I noticed right away that there were no windows. It was full of couches, cushions and hanging drapes. It was not at all decorated to my taste and I couldn't figure out why Jesus would put me in a room that had no windows.

I knew immediately, almost in the way one knows things in dreams, that the rooms were not actually mine at all; they were His.

It was His private room, but I would be or was living in them. So there would never be any actual separation between us at all. Jesus would never have to go out of His way to come to me. In the natural course of events, we would be running into each other all day long. He would have to go out of His way to avoid me.

A week or so later, I was reading in the Psalms. I was reading one of my favorite psalms, that has been my favorite since I was fifteen or sixteen, because of these verses:

"Hear, O daughter, consider, submit, and consent to my instruction: forget also your own people and your father’s house;

So will the King desire your beauty; because He is your Lord, be submissive and reverence and honor Him."

So I was reading the 45th psalm, and I came to this verse:

"The King’s daughter in the inner part [of the palace]..."

I got goosebumps. I just sat there, thinking over and over again about how she was in the inner part, the inner chamber- it was why the room Jesus had shown me had no windows.

Anyway, that's the sort of thing I would write, if I were simply to write.

August 24, 2012

Now I remember why I stopped blogging about all that; writing about it triggers so much anxiety that it makes that day and the next miserable.

For one thing, I think to myself, "Oh my goodness! That sort of thing only happens to extremely spiritual and pious people- like nuns and Franciscans- and I am not one of them! I must revert, and attempt to earn such an experience, even if in retrospect! Stop being imperfect and human! Stop it right now!"

And of course, I can't. I go on losing my temper at the dogs, when they argue over their food bowls, and I get exasperated at my husband when he invites guests over yet again without warning, and then, in an attempt to get my point across to him while he is on the phone, I glower and fuss at him like an angry goose.

And I don't want to cook dinner; I want to go on watching the fifth episode of my show on Netflix, and the floors are covered with dog hair and the counters are smeary because I was slouching around all day, writing about various things, including God.

And I get a growing suspicion that I have mixed up one of the absurd number of names in the Bible beginning with Z, and have chosen the wrong one for the parable I wrote about, but I'm too anxious even to reread my blog.

And then I feel so terrible. I think, I am such a terrible person. I should be hospitable at all times, neat, tidy, never anxious, never angry. I should always double check Z names, just to be sure. I'm selfish and self-centered, and I just blogged about Jesus! I've learned my lesson; I'm never blogging about God again.

Thus the day goes on.

When I was young, I used to think that people who had interesting or spiritual experiences with God must be extraordinary people. Maybe some of them are; I'm not.

From the first time I experienced the presence and person of God, I knew two things quite clearly. One was that my faith was no longer any of my business. It had nothing to do with my efforts and I couldn't take any credit for it.

It would be like a person who felt the sunlight on their face and said to themselves, "I feel the sun! I must have caused it rise! It must have been that I ate oatmeal for breakfast. I will now make a religion of eating oatmeal for breakfast in order to cause the sun to rise."

The second thing I knew was that I could no longer judge any other person's faith. If you can't take credit for having something, it's very difficult to judge other people for having or not having the same thing.

What I think is extraordinary are people like my father. Until this year, my father never had a personal experience of the presence or love or voice of God. That's six decades of praying, asking, seeking and not finding, through all kinds of suffering and pain.

And yet, my father persistently went on choosing to believe in God- a God of love, yearning for relationship! He lives this out in his life, by loving the people around him, no matter who they are or how they live their lives.

Of course I love God. How could I not love God? I would be a peculiar person indeed if I did not naturally love in return for having felt loved.

And anyway, the entire thing that I blogged about, Jesus described quite simply and in just a few sentences, when He said:

"There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live."

John 14:2-3, The Message


"Being a child of grace does not merely mean being one who experiences the forbearance of God and who is forgiven by Him. All of the works of God in man's heart are works of grace. Grace means that it is done by God and not by man. A person who receives more grace is one who allows God to work on him more, while a person who receives less grace is one who allows God to work on him less. God has the grace, but man will not necessarily allow God to do all the works in him. Everything that is of the self belongs to the law, and everything that is of God belongs to grace."

-Watchman Nee, The Song of Songs, II. A Life Within the Veil, A. The Beloved's Praise (6:4-9)