Friday, May 12, 2017

With All That Followeth

September 28, 2012

I've been doing a lot of thinking about writing. Last night, I lay awake for hours, thinking about everything I had ever written.

Do you know that they are all the same story? It's astonishing to me. From the time I was fifteen years old, writing with smudged blue ink on papers torn out of a ring binder, I have been writing the same story.

Here is the story; I can tell it very simply.

There is a girl. She is powerless and unformed.

She is taken out of her known world.

She falls in love with a man who is powerful, self-aware, self-disciplined and ageless. He loves her first and for no reason.

She finds out who she is by two things: the internal conflict that comes as a result of extreme displacement between the place where she was and the place she is taken-by contrast, and the sense of belonging that comes as a result of instinctive, unconditional love- by acceptance.

End of story.

Any external conflict is largely meaningless, poorly thought out and badly timed. It always is, because it simply doesn't matter. It's the internal conflict and resolution that matters.

You recognize this story, I'm sure. It's a common story. I've been writing about my longing for God. Within God are two things I want desperately-context and unconditional love.

What I can't understand is why I need the mechanism of the other world. Why does the girl need to be taken out of her known world in order to find God?

That's what I've been thinking about, lately, when I haven't been thinking about other, more practical day to day things, like what to cook for dinner.

Thank goodness I don't angst over those things!

What should I cook for dinner, and why? What does frozen chicken mean to the human condition? If I bake it, what does that say about my inner motives?

Moving on.

November 13, 2012 Julian of Norwich

“For as the body is clad in the cloth, and the flesh in the skin, and the bones in the flesh, and the heart in the whole, so are we, soul and body, clad in the Goodness of God, and enclosed. Yea, and more homely: for all these may waste and wear away, but the Goodness of God is ever whole; and more near to us, without any likeness; for truly our Lover desireth that our soul cleave to him with all its might, and that we be evermore cleaving to His Goodness. For of all things that heart may think, this pleaseth most God, and soonest speedeth [the soul].

“For our soul is so specially loved of Him that is highest, that it overpasseth the knowing of all creatures: that is to say, there is no creature that is made that may [fully] know how much and how sweetly and how tenderly our Maker loveth us. And therefore we may with grace and His help stand in spiritual beholding, with everlasting marvel of this high, overpassing, inestimable Love that Almighty God hath to us of His Goodness. And therefore we may ask of our Lover with reverence of all that we will.

“For our natural Will is to have God, and the Good Will of God is to have us; and we may never cease from willing nor from longing till we have Him in fullness of joy: and then may we no more desire.

“For He willeth that we be occupied in knowing and loving till the time that we shall be fulfilled in Heaven; and therefore was this lesson of Love shewed, with all that followeth, as ye shall see.”

-Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Chp. VI

November 13, 2012

For some time now I've been living in the truth that God is in me and I am in Him, and that this needs no proof, no constant assertion, no seeking. It simply is, in each moment.

I've been doing this in part to prevent myself from making a personal religion of my perceptions or experiences of God. It would have been easy to do. And in fact I had started to do that. It would have been easy for me to constantly seek what I already possessed, to try to recapture by the outward mechanism what had happened there before by the grace of God.

I also began to rest like this in part because I saw how I was dividing myself into the acceptable and the unacceptable. I was doing this to every aspect of myself- thoughts, emotions, aspirations, my physical self. I was trying to take over and direct a kind of bleaching process that by early training I so closely associated with the gaining and retaining of intimacy with God.

Frequently, I would become so busy sifting myself that I had no time or ability to simply be with Jesus at all. It was ultimately a futile, endless pursuit, one that filled with me shame and frustration.

When I realized these things, I made a deliberate choice to suspend this type of self-imposed division. I gave myself over in my entirety to Jesus, so that He could divide as He wished, in His own way and in His own time.

At the same time, I stopped seeking the experience of Jesus' presence and simply rested in the truth of Him. I let go of my expectations, both of myself and of Him. I let myself be still.

(This was critical, because I was beginning to associate the experience of His presence with His love and faithfulness, and there is no peace and trust in that incorrect assumption. It leads to a kind of desperate searching that is based on a constant need for reassurance and not on a longing to love God and know Him and be with Him.)

In the early summer, when I was first making this transition of thought, I would sometimes become anxious that I was no longer actively seeking God. Like a child that is just learning to walk, I would take a few steps and then reach out for Him, for reassurance, to know that He is still there even if I could not feel His hand. (Sometimes entire days were taken up with this kind of neediness, but He never grew impatient with me.)

Each time, I heard Jesus tenderly say, You know that I Am.

He said this to me so often that it became like a stream of living water constantly running through the deep places of my spirit. I could hear the music of this water, this living connection that runs through my spirit and God's Holy Spirit, which is, in some profound and mysterious way, one spirit.

And I do know. I know that He always is. This is a peaceful and whole way of living, and I am getting better at living in it.

Still I find myself reaching out to Jesus, sometimes out of anxiety and sometimes out of love.

Out of love, I lie still in the bed at night and listen to my own breath. I remember that it is the breath of God.

When I breathe in, I take my breath from His mouth. When I breathe out, I return it to Him. The intimacy and trust of this causes my spirit to settle down into a deep and living rest. I know myself to be cocooned in the living heart of God, face to face with Him.

Jesus taught me this Himself, but for a long time, I was too shy or too full of shame to surrender myself to it. Now I can begin it in trust, knowing He is there.

"Should I ask You for something?" I sometimes ask Jesus. "Should I be asking You, over and over again, for the house to be rented or that we be matched with the right birth mother?"

But then I wonder why would I ask Jesus for things I already know He's intimately involved with.

I no longer associate God primarily with the result. I understand Him to be almost inextricably involved in the process. He is my entire life, moment by moment. (Therefore, all the meaning and all the good is no longer only based on some future goal, but it is spread out over my whole life, and so I must and so I should be right here, doing what I should be doing right now.)

Besides, maybe going through a disrupted adoption plan is a necessary pruning or threshing. In that case, why should I ask to avoid it?

Every once in a while, I do find myself asking Jesus for something specific.

"Aha!" I tell Him, humorously. "I have made a request of You! I do still do that, after all."

I no longer pause to get myself ready to meet with Him, as though there were some sort of powder room where I could go to touch up my face before the official meeting. He’s already living in me all the time, although I sometimes forget this.

I remember getting caught up in this sort of fruitless pursuit one night. I was trying to get myself in the right and holy frame of mind, before resting in Him. As usual, this was frustrating. It's like going around in circles.

Then I remembered with sweet relief that getting myself in the right frame of mind- trying to earn Him, was not the way to Him. I let myself fall back into His presence, just as I was.

"I almost got lost on the way," I confessed.

I knew where you were, He said tenderly. He would; He is the way.

I know that I am His. Sometimes I call Him by name, and the intimacy of it send shivers through my spirit.

There's pleasure in both pursuits, the seeking of God and the resting in God.

It makes me think of something He said, something that I have wondered about, from time to time:

"I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."
-John 10:9

I always wondered, in and out of where?

I wonder if we are sometimes turning inward to Him, and resting in the truth that He is in us. And maybe sometimes we are going out and seeking Him, with all the deep yearning for Him, and the pleasure of knowing He will be found.

Either way, we have entered; we are safe. We have a resting place and we have the give and take of intimate relationship, which is so very nourishing.

December 3, 2012 Unpublished

I have been having the hardest time lately. I came across a belief along the lines that God might have a critical moment where we must respond- to God, to our destiny- that we might get tapped on the shoulder and if we don't respond right then, well, that is bad, perhaps irrevocably bad.

This terrifies me for lots of different reasons.

I've been sort of moving through the day as best I could, which is not very good, but Jesus keeps telling me that all I must do is move through it, be in it.

I asked Jesus about that critical moment and He replied that it was quite possible that for other people, He might give them the experience of a critical moment, because that is the way He is relating to them and because of the way their spirit and soul grow and develop, but that He might not provide such a critical moment to everyone- specifically me, because in my case, such a thing is not a good fit for the growth of my spirit.

"So it is not like that with me?" I asked Him.

Jesus replied immediately that if such were the case, not only would He have told me so very clearly, in a way I could not miss, but that He would also have given me the strength and ability to see it through.

And of course, at no point has Jesus ever said such a thing to me- that I had to make a critical decision right now, or never. So I felt incredibly relieved, because that just makes perfect sense.

Then Jesus told me to sit down and write this down, I think because He knows I have been so anxious about it.

December 3, 2012 Unpublished

So last night I was just overwhelmed by feedback- specifically speaking, a lack of feedback that I had hoped for, no response at all. (This would not impact me in the same way now. Silence is sometimes the only response possible, for a variety of good reasons. The Lord has settled that understanding peacefully withn me, but He was only beginning that kind of work at the time of this particular blog post.)

As I was pouring out my deepest feelings, Jesus was pouring back to me empathy and love- in such a way that I was able to see myself more clearly and gain more clarity about the intensity of the feelings.

You've given this person authority over you, Jesus pointed out. You fear them.

Immediately, a bunch of things coalesced in my mind. I remembered doing this once before, and Jesus confirmed immediately, that yes, I had.

"And You didn't like it," I remembered, feeling guilty and suddenly wanting out from the present conversation.

I don't like it.

And then I remembered that whenever God says to fear Him, it’s usually because He doesn't want us to fear anything else.

"You want to be the only person holding the authority to define me," I stated to Jesus, realizing this.

Absolutely, He answered- though He didn't use a word, but the meaning was unmistakable.

I felt this great sense of freedom. I felt freed from the prison of wanting this other person's validation and approval. I could respect and learn from, and be compassionate and humble toward others, but I need fear only God.

December 6, 2012

I figured maybe it was time for practical updates.

The house still has not rented; December is the fifth month that we have carried the mortgage on two houses. It's numbing.

We have lowered the rent as far down as we dare to go; we have had a move-in special for the last two months.

People are often making appointments to see it, but only one family filled out an application. They weren't very good candidates, but beggars can't be choosers, so we decided to take a gamble on them.

That fell through anyway, the day before Thanksgiving.

For about six hours before it fell through, I could see suddenly that everything would be alright. We would actually adopt. The whole thing would happen.

Then suddenly the door closed and it was all impossible and mind-numbing and so one might as well go back to real life again.

Keith is going to be Santa today for his company's Christmas party. Last night we had to look for his old black army boots, the pair he wore in Germany, so long ago.

The closet is off the nursery, such as it is. I knew this would happen when I began decorating it; I knew it would at some point be a symbol of pain, and so it is. I don't like going in it.

That room has a surreal look to it, especially in the glare of the overhead light. It has the feel of a room that a parent has kept perfectly, although the child has gone somewhere beyond their reach.

There's simply nothing to be done but wait.

I watched the video of The Snowman. In it, there is a scene of a little girl looking out the window at the starry sky while she holds a card with Santa on it. She is awestruck to see the snowman and the boy go flying past on their way to the North Pole.

I realized, as I watched it this time, that she was able to be so transported by awe in part because she was kept safe and sound by her family. Her parents slept somewhere cozily in the house, having made a space for the child to grow, to be filled with wonder, to have her own dreams.

Somehow, this struck me to the quick. I had always thought I would be one such parent. I had always thought that my home and my love would shelter a number of small children as they grew, secure and yet filled with wonder.

But this is not so. When I think of this, I feel withered and dried up. I feel irrelevant to the big picture, to the real things of life.

This is a terrible way to feel and so I have learned to push it away and to feel nothing. This is an unhealthy thing to do and goes contrary to every bit of personal wisdom and experience that I have gained in life, but there it is. That's what I do.

It's certainly what I do when I flick on the light of the so called nursery and see that dust is gathering on the small clothing and toys, and everything seems to be some kind of unthinkably cruel joke as my husband empties bag after bag of old army equipment onto the floor in search of a boot so he can dress up as Santa for all the children in his company.

But I remember how quickly everything was switched back when we thought we would have renters, so I know this feeling of pathetic hope and weary impossibility is just an illusion. I just have to wait through it.

I could become angry at Jesus for this. I know He would not mind if I did. However, I just don't see the point of it, since I know that what I suffer, He suffers.

So what should I say to Jesus? Shall I say, why do You make Yourself suffer so?

The night I knew for sure that we could not pursue international adoption, He said to me, I have a plan for your life.

I'm not entirely sure why He felt the need to tell me so, as it is perfectly clear that He has a plan for every one's life.

And what can a person say to Him in response? No? I refuse?

In which case, I tend to believe that God becomes the following storm. He becomes the sailors that toss you off the ship, and He is the ocean that receives you and the whale that swallows you.

Eventually, He spits you up upon the shore, where He meets you, and teaches you about His offensive mercy.

So there is simply no escape. Sun or shade, one must sit and wait with Him. That is what I have learned, anyway.