Friday, June 23, 2017

The Word of Perseverance

These next sections are going to be both unexpected and challenging. They certainly were for me, when I first re-read them. But this is what came next, so I have been and am trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit in both the Scriptures that are linked, and the timing.

March 9, 2013 Published blog

I don’t know what to feel about the difficulty of this adoption journey and my helplessness to fix it on my own.

Should I be furious at Jesus? Sometimes I think I am, deep down, but I’m not letting myself express it, because it feels too dangerous.

Then I feel that I am a miserable, sinful creature who is not praying enough, doesn’t have enough faith.

Perhaps I should be able to try and force Jesus to do what I want Him to do, if only I have enough faith- willing Him by unrelenting, focused faith that I will have what I want to have

Then I think that this is not so much faith as it is anger. And I am angry at Jesus, because He seems never to be done with me, always holding me up to the grinding wheel.

Jesus said that to me once. He said, you and I will never be finished.

And at the time, I thought that was a delicious thing for Jesus to say. He said it with such love. I understood Him to mean that we would always be bound together, in love, growing into and enjoying one another, because He is infinite and I will always live in Him.

But right now, I feel as if this is a burden, like a yoke that constrains me every time I try to take a step.

And Jesus won’t give me the answer; He doesn’t tell me what to do. Or, more exactly, He gives me the same answer as always, which is to remain, to wait. To abide, as it were. Which is a very Jesus sort of thing to say.

When I step back from these sharp edges of myself, I feel pity and compassion for myself, torn between these human responses to pain, and I think that He is greater than these smaller answers that I have now, and that I must rest in the mystery of Him, with all these ragged edges, the anger and the doubt and the guilt and the hope just as they are- which are all mixed up, and give them over to Him, and they are soothed in the great depth of His love, but still without answers.

Also, it is difficult to be angry at someone who is embracing you with love. If Jesus gave me some space, maybe I would. But I feel Him there all the time, not just beside me, but holding me.

I feel His constant presence, not only looking on as it were outside myself, but within me, in such I way that I know Jesus is not feeling this beside me, but actually with me- we feel together what happens. He doesn’t have to feel this with me. Because He does, I can bear it more easily.

March 10, 2013, Unpublished blog

So, I had a strange dream last night.

I dreamed that I stumbled across this little civilization. There were perhaps a dozen or so different individuals living each in their own little box home but part of one community, each person unique and quirky.

In the course of talking with them, I learned that Jesus had settled each one of them in their place, that He actually came down to be with them, to get them established and that He came down, from time to time, to visit with them.

Of course I immediately wanted to know how and when He came down and they were very helpful. One or two of them agreed to let me live with them, so that I could meet Jesus in person at the time when He came down.

They explained that I should go to a certain spot, at two in the afternoon, and call out to Him with all my heart, and He would come down the next day.

I thought this was incredible, unbelievable, but I waited, a guest in one of their homes, for the right time to try this.

At the right time, I walked along this short, paved path to the top of a slope and stopped near where the path ended, and waited for it to be exactly two o'clock, in order to pour my heart.

I was not at all nervous about this; I knew pouring my heart out was something I could do with hardly any effort all at, and I had a great deal to pour out.

But before I had even begun, a platform began to descend out of the sky. I saw the platform and then bare feet and the rough hem of a white robe and this indescribable feeling swept over me. I was seized by this extraordinary feeling.

There was some sort of dark robe thrown over the white robe, and then I saw his shoulders and then I saw his mouth and immediately I knew something was wrong. The mouth was weak and sensual and as the rest of the face came into view, I saw that it was also weak. There was something shifting and needy in his eyes.

I knew it wasn't Jesus, but it was taking a little time for this crushing disappointment to sink in, and as I stood there, he reached out with his arms for me and the wrongness of it was glaring, hurtful.

I twisted angrily away from the reaching arms and glared at him.  I was not at all afraid because I was so angry. "You're not Jesus!" I cried out, my voice shaking with outrage and disappointment.

"I know, I know," he said, trying to reach out to grasp my hands. "But I just wanted a little bit, a little something. I just wanted to try..."

I wasn't even paying attention anymore. My disappointment and longing was so great that I had sunk down to the ground.

It was as if I was crying out, but without sound, or as if my voice wasn't calling out through the air, or my heart was speaking for me, because the feeling was so much that it wasn't fitting through my physical voice, and I was pounding the ground with my fists, and I would have been sobbing, but there wasn't enough air, and the words that were pulsing out of me, too deep and too huge for my voice were, "I want Jesus! I want Jesus! I want Jesus!"

And I woke. The dull, throbbing ache of disappointment was still through me, like a bruise, or like a dry mouth, as well as the jarring disconnect of meeting that other person. I was still holding on, a little bit, to the extraordinary idea that somewhere, somehow, there was a way to physically call Jesus down, here and now, as He is, but now that I was awake, I knew that was impossible.

Jesus was with me, of course, spiritually speaking, and I did not have to speak. He knew. His Holy Spirit washed over me like water, refreshing after the dryness of the dream, but without sight and I settled myself back into the traces, into the long haul.

I remembered another dream I'd had, when I was a young girl.

I had dreamed I was in my grandparent's living room and my abuser was there. The room was sort of dingy and depressing, full of people but I was terrified of some kind of violence or evil, as if at any time, my abuser might pounce on me. I think in the dream, he had a knife.

So I started to cry out for Jesus, and astonishingly, he came up the basement steps, but when I saw his vapid, placid face, I knew it wasn't Him, so I threw myself on the carpet and started to cry out with desperate fear that I wanted the real Jesus.

And Jesus came. I knew immediately it was Him because of the sorrow in His face, which was worn but full of grace. Even in the dream, I was shaken right to the core that He had actually come. I ran across the room and woke as soon as I reached Him.

(This is extremely strong meat, and if it is unsettling, please peacefully place the whole of it in the hands of Jesus, and remember that no one can take us out of His hand. Read the Word of God and especially the Gospels, so that one grows in knowledge of God. Walk honestly and openly with God, confessing sins, surrendering one's will to Him, trusting that the Holy Spirit will help us to grow in obedience. Bring to mind with grateful peace the communion we are given through our church community, where we are kept under the spiritual authority of those who pastor Christ's flock, and take the hand of our Good Shepherd and continue to walk with Him, knowing that He will certainly guide us in the path of righteousness for His name's sake.)

March 15 Published blog

I was thinking this quote I read about someone who was preparing to leave this life. They were doing this by sowing love, doing this deliberately ahead of time. I want to do the same thing, so that when the time comes I might have a great deal of love to pass on, like a light. But when I compared myself to this person, I felt like my life was ridiculous and small, and my harvest would be laughably meager compared to this person.

Immediately Jesus was there, very strongly, very authoritative in His love and He took me in His arms and He said, I did not create you to be that person, and then Jesus reminded me, without words, that I was right where He wanted me and doing those things He was leading me into- that I had my own purpose.

And for a moment, I thought, wow, it’s okay to be myself, I’m enough, just as I am, in Him. And it was extraordinary, like a huge weight came off me.

But then I was terrified, suddenly, that if I really gave myself over to this feeling of freedom, of completeness as I was, that I would become stagnant and loveless, because I wouldn’t have any further reason to grow.

And it was like two concepts were at war in my mind: the idea that to strive for greater love, greater purpose, greater works was a good and right thing, with good and right consequences, and the contrasting idea that striving and goals distracted one from the completeness and wholeness that is always defines me, in Jesus, and how resting in that must be the best thing.

Then I gave it up, because I couldn’t work it out. I couldn’t figure out what was best. It seemed they were both excellent in their own way. How could I not want to be more loving? And yet, how could I contradict Jesus, when He says that I am exactly as He wants me to be, as myself?

Maybe they’re not contradictory, maybe the one- growing greater and deeper, is the natural consequence of the other, which is to rest in Him. So resting in Jesus must be the first thing, the human striving must be given up, before growth can come through Him, in the way He directs, through the freedom of living my life in love.

The other day, Keith called and told me to check our bank balance, and when I did, I saw the whole of our adoption funds waiting there. Our loan had been approved and the money deposited. When I hung up the phone, there was this uncanny moment where I thought, I moved God.

He was listening when I was pouring out my heart and moreover, He was orchestrating things in direct, if not immediate, response.

I'll confess, I don't understand faith. This might sound strange, coming from me, but my relationship with God has very little to do with faith, as I understand faith.

That is, I don't believe that He's there, I observe that He's there, in a way that I can't describe very well. But I've felt it almost all my life, so it seems natural to me. I haven't really had to exercise faith, in the way I've understood it.

I've been learning about surrender. That's been my almost continual lesson, each time at deeper levels. Jesus has taught me how to give in to Him, how rest in Him, how to surrender everything.

But about faith, I do not know. I follow other blogs where people are wrestling with faith and God, and I read along and feel admiration for them, for the courage it must take for them to go out on a limb with God the way that they do.

"Thank goodness You're not teaching me those lessons," I told Jesus once, after reading one of those blogs. "I'm not ready for that particular school."

Lately, I've had to realize I have matriculated into that difficult school of whatever is faith and how does it operate and what is it for and what does it mean?

When it's my husband's health and life and my future children on the line, I really need to know.

How does faith work?

If the adoption fails, is it because I didn't have enough faith?

Is the slow, rocky path toward adoption already happening because I haven't had enough faith?

I can't ignore these questions. Not getting the answers makes me angry and anxious. Jesus set it up, the whole faith thing! Why won't He explain it?

But if I was to be perfectly honest, Jesus does reply to me, and His answer is: you already know this.

That's what Jesus has said, whispered into my heart late at night, when I'm pouring all this agony and confusion out to Him.

I didn't understand how I could know it already, so Jesus encouraged me to think it through.

It's not the first time Jesus has said that, and it always makes me think of the times when He said to people: What do you think? How do you read the law? Who do you say I am?

Jesus seems to be interested in the process of thinking it through. He wants our own sincere answer.

And trust me, I have been thinking it through, but I still don't know what He's talking about. So that's where I am, lately: without answers, as usual, which, of course, only reinforces the lesson He's always given me, which is to surrender as I am, and learn to trust Him.

Maybe that's what Jesus means. If faith is about resting completely in Him no matter what comes up, then, yes. I do already know that.

This whole process stirs up a lot of emotion, all the emotion that I was taught negatively impacts faith, with makes me feel guilty and miserable and then I feel resentful and round I go again, so in desperation, yesterday, I said to myself, I'm going to call my dad.

My dad, I said to myself, will be compassionate and insightful. He'll let me pour out all my emotion and validate it. I'll feel heard, safe and relieved.

And immediately, it was as though Jesus nudged me, strongly, into this sudden, good humored but perfectly clear spiritual insight. He did it without words, but if I were to paraphrase what He was communicating to me, with such humor and love, it would this:

Oh I see! I get it! Right! Your human father, he's the one that will have the more compassion and insight into who you are that I would, more patience and love for you, in the struggle. But Me, no! No, I couldn't possibly offer you those things, being God and all, being the One that created you in love, with loving intention, in perfect understanding of you. I see how it is.

And I just burst out laughing, because it was too funny, when He pointed it out like that. I mean, He had no problem with me calling my dad. He is my dad for a very good reason and God set it up that way.

But there's just no way that any human could possibly love better or with more patience or with more authenticity than God. God is far, far more loving than the most loving person I've ever met. It's beyond understanding, in fact.

Then Jesus said, pass it on. Which He does often say. He says, Comfort ye My people, My poor people all worn out and caught in anxious knots of worry. Tell them I already won those battles for them.

So I am, just in case one of my readers out there might also be struggling with these questions about faith that seem almost forbidden, exhausted by it, by the lack of answers, by the hugeness of what's on the line- I'm sharing these things He said with you.

(I know much more about faith now than I did then, and I ask Jesus for some very large things, but this is because I learned one can ask Jesus with perfect security and passionate persistence for those things that He wants as well. What He doesn’t want isn’t worth asking for, and I don’t want it anyway. I find that it is peaceful to focus on and seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then one doesn’t have to ask for anything else, because every other good and perfect gift is added on in His time.)

I don't have all answers myself, but what I do know is that God is more than loving enough to hold any of us in the entire struggle, no matter what is coming up, no matter what seems to be breaking apart.

Every time that I have allowed myself to be emotionally authentic with God, I have felt a rush of affirming, strong and personal love from Jesus, no matter how mixed up or negative or intense my emotions were.

It has taught me, over and over again, just how much He values authenticity- our ability to be completely vulnerable with Him. In the Gospels, Jesus is frequently intensely frustrated with those that He calls "play actors."

It is safe and, in the end, richly valuable, to be real with God, even if that means sharing intense emotions that feel like such a risk to show Jesus- all the worst emotions, or asking Him questions that are difficult, or confessing doubt, confessing the whole thing.

(I didn't realize it at the time, but what Jesus was teaching me to do was confession. I associated confession with feelings of crushing shame and failure and so I avoided it at all costs. However, confession is an act of great trust in a loving God and swiftly leads freedom and release. When we confess our sins, failures, and weaknesses to God, He never turns away from us; He forgives us, cleanses us and embraces us with love and joy.)

I didn't grow into my relationship with Jesus by being strong and self-willed, I didn't learn this through success and a better attitude and five steps to more effective prayer.

My relationship with Jesus did not become as it is by hiding behind rigid, borrowed, religious beliefs, like a cut out poster board image of myself, behind which I am cowering, ashamed and afraid, as if I am saying, look, God, at all these wonderful, correct things that I am saying, doing, thinking! Isn't it lovely, isn't it correct, isn't it acceptable!

I used to do that, and I knew God from a great and often frightening distance.

I learned to be intimate with God by tossing the poster board image away, spreading my arms open, fingers trembling, heart pounding with the terror of it, the hope of it, and saying, here I am. This is me, nothing more, nothing less. This is all I am in this moment.

(That is still true. If a person were to ask me, “Jenny, how did you come to be so close to Jesus?” I would answer the question in this way, because this is the answer. I became close to Jesus by learning to trust Him with all of myself, just as He asked me to do that time when I saw that I was looking through the wrong end of the telescope when I was insisted proving to Him that I was being strong and right and impervious, and what Jesus wanted was for me to be vulnerable, honest and trusting.)