on letting go

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Can I tell you a secret?  I am probably the most stubborn person you know.

I have heard it all of my life.  Muttered in frustration from my parents years ago, flung across the room in heated moments with my husband.  In talking recently about how my personality is perceived by others, I discovered that women see me as focused and passionate, while men see me as unyielding and obstinate (i.e., not easily controlled).  No matter what word you assign to the attribute, they all mean the same thing.

I don't give up.  Ever.

What great gravity is this that drew my soul to yours?

Monday, May 27, 2013

"What great gravity is this that drew my soul toward yours? What great force, that though I went falsely, went kicking, went disguising myself to earn your love, also disguised, to earn your keeping, your resting, your staying, your will fleshed into mine, rasped by a slowly revealed truth, the barter of my soul, the soul, that I fear, the soul that I loathe, the soul that: if you will love, I will love. I will redeem you, if you will redeem me? Is this our purpose, you and I together to pacify each other, to lead each othet toward the lie that we are good, that we are noble, that we need not redemption, save the one that you and I invented of our own clay? 

I’m not scared of you, my love, I am scared of me.

I went looking, I wrote a list, I drew an image, I bled a poem for you. You were pretty, and my friends believed I was worthy of you. You were clever, but I was smarter, the only one liable to be led by you. You see, love, I did not love you, I loved me. And you were only a tool I used to fix myself, to fool myself, to redeem myself. And though you’ve taught me to lay my hand in yours, I walk alone, for I cannot talk to you, lest you talk it back to me, lest I believe that I am not worthy, not deserving, not redeemed.

I want desperately for you to be my friend. But you’re not my friend; you have slipped up warmly to the person I wanted to be, the person I pretended to be, and I was your Jesus and, you were mine. Should I show you you who I am, we may crumble. I am not scared of you, my love, I am scared of me.

I want to be known and loved anyway. Can you do this? I trust by your easy breathing that you are human just like me, that you are fallen like me, that you are lonely, like me. My love, do I know you? What is this gravity that pulls us so painfully toward each other? Why do we not connect? Will we forever be fleshing this out? And how will we with words, narrow words, come into the knowing of each other? Is this God’s way of meriting grace, of teaching us of the labyrinth of His love for us, in degrees, that which He is sacrificing to join ourselves to Him? Or better yet, has He formed our being fractional so that we might conclude one great hope, plodding and sighing and breathing into one another in such a great push that we may break into the known and being loved, only to cave into a greater perdition and fall down at His throne still begging for our acceptance? Begging for our completion?

We were fools to believe that we would redeem each other.

Were I some Eve, to wake and find myself resting at your rib, to share these things that God has done, to walk with you through the garden, you counselling my timid Steps, my bewildered eye, my heart so slow to love, so careful to love, so sheepish that you stepped up your aim and became a man. Is this what God intended? That though he made me from you rib, it is I who is making you, humbling you, destroying you and in so doing revealing Him.

Will we be ashes before we are one?

What gravity is this that drew my heart toward yours? What great force collapsed my orbit, my lonesome state? What is this that wants in me the want in you? Don’t we go to each other with yielded eyes, with cumbered hands and feet, with clunky tongues? This deed is unattainable! We cannot know each other!

I am quitting this thing, but not what you think. I am not going away.

I will give you this, my love, and I will not bargain or barter any longer. I will love you, as sure as He has loved me. I will discover what I can discover and though you remain a mystery save God’s own knowledge, what I disclose of you I will keep in the warmest chamber of my heart, the very chamber where God has stowed himself in me. And I will do this to my death, and to death it may bring me.

I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding your love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again.

God risked himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together we will learn to love, and perhaps then, only then, understand this gravity that drew Him, unto us."

- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
(cut and pasted from here for simplicity's sake)

the book that changed my life

Friday, May 24, 2013

I have read books that have inspired me.  Books that have opened my heart, fired me up, helped me to see people instead of issues.  But right now I am reading a book that is changing my life.  It is the Book of Common Prayer.

We recently stepped out of a faith tradition that believes knowledge is the key to a healthy spiritual life.  Right thinking leads to right living, and spiritual growth occurs primarily through study.  Religious intellectualism is held in highest regard.  It is a heady, heavy way to approach God.

Some people thrive in it.  I know several happy, healthy believers who live their faith well inside this tradition.  There was a time when I did, too.  For a season I saw God and the world through their lens, and functioned happily within it. 

All was well until our lives unraveled, and I began to suffocate under the weight of knowledge.

What happens to a person's faith when their experience no longer fits within a particular grid?  Within an intellectual faith system, there is no freedom to openly doubt, or to trust an experience that cannot be proven.  Knowledge and intellectualism are one path to God, but knowledge was revered to the exclusion of other paths - such as the Sacraments, contemplation, or even relationships.  When I was no longer sure of what I knew intellectually, my response was to retreat, both from God and from fellow believers.  By the time we left it, I had shut down completely.  The nurturing comfort of a loving God like a song I used to know, but I couldn't quite remember the tune.

The Liturgy is like hearing the song again.

Liturgical worship is not dependent on my understanding.  It does not rely on what I can articulate or prove.  Nor does it rely on my emotions, which are as susceptible to the squirming preschooler beside me as they are to the almighty presence of God.  Liturgical worship affirms that the same things that were true about God thousands of years ago remain true today.  There is a mystery and a vastness to faith that we are foolish to try to dissect, but can trust completely.  For the past couple of years I doubted what I knew, and I felt almost nothing - yet there was a deep hunger for God's loving presence that compelled me to continue to look for Him.  Liturgical worship recognizes that hunger as its own form of holiness.  We read Scripture, offer our confessions to God, give peace to one another.  We pray for each other, then accept Christ's sacrifice in ourselves through the Eucharist.  For thousands of years believers all over the world have recognized and worshipped God this way.  Rather than depending on what I know, can prove, or feel, each week I simply step in to the reality of the mystery of faith:  Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.  My only personal task is to remain open to Him.

Through the Liturgy, each week I am healed, little by little.  It took a long time for me to become as spiritually and emotionally ill as I was, and it will take a long time to be strong again.  But it is happening, slowly, thoroughly, consistently.  Thanks to God's loving kindness and the Book of Common Prayer.

on fussy babies and a nurturing God

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My sweet baby is a happy little boy.  He is quick to smile, eats well, and is easily entertained.  He only has one request in life, and that is predictability.  Unlike my middle two, who were fairly flexible and would nap in a sling most anywhere, this little boy craves routine.  He wants to sleep - every day, in his bed, at the same time, no matter what.   Unfortunately, he was born into a year of upheaval in our family, and this year has been less predictable than any of my other children's first years.  In the first six months of his life my baby boy has slept in nine different places.  This past weekend we rearranged the house, and his "nursery" is now in the laundry room.  Which may be a step up from his previous "nursery," which was in the master closet.  I feel certain that if I could provide the predictability he clearly needs, he would probably rest as readily as he eats and smiles.  As it is, my baby is not the best sleeper.

In fact, he's pretty terrible at it.

His sleep was at its worst in the month following our cross-country move.  He woke up every two hours, every single night, for weeks.  I spent a lot of energy trying, in vain, to fix the problem.  Looking back, I think he just needed reassurance.  Nothing in his little world was the same, and he needed my presence to regain his equilibrium.  After moving into his new "room" over the weekend, he has started doing this again.  Every two hours he wakes up wailing, asking, through his limited means, for comfort and reassurance.  A few months ago I would hear that cry and sigh, frustrated.  Now that I finally recognize the pattern and understand what he really needs, I am working toward receiving him with a little more openness and grace.  As I rocked my baby boy back to sleep last night at 9 pm, then 11, then 12:30, I thought, yes, baby boy, I will be your comfort.  You can rest on me.  I know your little world is different, but we are still here together.

Even in the middle of the night, I don't want to approach my baby with sullenness.  I do not want to respond to his need for reassurance with frustration or resignation.  As I held him last night, I thought about how grateful I am that God receives my need, my cries for reassurance, with more grace than I have often received my son's night time tears.  David often refers to hiding under God's wing for comfort and protection.  Jesus, too, said that He longed to gather Jerusalem's children together under His wing, as a mother hen would gather her chicks.  The image is one of being drawn in, comforted, nurtured.  When my life is most unpredictable, I look for this nurturing, comforting presence too.  I love my son deeply, but my actions are often colored by my own need and limited understanding.  God's love for me is not effected by such things.  Within that love, my baby boy and I together can find grace, and rest.

Thanks be to God.

thoughts on responding to tragedies

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I am skimming the updates on yesterday's tornados in Oklahoma, coffee perched beside me, while making notes for my day.  I am a little embarrassed that I'm not more engrossed in the story.  Children missing, dozens dead.  Click.  I scroll down.

Any time there is a national tragedy I am torn.  I hate the voyeurism of 24-hour news, and refuse to support it or to subject myself to the over-the-top speculation and endless repetition of horror.  And yet.  How is it that families less than a thousand miles from me are drinking their coffee this morning, staring into the reality of life without their children, and I remain unfazed by their pain?  Am I comfortable being so calloused to that sort of awfulness?

I thought about this often during my husband's recent hospital visit.  For several days I honestly did not know how the rest of my life would look.  The reality of raising four children under six years old, caring for a disabled husband, and finding a means of supporting all of us was just within my grasp.  It was impossible to know if his accident would be a blip on the radar, just another near miss in our life together, or if it would be a defining moment, marking the entrance into a life none of us ever thought possible.  After leaving the hospital one night I was in line to order my burrito, and I started crying.  I was exhausted and overwhelmed.  It was an inconvenient time to feel anything, but they were the sort of tears that, once they start, cannot be stifled.  The guy behind the counter did not notice, or pretended not to notice.  The woman in front of me stared at her phone.  There was nothing they could do, and I really did not want them to try.  This thing was happening in my life while in front of me the guy's shift was up in twenty minutes.  That's the way life goes.

How do we balance it?  We can't carry the burden of every pain - we'll suffocate under the weight.  But to stare, unmoved, while someone suffers in front of us makes both us and them less than human.  Over and over in Scripture people asked Jesus why terrible things happen - was it sin that caused a baby to be born blind?  Was it judgment that caused a tower to fall?  And honestly He never gave the kind of answer I would have wanted from Him.  Sometimes He healed, sometimes He didn't.  He allowed John - his cousin and closest ally - to have his head cut off, and when John doubted Jesus, His only response was, "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."  Jesus stared into human suffering, and though his heart was soft to it, He did nothing to prevent it, nor did he deny its power.

How do we follow Him as we watch others in pain?  In national tragedy and in personal ones, how do we balance the knowledge of suffering with love and hope and the very real fact that hope is not always realized on Earth?  And where does all of that fit into our culture, with its consumeristic voyeurism and lack of humanity?  How do we offer dignity and mercy, without feeding the consumerism or buckling under the weight of knowledge?

thoughts on Pentecost

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Have you read A Deeper Story's blog on preparing for Pentecost?  If not, you can find it here. 

She begins with a quote:

“’I will not take you out of the world.’ There are enormous implications here that I can so easily neglect. Christ was a carpenter for most of his life, and those years were not wasted ones…. Christianity does not isolate the sacred from the secular. Not only are material things good in themselves, they are also signs of God’s loving attention, and they can, if we let them, open up a way to him.”
 -Esther de Waal, Living with Contradiction
 She goes on to talk about connecting with God's Spirit in the mundane.  She is speaking my language.

I too have big prayers for my children, and occasionally we stumble into what feel like holy moments together.  But most of my day is spent dicing grapes, scuttling around for the last clean diaper, digging through the basket of clean laundry to find a favorite shirt.  When I was younger I wanted God to do Big Things with me.  I did not yet appreciate that life itself is made holy by a posture of love and gratitude.  My desire for Big Things was really a desire for achievement, to be recognized as the one who did Big Things for God.  It is a popular Evangelical idea - to "pursue God-sized dreams!".  Yet the holiest people throughout the history of our faith have spent their lives in obscurity, with no ambition except to love and serve the person in front of them.  When I open myself to the reality of God's presence in daily life, and when I can recognize the image of God in the whining little face in front of me, I am pursuing God's dream.  I am learning to love, following in the example of Love Himself.  When I do so, I step in to the reality that the Kingdom of God exists in and through and among us, even  in the mundane tasks of daily life.

And this is the purpose of celebrating Pentecost, right?  Pentecost marks the Church's first encounter with the Holy Spirit.  It ushered a spiritual reality into the world - that Christ's work can and would continue past His resurrection.  The Kingdom of God is here, now.  Emmanuel stepped into our lives, became one of us, and because of His sacrificial love the curtain was torn in two.  There is no more Holy of Holies.  There is no more separation of sacred life and daily life.  It is all sacred, or none of it is - depending on our ability to see and accept Love.

I used to want to do Big Things for God.  Now I want to see the world, and my life, the way God sees it.  I want to recognize God's image in the face of the person in front of me, and to step into the reality of Love's presence among the ordinary.  Lately, what I want most is to live out Pentecost - not in fire and tongues and crowds, but in recognition of the image of God in front of me.  Even in the whiniest little face.

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