Sunday, March 27, 2011

Who God Is

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
that glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.

Psalm 85:8-11

God's Word is an everlasting comfort to me, the one thing that remains real no matter what has happened to me or how I am feeling. It is bigger than I am, truer than my feelings, and yet it is also infinitely personal. God speaks to me sometimes through natural beauty, through fiction, through music, through His body of believers, but His own dear written Word on the page is the one thing I can count on to always have something to say to me that I can hear through whatever muck is crowding my mind and dragging my emotions down.

In this paradox that is my existence, I, who always have believed in God, and who have repeatedly found myself defending to others His goodness, His faithfulness, His lovingness, and His reality, still often find myself doubtful of His true character, especially as relates to me. Yet I've always felt that if I truly understood His character (not that my finite mind could ever quite grasp it), then I would never doubt. Surely, He Who is everlasting and unchanging, is the same loving, forgiving, steadfast, merciful God to me as He is to His other children.

Insofar as I still have this doubt, however, I am trying to "cure" it (or, more accurately, to allow God to cure it), by using the truth of His Word to show me Who He really is. When I started trying to think of verses to put in this written meditation on the character of God the Father, I found myself thinking mainly of verses about God the Son. Since Jesus Himself said, "Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father," (John 14:9) I think that's OK.

. . . His name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
Isaiah 9:6

He will not cry aloud or lift up His voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed He will not break,
and a faintly burning wick He will not quench;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
Isaiah 42:2-3

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."
John 10:10-15

This is Jesus, this juxtaposition of power and gentleness, this Everlasting One Who laid down His life for the humblest ones. Surely He will sympathize with my weakness. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one Who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16) Surely He has come into my life to heal and to comfort.

I'm sure there are many more verses (feel free to share your favorites with me!). I just wanted to share a little bit of the comfort I am seeking and finding in the Word as I strive to make God my focus and to find my peace in His being and not in my circumstances.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Limitations; or, the sequel to "determination or pigheadedness?"

Sometimes, friends, we must take a step back and ask ourselves if the pursuit that we are engaged in is truly worth the effort that we are putting into it, the pain that it may cost us, the time and energy that it is taking away from other things.

Naturally, sometimes the answer is "Yes, absolutely. It's hard [or might seem frivolous, for some examples I might mention] but it's worth it because . . . " you love it, or you're doing it for someone that you love, or it is for the betterment of mankind, or it relaxes you so you can go back to work more healthily, or you and your friends take an innocent enjoyment in it, or it is a worthwhile pursuit for the improvement of your character, or it is necessary for the fulfillment of your responsibilities.

What happens, though, if you realize something isn't worth it? If you realize that your effort is too great compared to any benefit that you or anyone else could derive from it? If you realize that the price you are paying in health or happiness is too great? If you realize that, in comparison to something else you could be pursuing, it is a waste of your time and energy, or a throwing away of the gifts that God has given you?

Or, to bring this to a specific (but not precisely cosmic in scope) example, and explain how it is a sequel to the previous post: what if I am realizing that my body personally, despite at first seeming to accept the additional strain with surprisingly good grace, is simply unwilling to allow me to routinely (even as little as once a week) stay up well past midnight getting things done without exacting a painful tax in return?

Accepting that limitation is difficult for me. I have a sense of responsibility to get certain things done by tomorrow, but I understand that my body is sending me the message, in no uncertain terms, that I, personally, should not stay up late right now. What if it means I don't finish the assignment? What if it means I have to ask for grace from a teacher? What if it means [gasp] admitting weakness and a certain level of irresponsibility (why didn't I do it ahead of time?)?

So be it. Yo no soy sin falta. Soy un ser humano.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

if there is a fine line between bravery and foolhardiness, what about determination and pigheadedness?

It is past three o'clock in the morning. I am not, by nature, a night owl. By all that is normal and healthy, I should be fast asleep right now. I am not, obviously.

To what, you ask, do I attribute this unaccustomed and undesirable state of consciousness? Insomnia caused by stress or too much caffeine or some other, more incomprehensible, reason, such as an insufficient amount of calcium and magnesium in my physical system? Bad dreams? Sleeping environment too cold or too hot or too noisy?

All of these would be quite believable reasons, but I am afraid tonight the true answer is "none of the above," although both stress and caffeine are not without a certain degree of complicity.

No, I am awake because of my own stubbornness. Determination? Or pigheadedness? What is the difference? Is it one of degree? Is it whether the thing that it causes you to do is by some objective standard reasonable or unreasonable? Or is the only difference the choice of the speaker (or writer) of putting a positive or a negative spin on the stick-to-it-iveness of the person or action being described?

At the moment, I don't know. I am ambivalent about my own decision to be awake this late at night. I am tired. I will pay for this later. However, I feel a certain degree of--pride? or satisfaction? another question of positive or negative spin?--at having accomplished what I set out to do. And yes, for anyone who is still wondering, I did indeed stay up this late in the noble (I hope) cause of Getting Things Done.