Thursday, April 28, 2011
Even though the lifting of a burden is a beautiful thing, and certainly something that my God is known for His ability to do, not everything in our lives that could be described as a burden is dispensed with as quickly as one may, say, take off a heavy backpack. Of course, sometimes it is human foolishness in not giving those things up or not taking them to God, but that's not always the case.
Something in my life that is not what I would like it to be was described by a friend the other night as a burden. I don't know if I had thought of it in quite those terms. A pain, perhaps. A feeling. A confusion. A foolishness. This thing, I take it to God, repeatedly. I am tired and frustrated that it has not gone away. I think that I have cried quite enough tears about it by now.
What will happen with this in my life I do not know. I do know two things from Scripture that seem worth bringing up in relation to the concept at hand. One is that Paul himself was troubled with a something (he calls it a thorn in the flesh; I don't know what that was intended to refer to), and he prayed for it to be taken away, and received this answer: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) And another is that Jesus' ability to sympathize with suffering is not limited by His knowledge of how soon it will end (see John chapter 11, especially verse 35 considered in context).
Something I really want to say before I end this thought is perhaps seen in the analogy of a walk. A few weeks ago I was literally taking walks in which my purpose was to spend time with God, thinking and praying about His will for me. I told someone this in conversation and said that, even if I was not necessarily getting the answers I was looking for yet, He was walking with me, and so they were good walks. I think the same is true here. I may not, in that area of my life, be what one could call happy, I may not understand what is going on, I may not know how it will be resolved. But I do know that God is walking with me.
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus tells those who are carrying heavy burdens to come to Him, that they may have rest. Burdens can be a lot of things. They can be griefs about the past, worries about the future, weights of responsibility in the present. Jesus wants to give rest from these things, to bear them with or for you.
I am such a creature of habit that I find the lifting of a burden that I've been carrying for a long time quite unnerving, because it feels so different from what I'm used to.
Yet, it feels lovely. A burden that I have been carrying too heavily for too long is one of forcing myself externally into the right actions, of controlling what I do into being exactly what I think it ought to be. Now, please don't misunderstand me. Self-control is indeed a Christian virtue and being responsible is a good thing.
However, I was missing two very important things that have led to a great change in how I see myself and what I do and by what means I attempt to make changes in my life. First, it is so very important that external change come from internal change. Anything that I am doing (or not doing) that is wrong is coming out of something that I am thinking or feeling or perceiving wrongly, and it is so much better to deal with a problem at its root. Second, I can't make myself change by some supreme act of my own will. God can change me, not I.
What does this mean as a change in process? It means to pray about everything first. It means to ask God to show me where I am wrong in my head and my heart and to seek His help in fixing those things. That is the process I wrote about in my last post. It is also important to seek His guidance in what changes in my actions are necessary, in how He truly wants me to live. It may be that His will for my life and actions is not the same as the box I have been tempted to try to force myself into. Either way, first and foremost I must be seeking Him and being open to His will and His timing.
What a relief it is not to be in control! What a blessed, scary relief.
p.s. Don't worry! I know this doesn't mean laziness. If you have read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, I think this is a change in thought process that he talks about as the moment when you finally, truly, experientially realize that you cannot be good enough to earn salvation and that you are saved truly through faith and not works. Then, after that, of course you keep on trying to do what is right--just in a less worried way.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
In the book Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie (which is a favorite book from my childhood), there is a scene in which the narrator describes the inside of a child's mind as something that can be dusted and put in order, like a little office room or a secret country. According to Mr. Barrie, all good mothers (or all mothers; I don't remember how he words it and I don't have the book with me right now to check) tidy up their children's minds in the evening after the children have fallen asleep, seeing their thoughts and putting things in their proper places.
This picture of the human mind fascinated me (OK, maybe that should be present tense). I altered it a little bit, and tend to imagine my mind as a place with a lot of filing cabinets, or at least desks with drawers. My mind could be like a room filled with boxes, some locked, some open, some neat, some messy, and some thoughts and feelings properly in boxes and others strewn around the floor or on top of the tables. Some things are out in the open for me or others to look at freely . . . others, in secret hidy-holes meant only for my eyes . . . others, locked away in boxes which I don't want to open again. Memories, hopes, dreams, thoughts, feelings, perceptions, all the things that have ever passed through my mind.
I have a tendency to put things that pain me away in boxes, to look at "later". Sometimes later means the next morning. Sometimes the next week. Sometimes the next year. Sometimes, and I say this not proudly, even longer. I know that I ought to want to bring them all to God for His healing touch, but to bring them out of their boxes is to feel them again, and I don't want to reach for that key. Sometimes a circumstance, a person, or a thought, brings me back to one of those things against my will, and I ought perhaps to be grateful for the chance at healing, but instead I say within myself, "Thanks for bringing up such an unpleasant subject! While you're at it, why don't you give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?"*
Unfortunately for the part of me that wants to leave those boxes locked, sitting quietly in the corner, the echoes of the things that I refused to deal with at the time don't go away if I keep ignoring them. They are bound to come up again. Some of them would interfere with the future, some with the present, but all unhealed wounds interfere with my being the whole person that God intends me to be. And lately, He has been asking me to let Him into those boxes, so that, like the mothers in Peter Pan, He can put me back in order. He can replace lies with the truth, hurt with healing, neglect with love, misunderstanding with empathy, ashes with beauty, selfishness with a true servant's heart. He can make me the person that He wants me to be.
God, Father God, thank You for being more stubborn for my good than I am. Thank You for loving me more truly than I love myself. I want to give You the keys to every corner of my heart, to give You free reign in me. Please give me the peace and the courage to keep coming to You with every splinter and the confidence to know that You are seeking what is truly best.
*Feel free to correct my wording. I didn't look it up to check. If you don't get it, go watch The Princess Bride
Saturday, April 2, 2011
For He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.
No matter who I think I am, no matter how I judge myself and expect others to judge me by my performance, the truth of who I am is found in what God has called me. He has called me His daughter and Jesus has called me His sister. I have often been the sort of person who has defined myself by my relationship to a person or group of people, but human relationships may come and go, and even the ones that we keep and cherish (which is certainly a blessing) can't be a guarantee that that person will always be there in every situation . . . so, if I want my definition of myself to be stable, I can't base it in that. But if I could see myself as first and foremost the beloved daughter of God!
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation--if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . . But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:2-5, 9-10
The next time that I find myself freaking out about whether I will succeed at something or what people will think of me, I hope that I will remember that who I really am is not defined by these things that so often seem to make up my life. I hope that those of you who are reading this can also find comfort in who you are in relation to God.
God asked me to go for a walk with Him this morning, so I walked around outside for awhile, talking to Him. It was a good thing to do. I found myself talking about things that seemed to me silly and inconsequential and then said apologetically, "I'm sure that's not what You asked me out here to talk about." In response, however, I think He said something along the lines of, "Why do you think I asked you out here to talk about something in particular? To accomplish some task? I want to be with you, to spend time with you."
That made me think about what I often forget to reassure myself of. God loves . . . me. Not for something I have done. Not for something He wants me to do in the future. Me. Not just as a tool to use to reach other people. Not just as a project with which to prove what He can do. He actually cares about doing these things FOR ME. He wants to spend time with me. He wants to help me and heal me and be with me. Yes, He has prepared good works for me to do. Yes, He wants to use me as a servant. But He would not be the truly all-loving God that I proclaim Him as, if He did not also simply care about me, my well-being, my holiness, my future.