One of my favorite quotes from any book on faith comes from GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
Our Father’s youth is that eternal Hope that raises us up after we fall. And for those like me, whose addictions and impulses make falling a fairly regular occurrence (read: daily),
when I don’t feel like getting up,
when it is so much easier to wallow in the muck and mire of past mistakes,
when I’ve gone to bed the night before feeling like a failure,
when there is just no way I can deal with this anymore,
when my job becomes tough and I’m not sure what kind of teacher I am to my students,
Jesus reaches out his hand to pull me up.
And says “Walk with me.
Come to me.
Do it again.
I’m always here.”
Despair feels old, doesn’t it? And after the heck of the week I’ve had, with nice highs and real lows, it’s good to see the sun rise outside my window. The daily new beginning.
A student told me I was already one of his favorite teachers. “Even though you work us real hard.” Smile there.
In the same class, a girl came up to me after the bell, tears in her eyes.
“Please move my seat next week, the boy next to me says bad things to me.”
She’s being bullied, and I didn’t catch it. No smile there. Please pray for her.
Highs and lows.
But, says the Lord, walk into the classroom again. No, you didn’t fail. Yes, you will have to address the issue. Yes it will be tough.
No, do not despair.
I’m always here.
Do it again.
I heard an interesting term today.
I’m an avid follower of beautifulsilliness’s blog– if haven’t heard of her, for crying out loud get off this blog and go over there and recently she posted on her thoughts on a theologian named Tozer. Never heard of him before, so ever the “I gotta know it” guy, I looked him up and found a series of audio files featuring his sermons from the 1950s and 1960s. I linked onto one in particular which I felt might speak to my situation and it certainly did. A.W. Tozer identified “morbid humility” as that characteristic which marks the penitent sinner who dwells in their unworthiness and does not make the effort with God to attend to the commandment given in Philippians 2:12-13:
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Work it out.
We don’t earn salvation; it is a gift freely given. But it is a gift meant to be used, to be explored, to be a healing force, a healing action in our lives.
Sometimes it’s not that I’m dwelling in sin, but I’m not dwelling in salvation.
When Jesus meets me at the bottom of my personal barrels
-I’ve substituted, once again, perhaps, a vacuous, addictive pleasure or impulse for a truer connection to Christ or others-
Am I receiving His loving grace, His unconditional Love, His care and concern and desire to be with me despite my failings…
with relief at His immensity and furious Love for me?
am I anticipating the next time I will screw up?
Am I dwelling in shame? Remorse? Guilt?
or doing the Shame+ Power thing, which comes up with the statement that “I’ll never do it again,” trying to use the power of my guilt to build some false sense of security against future attacks?
Been doing that for a while.
I’m so tired.
And I’m starting to realize how many blessings I have that I literally do not have the energy to enjoy or recognize because of that exhaustion.
yet before I start guilt-tripping myself over that…
What’s it like to dwell in salvation?
I just took a deep breath. Maybe it feels something like that.
But it is more. It is the courage to work with God toward the reordering of my life. To believe it possible and strive toward it. Just to even see it.
For crying out loud, Zacchaeus climbed a tree, looking a fool in front of everyone, just to get a glimpse of Jesus.
He climbed a tree, Jesus saw, Jesus wanted to come into Zacchaeus’ house.
To dwell with him.
When Jesus said “I must stay at your house today,” I think Zacchaeus already knew salvation had come.
Zacchaeus acted on that. He turned his whole life around, right then and there. For him, it was making amends for financial misdeeds in the past.
What does dwelling in salvation look like for me? What does the freedom Christ offers look like for me?
Pray I dwell on that a bit longer, and keep trusting in His will.
“I’m just not used to not running…”
This is what I said to my spiritual director/counselor the last time we met. Unfortunately, through many tears and the last vestiges of an anxiety attack.
Because I fell. Hard. I am dealing with addictions in my life that seem stronger and more potent and immobilizing now that I am actually dealing them and recognizing God’s will to eradicate them from my life. What irony.
“Totally expected. I’m not surprised,” my counselor said.
I told my counselor the whole story. About The memory of pain from earlier in my life. The thought of it reoccurring. The fear that pain was once again just around the corner. The need for escape. The escape into things that just lead me into numbness and forgetfulness. Then the memory again… The thought of it reoccurring…
And here we go again. The addict’s vicious cycle.
I think I live in perpetual fear of pain inflicted on me out of nowhere. Sudden and unforeseen. It has happened before. The shock and surprise of it all is sometimes the most debilitating. It has come in many forms: physical, mental, and emotional. And the fear of that pain and the anxiety that comes with it leads to a perpetual exploration and seeking after pleasure, which in essence is nothing but a quick distraction which brings with a whole bag full of shame and guilt.
But I still run.
As fast as I can.
To more hurt and pain and numbness.
I grow sullen and withdrawn, anxious and uncommunicative. I don’t write (hence the silence on this blog for a while).
So I’m relating this story to my counselor, and as I relate it, the memory of pain is there, and I stand up, my heart racing, sudden panic constricting my chest.
Full fledged panic attack.
“What’s going through your head right now?”
“I n-n-n-need to g-g-g-go. Got. To get. Out.
“Where are you going to go?”
I realized, through the panic, I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t escape anymore. And the umpteenth time, I realized I needed to rest in the arms of my Savior. That is the only place for me, to face the things I need to face. Not as a pat-on-the-shoulder, everything-gonna-be-alright comfort fix, but as a real placement of anguish at the foot of the cross, where my Savior Jesus cups my face in his nail-scarred hands and rides through the pain with me and brings me once again out of the depths and darkness into newness and light.
Just to stay in His presence, at that moment, was what was needed.
That realization brought a wave of exhaustion, tears, and more realization. Because I still struggled. In between gasps of breath and coughs, I admitted this is in the small room, as my counselor tenderly prayed over me…
“I-I-I’m just not used to it. To not running.”
But I was there, in that chair, at least, facing things. I am beginning that long process of running only to God, and to recognizing that only He is there with the consistency of unconditional Love. For even though Peter said “Go away from me Lord; I am sinful man” (Luke 5:8), Jesus still said “Come, follow me.”
At this point of my healing, this means to lie down in green pastures.
Beside quiet waters.
For the restoration of my soul.
A restoration that will stay. Forever and ever, amen.
When is the last time I posted on this blog…hmmm let’s see…oh, man a couple weeks it seems!
Now that could mean a couple things to you.
One: I’m lazy.
Two: I’ve been incredibly busy and haven’t had time to write.
I deny both and answer the question with something much much worse. And it is something that is just coming to light tonight.
I’ve been worrying.
About what? you might asked. Well, a bit of everything, of course: upcoming graduate school classes, my own classes I teach, future family additions (here come those twins!), projected work loads, past injuries which might recur (got a bad bum knee), worries about direction and focus.
And like Charlie Brown would say “My anxieties have anxieties.” ‘Cause I’m worried ’bout my worryin’!
Now of course, Matthew 7:25-34 comes to mind, that wonderfully read but ignored passage by people like me, where Jesus directly states “Do not worry.” He further states that God knows all we need and will take care of us. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I’m not just taking on worries about tomorrow, I’m covering weeks and months and years in my tormented spirit.
And I suddenly realize how much time that has been taking up lately.
Because worriers are often the world’s best procrastinators as well. Easier to worry about something than do something about it and let the matter rest.
Or trust God and let the matter rest in Him.
Because I’ve realized the amount I’ve been worrying is directly proportional to how little time I’ve spent in prayer, and here prayer meaning that stillness and reliance in the face of God.
And worrying is also directly proportional to the amount of time I’ve spent in distractions of every kind.
Writing, by the way, is not a distraction for me. It helps me focus.
How long since that last blog post? At least it wasn’t months this time.
Worrying takes so much time and energy out of me.
So much time.
When that could be time taking my worries to God, and while the problem or situation might still be “out there,” it is book-ended with a trust in a God who loves, cares, heals, redeems, and feeds birds and clothes lilacs.
Who is not a small God, so made by our neglect and lack of trust.
But a large God, whose infinite unconditional love and care for us says emphatically, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
After a long session with my spiritual mentor, she wrapped up our conversation with a bit of advice. “I think it would be a really great idea if you reflected on the fact that you are beloved of God, with every fault in your past, present, and future included. That he knows you will stumble, but loves you and made you uniquely you for a reason.”
Suddenly I found I had a dozen books to read, numerous articles to read through, several facebook posts to peruse, and let me tell you…
those Youtube videos just don’t watch themselves, ya know.
I know many people who say that those of us who are Christian are delusional, ready to live a lie in order to assuage ourselves of the reality of the world.
How I wish, sometimes. Really, how I wish. It would mean my experience would be so much different.
The one where I am shoved up against my broken self and have to acknowledge my inner fears, worries, dreads, anxiety, and past.
The starting point of Christianity is acknowledging we are not the illusions we create about ourselves. Good or bad. All of it is stripped away. Think of Eustace from Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Layers and layers of dragon skin peeled off.
Then he was real.
Wait a minute.
Let me not turn this into a pious pick-me-up post.
There are times (like now) where I am just tired. And the Gospels just make me say “Eh.” I’m worn out. And knowing how much I am loved is actually more of burden than anything else. Trust and intimacy are Lothlorien and I’m in the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Yeah, Gandalf may be coming, but I got fifty orcs in my face right now and my sword swing just isn’t cutting it. (There, for you Lord of the Rings fans, and concluding with a bad pun to boot).
I have friends around the world right now who are traveling the world and experiencing marvelous things. And I feel stuck.
How is this short-tempered, impatient, impulse driven, depressed self supposed to see himself as loved by the Lord? Needed by God? Asked to be part of the communion of saints?
So here’s a post asking for prayers, please. Because I do believe, I do. I cling desperately to that which Christ offers. But sometimes I get tired of holding on, and don’t realize he’s been carrying me for the past forty miles.
The week has been full of a ridiculous amount of blessings, and in true warped yellow lego fashion, God has to do a bit of prodding in order to provide assurance.
Because to receive a gift is in itself an act of trust.
Just as Zechariah questioned the angel about John the Baptist, and Mary marveled and wondered about Jesus, these great gifts from God often have a “Who, me?” aspect about them.
Especially if this gift might have some large amount of responsibility attached to it.
I envision this conversation between myself and God:
God: Just say okay.
Me: To what?
God: You’ll find out.
Me: What is it?
God: A blessing.
Me: So what is it?
God: Just say okay.
Me: I don’t know…
God: Trust me.
Me: That’s hard for me. You know that.
God: I do know that. But I love you. I want to shower you with blessings. I’m here for you. All the time. And I believe you can do this.
Me: Do what?
God: Just say okay.
Me: Well, urrrr,hhmmmm, uhhh..okay.
God: Awesome. Here are the results of your wife’s ultrasound.
Yes, my wife and I went in for her first (7 week) ultrasound to get the first glimpse of the baby developing.
And it turns out, everything is fine.
Both babies are doing well.
God: Like I said, I’m always here with you.