Saturday, December 12, 2009

Will Work for Love

How much have I given that was a cheat? A cheat to the ones who received but misunderstood… A cheat to me when my crossed motivations failed to produce…

How many deeds have I done that were seen as helpful, kind, cheerful, but were really an effort to win the affection and appreciation that can never be bought, only freely bestowed?

Or am I angry that I think they were not seen at all, let alone that they did not purchase the acceptance I long for?

And what of the deeds and words absolutely given in love? Do all those that remain unseen remain seeds? Seeds of rewards not to be seen here? It is so beautiful, so fulfilling to give in love, purely because of love.

What of all that is seen, and appreciated, and expressed, yet simply does not seem to touch the need I have still to give and serve, persistently, foolishly hoping to bring about the love I need? What is it in me that cannot rejoice in the love and deeds and words of others that are so lavishly and joyfully bestowed on me?

What of all I’ve given that I thought was given in love, and today I wonder, was it just a cheat?

How can I know my own heart?

And what can I do with the quiet, private, solitary sorrow and profound thankfulness that there is only one, One, ONE who knows and understands it all, every thought, every motivation and frantic prayer of “I’m Sorry! Help!”

I don’t know what to do except take it all to Him, and say “Here it is, some of it is so ugly and I can’t sort it out on my own. I don’t know what to blame myself for and what to forgive myself for. I don’t want to be foolish and small and so very, very stupid. I want to give love the way I want to be loved, and I don’t want to scorn the Love that is already given, already bestowed, already cherishing.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Edge of Redemption

So. Sometimes you're going along, living your life, and all of a sudden you just have to stop and squeal, "Jesus! You're so GOOOOOOOD!" It's pretty imperative that you do this a higher-than- normal-pitched voice.

When you start to see the redemption you've begged for, longed for, wept for, and finally given up on, you can't help but rejoice.


I never thought about that word before. You could say it means "joy again." And the joy is a verb. Do joy again. Feel joy again. Enter into joy again.

That's what it is...I feel I'm entering joy again after so long. Walking in a daily joy that I'd forgotten.

Wait - there's been so much pain. It's been so long. I should be cautious. Hope is a set-up for disappointment. Flying means there's further to fall.

But REjoice? Do it again? He's too good not to. Maybe I should be cautious after so long, so many let-downs. Maybe I should be very cautious and wise and put a crazy lock-down on expectations and perspectives.

But I can't not rejoice.

I remember this, now that I'm thinking in terms of "again": I remember the last time God set me free in a monumental way in my life. I walked in so much joy after that. So much freedom. I kind of flew. And if part of the pain this last time was wondering what happened to that first joy, that first much greater will be whatever He's building now?

I can't see it all yet, I don't think this particular season is finished yet. But I can see a tiny glimpse. Like even all I hoped and wished and prayed for and finally gave up on has reappeared, but even though I did wish and hope and pray for it it's somehow so much bigger. So much grander. So much richer than that I remember imagining. Like it's at my eye-level and I can only see the corner of it because it's so much bigger than me and stretches away beyond the horizon.

2 Cor 10:9 says "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him" It feels like a strange paradox, because I certainly thought I could conceive of many very beautiful things, and even what redemption might look like. And yet now, even if some of those things may be reappearing, I feel the verse is true. (It's true whether I think it is or not, just like gravity still works whether or not I think I can jump off a bridge, but so much of our genuine faith has to do with realizing in a deep way that God is true, and aligning ourselves with that so it's part of our lives and not just part of the stuff we spout because we're supposed to.) Even though I thought I could imagine all I wanted, all God could do if He would just give me what I asked for....this is better. This is more.

Don't ask me for details. I still don't know what all of this was about. Oh, I know some of it, I have my glimpses. But the best part is just to see Him. Just to have heard His voice like never before, and to know that He never once was unkind to me, was always tender and gentle. Just to see that He is so faithful, that He was most faithful when I doubted His goodness the most. Just to see that He really is good, that He really does mean good toward me.

There are tremendous theological questions and incredible struggles of faith that have to do with the question of why He lets these things happen, how can they be so long and so terrible, and what kind of Almighty God could allow so much pain and still be called good.

I only know that now, seeing Him, hearing changes everything.

Monday, September 28, 2009

This Time Around?

After four months, I'm not sure what to say. I'd like to come back with a bang, or pull out one of the many things I've started to write and find that it's perfect. I'd like to say I've gained so much perspective, that things have come clear, that there's been a miracle.

I'm not ready to be especially declarative. I have gained perspective. I've come such a long way since this time last year - in fact, at this time last year I was just about to enter a time of crisis. I think there are things I see now, take for granted, that a year ago were still looming so huge that they were indistinct in their enormity. There were things I just couldn't face, things the very thought of which filled me with a desperate, frantic denial. It's strange how things you can't see in one moment gradually, insistently lap against you until they are no longer a shock, like standing in what you think is a frigid tide until suddenly it's perfectly comfortable.

Some of those frightening ideas have become clear. The mere thought of approaching them is no longer filled with dread. I'm afraid it's one of those things about life, that after a while some things just are, and after some time and perspective are no longer worthy of either dread, shame, or even require explanations. They just are. This can be wisdom.

There's been no miracle. Not the kind I'd like, anyway. Not the kind that you put on your calendar and date your life by the before-and-after of the date. Miracle isn't the kind of word I like to throw around. I still hurt. I have--very likely--more questions than I had before. And I still don't understand why this experience has to be, or why it must last so long without the answers I think would help.

And yet...I know very clearly that this last year or year and a half is one of those times by which I will date my life. That kind of year happened to me once before, and I recognize some of the signs. That first time, things shifted in me in a way I know are irreversible. Things changed in a way that can't be un-changed. Before, the way I knew those changes were beyond myself was that I didn't do the changing. Almost against my will--and absolutely against the way I would ever have chosen--God built something into my soul that was unshakable, because it was not of my making. This time around, although I don't feel at all as if I'm all the way through this experience, I see signs of things in my life that were not there before, that I didn't do, and that I cannot undo. This looks like the hand of God.

I've read recently that God is in the business of taking all the worthless things in our lives--fear, discouragement, anxiety--and replacing them with things of inestimable worth--love, hope, trust. A very wise young woman told me how God was showing her that Jesus will offend anything in us that can be offended, because then when He has removed all our worthless placeholders and foolish pride, there is room for Him to do whatever He wants, build whatever He wants, and fill us with so much more goodness than we can imagine at present.

The only thing that made sense when I was trying to think of what to say here, today, is that I may have more questions than answers. I may tremble at the pride I see in myself where I thought I was humble. I waver daily on the edge of discouragement, thinking that all my dreams may have to be sifted and shifted before I see them come true, or that they may not be fulfilled at all in the way I hope. I see my own, utter weakness most where I desire to be glorious and strong, and pride amid my filthy, pitiful attempts at righteousness.

But at the end, I cannot deny the Hand of God in my life. I won't even try to put a pretty cap on it, but in the most abject moments of shame and despair at my own insufficiency I glimpse--only glimpse--a love that is all the greater because it comes for me there.

Monday, May 4, 2009

And so I lift you up.

I said I would pray, and then I thought...Do I know how to?

Do I know how to pray for your pain? Perhaps it's not what mine was, maybe I don't know how to ask God for exactly what you feel, if I haven't felt the same. 

And then I thought...I still know what pain feels like.

I know what it's like when your heart hurts so bad that your real heart hurts, that the muscles and sinews and your very blood rushing through them throb with the ache of your soul. I know what it feels like when your tears fall and fall til the flood of them puddle at your feet. I know what it's like when the poison of your pain wells and wells until it rushes out of your eyes in tears that feel like relief as they pour down your face...but when you are finished crying because you can't breathe anymore, your eyes are swollen and burning...the ache remains. 

I know what it's like to question God: Why me? What did I do wrong? Was I that stupid? Did I hear you wrong? And if I wasn't despicably stupid, if I tried so very, very hard to do right...why this much pain? If You love me, why don't You make it better, why don't You heal me?

And hardest of all, when I see no reasons, I believe no promises, I can think of nothing else to help me live another minute besides, "Lord, where else shall I go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."

I see a life without these rules of faith, without the seemingly merciless mandate to persevere, to believe what I cannot see, to claim what I cannot touch, to rest where I see no peace. I stare long into that void; and in a moment, the terror of Nothing, of No One, rushes over me and I cry, "Entreat me not to leave Thee nor turn back from following Thee!" and I sob for the chance to cling His robes, I beg that no matter what else may come, no matter what heart-wrenching agony I suffer, no matter if all the promises remain hidden, to be finally, only, found at His feet.

I know what it feels like when after these tears and these prayers, the ache remains. The night is dark and lonely, and the morning seems to hold no promise of light or of cheer. 

I know what pain is. It may be that your pain comes from a different wound than mine does, but I know your ache bleeds the same, your tears fall with the same burn, your physical heart pounds with the same pulse of emptiness that mine does. 

And despite everything, I know that my Redeemer lives, and I know that His heart is for me. And so I know that His heart is for you. 

And so I lift you up to Him.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I want to care about this one

I don’t want to not care.


My pastor told me some of my deep disappointment comes from unrealistic expectations. That’s kind of duh, I suppose the kind of thing mature adults are supposed to “get.”

Realistic expectations have to do with wisdom. And I actually like wisdom. I like when I’ve learned some life lesson so that it’s duh to me; I like when things are ok because my perspective is truthful and appropriate. I really enjoy wisdom most of the time—it’s freeing.


But I don’t want to feel better about something because I stopped caring about it. 


There are some things I don’t want to feel better about because they no longer matter to me.


There are some things I don’t want to care about anymore. There are relationships that, even if things never change, even if the other person never changes, I want it not to bother me anymore. I want to change if that’s what it takes. I want to be able to love regardless of whether or not there is satisfying reciprocation. 

But there are places in my life that I guess I’m just stuck on.

I don’t want to love there unconditionally. I don’t want to gain perspective on who you really are and so have it not matter how you treat me. I don’t want to be the bigger person; I don’t want to invest my love just because Jesus told me to.

I want it to change, not me. I don’t want, in five years, to feel differently about it because I’ve changed, my perspective has changed, and I’ve become ok with who you are not.


I don’t want to lower my expectations with you.


Because if I do, it’s like it was all wasted.

All the care I invested, all the good I saw in you, all the things about you that I thought were there, were lovable, were delightful. All the things about you that I swear I didn’t imagine, that try as I might to adjust my expectations still lurk there, teasingly, all the things about you that I thought would feel good on my soul. All the effort I spent trying to honor God in my attitude when I did want to quit. Because the fact is I did try to quit caring. It seemed like it would be smarter and so much easier.


But I never wanted to quit.

And I have seen how God takes things and makes them into something so much better, in a better way than I imagined. And I’ve seen how, when I am so very changed, when my perspective is so very shifted, how all the feelings change and it all becomes ok.


I don’t want that to happen here.


I want redemption.


I want what I want.


I want what I felt to have mattered.


I realize You may say no. I know if You do it will be better than what I want. But I cannot see that now—my past experience of Your Sovereignty, projected into the future, does not seem to match the will that I repeatedly lay down. In this I have only two prayers left: I want it all to have mattered, I want it stand in the end without waste. And not my will but Yours be done.




Monday, March 23, 2009

Landromat Wound

I suffered a dreadful wound at the Laundromat two weeks ago. I was viciously attacked my by one of the washers. In a simple act of loading in my clothes, I somehow received a huge gash in the top of my finger, deep and painful and immediately bloody. I put a band-aid on it and washed it when I got home, and did a stint or two with antibacterial ointment; but often that seems to keep my cuts from closing quickly, so after a day or two I just let it close up and scab over. 

That seemed fine until the area appeared not to be healing normally. The area remained red and swollen and itchy and painful to the touch, and I seemed to keep bumping it more than usual and every bump really hurt. It seemed to be infected underneath a solid not-normal scab. I tried peroxide topically and the fizz seemed to confirm infection, but the closed-over not-scab was far too painful to remove even after prolonged soaking. I decided I was just going to have to wait while it slowly, slowly healed itself, enduring the extra pain and longer recovery time. It’s still healing and still very sore and occasionally I still bump it and sustain extra pain that should have been gone by now. Yesterday I explained this episode to my friend Amy and she informed me that I should have cared for the wound more carefully and consistently while it was in the beginning stages of healing, instead of letting it close up without proper cleansing. I told her I’d given it a few bouts with peroxide and a go or two with the antibacterial ointment, and clearly had not realized the depth of the contamination, but she shook her head reproachfully and looked at me scoldingly, as if to say, “You know better. You can’t not take care of it and expect it to heal properly.”

 I suffered a dreadful wound somewhere in my youth; I can’t even tell you how. I was viciously attacked by the brokenness of this world and the forces of the enemy. Somehow, in the act of being born and growing up, I received a deep and painful gash in my heart. The problem was, unlike my finger, it wasn’t immediately bloody and I didn’t really notice it in time to care for it properly. I don’t even think I would have known how to then, because I believe the problem had to do with me taking care of other people at an age when I should have been cared for, myself. I wasn’t prepared, as a child, to properly care for others, much less did I possess the understanding about deep wounds and how they need to heal. I don’t seem to have caught it in time to let it heal clean.

 In the same way we always manage bump the place that’s injured, I seem to have periodically rammed the wounded area of my soul. Every time I bump it, it throbs violently. The last time I noticed the area in my heart seemed red and swollen, I tried a little topical treatment—nothing major. It swelled up worse than ever. Then, like a natural wound, I tried picking off the scab, thinking if I could get off the outer layers maybe it would heal cleaner. The poison must have been very deep, because it only ached all the harder, and then it seemed that not only I, but others were bumping into it. In fact, it seemed to become a target. A wound that had slumbered in almost-obscurity for years suddenly seemed to gush, and fester, and, like sharks to blood, the enemy got in every kick possible to the tender place, and added insult to injury.

I don’t have a very tidy finish to this story. The place on my finger is healing, but it still itches and it’s still red and angry looking, and it still hurts a lot when I bump it. 

The place in my heart isn’t all better yet, either. I’m not a little girl anymore; I’ve learned a lot more about taking care of a wound since the time I got it. I’ve been asking God to do His version of peroxide—who knew truth and repentance could sting so badly and so deeply and yet feel so good? I’ve applied antibacterial ointment to it—I know it’s a cheesy analogy but if you think about it, forgiveness is a lot like Neosporin—it keeps the broken parts from becoming septic and festering. Still, it’s an old wound and the poison has been in there for a long time, and it still hurts like hell when I bump it—or when someone else bumps me and the pain reminds me it’s there.

 I don’t know why this particular gash is taking so long to heal. Maybe I’m not healthy enough or I need more vitamins. I don’t know why something I’ve prayed about so much is still there—maybe there’s some blindingly obvious obedience thing that I’m missing, or maybe it’s just one of those things. As much as I hate it, I know God often does His deepest work slowly, and this is deep. And I think, like my pseudo-scab, sometimes these things take so long to finally heal because even though we want to just rip them open and be rid of them, even touching the edges is so wrenchingly painful that we just end up waiting and go little by little instead.

 Like I said, I know it’s an obvious, cheesy analogy. But as I sat around tonight picking at both my wounds, I felt like I had to write it. 

I’ll let you know when it’s all healed up.