Friday, April 18, 2014

An Effort Toward Wholeness

Sighing deeply, I slide my fingers through the pages of my notebook, glancing past the numerous words strewn across the pages, scattered and disorganized. The scribblings present on each page are snippets of song lyrics and ideas. Across the room stand two old friends, acoustic guitars that have traveled with me through my youth and adult life. There are moments where my hands caress them the way I once did as a daily habit. Everything in me misses those seasons when I could cradle them and choose a song from memory to play on their sleek-stringed bodies. There is a quiet ache that arises when I begin to think of songwriting, when my eyes glide over the binders of collected sheet music, or when I hold my dear friends again. There are days when I begin to create, begin to piece together chords, voicings, and scales that make up a familiar tune, either one from an artist or something I've written. But these types of days are so intermittent and unplanned. They do not last. My hands do not play the guitar as they once did.

  I am fragmented. I have been like this for quite some time. Only in recent months have I given myself the time to mourn this. There are so many reasons why I am in pieces.

Seasons of investing in others. Seasons of long and tiresome waiting. Seasons of walking with those who grieve. Seasons of distraction. Seasons of disappointment. Seasons of drastic and sudden change. Seasons of having to grow up for the very first time. Seasons of forgetting. Seasons of coming face to face with the reality of how harsh life can truly be, not merely to me, but to everyone I love. Seasons of no fruit.

 Emerging from this scattered state, I feel disoriented, no assurance or direction for finding wholeness again. Was I ever even whole? I feel like I have been searching for it my entire life. But I used to think wholeness was defined by mountaintop moments, when life was all as it should be, or as I wanted it to be. My obsession with perfectionism hasn't waned into my adulthood, but has steadily increased with its demands. Through maddening moments of depression, heartache, and disillusionment, my spirit awakes again with ten times the resolve to continue this ongoing pursuit towards wholeness, to experience a fulfilling resolve in every area of my life that is scattered, divided, and broken. As long as I have been breathing, this militant passion has driven me. It makes me bold even in the face of defeat and heart-break and fear. It drives me to even demand and question my Maker, not at all questioning that my fleshly honesty is really too much for Him, even if I fear it might be. Partly, this is a fire of pride. Pride that says no one and nothing will snuff me out. The other part to this fire is that it is a deeply ingrained need and desire for perfected wholeness, much in the same way a child will not rest until her entire world is "as it should be," nestled close in the safety and affection of father and mother.

 Recently, I read something that revealed to me the heart of the Father in my demands for wholeness.

  I know you've already discovered much of life isn't as spectacular or satisfying as the anticipation. I've watch this break your heart. It will actually serve to draw you to me. I've built into you this longing for a world which doesn't disappoint.

  I take whatever your race has brought on, and I redeem, refashion, and rework it all into beauty beyond anything you could have possibly imagined. All things. Horrible things. Evil things. Chronic things. I decide what is allowed through and what it will accomplish. I decide what needs to be refashioned. But I mostly stand in the arena, where you cannot stand, defending you and protecting you. I do not lecture; I do not mock. What I do is love you, no matter how angry you are at me, no matter what you imagine in your heart about me. I enter into your pain more deeply than even you. This I can do. This I will always do. Until we are home together in the land where tears cease.
 [On My Worst Day, John Lynch]

The knowledge that He stands with me, unwavering, even when I'm wanting to pick fights with Him, is astounding. This foundational characteristic of God is not often taught, written about, preached on, or portrayed in what we know of Christianity today. I need to know this is Who He is because I will act out on Him in a million different ways. At the end of my day, I need to know, we all need to know, that He isn't surprised or disgusted or exhausted by us. He is patient with us. He waits for us. 

Then, I am confronted with the knowledge of something that cuts straight to my heart...

Increased devotion and diligence will not make me feel close to God again. Believing his never-changing affection will renew my joy. [John Lynch]

In these words, I realized the same can be said for experiencing renewal and wholeness. Willpower will not bring me to that place of experiencing rest and wholeness in the core of who I am, nor in any of my creative endeavors and dreams. If I am to ever experience abiding wholeness in my spirit, I must come to a point where I accept this never-changing affection of my Father. At the same time, He is fully aware that I am not going to come to that point on my own. He has to bring me there because I do not rest. It is not my nature to lay down and take a nap when there are passions and dreams to be pursued and lived out. My heart views resting as a passive, foolish thing, when it actually means my safety, my protection, and my maturity. Everyday of our lives, this is the invitation of our Savior:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
[Matthew 11:28-30]

We wrestle through the resting. The wrestling part is more of a learning to accept and receive our true identity in Christ, the gift of His ever-faithful, always present love for us.

Creating is just like this. Whether we are writers, musicians, or artists of any medium, creating is a journey towards wholeness that involves us learning to be at rest. Creating requires humility, patience, and a gentle assurance that, even when the vision is not be obtained, the slow process of creating is undeniably significant to the formation of our character, the maturing our souls. 

I do not play guitar as I wish I could. I have not completed all the songs that fill up my notebook. I have yet to experience a fulfillment to any of my pursuits. I do not even know wholeness in my emotional well-being. I will continue to the make the mistake that striving will get me to that perfect stated. Somewhere along the way, I will rest, then fight, strive, wear myself out, and then more fully rest in Christ my Comfort, my net of Safety.

I write these words on Good Friday, a day to remember that He who was and is Perfection, Fulfillment, and Wholeness chose to become broken and crushed for all mankind. Christ Jesus came to give us the wholeness that we all lavishly strive and invest to know on this earth. I remember He has made me whole already, sealing my identity to His, erasing all that I was before without Him. And, now, this earthly life is an ongoing process of Him revealing to me the perfect work He began in me and bringing me into complete understanding and experience of that abiding truth. I desire the happy resolve of the ending more than the story itself. I may, for the present, only desire the perfection itself. He desires the glory, revealing Himself and getting to see me become who He knows I already am. And He will see that desire of His heart through to completion.


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  2. Thank you for sharing this. Although I am not a musician, I can relate to your feeling of an empty season, and my worries of not being productive enough are assuaged by your words. I have been struggling with completing short stories I like for a long time now, something I once did freely and effortlessly during my college years, especially. I would write in a dreamy way, but very connected to my own soul and the natural world, and I was often full of emotion, curious about my characters on the page. Like you, I am realizing perfectionism and striving is counter-productive, and because of your words, I have found that the way is through rest in Christ. May Christ's peace lead you into song again, when he wills it, when you are ready. <3

    1. Jade, it is so comforting and nice to know someone else can resonate with this same struggle, but also finding so much rest in leaning upon Christ's perfecting work. That is really interesting that you've experienced the same with your writing and miss the way you effortlessly composed stories in which you were connected to. It seems to be, as we experience seasons in our personal growth, that we must also walk through ever-changing seasons in our creative pursuits. I often wonder what it will be like to be much much older and look back at how my creative endeavors have evolved and changed over the span of my lifetime. :)

  3. I kept forgetting to comment on this, but I wanted to say how well written this was! I think it's a good practice for your creative non-fiction book you want to tackle! hehe It's also good because on a blog you can do a creative non-fiction style while talking about daily things like this. Anyway, just wanted to say it was beautiful and you already know what I think about the rest! ♥