Wednesday, December 17, 2014

a year crowned with goodness

I have spent almost an entire year rejecting my God.

Many days with my Bible closed, untouched. I refused to pray. I refused His presence although He remained near.

This year, the Lord has worked in me such a different, more foundational, understanding of what it means to be His. Having been raised Christian and having been a part of several different churches over the course of my teenager and adult years, somehow it gets drilled into your senses that to be Christian means you must do __ and __. To be __ and __. American Christianity loves to fill in the blanks. Yep, we're really good at having all the answers and doing and being. But God spoke to me a surprising word this year. 

I am His. Even when I don't act like it. 
I am His. Even when I refuse every Christian discipline and practice of devotion.
I am His. Even when I tell Him how much He has disappointed me and how unhappy He has made me. Even when, like I child, I utter the words I hate You, breaking His heart over and over.
I am His. Even when I don't talk to Him for weeks. 
I am His. Even when I renounce every Christian act, prayer, word, church or denomination. 
I am His. Even when I am so broken, so calloused, so bitter, so unlike Him in every thought, word, and deed.
I am His. Even when I am too hurting and bruised to love again.

He says, I bought you with a price. You are Mine. You are My daughter. You can't undo what I have completed. You cannot un-be who you are, the you that I have made alive through my Son. Your identity is tied to me and I will never allow you to fall away, ever. Your identity is not dependent on what you do, think, say, and act like. Your identity is dependent on Me. Many may be the days when you resemble nothing of Me. You are growing and the pain of being stretched will seem to mar who you are. But you are forever and always My child and I will get you to glory, no matter what it takes, no matter what it looks like. I am walking you to glory and I am already delighting in you, all that you presently are and all that you are becoming. And I am so patient with you. I am with you, moment by moment. I will walk you through every step from here to glory and I will not rush you or berate you. You are my precious, dearest daughter. You are my treasure.

I wanted to tell myself that I had fallen away. That I was a backslider. A lesser-Christian. You know, those little labels that I have heard Christians place on other Christians who seem to have rejected Christ. Yeah. That.

I can hear my Father laughing. Not mocking. Just the laugh of a Father who can hardly believe that His daughter would ever buy that tripe.

I throw my rags at Him. Look at me! I am hideous! I cannot even bear living with my own self. 

He walks me through this day by day, thought by thought, emotion after emotion. My self-hatred, self-flagellation. Pent-up anger, rage, and intense grief and sorrow. Broken dreams. Bitter, cynical thoughts. Burning jealousy and despairing fear. He asks me to talk it all out to Him, every disgusting thought and feeling.

I think, I probably need counseling. I am probably like bipolar, manic depressant, or something.

He says, no, my Spirit counsels you. Don't fear your human propensity to border on the edge of a little mental insanity some days. You are coming loose, every fiber of your being unraveling at what you have had to face about life on earth. But I am holding you so close to Me now. This moment, I have waited for. Every way you thought that I should work and act. Every way that you thought prayer, life in the Spirit, and Christianity should work, look, and be like has crumbled before your eyes. I have waited for this day so that I can show you how much I favor you.

I feel stiff around Him, like He is still expecting something from me. I want grace, but I don't want to have to change. Looks like I just want cheap-grace. Guess I am one of those "Christians" now.

Father laughs again. Again, not mocking. Just warmly amused at my childishness

What if I told you, He whispers to me, that there is no such thing as cheap grace? There is only grace or no grace. And My grace abounds, to the heathen, to the proud, to the humble, to the broken, to the ungrateful. My question is, will you receive it? Many don't. Even many of those who I have called My own do not receive it very well or very often. Will You allow me to love you? My heart breaks that many won't let Me in, to woo them, to delight in them, to speak into them their new identity with Me. But will you let Me? Will you let Me love you before you sin, when you sin, after you sin? Will you let Me love you and speak My favor over you even after you've spit in My face and pushed Me away? Will you let Me love you to glory no matter what? Will you let My love change you? Not your best efforts or actions or willpower. No, this is on Me. Will you let Me do this in you through the riches of My grace and love through My Son Jesus Christ?

And I think I might let Him love and delight in me. I think, I might try this amazing grace out, as if for the very first time.

How is this year, probably the most painful year of my life to date, crowned with any goodness at all?

Because this was the year my Lord set me free. Not in regards to salvation, which He did years ago when I was just a little girl. This year, He set me free in regards to my sanctification. It was easy to receive the free gift of salvation when it was terribly obvious that I couldn't ever merit it on my own. But sanctification, mmm! For most of my Christian walk, I have been trying to do it, to work for it, to merit it. It is free and guaranteed, just like justification. But I started laying down elaborate standards and expectations like the Law. I put myself (and others) on different levels of maturity and on time-tables with an allotted amount of time to get their act together (even to myself!). Instead of living Free all these years, I put myself underneath the Law and it distorted my view of self, others, and God. I built an entire foundation on preconceived ideas of what the Christian walk and life should look like for myself and others. Even preconceived ideas of how God works or acts, as if I could place expectations on my Creator! He has come in to strip it all away, to announce my freedom boldly and triumphantly. He wants me to know it every single moment I breathe. I am free. I am free. For Christ has set me Free.

In my refusals to acknowledge Him, He is my only Good. He went before me to crown the harsh, painful year of 2014 with the goodness of Himself. He knew of my hurt, my loss, my tears, my disillusionment with life, people, Christianity, and even myself. But in all this, in all this abounding mess, He fervently desires me, seeking to show Himself as good, gracious, and loving to me.

He is more than everything I have ever lost, coming back to my arms. All He is, slowly filling the raw ache of my naked heart.

You Are My Only Good // Misty Edwards //

Monday, December 8, 2014

reflections on human sensitivity

I cannot understand.

My mind has developed the habit of twirling and skating around life's mysteries. I want to see the big picture. Where does all this pain fit in? I want to see the threads of pain woven into a beautiful tapestry, but I am too dependent on when I will be able to view it.

Every single day is the same old story. It's so dull that I have no desire to put it into text.

I ran across this graphic of words on Pinterest. It clicked with me and fit into a space that I've been too afraid to name. I think have an allergy to my fellow humans. I laugh, but it's a hard reality to me at the moment. I have an emotional allergy, a sensitivity, to humanity - the good, the bad, and all that is in-between. Everything about humanity, even my own self, drains me for everything that I once had. I feel it every single day. It's a tiredness. It's a constant wanting to escape everything and everyone.

Since moving 7 hours away from my home-state last year and then deleting my personal Facebook account late this past summer, I have been reevaluating my life and my friendships. It hurt too much to maintain the Facebook-connection when most of those who were on my "friends" list were merely acquaintances years ago, distant relatives, or friends who wouldn't understand even the slightest of what I've been going through this past year. I felt hurt by the lack of pursuing friendships. All of a sudden, I was bitter and angry at people who didn't even know what they had done to "wrong" me.  I realized this happens to even the best of us. Sorrow, loss, and grieving separates us from the "normal" people sometimes. There is the daily temptation to victimize yourself and demand things from others. I felt it rise up in me and it made me abhor my own self. The thoughts and emotions were so unlike me. So, I did what I had to do. Get rid of unnecessary outlets like Facebook. I didn't even want to give myself a platform to continue feeling those emotions and thinking those unhealthy thoughts again. Nor did I want to see people that I've known and loved through that distorted lens. The longer I remained in that state, I fell into a spiral of self-hatred. The only way that I knew best how to deal with that was to cut ties.

Even still, there are friends I haven't called or written in many months. I scribble their names on a to-do list. A to-do list? So, that's how I am treating them? It isn't fair so I crumple up the list and let the memory of them drift in and out of my mind. There are days when I so long to fall away from my life, to be remade, and then to return as the person I always hoped I could be. But I am just me, changing slowly through a long series of love and loss. Yet, the change isn't happening fast enough to my liking.

I commit to releasing my grip on pursing people. At least, for however long this season of my life remains. There are very few select individuals that I keep in relatively consistent contact, but even then I need some time and distance. My anxiety levels sky-rocket with too much contact with others and it scares me. I have recognized it and learn to name it for what it is: heightened sensitivity. It's not the person that troubles me, but rather the way that I relate to them. The problem is at the root of my thoughts in relation to God, myself, life, the universe, and everything. A tangled web that I am only beginning to untangle.

In this season, I cannot honestly be happy for anyone who is experiencing a fruitful and successful time in their life. I am undone by the shame I feel about this; they who were once joyful with me in my joy, can I not even smile for them? I simply cannot, though I may find the ability to genuinely express a little from time to time.

In this season, I cannot bear to hear the people I love go through more difficult experiences after years of ongoing trials and heartache. I am undone by guilt that I cannot be enough, do enough, or say enough for them.

I am even overwhelmed by the thought of sharing my own struggles with others. It's all too much. Some days, I don't even want to be asked or talked to. I want to come out and have human contact whenever I choose to do so. I want normal again. Whatever normal may be.

In this season, I really cannot bear to hear national or global events. Ferguson. Persecuted souls in the Middle-East. Our crumbling economy. I don't want to hear it. I don't want to read about it. I don't want to feel for anyone or anything. I'm all dried up.

In moments, I feel the urge to cry. And I do. But most days I do not want to weep and languish in sorrow, nor do I want the cruel and fleeting experience of happiness. I exist in both highs and lows when all I truly desire is freedom from myself. My Maker, Lord of the heavens and earth, tells me that such freedom is free. All I have to do is receive it. But receiving can bring so much panic and dread, especially when you're still holding onto so much.

That's okay, He whispers to me, receive it when you're ready. You will not be one moment too late or too soon when you fully open your hands to this freedom. You will be right on time, My dear. I am so proud of you, that you are learning to be patient with yourself as I am with you. In this time, your awareness of human pain is heightened and you are tempted to continually choose anxiety, even your physical health will fail you in this time because of the heat and pressure you are undergoing. It makes you distrust any shred of happiness or sense of joy, as those have been fleeting in your experiences with them. It also makes you want to close your heart at the first hint of sorrow in any of its forms. I will help you keep your heart open even though you will be terrified of the excessive bleeding. Do not fear this. When you touch joy again, it will be more real to you than anything you've known before. And, in that day, it will not depart from you, but you will experience the joy as having been there all along, just as it is now. Do not be anxious that you have yet to experience this. Trust that it will come, just as I always bring the rains to fields parched from drought. Each moment of this season must be taken slowly. It cannot be rushed because I am not rushing you. I cherish all that you are and all that you have yet to become. One day you will truly receive how much I have loved you through this season, how much My heart as yearned for you, how much you are always on My mind.

And I keep trusting my Jesus, stumbling through each passing day.

 My senses have taken to poetry this year. Mary Oliver. Tyler Knott Gregson. Jane Hirshfield. David Whyte. I speak their poems and suddenly their words are my very own. In poetry and music, I find the bits and pieces of who I am becoming.

It is possible for a heart to be exhausted?
can it still be worn
when locked tight
in its cage?
My heart's beat
Is a drum too loose,
a dull thud
where it once
was triumphant.
~Tyler Knott Gregson 

I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,

whoever I was, I was

for a little while.

~ Mary Oliver, Dogfish

 I was walking again
in the woods,
a yellow light
was sifting all I saw.

with a cold heart,
I took a stick,
lifted it to the opposite side
of the path.

There, I said to myself,
that's done now.
Brushing one hand against the other,
to clean them
of the tiny fragments of bark. 

~ Jane Hirshfield, Changing Everything