“Ever Be”

 

Through all of my ups and downs these last few years…there was never a moment where God wasn’t considered. When I triumphed it was because of Him, when I dove into the staggering depths of evil it was Him I was held accountable to. Trying to ignore Him is ignorance at it’s worse. It creates a kind of numbness that subtly gnaws at conscience until you either explode or end it all, unable to bear the weight.

This makes me consider Adam and Eve. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Without this knowledge we would neither be ignorant, nor sinful. As God intended, we would be shameless, sinless. But Adam and Eve, us, chose knowledge. We didn’t know how good we had it. We didn’t want to seem stupid, and we didn’t want to feel left out. So we chose knowledge. “Knowledge is power.” But is it? I suppose it allows us to look at things from different angles, to make the best decision, or the worst. And one could argue whether or not free will exists without knowledge. How can we choose if we don’t know the choices?

Anyway, I’m getting a little off topic. Another discussion for another time. What’s relevant here is that we have free will. I have free will. Every decision was my own. Every wrong choice, ignorant choice, selfish choice. That’s all on me. I chose this life for myself. Maybe not all at once. And I definitely wouldn’t have made the same decisions if I had known where they would lead. But still…I don’t really know where I’ll end up. Will all of this self-inflicted pain be worth it? Will continuing on this journey of highs and lows and sacrifice and mistakes be worth it? Will there come a day when I look back and see things clearly? Where my wrongs are made right and my mind is drenched in holiness again?

I was listening to a song before this one came on tonight. It was by an artist I loved back when I felt the whole world was at my fingertips. It’s strange how strong a memory can be. It completely captivated me on the car ride home. Window down, cool air blowing through the windows, and my heart aching for a moment years ago. It made me feel how I felt then, like if I just closed my eyes and opened them, I’d be right back there. In my old car, windows down, different place, different time, different me…

Is God not the same God now that He was then? Only my decisions have skewed my view of Him. Isn’t He unchanging? And why shouldn’t my praise be just as unchanging? No matter how damaged I think I am, God is no different than the God who romanced me years ago.

I’m the one who has changed.

And will it be worth it?

Will I come full circle in a way I never imagined? Will I emerge from this darkness with a knowledge of God I would have never had otherwise? I chose this. Is there relief for a heart burdened by its own self?

I hope so. If nothing else, I know He is worthy. No matter my choice. He, His name, His praise, will ever be on my lips. No matter how filthy they are, no matter how unjust. He is worthy. No matter who I am.

Imagery

A thought keeps occurring to me lately.

It’s a memory, really. I guess it’s also a longing.

 

There I am, upside down under the water. My vision is blurred by the molecules of water and the sun is skewed by the waves. I’m alone, the pool is mine for the moment. My brothers have chosen other forms of entertainment for the hot summer day. I was always the swimmer. Once I hit the water, I didn’t stop moving. Except for this moment, and the rest of the moments like it.

It’s quiet here. Just me and my thoughts, unencumbered by the distractions of bustling surroundings. Just me and the water. I close my eyes, wishing this moment could last for more than thirty seconds, but I can’t seem to beat that time. Even then, by second number twenty-three I’m not enjoying my secluded world so much as I am struggling to remain in it.

I thrust upward, my hands finding the sides of the ladder, my mouth colliding with fresh oxygen, ready to steady my burning lungs. I keep my eyes closed so the water droplets don’t sting them in the wind and air. I steady myself with one hand and wipe the drops away from my eyes, opening them to a foggy, but authentic view of my home, grass, pets, and trees. My ears attune to the cacophony of insects and rattlers. Reality hits me as my moment of isolation escapes. I steady my breathing and prepare to go under again. When I’m ready I close my eyes, plug my nose, and slowly lay back until I am vertical and parallel with the ladder.

For the first few moments of my underwater peace, I feel as though I want to cry and scream and laugh and dance. All at once and as purposefully as I can. I want to live in those moments completely free of the insecurities and expectations that plague my over-wrought mind. Yet at the same time, I feel completely wrapped up in them. This is reality. The quiet moments are where the truth seeps in.

I am twelve or thirteen. Already the world has given me reason to escape it.

Though, as stated, the moments of escape are short and burdened by the weight of reality.

At this point I turn my attention to the physical. Instead of rising from the water again, I kick my legs free from the ladder that entangled them and flip myself over away from the edge. As my legs find themselves under me, my head bursts free from the pool. I gasp at the coldness of the water shocking my sun bathed legs. A smile comes to my face and I continue to swim and play. The moment of heaviness is gone. The thoughts of freedom and suffocation elude me as I return the present moment.

in the beginning

At times I so badly want to blame others for my current state of being. I want to go back a few years and tell them all the ways they handled the situation wrong, all the intricate ways they shattered my heart and what was left of my sense of self.

I struggle between complete apathy and caring so much that I can’t breathe.

Any reminder of who I was is a reminder of what should have been and what is broken now. If I could just ask them where their patience and gentle direction was for the one seeking God, not just for the wanderer, would I have and answer? Would I receive peace? Probably not. Because what was broken remains broken, no one would venture to pick up the pieces. And now that some are here, to put me back together, is it too late? My knack for disappointing is too tangible to let anyone get close. Where were these people when I was worth putting back together and why wasn’t I strong enough, faithful enough, to stay whole?

Wandering

I can’t get over this song.

Growing up isn’t easy. We all know the usual things like paying bills and learning to take responsibility. I think we all have a lot more in common than that though. Some soul issues.

So, let’s start again. Growing up isn’t easy. No one told us that one day we’d find out our parents aren’t just who/what we thought they were. Dreaming big isn’t as simple as it used to be. We now have to figure logic into the desires of our hearts. Or the desires of our hearts into logic…who really knows? Does anyone know? When all of our dreams and expectations of the future were forming in our heads, being a grown up was not what it has come to be.

I guess I’m wondering how this fits in with anything I’m trying to write. The truth is, I don’t understand it completely. I don’t think any of us do. That’s kind of the point. Being a grown up feels like wandering. Until we find a place to stop and stay for a while. Then we wander again. If you were to ask people if they felt they had it all together, I would be surprised if many said yes, and of the ones who did, I’d be surprised if any of them could have an honest introspective or philosophical conversation with you.

Sometimes I think I’ve had this amazing revelation that is going to set everything right. Like next time God reveals something to me will be the last of my wandering. But my extensive experience in failing seems to prove otherwise. So, I’m just kind of at this point like, okay, enough with all this surface-y crap, I want to be real all the time.

So, no, I don’t want to talk about how busy life is. I don’t want to talk about the weather, or a circumstance, or a story you heard about this kid from this guy one time. I just want to see how you are doing. Are you tired? Why? Are you sad? Bored? Angry? Delighted? Excited? Why? Do you feel hopeful that things will change? Do you want them to stay the same? Where does your hope come from?

Here’s the huge thing that I think no body wants to say, and I think that’s because we are all afraid that it’s true: Being real, being an adult, having a meaningful relationship with God, isn’t just going to happen. You’re not just going to work really hard for a week or a month or a year or a few years and then have everything be great. In fact, every day brings struggles and delights. Though sometimes it’s hard to see one or the other. So every day is going to require some sort of conscious decision to do the right thing and to focus on truth.

When we are growing up I think a lot of us view our selves going to college, getting a job, and having a family. Or some variation of that. No matter what our ideas of the future look like, at some point we probably have all just pictured it falling into place. And it’s a real punch to the gut when we find out that isn’t how the world works.

And our relationships with God aren’t any different. They will not just miraculously fall into place. We will never be perfectly aligned on the straight and narrow. Just as the lyrics in this song say “again,” it will take pursuit, every day, over and over, to live a life fulfilled by God. He is the only one Who can make being an adult any simpler. I think He is worth the struggle to give up things that in our souls, aren’t what we really want anyways.

Penance (noun): 1. voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong. 2. doesn’t matter because I’m not Catholic and it’s not the idea I hope to express in this blog entry.

To be human, or not to be human? That is the question. But do any of us really have a choice?

I had a couple of semi-interesting conversations with a some friends this week. I say semi-interesting because they were at the very least interesting to me, maybe to them, and I have no idea how you would feel about them. I’m going to tell you anyway.

1. My friend and I were on our way home from a city that is about 50 miles from our homes-so there is time to talk. What else could we do then but dig into the deep stuff. Which really, these are the only conversations I like having. Small talk sucks. If we both have at least one of the five senses, I think there’s no point to comment on what the weather is doing. Anywho, on to the conversation. This friend of mine has been struggling with the need to be perfect, and with the idea of that need interfering with her faith in God. You know, trust is kind of a big deal when it comes to faith. Sort of can’t have one without the other. So I think we all can see the dilemma. I on the other hand am so keenly aware of the fact that I will NEVER be perfect, that perfection in itself has become a transcendent dream. Something I always feel aware of the desire to have, but can never actually grasp. By the end of this conversation, I realized that I have subconsciously, consciously, unconsciously, purposefully, accidentally reached the conclusion in my heart and mind that if I can’t be perfect, then I’m not even going to try. This brings me to conversation number two. Aren’t you excited?

2. A friend and I had some time to kill before heading to a late movie. We were at her house and she was finishing up some chores she had been meaning to get done. I, being the generous, selfless giver that I am, sat on her bed while she cleaned up. We’ve got an hour or two, what else to do but open my trap and pour out all my “problems.” In my defense, we were talking about self-betterment and what has been keeping us from pursuing things we know will set us in a better place. So, I told her this conclusion that I had come to when talking to my other friend (I know! I have two!) the night before. With this I included the fact that I had been shamelessly mad at God for the consequences of my own decisions. I asked her how this can be Christianity. If I am constantly struggling with sin, the same sin, how can I call myself a Christian? Not just call myself one, but BE a Christian? That cannot be Christianity. In my mind, if THAT was how “Christianity” would be for me, then I wasn’t really a Christian, and therefore Christian things, morals, teachings, responsibilities didn’t apply to me. I am not going to lie, this wasn’t freeing. I panicked! Everything that I have known, felt, experience, and loved my entire life was being pulled out from under me. By me!

Then she spoke, and things started to make just a little tiny bit more sense. She wasn’t easy on me either, but the truth was like a spring of fresh water in my dried up heart. First things first, she told me the fact that is was a struggle at all for me to live my life the way I have been, is Christianity. I am convicted, I do care. The fact that I keep coming back to God matters! In response to my whole ‘being mad at God and not caring thing’ she laughed! She laughed in my face! “Like I have never been mad at God?! Like I don’t get jealous and sit there and ask God why on earth He could give to others what He never can seem to give to me,” she said. Then added: she comes back. She realizes moments of weakness in her human nature provide avenues for sin. And this is inescapable this side of Heaven. But repentance is where it’s at. She recognizes her folly and asks forgiveness and thanks God that He made such an enormous sacrifice in order for her to do so!

Let me tell you, this is not new information. I go back and forth with the same ideas all the time, because I just can’t seem to get it right and keep it right. I told the friend in conversation number one, that I just need consistency. In all honesty my point in these two conversations was that it is easier to be consistently wrong than consistently pursuing righteousness. And that is very true. It is easier, but at the same time it isn’t. It is immediately easier. However, the consequences of easy sin are by no means easier than the blessings that follow the trying path of obedience. For some reason this has been so hard to get through my mind. I have let Satan tell me that I will never be good enough, and while that’s true, his lie that because of my sin I don’t deserve to be in the presence of God, is not. And guess what? That righteousness that I am so adamant about pursuing and achieving doesn’t exist! The only righteousness is that which come from Christ through His free gift of Salvation. We ain’t gonna have any righteousness if we don’t have Christ! I can’t make myself perfect and righteous and then come to God, because I can not be righteous (nor perfect) without God! All of this was brought to my attention during conversation number two. As well as the fact that we will never be able to understand God sacrificing His Son for us fickle creatures. While we would be able to give our own lives willingly for those we love, would we ever be willing to sacrifice one of our loved ones for the other? It’s incomprehensible, but that’s what God did. One Man paid the price for the lot of us, and I’m just here wallowing in my own made-up grief.

Then I heard this poem. That I have heard plenty of times before, but have never understood. And maybe that is because I didn’t know before a few years ago what it was like to truly be completely and honestly devastated with myself and with the action Jesus took on the cross so that I wouldn’t have to be.

But believe me when I say I understand it now. Shine down the light of comprehension because I want to dance in it, and bow in it, and revel in it. I want to repent. I want to laugh in the face of penance and shove it in the mud. I want Satan to know his dirty lies and tricks have no power against the truth and authority of God. And guess what? All of this is in my life. God is in my life even though I was among the scoffers at His son’s brutal death. I was there whispering lies that I had come to believe, and ignoring the pain of the Son and the Father. I say was there because I might as well have been. I mean how dare I give up on life when He gave up so much for me to have it! So, yes how dare I, now instead of willingly getting myself into more trouble because I am such a terrible human being, I need to go seek Jesus, repent, and let Him fill up my brain with truth and mercies. Because even after all I have done and failed to do, He wants me to be on the right path even more that I want to be. Now that is unconditional love.

Devotions

“Wherever there is any element of pride or of conceit, Jesus cannot expound a thing. He will take us through the disappointment of a wounded pride of intellect, through disappointment of heart. He will reveal inordinate affections–things over which we never thought He would have to get us alone. We listen to many things in classes, but they are not an exposition to us yet. They will be when God gets us alone over them.” -Oswald Chambers

“…things over which we never though He would have..”

Out of the entire devotion that day (I am going through ‘My Utmost For His Highest’) this is the phrase that caught me. It captivated me. I was in an empty room at work with the door open. I kind of wanted to cry, or maybe just jump up and down and yell thanks to God. That is how this entire devotion has affected me. It seems that each day as I read I feel relief mixed with…I am not really sure of the word for the other sentiment…I wanted and didn’t want to say obligation…no. No. It’s gratitude. Relief, gratitude. The feeling that somehow for this wonderful revelation, one right after the other, I need to give thanks. I need to show how thankful I am to God for revealing these things to me.

This is thought in one breath, but in the next are the words of a pastor, which were first the words of Jesus: “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her,'” Luke 10:41-42. Mary was simply sitting at Jesus’ feet, while Martha was hurrying and scuttling about to make sure everything was perfect for Him.

I used to sort of despise Mary. I wanted to come to Martha’s defense. She was only showing her love and gratitude for God. She wanted to do great things for Him. Who, that knows and loves God, hasn’t had that thought cross their own minds? While Mary just sat there. She did nothing. She offered no help, no meal, no drink. She just sat there at His feet.

She just sat. Still. Waiting. Listening.

I still want to defend Martha, but I realize that part of me is the part that could never truly see what Jesus wants. He wants us. It’s that simple. It stops there. He doesn’t want us “to” or “there” or “here” or “then”. He wants us.

She just sat. He just wants her.

She offered herself.

Not by doing anything. Not by cleaning, not by preparing a meal. Not by giving something up, nor by trying to be something. She just sat. Still. Waiting. Listening. And guess what? Jesus spoke. He taught. He cherished.

He defended. But this story isn’t about who was right and who was wrong. This story is about Jesus wanting us. We are enough for Him. As we are. All bloodied with guilt and lust and murder. Isn’t that crazy? The man went to His death willingly, so that He could know us. So that we could know Him. Just so that we could have the opportunity to just sit at his feet and breathe and listen and be still. To let Him cover us, love on us. How in the world do we have that kind of impact on the Word of God? How do we even begin to impact what He chooses to do?

To me, it’s a paradox. We are meaningless without Him, but with or without Him, we mean a great deal to Him. God, the love of God, the God of love, is a great big huge gigantic mystery. How can we ever fathom? So in each moment, in each devotion when something is revealed, how do I not crave more? How can I possibly let an idea, a curiosity rest? But He doesn’t ask me to understand. In fact He tells us that there are some things we will never understand until we are finally with Him. So what do I do with this knowledge He has revealed to me? In Matthew 10:27 He tells us to shout it from the rooftops. But besides that…He doesn’t want me to be consumed by it…? He just wants me to sit in His presence? Not even to relish the fact that He has revealed anything, but to simply sit with Him, hear from Him, absorb His instruction and His love.

I believe I have written about it before: I am in a place in my life I “never thought” I would be. And I have struggled with things I thought I “never would have.” I have even considered the pain I have put myself through to be unnecessary–consequences that could have been avoided if I had only been obedient.

Trust me when I say that in no way do I think God would ever want us to be disobedient. He gives us instruction through His word and convictions that are meant for our good and for the good of our union with Him. However, also trust me when I say that God can and will use every.single.thing. for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His good purpose (Romans 8:28). Even if those things made us feel the furthest away from God that we have ever been, trust me when I say He noticed. He was wanting you with Him during that time as much as He wanted you with Him when the worship songs at church were your life. Haha. And those terrible things may have involved a “disappointment of a wounded pride of intellect, through a disappointment of heart,” but they can all be used to draw you near to Him.

Without these things, that I thought I would never know (as in partake in), I may never have learned to be still.

Life is but a dream.

Some days, like today, make me think that what I’m living currently just can’t actually be my life. I’m not sure what it is about days like these (probably my state of sin or state of grace) that makes me ultra reflective about the life I have lived, super-conscious of the life I am living, and really afraid of the life I might lead; but I do know that today, and all of these days past and future, makes me wishful for a state of coma. Like, ‘It’s alright. Any second now I’ll wake up and this regretful life would have been a hopeless dream, but only a dream.’

Then, kid you not, I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to wake up. I’m sure most coma patients are not excited when they hear they’ve missed out on days, months, or years of their lives, but I imagine the relief I would feel. And then, in anticipation of this relief and with a little heavier of breathing, I open my eyes. There I am.

In my room, in my car gazing up at the stars, on a swing in the park. I’m alive. This is real. My life, as it is.

I have to say this (because everyone feels they must when pouring out their thoughts) I know there is real suffering in the world, I’m not blind to it. In fact the little of the old me that still exists is dying to do something about it. I know I am blessed to be even where I am now with a home, loving parents, and an able body. I know that not everyone has this.

Maybe in my last blog and perhaps the one before that, I said this would take on a more hopeful direction. It would be more about big dreams, and less about the pessimistic realities of life. Well, I changed my mind. I’m not going to label this as a blog for school, a blog for big dreams, a blog on how to pursue those dreams. I will simply let it be what it is.