Wednesday, 31 October 2007

In Light Inaccessible

I've been in a thick fog lately - struggling to think clearly but sinking further down with every flailing attempt to re-surface. I hate my weak self; I hate to admit what, deep down, I know myself to be; I hate to be shown the dark spots of selfishness that eat away at everything I do; above all, I hate to have my weakness and bewilderment exposed. Yet the God I love is dedicated to shedding his light on the very things I long to bury and forget. When he begins his work in me, I reach for him in desperation. Blinded by my refusal of the light that exposes me, I grope in the darkness for my God, and he hides himself in a thick cloud.

Slowly, I am coming to realize that there is a pattern to God's withdrawing from me. He hides himself when I refuse to admit some aspect of his character. "God, come and comfort me, but don't shine your light on my weakness. Don't let me be ashamed - " this was my prayer, were I to admit it. Even as I began to see and confess it, I rationalized my thinking - aren't there multiple verses in the Bible that tell us if we trust in God we won't be ashamed? (“…and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 9:33) But, ah, I read my own hopes into those words. It is in trusting in him that I'm to be kept from shame - not in trusting myself! Indeed, the more I trust in my own ways when I know them to be different from God's, the more shame I have.

I'm still a bit lost. I hardly know where to begin dealing with the flotsam that has surfaced in my turmoil of soul. I don't know how to stop being the person I sense that I am in the carefully hidden recesses of my self. Again, I realize that whether or not he does help me, I need God to help me. He is the One who can make me whole and my life complete. Lest anyone say that I worship him because he speaks kindly and softly to me, helps my favorite basketball team win, saves me the best parking spaces at the mall - let me tell out of my misery who is that high and Holy one who withdraws when I reach out for him in desperation...

He is Light. He is Love. He is Truth.

As I become willing to accept the consequences of knowing Love and Light and Truth, my blindness is departing, and I begin to see - not the kindly father/comforting teddybear/soft-hearted auntie-God-all-in-one I was reaching for, but the Living God, the Most High, in whom mercy and truth are met together. I cried for comfort, but he is too good to give me a thing so small. Instead he offers healing through pain. I'm too weak to reach for it, but I choose it, and he will give it.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

He Is Not Far...

The following piece keeps popping up everywhere I go lately, so I thought I'd share:

Acts 17:21-33

All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas. Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.

God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
"Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

A Strange and Costly Beauty

This video offers one of the best demonstrations I've witnessed of the strange beauty that is sometimes born of ugly, terrorizing pain; that rises in sweet triumph over the destructive power that has brought it to light. Too easily we are convinced, from the vantage point of our safe and comfortable but airless and visionless lives, that happiness is the highest good and pain the greatest evil in the universe. Not so, says this video. Eliot and his parents have experienced a thing of goodness that you and I, with our all-important comfort, may never experience. They have drunk deeply of Love, and having lost all, are neither empty nor bereft.

We ought to be careful how we judge things. Most of us have tasted so little of the goodness that is sometime revealed amid the destructive forces clearly at work in our world. It flames out now and again with a deep beauty that shines its light upon our narrowminded assumptions and quells our childishly arrogant sums of things.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

What I Could Not Say - Oswald Chambers on "Sin"

We Christians love to think of ourselves as brave "soldiers of the cross" - until we mess up big-time. It's then that we realize that God hasn't called us soldiers - he's called us sheep. Stubborn and easily distracted, but sought after and loved by the Good Shepherd, we are asked not to fight, not to defend - but to follow. I've been discouraged lately, in discussing a number of things (including sin and its heredity), by my inability to explain what I know and understand in a way that is not completely incomprehensible to another. Why am I so unable to bridge the gap of thought when I do understand both perspectives? Why must I play so handily into the "narrow-minded Christian" stereotype?

Then that darling of a sister of mine, who sees things so differently from me, came out of the blue with an explanation by Oswald Chambers that is everything I wanted to say, only with pith and restraint. It satisfies my longing to bridge perspective with rational communication. I've included it below. It no longer matters whether or not anyone else sees what I see, because Chambers, at least, understands and has explained, and has done it well. Oh, I know that God will not be sorted and explained by mere words, because he is not known by the intellect alone. But how lovely to have my intellect satisfied, too - and in far less wordy an attempt than mine!

When I am filled with my own inadequacy, God reminds me that I am not all that important, after all, and I am comforted. What does it matter how I appear? In my very best talents and abilities, the flaws begin to show themselves, and I go running again with sweet, rushing relief, to the Christ - who alone is flawless.

The Nature of Degeneration (from "My Utmost for His Highest", by Oswald Chambers)

" Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned . . ."
—Romans 5:12

The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man’s sin, but that the nature of sin, namely, my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race through one man. But it also says that another Man took upon Himself the sin of the human race and put it away— an infinitely more profound revelation (see Hebrews 9:26 ). The nature of sin is not immorality and wrongdoing, but the nature of self-realization which leads us to say, "I am my own god." This nature may exhibit itself in proper morality or in improper immorality, but it always has a common basis— my claim to my right to myself. When our Lord faced either people with all the forces of evil in them, or people who were clean-living, moral, and upright, He paid no attention to the moral degradation of one, nor any attention to the moral attainment of the other. He looked at something we do not see, namely, the nature of man (see John 2:25 ).

Sin is something I am born with and cannot touch— only God touches sin through redemption. It is through the Cross of Christ that God redeemed the entire human race from the possibility of damnation through the heredity of sin. God nowhere holds a person responsible for having the heredity of sin, and does not condemn anyone because of it. Condemnation comes when I realize that Jesus Christ came to deliver me from this heredity of sin, and yet I refuse to let Him do so. From that moment I begin to get the seal of damnation. "This is the condemnation [and the critical moment], that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light . . . " ( John 3:19 ).

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Guest Post: How Far Will We Go?

*Editor's note: Today's post is the story of my fellow blogger, Karen K, whose knowledge of God has cost her more than most of us could imagine paying - yet she testifies (with more depth and reality than most of us can) that He is worth any price. Check out her blog, aptly named Pursue God.

How Far Will We Go?

The defining moments of life lie in our response to God when the unexpected comes. Sooner than later we face a rude awakening: Christians are not exempt from pain. Life will treat us unfairly—and God will allow it. How we grapple with our faith at these pivotal turns sets the direction of our lives. Do we persist in pursuing God? Or, in our disillusionment, do we abandon him? These questions pressed hard on my own mind for many years. It began in 1992. That’s when I looked into life’s mirror and was startled to see the unexpected. That’s the year I knew I was gay.

My same-sex attractions barreled into consciousness during Bible college, stripping away years of denial and wrenching my presuppositions of God from their secure sockets. The Church never told me a good Christian girl who sang in church choir, went on mission trips, and served in youth leadership could be gay. Weren’t homosexuals outside the Church—a subgroup of activists with an “evil agenda”? Didn’t Romans 1 teach homosexuality is caused by hatred toward God? How could I be gay?

The unexpected challenged everything I believed about God and Christianity. For ten years I wrestled with, What does this mean for me? Was I born this way? Is homosexuality truly wrong, or was it my fundamentalist upbringing that convinced me it is? I studied Scripture. I got involved in lesbian relationships. I went to ex-gay support groups. I read pro-gay theology. These were difficult years marked with crying, pleading, trying, exhaustion, failure, painful losses and suicidal thoughts. My healing never came.

American Christian culture teaches us God will fix all our problems. We just have to pray hard enough, seek him earnestly, and surrender more readily. After all, Christianity is about the “abundant life.” All God wants is for us to be happy, right? The truth is God can be unnervingly patient in the midst of our storms. He let me sweat it out. Just as he may let you wrestle with your pain. Our response to such treatment is often anger—at least for me. I thought God was callous, a cruel jokester playing a cosmic game. I didn’t understand; his silence was moving me past superficial comforts to find deeper wells.

Ultimately, I came to a deep spiritual peace in choosing not to be in homosexual relationships. Not because of my fundamentalist upbringing. Not because of family or peer pressure. Not because I was afraid God would hit me over the head or send me to hell, but because the Spirit testifies in me that homosexuality is not what he wants for human relationships. This life is short; my destiny is not about finding a lover or a life partner, as good as those things are. It’s not your life purpose either. Our destiny in life as followers of Jesus is to proclaim and live out, on a daily basis, the Kingdom of God until He comes.

Scripture says the Kingdom of God is where righteousness dwells. Righteousness is a word that is often misunderstood. We tend to associate it with legalism, perfectionism and trying to measure up. But, the Bible associates righteousness with joy, life, beauty, healing and all that is good and pleasing in the eyes of God. It is especially related to shalom—which means holistic well-being. Psalm 85:10 says, “Righteousness and shalom have kissed each other.” The ways of God and well-being are intimately conjoined. To value righteousness is to value our own well-being and the well-being of others.

I still have same-sex attractions. I might have to live a life of single celibacy. All my problems haven’t gone away and all of your problems, whatever they may be, might not go away either. Jesus said in this world we will have trouble. The question is: Will we follow him anyway? How far will we go in our pursuit of God? Will we give up when pain and loss slap us across the face? Will we falter when loneliness taunts us? Will we throw aside faith when God shatters our presuppositions of him? Or, will we cling to him even when he is silent?

Let me tell you something; Jesus is the priceless pearl worth losing everything for. Don’t throw away your destiny for that which fades in a matter of days or years. Don’t hold onto bitterness and anger because life didn’t turn out the way you expected. The picture is grander than what meets the eye. God can be trusted. When the unexpected knocks you flat, get back up and keep walking. I am walking with you.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Is God Better Than Sex?

Slapdash raised this question with her "Sex Entry". Don't think I am being facetious. It's a question for my generation. We have been led to believe by all that surrounds us that sex is the greatest rush of all. Is it?

As a single 32-year-old who knows and is known by the God of the universe, this is a question I have had to look at seriously. This goes past philosophy and moralizing. It's a question I answer daily, not with my words, but with my choices, with my life.

Let me say it in every language I know, with every breath, with every ounce of my being: God is enough. He is the loveliest and deepest and dearest that I know. He is better than sex.

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." (C.S. Lewis)

**Check out this blog of a Christian with same-sex attractions for a much more eloquent look at this issue.