Friday, 29 June 2012

Uprooting Bitterness

My heart has been full of hurt and resentment. I have struggled against it. I have asked God to change it. So it was with a bit of a sigh that I read Gwen's post about "no root of bitterness" .

"Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that "no root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled..." Hebrews 12:14&15

I don't want my bitterness, but honestly, part of the problem is that I don't know how to let go of it. If someone hurts you, what exactly do you do? Do you ignore it? Pretend like it never happened? Do you turn your hatred to pity for their need to hurt others? Do you steel yourself so it won't hurt the next time? Do you distance your heart? Stop caring what people do and say to you? 

There is a real sense of powerlessness in being hurt, and it makes me desperate to get my sense of autonomy back. The hurt turns to resentment when I take back control, haul the rotten hurt-er up before the court of Me, and proclaim them guilty. The problem is, a guilty verdict means a sentence. So I lock them out of my
heart, since I can't lock them in. And then I'm the one left standing there, holding the key but unable or unwilling to let myself out and set myself free.

Oh, it's unfair from beginning to end. But what to do differently?

Again, with little faith but a grain of hope, I took my problem to the One who loves me best. I asked Him again to take over my heart and root out all the bitterness there; to un-try all those who have hurt me and change my hurt to His love. I didn't know what He would do, how He would do it. I was feeling rather hopeless about the whole mess anyway. I'd already tried, hadn't I?

Here's what God did: He drew my mind back and back over the words and actions that have hurt me most. Then he re-interpreted all of those things to mean something else. He let me see them, every one, from a different perspective, until I couldn't be sure the people who had said or done them were guilty after all. I mean, they could have been. Or not. It wasn't all that clear. Then I just had to give them up to the higher court of God's opinion and let him try them. It has been three days, and with every hurtful action or word, God has given me just enough doubt that I simply have to let Him judge. 

What a relief it is to not have to stand there inside the iron bars of my own heart, on guard against the next hurt! What peace to not really know; to hand over responsibility for my protection and my vindication to One who has the power and the wisdom to accomplish it!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Your Neighbour As Yourself

And be you kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

...but you are a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsook them not. (Nehemiah 9:17)

But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared. (Psalm 130:4)

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. (1John 4:6)

A Song in the Night

As good as you think God's way is going to be, it isn't. It's better. He will always surprise us. 

I don't know yet what He is doing with me, but it is as good as done. His plan for me is good. He will fill my life with His song. He will set me free. Let me praise him now, in the darkness. Even here, He is gracious. He is kind. He is good.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

Monday, 25 June 2012

Through the Darkness

Sometimes the way up is down. Sometimes what God says makes sense doesn't make any sense. When I was little I used to wake up in the middle of the night, thirsty. I would have to crawl out of bed and tiptoe into the hallway and down the stairs to the kitchen to get a drink. The stairs were always dark and the creaky steps scared me. I imagined werewolves and shadowy things behind me on the steps, and I hated walking forward into the darkness. Even as a child, though, I knew that in order to get to the moonlit kitchen I had to just put fear in my pocket, hold onto the rail, and go down. Sometimes the way to the light is through the dark.

Moving to another country has been, in many ways, far more challenging than I expected, and for totally different reasons than I expected. I thought the "hard" would centre around stuff I am good at - like being flexible, being able to appreciate other perspectives, eating weird foods, smiling when I don't feel like it. It hasn't. Instead, fears I never really knew I had have come crawling out of the dark.

I am discovering that one of the things I fear most is not knowing. Not the unknown, but just not understanding what is going on; not knowing what to do; not knowing why, not knowing what is coming next, not knowing how to react. I've always been a little antsy about information; I like lots of it, and I get frustrated when I feel like I have too little. But I really didn't imagine myself as fearful, and I never thought it would run this deep.

As it turns out, I find myself in the situation of not knowing pretty often. There is a big difference between not knowing exactly, and not knowing at all. Not knowing at all is like getting punched in the gut. It makes me feel dazed and surprised and hurt. Bafflingly, the One who loves me best is letting me hurt. He has overwhelmed my understanding and my ability to analyse. I am often fearful in ways I never really experienced before. Oh, I'm not such a newbie that I haven't experienced the raw fact that God's way is always good...not just generally good, but my good.  I know that He cannot give me any less than Good. I know that there is no good left for Him to withhold, now that He has given, for me, His own precious Son. I know that no evil can touch me that He does not allow, that is not the means to a greater good. I'm not afraid of the end.  I'm afraid of what I'll have to go through to get there. I'm afraid that I won't know how to respond. I'm afraid that I'll make mistakes. I'm afraid that I'll be embarrassed. I'm afraid I'll mess up something. I'm afraid I'll hate myself for being such a bumbler.

It's easy to get tricked by fear. The creaks in life's stairs have sent spectres scurrying behind me every step. Once secure in the knowledge that I was God's favourite child, (You'll forgive me if you, too, have known what it is to be his beloved...) lately I am full of melancholic doubts about my worth and blind to his encircling love, his care for me as a person. It looks foolish when I put it in print like that, but when I find myself gasping for breath in the icy grip of fear, any horror seems possible.

I have talked a lot in this blog about faith, mostly about what faith isn't. Faith isn't believing that God exists, or wishing and believing that I'm going to get my wish. Faith isn't just taking a wild leap. Faith is this: taking a step based on what I know, and then another step, and then another one. Faith is putting into practice the truth I am sure of. Faith is walking straight into my fear because I know the God who calls me will hold my hand, will make it right, will work despite my mistakes, will love me anyway. Faith is betting the farm (or my pride) on the fact that God loves me deeply and is right now giving me Good, no matter how bad it feels. Faith is being willing to go forward without understanding, trusting that the One who loves me will not let me go wrong.

So my Father and my Friend bids me come with Him through the darkness and into His light. I am tired and scared and it is a struggle to remind myself, again and again, that He goes with me; that my job is not to get it all right, but just to hold tight to His hand and be drawn along with Him. I keep losing perspective, distracted by this sense of going deeper into darkness. But this is the way I choose Him. And when I hurt, I remember that He hurt, too. He chose that hurt for me, and I will choose this hurt for Him. I will trust Him. I will let my love for Him cost. I will have His best. I will have Love, though it feels like hatred and humiliation and I feel like a weak fool. He will fight for me. He is just. He will make it right.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

He's not asking me to be right. He's not asking me to understand everything and respond with all the wisdom and maturity I wish I had. Instead, He asks me to go with Him, letting go of all the comfort of understanding. This is hard for me. It is hard to still my whirling thoughts, my struggling to comprehend and sort and plan. It is hard to accept the humiliation, even in my own eyes, of trying and failing, of doing badly what others do with confidence and grace. It is hard to keep reminding myself that this is not about what it appears to be about. It is hard to stop trying to find an easier way out. It is hard to keep from trying to fix things my way. It is hard to wait for His resolution.

The Lord longs to be gracious to you;
He rises to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him! (Isaiah 30:18)

"I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light." (Mary Gardiner Brainard)

Like the child-me, I am learning to walk forward into the darkness, not holding the stair-rail, but holding onto the Lord Jesus, trusting Him that this is the way to the light. This is the way to knowing Him.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Gathered Jewels: Oswald Chambers on The Peril Within

"Jesus did not commit Himself unto them for He knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)

"To be undeceived by disillusionment may leave us cynical and unkindly severe in our judgment of others, but the disillusionment which comes from God brings us to the place where we see men and women as they really are, and yet there is no cynicism, we have no stinging, bitter things to say. Many of the cruel things in life spring from the fact that we suffer from illusions. We are not true to one another as facts; we are true only to our ideas of one another. Everything is either delightful and fine, or mean and dastardly, according to our idea.
The refusal to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering in human life. It works in this way - if we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give. There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Why Our Lord is apparently so severe regarding every human relationship is because He knows that every relationship not based on loyalty to Himself will end in disaster. Our Lord trusted no man, yet He was never suspicious, never bitter. Our Lord's confidence in God and in what His grace could do for any man, was so perfect that He despaired of no one. If our trust is placed in human beings, we shall end in despairing of everyone." (Oswald Chambers)

"Love suffers long, and is kind..." (1Corinthians 13:4)

"For Christ's love compels us..." (2Corinthians 5:14)

"The great peril is the peril within, which people never think of as a peril. My right to myself, self- pity, self - conceit, consideration for my progress , my ways of looking at things, those things are satanic perils which will keep us in perfect sympathy with Satan."  (Oswald Chambers)

The Lamb Shall Lead Them

"For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17)

The sacrificed Lamb is the Good Shepherd. He knows well what it is like to be a weak and weary human, and this gives him the final right to lead.

And God shall wipe away all tears. I am waiting for his hand on my cheek, finally ridding me of tears forever. These days, no matter how much I hurt, the tears just don't come. Can you run out of tears? I feel like I have just used up all the stores. When God wipes away my tears, it won't be like that. He will show me the purpose of all my pain, and he will put his own strength into my heart. The joy of being with Jesus and like Jesus will drive away all bitterness and all crying. He will heal all the hurt that eats at me.

I long for that day, when I meet the one who is my Shepherd and my Lamb. He will show his wounds in hands and feet, and I will show my own heart-scars. The continuing bitterness - the tears - will disappear forever, but we will carry forever the scars, He and I. They will be no longer marks of our shame, but marks of our love. We will wear them gladly, proudly.

O Shepherd! Teach me to bend before you. Remind me that you are the slain Lamb. Remind me how precious is the hurt I receive in loving you. Let me not run from my wounding. Let me hold your hand with a tighter grasp and love you more steadfastly.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Walk Beside Me

So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1Peter 4:19)

I want to! Really, I do, but sometimes it is so hard to know what is good. We talk a lot about "following" God. As if he's up ahead, and we can just put our feet in his steps and go along. But he means for us to put our hand in his and walk along beside...knowing where and how to go because we share his Spirit. This is a lot easier than following. It's easier because he gives us his understanding and his strength. But it's harder, too...because it means making room in our minds, hearts, lives, for his thoughts and his way and him. It means knowing him, not just his words. Sometimes it is simpler to mechanically place our feet in his steps.

There are so many things these days that I can't understand...and so many times I just wish it was clear what I should do and how I should go. I feel like I can't even trust my own thinking. And maybe part of the problem is that God doesn't mean for me to have a simple way of figuring out what is the right thing and then doing it. Maybe he wants me to just go along with him, step by step, not even knowing what the steps are, but trusting, and learning, and eventually understanding on a deeper level what is his way.

Faithful Creator. Father. Friend. Here I am, hurt hurt hurt. And confused. And so awfully, shamefully weak. I need your help. I have reached the limit of my understanding. I don't know anything anymore. Except you. You are Good. You are beautiful. You know me and love me, weakness and weirdness and all. You always forgive me.

I am sorry for being satisfied with just following when you have called me to walk with you. Hold my hand tight and draw me along with you. Let me go beside you, even though I don't know the way. Shine your light into my heart, and deal with my selfishness and my weakness. Fill in all my holes with your love. Make me more than I am.

“If you agree with God’s purpose, He will bring not only your conscious life, but all the deeper regions of your life which you cannot get at, into harmony.”
- Oswald Chambers

There are so many places in my own heart I can't get at...can't nudge, can't shift, can't tweak, can't change. Can't even see what's right and what's wrong. Father, I agree with your purpose. I will go along with you. Bring me into harmony with you.