Sunday, December 24, 2006

She imagined serving tea to her friend in her tidy, cozy apartment with carefully swept floor and gleaming countertop. She would offer her friend a small square served on an elegant plate, laugh brightly and speak companionably, sharing her recent insights and offering a listening ear.

Now her friend sat across from her in an apartment reflecting the disorder of her own mind. Articles of clothing were strewn about and a small, pathetic assortment of unwrapped presents scattered on her couch. The kitchen countertop was cluttered with dishes and the table top was scattered with papers. She poured the tea shakily and then she told her friend painful, secret things, things she hadn't even admitted to herself. She wept and was ashamed, but she knew that this was herself as she truly was, the real person, more than the brave face she showed to the rest of the world.
And she knew that she was broken, and that she needed God. Suddenly she saw she had spoken about the will of God, more than she had sought it. That she had spoken about God, more than she had spoken to him. And that perhaps she had more in common with Job's friends than she had ever suspected. And she saw that she had searched for a dream, something big that everyone could recognize as great, some grand purpose that could swallow up all her pain. She saw she had misinterpreted, missed the mark, that she had wanted some guarantee from God of a bright, shining future. She realized this desire was the opposite of faith. She realized now what God did promise, and what he did not promise. She saw she needed to serve God now, not after he met her demands, that she needed to worship him even if healing never came in the way she wanted. She saw she needed to entrust him with her life, to offer him her wounded heart.
And in the midst of the overthrow of pretensions and the laying bare, in the turmoil of the collapse of her carefully contructed cardboard castles, she knew one thing could not be shaken, but stood firm. And this knowledge was enough. She knew God had never changed, and that he loved her as she was now. And as the lies, false assumptions, and half truths fled, the truth gradually came flooding in. By looking back she could see the choices she had made, the sin that had enslaved her. And she knew how it had happened, how her life had hovered on the brink of destruction. She saw the strategy that had kept her in bondage so long, a willing prisoner to fear and anger, sin and shame; she saw the wasted years of her life, when she hadn't lived at all, when she had been a shell of who she was created to be. And she knew that the truth would set her free, that she was forgiven and that beyond this bleak winter was the promise of a new spring when her fragile hope would again blossom and her shattered strength be renewed.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On Growth

It's almost been a month since I last posted. How I feel about this blog really has changed and I am much more self-conscious. I didn't even post anything and then delete it as I so often do, although I did have a couple of ideas for entries. I have been kind of busy with Greek and an application to graduate school. My definition of busyness is probably different from many other people and I tend to focus on just one thing at a time, instead of keeping many balls in the air.

Usually growth is so gradual that it is barely perceptible and regular measuring on a growth chart is the only way to notice the change. Looking back over the past year, I think I have grown in many ways, not always for the reasons I expected. My 40 days of purpose this summer and fall were more a meandering sixty day journey, rather unfocused and after the first fourteen days completely undocumented. The Alpha course I took this fall caused me to grow in ways I didn't expect. I thought a basic course in Christianity wouldn't teach me anything new, but the video presentations by Nicky Gumbel and the fellowship and sharing with people all at different points in their spiritual journey were both absolutely phenomenonal. I am sure with all that great food on Monday nights, I must have grown in other, less welcome, ways. A highlight for me was the Holy Spirit weekend, the weekend before Reformation day, which I spent at St. Thomas the Apostle, a Catholic church where I sensed the unity Christ prayed that we would have and learned from believers of another Christian tradition, as well experienced and learned about the Holy Spirit. We were together with another Alpha group, the first at St. Thomas the Apostle, lead by a woman who had attended Alpha at Immanuel the previous year and whose husband was in our group. I am so sad Alpha is now done, but another group A Life Worth Living will be starting up. I also enjoy the fellowship of my small group but we haven't met as often this year as I would like.
A couple of months ago I was so sure I was going to get another encouraging, uplifting message at a special service, something that would confirm the direction I am taking. I had a life-altering affirmation a year previous by someone who was visiting my parent's church from Elim Ministries. However I was disappointed this time to hear a message that was not relevant for my current life. It made me think about where I am getting my direction from, and I realized I need to seek guidance from God. God has promised to guide those who ask him for wisdom, and Christ has sent the Holy Spirit, so while another person may confirm my direction if that is in God's plan, I need to hear from God myself and follow the Spirit's leading. So now I wait and make plans, but I trust God to direct my steps.
I have been reading through the Message paraphrase of the Bible, which can be very jarring to read after years of solely reading the New International Version. The references to things anarchonistic to biblical times were particularly jarring, but I did really think about what the Bible was saying. The Bible reading plan I choose had its positive things and its pitfalls, and now I am nearly done, I think I will be reading through the Bible more slowly to get out morsels I couldn't really take the time to chew this past year, because I was rushing through the readings. I love God's Word so much and the difficult passages only make it more fascinating, although I never am excited to read Leviticus, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and even Isaiah seem so long when you are trying to get through them. Reading Hebrews helps to understand Leviticus and sometimes a passage will leap out at you in the prophets and you wonder how you could have missed it.
This time last year I certainly wouldn't have expected I would now be living on my own for the past three months, taking a class in New Testament Greek and contemplating grad school for next year. I do see the hand of God and provision of God in this and I think this living on my own has been a maturing process. I see many more areas for growth, I'd like to display the fruits of the Spirit all the time, even in traffic, to live less by emotion and more by faith and obedience, to be more focused on God and others and less on myself, and I really need to learn how to speak wisely and be silent when necessary. I am growing in the gift of using words to encourage and to express and to speak of truth, but I think I need to examine the proverbs about the tongue. Sometimes you need to speak, but sometimes it is wiser to remain silent. At least your own foolishness will not be as readily apparent.
When God told Abraham to leave his people and go to a distant country, he obeyed and he didn't even really know where he was going. I don't think I would be like that at all, I'd want a road map and a detailed intinerary, and first I would wonder if it really was God speaking to me and who he really was. I think I'd need a few signs, perhaps a fleece-like test like Gideon was granted or the more impressive shadows moving back steps like Hezekiah was given. Abram was told he would be the father of a great nation, but he was old, his wife was barren and past the age of childbearing anyways, and he had not one child. Abraham believed God and he even was willing to give up his own son, the child of promise who came years of soujourning later, and in obedience he was about to sacrifice him, confident God could raise him to life if necessary. The apostle Paul said believers in Christ are children of Abraham and heirs to the promise God gave him. What great faith and how little Abraham had to go on, compared to believers today.