Monday, July 18, 2016

You can live if you want to.

As my husband and I sat on the porch the other night, staring out at the stars, this thought came to me as if from the mouth of Jesus. "You can live if you want to." 

Live. You can live your life, if you want to. Truly, abundantly, vibrantly. You can stop trying to walk the line, worried you are going to step out of place. You can stop tip toeing. You can stop fearing. That's not living. That's dying. 

 It's like the line from that song, "You can dance if you want to." I think God is inviting us to the dance floor, but we think we can't dance, we are afraid to look like fools, and we don't want to step on any toes. And if we do go out for a dance, we fearfully inspect ourselves. "Am I doing it right?" And He says, "Relax. Enjoy the dance." Because life with Jesus is full of swirls and dips and He will toss you up into the air, but He will always catch you. Sometimes it's slow and close, head on His shoulder... other times it's upbeat and fast and your heart is beating out of your chest, but He's leading and you can follow.

You can dance if you want to. You can live if you want to. You can throw off your shoes. Jesus doesn't need your high heels and Sunday best. He doesn't care if you sing on key. You can sing if you want to. "You can really live if you want to," He reminds me, because I've stopped living. I become a robot fueled by fear and rules, wavering between a strong desire to check all the boxes or rip up the whole dang list.

I sat outside, listening to the crickets sing. It was if my hearing had improved because I threw off all the noise in my head. I don't need to carry all the conversations in my head. I don't need to worry about yesterday or tomorrow or five minutes from now. I'm just doing the next thing. I'm living. Here. Now. Which is the only place we can really live. Yesterday is gone. Why concern ourselves with it? We stress ourselves out by trying to figure out the future, why not trust it to the Father's hands? Why not take those Hands? You can dance if you want to. Why worry about what other people think? This is not their life. Let them live or not live their own.

But I can live if I want to. And I want to. I want the adventure.  My sister Manderly and I were talking about this very thing.  "I think we imagine adventure to look like this major outward risk taking but I think it's taking a risk with our heart. Even if our life on the outside looks mundane still," I commented.

I imagined her nodding in agreement as she texted back, "I had really wanted it to be some outward risk, but I actually think it's connected. So much of my outward life is held back by my fears and lack of trusting the Lord to give me good things. I'm still waiting for the bottom to fall out."

I often live waiting for the bottom to fall out. Manderly and I talked about facing the truth, asking the questions, truly seeking, not being afraid to dance.  Maybe that's what it looks like to really live. To step out, even when you're scared. To dance, even when you don't  know the steps. To trust God in you.

I met up with some of my girls for lunch one afternoon.  I said, "I think I've been waiting for permission to live, and the Lord is saying, 'Stop waiting for permission. I've given you permission. I've planted dreams and desires within you. Don't be afraid to walk in them.'"

I get so caught up in all the voices of other people telling me how to live. I get distracted by looking at other people's lives well lived and think mine needs to look like that.

I know God is trying to break that apart. In order to do that, He has to destroy this desire I have to be understood, to be accepted, to be approved of by others.  I'm experiencing the freedom of that, but it's a tough habit to break. I can't really live if I'm too busy trying to spin all the plates. I have to lay down other people's perceptions, judgments, and opinions of my life.

I'm called to work out my own salvation. No one gets to work it out for me. I don't get to work out anyone else's.

I feel this overwhelming desire to use up the moments. To live. Because I want to.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Questioner

I hold the questions inside, push them down. He knows they are there.  Why does it seem more righteous to keep my lips shut rather than confess the wonderings swirling in my brain?  I try to repeat "truths" to myself, but the questions press me. I press them back. Down. Down. Down.

But I reach a point where the questions won't be pushed down anymore. They have piled up, begging for answers, and soon they roll off my tongue sounding frustrated.  It's really just desperation.

Then I feel guilty. I feel guilty for slamming Him with question after question. Why, God? Why? I'm like a curious child, and later I realize that is a good thing. I'm small, and I don't know a lot of things. Isn't that a good place to be?

Maybe in the pouring out of hurts and questions and the beating upon His chest because, Oh God, I want to know You and see You better, isn't such a bad thing. Isn't He big enough to face the queries and outbursts that passionately overflow? Can He not see they are the ramblings of a girl who doesn't want to memorize answers and hear canned speeches but truly, desperately, wants to know her God?

A real knowing.  Beyond knowledge.  An intimacy.
A depth that comes from asking those questions that beat upon the door of my mind.

It's a continual coming-to-an-end-of-myself. Because, let's be honest, I go through seasons where I'm not sure how the gospel really changes things. I could lead you down "the Roman's road" and recite John 3:16 by heart, but when I look at the world around me, I feel heavy.  I don't see the gospel changing things.

I want to feel the gospel pulsing through every fiber of my being, through the whole church, through every believer.  I want to see Jesus impacting everyone we touch with His amazing love. I want to see this gospel flowing through me and around me and in all the universe.... and sometimes I can't see it.  I feel like a blind man who needs clay formed from Jesus' spit and the dust of the earth so the scales fall from my eyes.  Would I see it then?

I want to see heaven invading earth. Heaven, invade earth.  Papa, do you see how badly we need You?  Do You hear our cries?

I press in, because all the things I comforted myself with before just won't do.  The answers I used to give myself just don't work.

What if Jesus really meant it when He said, "You'll do greater works than these when I go to the Father."?
What if He really wants us to ask and seek and knock, and keep on asking and seeking and knocking, and what if He really wants to answer, and reveal, and fling the door wide open?
What if He doesn't mind if we wrestle things out with Him? Maybe, just maybe, He is inviting me to do that.  Maybe He is waiting for that, because it means I've decided to get into the game rather than sit on the bench.
What is seeking anyway?  Is it not messy and chaotic at times? Doesn't seeking begin with a question? "Where are you, God?"  "Why is this, Jesus?" "Holy Spirit, what are You saying?"  "Are you there?"

I've been thinking of the things we say, these Christianese answers we are so familiar with that maybe we don't even think twice as we rattle them off.  Maybe because there is a bit of truth in them, but there's more... maybe they aren't the whole truth.

"We don't get to know..."
     But what if we do?  What if it is the Papa's heart to disclose things to us? What if He wants us to consider that we don't know, and stop thinking that we can use theology to explain everything, that we can figure it out by our own understanding?  What if He wants us to know from our hearts, not just from our heads? What if He wants us to ask? What if He put His Spirit within us to reveal truth and wisdom because He wants us to know?
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." [John 16:13]

I beat upon His chest, and I cry out, and I'm afraid because He could throw me down and break me into a million pieces. I worry I'm being disrespectful, that I'm irritating Him, that maybe I'm pushing boundaries. But I'm desperate.  I'm so desperate to see His Kingdom come.

I feel crazy, but it occurs to me that maybe this is sanity, and maybe pacifying myself with answers that did not satisfy was the real crazy.  I remember, years ago, being told that I just needed to have more faith.  I learned questioning was not okay.

Maybe what Jesus really wanted to say was, "Ask, but not really.  Just have more faith." No. I don't think that's what He meant at all.  What if it is my faith that demands I ask.  Is it not faith that says, "There is a God whom I can boldly approach. I believe He is available. I believe I can climb up in His lap and ask Him all the questions!"?

So I push past the fear, the fear that says He will strike me down.  All the words tumble out, and then I'm exhausted.  A picture pops into my mind of a little child running to the arms of her father, tears rolling down her face, a fierce expression, words flying, and she cries and screams and yells and flails..... and when she has emptied herself of every expression, she falls asleep peacefully, and her father presses her tight against his chest and kisses her sweaty forehead.

He loves her.
He loves me.

I sheepishly look up at Him. "I'm sorry, Papa.  Did I offend You?"  I'm ashamed by how messy it looks, how messy it feels. Should I fall on my face and repent?  Of course I should, right?

But instead I feel like He's saying, "Keep it coming.  Let it go.  Unburden. Bring it to the Light."  And I see that before, I was in His Presence, but I was standing at the door.  Too afraid to really approach, unless I felt like I had behaved and said all the right things.  But here I am, frustrated and overwhelmed and burdened and the only solution seems to be the craziest solution of all.  Run. Run beyond the entry way, right into His lap, my face to His face, feeling His breath like a breeze in my hair.

And He heard me. He heard what I was saying, beyond the flailing and the hurting and the words which failed me.

Later I told my sisters, "I feel like God has so many things to say wrapped up in His Presence where He doesn't actually say a thing, it's just understood. Like He isn't disappointed or angry with me at all. That asking and seeking and knocking looks messy and sometimes lunatic. That verse in Revelations about being spit out because they are luke warm comes to mind, and I feel Him saying He'd rather have passion, even if that passion scares me, scares others... than have people who stand at the door looking in, too afraid to scream for answers and beat down doors until their fists are raw."

"It's okay for you to be in this place. I'm the One that invited you in."

He's accessible because of Jesus Christ.  Jesus calls me friend. Real friendships, deep friendships... they are messy.  I feel like a mess.

Papa whispers, "I like the mess. It's My mess. You're My beautiful mess. I like you."

I've heard that before. One night as I ugly-cried on my bed, ashamed of the tears, ashamed of the mess... my husband wrapped me in his arms and whispered, "You're my mess. I love you. I like you just the way you are."

And I have begun to believe it.

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