Thursday, June 25, 2015

“Be where you’re at,” Part 1

                Almost three years ago, a very dear friend of mine used to shake her head at me and urge “just be where you’re at.” I didn’t know then that when she urged me to “be where I am at” that she urged me toward the core of love. For love, often posed as sacrificially giving rests in a matter of the heart as well as the will and seems to linger on two very big points: presence and acceptance.
           Being present means fully immersing myself in the moments of my life where I am now and the moments of those around me. It is enjoying the rain that is falling on the ground outside the house where I am babysitting. It means actually reading the messages from my friends when I’m skyping and responding first to what they say, stepping into their world, not making a commentary on or demand of their hearts. (Sometimes lessons get learned the hard way.) 
           It means seeing the rain in their hearts, or the sun, and rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep. We don’t necessarily stay in their weather of emotions and thoughts, but if we never step into the world as far as they let us, we will never really understand. How can we sacrificially love and meet needs if we don’t see them?
      Sometimes this is hard for me. I like my world and all the interesting twists and turns often sing with familiarity. I’d rather judge your weather from a window, and not step in, be it to rain or sunshine. Or, I try to push a new lesson, new words, new clouds into another’s life. I’m missing it. I’m missing that my friend might be going hungry and does not need emotional support, but help to find food. I’m missing that a different friend is graduating and just needs space and grace to adjust. I’m missing that I am pressuring myself to be better and my own emotions and reactions may need attention and maybe I just need to spend a long time talking with God, or talk with a close friend after I talk with God, not before.

       I miss it all because I try to pretend and become something I’m not. I am not talking about growth, or change itself, but a pressure to have grown and have changed.  To be where I am not.

     If I don’t recognize that I am a finite unique human and accept that, how can I let you be one who acts and thinks differently than me? If I am not where I am at, hanging somewhere in a strange mix of Redemption and Fall, then how do I accept that we are both enough and not enough; both good, loving and kind, and selfish and wanting the world to be the way we long to demand; both feeling loved and unloved.
Maybe together we can be where we are at, on this earth, in this moment, be it struggling against sin and its effects or rejoicing in promise, or more likely a strange combination of both.  God is where we are at, and where we have grown. He does not necessarily ask for our performance in the future beyond commitment, nor actually expect us to fix the people around us, but to be where He is at, with His heart that sees and fixes, hands dug into His work, standing beside Him, leaning into Him. In that point where He works in our lives, He asks us to work now, commit now.

 He knows the future, and He is there too, but since we can’t get there, I wonder if being where we are at might help, even as “being here” sometimes gives space for dreaming and preparing for "there" without pressure to pretend to be somewhere else.  

Monday, June 1, 2015

Loss, Loneliness and Looking

The idea of following God is perfect.  A treasure glitters at the end of his path, eternity with Him, eternal security, life everlasting. It’s really the first that delights, but the cost of following the narrow path was higher than many wanted.  I started on this path and ran into red pain. Then loss glittering blue, an ocean of salty tears until finally I found myself buried in a grey loneliness, hating these colors worse than I might have because I had tasted the fresh green of life. The fresh green of life could be many shades,
The essence of being surrounded by a God who loves me completely.
 But grey? I did not bargain for grey.
In fact, I had thought that God promised that we would never, ever encounter loneliness because He would always be with us. Yet I found myself, standing in the middle of a grey lonely cloud, sinking in a blue ocean. And I said, “God, this is not what I asked for.”
I tried to run, jump off the path into the briers, but I was too buried in the path, I was all in or all out and I knew it. I tried to turn and stop, but really, stopping never did anyone any good. No one stops in the middle of a path. And I tried to close my eyes and keep walking. Peeking them open occasionally for green. There was nothing. Still, steps were taken. One more. One more again. I step out of grey. Then back in. Then out again. Bright colors appear in grey and I fix my eyes on them, laugh at their sparkles. The greyness started to fade away.
Then the sparkles dance moved, these sparkle’s path did not follow mine, and they but call from a distance.
And if I’m not careful, I could allow the grey to consume me, to seep through my skin to all that I am. These grey clouds have so little swirls.  The grey becomes thick so I can barely see just when I start searching for how I can give green to others. It is thick, I cannot see. One minute to the next takes an hour. I keep moving, head held high, one step in front of another. Still, the storm cloud does not pass.
But this time, this time I realize. The promise of presence is not the promise of green because the Fall tainted all colors. The promise of hope is not the promise of sunny skies because I still live in the battle. The promise that I would never ever be alone did not say that grey’s loneliness would not surround me.
It is time I stop running from grey but look into it.
As I squirm to leave it I miss the peaches and blues you can only see in a grey sky. I see that I am not alone, though loneliness lingers. I feel the tears beneath my feet as I walk, and I cry more into them. Loneliness hurts. Loss aches. There are hands I wish to hold, colorful smiles I want to see dance, stories I want to hear.
The tears swish.
We disobeyed.
I don’t know whether or not separation would hurt quite so much without the Fall, but I have been made two promises. I will never be alone, but I will also taste the effects of the Fall. He walks with me, but to where they will call me names. He walks with me but He does not stop them from judging. He walks with me, but He does not keep all special paths together.
            “Will you follow my path?” He asks in the grey. “You have made you commitment once, and again and again. Will you lay down your fists?  At the risk of work you hate the idea of? Into the risk of red pain? Into the promise of it?”
The thing about following this God is that you have to love Him. Because He asks the best, and hardest thing. “Open your eyes to the pain.” The pain He causes so we will put Him first.
Forgive. Let it hurt  more deeply by not pushing the pain into revenge. Accept that you have been pained and surrender to the fact that I made, love and give justice.  
Trust. Risk that the red of pain will return from the ones you forgive, and others, and My path.
Mourn. Open your heart to the loss, cry tears so that you will not drown in them inside.
Make peace. Put yourself in the way of other’s shots.
Give Compassion. Open your eyes to the pain of another. When you really see, then maybe you can really act.
Face persecution. Do you believe in your cause to the point of torture and death? I let the Fall live, will you live with the consequences even I face?
Across continents, or at home, financially, or emotionally, with the risk that you may be called to leave, will we be His followers? With the risk that He may take what you most love and with eyes open to the pain when or if He does, will we walk? The gift He will give is the one for which every human longs, to know true intimacy. But the way in which He will give it, and the pain we will receive differs. I must face the grey clouds without dancing colors because it touches on the ache and grey within, the grey that must turn not to bright colors of friends, nor the black ink of my pen, but to God first and alone. To your deepest love He may very well ask, "Do you love this more than me?"
 For what purpose does He lead us through pain? Whether it be the loneliness of a Sovereign act of friends moving on or the sharp edge of a knife questioning if you will follow Him, He works all things together for our good, not our pleasure, so  that We will become like Him (Rom 8:28ff).
Pure and True Image-bearers.   
We would be like the One who is, who became image, so we could see what we are meant to be. What a Christ follower is already: that he/she, we, will slowly start to become in reality.