Friday, February 22, 2013

Learning to be Weak

Though I can't find it now, I ran across a quote awhile back which really got my attention. The gist of it is that there is no place for independence in the Christian's life. We are to depend on God for everything, for we have been called to die to self so that Christ might live within. He is to be enthroned in our hearts, and from Him comes everything we need to live in this world as pilgrims.

I think this quote initially spoke to me because my life has gone so much in the opposite direction. At some point during my childhood, I vowed to myself that I would take care of myself because no one else ever would. As a child of abuse, I learned to keep my own counsel. I taught myself to not mind too much if there were no sympathetic adults in my world to whom I could confide my little (and big) troubles. 

What I was forced to learn, nearly overnight, was how to look out for myself. My mother chose other things over protecting her little brood. My father was out of the picture, and my stepfather was the tyrant who abused every child in the house.

How old was I when I made that vow? Probably no older than 7 or 8. Sad, isn't it? I can understand why the vow was made. When adults abdicate their responsibilities and jesters rule the children are forced to take on burdens they should never have to carry.

I became so good at tending to myself---too good, really. Or maybe it's more accurate to say I've been tending to myself for too long. As a child I couldn't have functioned or made it through those horrible years if I didn't find the ability and strength to parent myself. But what about the after years? What about all the decades since then when I've lived in the same manner? I thought it was a strength of mine to find a measure of control in my often chaotic life. Now I'm not so sure. After reading that quote I'm questioning the steely control necessary to bring some order out of chaos.

Control makes me feel, well, in control. As if I can orchestrate things in such a way that I can assure their outcome and never be unpleasantly surprised. Submission to the Lord's leading causes me to feel weak. I have to unclench my fists in order to accept anything from Him, and it's scary letting go. If I let go, what then? Will everything fall apart because He doesn't think that this, that or the other is as important as I do? And if so, well that should tell me something. That should tell me that my priorities are all askew.

Funny, but the one thing I've always thought I got right in my walk with the Lord is my ability to be stoic, to bear whatever comes my way. To keep control at all times, control over my feelings, thoughts, and desires as well as everything going on in my little corner of the world.

But I can't, not really. That kind of control is an illusion. The things I clench in both hands can be taken from me in a heartbeat; they're not really mine. I think they're mine. Like a child who grabs another child's stuffed bunny and holds it tightly to her chest, crying, "Mine, mine!" I grab and hold on for dear life to anything which I can't imagine living without. As long as its within my grasp I consider myself to be its owner--but the reality is that everything I have belongs to God. He has freely given these things to me (whether they be talents, friendships, possessions, etc.); there is really no reason to cling to them so tightly. And all the clinging in the world won't keep them next to me if He leads me through a season of loss.

I shouldn't be surprised by this new realization that I've been doing this all wrong. Spiritual reality is so different from the physical world in which we live. We must die to live, lose our lives to save them, be last in order to be first. Why should my weakness being a source of strength be so surprising? When I am weak, then am I strong, I believe the Apostle Paul wrote. Of course, of course!

I love gaining new insights into the kingdom life. This is one over which I will ponder long and hard. The habits of a lifetime die hard. No overnight success, here! I'll take a few steps, fall and scrape my knees, pick myself back up and start the process of learning to be weak all over again. Or, rather than pick myself up, I'll eventually learn that the safest place to fall is into the arms of my Lord. 

I don't think it matters how many times I stumble and fall; what matters is that I'm stumbling in the direction of Heaven.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Did You Know?

Charles Spurgeon is one of those preachers who always cause me to yearn for more holiness and more intimacy with God. Though I've long admired his work, I didn't know much about his personal life until I came across the following:

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cruel Harvest

Fran Grubb’s memoir, Cruel Harvest, might have been slated to be no more than a dark, depressing tale of woe, were it not for her underlying determination to survive. Coupled with an unshakeable faith in God, that determination saw her through the type of horrific childhood which nearly defies belief. That evil can hold an entire family in its iron grip for so many years, and yet be the means of molding the likes of Fran Grubb is a powerful testament to the reality that God is deeper, broader and more comprehensive than all the forces of hell combined.

This book inspires, moves to tears, but never sinks to the level of sensationalism to which a memoir can easily fall into.
To read this book is to acquaint oneself with a modern-day hero.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We Are Free in Christ

Having grown up with legalism, I found this book to be a breath of fresh air. Though I've muddled my way through the aftermath of legalism's hold on me, there are still times I need a reminder of my freedom in Christ.

In Free Book, Brian Tome offers just such a reminder. Whatever it is that keeps us in bondage: disapproving or abusive parents, broken dreams or simply our own secret insecurities, Christ longs to release us from such bondage, and to provide us with the abundant life.

For the Christian who has fallen into routine and lost the joy of first love, this book is sure to provide sure-footed guidance back onto the path of freedom and peace.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hard Thoughts of God

Flesh and blood is apt to have very hard thoughts of him — to think he is always angry, yea, implacable; that it is not for poor creatures to draw nigh to him. . .

Many saints have no greater burden in their lives than that their hearts do not come clearly and fully up, constantly to delight and rejoice in God — that there is still an indisposedness [unwillingness] of spirit unto close walking with him.

What is at the bottom of this distemper?

Is it not their unskillfulness in or neglect of this duty, even of holding communion with the Father in love?

So much as we see of the love of God, so much shall we delight in him, and no more.

Every other discovery of God, without this, will but make the soul fly from him; but if the heart be once much taken up with this the eminency of the Father’s love, it cannot choose but be overpowered, conquered, and endeared unto him.

This, if anything, will work upon us to make our abode with him.

If the love of a father will not make a child delight in him, what will?

Put, then, this to the venture: exercise your thoughts upon this very thing, the eternal, free, and fruitful love of the Father, and see if your hearts be not wrought upon to delight in him. I dare boldly say: believers will find it as thriving a course as ever they pitched on in their lives. Sit down a little at the fountain, and you will quickly have a further discovery of the sweetness of the streams. You who have run from him, will not be able, after a while, to keep at a distance for a moment.

John Owen, Communion with the Triune God, pp. 126, 128.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wrecked for God

This morning I ran across a thought provoking post, No One Wants to Say it (the Uncivilized Truth) over at Lisa Whittle's blog. Though there is nothing I can say to add to what she expressed so eloquently, her words invoked in me a yearning that is worth exploring.

How does one get to the place of being wrecked for God? There must first be a dying to self--but how do we, as followers of Christ, come to the point of placing all upon the altar?

The first thing that comes to mind when I think in terms of sacrificing my all is a giving up of cherished sin, in whatever form it is manifested in my life. Things such as over-eating, wasting time watching silly movies with no redeeming value, holding grudges in my sometimes mean-fisted heart against those I feel have wronged me.

These (and so much more I could name) are best given up, for they come between my Saviour and myself. Anything which diminishes my love for Him had better be left behind in the old man's rubble of selfish ease and spiritual laziness. But if this is the extent of my concept of dying to self, it is too narrow.

What of those things (behaviors and attitudes and good works) for which I praise myself, if only in the privacy of my own mind? Do they even qualify as "good" if I can't perform or manage them without giving myself a high five? Seems to me that dying to self would preclude any such self-congratulation, for wouldn't I be (as any dead man) oblivious to my "good" efforts as well as their possible bearing of fruit?

I confess, there are areas in my life that are not easily relinquished, for somewhere along life's journey they became populated with bad habits. A lack of discipline alone is one such bad habit, bringing in its wake all other sorts of inner mayhem, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Someone has said that spiritual sloth is a lack of enjoyment of God, and if this be the case it is easy to see how becoming lax in regards to discipline alone could cause one to lose a sense of delight in the Lord.

How can I truly delight in Him if I'm double-minded, caught up with worldly pursuits and attitudes? What folly attempting to cling to my pet indulgences while at the same time trying to embrace Him who my soul should love more than life itself.

As I write this it occurs to me that it would be dangerously simple to allow my refrain of, "poor me, I'm such a horrible sinner," to become one of those mindsets which keeps the Lord at a safe distance, if only because it keeps my focus on me. I can't help wonder if dying to self means, among other things, a total disregard to one's self. As long as I'm gazing at my own unworthiness I'm still caught up in self, no matter how holy it may make me feel to acknowledge how often I miss the mark of God's calling for me.

We are called to examine ourselves, whether or not we be in the faith, but I don't think this means to be so self-absorbed and analytical that our eyes are always on our shortcomings. I'm not sure how to avoid extremism in one's walk with the Lord, except in staying connected to the Vine. Perhaps that would be a better focus than maintaining a list of our failings: spend time abiding. Abiding in fair weather and bad, regardless of the circumstances of each day, regardless of our feelings which are never reliable guides anyway when it comes to spiritual growth.

I want to be wrecked for God, at least I think and say I do. But let a new storm touch down in my life and I am at once frantic, for somewhere in the back of my mind is the unexpressed fear that this may be the one time God lets me down, when He doesn't have my back.

Let new, unexpected responsibilities turn my world upside down (such as finding myself in the position now of raising two grand-kids), and I balk at what is being asked of me. Wrecked for God? Is this truly what I desire, because if it is, why then the growing sense of resentment that my life isn't going the way I'd planned? (And do I have any business planning it anyway, if indeed I'm dead to this world?)

I love pondering such issues as dying to self, being wrecked for God--but if all I do is ponder I will end up in a sorry state.

May I turn to the One who requires full surrender with the prayer of, "I'm willing to be made willing," if such is the best I can manage. At least such words are honest, and that's a good starting point for spiritual change of any sort.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Broken Sacrifice

I'm broken.

These words are hard to admit to in the privacy of my own mind, let alone write.

For decades I've mis-perceived God's perception of my brokenness, assuming that His only interest in my afflictions was to drive me to get my act together, to fix myself.

A fixer-upper is how I've thought of myself. I'm broken in spirit, my mind shattered from years of childhood abuse so horrendous that it became necessary to form an array of separate personalities (or "parts") in order to function. How on earth could God use someone like me, someone with so many mes that I don't even know who I'm referring to when I use that word?

Yes, I'm in dire need of fixing, or so I think in my darkest moments. Longings cut me to the quick as I lie in the dark, sleep eluding; longings to be whole, and mentally/emotionally healthy--longings to rightly represent the God I try to serve and worship in my bumbling fashion.

How do I rightly represent the Infinite? I've thought I could do so only by . . . well, by no longer making missteps, stumblings which are mostly the result of my Dissociative Identity Disorder. But how do I do that? I can't heal my mind. I've imagined that if I could get a strong handle on my image-management then God's character wouldn't be tarnished by my idiocy--by my sheer inability to blend in a world made up mostly of "singletons", those who are blessed to be mono-brained.

I wonder though. Does God really need my dishonest efforts to appear "normal" in order for His glory to be honored?

I want to impact my world for Christ, but too often I wander in the no man's land between the past and present. I make false starts, decide for instance to get back into the good habit of starting my days with prayer and Scripture, only to be rudely reminded by a strong inner resistance that many of my parts are not Christian, thank you very much.

Not today, then. I may seem to be running this ship, seeing as how this is my body, my hands and feet to do with as I will, but the reality is not that cut and dried. I zig when I mean to zag, being pulled in many directions at once. I laugh (or someone laughs) when tears would be more appropriate and, in fact, a pure relief.

I'm a fixer-upper is how I see it, but my many parts avidly disagree. I suspect they fear that "fixing" me would mean disposing of them by killing them off one by one.

I'm broken, I have nothing to offer, for my way involves backtracking (to what purpose?), dead-ends and constant do-overs.

Finally I manage to spend 15 minutes with the Lord, my eyes falling on these words in my open Bible:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Ps. 34:18)

The Lord is near to me; He is saving me, and there is not a hint of anything necessary on my part to help Him accomplish His good will in me.

Can He use my brokenness, then, as a sort of cracked offering, much like a jagged piece of mosaic? Perhaps He can fit me in somewhere in some life, the seemingly insignificant bit of mosaic that is me helping complete the design of another life.

Today, right now at least, I think wistfully of these things and assure myself there is purpose in every life, even mine; fractured, yes, but no less valuable to the One who is near to such as I.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (I Cor. 1:3)