30 January 2009

Worshiping Jesus Now

I know you're out there, a few of you, and I'm well aware that this space is in the wide open Internet web world, and that's ok. I use this blog partly as a pressure valve for my brain-emotions-ideas-melodrama, for when I wake up in the middle of the night and need to sketch out my thoughts in order to quiet my mind down again for sleep.


Sunday night at church was a lot of everything that I need to hear. One of the things I appreciate about my church is that the sermons--through whatever theme or text--are consistently about Jesus, about commending him and the sufficiency of his gracious work for us, his beloved. So on Sunday our pastor gave an overview of Hebrews as a lead up to a more detailed study of the book for this next season of preaching.

Towards the end, he demonstrated from some Hebrews passages the practice of Robert Murray M'Cheyne's exhortation that for every one look we take at ourselves and our sin, we should look tenfold upon our savior. I may be __________, but in lieu of harping on that over and over to myself, I will gaze upon Jesus Christ: the heir of all things; the creator of all things by the power of his word; the redeemer who made complete purification for sins; the incarnate one who suffered and was tempted--all the more than we because he knew a perfect glory before being born a man--yet remained sinless; and so on the pastor continued, quickly unpacking each snippet's little radiances.


I generally feel inclined to making music and writing songs that chronicle the brokenness of the world and look for redemption in the various ways that we fight the fall (the execution of that is another matter, but that's at least where my head space is at artistically). But in the course of lamenting the loss of Eden, I somehow missed the later message about persevering in suffering, boasting in weakness, and being content in hardship. While I am able to dial up my suck-it-up-and-deal quotient as needed (particularly when I'm traveling), in general I've always been a wuss about life. The existence of even small hardships can bring on a mini existential crisis. I hate that crap happens at all, and sometimes my reaction is to feel like giving up.


I said that at the church service there was a lot of everything that I need to hear. But I still couldn't receive and believe it, couldn't quite let go just yet. I struggled with being on the worship team that night and pretty much mailed it in on every level--not sure that I'll be doing that again for a while.

This latest season of life (how long has it been? when did it start?), I feel like my capacity for joy and love has been crippled. Lying in bed that night after church, I got overwhelmed by a sense that life is meaningless, that nothing I do or anyone else does matters. It passed, but it was pretty convincing there for a good while. I suppose part of the reason for this blog is to call out those persistent demons in mundane words like that.

The idea that people's most prominent strengths can also potentially be their deepest weaknesses, depending on how those gifts are applied, or restrained, or the situation--I think that my main "blessing/curse" is my memory. I'm bad with immediate social encounters and remembering names in the short term, and some things I need to write down to not forget them, but other than that, if you and I have a difference of opinion on how some shared past experience happened--well, um, I'm probably right. Just sayin'. There is no easy answer for me for that ice-breaker question of "what's the most embarrassing moment of your life?" The entire collage of every bad or embarrassing moment is there, and out of the blue something will trigger a memory, which will domino into another, and they all still stir up shame or anger to varying degrees.

So I've been replaying various events of the last two years in Nashville, seeing how I got to where I am. Maybe I'll dig into that more in this space at some point. But not for now. I feel like I've talked it out a good amount already with various folks, and it's just the way it is.

I've had a couple good lifelines the last couple weeks, friends from outside who've known me. One who was empathetic and identified with my current struggle with hardness of heart and bitterness. Another who didn't leave me where I was, pointing me to some truth in a gentle, humble way--but still loved me right where I was, regardless.


I am too convicted and convinced that what I know is true is true (and yes, that could be dangerous, too) to let it all go.

I know that God is real. I see dispatches from the mission field abroad that testify to his active presence. I see and hear it around me here in Nashville--that Jesus is the risen Lord, that the Kingdom is breaking in.

(Though some days I definitely see more discouragement and defeat than victory.)

I know how the song goes:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control:
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

(Though I don't know that I always make it to the "it is well" part.)

This is me feebly preaching the Gospel to myself, pointing myself to look to Jesus and ask myself the question:

"How do I worship Jesus right now?"

I don't mean to focus on how much I love God or anything (and at the moment, that would be pretty uninspiring), but rather, "How am I responding to his love--do I worship him in every way that he is worthy? Over and above my pride and my pain, will I pay that down, forgive and love my enemies, forgive and love myself? Will I worship Jesus?"

So I think that question will be the theme of my life for at least the next five minutes.

19 January 2009

The Wrong Kind of Dying

There is a dying to self that I simply refuse to do. It hurts too much right now.

Like Eustace assenting to Aslan's painfully clawing away his dragon scales, I know that there is true relief and peace and growth on the other side of that seemingly impossible change. But from where I am right now, it honestly does seem impossible. And it's not greed that's transformed me.

I give up. Talking it out is my natural tendency, but I think I'm done with the cycles of the same conversations over and over--with the people I feel wronged by, with my pastor, with my former or current small group leaders. That hasn't stopped me from spinning through it all in my head, in hypothetical arguments with imaginary people or actual raging at a very real God (though I don't particularly feel his presence or his love most of the time). But the conversations don't resolve anything--or they only start another round of grievances and misunderstandings--and I feel like I know the answer anyway:

I need to repent. To turn to Jesus and trust him. Accept his goodness and love for me--let it transform my heart to love my enemies, to love even myself.

But I refuse. Evidently, I cherish my hatred and hurt more dearly. I am unwilling to submit to the Lordship of Christ--even though I know it's for my good.

Being a Christian involves repentance. Repentance involves humility. I've always been prideful, and there are time when I know that I am just too stubborn to be a Christian.

How long can I keep on worshiping my mess? Forever? I faith to know that that won't be the case, that I am held and upheld by a strength and power and goodness far greater than my fiercest rebellion. Only by the grace of God do I even stand and breathe and speak out my heart's heresies.

My only hope is Jesus. But what does that mean for the here and now, in the aftermath and the everyday bits and pieces? I just don't know how to be a Christian anymore. I've been realizing the last few months how tremendously wide the gulf is between what I know in my head and what I believe in my heart--like I am (at least) two different people.

I give up. Toward the end of the worship service last night, I couldn't take it anymore and I literally RAN away from the church and back to my house. I don't know where that leaves me, kind of treading water, waiting for a thaw (do I even want it?). I have a few ideas, but no real clue. In the meantime, it's not exactly going away or getting any better. And I'm not changing right now, that's for sure.

Tin Man, Tin Man, would you even take this heart of stone?
It isn't doing anything inside this stack of dry bones.

It'll make you think you're living, it'll teach you love and hate.

You might not feel it beating, but I'm sure you'll feel the weight.

Oh, Tin Man, Tin Man...

13 January 2009

Remind Me

I thought about doing a "looking back on 2008" or "looking ahead to 2009" post, but really, it's all felt the same to me and I didn't know what to say. I'm currently working out a more weighty post that may or may not take shape, but in the meantime, here's a bit of spontaneous list-making to help me take stock of some of the positive outward elements of my life, in whatever order--things that I am grateful for, to some degree or other:
  • job
  • cubicle area with a window and lots of natural light
  • income that covers my cost of living
  • friends
  • familiarity (geographical and otherwise)
  • music to see and be a part of
  • church that suits me and that I believe in, more or less
  • living within walking distance of church, friends, coffee shops, etc.--and a short commute to work
  • functioning car
And on the other side of the balance? Um, well...

Admittedly, every one of those things has a flip side or a disconnect or a yearning for more or for change or whatever else (clearly I'm missing something about Paul's idea of contentment in Philippians 4). Plus so much else that I could add to that side of the scale. I wasn't going to do that list anyway, but hmm...

I do have a life here. Just not sure what to make of it right now.