28 February 2009

The New Performance Standard

I appreciate how my church eschews false gospels of new laws masquerading as Gospel truth: the subtle twists and pulls that ultimately leave you with "do more of this, be more of that, and God will love and bless and save you more."

The truth that the pastor preaches often is to look to Jesus all the more. But sometimes it feels like that message can become its own burden--to do that better, harder, more. Turning my eyes upon Jesus is a true thing that I need to hear and do. It's absolutely vital to my life as a believer to recalibrate my standards and my gaze off myself and the world around me, back to the source of all truth and goodness and faith, to the one who did everything that I would ever need to do. But sometimes that can be hard to do. And what I feel is missing sometimes is some loving encouragement in the way that message is spoken, at least for the particular frailties of my own heart.

I do a decent job of preaching the facts of the Gospel to myself, at least in my head. I recognize the importance of being able to do that. But I don't love myself well--I don't preach and believe God's great big beautiful, pursuing, unrelenting, unconditional love for me:

"I see you struggling. I see that it's hard for you to fall down at the cross right now, to fall upon Jesus' love, to repent and believe and be set free. We both know that's the truth you need. And I see that it's hard for you in this season of your life, and I love you anyway."

So it was a real refreshment several weeks ago when a friend down in Peru pointed me to some truth that I needed, while also simply loving me, no strings attached. Some others have been encouraging along the way in the quiet ways I need, letting me know I'm not alone.

Anyway, that's how I feel sometimes.

22 February 2009

Affirmation / Negation

There's a balance, a scale.

On one side: "Life is great! Things are looking up!"

On the other side: "Life sucks! This is never going to get any better!"

And I'm pushing down on the good side.

But all the while I'm sitting on the other side.

Church is happening now and I'm at home. I never know how far into the service I'll make it before I can't take it anymore and have to leave. Today I made it to the second song. Sometimes I get as far as the offering, or even the sermon and Communion. I don't remember the last full service that I made it through--I guess it was a few weeks ago when I was on the worship team (blah). I've had rehearsals and gigs the last couple Sundays, too, so that was a welcome excuse not to make it to church at all.

I feel like God has been pouring out blessings in my life this last month or so--the tangible, easy to grasp kind of blessings. Good time spent with friends, some great music, fun movies, cool art, even a bit of unexpected French. I also have a biweekly Sunday brunch + book club with a few guys from church, which is very much a blessing.

But there are other things. Unresolved things for which I don't have any hope for resolution anytime soon. Things I don't feel like I can talk about with anybody (including my pastor), for various reasons. And so I dread Sundays:

Step 1: Go to church.
Step 2: Get overwhelmed and freak out.
Step 3: Leave early and come home.
Step 4: Have a one-sided, closed-minded, lie-believing, self-defeating screaming match with God.
Step 5: Settle down and breathe again.

"The gift is not like the trespass." Christ's work is greater than Adam's (and my) sin. But these days I have a tendency to turn the lesser gifts and blessings into curses. Much worldly sorrow.

Music is one of my lifelines, for sure, my current drug of choice. (TV, too--as I wrote on our fridge with some magnetic poetry words: "TV is my junk anesthetic")

People are reaching out to me. God is speaking comfort and conviction and truth from a variety of sources. I just don't really want it right now. Or I want it to sound a little different--on my terms. I'm still angry, and bitter, and hurt, and broken, and sad, and afraid, about those aforementioned things. Things that feel insurmountable, too big for Jesus to make right, at least anytime soon. My daily reality is more defined by my pain than by my Redeemer. I'm not letting go and getting over it. I don't really want to engage with God. I don't want to read Scripture. I don't want to pray. I am being willful, stubborn, and self-destructive, and my focus isn't on Jesus.

But I'm like a runaway child who can only run as far as the next block, and then he just sits there, wondering what to do next. Too much is true for me to abandon my faith. Too much feels hypocritical and painful for me to feel like I have a place in this community anymore.

But my self-righteousness is a false shelter. I do want things to get better, and there are moments when I feel my hard heart melting. But then certain triggers will just re-open the wounds, and I don't want to do the work of paying it down over and over and over again. Looking back on the last couple years, I couldn't have planned it to be more messy than it is. It's uncanny.

But really, the historical details aren't the most important part. The question is whether or not I believe that God loves me deeply deeply, that Jesus is everything that I need, that grace is there for the healing. I do have some hope that God's pursuing love will save me, set me free. But I think it will be a very bumpy road, and so in the meantime...?

09 February 2009

Ten Years

Hiroshi Yamaguchi
March 13, 1938 - February 9, 1999