19 April 2009

Coming to Life

It's a bit late, and I'm a bit tired, so I'll try to be quick-ish.

I really feel like I had a little (big?) miracle in my life last Monday morning. I woke up the day after Easter and had a huge weight of anger and bitterness just lifted off me. As I've started to tell some folks, I still feel like there's a lot of pain and grief to deal with, the problems haven't necessarily gone away, but my framework for entering into it is 180 degrees turned around from where I was. And all I did was wake up. I don't know how it happened--it feels as mysterious and as external to me as that saving faith to believe upon Jesus in the first place, I suppose.

Where was I, for the last four months especially? I didn't love God. I didn't believe that he loved me. Jesus wasn't particularly precious to me, not to my heart at least. I had a mental understanding of the Gospel and tried to preach it to myself here and elsewhere, but not so much faith in it. I showed up as much as I could will myself to church and small group, but I didn't open up, didn't enjoy it, didn't ever know if I would stay to the end, couldn't worship, couldn't pray, didn't feel like reading the Bible. I still had fun here and there with friends and with music, but life wasn't working, and I was just treading water, lamely at that. I was full of anger and bitterness, hatred, self-loathing, heartache, soulache, helplessness, hopelessness, brokenness, resignation.

So coming out of it was a gift. I couldn't make it happen. I couldn't work hard enough to fix my eyes on Jesus. I couldn't make myself stop being angry and bitter. Not to say that I'm not still responsible for my actions during this time, by any stretch. But it makes me wonder just how much control I have, even in my reactions to the circumstances of my life. I honestly feel like I couldn't will myself out of it, couldn't deliver myself by praying harder, engaging with scripture more (or at all). And all those inward/outward things feel like they have limited value if the heart simply doesn't love God--isn't truly captured by His love. I was hollow, incapable of making myself love God (of course).

I'm still unpacking this latest season of life and what that all means, so I don't know. Something about God's sovereignty. And my need/helplessness. But also--should I be more unsettled than I am by my deliverance? Or more at peace than I am? At the moment, I feel kind of in the middle.

In the meantime, like I said, there are still plenty of broken things to deal with, plenty of painful, hurtful things that I'll try to take one at a time as they come up on the radar. It still hurts plenty, but it's different now. I still really like that I wrote everything that I wrote in the last four months, the last year. And I still feel a clear continuity through that whole arc of reflections and struggling to where I am now. I don't know what's coming next, but I'll try to remember this little miracle and let myself be held by my Deliverer through it all.


So, in light of all that, tonight at church I took Communion for the first time in a long time. I would've given the offering that I've been setting aside for a while, too, except there was some unexpected busyness right before church, and so I forgot. But I'm looking forward to being able to give that.

I made it through the whole service, sang out in worship, even hung out afterward and mingled with friends--I've always been leaving immediately for the last few months so as to avoid engaging with anyone if I can help it. All of that really is such a miracle to me, God drawing me out of darkness. I honestly couldn't have imagined ever feeling ok again at my church.

Speaking of Communion, I had a thought about it a few weeks ago, as I was feeling a real need for the bread and the wine, but still felt a deep alienation from my church community and just didn't feel right about presenting myself to the altar to receive:

There's no such thing as self-serve communion, right? It has to be served to you. You receive it in public, before other brothers and sisters in the faith--it's a declaration, not something done alone after everybody else has left the building. Which is a good thing.


Sidenote: I played cello for the morning services at Christ Community Church (in a suburb south of Nashville) this morning, and after the services, Steve Green came up to me, introduced himself, and asked for my info, mentioning that he goes on the road sometimes. Not having grown up listening to Christian music, I didn't recognize him, but I have since googled him, and my friends seem to remember him primarily as the first lead singer for White Heart back in the 80's. In any case, I gave him my info, so who knows.

13 April 2009

The Purpose of This Blog

I realized last night that the reason why I have this blog at all is to give me another outlet by which to preach the Gospel to myself, more than anything, I think.


Also, I woke up this morning about an hour earlier than usual, feeling a bit under the weather. I felt it coming on last night, and I'm trying to figure out if it's just another cold or something that might actually need a prescription. So I spent the extra time looking into my health insurance plan a bit more, just trying to remember how it works. I enjoyed the quiet at home and headed out to work a little early. Of course, now that I'm there I'm a bit sleepy...

But I had a bit of peace this morning. I wasn't expecting that, some grace washing over my anger. A little miracle? I'll try to let my heart rest in that. There's still plenty left to deal with, but a Resurrected Savior does make so many selfish things seem not quite so important.

12 April 2009

Reasons Why I Don't Blog More

I'm not necessarily able to make the mundane stuff sound interesting, so I tend toward more weighty posts (not to say that that's inherently more interesting, but I at least find it helpful for me to process). I self-censor a fair amount of what I could write here because some people might be able to read into details and fill in the names and faces of mutually known persons.

I value discretion and privacy and generally err on the side of keeping things to myself if it might reflect negatively on a third party. I was raised with that adage that "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." A friend has remarked that I have such a built-in anti-gossip mechanism that I don't even like to gossip about myself, share about my own life. Which can be to my detriment, for sure--I tend to bottle things up more often than deal with them healthily and constructively, especially if I'm not sure of how to do that in a given situation.


That said, I'll recap my long Easter weekend by saying that it was, by and large, really terrible. I tend to cuss a fair amount these days, but I don't like the way cuss words look in print, so I'll spare that language for now. Mostly as an aesthetic consideration than any particular sense of modesty.

Thursday night I had a conversation that I was not particularly looking forward to. One of the people that I am currently estranged from reached out to me about a month and a half ago, asking if we could talk. I said no. A few weeks later, I assented, on the condition that one of the elders at our church could be there as a witness. So we looked at our calendars and finally had that talk on Thursday. There were some fruitful things about it, but on the whole, I wish it hadn't happened. The cons outweighed the pros for me, and it definitely stirred up some old heartache.

Friday night I played cello at a Good Friday service put on by my church and a sister church in a suburb south of Nashville. I think it was a good service overall. But I felt awful, in part due to the aftermath of the previous night's talk. Driving to a friend's party afterward (yes, I know, nothing says party like Good Friday), I broke down in the car and raged at the intrusion of hell in my life this current season. Feels like Lent and Easter should be reminding me of just the opposite. Alas.

Sunday morning early I walked to a sunrise service that my church was doing at a local park. Same crappiness inside. Anger building on anger. Bitterness hardening.


There were a few good things, too, though. I had Friday off from work, so I hung out at a friend's place where she was hosting a Good Friday potluck for some of her international students and teaching colleagues, along with an Easter egg hunt that included short readings explaining the meaning of Easter.

And I feel like I was almost ready to take Communion this Sunday evening. I don't know how I'll know when I'm ready. "Just as I am"--but with my huge load of anger and resentment, that I refuse to leave at the Cross, that I hold more tightly and dearly than Jesus? My church makes a frequent point that we're not there to play church--we're there to be the church. So I second-guess myself a lot, my heart's motivations. I try to stick it out as much as possible, at least show up at the services, compelled by this tiny thread of hope that God can work in me, draw me to life again. But I always leave carrying more pain and grief.

How am I supposed to approach the throne of grace? What are the pre-conditions? I know the right answer is "nothing," no pre-conditions--nothing can keep us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. His love is not dependent on my goodness, nor is it hindered by my sin. His perfect work on my behalf is full and complete.

But don't I need to repent? Turn away from myself and my debilitating bitterness, turn to Jesus as my only hope and salvation? Isn't that what I would be declaring by going to the Communion table to receive him, to worship him as my only true God? How can I do that in good conscience when I harbor such bitterness toward some of my brothers and sisters in the faith? I have left my offering and withdrawn myself from the table for months. How long, O Lord? Where is that faith, the faith that is itself a gift from God, something that I can't produce of my own power, faith to throw myself on his mercies and actually believe in God's love for me? For me.

Every day I feel reminders of what I perceive as injustices inflicted on me in the recent past. I see doors closed by others and by myself for ways to deal with the issues. And I choose not to pay it down myself. I choose to let the wounds fester. I choose to hate, rather than cast myself on Jesus' love and sufficiency--that he bore wounds and injustices even greater than that ones that I have born (and inflicted on others), all so that I would be healed. That he went to the lowest depths of death and back, all to rescue me from even beyond my deepest pits.

I don't even know how to turn to Jesus anymore. I am a poison to those around me. Every day I feel more and more convicted that I am too stubborn to be a Christian. And oftentimes, I earnestly wish that I had never been born--I didn't ask for it, and my resentment turns on God for creating me in the first place.

I want life, I do. Unfortunately, I want it on my terms, my rightness. Either Jesus will become even more real to me as he delivers me through all this trial. Or else I'll become a character in "The Great Divorce"--spiteful, narrow-minded, self-consumed, foolishly refusing to ever give or receive mercy.

How long, O Lord?