I'm going to miss Moment Church
. So is Luke. In the four or five weeks since its soft launch, it has been challenging us in powerful and uncomfortable ways. God obviously had a purpose (doesn't He always?) in placing us there right
as this big move came into the picture. I don't know if we would have been able to face the overwhelming repercussions of it otherwise.
Leaving does one important thing: it forces us to internalize what we've learned in our short time there; we can't rely on every Sunday to give us a new shot in the arm. I need to stoke this fire on my own, through prayer and trust. I'm learning what it's like to throw everything I have – the trash and the little bits of gold I cling to so tightly – at God's feet each morning. I'm learning how to shrug off my dead skin and say: "This is Yours. Do with it what You will."
We're leaving behind our safety net: emotionally more than financially. Being surrounded by friends and family that love you, having neighbors that are your best buddies and always there for you, having a church that keeps you honest – it's become something I depend on. To some extent (as horrible as this sounds), it has crippled me. I say this not to diminish these incredible people and the invaluable support they've given us, but to chastise myself for making it my world. I should not be content with fluffing up a little bed in a patch of grass and sleeping through my life, ignoring the desert all around me. I should not be content with pointing at beauty and marvelling, like a tourist; I should be out in the world working to dig beauty out of the mire, to carve it from the hardness of others' hearts. God's work. God's story.
I know my loved ones would agree.
But the Father makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and our love, if we are to be sons of God, must not be limited to friends and to those who favor us or give us joy.
– Love and Living, Thomas Merton
I'm scared, but my heart is full. I can no longer crop God out of the corners of my life; He hasn't left me that option. I can no longer talk about Him without trusting Him to provide, to finish His work in me, to change the hearts of those around me.
I will risk for Him. I will step out blindly, reach my hands out for His steadying grip, and let it guide me through the dark.
Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.
– Mark 9:24
The scandal of the Old Testament – Genesis, for instance – is to some modern readers the fact that so many of God's acts are perfectly ordinary and seemingly trivial: the choice of a wife for Isaac, or the skill with which Jacob becomes rich. These are hardly what we would call "divine" acts in the sense of having a special and marvelous character about them. But they are nevertheless the acts of God. Hence, there is a disconcerting aura of secularity about much of God's activity as recorded in the Bible, and uneasiness with this has generally led certain types of philosophic religiosity to improve on the concept of God, seeking to make it more spiritual, more impressive to man's mind, in a word, more "divine."
– "Seven Words for Ned O'Gorman" (III - Divine), Love and Living, Thomas Merton
It's often disturbingly easy for me – along with other Christians – to fall into this pseudo-Gnostic mindset that divides the spiritual from the physical along a definite line. It's easy to think that God is much too "divine" to be concerned with the banalities of my day-to-day existence. Other people don't care; why should God?
But where did we get this idea that God is too big to be conscious of the little things? Being infinite, wouldn't He have – quite literally – all the time in the universe to be concerned with the little things, whereas we do not
What if the acts of God aren't always grand and sweeping, but more often so small and ordinary we can hardly discern them?
God called the physical world "good" when He created it. He calls the human body His temple. Everything we touch and see (and even things we don't) is made of matter that was brought into being, however long ago, by His spoken Word: His breath. Surely there is no more profound integration of the physical and the spiritual than this. God choosing to express Himself through creation. And then bridging the gap by entering it Himself – becoming incarnate. The Word made flesh.
Why do we insist on dividing what He has brought together?
Was meeting Luke (my husband) God-ordained? I absolutely believe it, but sometimes it sounds so fanciful to say out loud. How about this new job offer that might take us out-of-state? Should I even bother God with my anxiety over it?
The answer is, of course I should. He wants to be bothered. How else should I interpret the fact that He decided to become a dusty, sweaty carpenter and experience human life for Himself? Isn't the fact that He used some dirt and spit to make a blind man see again proof enough that He doesn't mind – even treasures – the ordinary grime of our existence, the ordinary struggles?
This is the God I believe in: the God that loves His creation in all its messiness. Emmanuel, God with us
. His plan is to renew and redeem the physical world, not to destroy it. His plan is to mend the broken bonds between body and soul, Earth and heaven, the seen and the unseen. And He might just use a bit of dirt and spit to do it.
Who am I to argue?
The shadows exist in the painting, the dark corners of grief and trial and wickedness all exist so that He might step inside them, so we could see how low He can stoop. In this story, the Author became flesh and wandered the stage with Hamlet, offering His own life. In this story, the Author heaped all that He loathed, all that displeased Him, all the wrongness of the world, onto Himself. Evil exists so that He might be demeaned and insulted, so that the depth of His love and sacrifice could be expressed as much as is possible in the small frame of history.
We could say He cares nothing for our pain. We could say He is not good. We could say we don't understand why the sky isn't all rainbows and why the common cold exists. But we would be fools. And somehow, He would still like us.
– Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl, N.D. Wilson
Some days, the world as God's expression of Himself makes perfect and beautiful sense to me. When I see a loner strumming his guitar on the beach, singing quietly. When I'm laughing uproariously with friends. When I stand marveling at some unspeakably beautiful scene of nature, shaped by millenia. And when I sit
marveling at some unspeakably beautiful scene in a story, shaped by human souls.
But some days, it is difficult to see how the shadows fit. What purpose they serve. Why our loving Father would allow them to pierce us so deeply.
Do I realize what the cross really means? Can I really say that this darkness weighing on my heart does not weigh more heavily on His? What of His suffering? Is it not more than I will ever have to endure? Does it not prove His love for me more profoundly than anything else could?
I say, "I love you." God made those words flesh by walking them to Calvary.
I believe God's allowance of evil is His way of defeating it. He tells Satan (as in Job): "Take your best shot. There is no suffering you can inflict that I cannot turn to good in the end. There is no darkness you can cast that will not draw My children closer to Me in the end. Watch and see."
God knew the world would fall. He let it. Why? Because His love is made perfect in weakness. Because the shadows draw us closer to Him – closer even than the angels.
The cross makes it impossible for me to say to God, "You don't know how I feel." If I do, I'm a fool.
But He still loves me.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
– 2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV
Yahweh, teach me to love as You do.
There is something pleasing to a mystic in such a land of mirrors. For a mystic is one who holds that two worlds are better than one. In the highest sense indeed, all thought is reflection. ...Man alone is able to see his own thought double, as a drunkard sees a lamp-post. Man alone is able to see his own thought upside down as one sees a house in a puddle. This duplication of mentality, as in a mirror, is the inmost thing of human philosophy.
– Manalive, G.K. Chesterton
It's been said before in other ways, but – as usual – I feel Chesterton says it best.
The fact that we are only creature on Earth with self-awareness is fascinating in and of itself (especially because there is no real practical use for it – it allows us to act against logic and our survival instincts). But I think it's also a clue about the nature of the multiple worlds we inhabit daily: we are body and spirit, mind and soul, driven by both reason and impulse – and we overlap everywhere. Rationalism itself requires faith; intiution makes sense of a illogical situation; art speaks in a wordless language that is nevertheless universally understood.
When people ask me why I believe in God – and particularly why I believe in Christ – I am usually assaulted by too many possible responses to pick just one. But I think the key thing is this: that God's existence and Christ's reality account for the whole of the human being. And there is no other philosophy, worldview, or religion I have encountered that does this (IMO). Some of them do a compelling and insightful job of addressing certain aspects of humanity, but they leave other things out (or claim those other things don't exist). Only Christ accounts for all of it – engages the whole of the human being without leaving any part of it unspoken for.
I must say my prayers today whether I feel devout or not; but that is only as I must learn my grammar if I am ever to read the poets.
- A Mind Awake, C.S. Lewis
It was hard to say a prayer today. I think I'm out of practice. And this is why the world looked suddenly duller to me, like a hazy curtain had been dropped in front of my eyes, and I could only see blurred forms beyond it. My beliefs don't change on days like these; my love doesn't (it's a choice, not a feeling), but the way I see the world does. Or rather, I can't
see the world very well, and therein lies the problem. The way this lack of sight affects my spirit is subtle but unmistakable. I feel like I am too big and unwieldy and my bubble is too small.
I sat in my car on lunch break and the sudden quiet as I shut the door was breathtaking. It was only then I realized how noisy it'd been in my mind. Struggling to find words to begin, I prayed. I tried to think of everyone I knew instead of praying for myself; it is remarkable how much better I feel when my mind is focused on others and, for the time being, forgets it has a self.
Afterwards, I tried to crack open A Circle of Quiet
(L'Engle) but only read a couple of pages before feeling drowsy. I could hear the clock inside my owl locket ticking. I listened to my breathing, and it sounded like yahweh
I slept for awhile, and when I woke up, I could see again.
We know that God is everywhere: but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence. I had risen to my knees to pray for Mr. Rochester. Looking up, I, with tear-dimmed eyes, saw the mighty Milky Way. Remembering what it was - what countless systems there swept space like a soft trace of light - I felt the might and strength of God.
- Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
Space is so majestic and incredible and utterly frightening in its magnitude. It's always reduced me to a state of awe. Luke and I have been watching the History Channel's show The Universe
via Netflix lately, and while it goes less in-depth (so far) than I'd like about some subjects, it does feed my fascination with the cosmos - and breaks my brain with the unfathomable comparisons it makes ("five trillion times bigger than x
"... oh yes, like I can picture that). The question of size - the way we are reduced to almost nothing by the scale of everything else - is a dilemma that instantly brings to mind Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door
: an eerily compelling argument (though it be fiction) for the human being as a galaxy unto itself.
I am always doing my best to see through other people's eyes and understand where they're coming from, but to be honest, the one thing I truly can't fathom is how people can look at the universe with all its inscrutable beauty and power and not see God. Romans 1:20 rings true with force.
After loving various film adaptations of it for years, I'm finally reading Jane Eyre.
It's a gorgeous book, and one I am glad I didn't get around to till now - I don't think I would've enjoyed it nearly as much. As an adult, it imparts so much truth; as a woman, I see so much of myself in Jane; as a reader, I love the mood the long passages create; as a writer, I am fascinated by Charlotte Brontë's winding, hyper-detailed prose.
It only recently occurred to me that a reason old writing is such an acquired taste is that we are so used to militantly edited and paced novels. Back in the time of the Brontës, et al, without the aid of our meticulous modern word processors, it must've been a lot tougher to sift through a draft fifty-odd times to cull words and cut scenes - and of course, publishers were a lot less inclined to meddle heavily with the manuscripts that came in. The result is a more raw and authentic jumble of words than we're used to - one less easy to breeze through, but often more rewarding to engage with, because no detail is spared. Not to mention, the tangents that commence can feel like they're mapping the human mind, as they run off in every direction and take an age to come back around to the point.
As I continue to struggle with drafting my own novel, I'm trying to take a page from Charlotte's book (ha ha) and just let the rawness of the words breathe for the time being - give them room to exist on their own, instead of trying so hard to shape and mold them into my own image as they come out, bit by painful bit.
I'm not totally succeeding yet - I still have a tendency to look back over my shoulder as I write, fretting that the story isn't holding up, and that what I'm thinking and feeling and seeing isn't even discernable in the mess I'm making - but I'm learning to face that doubt head-on and shove it in its proper place: behind me.
What a game of wills this all is. I've been close to giving up so many times before, but as I force myself to sit and grapple with this story that wants to be birthed, my new-found discipline helps me see: I am never happier than when I am creating something. I am never more profoundly discontent than when I give up, even for a few days, the act of creation. To simply consume, consume, consume is not what I am made for - not what we, as human beings, are made for. I wonder if that isn't, at heart, the real reason behind all the depression and rampant boredom the world is mired in today.