pride, part two . . . or, a sampler of thoughts on arrogance

Sometimes, my “better than” comes from wounds. Maybe yours does, too.

I’ve written this post no less than six ways. By now it is a chapter for a book, the beginnings of a dissertation.

And since no one wants to read all of that, I’ve settled on a bit of a sampler instead.

* * * * *

Love is not proud.

The word pride in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is also translated puffed up or arrogant. I can readily see how a bloated sense of self leaves no room in a relationship for love. It is entirely consumed by self-image and self-importance and superiority of mind and position.

But arrogance in real-life relationships rarely looks like Gaston stomping around in boots singing his own praises. It’s more subtle, I think . . . and without a chorus. Well, at least not one others can hear.

Consider . . .

I.

There were times when I saw myself as so very superior to my husband: I was not an addict. I was responsible with money. I could get out of bed in the morning. I didn’t tell him lies.

Oh, I knew I had flaws, but they were nothing compared to his.

In earthly terms, I was right. He was wrong.

He didn’t deserve forgiveness, and I was not in need of it.

But that’s the very thing Jesus kept hammering home to the teachers who knew all the things and kept all the rules. None of us is perfect. Not one. And though it was hard, so hard, for me to imagine how it could possibly be, I came to understand that my sin of superiority and pride was every bit as bad as Dave’s addiction. Every bit. And, dare I say this? Even more so. He knew he was wrong. Confessed it regularly to God. I didn’t.

I’ve seen the grace that overflows from someone who has been forgiven much. And the tight-fistedness of one who has been forgiven little. Verses like Luke 15:7 are hard to grasp: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” God loves a repentant sinner, whether we like it or not.

Tight-fisted grace is arrogance, thinly disguised.

II.

Arrogance comes from knowing things. From the top of our column of study, we look down on those who have not yet arrived at our level, or our view.

We fling about superiority of mind, painting opposing viewpoints with broad brush strokes, ceremoniously shaking the dust of a community off our sandals. Claiming to speak the truth in love. Clamoring for seats at a table. Arguing among ourselves over who is the betrayer of grace . . . while Jesus kneels and gently washes our feet asking, Who is greater? The one at the table or the one who serves?*

Knowledge puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1), eclipses love and devolves into decisive division. Like bickering brothers in a family. If you like this, then I will hate it. If you call this good, then I will call it bad. If you criticize it, I will praise it.

We are wise in our own eyes. So reactionary.

Our truth-in-love-speak resembles nothing of the gentle, humble kindness of our Lord.

 

III.

Sometimes, arrogance is a cover.

Sometimes, my better than comes from wounds. Maybe yours does, too.

Wounds made by comment, culture, criticism . . . making us self-conscious of appearance, ability, size, personality . . . leaving us with feelings of less than.

Wounds made by trusted friends that were not accompanied by love but rejection. You have done this and therefore we are done.

Wounds made by grown-ups, even now, putting on a face of friendship but gossiping and stirring up trouble behind your back.

Some wounds are so deep they take longer to heal than anyone would dream. Heal to the point of walking again, let alone loving . . .

. . . sometimes, I still cling to the thing that makes me feel better than. I reach for it when I’m hurt or afraid of being hurt. I use it as a weapon.

How is it that we so easily slip into treating others the way we’ve been treated?

IV.

I believe this: there is grace for even the worst offender.

And after years of having the truth ground into my soul, arrogant thoughts of better than quickly dissipate from my mind the moment I recall my own weakness.

But sometimes, knowing my weakness too well is part of the problem . . .

I don’t know when I became such a perfectionist.

Paralyzing perfectionism: the urge to rip it all up and start over and never let it see the light of day: my living room, my writing, my body, my personality, my words, my gifts.

Somewhere, deep in the recesses, my perfectionism becomes a barrier to love.

Can there be an arrogance toward self? Is an arrogance toward self a fear of being seen as less than who we think we are or should be? Is it really, in the end, an insidious sort of pride masquerading as not good enough?

I don’t know.

But I believe God is painting his love over the wounds of my life. The better thans, the less thans, the know-it-alls, and the places where I just can’t yet. Even my procrastinating perfectionism.*

And I believe He does that for you, too.

It’s sort of the point of grace, isn’t it? Arrogance is just another reason we need Jesus.

* * * *

But God is so rich in mercy loved us so much
that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins,
He gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead . . .
And now God can always point to us as examples of how very, very rich his kindness is,
as shown in all he has done for us through Jesus Christ.
Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ.
And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God.
Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it.
It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus . . .
St. Paul, Ephesians 2:4-10

* * * * *

* Luke 22:20-27 and John 13:14

* Procrastinating perfectionist — a term borrowed from Jon Acuff, Quitter

 

 

 

repost: a light between here and there

the Grandma I wrote about in this post passed away today. she was an example to me of a love that endures at a time when I needed it most.

My Grandma I wrote about in this post last summer passed away today.
She was, and will always be, an example and encouragement to me of a love that endures at a time when I needed it most.

Someday, I will write about that, but tonight, before I tuck myself into bed, I just want to go back to my earliest memories of her and smell those cotton sheets.

* * * * *

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

* * * * *

Thank you, Grandma Barrick.

a light between here and there

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the dailyness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.
― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

a dimly burning wick He will not quench. (Isaiah 42:3)

* * * * *

when I fear I have lost my flavor

Sometimes, discouragement knocks hard on your door and it takes everything in you not to invite it in to share a giant piece of chocolate cake.

Sometimes, discouragement knocks hard on your door and it takes everything in you not to invite it in to share a giant piece of chocolate cake.

Sometimes, you let it in. And you eat the cake. And the leftover spaghetti.

Sometimes, discouragement crawls into your bed and keeps it warm while you drag yourself to make breakfast and get kids to school and return to pull the covers over your head and shut out the world.

Sometimes, it sits beside you on the couch and watches brain-sucking cartoons all day while your toddlers run around in their diapers and cowboy boots and stop stinky and goobery in front of your face to wipe away your tears.

Sometimes, discouragement drives you to work, sits uncomfortably in your chair, stares at a blank screen . . .

When you’ve been sick and it’s gone on for a long time and no one has answers.

When you’ve been fighting battles with your child and every conflict throws failure in your face.

When you’ve worked overtime to finally get ahead and come home to a pile of bills that will set you way back.

When you can’t seem to find where you fit and no one invites and no one asks and no one notices.

When you finally take a deep breath only to discover your addict is at it again.

Discouragement knocks hard, relentless.

Discouragement whispers worthlessness and failure in your ear and tells you you can’t.

Discouragement spins a friend’s success or happy post into a jealousy or regret.

Discouragement suffocates in the darkness with questions and tears.

Discouragement chokes out life-giving words and seasons speech with self.

Discouragement tells me I have lost my flavor and am of no good but to be tossed out and trampled.

Can salt be made salty again?

I wonder . . .

When I fear I have lost my flavor, I disappear.

Disappear like Moses — to be alone with God.

Disappear like Jonah — a long shadow of fear, jealousy, envy or discontent has eclipsed joy.

Disappear like a leper — to heal and seek a doctor for a cure.

* * * * *

Sunshine beckons me. 

I lie on the trampoline in the yard, soaking in afternoon light, sifting through sickness, disappointment, hurt, regret. I hear nothing. No words of comfort.

Somewhere below me, the tide is out.

A breeze passes over sun-warmed sand, mud, shells, carrying the sea to me and I breathe deep . . .

One day I will look back on this season. A season of physical breakdown, a season of letting go of a child, a season of wordlessness, a season of discouragement.

But I am not in the looking back.

* * * * *

Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. Psalm 25:16

Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

* * * * *

This morning I remember the thing about discouragement.

How sickness, exhaustion, anger, hurt and loneliness open the door to it.

How it wallows in the past, thrives on lies, heaps on guilt, compares and finds wanting.

How it sucks everything into its mire and drains the world of sunlight and sea-salt air.

How you could drown in it. How you need to be pulled out.

If you are sinking, reach out. If a sinking friend reaches for you, take her hand. Do kindnesses for her. Listen.

And if words are necessary, let them be always with grace, seasoned with salt.

* * * * *

Grace has been shaken over my life.

I am grateful for the one who sits beside me for long hours in a waiting room. For the one who draws me away from my solitude to get some lunch. For the one who shares tears over tea. For the one who brings dinner. For parents who call just to hear my voice. For children who bend down to wrap their arms around me. For a husband who listens in the middle of the night. For a doctor determined to help me get well, starting with removing my gallbladder.

I am grateful for Sarah Young, for Philip Yancey, for Ann VosKamp whose little books have become a permanent fixture on my nightstand, and remind me that a flavorless season is survivable and can become a beautiful and encouraging thing.

I say thanks out loud to God for blessings and ask Him to sift the rocks and dirt from my little bowl of salt.

And then I hear it — the gentle whisper of love I couldn’t hear over the beating on my door.

* * * * *

* * * * *

Are you discouraged? Feel free to comment — anonymously if you wish. And I will pray for you. It will be good to take a little sabbatical from myself.

blessings for the broken part four

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. . .
When did we buy the lie that happiness is the means to happiness?
That what feels good is right and what is painful is wrong?
Hungry is not comfort. Thirsty is not pleasure.

We are at a crossroads.

Poor and powerless. Grief-stricken. Broken.

In any direction, as far as we can see, the landscape is exactly the same. Dry, dusty, barren, flat.

Nothing distinguishes one path from another.

Turning around seems like the smartest decision.

Going back by a way we know.

Going back to what? We’ve come too far.

It doesn’t matter which path we choose now.

They are all marked suffering.

* * * * *

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. . .

When did we buy the lie that happiness is the means to happiness?

That what feels good is right and what is painful is wrong?

Hungry is not comfort.

Thirsty is not pleasure.

It’s true in our physical being. And true in our spiritual being as well.

If we fill ourselves with real food, we’ll crave more good and be filled. If we fill ourselves with junk food, we only want more — more junk, more anything — just more.

The bad takes away our appetite for good. The bad takes us on a high and abandons us to crash. Snickers does not satisfy.

But we try.

And we keep trying. Over and over.

The cake when we’re stressed. The gossip when we’re hurt. The computer when we’re lonely. The money when we’re rejected. The applause when we’re insecure. The rage when we have no voice. The drugs when we can’t face the day. The busy so we don’t have time to notice . . .

The goal of all this stuffing life full is to be unconscious of our thirst. Hunger hurts, so we have numbed it. We numb it until we don’t feel longing anymore.

* * * * *

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.

Jesus at the well. A woman, draws water for herself. Jesus asks for some. She recognizes him as a Jew. She is a Samaritan. Jews do not associate with Samaritans. She objects.

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. (John 4)

She wants this. Never to thirst again. Never to take a weary walk to a well in the heat. Never to carry heavy jars home and watch them empty fast.

Go, call your husband and come back.

Wait. What? I don’t have a husband, she says.

You are right. He says. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.

Uh. Wow. We were just talking about water.

No. We were talking about what you crave. You thirst for fulfillment. And you haven’t found it. Given up yet?

* * * * *

We have come to this crossroads.

The cake has made us fat. The gossip has gone too far. The busy has given us an ulcer. The virtual relationship led us to unfaithfulness. The money is gone. The applause has faded. In rage we have beaten others, ourselves. The drugs have destroyed our life.

Now it’s no longer possible to numb. To deny. To excuse.

We can go back to numbing.

Or we can choose to feel the pain and hurt and ache and longing and let it be what it is.

We can choose to accept our hunger and thirst.

* * * * *

So what is this righteousness?

What is this thing that I seek first instead of clothes, comfort, food, money, success?

The people gathered around Jesus on the mountain want to know, too.

They are hungry. They are thirsty.

And Jesus tells them their hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.

They don’t get it either — unless they are the poor in spirit, unless they mourn, unless they are meek.

Righteousness isn’t about not doing or doing. It’s about Jesus Himself.

We will not know how He satisfies until we admit we are not satisfied by anything else.Until we drag our poor, powerless, broken selves through the desert of suffering to the Well instead of going back.

My soul yearns, even faints for the court of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:2

As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after thee. Psalm 42:1

In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Blaise Pascal

“Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” St. Augustine

blessings for the broken, part two

We used to wear our grief.
Black for a day, a month, a season, a year . . .
To show loss.
To let the world around us know we carried sorrow.
Appearance had meaning.

We used to wear our grief. 

Black for a day, a month, a season, a year . . .

To show loss.

To let the world around us know we carried sorrow.

Appearance had meaning.

We treated mourners with respect. Spoke differently around them. Guarded our conversation to avoid heaping sorrow on complete strangers.

I wonder why we stopped. Why long, visible mourning has gone out of fashion. . .

* * * * *

Blessed are those who mourn, Jesus said.

In every version of the Bible, the English word, translated from Greek, is mourn. 

Grief manifested; too deep for concealment. Often . . . to weep audibly.

(Now we cover. Allow ourselves acceptable sorrow, but keep calm and carry on. Mourning is for poets. Wailing is for pagans.)

But Jesus spoke the Beatitudes to people who bore grief visibly. No makeup or drops to hide weary eyes. Faces revealed hearts. Clothes told stories.

I think, even then, mourning had lost something.

Because they used to show real grief over sin by putting on sackcloth and ashes.

In ancient times, recorded in the Old Testament, garments were torn by the grieving. Rough, dark, shapeless clothes replaced them. Ashes on heads. Ashes in which to sit.

Ashes, the remnants of sacrifice. A symbol of sorrow. A sign of humility. Of desperation. Ashes to cleanse. Israel, David, Nineveh . . .

Public displays of repentance had become a show for Pharisees. See how religious I am?

* * * * *

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.” 2 Corinthians 7:10a

God knows when mourning of wrongs is just for show.

Sometimes we know, too. Or sense it.

Because addicts repent a million times. This is the last time. I’ll never do it again. And yet they do . . . and we cannot make them be sorry to the point of change. Preaching at and pleading with cannot induce real repentance.

And we are the same. We who believe we are free from destructive vices.

We repent when we are caught. In gossip. In aggression. In spending money we don’t have.  . . and at once we are consumed with self. With how can I get out of this and still save face. . .

. . . Books of mourning sit beside me on a shelf. Spiral bound pages, words poured out in tears. Sleepless nights, hollow-eyed days. Bitterness and belief intertwined. Pride shredded until I thought I had none left, but I was wrong.

Mourning isn’t pretty. Mourning feels like dying.

* * * * *

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Jesus says.

It seems He is speaking of comforting those who have suffered tragic loss. Of wiping away every tear from our eyes.

Comfort — this one word in English means so many things in Greek. Parakaleō: to call to one’s side, to summon, to console, to admonish, to encourage, to teach. I recognize it from Bible school. The Paraclete is the Holy Spirit . . .

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. John 14:16

* * * * *

Mourning and comfort. Both are process. Neither can be rushed. Sowing tears and reaping joy takes time.

Comfort ye my people, God told Isaiah. And it was more than 400 years before the Comforter came . . .

Blessed are those who are broken. Who grieve deeply over their wrongs. Who feel trapped and helpless in their chemically dependent body and throw themselves at the feet of Jesus, begging for healing.

Blessed are those who are broken. Who are exhausted from trying to fix the broken people they love. Who are afraid if they stop, no one will pick up the pieces. Who grieve over the pride that keeps joy hostage.

Blessed because they receive power greater than themselves.

* * * * *

There are hidden places where grief is still worn. 

Where masks of I am fine are set aside, confessions are made, and encouragement is given. Where tears of sorrow flow freely, waiting for the Comforter to wipe them away. Some stay months, others stay years.

We confess aloud that there is a Power greater than ourselves.* 

That God exists,

that I matter to Him, and

that He has the power to help me give up addiction, pride, control . . . whatever has broken me.  * 

* * * * *

A little more about mourning and comfort: Psalm 30, Isaiah 61, Lamentations, Shattered Dreams, A Tale of Three Kings, A Grief Observed

* * * * *

blessings for the broken, part one

The breaking was just as much for me as it was for him.
I see it now. I saw it then.
But my eyes are are slow to turn the image upright. . .

I like to be strong.Confident, competent, able.

Helen Reddy in my head since 4th grade. I am Woman . . I am invincible.

I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan.

Ask if I need help and I become more determined to do it myself.

I am independent to a fault.

And I will work myself into an ulcer.

* * * * *

The breaking was just as much for me as it was for him.

I see it now. I saw it then.

But my eyes are are slow to turn the image upright. . .

A friend reminded me this week: we say we are concerned about what’s best for THEM, but we’re really concerned about what’s best for ME

Addicts, she means.

Addicts don’t just one day wake up and said, You know what? I’m done with this life. I’m going to be a new person now. And then the pain ends.

But we so hope they will. And we so hope it will.

We pray for them to make right choices. We pray for miraculous healing . . .

Sometimes, it takes years of prayer to finally come to see.

Because truly admitting you need help means you have to be broken.

. . . and broken involves suffering.

* * * * *

It is agonizing to watch self-destruction.

. . .  sometimes we draw hard lines . . . sometimes we tell them to suffer somewhere else . . . sometimes we are ready for them to be broken.

But sometimes, we forgive and cover and scold and give books to read and phone numbers of people to call and lecture and pray and forgive and cry and scream and flail and forgive and weep and beg and block doors and take away car keys  and suspect and make phone calls and plead and make them go to the pastor and make them sign and believe and hope and accidentally discover and confront and forgive and cry and pray and discover again and lash out and yell and beg and pray . . . Love believes. Love hopes. Love endures. Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, my life.

Until we are ready to be broken. Broken more.

To throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet and admit we are powerless to control.

Save me from furious rage, from appeasing, from excuse-making, from micro-managing, from holier than thou, from I can do this by myself, from this reflects so poorly on me . . . from fear of suffering.

Until  pride is stripped away and I realize. Until I admit that I am powerless to control . . .

* * * * *

 Blessed are the poor. . .* Jesus said.

Beaten-to-your-knees-by-poverty poor.* Reduced to begging.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3)

“Blessed are the people who feel keenly their inadequacies and their guilt and their failures and their helplessness and their unworthiness and their emptiness—who don’t try to hide these things under a cloak of self-sufficiency, but who are honest about them and grieved and driven to the grace of God,” says another.*

Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor.*

Blessed are the broken.

* * * * *

I prefer to forget broken.

But Jesus reminds me.

Broken is how He opened His first sermon. On a mountain, like Moses: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me.* 

I did not bring myself out of Egypt. I did not bring Dave out of Egypt. I am powerless.

Broken is not a once I was. Broken is a place to come back to over and over and remember. Especially for the self-reliant. For the self-sufficient. For me.

You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ You don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.Revelation 3:17-20

God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them. Matthew 5:3

homesick

My mind replays tapes of failure when I lie in bed too long awake.
Things neglected. Things forgotten. People neglected. People forgotten.
Failure that I’m not really sure is always failure.

 Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection,  LC-USF33-011536-M3
Lee, Russell, 1938, photographer

I was awakened by strange and sad dreams hours ago.

Or aching jaw, clenched undetected in sleep. Or gnawing gut, making me regret roast beef. Or a cat.

And now I need tea. (Horrible stuff, chamomile. But good for healing.)

Because now there are thoughts, tugging at my mind. If I write them, maybe they’ll go away and let me rest.

* * * * *

My mind replays tapes of failure when I lie in bed too long awake.

Things neglected. Things forgotten. People neglected. People forgotten.

Failure that I’m not really sure is always failure.

. . . I’ve begun filtering. Taking thoughts captive and filtering them through truth. Sometimes there are lessons mixed in among the mid-night lies.

But so much of what keeps me awake did not keep mankind awake until modern times.

I’m sure 90% of what I feel guilt about never crossed Ma Ingalls’s mind. She would never have beat herself up for having bins of photos instead of completed photo albums gracing her shelves. Or fretted about not getting the oil changed in her car.  Or of posting too much on Facebook. Or of being shy of the phone. Or just being social enough in general . . .

Now and then, when I am overwhelmed by the expectations of this life and its measures of worth, I look back. Far.

To a time when hospitality was giving water to a weary traveler or inviting the circuit riding preacher to Sunday dinner. When life and work were one in the same, blended together. When everyone worked with their hands, busy doing, busy surviving. When relationships were built over building barns. And I wish so much that we still did that. That we still built barns together.

Community is so vast now. So broad, far and forced that it isn’t community.

My town tries.

I see the same people at soccer, at school, at the store.

But not at church because there are so, so many. And I wish there was just one.

So many churches. Rarely a barn.

* * * * *

 . . . I feel so much like I don’t belong.

This is the thought that gets me out of bed tonight.

I reason with myself that that is as it should be.

Because I don’t.

This is a new filter. Old, well-known, but newly, deeply, accepted. A neighbor reminded me recently at a moment I was ready to hear it. She feels it, too.

This emptiness we feel . . . We were created for perfect. The world isn’t and is getting worse. We aren’t and will not be on this earth.

It’s okay. The emptiness is longing for heaven.

Every generation, from Adam, no matter what has kept them awake at night has felt the same ache.

We see through a glass, darkly. We long to see clear. 

They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:3-4

marking time


Tally Marks

Time will not be managed.

It will not slow. It will not rush. It will not freeze.

I want these short winter days to stretch long. To keep the candles going long after the power returns — careless of chores — just to finish a game of cards in the glow.

Funny how the power outage last night was a welcome relief. The frenzied pace of life is beginning to make my heart ache.

I push hard on the brakes, attempting to slow the clock. Attempting, in my own way, to live deep like my fellow woods-dweller Thoreau.

Saint Paul whispers to me with words of purpose, memorized when I was unconscious of the depth of them: Redeem the time because the days are evil. 

* * * * *

I confess I have been a time marker. Ticking off the hours, the months, the years, waiting for the passing of time to do its business . . .

Seconds til the game’s over. Minutes til school’s out. Hours til I can go to bed. Days til my mom visits. Weeks til the baby is due. Months til the debt is paid.

. . . Years til was is accepted as true . . .

The first days, weeks and months after we flushed Dave’s Ultram passed agonizingly slow.

I know Dave was counting them off.

Seconds of self-denial. Minutes of nausea. Hours of withdrawal. Days of restlessness. Weeks of coming back to recovery meetings. Months of accountability and faithfulness. Hours of clocking in at work. Months of humbly handing over receipts or handing the phone to a friend or pastor to confirm where he was.

Years of honesty.

Trust is not instantly restored. Trust takes time.

It was a terrible penance, I know, for Dave to live with me. My reluctant hope resembled skepticism, my beat-up faith expressed in anger.

I must have quit marking time some time ago . . .

I hadn’t noticed. 

But in the looking back, I see.

Time is for proving.

* * * * *

Recovering addicts mark the days. And celebrate them.

A coin, signifying 30 days. 90 days. 6 months. A year of daily battle. Two years of defeating destructive habits . . .

And now, we have come to five.

Five years and two months on a path of healing, removing heavy, bitter stones along the way.

Time heals . . . for we are no longer the same.

The anniversary passed quietly. A kiss. A moment of silence in the midst of the chaos of living . . .

Peace.

I am not in a hurry, now, to pass the time.

Time heals griefs and quarrels, for we change and are no longer the same persons. Neither the offender nor the offended are any more themselves.– Blaise Pascal, The Pensees, 1669