The Struggle Against Comfort

I believe in a fountain that will never dry
Though I’ve thirsted and didn’t have enough
Thirst is no measure of His faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us

-Sara Groves

Perhaps one of the greatest ironies that I’ve discovered during these last ten months of living and working at a Christian ministry is that it is entirely possible to serve God and lack affection for Him. I am surrounded by reminders of Him, I have learned what answers work and what phrases sound best in prayer, I find it incredibly easy to deceive myself.

So many of these women cling to a beautified idea of God or Christianity because it provides them with a glimmer of hope—someday, things might change, someday, their lives might be better. Often, Jesus becomes another way out of the pit of addiction and despair. Except that Jesus doesn’t necessarily make circumstances better or consequences disappear.

I want so desperately for these women to see that Jesus is not a band-aid, a replacement, a new addiction, or a lifestyle. He is a Person! This God-Man asks His friends to follow Him, to lay down everything, to carry a cross. He wants friendship and intimacy. He wants love that burns like fire because His love for us burns like fire. But how can I help these women see this Man when I don’t always see Him? It is so tempting to allow Jesus to become comfortable to me. It is easy to see Him as a colorless mannequin instead of a living, breathing, Person. My own apathy scares me.

The Holy Spirit indwells me. He is jealous for me so that I can be jealous for Him. He loves me so that I can love Him.My heart cry is for a deeper love for Him. I want my service for Him to be an outflow of worship.

And in the meantime, He gently reminds me that even while I emotionlessly follow, He is still good. He still loves me. He is still faithful. He withholds no good thing from me.

 

i wanted to remember her

Write a story about the older lady in the airport.

I recorded a memo on my phone because I wanted to remember to write about her.

I wanted to record her memory because she looked fascinating, she looked wise, but mostly, because she just looked old and faded—like something I would find in my great-grandma’s attic. Everything about her was faded; from her yellowed blouse and dusty pink skirt to her carefully applied, but probably ancient, lipstick. Her shoes looked like they belonged in the forties decade—and probably had.  Remember Julie Andrew’s suitcase in the Sound of Music? Remember the bag that Anne of Green Gables said held all her earthly possessions? This lady had that suitcase. The kind that needed a key to open.

Her eyes were what drew me to her. There was wisdom in those faded blue eyes. I watched her as she studied the people rushing by—the father with the crying baby, the college kid on her phone, the tired security guard—she watched them rush by and I wondered what she was thinking. What does 2011 look like to 1956?

The plane was delayed. People complained. The baby cried. The college kid texted everyone in her contact list. Everyone was lost in their own worlds, all competing for first place in the race of their personal schedules. And I sat on the floor beside the electrical outlet with my charging phone and half-eaten pretzel and watched her sit and wait. That’s all she did. While the world rushed on a self-appointed hectic pace around her, she sat with her hands folded and her ugly brown suitcase neatly sitting beside her dusty shoes. She looked content. She looked patient. She looked like she knew more about the world than any one of the 21st century Americans around her.

I suppose for someone that had probably lived through a world war, through Pearl Harbor, through a president’s assassination, and through a country that had changed dramatically in the course of her life, there was no reason she should not, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, sit in a crowded airport in Philadelphia and wait for a plane.

I wish I had been brave enough to talk to her. I wish I had offered to take her for overpriced airport food while we waited for our plane. I wish I had asked her where she was going and why she was flying on 9/11, but I didn’t. I just sat and watched her as she silently analyzed everyone in a crowded gate in Terminal B.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to do her character justice in a hastily written note for Facebook, but I wrote myself a phone reminder anyways.

Dear old lady in the airport, I wish I had said hello.

learning

You’re a Warrior.

Sometimes I forget that.

Sometimes I think that You’re a mighty King

Sometimes You whisper that You’re my Abba, my Daddy

Sometimes I forget that You are also my Defender

Fighter of my Battles

There are so many complexities to God; so many different aspects of Him. He is every beautiful adjective in the English language, but even that cannot begin to describe Him.

Holy

Powerful, yet gentle

Righteousness and tender

The mighty King.

The tender Father.

Love.

He is love.

In His own gentle way, the Lord has been showing me what it means to be His daughter; to receive His delight and affection. It’s a lesson that I’m pretty sure He loves teaching—but not necessarily one that I always enjoy learning. My immediate reaction to His love is to reciprocate in my stumbling human ways, but He consistently says rest.

I’m learning.

But the past year or so, He’s revealed another side of Himself; a side that I wouldn’t normally have associated with love and fathers and delight. My Shepherd, my Abba…He’s a Soldier. He’s a Warrior-King.

And this Warrior fights my battles.

I resist; I like fighting my own battles. But He consistently says rest.

I’m learning.

shame

this is old, but still burns in my heart.

Picture this scene: a young woman trembles from anger and fear. With her arms wrapped around her body and silent, poignant tears streaking down her face, she tries to block out the angry accusations of those who surround her. How dare those hypocrites accuse her of adultery when she knows they, too, have sinned. Deep down, though she knows she deserves every indictment. And now she cringes before God.

Shame.

Shame is the defining element surrounding her quivering form. It hovers over her, like a furious black cloud intent on slowly suffocating her soul.

Can you relate? I can.

But then the story becomes beautiful. Listen.

“Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger in the ground. And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more He bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.”

Now listen to Jesus’ words as they cut through the cloud of shame like a two-edged sword.

“Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on, sin no more.”

I don’t know what happened after that, but I imagine she slowly turned and walked home, in a dazed mixture of puzzlement and elation.

She was not condemned.

And neither are you.

Romans 8:1-2:

Therefore, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

The dictionary defines condemnation as either the state of being condemned, or strong censure; disapprobation; reproof.

To me, the word reminds me of inmates in the death-row, a building wrapped in yellow tape and boarded shut, a child constantly trying to measure up and never quite making it. It’s a chilling word. A depressing word. A word that causes flowing tears, broken hearts, and tragic death.

I was talking to my sweet friend, Emily, the other day and she mentioned John11:43:

“Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

I haven’t been able to get that line out of my head since. I can almost see Jesus’ smiling face, with tearstains still on His cheeks, as He subtly asks, “What does a living man need with grave-clothes?”

Centuries later, His voice still speaks through the shame, the condemnation, the self-hatred, the inferiority. Take off the grave clothes, beloved, because “for all you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

We are not condemned.

Song of all Songs

I am desperate for love.
My soul craves affection like a baby craves nourishment.
I am needy.
I am longing.
I am desperate.
I struggle to survive in a dry world.

But then His rain falls onto my heart;
He breathes into me and I am renewed.
I am whole.
I am satisfied.
I am beloved.
I dance to His heartbeat like a woman in love dances with delight.

Then He comes and dances with me.

He says I am beautiful and I know He is holy.
He says my voice is sweet and I know His love is better than wine.
He says I have stolen His heart and I know that I delight in Him.

He is mine and I am His.

I fall to His feet and weep with adoration, and my perfume spreads it’s fragrance. I don’t see condemners because I am captured in His gaze.

And now I am quiet in His love.
His song surrounds me.
He fully rejoices.
I am His.

“Set my heart free, that I may praise Your Name.”
-Psalm 142:7