yearn in the night towards an unknown one to love.
My arms thrash about, and I can seize on no object for my love.
I am alone and want to be two.
I speak, and no one is there to listen.
I live, and no one is there to share my life.
Why be so rich and have no one to enrich?
Where does this love come from?
Where is it going?
I want to love, Lord,
I need to love.
Here is evening, Lord, is all my love, unused.
and make, silently, a long pilgrimage to the bottom of your heart.
Walk by the side of your love so new, as one follows a brook
to find its source,
And at the very end, deep within you, in the infinite mystery
of your troubled soul, you will meet me.
For I call myself Love, son,
And from the beginning I have been nothing but Love,
And Love is in you.
It is I who made you to love,
To love eternally;
And your love will pass through another self of yours –
It is her or she that you seek;
Set you mind at rest; They are on your way,
on the way since the beginning, the way of my love.
You must wait for their coming.
They are approaching,
You are approaching.
You will recognize each other,
For I’ve made their body for you, I’ve made yours for them.
I’ve made your heart for them, I’ve made theirs for you,
And you seek each other, in the night,
In “my night,” which will become the Light if you trust me.
Keep yourself for your special one, child,
As they are keeping themself for you.
I shall keep you for one another,
And, since you hunger for love, I’ve put on your way all your
sisters and brothers to love.
Believe me, it’s a long apprenticeship, learning to love,
And there are not several kinds of love:
Loving is always leaving oneself to go towards others …
Lord, help me forget myself for others, my brothers and sisters,
That in giving myself I may teach myself to love.
– Michel Quoist, To Love: The Prayer of the Adolescent
“Aren’t you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire? Don’t you often hope: "May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country, or relationship fulfill my deepest desire." But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious or restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual death. Well, you and I don’t have to kill ourselves. We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children, and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives.”
– Henri J.M. Nouwen
“I hear it all the time. "Jesus loves you, but don’t let it go to your head." Let it go to your head!!! He’s not what you think. "You gotta be careful about this grace thing. People will take advantage of it!" Of course they’ll take advantage of it! And he’ll love them even more. Don’t say things like "you gotta draw the line somewhere." You draw the line, it’s not grace. Because we live in it, and we swim in it, and we dance with it. And it is the definition of who we are. Jesus is really fond of you. Grace comes all the time, everyday, 24/7 from a God who loves us so deeply and so profoundly that he even allows us to take advantage of him.”
The past several weeks I’ve been in such a slump. I’ve been avoiding God entirely. I’ve grown tired of religion. I’m so tired of doing this ministry and that ministry, hearing sermons, praying to someone I can’t see, singing songs I don’t mean, and constantly worrying if I’m okay. I’m just tired. I’m tired of school. I’m tired of God. I’m tired of life.
So… all this recent apathy has led me to this one nagging question. This question has been in my head for months… What’s the point? What is the point of Jesus? Why did he die? Of course, I know conceptually why he had to die. I know he had to die to pay for my sins so I could be justified in God’s sight. But what does that really mean? It’s so hard to grasp. It’s not tangible at all! What was the end goal? Did he really die so I could have a relationship with him? Or maybe he really died so I could become a better person? Was he separated from the Father who he has never been without so that through my behavior modification and me trying really really hard not to mess up, I could be a “good” person? If Christianity is true, why am I not different? Cause I am sure just as sinful as I ever was. Why do I still get angry when life doesn’t go my way? Why do I still do this sin or that sin? Why do I still think wicked thoughts? Why do I treat people so terribly sometimes? Why do I only think of myself? Why do I have mixed motives? Why is there still this desire in me to live the way I want to? Why am I tempted to throw my life with Jesus away? Isn’t Jesus supposed to fix me? This is the main question that’s been haunting me.
Recently Tullian Tchividjian held his annual Liberate Conference and Matt Chandler gave a sermon where he described the problem most Christians have. He described a courtroom scene with a judge throwing his gavel down and declaring you pardoned. And then your immediate reaction is to leave the courtroom and try really hard never to do the thing that got you in trouble ever again. This is not the reaction of freedom we are supposed to have! Trying really hard to be sinless is not the Gospel! He goes on to say we never end up understanding that not only do we have a just judge, but also a loving, heavenly Father. His main point is that most of us don’t think God likes us. We think God saves us from our past sins and now he’s just kind of putting up with us until we mature or something. I mean, if you’re being honest with yourself you probably don’t think the creator of the universe likes you very much. You may be all right with believing he has forgiven you and even loves you, but likes you?! Isn’t that too far? Isn’t that too much grace?! Doesn’t God just love me because he has to? No! He likes you! I have to tell myself this every single day or I will fall into despair. The maker of everything, the inventor of laughter, the mastermind behind the human mind, the God who came up with giraffes and bottle nosed dolphins, and the God who thought of you, made you, painted your eyes, and gave you a personality, I dare say, even likes you. And he doesn’t regret dying for you.
This may be the root of my recent despair, but I don’t know. I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and still feel crummy about life. But I have hope that God likes me. I choose to believe my creator likes me. I believe Jesus died for a reason. He suffered incalculable suffering when the Father left him to our deserved fate because he not only loved me, but liked me. He took names to the cross. He didn’t die so that we could be saved. He was not crucified so that humans would be “savable.” He didn’t die so I could work to be better. He had to do all the work for my salvation. He called me to him, brought me to belief in him, gave me the little faith I have in him and in the works he has done for me. As Steve Brown, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, said at the Liberate Conference, “Sometimes I say, “Lord, I don’t know if I’m fixable… If you can’t fix me, will you hug me?” and he does 24/7.” I may not be fixable, but I am loved and liked…by the only one that matters.
It’s time to move on. Put away childish things like actually thinking you can better yourself. You can’t. You cannot make yourself a better human being. We’re too far-gone. But there is great hope in that great despair…because God doesn’t ask us to fix ourselves. And that’s why Jesus had to die…because you can’t fix yourself. He only asks us to trust in him, with what little faith we can conjure, and rest in what he has already done for us. You’re an adopted son or daughter of the King! Don’t hold out for a “better you.” He didn’t die for a better you!! He died for you right now! Jesus likes you right now!!!! He is the hope to my despair, no matter how little my faith is.
“Certainly there are existential dilemmas in life, but the issue isn’t life itself, the issue is control. I want to know everything and yet God has not given me all the information. I just have to trust Him, and I have to trust that the work I do somehow matters to Him in the way it mattered to God that Adam named the animals. Futility in life, then, is a lie. I may not know why it’s a lie, but I know it is.”
– Donald Miller
“Now let me speak to an entirely different cadre of Christians - the company of beleaguered believers who are racked with uncertainty, tormented by doubts, and haunted by unanswered questions. They are sold out to Christ, and yet they struggle constantly. These individuals want to embrace the gospel, yet they cannot seem to get inside it. The most frustrating words they hear are, “You just have to believe,” because belief does not come easily - and sometimes not at all. Admirably, they refuse to fake it, even though that stance may mean resigning themselves to being outsiders in the faith community.”
More time passes in this timeless zone. Soa gains more power in its isolated state, all the while, the Pair grows and develops together. Each of their new physical states proves their advancement. The colors that were once emitted by each group are now absorbed into their bodies out of sight: Soa…
There are few stories, if any, in the Bible that are not raw, messy, and uncomfortably real. There’s this constant thread throughout the whole Bible in which God chooses screwed up, messed up, broken, real people to serve Him and be His. The most prominent example of this is Abraham. Here’s a guy who essentially gives his wife to Pharaoh in order to save his own skin, lacks faith in God’s promise to give him children, sleeps with his servant Hagar, and then all but banishes Hagar and their son, Ishmael. Pretty messed up, right? I mean, really… what a great dad. This trend doesn’t stop at Abraham. Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, comes out of the womb a manipulative, self-entitled jerk with quite the Napoleonic complex. In short, Jacob is so insecure that he disguises himself as his older brother, takes advantage of his father’s blindness, and steals Esau’s inheritance. So far, we’ve got great examples to follow, right? But this is the way God chooses to unfold his plan…through screw-ups. Later on we’ve got Moses, the guy with a speech impediment and, not to mention, is a murderer. Then, there’s King David, who sleeps with his friend’s wife and later has his friend killed. And you can’t forget, Samson who has a tragic weakness for beautiful, Philistine women. Later on we have all of Jesus’ disciples who, I mean, come on, included revolutionaries, stereotypical sailors, prostitutes, and corrupt tax collectors. And then there was the Apostle Paul who murdered Christians…so yeah. The Bible is full of screw-ups. I only list all of these examples to show that your sin and brokenness don’t disqualify you. I mean literally, all of the people God chose to carry out his will were complete, and utter sinners.
These were real people with real problems and real struggles. They weren’t people who had their crap together or even pretended to. On the contrary, they had nothing together. These guys even screwed up after they had received God’s promise and will. In fact, Abraham received God’s promise of a great nation of God’s chosen people before he ever gave up his wife to Pharaoh, or before he slept with his servant, or he banished his own son. God chose Abraham long before he ever screwed up. Abraham is actually the guy Paul says we are to model our faith after. In Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he says Abraham’s righteousness had nothing to do with anything Abraham ever did. It wasn’t based on “works.” It was based on faith. “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13). God’s faithfulness didn’t run out when Abraham’s faithfulness did. Even when Abraham lost faith in God and he slept with Hagar, God was still faithful to Abraham. See, it’s not your actions that define you…it’s God’s promise. He still upheld his part of the covenant and if he didn’t scrap the whole thing with Abraham, he’s not going to let go of you. The Psalmist says God knows our “frame”, or in other words, he knows we can’t reach his standard. He knows what we’re made of…and it’s not much. We fail…and we fail a lot…and He loves us.
In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.” God doesn’t want someone who thinks they have it together or that they’re even a good person. He wants someone who knows his or her real state. He wants the real you. He wants you with all your sin, all your mess, and all your brokenness. He doesn’t want “some ideal person” because there are none. No one is ideal. Even those people (wwho act like they’re not broken or hurt or caught up in sin, totally are all of those things. Our sin is so pervasive and unfathomable. We all probably sin against God a billion times a day, what with our deep, subconscious desires, hidden motives, and wicked suppressed thoughts. There’s no way around it. We’re sinners, and we’re great sinners. And we’re still going to sin, even after we encounter Jesus. But if the bad news is that bad, imagine how good the good news must be. Often times, well more like everyday, I’ll fall into despair over my own sin, whether it’s the wicked, selfish thoughts that run through my head, or my actualized failures, and tell myself that that’s what defines me. That I am my sin. But Jesus tells me something totally different. He tells me I’m His… I am Abba’s child. It’s not your actions that define you. In the words of Anne Lamott, “If you are what you do, and you fail, what then?” The point is we’re going to fail, so we better not put hope in what we do or fail to do. The great thing is God doesn’t see our failures. Instead, he looks at us and sees Jesus. According to the Psalmist, “even the darkness is not dark” to God. He’s not surprised by your screw-ups and he still loves you and wants to use you just like Abraham. We often get caught up in thinking God is just like us. He’s not. For one thing, he is outside of time. Therefore, he sees the future, perfected you, not the past or present you. There is nothing you have done and nothing you will do that will ever disqualify you from God’s grace in Jesus Christ. We aren’t defined by our actions (good or bad), we’re defined by Jesus. Rejoice in that truth and rest in Him who defines you. Go to the Lord as you are, with all our your sin, screw-ups, selfish motives, dark desires, and hateful thoughts and be real with Him. His response every time will be the same…”my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). His power was made perfect in the weakness and brokenness of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samson, David, Peter, and Paul, and his power and love will be perfected in you and your weakness, too.
Let’s be honest. Life sucks sometimes. Life actually sucks a lot, a lot of the time. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I’m always trying to hide the fact that I’m unhappy with how life is going. I become obsessed with making sure people think I’m okay, that life is swell. Because who wants to hang out with a person who’s actually honest about the shadows that frequent all of our lives? This (sadly) seems especially true in Christian circles. For some reason, there’s this pervasive idea that once someone encounters Jesus, his or her life will all of a sudden fall into place. Not only do some Christians believe this is true, some Christians (myself included) look at their lives, see that they don’t have it all together and pretend that all is well because what kind of Christian doesn’t have his or her crap together?! Well for one, I sure don’t…. and every other Christian that is actually a human being. So we’re all hiding from the fact that life sucks sometimes, and for Christians, that life can still suck… even after Jesus.
Whether we’re suffering from the loss of loved ones, disappointed by our own failures, or aren’t where we thought we’d be at this point in our lives, life can be discouraging to say the least. One of my favorite hymns is “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul” written by Anne Steele sometime in the 1700s. If anyone knows about the midnights of life, it’s Anne Steele. Her mother died when she was 3, she became an invalid at 19, and her fiancé drowned hours before their wedding. Talk about a terrible series of events. But what distinguishes Anne Steele is not the tragedy of her life, but her honesty about life. She writes, “But oh! When gloomy doubts prevail, I fear to call Thee mine/The springs of comfort seem to fail, and all my hopes decline.” This feeling is all too real. Thoughts like, “Am I really yours, Jesus?”, “I hate life right now”, “Shouldn’t I be happy?”, “Isn’t Jesus suppose to be enough?” are just a few that may run through someone’s mind when life seems so hopeless. Anne Steele even goes on to question if God listens to her pleas. She writes, “Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face, And shall I seek in vain?/And can the ear of sovereign grace, be deaf when I complain?” We’ve all asked these same questions. “Am I seeking God in vain?” “Is it useless?” “Does God even care?” What she writes next lays these haunting questions to rest. She writes, “No still the ear of sovereign grace, attends the mourner’s prayer/ Oh may I ever find access, to breathe my sorrows there.” Jesus wants to hear your sorrows. He weeps with us. He wept with Mary and Martha over Lazarus’s death. He’ll weep with you. We have to be ruthlessly honest with our friends, God, and ourselves about our failures, our sufferings, and our depressions. We have to stop pretending life gets fixed after we encounter Jesus. We still live in a fallen world and we’re still broken people.
In Brennan Manning’s memoir All Is Grace, he responds to a question he was frequently asked throughout his lifelong ministry. Many asked him how he could relapse into alcoholism after his encounters with Jesus. In his book he responds with a passage from Fil Anderson. Anderson says, “My highest hope is for all of us to stop trying to fool others by appearing to have our act together. As people living in intimate union with God, we need to become better known for what and who we actually are. Perhaps a good place to begin would be telling the world – before the world does it own investigation – that we’re not as bad as they think. We’re worse….If we really believe the gospel we proclaim, we’ll be honest about our own beauty and brokenness, and the beautiful broken One will make himself known to our neighbors through the chinks in our armor – and theirs. “ We don’t have to have it all together. In the words of Brother Dominique Voillaume, “it’s okay not to be okay.” And what Anderson is saying is that people really see Jesus in us through our weaknesses, and how we handle our failures. Jesus doesn’t magically make us better people who are in better circumstances. If that were true, approximately one third of the human population would be angels. He sanctifies us in what can be a long, drawn out, and some times painful experience. Life does not become easier, but is still full of both anguish and joy. Just look at the Psalms. In one Psalm, David is on cloud nine. The next, his world is falling apart.
We live in a fallen world, therefore, everything we hold dear will eventually fail us, be that our family, our job, our friends, our dreams, our wealth, or ourselves. Your family will disappoint you. Your job will fail to bring you purpose. Your friends will fade. Your dreams will vanish. Your wealth won’t satisfy. And you, because you’re human, will fail, time and time again. You’ll become discouraged with the bleakness of life. That will happen. But when it does…when life begins to suck… limp over to Jesus and lean on Him. It’s all right. It’s okay not to be okay. As Anne Steele concludes at the end of her ruthlessly honest hymn, “His mercy seat is open still.”
'What are we made for?'
'For infinite happiness,' said the Spirit. 'You can step out into it at any moment…'
-C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
"I stood in the laboratory of the Artist who made the world and me…….You may melt your metals and cast them into the most beautiful moulds you can; they will never excite me like the forms which this molten earth flows out into." - Henry David Thoreau
In the spirit of self-consciousness and solipsism that has been inspiring this ghetto blog lately…my friends, I apologize, but I say this with love: LIVE IN FULLNESS WHILE YOU CAN. DO NOT HOLD BACK. BE ALIVE WITH LOVE. FORGIVE YOUR ENEMIES. GIVE MORE THAN YOU CAN TAKE. GIVE IT YOUR ALL. WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO LOSE BUT YOUR OWN LIFE WHICH IS BUT A GIFT TO GIVE AWAY!?