Words alone won’t do

I want to share an experience with my words, but I find that my words are not quite enough. The word and the experience are a terrible match, like comparing side-by-side a matchstick and a volcano. I cannot share my experience of God through my words, but perhaps God might show the reader, he might put the right image in their minds or the right feeling in their hearts. But that is out of my control. When faced with someone who doesn’t know you, Lord, the inability of my words to express you, it is the saddest thing but also the most relieving thing. Because it isn’t about my words, their wisdom or their eloquence. If your Spirit isn’t there, Lord, they amount to nothing. Even the holiest words to push out through the fingers of men, the words of our scriptures, amount to nothing without your presence. You need to open our hearts, Lord, so we can experience the truth they point to. If even those words aren’t enough, without your Holy Spirit, what good could mine be on their own? As the apostle Paul told us, let not our faith be in wise and eloquent words but in the Spirit’s power.

Giver of Life

Last night I dreamt I was sleeping in a man’s bed who had died, and his little dog came to my side and he was distressed as only his master had slept there. So I got up and another man entered the room with his wife. He had been a relative of the man who had died, and was grieving but had a peace about him. He asked me if I had any words for the occasion. Seeing that I was a Christian, he thought I might. But I told him I had not any that would do, but that I felt a thickness of emotion in the room that was overwhelming.

And he looked surprised and said he would’ve thought I had some. And then he reached behind him and pulled out a book. Of songs, perhaps. And he gestured to his wife to come over. And they began to sing the most beautiful and uplifting song. One I had never heard before and was sad I would not remember when I woke up. But it stirred my spirit into great hope. It was like the heavens had opened and began to sing.

And I saw before me a great king with a crown and royal robes, and he was animated by a loving tenderness so potent that he shook with it as he rushed to throw his arms around one of his subjects. The love that shone from him, how I wish I could describe it better, it was like light and joy and power and wonder.

What a wonder it is that there is a song that overcomes death, that lifts you so high that nothing can touch you. It is the song of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has defeated death and is the giver of life to all who would come to him.

Turning the other cheek

“Nothing so restrains the wrong doers, as when the injured bear what is done with gentleness. And it not only restrains them from rushing onward, but works upon them also to repent for what has gone before, and in wonder at such forbearance to draw back..

..And it makes them more our own, and causes them to be slaves, not merely friends, instead of haters and enemies; even as avenging one’s self does just the contrary: for it both disgraces each of the two, and makes them worse, and their anger it heightens into a greater flame; yea, often no less than death itself is the end of it, going on from bad to worse. Wherefore He not only forbade you to be angry when smitten, but even enjoined you to satiate the other’s desire, that so neither may the former blow appear to have befallen you against your will. For thus, lost as he may be to shame, you will be able to smite him with a mortal blow, rather than if you had smitten him with your hand; or if his shamelessness be still greater, you will make him gentle in proportion..

..And just as, after He had bidden not to call another fool, nor to be angry without cause, He went on and required more, in that He commanded to offer the right cheek also; even so here, having said, ​”​ Agree with your adversary, ​”​ He again amplifies the precept. For now He orders us not only to give what the other would have, but even to show forth a greater liberality.

​”​ What then! ​”​ one may say, ​”​ am I to go about naked? ​”​ We should not be naked, if we obeyed these sayings with exactness; rather more abundantly than any should we be clothed. For first, no one would attack men of this disposition; and next, if there chanced to be any one so savage and ungentle, as to proceed even so far, yet many more would be found to clothe him, who acted with such self-denial, not with garments only, but even with their own flesh, if it were possible.

Further: even though one were of necessity to go about naked on account of this sort of self-denial, neither so were it any disgrace. Since Adam too was ​”​ naked ​”​ [ Genesis 2:25 ] in paradise, ​”​ and was not ashamed; ​”​ and Isaiah was ​”​ naked, and barefoot, ​”​ and more glorious than all the Jews; [ Isaiah 20:2-3 ] and Joseph [ Genesis 39:12 ] also, when he stripped himself, did then more than ever shine forth. For to be thus naked is no evil, but to be so clad, as we now are, with costly garments, this is both disgraceful and ridiculous.”

St. John Chrysostom

Sin needs to go

When reading Jesus in the sermon on the mount, I just wasn’t getting it. He is saying that even by getting angry I was in danger of judgement. I didn’t understand, as I thought He was saying I was saved by grace through faith! How could I be in danger of judgement if I was saved by faith? But I realized that I’ve had a mental block. I had seen contradictions here where there were none. I was operating under the impression that I could enter heaven with sin still within me. But I can’t. God wants me to see this: sin, when fully grown, leads to death. Sin needs to be dealt with. Anger does lead to hell when it’s allowed to grow. I needed to get this. That sin must be dealt with. It’s dangerous. It hurts me. And God wants to help me. He wants to save me from it. And I am saved by grace. He himself is going to heal me from it. Through his Spirit within me, he’s going to transform me from the inside out. So I don’t need to be afraid, as long as I remain in him, in a trusting relationship. But he wanted me to understand that sin must go, and he is going to remove it. I needed to know that. I needed to be willing, so it would go easier.

A Change of Focus

I always thought Jesus was a bit harsh when he gave the sermon on the mount. He told his disciples that unless their righteousness surpassed that of the pharisees, the religious elite of the time, then they wouldn’t enter the kingdom of heaven. He then took the rules of the time, such as “you shall not murder” and made it much harder, saying that if they even get angry with one another, they would be in danger. Wow Jesus, that is pretty harsh!

But then I sat with this some more and I got an insight into what Jesus is doing here. The pharisees may not have murdered, but they didn’t have love for one another. Their religion was one of external observance only. Jesus was not simply making a tough set of rules more difficult, he was trying to move their focus. He didn’t want them to just follow rules, he wanted genuine love to abound among them. Murder is an external action, but anger is in the heart. Jesus was leading them to a heart transformation. This is the spirit of what he was saying: “I don’t want you to just follow external rules, I want you to love one another!” It wasn’t about him making impossible demands upon us that we could never keep.

In fact, Jesus himself is going to make that change within us, if we come to him. He called himself the living bread from heaven, the bread that when eaten gives eternal life. He called himself the true vine, that whoever remains in him produces the fruit of righteousness, but not apart from him. He says he’s going to put a new spirit in us, and take away our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh. Through his Spirit the work begins in us, and through his Spirit it is carried on until completion.

Repent?

Got some good news.
God doesn’t desire you to have
independent moral perfection.
He’s not like
“oh look at that guy
that guy is just perfect
I don’t need to have a relationship with him,
he is doing just fine on his own.”
No.
When we talk about repentence,
that is NOT what we are talking about.
The bible teaches that God desires
a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
It’s the parable of the publican,
where it was not the self-righteous one
who was justified before God,
but it was the one who lowered his head
and threw himself on the mercy of God.
Repentence is not improving your own heart
so you become a better
self-sufficent human being.
Repentence is turning back to God.
It’s the prodigal son,
who went astray,
but then he came home to his father.
Because the reality is
it’s only through God
that we can become holy.
We just need to come to God
in honesty
letting our full selves
be revealed in his light,
knowing how thoroughly and completely
we need to rely upon God,
knowing we are not good in ourselves
nor could we ever hope to be,
but that our goodness is God,
and the good in me
is not of me
but of Christ who lives in me.

Social Anxiety

I had a revelation today about my anxiety. It’s a lot of stuff I kinda already knew, but I hadn’t really got it in a deep way, and I hadn’t really connected all the dots before now, at least not in a way I felt convicted in my heart.

My anxiety stems from a fear of failure and rejection. This manifests most strongly when it comes to job interviews and actually being in the workplace. It also manifests in social settings as social anxiety. It results in me being repressed emotionally. I want so much to be liked and to succeed that I am not fully myself. It’s like I’m trying to maintain this image of who I think I should be, because I’m so afraid that who I am might not be good enough to keep the job I am in, or in the social setting, to keep the friends I have made.

My wife said something to me last night. She said that she loves how I am in private with her, but she would like other people to see what I am like too. Because when I’m with her I feel safe enough to be myself, and I can be quite silly and eccentric, but when I’m with others I tend to suppress my personality to some level. Deep down I am probably an extrovert, but it’s the social anxiety that has made me think I was an introvert as I would tend to not express myself because of it. It’s also why I find social interactions draining, unless I know the people very well, as it takes a lot of energy to suppress or put up a front.

I know that whether I hide away or not, there will always be both success and failure in my life, and there will always be people who like my personality and some who don’t.

I’d not really connected all this up together, but felt God was showing me this today. Even to face up to it and admit it has felt like a great weight has lifted off my chest and my head, and I feel tangibly lighter. I have felt for a while that God has been taking me on a journey of being more open and visible. And I know this is a process, and I can’t turn it all around over night, but my prayer is that God would continue to show me the truth of all this and lead me into more and more freedom.

God is in the Interruptions

I didn’t want to be
interrupted
from God
but as I looked up
I saw
it was His face
interrupting me.
May I never be
so on the call
that I miss the call.
God is
in the time between.
He’s in the long walk home
and the waiting before.
He’s in the cancellation
and the defeat.
When the day is exhausted
and the frustrated hum of hours
is settled into quiet,
He is there remaining.

Gentle

I always thought that Elijah,
when he seeks God
on the mountain
and finds him not
in the powerful wind
or the earthquake
or the fire
but in the gentle whisper,
that he was teaching us to be still
to hear Him.
And that is true,
but I realize now it is more,
it is about who He is.
He’s not what we expect.
He’s not weilding lightning bolts
and shouting us down
with terrifying authority.
He is gentle.
He presents Himself as a servant,
washing feet.
He doesn’t force his will upon us
or talk over us,
but softly calls us
and waits.
I caught a glimpse of Him once
in a vision I had
and he wasn’t at all
how I imagined.
Shining in beautiful starlight,
I felt his smile
of overflowing delight
and this otherworldly gentleness
that assured me how very careful
he would be in loving me.

Holy Mountain

Ever since I was little
I’ve had this recurring dream
of being in a tidal wave.
I would see this great wave
towering in the distance,
thousands of feet high.
And I knew my time
was running out,
so I would flee,
try to hide,
try to fight it,
but I would always become
overwhelmed,
and sometimes I would even die
in my dream.
But this time it was different.
This time I went straight for the mountain
at the top of the town,
ignoring the chaos around me,
pushing forward
until I got there.
And when the wave hit
it never reached me
and it never will again.