Wednesday, May 30, 2012

For One More Day

Most friends approach you with hands spread wide and a smile.  Somewhere along the line they press their hands into your heart and leave their mark, then they walk away - some of them don't always leave with a smile.  Once in awhile someone drifts back into your heart, takes a long look at the prints they left behind, presses their hands in a new place on your heart, and walk away again.

These handprints shape us into who we are.  Those who leave and come back, sometimes more than once or twice or a dozen times, leave such an impact on your heart it's impossible to look at any part of it without seeing what they left behind.  I have such a friend, and seeing this friend breaks my heart as much as he brings me joy.  The breaking comes from how often he has continued to leave after returning, the joy comes from witnessing how easily we resumed our friendship despite the months or years that have passed since our last encounter.  We are Forrest and Jenny, Johnny and June, Benjamin and Daisy, and every day we see one another is a day we seem to say, "For one more day I will love you for who you are, for who you've been to me, and for the friendship you continue to give.  For one more day I will not make any promises, condemn you for what you do, nor will I show you the love I claim to have for you with anything more than those words.  For one more day I will take, and walk away before I can take more than I can carry when I leave... because I must leave."  We are the ones who love but cannot love back the way the other needs.

I love with the love that comes when you share more than half of your life with someone; every tear, every smile.  I love enough to not ask God for the selfish thing, but pray he knows and loves Jesus and the miracle that is a life of belonging to and being loved by such a savior (Ephesians 3:19).  I have to remind myself that no one can be persuaded to make such a commitment, and the convictions I have for my life and my walk with God are not to be compromised (Proverbs 25:26), even when it may appear to be that the compromise would possibly convince him to take the step I've always wanted him to take - the one into Christ's arms.

So for one more day I will step back and pray for my friend.  For one more day I will pray nothing more than that he would come to know and love Jesus and experience true life-changing salvation.  For one more day I will set aside my old desires and let Jesus do the work for them, and not for me.  For one more day I will simply be, and not fight the God who wants my friend to love Him more than I do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

God Speaks

It's been a difficult month.  While nothing very significant has happened in my life that would constitute stress or concern, I can sense God nudging me toward the precipice of the Grand Canyon with the intention of pushing me off.  I've faced a battle my whole life that involved avoiding the truth, going along with the lies created to protect those who'd done wrong, and pushing aside my own needs to tend to the needs of others.  I learned to be a parent when I desperately needed a parent to love me the way a loving parent should.

Looking back on my life I can see God's workmanship to get me where I am today.  I can see where he pushed, where he pulled, and where he let me do what I needed to do before I was ready to come back to him again.  I never really felt like God was holding my hand the whole way.  More often than not I perceived God to be this tall, faceless man in white leading me down a path that was often dark and didn't make any sense at all.  I cried out to him more times than I can count.  My feet hurt, I lost sight of him, I was too tired, too hungry, there were so many easier paths to take... "God have mercy on me!"  Like the blind man on the side of the road (Mark 10:46-52) I felt like I've been crying out to God since childhood.  "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"  I'm still waiting for him to answer me.

In the last two weeks I moved into a new house with a couple of roommates and have loved the freedom to do as I please in my own house.  To make my space what I want it to be, and to do the simple things like leave a dirty mug in the sink without feeling guilty and take out the trash because I want to rather than because I knew someone would get on my case if I didn't.  With that newfound freedom came a level of safety that scared me more than the lack of safety at my previous residence did.  I was never physically unsafe, but I was certainly not in a safe place emotionally or spiritually to heal the way I knew God wanted me to in order to be the disciple he created me to be.  Now that I had a safe place, I had a place to heal.  This brought both relief and anxiety.

Since moving, I've felt that nudge toward the Grand Canyon's edge.  The moment I realized God's intention was to push me off, I dug in my heels (as if I could win a pushing match with the All Powerful Creator of the universe).  But, God humored me.  He sat me down with an older sister in the faith I look up to like a mother, and she told me the truth I found so difficult to believe - I won't be alone when I look into the depths of my soul and see the ugliness inside because people who love me, disciples, and God himself will be there.  I shook my head.  God sat me down with my closest friend, now on the other side of the world, through a Skype conversation, and offered reassurance in that while she may be an older disciple, she still loved and needed my friendship and wanted to be there for me as much as I wanted to be there for her.  I spoke with my therapist who assured me I couldn't push too quickly, but when I was ready, I would be ready.  I discovered the twelve-year-old inside of me was furious with the world and everyone in it.  She was part of the darkness, the ugliness I was so eager to hide from everyone because no one could really handle her.  

Today, God gave the final domino a flick and sat me down with an older brother in the faith who I've always had the privilege to be open and honest with - to the best of my ability anyway as I'm still learning what exactly that means - and he shared something he learned only recently in his walk with God.  We bared out hearts over burgers and pretzels at Wendy's and my loving, wiser big brother said to me, "those who are vulnerable, who are authentic, regardless of what those around them think or do, are those who really live life," and as I listened, something fell into place in my heart.  I've never allowed myself to really live life because I never thought I had the right.  This twelve-year-old inside of me, in all her ugly hurt and fury, held me back.  What if I gave her a voice?  Not that I would give voice to the hurtful things she desperately wants to say and do to those around her (me), but what if I gave a voice to the fact that she's hurt?  What if I gave her permission to talk about it, like she's never been allowed to do before?  What if I stopped trying to shut her up like my family and past friends have done my entire life, and actually let her cry, get angry, point a finger, clench her fists and grieve?  

I fear I might actually heal.

I went on a walk after that talk at Wendy's and I carried my cell phone in my back pocket and clutched my Bible in my right hand.  My roommates had gone to the midweek church service, but I stayed behind to hash things out with God.  I'd pray, and if God had something to say to me, I had his word at my fingertips.  At a walking pace that felt more like a jog, I felt only a little strange to feel so much when the day was so beautiful.  Sunshine cut through old trees, bright green with spring, and a breeze rushed through the branches in gusts that brought about a chill as I made my way to a familiar park in an old part of town.  I started walking, and I confessed my fears of being lost in my grief should I give this girl a voice.  I confessed me fears of being stuck in that depression, and said, "If there's something you want to say, tell me now," and almost immediately the scripture Psalm 91:13 came to mind.  I didn't know what Psalm 91:13 was, I was just under the impression I should turn there.  Why not?

Walking down a cracked sidewalk with traffic rushing bye I read, "You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent."  Verse 14 goes on to say, "'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.'"  My pace slowed slightly as I meditated on this and turned a corner onto a more quiet residential street, and kept praying.  I asked, just how authentic am I supposed to be with people?  A new scripture came to mind, Joshua 9:11.  I've read Joshua perhaps two times in my entire life so I had no idea what that scripture is.  When I turned there I read, "And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, 'Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, "We are your servants, make a covenant with us."'"  Out of context that seems like a pretty straightforward scripture.  A group of people are sent out to make a covenant with Israel.  Without context it can be completely misunderstood.  A tribe neighboring Israel, known as the Gibeonites, pretended to be a people from a distant land in order to make a covenant with Israel so they could ensure their safety from Israel destroying them with the other neighboring tribes in the same way Israel destroyed Jericho and Ai.  How does this relate to my question of authenticity?  A lack of authenticity does nothing but earn you enemies and create enmity.  Even if it's done for the sake of self-protection, those doing the protecting certainly don't appreciate the lie when it's found out - and God does reveal all things.

My pace slowed to a stroll by this point.  I walked a beaten path in the park, the gusts of wind had ceased by this point and my prayer had become more of a meditation on the scriptures God had given me.  I asked one final question in the midst of my jumbled inner dialogue with God.  The question I asked was, "What if I can't do it?  Be authentic like that without really hurting some people?"  God, delighted to point me to his word again, turned my attention directly to John 14:12, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."  I've read John half a dozen times or so, and I've familiarized myself with the Samaritan woman by the well in chapter four, the vine scripture in John 15, but I wasn't as familiar with chapter 14.  God directed me directly to that scripture, and I had to stop and read it again.  What if I can't do it?  "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."  

I walked home tonight knowing without a doubt that I was going to give this a try, and prayed God would guide my steps (Psalm 119:133) and keep me from sin (Psalm 139:24).  He hasn't left me yet, I don't imagine He'll do so anytime soon.  Even if I can't feel him, the way he guided me to specific scriptures I hadn't memorized, and did so pointedly, is reassuring.  He hears me.  And He'll speak to me if I'll listen.