Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Who is God? (A Homiletic Reflection)

A week ago, I was given the exercise of answering the question "Who is God?" in only about 100 words. Written for the ear and not for the eye, this was my answer:

From the beginning,
I like to imagine God joyfully singing Creation into being.
Full of love.

He is not the inflictor of pain.
He is the only One
who truly understands
what pain
He is the only one
who can hold our broken pieces.
And put us back together when we are shattered.

Because of love,
Jesus came.

This marvellous God-man
lived a perfect life,
died for our sins,
and then resurrected
to defeat sin
and death
and our separation from God.
The old ache
of our souls

as Holy Spirit
makes our souls breathe.
An energy
that moves like wind
so that
we inhale and exhale
in mystery.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dehydrated, Drunk, and the Spirit

I think this is worth writing about. Because the working of God is worth sharing:

Eyes closed, I held up my cupped hands, filled with the hurt, shame, wounding, grime, brokenness, and dirt - piled like a mass of blood-soaked dirt and asphalt.

"Pray after me: 'Jesus, take it.'"

My mouth wouldn't let me fully repeat, but I think Christ understood. And he gave grace and mercy when I struggled out: "Take it."

And like water and light, a blue spirit poured down into my cupped hands, lapping at them like a dog's tongue which drinks water - washing over and over again like a wave because the stuff was sticky - stuck to my hands like it was stuck to my spirit.

"Now, ask Jesus give you what He wants you to have."

This time, it was easier: "Jesus, please give me what you want me to have."

Eyes still shut, I saw and felt love pour into my hands. Like red wine, it pooled into my hands and filled them; it kept pouring, but never over-flowing - like the burning bush that burned but was not consumed. It seeped into my hands, through my arms, and into my body - warming my soul. And I broke down and cried again because that was all I could do at feeling such love and at feeling so whole.

"What did you see?"

"Love...pour down into my hands like red wine. It kept pouring and filling, but never overflowed."

"New wine for new wine skins. I saw a dove over you."

There's something about being filled with the Spirit... Thank God, for the gift of friends - for prophetic healers.

I am realizing how dehydrated my soul has been.

 * * *

Some events this weekend have again brought the concept of forgiveness to a forefront in my mind and heart. More deep wounding coupled this time with what I was able to identify as spiritual attacks. What I came away with was this:

~ Wounded people often hurt others.

~ I am not perfect - it is in my nature to mess up, fail, and hurt others. My tendency is to want to see myself as blameless. Once seeing that I am flawed, my tendency is then to beat myself up for not being perfect. Neither of these are accurate views of myself.

~ The only way I will be able to forgive others is to see myself as God sees me: not perfect, but perfectly loved and accepted because of what Christ has done on the Cross on my behalf. 

Forgiveness will always be hard work until I am filled with the love of Christ. I'm not talking about intellectually knowing it, or feeling some sort of obligation to love others because God loved me so much that He would forgive and die for my sins.

I'm talking about being overwhelmed with the love of Christ. Of feeling it to my core. Of being steeped in it, soaked with it, drenched to the point where I start dripping that sort of love, like wet footprints, wherever I go. I think that is what the biblical writers and the mothers and fathers of the Christian faith are talking about when talking about the transforming love of Christ.

This is not even about feeling happy, excited, or blessed because I see the good things that God has put into my life (although that fits in). It's about simply being and being made aware of the love that God has for me.

Only in the safety of the love guaranteed by God can I allow myself to trust and love others. Because people are not particularly safe. Even with the best of intentions, we fail.

Only when I am saturated with the love of God can that flow out of me to others.

Only when I experientially realize and am empowered with the love of God will loving others, forgiving others, and walking in the footsteps of Christ in sacrificial obedience not feel like "work."

And, at this point, I refuse to move without feeling God's love filling my being. Because, at this point, to do any of that good stuff which makes me a "good person" or a "good Christian"* is out of my own strength - my own pride - and is empty in meaning, and draining to my being.

So, my prayer has become this and I refuse to move without it: "Lord, show me how much you love me. Let me feel it that I may see myself properly before You and out of that love others."

I know I've been on this journey for a while, but I think I'm about to intentionally start a long process (expected further Dark Nights of the Soul included)...and I think it's going to be good.

LORD, may it be.

*Really, what does it even mean to be a "good" Christian? It's a useless, empty qualifier because only God is good. Our behavior does not make us good: only the redemptive work of Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit within us makes us "good" before God.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Promiscuous Words

Within the past 6 months, I was told by two men that they loved me - rather - that they were in love with me. Both of these men had expressed to others that they thought that I was the one whom they would marry. One I loved as a best friend, the other was a friend whom I fell in love with. Of those two men, one is now married and the other is engaged - and neither one to me.

I wish I was making this up. Because, in my mind, this is the kind of thing that happens in movies, or TV shows, or books, or...soap operas. I suppose truth is the basis from where we get our fiction.

It's hard because these two men were, in my opinion at the time, some of the "best men" that I knew. Each of them had some of the kindest, biggest hearts out of anybody that I knew. They were amazing listeners with quirks that stemmed from their unique personalities and interests. I pointed to them as exemplary characters among my engagements with other people. They each stood, at points in time, as a best friend.

Allow me to clarify: there is no sense of conquest here. There is no sense of "men broke themselves for me." Instead, I feel a deep sense of loss, of betrayal, of sadness at seeing people whom I care for make decisions that I sense to be so unwise. I have lost relationships that served as bedrocks in my life. These were men whom I trusted, and whom I trusted with my heart.

I think there is a tale of caution in here of how we use our words. I was promised love at a time that was too soon. When we are not careful in discerning when is the proper time to speak, we whore out our speech; we make promises that we do not realize we are incapable of fulfilling; we say things we do not really mean; we hurt others in our rashness; we say things that we later regret. And although we may be filled with all sincerity when we speak in the moment, time and follow-through (or lack thereof) either prove our character or make us look like liars.
I say "we" because I also let my words run away before I think about them. While it is not always so terrible as above described, "Letting one's words run away with them" is not always as benign as it sounds, either.

Professing love before the right time takes something of deep value and reduces it in meaning and does deep damage to the trusting and the unguarded. Our mouths become whore's mouths - promiscuously speaking of things that lack depth, connection and honesty under the veneer of something that is real.

I do not mean to say that the relationships of those men lack authenticity. I think they lack wisdom. They rushed to tell me something just as they rushed into life-long commitments with other women. But, time will test and time will tell; and time will prove the depth of their words. And, honestly, I wish them well. I wish them marriages filled with blessing and strength. I wish them growth.

Personally problematic for me is that I respected those men. I trusted them. So, when they spoke, I took them at their word.
And for me, love is a deep thing.

And it is a deeply painful thing to be told that a person is in love with you, that he has marriage in mind with you...only six months later to see him finalizing that offer with another woman.
It makes it very hard to trust. And I find myself stuck there right now. I suppose, and hope, that it is only a "phase" - just a step in the grief cycle. Because, I do not want to be here the rest of my life - crippled at the inability to trust. But, I'm not really sure how one overcomes that either. It's not like I can just say, "Those men were some of the best examples of men that I had. They completely broke my trust and my heart. But I will continue to trust!"

This has to be where the work of Christ comes in. And by "has" I mean "must." Only God can fix this. Only God can take my now suspicious, deeply wounded heart and restore it to a place where it can trust again. I really see no other options.

In the meantime, I am thankful. I am thankful at these - not bullets - cannon balls that I dodged. I would have willingly embraced them had Providence not intervened. I am thankful for the opportunity that I have to start doing self-reflection and analysis. These hard slaps of reality have me thinking about how I jump into and engage in relationships. This pain has sent me reeling back to my family, where I have experienced healing in familial ties and there found some excellent examples of beautiful, flawed, trustworthy men. I have inner work to do. I can be proactive. I do not have to sit and stay as a victim. I can also grow.

And even if I remain single for the rest of my life, I will be a bigger person as a result. I will hopefully have more to offer. I can serve others as a wounded healer.

And I thank God for that. And I suppose that's the promise of the Cross: that out of desolation springs new life. Spring follows the even the harshest of winters.

In perusing through a book, I came across this text:

  1. Grief should permit newness. 
  2. Holiness should give hope.
  3. Memory should allow possibility.
    All three affirmations argue that life comes out of death." 
 ~ Walter Brueggemann, Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile. Philedelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 132.

So, let it be:
Lord, set a guard over my mouth. Let time and touch heal my heart: help me to trust. Help me learn to set proper boundaries. Let me see and learn from my mistakes. And forgive me, as I forgive those who trespass against me. Help me to forgive. Yes.

There is a song to leave with. A song of promise, praise, and hope; sung at Tribe of Los Angeles; based off of Psalm 92:

Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

We will flourish like a tree.
We will grow strong and green.
We are planted by the water
In the garden of our King.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Smoke Signals

It's a strange thing to post such "personal" outworkings of my emotions in such a "public" sphere as a blog, I suppose. But I feel like, here, I have a quiet space all to myself. And I feel like I am heard, even if it's only one reader who peruses what I've put down. And I have this hope that it might offer some sense of encouragement should another person stumble across this who is going through something similar. (You, beloved, are not alone.)

I guess, in a way, it's my experiment in grieving within a society that does not know how to grieve.

I was told today at work, "Don't think about him. Don't let it get you down. Don't cry."
I suppose that's supposed to be encouraging...

* * *

Only two days ago, I found out that the man I love(d) is planning on spending the rest of his life with another woman. It stems out of his concept of "making right" or "manning up" to his (not so distant) past mistakes. He said he loves her. A month ago, he had told me that he no longer had feelings for her - that he had moved on - and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He had asked me for forever. I told him it was too soon to ask me for that - but my heart had consented. He kept flirtatiously bringing it up, and I finally gave in - shyly, because it's a big thing to be asked for forever when you're logically know that it's too soon to be asked, but your heart has already said, "yes."

My first time falling in love, I suppose.
With the others, there had always been something nagging in the back of my mind - but with him...

I feel like such a fool. So deceived. So abandoned. So very abandoned.

(My friend found this song. It says it perfectly - almost as if he'd written it. And the artist is amazingly talented. How there are so few views and likes is beyond my understanding.)

* * *

It's hard when people continuously want to hear about the man who has made you so happy - but when he breaks you heart, they say, "Don't talk about it - you'll feel better." As if, not talking about him equated not thinking about him. As if I haven't developed the habit of having him on my brain and on my heart. (Maybe that's something to work on.) But, instead of being able to work through my feelings, I am shut up and shut out - not free to talk because people do not know how to handle the pain of others.
And that's a shame.

I understand that it's important to be professional. And I am trying my very best to do that. I am trying to leave my "baggage" at the door. But it's hard when people want you to be "fine" only two days after your world has been turned upside down.

I feel so upside down.

   I thought I felt pain when I ended things with him a couple weeks ago (and I did). It was frustrating then because I knew that I needed to do the right, wise thing and let him go so that he could have the space to work out what he needed to do. I hoped he would do the right thing - for all parties involved. And even though I said I had to let the dream of "us" die - I was nagged by a lingering sense of hope.
   I felt as though my heart had been ripped out when I heard that he was thinking marrying somebody else after he had told me that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. But when I heard him answer, "Yes," to my question of "Do you love her?"
...I don't know how to describe what I felt. I still don't. I just feel upside down.

* * *
* * *
He had told me that I loved him like Jesus.

He had asked me if he could have me for "forever." He asked if he could keep me.

He wanted to build me a house and a life.

He had said that we were a "#1 Team."

He wanted to take care of me.

He told me that I made him want to be a better man without me even trying.

He wanted to hold my heart. And he knew that he had it.

He said he wanted me to be his best friend. He said I was his best friend. And he was becoming mine.

He said that the way he felt about me was like he had felt with nobody else before...

He said...he told...he wanted...he asked...he planned...

And I wanted to be so good: for him and to him. I wanted to adventure with him, and serve with him, laugh with him, cry with him, even fight (and make up) with him. I wanted to support him and him me. I wanted to encourage him and him me. I wanted to make the world more beautiful with him.
* * *
* * *

Two nights ago, when everything fell apart. When he told me that he loved her...

I told him that I didn't want him.
And that's mostly true, I suppose. I am still desperately in love with the man whom I fell for. I want nothing more than for him to follow through on doing the truly right thing and then for him to come for me...
I wish he was here so that I could scream and cry and fight against him only to have him fold me into his arms and hold me as I cry...and then have him do the right thing even though it's so, very hard. Instead, I am left alone to scream into my pillow. Instead, he is convinced that doing the "right thing" is something which even text books in high school warn against.

It's wishful thinking - I'm pretty sure of it. I do not think that he has that strength of character. And unless God works a miracle... Well...

That's the problem with love songs and movies.

 I do not think that the man whom I fell for and the man who told two nights ago that he is in love with somebody else are the same man.

It's a terrible thing, breaking your heart in front of the person whom you love and seeing no response. I saw him flinch under my words and felt a sense of satisfaction - but also a sense of instant remorse. It's a terrible thing to see yourself throwing verbal daggers at someone whom you love. I would have been kinder to him if I could have seen some reflection or ownership of the pain that I felt - the pain that he had caused. But I was not kind. I wanted blood. I wanted his heart to break and bleed like mine. We are all guilty, in the end.

I told him that he lied to me.
But I'm not sure if that's true. He never verbally expressed to me with his lips those "three little words." He told my friend. He said it with his eyes. He drew pictures of hearts. He said it in the songs that he sent me. And I knew that he did. I do not know if he still does - or if he has consigned his pursuit of me off to the list of "things that never should have been done" with a deep sense of regret and guilt. But I believe that he once did.
It's just hard to understand. I don't understand how in roughly a month, he could go from telling me that I had a face he would like to "wake up to every morning" to deciding to marry somebody else - somebody whom he had told me he no longer felt for. It's not that I think he lied to me so much as I feel like what he said or made me feel has been completely negated. And I do not know how to process that. I wish he was aware of his heart enough to be able to explain to me his actions. I wish he had fought for me - even fought with me. I wish he had tried to make this right. But he knew that there was nothing that he could do for my broken heart - so he didn't even try. And maybe that's because he'd made up his mind to give up before he even tried. I never had a chance.

In the end, only God can fix this. And I am thankful for a God who brings healing.

I told him that I don't expect I'll ever see him again.
It's not that I want to not see him: I would love for him to fix this and for him to win me back. There is so much about him that I like - that I respected, enjoyed, and admired. But I expect that he has made up his mind. And if it was that easy to change - then I stand by what I said in not wanting him.

So, I'm just writing out my thoughts and trying to make sense of my heart; sending smoke signals up into the air - knowing that they probably will not be seen, but sending them up anyway.

At least I know my prayers are heard.
God, my loss is so deep and so great. You are the only one who can fix this - who can hold all the pieces of my broken heart. You are the only one who can heal me. You are the only one who can redeem this - for me and for them.
 Lord, have mercy.

Friday, June 7, 2013

What it seems...

"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

"Be careful, be careful, be careful. Always be careful."

"Never trust too quickly."

"Love like that isn't real."

It's an amazing thing, holding in your hand and in your heart that for which and for whom you've always wished and prayed - but never believed to be real. Love like that was in the fairy tales which moved my heart. Love like that was for other Christians or just other people in general, but not for me because I wasn't ______ enough. I had determined that my path was to be one of heart ache. And I didn't know why, but I had accepted it; determined to find the beauty there so that I could learn from my pain and comfort others who also found themselves in it.

I've grown up, my life shaped by watching the breaking of relationships and hearts. I was always told as the moral of the story of my parent's divorce, "Be careful who you choose."

Almost every relationship prior, I've been terrified at the outset of him leaving. I'm not afraid of that anymore. I'm really more afraid that one day I'll wake up like Cinderella after the clock struck midnight - with all the magical, wonderful, lovely things gone - and a return to my soot and broken pumpkin instead. I keep waiting for my clock to strike midnight because this seems too good to be true

And then I am reminded in Scripture where God tells us that He is a God who gives good gifts. And I can't think of a better gift than a man who teaches me about the love of God in his pursuit of me. I am learning about how Christ loves the Church, how God loves Israel, how the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of men and women; in the way that he chases after my heart each day - beginning every morning when I wake up.

And I am so grateful.

Here is a man who speaks the language of my heart. And he doesn't shout it at me. He waits patiently and whispers and coaxes - like a horse whisperer. I am not afraid when my heart is with him. Lord knows I've tried pushing him away - flashing the "I believe in _______" card that so often pushes men away. But instead of standing rigid against me or saying, "Well, I don't - so bye," he replies, "I'm cool with that," and then I know that I am safe to actually talk about it with him.

He says he's not eloquent, but he writes me the most beautiful love messages.

This man is a gift in my life. And he teaches me patience even as I make him wait. "Not yet," is becoming a phrase that I am learning to not resist or push against. Instead, I am joyfully waiting for when the time becomes "Okay...Now." I don't have to worry about fighting with him for my rights or my dignity as a human being. I don't have to worry about him trying to put me in a place where I am something for him to show off or otherwise follow around in his shadow. Here is a man, instead, who wants to partner with me; who wants to dance with me; who wants to adventure with me.

I now legitimately understand how and why people write love songs.

And I want to shout it from the rooftops: I've found him! 

I've finally found him!

God has finally brought "the one!"

I've found him!
But I am learning also that some good things are best kept close to the heart and treasured before being announced. Now is not the time for proclamation. Now is the time for quiet breathing and for storing things into my heart.


I started writing the above blog about a month ago, but I didn't publish it because I sensed that "Now" was not the right time.

It's amazing what can happen in a few weeks.

It's amazing how the fairytale can flip. In place of the dream-come-true is a void: a nightmare. And the nightmare is true. And just when you don't think it can get any worse - just when you think you can't feel any more pain than you already do...it does, and you do.

I'm not going to list details or tell any stories, but I will say that what little hope I had yesterday ended with hyperventilating, sobbing, uncontrollable shaking, and freezing up. Last night, my stress culminated and I threw up before going to bed - losing what little food I had been able to stomach eating. (I think that having to scoop one's own vomit out of the sink is a special kind of low, by the way.) 
But the Holy Spirit is gracious to me - was a source of comfort even then - bringing a God-given numbness (a sense of peace, calm, and exhaustion) when my body went into shock (the first time), and finally bringing me sleep when I made it into my bed after losing my dinner. 

I woke up today not wanting to move, wanting to spend the rest of my life curled up on the couch with my cat. But God, the Creator of the universe and the Creator of my heart, knows how to hold me. And He will bring me healing.

I have friends who knew I needed to get out of my apartment today. And although my heart is still aching, my body feels numb and weak, and I feel the threat of tears burning behind my eyes - I feel better.

I have clarity now.

As friends for two years, as someone who'd known the brutal beating that my heart has repeatedly taken over the past two years - he knew that I was vulnerable. He knew that my heart was fragile. I told him to take it slow. I tried so hard to do the right thing - to protect and guard my heart. I tried to be wise. I reminded him. I tried.

But he didn't listen. He went after what he wanted. And I fell for him. Hard.
 He may have felt love for me. I won't deny that. But, as I learned in acting, feeling isn't enough - you have to do it. And his actions were not and continue to prove that they are not loving towards me. In the end, sweet words and love songs weren't enough either.

He promised me the world. He spoke my heart's language. But his poor, foolish choices have led him in a different direction than where he indicated that he and I would go - chosing to "do the right thing" by another woman and leaving me in the cold. I don't see that doing right by me and doing right by her would be mutually exclusive, but he has made his choice. He has a bill to pay for his previous choices. And I will not be the one to cover the cost.  

I am thankful. Thank God he was geographically far away so that he was not able to take anything more from me other than my heart (as if that was a small prize). And thank God that I got out sooner than later - because I cannot imagine the amount of devastation I'd feel if he and I had progressed with a relationship further than what we had started. I literally cannot imagine - because the devastation that I feel now is borderline overwhelming.

I went to bed last night feeling like my heart had been repeatedly stabbed and then ripped out, leaving a giant cavity in my body where my guts had once been. I felt like I was covered in my own blood...and drowning in it.

On one hand, I feel very much like the victim - targeted as a prize. (This blog on the concept of dating as a form of hunting is really thoughtful.) He asked me for forever before he was sure that he was able to offer me the same. But I am also a survivor. At least: I will be.

Because, when it comes down to it (verb-wise) he did not love me. He went after pleasing himself. He did not fight for me, or respect me...or (ultimately) treasure me. He KNEW that I was so very vulnerable, and he was not careful with my heart. Intentions mean very little when compared with actual actions.  

And this hurts. This hurts like hell. My heart has been fully broken. But I will heal. I am already starting to heal. Each breath that I take is a grace - is a breath towards restoration. I am not okay, but I will be.
I firmly and fully believe that. That's why I am writing.

I know what lesson to have taken out of this: I need a man who will listen to me and respect me - acting in love to put the well-being of my heart before his own wants...

And now I have finals to go work on.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Just another broken heart

I'm haunted by the words, "If it's too good to be true, it probably is."

I thought I was different. I thought I found somebody who proved that my dreams were more than just dreams - that they could be a reality. And I was ready to say, "What cynicism the world is diseased with! I found the fairy tale. I found it to be true!" I was simply waiting for the high to wear off a bit so that I could have clarity to see that things like laundry still needed to be done.

I found a man who helped me see the truth in all the love songs. Suddenly, those songs weren't just hokey, over-produced lyrics set to melody. They were real expressions of something that the heart could feel.
I'd always said I wanted to be in a relationship with a person who made the love songs feel true. And I finally had that.

At least, I thought I had that.

Someday, I'll learn better about timing, I guess.

And I know that even though I feel like I've been hit by a city bus, that I will survive this. Slowly, God and I will wade through the pain and He will help me walk again.

I'm not afraid of having a broken heart. I know what it is to feel pain...
I'm afraid of watching my dreams die. I'm afraid of hardening my heart because, honestly, this pain is exhausting.

I don't want to believe, "If it's too good to be true then it probably is," because I believe in a God of miracles. I believe in a God of love - the Creator of love - the Sharer of love as part of His character. We, made in His image, get to experience and share that too.
Love of all kinds.

I believe that the Maker of the sunrise can bring love to my heart that lights up my life.

But, oh God, in the face of watching this dream die, it's hard not to let go of the hope entirely.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The God who Sees (me)

In times of heartache, I often return to stories from Scripture for sources of comfort. Perhaps surprisingly, my first choice oftentimes does not lead me to a story of Jesus. A regular favorite of mine is that of Hagar:

As a result of Abraham and Sarah not believing God's promise and thereby following God's plan, Hagar, Sarah's personal slave, is sexually used in order to produce Abraham a child. It was not like she had a choice in the matter - no more than she had any say in her body actually becoming pregnant. While I cannot condone Hagar's contempt towards Sarah for being barren, I do not see her poor behavior as justification for the resulting abusive nature with which Sarah treats Hagar (as if there is ever "justification" for abuse). As those of us who grew up in the Church hearing the story know, Sarah's abuse towards Hagar was so bad that Hagar chose to run away into the desert wilderness (surely not a place of survival) rather than remain within the "safety" that Abraham and Sarah's community represented. In case any clarification is needed, Hagar is still pregnant at this point in the story. So, in other words, a pregnant (vulnerable) woman chose running away into the wilderness as preferable to staying with other people who might otherwise protect her. (...Safety in numbers, right?) That's how bad this was.

However, "The angel of the Lord found [Hagar] by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur." (Gen 16:7, ESV) His resulting words of command, encouragement, and promise gave her the courage and strength to return home, bear the child, and the rest (as we say) is history (although a very messy one at that). (I also doubt that when God promised that her son would be the father of a great nation that she anticipated the [painful] way in which that would come about...but we seldom anticipate the curve-balls that are thrown as a result of living in this fallen, broken world.)

That's all back-story. Now, here's my favorite part - the part I go back to again and again. Hagar, who has basically been otherwise shat upon by life, (pardon my French) marvels about her interaction with God:

So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” (Gen. 16:13, ESV)

In meeting with Hagar, God acknowledged Hagar's pain which she had done NOTHING to deserve and in no way had "earned," showed her that He loved her, and also blessed her. He let her know that she (who otherwise did not matter according to society) was seen - that she (and her pain) were not invisible or ignored before Him. And there is such a great mercy in knowing that we are seen and cared for by the Creator of the universe. Hagar's understanding of God - her very name for Him - was shaped by the knowledge that He saw her and watched over her and understood her plight.

I got curious about differing translations of the Genesis 16:13 and decided to look them up in a quick search engine-type-thing:

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, "You are the God who sees me." She also said, "Have I truly seen the One who sees me?" (NLV)

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." (NIV)

Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "You are a God who sees"; for she said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?" (NASB)

Some of the translations present some her incredulously questioning if she truly just saw God. Others depict her stating (with what I imagine to be amazement and wonder) that she saw God. Throughout the statements and questions, there is a variance in how she perceived Him (or in how the interpreters of the text perceived her interaction). And I love the variance because I think it points to our range of responses when we see or hear God in our lives. (And sometimes this mix of responses elicits forth from the same person, from the same interaction...all within a few moments/hours/days following the interaction with God.)

I love that God sees me in my pain - that it isn't just something that He glosses over. I figure that if Hagar can have a response of peace, then so can I.
I also love the various translations because each brings out something about the mysterious, wonderful, life-giving, tender power that accompanies the times when God's fingerprints are so clearly left in the workings of our lives.

So, thank you, God, for meeting me in the wilderness - for seeing me in my pain, and for sending your "angels" to let me know that I'm not alone.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Grief Shadows

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken."
~ CS Lewis

I have come to the conclusion that grief exists as a shadow to love and beauty. While we may love something because we find it beautiful, I think that often a thing becomes transformed into something beautiful once we love it: like the transformations in the stories of the frog prince or in beauty and the beast. I also think that sometimes beauty and love work together - not one causing the other - but both working in and on the heart in a mysterious, confusing, simultaneous nature.

And when that beloved, beautiful thing (or person) is taken away, lost, damaged, or hurt - our heart takes the beating. Because our hearts have become attached. In that beautiful, beloved person or thing, we get a glimpse and a taste of God's beauty - of the way that things were meant to be.

Grief, then, acts as a testament to the worthy nature of that for which we mourn. Grief points not only to injustice and the sense that this should not be, but also points to "that" was good.

The last time I reflected like this was when my grandpa died and my world was rocked by wave after wave of heavy grief - because I loved him, and he was gone.

* * *

I am angry. 
I never thought before that I would ever identify with the title of God as Judge. Although I'd never admit it, I subconsciously thought that the term was archaic. I did not understand it - because I am good and my friends are good people. Of my/our lack of goodness and the presence of pride and self-centered individualism in its stead, I am sure God will someday lead me to explore in a more honest way. But today, I am learning of standing before Him as Judge, demanding justice.

Today, and yesterday, and the day before that, and probably tomorrow, and the day after that, I stand before God angry at violent injustice. I am broken about active evil executed by a man against my heart's sister. I don't know if he was blind to how fearfully and wonderfully made she is; or if he saw how she had been crafted in the image of God and, filled with evil, decided to lash out. I don't know.
But I am angry.

It wasn't personal. He didn't even know her. But in violating her body as a woman, he violated my body, the body of my mother, my grandmother - the female body collective. It might not have been personal for him, but as a female, it was personal for me. And this isn't even about me.

And I want to stand before God and scream for justice. I better understand the Psalmists because I, too, want people dashed against the rocks.

And then, I reflect that Christ died on the Cross just for instances such as these. He died for rape, and bombings, and genocides, and theft, and assault, and racism, and institutionalized poverty; and for pride which leads good people to think, "Well, I'm not that bad..."

* * *

So, I stand in the shadows of grief, reflecting upon love and beauty; crying out for justice - and praying it does not fall upon me.
Lord, have mercy.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

All Chains Broken

I had a vision that I was half stuck in the ground - like a zombie struggling to get out of the dirt, or like a person stuck in a hole of deep-holding mud. Suddenly, the power of chains being broken swept over me, and my inner self was freed. My spirit, clean, burst forth - swirling and dancing up into the sky above my filthy, still struggling body. As my spirit twirled in the air, the Holy Spirit swept and soared into me, colliding and spinning me into an even stronger, more exuberant dance. We turned back to my body, still gasping for freedom. My spirit peered into my body's eyes, tilting my body's chin up before kissing and breathing life into the parched, dried lips of my face. My spirit wiped away at the mud smattered across my body's cheeks. Then, the Holy Spirit and I worked to free my body from the ground - like restoring life to a body that was dead or near to dying. My body was firmly stuck - although neither impossibly nor eternally so. My spirit pulled, and my body was willing, but also resistant. Finally, not sure where I was in the process of being restored and brought to life, my spirit - now alive and resting in the assurance of the work of the Holy Spirit for my continued restoration - entered back into my body.

I'm not sure what that all means. And while I know that it toes the line of gnosticism, I also know that it's not. I just think it's significant.