Monday, April 18, 2005

Serving vs Being Served and the Humbling Awareness of Sin

I wrote this a couple Winters back on a road trip I took with one of my friends to visit his then-girlfriend, now-wife up in Canada.


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Is it possible to love without allowing yourself to be loved? I suggested that this is one of the great struggles in my own life, and one I perceive to be common within the church, an assumption which several in the car agreed with. In a rare moment when we humble ourselves in service to another human being, we feel as though we are doing something right, but as soon as another serves us, we feel guilty or awkward, as though we should be doing something to help. I need only think to my reaction this evening as the girls cleared the table after dinner, serving us, clearing our plates, happily working while we sat and talked. I felt uncomfortable, as though their act of service somehow reflected my own failure to humble myself before those I love, my brothers and sisters in this great mystery before us.

And in many ways it is true—that feeling of failure is true. I think of myself far more often than I think of others, preferring to focus on my own place and well-being rather than sacrificing for another. I thank God that I was reminded of that fact when Angie had trust enough to confess to us her own struggle with seeking to get more out of church than she feel she puts in—pursuing her own refreshment and renewing rather than seeking to refresh and renew others.

I suggested that perhaps this is simply the nature of things, that in some seasons we will seek refreshment and in others we will seek to refresh others. Angie thought otherwise, and I found her thoughts to have more of the scent of truth than my own. She suspected that true serving and truly allowing yourself to joyfully be served are dependant states—that we are most capable of allowing ourselves to be loved when we are actively loving those around us, even in our brokenness.

For when are we anything but broken? Surely it is our truest condition, and to think ourselves anything else is an exercise in deception. This is not to say that we cannot feel joy or happiness or mirth, but I have found in my own life that my reliance on God is often dependant upon my awareness of my brokenness before him. Perhaps it is brokenness that frees us to love and to be loved and to truly experience joy in this bruised world, for it is then that we best understand the freeing power of grace. Only in the acceptance of defeat—the recognition of the futility of pretending that things are going just fine—can we be freed by Christ’s victory to live and love in spite of our sins, in spite of our struggles, set free from the enslaving myth that we must selectively project an air of spiritual progress: showing our brothers and sisters the good God is doing in our lives, but hiding from them the real sins that battle against it.

At what point did it become tacitly endorsed that redemption is supposed to make us perfect on earth, turning us into Christ rather than teaching us to reflect Christ through our still-tainted forms? Perhaps what the church needs is to rediscover the dirt that remains in us all, to relearn what love means when it comes from whores like us, to relearn the fact that we are best suited to love when we are most aware of the sinful flesh we share with all who could need us—a nature that does not disappear when Christ enters in, but will only be put to a final death when the earth is remade, and that in the meantime, it is high time we stopped hiding the weariness in our hearts and began admitting to each other that the battle against sin is real and alive in all of us, and that it is entirely ridiculous for us to try and fight it alone.

older writings

Now that I'm finally doing a blog, one of the things I'd love to do here is to go through all my old writing and find those little snippets that I would have wanted to put in a blog if I'd had one at the time...and then post them here (at least the ones that weren't time-sensitive when I wrote them). I'll be sure to note which posts were written awhile back, so ya'll can know what's new vs. what's been stewin'.

silence and deepness

More on silence. I wrote this awhile back. Seems to be something I've been thinking about a lot...

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Silence is the way of the Lord. It is how he sets himself apart from a world of confusion and noise. When we come ready to pour our hearts out to him in prayer, he delights to listen, but he also waits in patience and love for us to fall silent, that his spirit might whisper to the deep springs of our heart.

The Lord’s water is sown far beneath the troubles of this world, deep within the hidden recesses of our mind and our soul, and when we doubt the Lord’s presence, it is often because those deep places have run dry, and instead of digging deeper to find the pure water of his love, we cry out, thinking perhaps we have been abandoned.

And yet, it is for the very reason that we need it so greatly that the Lord sows his water deep within, for there it is hidden from the corruptions of the world, hidden from those who would taint it, from those who would think to twist it to their own purpose rather than the Lord’s. His water is deep because for us to find deepness requires a total surrender, an open brokenness, a willing abandonment of the thorns of this life; and it is then that we are most willing to be healed, most prepared to receive his overwhelming love and grace, the perfect quench for a thirst that runs to the very depths of our being, a thirst that can only be met by entering into those depths before we drink. It is then that we are truly freed. It is in the deep places that the water of life is freest to give us the life he so longs for us to find.

finally got around to it...

well I finally got around to starting a blog. I've been thinking I'd like to for some time now, but now that I've got a bit more free time this spring I can finally start catching up on things like that. Not that it's very difficult to set up a blog, but I didn't want to start one until I had time to update it regularly, so expect to see more posts in the coming days and weeks. And maybe I'll even get around to filling out my profile sometime soon...

on silence

was thinking about this tonight...

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Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling. –Zechariah 2:13

Teach me, and I will be quiet... –Job 6:24

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters... –Psalm 23:2

He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. –Zephaniah 3:17

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him... –Psalm 37:7

Be still; and know that I am God... –Psalm 46:10

Perhaps part of the reason the bible instructs us to sit silently before the Lord is that it recognizes the inherent conflict within our hearts. We pray for things we know we should want, and part of us wants them, but part of us wants something else. We recognize the presence of the part of us that wants something else, but often we try to ignore it. Or, if we don’t ignore it, we acknowledge it before the Lord and ask that even though there is that part of us that we know doesn’t desire His will, we still recognize that we should desire his will and so would He please answer our pray and do His will. But then of course in the praying of that we are hard pressed not to secretly compliment ourselves for having such wonderful humility before the Lord to acknowledge that our motives are usually not pure. Of course, having acknowledged that fact and having praised our own humility then makes some small part of us secretly hope that the Lord will recognize said humility and as a reward give us that other something that we in part desire but that we know may not be His will. Of course then another part of us recognizes this selfish ambition lurking beneath our prayer and chastises us for it, pricking us with guilt and seeding doubt into our other prayers as we begin to question all of our motives and enter into the cycle of self-deprecation wherein we begin to secretly suspect that the Lord will not answer, and has no business answering, any of our prayers because we are so filled with sin and impure motives.

And so the cycle continues, and often it is hard to find comfort simply in the knowledge that our hearts will always be divided in this life. Perhaps the true answer is to sit often before the Lord without praying anything at all. To simply sit and trust that He knows what we need and will provide what we need and that sometimes we need not ask for what we need and can rather simply sit and allow His presence to wash over us and fill us with his love, his grace, and his peace. Then we may even find that the next time we do ask for something in prayer, that little voice of selfish ambition is just a bit quieter than before; and maybe our hearts will even be a bit more inclined than before to recognize our selfishness with a quiet sprit of grace, trusting that what Christ has already forgiven in us, we can learn to forgive as well.