rejoice & take courage
This week I picked up a new book - Roots & Sky, by Christie Purifoy. It is like a deep breath in this seemingly never-ending winter. In the last few weeks, I have confronted the idea that part of the struggle of winter is that it feels as though it's not even winter - it feels like...nothing. Just. Ordinary. No movement, no "story", no deep valleys or high mountains. As Purifoy wrote, "whispers I once gathered in the wilderness" are silent as I wait on the Lord.
It feels like I am learning things all over again - I am learning who Jesus is, what He says about the Father, what the Father says about the Spirit. The Godhead Trinity – the holy mystery - how to interact with them. What do I even know? It all seems mysterious and far-off. And yet, inexplicably, not far-off.
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About four months ago, I quit having a quiet time.
Don’t freak out, you guys.
I quit having a quiet time for several reasons. I am not certain I will explain them all, because I am not writing this post to get feedback from those who find the most nourishment in daily reading of the Scriptures or another particular practice. But I was finding that the daily and weekly disciplines I had relied on for so long to nourish my spirit in the Lord were drying up – at the hand of God, these disciplines of Bible reading, study, prayer, silence…suddenly they ceased to be the grace they had been for so many years.
This was/is frustrating. I want to be able to pursue solitude and meditation and my precious soul retreats and have them yield the emotional and spiritual results I desire. But the fullness of the measure of Christ is mine, even when (especially when?) He causes the things that once worked for me to fail. Perhaps I trusted the form more than the Grace Giver. And since He will have no other gods before Him, He shut down those forms, those gods of silence and solitude.
It seems very much like I am on a journey to find the new grace – not because His grace is ever absent, but I need Spirit eyes to see…I need more practice, in the silence and in the winter, at believing He will finish everything He began in me. (Philippians 1:6)
Making my home in Him in the ordinary, in the waiting, in the longing and silence…this is my new theme.
“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” [Isaiah 43:19]
Sometimes, Christianity seems so strange.
As my getting-too-close-to four-years-old asks questions about Bible stories and inquires after bedtime prayers, “Does everyone have sin in their heart?”, I sometimes freak out a little and want to shout, OMG, I don’t even know! I don’t know! What are we doing?! Who is God?
Parenting makes me wonder about a lot of things: the ability of a human body to keep going under exhaustion, the incredibly capacity of a tiny person to make significant messes, how those tiny stickers ended up in my pants, where did all the plastic cups go…how do we explain “adoption” to our daughter in such a way that she feels certain of our love and in a way that honors her birth story…how do we navigate preschool playdate drama when our only child puts a friend in a “gentle headlock” for touching her piggy bank…how do we show her the truest love, that surpasses race and political preferences and disagrees graciously and stands firm on the principles we are dedicating our lives to…how do we teach her about God, about this huge and holy thing that requires a level of faith that sometimes I am not sure I possess?
For the record, I don’t think about these things in passing, then just shrug my shoulders and get back to acting like a good little Christian.
I think about these things every day and I whisper prayers and pleas that I am doing something right. I pray to the God I have decided does, in fact, exist and is, in fact, interested in the doings of the people He created in His own image. I am not desperate for something to make me feel better about my existence or choices. Forgive me, but...heavens, Christianity is certainly the last religion I would pick if I wanted to simply "feel better" here in my earth suit.
All this sacrificial love and going lower and denying oneself is not appealing to the soul who wants to just feelgood. It’s all death and resurrection and the heart that is looking for a religion that “works” finds no rest in dying to self.
I think about these things and risk the oversimplification that if God does not exist, as He has declared through the prophets of old and through the historical person of Jesus, the Messiah, then I am truly no worse off for having believed Him and lived according to the principles in the Scriptures. And if He does exist as Who He says He is – then nothing, nothing but nothing will commend me to Him apart from the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. I am willing to take this risk.
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My soul needs a lot of coaching these days.
Why downcast, o my soul? Hope in the Lord!
But my heart is steadfast. My heart is steadfast.
I am rejoicing (Philippians 4:4). I am taking courage (John 16:33) and confidence from the Overcomer – the One who brings life from death every. single. time.
I am waiting for His hand to break through the dim quiet of this season and to spring forth new life – in my soul, in my marriage, in my family. I am trusting Him to be the enough that He always is.
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Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds' feet, And makes me walk on my high places.