Monday, June 20, 2016

God is the cause of loving God

Reading notes on a book I read over a year ago, I am once again astounded by the truth of this. It refers to the work of Bernard of Clairvaux, a French Cisterian Abbott in the 12th century.

Even though our heart longs for God, it seems almost audacious to think that God wants us just as much, or even more, than we yearn for him. God is the initiator, always, of our longing. But more, Bernard tells us that

God is the cause of loving God . . . He himself creates the longing. He himself fulfills the desire. He himself causes himself to be such that he should be loved. He hopes to be so happily loved that no one will love him in vain. His love both prepares and rewards ours. Kindly, he leads the way. He repays us justly. He is our sweet hope. He is riches to all who call upon him. There is nothing better than himself. He gives himself.
That has been a great wonder for all lovers of God. They have consistently asserted its truth. Because of God’s compassion—of what God is (see John 4:8)—he comes to us. He comes to us faster than we ever wish to come to him. It is said that for every single step we take toward God, he takes a dozen toward us. It’s a fact that never stops astounding us.

Quoted from “You Can Know God: Christian Spirituality for Daily Living,” by Marilyn Gustin. Her book contains the passage from “Bernard of Clairvaux,” translated by G.R. Evans.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Creating space for the Father to work

The search continues, the lessons keep coming, my advanced age notwithstanding. A gnarly issue has been coming on for a while, but it has come to a head. The specific issue and person involved are not important to the story—what is important is that I learn new ways of dealing with common frustrations.

In a nutshell: I came home last night from an event and I was steaming angry. There was a person at the event (hereafter referred to as “the person”) who has been a thorn in my side for a variety of reasons. I could enumerate the specifics, but that would only be my attempt for validation, to gain allies. I don’t need allies; I need God to sort it out for me. So I came home and prayed. But I was still too angry to make real progress.

So this morning, I got up, skipped church, and spent the morning sitting in my garden reading Scripture, praying, and sitting in silence listening for God to show me the way.

It’s Father’s Day. I deeply miss my earthly father, but I’m keeping my heavenly Father busy, relying on Him for fatherly advice. I am still amazed that the same God who created the universe and raised Jesus from the dead is my Father. It's personal. He is in me and I am in Him. He guides me with more wisdom than the wisest person I could ever imagine. So when I get churned up with these petty earthly “people” issues, I only need to look to Him, cling tightly to Him, and push the pettiness away to focus on Him. The distractions are just Satan’s attempts to distract me. “Don’t go down that road,” I tell myself over and over again. Don’t go down that road paved with self-centered pride. Don’t get caught up in envy, don’t make comparisons, don’t get churned up about the things of this world that aren’t important. Focus on what is good, look to Him, not to appear more spiritual or more holy in the eyes of others, but to do what is good and true between the Lord and me.

My knee-jerk reaction is to tell someone about the person’s behavior, to get allies, to do something in retribution. This is the way I have usually behaved. But after so many years, I’m beginning to realize it is not a productive reaction. I’m not making a big drama out of it as I usually would. But what I am doing is bringing it to Him, my Father. I’m putting it at the foot of the cross and leaving it for Him to fix the situation or to fix me. In this process I skip over the middle man/woman and take it straight to the top.

So on this beautiful morning I read Scripture (the Song of Solomon for some strange reason) and spent a lot of time just sitting on my patio, sipping coffee, and listening for fatherly advice. The phrase came to me: “Move this person to the side. Come to me.” I knew that I needed to keep my focus on communion with the Lord and not let anything or anyone come between us, not steal one second of my time with Him. I move the junk out of the way and make room in my life for a much deeper, much more meaningful relationship with the Lord. And when there is room, when the jar is empty of rancor and pettiness, then there is space for God to work miracles.

Thank you, Lord, thank you. You are so incredibly real to me, so present. My prayer has been answered, not on a specific “solve this problem” level, but on a much deeper level that reminds me where to focus. That is a priceless lesson and it brings me such peace.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Nose to the sunrise

The tally says I have played 12,567 games of FreeCell, give or take a few. I’m not bragging—this brings me nothing but shame. Yet still I play, mindlessly staring at the computer screen, numbing my brain. It’s a really stupid game, even though I’ve become rather good at it. Wouldn’t you if you had played 12,567 games, give or take a few?
I’m writing about this because of the hope that confession is good for the soul. It’s not the computer game that I’m confessing—that is just a symptom. It’s depression. There, I said it. I hate the word, I hate discussing it, I hate being caught in its talons. Trouble is when I’m there, I can’t muster the energy to do much else. I sleep as much as I can, I eat whatever is within reach, and I curse the darkness. All the things I do only pull me deeper into the darkness, but I can’t seem to stop the whirlpool that sucks me down. I feel powerless.
Yes, I have taken antidepressants. I think they work. But I thought I could power through without them, gradually tapered off, and here I am. I know—I’ve already started taking them again. But, damn, it makes me feel like such a failure to need them.
And, yes, I have prayed and continue to pray. I trust the Lord will bring me through this once again and I will find joy after the darkness subsides. It doesn’t change my view of God; it only intensifies my total reliance on Him. Although I feel I'm a failure, I know He doesn't see me that way.
Today I read a quote from one of the books in The Chronicles of Narnia series. Reepicheep, the tenacious little mouse, is trying to reach the lion Aslan (symbol of Jesus) in the utter East. Reepicheep says:
"While I may, I sail East in Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I row East in my coracle. When that sinks, I shall paddle East with my four paws. Then, when I can swim no longer, if I have not yet reached Aslan’s Country, there shall I sink with my nose to the sunrise.”
C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia
And so, like the tough little mouse, I may sink, but still I seek Him, my nose to the sunrise.