Monday, April 27, 2015

Foraging Fig Leaves

I spent the weekend at my parents. Walking, cooking, watching more HGTV and Food Network than is healthy. And praying.

The last one I don't do so often. I say I will. I think towards doing so. But in reality, I think a lot more about praying than actually praying. I think a lot more about being better, kinder, wise, listening, gentleness, awareness, love, than actually being any of those things.

The mental energy I tend to devote to concepts is appalling.

The past few weeks Jesus has been revealing to me the processes I have in place in my life that lead me to sin, not just the sins themselves. The distractions I take on, the platitudes I boast, the running and diversions I frequent, all that preoccupies me from actually healing of my sinfulness and learning to love Jesus better.

This isn't better exemplified than through the conversation I had with someone this morning. Conversation is a euphemism in the case for my actually repenting to her because I'm a jerk. I was a jerk two months ago and today I finally sat down and talked about it. Classy huh?

And what my lack of repentance, my distractions, my platitudes, my diversions and preoccupations have revealed about me is my misdirection to avoid exposure. To self-protect. To forage fig leaves. Because if I can hide from myself, then I can actually hide from God too, or at least I think that's the case. If I never admit that I'm incorrect, then I never need to be corrected. I become the director of my repentance, authority over my change, and god of myself and can just stamp "By the Grace of God" on myself once I've autonomously figured out my shit.

The past weeks and especially four days have shown me is how religious I am. I work the system in my favor. Except the favor is just self-sufficiency. That's my god.

When one friend gently prompted me to consider repentance as an option with my other friend, it was like a tectonic shift in my heart. But the opposite affect. The broken plates actually started shifting back into place. The solution was actually to be broken. To admit defeat and wrongness and selfishness. Placing autonomy on a guillotine is where fresh air permeated.

I spend a lot of time placating myself to avoid having to repent. If I'm not mad/hurt/upset, then hard conversations don't have to happen. So I just seek to never really feel anything bad, and subsequently have missed feeling a lot of good too. On earth, there will always be more joy in healing than there ever is in non-brokenness. Just like how my right relationship with the Father came through blood and death, so does right relationship with my brothers and sisters. Except, it doesn't take physical shedding of blood or a physical death. The cost of right relationships here is exposure to the point of spiritual death. Dying to autonomy. Dying to the hunt for leaves.

Rightfully, C.S. Lewis realized and allegorized this much better than I could in Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

"Then the lion said — but I don't know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it. 

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worst than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. it hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.

Well he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I'd down it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt — and there is was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had bee. Then he caught hold of me — I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as son as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again."

So I find myself today feeling like a "boy" again. Having been stripped and smarted and washed. The exposure was actually what I needed for healing. Letting the wound breathe. Letting the reality of pain and hurt and wrongness cleanse with fresh air. It boils and scabs at first, but coming back to rightness is so refreshingly good. I don't want to forget it.

I pray for the remembrance of my failure and the deliciousness of repentance. I pray this for you too. May we remember healing to be so much better than hiding. May exposure be much more freeing than self-justification. May we rest in the shade of the trees rather than plucking their leaves to hide.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Facebook, Frienemies and Freedom

Last week I deleted my Facebook. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that I kept saying I didn't care about Facebook and then was on it 6 times a day. When I'm being a hypocrite to myself, I know something probably needs to change.

I'll be honest, when my other friends have "fasted" from social media, I always thought myself a bit better than them. "I don't need to do that," I thought to myself, "I have a handle on it....unlike them." Well turns out I don't. I shut down my account and have felt far more uncomfortable than I would care to admit. So for those of you who think you're better than me, you probably are. As for the rest of us, I thought I'd share what I've been learning from deleting my Facebook.

Facebook is the frienemy of introverts. 
I always thought given my introverted nature that Facebook would be a helpful way to keep up on the happenings of people without having to interact with them. While that's absolutely true, I also knew way too much about way too many people and found myself becoming exhausted when it actually came time to spend with real people. Information overload. For being a person who tends to thrive when relationships are an inch wide and a mile deep, I was inadvertently living the opposite. I knew a  lot about a bunch of people who I don't spend frequent, meaningful time with.

I get to make my choices about my time. 
I could spend an entire post blaming Facebook for my distraction, but it can't/won't change its nature. It's an object. I've felt uncomfortable the past week because in the past I spent my down time perusing Facebook, taking inventory of the goings-on of everyone in my inner, outer, and beyond circles. I've been noticing the lapses in my day more and am having to make choices where I spend my mental energy. It still looks like online shopping sometimes, but there's something about removing my reflexive source of entertainment that has caused pause. I'm reading more in the evenings, and during the day am asking my office mate how her day is going when I have ten extra minutes and need a mental break.

I have forgotten how to ask questions and learn about people.
When I removed the influx of information about people via Facebook (what they did that weekend, photos, who their friends are, etc.), I realized I actually have lost some ability to create conversation out of nothing. I have grown so accustomed to referencing information I learned about them online, I have neglected the art of learning about people based off of simple questions (other than "how's your day going"?). I am awkwardly having to remember to ask about people....slowly reverting from always knowing what's going on to choosing to care to ask and realize things I don't know about them.

That which I thought I was gaining from Facebook was measured on a false scale. 
Nothing is wrong with Facebook. I think most people can go on for a lifetime and use it and never have an issue. However, I have far less self-control than most people. I never chose to give it up before now thinking that what it provided me was more helpful than if it wasn't there. It's where I have posted about my blog, how I remember birthdays, where I saw people's names so that in the future when I met them I had a frame of reference. But in reality, I don't care if anyone really needs my if my "readers" fall off, I'll still be content (plus I can post about it on Instagram), I'll always know the birthdays of the people I'm presently close to, and there's nothing wrong with meeting someone I have no idea about and shaking their hand for the first time without seeing 100 million pictures of them prior to our introduction.

Social media is a great thing, meant for fun, and nothing more. 
I read this Citizen's Press article a few weeks ago. It was just another cog setting this deletion-mindset in motion. Truthfully, I deleted Facebook but I still love Instagram. It isn't an issue for me. Some days I'm on it 4 times, others I forget it's there. I'm not a hypocrite, I just realize that my heart is what matters, not social media or rules I make about it. My admonishment for myself and others is to always examine the sources of entertainment (and all else) in our life, pray and ask the Lord to reveal bentness, repent and change as needed. There should always be freedom to enjoy and nothing more. Facebook had gotten out of hand for me and I'm happy to admit that.

Jesus is better than my perspective on Facebook.
That's the rub. Facebook wasn't always a bad thing for me, it wasn't always a good thing for me was just a website, and like anything else in this world, it can be abused because I'm sinful. For me, this shift has been a quarter turn towards Jesus and away from building my own kingdom. It's freeing me to be more present in my day and to a way to see how I can better abide in Jesus. Creating rules around things that aren't sin issues is unhelpful garbage, so I don't have a rule book to social media. I am only praying for self-awareness and humility to admit when I sense problems for myself. That's my prayer for my life. That Jesus would give me more of Himself and reveal to me the patterns in place that cause me to stutter in knowing Him better.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

My Worry

Sometimes I worry about what I do here. I worry about my attitude, I worry about perception of others, I worry for you as a reader. Perhaps I'm giving myself too much credit, or perhaps I am being given a good dose of humility. What I do here really does not seem so important. Typing words into an abyss of millions of others who are typing words. 

But somehow my society really loves to take excerpts and run with them to create perspectives and that's given me pause this afternoon. I am not insecure of how or what I write, but today I feel fear that what actually is happening is not helpful. Is what I'm doing perpetuating the social media frenzy? Is it provoking others to judge or envy or pity or doubt? Am I causing more harm to you than gain? Today, I am experiencing a healthy dose of stoppage. 

The past few weeks my mind has been a flurry of consistently big thoughts. Not-so-subtle shifts in how I'm seeing and experiencing and pursuing my people and my time. A lifelong friend and I ate Indian food and then went for a drive last night. We continued the conversation we've had a dozen different times this month. A conversation about slowness, methodical living, purposeful time, simplification. 

These are words that are constantly rattling in my mind recently. How do I take out more things for the sake of putting in deeper things. Deep things in my life can't live in massive community, they are introverted changes, needing room to breathe and time to latch on. Deeper rest, deeper relationships, deeper attitudes, deeper fun. I've made lists recently of things that can provoke timeliness in my life to let them stew. Things I know I already like to do, but placing them in bulleted form somehow gave them more teeth, a simpler way to decide what to do with my free time. 

And my worry comes from these changes in myself. There is nothing about these thoughts that I don't find helpful or I fear sinful, but what I really fear is that I'm deciding somewhere in this that everyone ought to grow as I am growing. Or said differently, you ought to think and be like me because my thoughts are profound enough to be blogged. I don't think this blog has been that arrogant all the way through, but this week I have noticed this shift of expectation. 

In the slowness I've been pressing into, the depth and moments of change make me want to share. They instill in me a desire to provoke others to experience the same. I start to see my changes as being THE changes. The ways I sin as being the ways EVERYONE sins. And while that may be true, I would be loathe to miss the forest for the trees in learning how to just offer suggestions or anecdotes to those around me. 

Rather than sharing my sanctification in a way that offers rest in the grace I myself am receiving, I find myself offering it as an insinuation, a nuanced but horrible shift. I hope this maybe hasn't been felt by others in the garish way I'm seeing it exposed in my heart, but somehow I think my messiness is pervasive enough that it's been felt by others. 

Amazingly enough, Jesus doesn't just change me, He changes how I change too. I think that's why frustration and a felt lack of progress is often how we feel as we're noticing His work in our lives. He's not just changing the thing in us, if He were, we could just learn the rules and move forward and be better. But He insists that the way I change is also writ with sin and needs to be altered as well. He doesn't leave a stone unturned as He roots out sin in me for my good. It only leaves room for me to lean heavier on Him. 

And that's the part I don't worry about. The "how" of His teaching never actually outweighs His presence. Becoming a "better person" is a garbage pursuit, I will never be better. But in His shadow I can be healed from my worstness. And that progress is often uglier than I'd like it and not very blog-worthy, but perhaps most of all should be shared. 

By His wounds I am healed and you are healed. We are offered healing from ourselves and our selfish, worry-worthy tendencies and each others arrogant and insensitive actions toward each other. I don't have to offer you the list of things He's showing me to enact in hopes that you pick up my sanctification. I can offer you the same thing I'm always offered, grace to be. Grace to hear your pain and mundane and your minor frustrations and your immense joys. To hear them and believe for you and with you that Jesus changed everything this Easter weekend so that we don't have to remain in these places. 

That's what I really hope to be offered by you as I worry that I am ruining all of your lives. And that's what I pray I'm learning to offer you. I'm thankful for you little readers and I'm sorry for my frailties in this outlet--and all the others that I may interact with you. Pray for me and I will pray for you and we can remember for each other that Jesus finds us here.