Most of us who write, or dabble in the blogosphere, do it out of some sense of a calling, or desire for our words to communicate, educate, and touch the lives, minds, and hearts of friends, family and anyone else who might want to take the time to read what we’re passionate about or what’s kicking around in our souls. As Christians, that would also include what God places on our hearts to express – or things we are burdened by. There’s a risk involved in crafting words together and putting them out there in a blog or a book. Many of us, if not all, have some level of fear that our words are not interesting, significant, original or won’t be valued.
Red Tent Living is a blog that seeks to reframe femininity by inviting readers and bloggers – anyone who wishes – to share their heart, thoughts and stories. There are monthly themes according to the seasons and ebb and flow of life. One of the December themes that jumped out at me was hope. The year was quickly drawing to a close, and the deadline for submission was coming. The Friday before Thanksgiving, I returned from a spiritual direction conference that the Lord used mightily to renew His Spirit and hope in my soul. It was a sweet time of seeking wisdom and understanding and finding fellowship while simultaneously being devastated by how deeply wicked and sinful I am. It was also a time of deep realization of how completely and totally Christ’s suffering and sacrifice atoned for my sin and reconciled me to God. I found myself experiencing the freedom to find and follow His calling of service to love my husband, family, friends and whomever He brings across my path in new and deeper ways.
We had friends staying with us in our cramped nyc apartment over Thanksgiving. It was a great time of cooking, relaxing, feasting and giving thanks for the abundance of God’s Grace and mercy – even though my friend’s marriage of 30 years was ending. After the festivities were over, and our friends were on their way back home, I finally sat down and began writing my thoughts on hope.
The doubts and insecurities started swirling around in my head as soon as I hit the “send” button – like tiny little flashing neon banners: “You rushed to get this done, and didn’t communicate as well as you could have.” “Your words don’t flow as easily as some of the posts you’ve seen from others.” “Are you really doing this for the glory of God, or for yourself?” “You should email the moderator and tell her your post is too rough, and you want to withdraw it, or at least rewrite it.” “Who do you think you are, and why would anyone want to read your story?” I pushed away the doubts (with the help of the Holy Spirit – I hope), and decided to just leave it be.
Here is the post I submitted: Seven and Jubilee
My reason for telling my story, is because I see all around me how our stories are being woven into the larger story of God and His redemptive work in our lives. He has saved us – redeemed and restored us – and countless times has reached into the messes that I’ve made, or the life and death situations I’ve faced and worked something good – even miraculous from some of them. The post above condenses some of the story that I’ve started telling in this blog. It’s a story of the power of God’s presence in my life – He has sustained me in miraculous ways – but there’s a parallel story that’s going on as well – the story of evil. Our world changed when evil convinced the parents of mankind that they deserved to have more than God had offered them – to be equal with God and know what He knew = good and evil. For now the prince of this world gets to continue to attempt to convince us all that God is not good and to entice us away to believe that we deserve what God seems to withhold some glory for our accomplishments. What can slither in, is a demand for life to work well now – it seems so reasonable. After all, didn’t I endure the pain, uncertainty and suffering – and manage to hang onto my faith in this long obedience of almost 40 years? I am grieved and jolted by the undeniable reality that I/we are nothing without God. We’re not capable of anything good apart from the grace and mercy of Christ. His sacrifice is what brings new life that, when I repent, wipes out my sin and the arrogance of believing that I deserve anything but condemnation and death.
Something that’s been kicking around in my soul these days, is, what does it mean that God created us in His image? And how do we not lose heart – and our faith – when the onslaught of life becomes unrelentingly, incomprehensibly difficult in our broken world?
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
We’ve been crowned with glory and honor – given the capacity to enjoy these gifts, but are still just a little lower than the angels. Lucifer was not only an angel, but he was an archangel – above the other angels in beauty and intelligence. His place was in the very throne room of God and he was called the son of the morning. It was there, in that elevated position, in the presence of Yahweh, God of the Universe, that he decided he wanted more – deserved it.
13a You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
He wanted the glory and worship for himself – and if that wasn’t enough – he wanted to be higher than God – to rule over God Himself. I’ve known about Lucifer from the time I was a child when Carol Kelly and Bette Mynatt did amazing Flannelgraph stories to illustrate the story of his fall from grace – and then Adam and Eve’s fall from grace when they listened to Lucifer – in the form of the serpent. They all wanted more.
If we’re truly honest with ourselves, isn’t that what we all want, on some level? We want to be more beautiful/handsome, smarter, healthier, wealthier .. we want to be at least equal to God, if not above Him. When we create (occupations, music, art, books, buildings, towns/cities, sports teams, marriages, children, sermons, speeches, tweets, blog posts, meals, etc.) we do it for glory and honor – because we were created for the capacity to give and receive and to create. The question that we are faced with every moment of every day that we’re awake, is, “Who are we seeking glory and honor from, and to whom are we giving it away, and what is driving us to do so?” It is a constant undercurrent that is always running in the background, but we’re rarely aware that it rules the choices and directions we choose.
As the years continue to multiply, I find myself wrestling more and more with the realization of how much I want to be of help to others – “do” something to validate my existence in this world – especially since I no longer have a formal job. I also see the demand underneath – “Look at me. See into me. Validate me. Honor me. Revel in me. Want me. Believe in me. Love me.” – because I am not enough by myself. I want more. I deserve more – was created for MORE. It’s the same thing that Lucifer and Eve were after – they wanted more and they took it.
The wanting, groaning and longing for more are not the problem. We want more because we were created for more – the only beings created in the image of our Creator – but what do we when it seems what we have been given is not enough – and more often falls far short of filling us or satisfying that ache in our soul. When it doesn’t, we look for who is responsible. After all, He says He gives us life abundantly!! If that’s true, then why don’t I feel that way much of the time? Don’t I have a right to “name it and claim it?” But when I do that, it becomes a demand that crosses over to the dark side of sin. That’s when we are led into temptation to believe that God is no longer good – that He’s withholding what we NEED to make our life work the way WE want. We start down the slippery slope of trying to create our world on our OWN image – all the while convincing ourselves that God wants us to be happy, successful, fulfilled, self-actualized and whole. We employ the power of positive thinking and prayer to convince ourselves to keep trying harder, rather than collapsing into the weak, messy heap of groans and longings that will propel us toward The only source of true Help we have. We grow to hate Him because He will not bend to our will. We blame Him because He could do something to relieve our pain. We give up on Him because we stubbornly and foolishly believe that we can have all the glory and honor we long for this side of heaven. When I look around, a lot of people I see in the pews next to me seem to have a much bigger piece of that abundant life than I do.
If we’re lucky, we won’t be able to make things work the way we demand, and will be forced to have it out with the God of the Universe. We’ll fight until our strength fails, or we’ll give up and admit defeat – and that’s where the fork in the road comes. Am I the god of my universe, or is He? Will I heed The Hound of Heaven and find Him to be the Refuge that I have desperately longed for, or will I slip into despair over my inability to achieve all I want and give up on believing in a God Who would dare to not give me what I want. Maybe I won’t give up the fight at all, and just continue to seethe and rage and pour contempt on what I find myself wanting – whatever it is that I believe I need to make me whole.
13 Enter by the narrow gate.
For the gate is wide and the way
is easy that leads to destruction,
and those who enter by it are many.
14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard
that leads to life,
and those who find it are few.
These well sermon-ized verses communicate a truth that many Christians don’t always think of, or take seriously. Probably anyone who’s been a Christian for any length of time knows the verses and understands the concept – but do we think about what it really means? I don’t remember many sermons that addressed how hard this Way that leads to Life is. That I’ve found it more than surprising how hard this narrow way is, would be a gross understatement! What keeps us from relating honestly as brothers and sisters about our struggles and our failures to love like Christ calls us to do and lean on each other. These scriptures are not meant to add pressure – but to let us know to not be surprised when hard things happen to us – when we feel that we’re losing our struggles against our own demons, vices and habits. God’s grace is enough for each one of us, and His strength is perfected when we are weak and needy. The battles in this broken world, and ours against sin, will rage on until we see Him as He is – only then we will be truly like Him – reflect His Glory perfectly – the Glory He created us for and that we eagerly await as sons and daughters – and finally we will be free – Indeed!!