Monday, April 4, 2011

Waking in Darkness

This journey keeps unraveling; a tapestry of a life with no end. Just when I think I'm getting it figured out, it changes, deepens, grows, twists- into something completely different, something greater- and the One who leads me points me in a new direction, another route to Jesus. Is He seriously at the center of everything?? Is there nothing that He doesn't touch? I'm confounded and amazed. And I have to say, it's a good thing I love Him now, have discovered this new, radical, Revolutionary Jesus or this would be incredibly irritating. As it stands, it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

I've been asked to give the message at a monthly women's meeting in our community and have been concerned about the topic. Mainly because I didn't have one. But as I sat in prayer this evening and asked Him what He wanted me to tell them, the word shame just kept impressing itself on my heart, the Master's voice whispering it over and over. My response was hesitance. I'm supposed to be speaking to them about the pregnancy resource centers and our expansion plans, not going off in some random direction. Perhaps I should have been more specific with Him, I think.

There are times when I have trouble processing the incredible transformation which has taken place in my life over the last year or so; my family has changed, my heart has changed, my work has changed and changed again. I don't recognize my life anymore, and I won't lie to you, sometimes it's very disconcerting. But I have given myself over, surrendered my life to Him who has called me forward into His unimaginable, perfect plan for my life. And the plot keeps twisting and changing and moving and surprising me.

Less than two years ago I sat here and wrote out my decision to seek out this elusive God who had never really been real to me. Today a different woman writes to you- and says- that God is real, tangible, living...and it is the living part of who He is that I'm dwelling on tonight. It's that Living God that I will follow into the weirdest places, like a women's meeting where I speak on shame- or a youth group where I teach abstinence and personal value...or a church where I speak about rising up and waking up and being what we're supposed to be, for the love of God. The hardest place to follow this God? My own heart. All those places I've roped off, boarded up, left abandoned for the pain. It shows a tiny amount of progress that I allowed it today, surrendered to it. Of course, in part, I allowed it because I was still under the impression that we were talking about other people.

It surprised me to feel my own reaction to the word shame, sense that hesitance. Why does it upset me to think about writing on that subject? Why can't I talk about it? I think it's because I know I don't have the answer for those women- or at least I didn't a few hours ago. Worse yet, I didn't have the answer for myself. Shame was still such a large part of who I was, though I know the Christian terminology and theology behind being "free" of such things. Terminology and doctrine are for the mind, but Christ himself is for the heart. And This was a deep well of suffering in my own heart- a cistern which could not be reached by reason or filled with logic. (Between you and me, it is incredibly frustrating to approach Him with a question about others and have Him perpetually turn the tables and say, "Let's talk about you."

As many of you know, I'm a question asker. I believe fully that He is able and willing to answer my questions as I seek to know Him because He wants me to know Him! And so I asked, because I truly didn't know the answer- Why are we free? The real question of course being, How can I be free at last of these things that still haunt me? Give me the formula, spell it out, just tell me, a heart cry lifting through the broken tiles of the ceiling in a cold, empty room so far from my normal routine.

I know in my own life, there are days when I certainly don't feel free no matter the cost paid for me to be so. I am captivated by so many things, weak so often, wanting so often, lacking this or that or everything which might make it all different, chase away the shadows, bring back the simple joy that once we all knew before the reality of this world, the dark surround, the broken dreams of our hearts, the missing pieces of the lives lived out before us, were fully known, before disillusionment stained our views.

I took a few moments after asking this to be irritated with myself that all of my questions seem so elementary, even after all this time in study, and then was so blessed by His quick response, The Resurrection, the word echoing almost audibly in the small hotel room where I sat in silence, alone with these questions, these thoughts- or as alone as one can be when questioning the Almighty.

As is true with much of what He says to me, I didn't get it at first. Why would the resurrection be responsible for my freedom? Why was his raising to life after that ordeal even important to the Story of who He was, who He is? His death paid the price. So why the resurrection? Wasn't it over at that point? 'It is finished...' He said as he hung on the cross, so....wasn't it?? Perhaps I'm the only one who hasn't been absolutely certain what the raising of my Savior actually accomplished on that first Easter all those centuries ago. And certainly I didn't stop to ask these questions all those years ago when I lived in the dark room of misunderstood religion. Easter was a dress up Sunday, that much I knew. But the joy escaped me. The beauty escaped me. The miracle of it all escaped me. And most definitely, the why escaped me.

And so I humbly bring my questions now- to the throne of grace where all human questions will eventually come.

Theologically, we understand the resurrection as the climactic moment of Jesus' ministry, the moment when the tombstone is rolled away, the graveclothes left behind, the God of our salvation a slave to death no longer, and we ourselves no longer under it's dark obligation. As if that wasn't enough reason to sing or dance or pour forth joy and hallelujahs! To know the true beauty of what He has accomplished for my tomorrows, my life everlasting, the chapter which will be written when this book is finished- an unending chapter.

A.W. Tozer writes, "It is God Almighty who puts eternity in a man's breast and tomorrow in a man's heart and gives His people immortality, so what you see down here really is not much. But when the bird of immortality takes to the wing, she sails on and on, over the horizon and out into the everlasting tomorrows and never comes down and never dies."

One could not find more beautiful poetry to describe the act of the resurrection power in the life of a believer. "Immortality which sails on and on, and never comes down and never dies." Therein lies the heart of the hope of everyone who is born of God- the possibility of a chapter after this one, an unending story for all God's children- and not just to be forever, but to be with Him forever.

I think of precious Mary Magdalene, the beloved friend of Christ, first introduced to him in Luke chapter 8 and a faithful follower throughout the time she knew him. She was first to the tomb on that fateful day, first to see the stone rolled away and the graveclothes left behind, and seeing all of this, her already broken heart shattered further thinking that those that had killed her Jesus had also stolen his body. Hadn't they done enough!?
What confusion she must have felt when the man approached her in the garden beyond the grave. What joy when He said her name, in the way only He could, in the way she had heard Him say it so many other times, and what relief and amazement to look in His eyes, His perfect, healed, beautiful eyes. I am overwhelmed with the love she must have felt as I read these passages, see her face in my minds eye, hear the catch of her breath as she finally understands that it's Him, that He loves her, that the story is not over, nor will it ever be. So much was known in the soft whispering of her name on that morning outside the tomb, so much more restored than a simple heartbeat or the breath of a man.

Hope was restored. Life was offered back into humanity and death was conquered. Forever.

It's this same man who whispered my name a few years ago, in the way that He'd whispered it so many times before. It was Him, patiently calling and calling and calling- until finally, I heard Him, recognized the sweet cadence of His call on my heart, and answered the One who was offering me my life back, my hope back, calling to me as He had called to Lazarus, 'Come awake!'

These eyes opened into darkness at His shout, my lungs filled, my heart of stone rolled away and light poured in. I am breathing in and breathing out this revelation that life is mine, life for now and life everlasting. Like all of those who've opened their eyes at the sound of His call on their life, His resurrection power is for now, almost as much as it's meant for the unending chapter at the end of our stories. He is still raising the dead. He is still calling us out of the rubble of our deaths, leading us out of our tombs and welcoming us into the light with a whisper of our names.

I am free. And contrary to what I've always thought, I have not been freed by His death, but by His
L I F E.

But what of shame? What of the things that haunt me, haunt us all? I go back to what Tozer has said, "What you see down here really is not much." These things that hang onto us beyond our resurrections to Jesus are merely graveclothes from a life to which we've died, tattered remains of a life that's ended and buried, the wrappings of a decayed flesh which we have left behind at the call of our names, the moving of the stone, the beckoning of the light of Love.

I will let them fall, Beloved, as we all must, onto the dusty ground of the tomb I leave behind. They are no longer mine to wear, nor yours.

For me, and for all who answer His call, He says,

"{I will} comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.
...instead of their shame, my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace
they will rejoice in their inheritance;
and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
and everlasting joy will be theirs.

...I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.

Isaiah 61:1-3, 10-11

"When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true,
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, Oh death, is your victory?
Where, oh death, is your sting?"

1 Corinthians 15:54-55

1 comment:

Jenny Kroft said...

As always, I am so grateful for your willingness to pour out what God has poured into you. You speak to my heart what my heart needs to hear. I love you. Aunt Jenny