Sunday, October 17, 2010

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Today I sat in the emergency room for hours with Marilus. She's been really sick the past few days and today, after preaching two sermons, she finally gave in and admitted her need to go in. Lately I have been feeling like I'm in this awful space of nothingness. I have no rhythm or routine in my life outside of brushing my pearly whites, feeding my insane Lorelei Gilmore coffee habit, and journaling when I wake up. Other than Marilus, there is no group of people I see on a daily basis. I was gifted a free month of netflix which in theory was a wonderful idea but in practice has taken up too much time and blocked too much thought and feeling. But in a conversation with a far-away-friend, I was able to finally voice what I had felt too foolish to say out loud before. Essentially my issues boiled down to, "I don't feel like I do enough every day to live out my values and who I want to be. I feel incredibly alone and afraid to face brokenness in others and myself all over again. I feel like the Where of my life prevents me from living out Who I am. And that I don't think I trust God very much that he is present in people and places even when I'm not."

Today as I sat in the emergency room with my friend/roommate/pastor/mentor/whatever and as later I held another friend's hand as tears fell for her own brokenness, I realized that I actually do still love people. And that part of Who I am does not change because of Where I am or who I am without or what I can or can't do in that moment. I still hurt in their hurt and smile in their joy. I am awfully hard on myself. I thought I was getting better at that but maybe not. I'm reading a book called, "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity." It's slower going than I would like, but I was reading about self-affirmations today. Julie Cameron says basically that it is amazing how without any embarrassment we can easily "bludgeon" ourselves with negative affirmations but to offer ourselves positive affirmations feels embarrassing and silly to do even when we are alone. During our 4 or so hours of conversation in the ER, Marilus told me that there are 24 million Christians living as "untouchables" in India. "With a number like that," she asked, "how is it that they remain so oppressed? The number of oppressed people is so high, why does it stay like that?" Well, lucky for her I had just read that part about affirmations. Part of the problem of oppression is definitely the oppressors, but I think the other part is that we oppress ourselves and keep ourselves there with these negative affirmations.

"Who do you think you are? What good do you really think little old you can do? You, you one little person, really think that your love can make any difference? What makes you think you can be an artist? a writer? a scholar? a teacher? a minister? a college graduate? a high school graduate?" If I am constantly asking myself these kinds of questions, then I will live the rest of my life trusting in the little safety net of the worlds I know and not in the big hands of my Creator God who loves and cares for me. And I have to wonder, is that any life at all? Is that living or merely just surviving? All of these voices that tell me I can't, that I'm not good enough, or wise enough, or brave enough, or talented enough, or loving enough. And I listen to these voices and I don't do what I know I should do or could do because I'm afraid that they are right and I don't tell anyone else about these voices because I'm afraid to burden them, to sound stupid or crazy, or like I'm fishing for compliments and encouragement.

I need prayer. I mean, I really need prayer and I'm asking for it from whoever reads this. I don't normally ask for prayer because I'm not much into the idea of the ask-and-you-shall-receive God. I would ask that God be near me, but I know he does not know how to be absent from me. I'd ask to be provided for, but I think it is more likely that I just need to open my eyes to see how he's already doing that. Maybe that I learn to see myself as God sees me, which is not so perfect and not so much of a failure either. I want to find comfort and peace in the middle, in the uncertainty, the contradictions, and the questions. That's hard for me. I like structure. A lot. I like knowing which way is up and down, black and white, questions that have answers, and bread that always lands butter-side-down. But I think what I need now, is to find life in the questions, in the spaces between the known and the answers. Because what I'm learning more and more is that even the "known" and the "answers" are relative.

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