August 2010

The conversation the other night was very human centered.  It revolved around “my choice”, “my free will” and everything “me”….I was talking to a friend who was trying to hold tight and fast to her belief system but what she was unable to comprehend is that her belief system has trapped her.  There may be a God “somewhere out there” for her, but she has made herself the center of the universe.  Everything was about her right to choose.

Now I am not opposed nor do I deny the fact that we have choices to make in our journey of faith, but I just don’t think the adventure starts with us.  I believe there is an initial igniting of my soul from Some Outside Force…the Spirit quickening me to life.

So I asked this friend – so stuck in her choosing world – did she choose to fall in love?  Or better yet….did she choose the initial attraction to her husband?  I knew my husband at 15 years of age and we were good friends.  I never thought I would date him let alone marry him, until one day, something happened to me.  It was an awakening in me and my eyes began to see him differently.  I didn’t choose it…it just happened.

I would contend that this is how it is with God too.  He is always around whether we acknowledge it or not, but we don’t have eyes to see Him.  Through His graciousness and great love for us, He enters into our deepest places and gives us the capacity to see.  It is not always a large movement, but the first move is His.  He begins the dance of awakening in us.

I think this is what is meant in Ephesians when Paul says “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that {faith is} not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”  (Eph 2:8-9)  Truly our choices come in responding to what God starts.

And I don’t think this is just for those who don’t have eyes to see God yet.  I think that this is a continual work and gift of the Spirit…always trying to wake us up and open our eyes to something new.  We may ignore the subtle movements, and like my friend, move into a life driven by our power, our choices and our rationale.  But He is a relentless pursuer…He is always trying to give us eyes to see Him and get out of our “me-worlds”.  It is mysterious and wonderful.  It defies explanation, but cannot be denied once it has been experienced.  It is to stand in wonder in the absence of words.

Albert Einstein once wrote, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and all science.  He to whom this “emotion” is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder, or stand in rapt awe, is as good as dead.  His eyes are closed.”

I cannot “do” the spiritual life.  No amount of good choices, hard work, and effort can make it happen.  (Well I guess I can try, but it will leave me tired, disillusioned and stuck on myself.)  This is because faith does not start with me.  It comes from outside of me.  The mysterious emotion that Einstein talked about cannot be mustered, but it is given.  Our job is to lean into it once it happens….to keep looking once we have been given eyes to see!


{slowly going through the Psalms of Ascent….they are becoming my prayers on this heart journey I am on….hope this makes sense}

The house is huge.  There are all sorts of bright colors and flashing lights enticing me to come in.  The music coming from it is an eerie mix that invites my feet to bounce along rhythmically without thinking.  The line of people waiting to enter appeals to my sense of not wanting to miss out.

But once I enter the “Fun House” at the fair, I find the inside to be a series of strange and distorted corridors – not a “house” at all.  There are stairs that move under my feet and a group of mirrors that bend and twist my image into ridiculous reflections.  As I walk through this labyrinth, there are places that the floor drops out from under me, only to jut up into my next step.  And to exit I must navigate my way through a spinning, whirling tube causing me to list to one side, fall down, and roll back to the bottom of this orange and yellow keleidescope.

This would all seem like a lot of fun if  it wasn’t a picture of my life right now.  Rolling, tumbling, trying to catch my balance before and I fall and distorted pictures of who I am.  Too much noise, too much color, too much jolting and upheaval….really, just too much!

So I cry with the Psalmist,

Woe is me for I sojourn in Meshech.  For I dwell among the tents of Kedar.  Too long has my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace….”

Everything in me cries out to escape this place!!  Then the strangest thing happens…I look over to the operator of this disturbing ride and I see Jesus.  We make eye contact, He nods, smiles and in that moment lets me know it is time to leave.

I do not claim to be a theologian but the longer I walk with God, the larger His ways and love expand beyond my capability.  Here I am being jolted and tumbled, unsettled and disturbed and it is Him that is doing it!!  I want calm and He seemingly brings chaos.  I want safety and He brings disturbance.

Dan Allander writes “our striving for {self-protection} must be interrupted by a prophetic voice that will sing cacophony to undermine our idolatry.”  (Now that is a sentence to unpack and not move away from too quickly!!)  Jesus Himself sings this dissatisfaction into my life…in order for me to get up and leave!!  He wishes to undermine those answers – even the good ones – that I trust in to bring me life without Him.  (The crazy thing is…I feel like He previously gave me some of those answers and now He is shaking them to a breaking point!)

Lord, I feel like You are singing noises and moving structures that are causing my “pocket gods” to fall off the shelf and my whole house to rumble.  I know not what needs to happen…but I will ask you to continue to bring rumblings of dissatisfaction until I am willing to leave the house, put on my shoes and go on a new journey with You.

And so my journey with the Psalms of Ascent begins.  They begin where so many journeys begin – with harsh, discordant tones.  But it is that very pain “that penetrates through despair and stimulates a new beginning” (Eugene Peterson).  Psalm 120 says “In my trouble I cried to the Lord and He answered me”.  He answered with disturbance, dissatisfaction and the shaking of the “fun” house because this I know….before I am willing to go on a journey, I must, by necessity, also be willing to leave somewhere I have already been.