Archive for June, 2012


The Goodness of God

I’m afraid that I was far too distracted this week by things like fresh, Oregon strawberries to give much thought to another post on brokenness. I’ve got one still brewing, but it’s not quite there. In the meantime, I poked around my blog and couldn’t find something that I most certainly have meant to put up, even though I’m recycling an old post from the Well. It’s the post I wrote when my belief in God’s goodness coalesced out of the faint hope and intellectual void where the Spirit of God hovered over the deep of my soul. I had been struggling, trying to reconcile the idea that God could be good with the reality of pain, limitations, and the crappy things people sometimes do to each other, and I had a completely unexpected revelation that changed my heart. Man, through nothing I did, the light came on for me, and here’s my attempt to express it:

August, 2005

I woke up this morning thinking about one place, one time. Ever said that? I have, especially at work when I have too many people wanting me to be doing too many things in several different locations all at once. It’s really frustrating when all the needs are valid and more or less immediate. Makes it really hard to prioritize. “I can’t do that right now. I can only be in one place at one time.”

What I realized this morning is that my limited ability to be present applies not only to my body, but also to my soul – my heart, my mind or intellect, and my will. I am pretty small, and I can only live in one place at one time. I can only live for one thing at one time. I’m trying to think how to explain this. I woke up knowing something, but I’m not sure yet just what it is I know.

See, for several years, my life’s purpose has been to love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul, mind and strength. Jesus said that was the greatest commandment, and I figured if He said it was that important, that was what I wanted to do. I had no idea how that would work. There are so many good and important things in life, but God is telling me He wants my all. He says it over and over throughout the Bible. He must be first. I’ve had moments where I’ve resented that (and I’ll probably have more moments like that, too). I mean, if it were another human being who wanted that kind of attention, I would think they were being totally selfish. How could God not also be selfish in saying He wants it all?

I think what I realized is how kind He is in demanding everything. I am small, my resources are limited, and I am only able to live in one place for one thing at a time. Life, with all its problems, pains, people, loves, and answers – it is much too big for me. Life is at this point entropic (entropy, according to Merriam-Webster online, is “2 a : the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity b : a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder). It takes who I am and all I have to offer, my heart and soul, mind and strength, and reduces me to a “state of inert uniformity,” to a dead nothingness. The entropy effect within me is hugely magnified every time I choose to contribute my energy, to seek my validation in something besides God, to worship an idol. There is no living to be had from this life. It takes more than I have.

God’s not being selfish in demanding everything. He’s offering to die so that I might live. He knows that left to my own, life will kill me long before I die, especially when I give myself to that which resembles life. By demanding everything I have, He’s ensuring that my life is preserved for release to abundant living and not to entropic living. If you want to save your life, you have to lose it. God is love. No greater love exists than a man lays down his life, and when He tells me, “I want it all, Rebekah. If you want to live, I have to take it all,” that is love speaking. Hm…

As I sat down to write this, I had Nichole Nordeman’s “This Mystery” album playing. The first song up was “Please Come,” and the chorus had this to say. “There is room enough for all of us / Please come / And the arms are open wide enough / Please come / And our parts are never greater than the sum / This is the heart of the One / Who stands before an open door / And bids us, ‘Come'”

God’s not stuck in one place at a time like me. He’s got room enough, His arms are wide enough, His heart is big enough, and He says to please come. I think I’ll take Him up on it.

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Brokenness and Fear

In my last post, I talked about Isaiah 53’s Suffering Servant and ended the post by asking why I would be inclined to feel offended over his situation. One explanation could be found in the phrase I quoted near the end, that “it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” There’s an element of sacrifice in this passage, where the innocent was taken by God and offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the guilty. That can be an uncomfortable concept, because 1) I am one of the guilty folk (definitely not perfect, you know), and 2) it can lead one to question the goodness and character of the Almighty.

However, I don’t think my reaction fit into either of those little boxes. It has, at points, but not regarding brokenness. Instead, I found myself identifying with the Suffering Servant and his story. My life had been hard, and I was relatively innocent. After all, children do not deserve abuse. With the way my dad wove religious themes into our situation, from there it was no great leap to feel that my innocence was the sacrifice offered by my father to expiate or relieve some of his own guilt. My indignation toward the way God (mis)treated the Servant was, I think, springing from fear that God would have condemned me to a similar role. If God would be “pleased. . .to bruise” His faithful servant, why not me as well? Would I be stuck broken and limping for the rest of my life to help atone for the sins of others? I didn’t want to contemplate that possibility. I was too afraid that it might be true.

Maybe God was that mean. Maybe I was that worthless. Maybe my dad was more important. Maybe… maybe…. maybe… maybe. What if He was? What if I was? What if he was? What if… what if… what if? What if all the most horrible and scariest things were true?

What if they were? It was the question I couldn’t face, and because I was wondering and fearing without facing, I had some nasty ideas about God and Who He is and what He does hiding. Part of me believed that God was mean, that He was untrustworthy, that He didn’t like me, that He was going to make all my life hard, that His “favor” was anything but, and other things. I had all this floating around inside of me, a spot of darkness where I hated and feared God, and I couldn’t touch it because I couldn’t handle my pain. I couldn’t – or perhaps wouldn’t – see past my pain and the injustices under which I was living, and all I wanted was out. I didn’t want the pain. I didn’t want the questions. I was afraid of the dark, and I prayed for healing and deliverance.

Whether I wanted the questions or not, I did have them. I cannot help but think they emanated from me to poison the air and beat on God with their anxious uncertainties. Anxiety is like that. It hides, but not well. And, I believe, God responded to my prayers, but not how I expected or wanted. He asked me those questions. “What if you don’t get better? What if healing for you doesn’t look like the removal of your brokenness? What if it’s not just gone, and you spend the rest of your life limping?” He answered my questions with some of His own. What that did for me was start drawing my invisible questions out to be seen. God’s questions, rather than being a condemnation of my misdeeds, started shining a little light into my darkness, and that proved to be a very good thing for me. After all, fear doesn’t do well with light.

Until next time!

Getting back to brokenness, more brokenness, and Isaiah 53, I found out something interesting about Isaiah 53. I’d been told that passage was a prophecy concerning the coming of Christ. I can’t say I’d ever investigated that, so I thought maybe before I went blathering on about how it is about Christ, maybe I should check and see if that was anything more than my imagination or a belief held by a weird minority. It seems to be a pretty widely held belief in Christianity, so – whew! – all good there. What was interesting was this bit from Wikipedia: “Isaiah 53, taken from the Book of Isaiah, is the last of the four Songs of the Suffering Servant.” I like that phrase, not in a “it warms the cockles of my heart” sort of way, but as in it seems significant. It seems applicable. It seems relevant to what God has been teaching me about brokenness. I want to to think it over a bit more, but since I’m talking about Isaiah 53 now, it’s worth mentioning. Guess I better move along to Isaiah 53.

One thing that stands out immediately is that this man is going through some hell. His life is not at all easy. He’s the “man of sorrows” who is also described as “rejected,” “crushed,” “wounded,” “afflicted,” “oppressed,” and other painful adjectives. I don’t know about you, but when I think about how I want my life to be described, words like these are not on my list. They make for a hard life.

To make it even more difficult for him, “we esteemed him not.” The poor guy didn’t even get any sympathy. Nobody cared that his life was hard. I guess he just wasn’t… attractive enough. His life was hard and full of troubles. It wasn’t pretty. He wasn’t somebody other people wished to emulate. Instead, folks assumed that he was “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” People were pretty sure that not even God liked him. The man was cursed.

And you know what? None of it was his fault. His situation, full of the bitterness of grief made more heavy by the pettiness of people, was not his fault. He “had done no violence.” He was an honest man, an innocent man. He didn’t deserve the pain he experienced, the contempt he faced, or the death he died.

And “yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him…”

What?

He’s innocent. He’s righteous. It’s well established that the ones who merit punishment (and the suffering servant sure seemed to have been punished!) are the wicked. The guilty are the ones who have earned wrath and hard things. The innocent, the righteous, the just, the downtrodden… aren’t they supposed to be exalted, glorified, comforted, and otherwise cared for by the God Who is their provider and defender?

What’s going on here? Why is this okay or desirable? “It’s not fair,” would be what my emotions like to indignantly scream when I hear about situations where my sense of fair play gets offended. This would definitely be one of them. Why, God? Why is this okay?

Tell you one thing. Why is it all about me? Why do I read something like this and get offended? Why is my sense of fair play so important? Why do I instinctively, without the least thought, make it all about me and my values?

Until next time!

The Lamb Show

My glasses are all gooky. I didn’t realize it until I sat down to type this up, and the screen helpfully pointed out that there are plenty of smears on my glasses. It’s to be expected, I suppose. I hauled my camera out for the Marion County Lamb and Wool Show today. The pressure of the eyepiece up against my eyeglasses always causes dirty glasses. I also seem to have a bit of poison oak rash on my hand. Rotten lambs!

Still, all the mild complaints aside, it was a lovely day for the show. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The weather flipped  between overcast and sunny, which meant it never got too hot or too cold for too long. It sprinkled just enough rain to help keep the dust down that the sheep would normally kick up. The shows were good practice for the girls and the lambs before the county fair. The lamb kebabs were delicious! The border collies, tongues hanging out, looked as though they were grinning at the sheep they were herding. The annual parade abounded with candy for the kids and gratitude for the preservation of the town’s residents during the winter flooding. The playground, particularly at lunch time, was fully of children happily playing together. It was a lovely day.

I’ll get back to Isaiah 53 and brokenness soon. 🙂