Walking into the Dark

This weekend, I received a new book in the mail.  If you’re like me, you’ll know that a delivery like this is like Christmas!  I love getting packages in the mail, even when they’re expected.  You might remember me writing about another book called “The Adventure” by Jerry Sittser….well, this book is also by him, but it is titled “A Grace Disguised–How the Soul Grows Through Loss“.   Because I’ve enjoyed reading “The Adventure” three times through, I figured this new book would also be a good read. Well so far….I’m hooked.  Here are some of my thoughts from the weekend….

Something that he says early on, is that the darkness of grief is inescapable & is something we must face alone.  We know as Christians that we do not have to do this completely alone, but the journey inside is personal and one that cannot be walked by any another human.  One struggle for many (as well as myself) is that we tend to walk away from the darkness and chase the fading light of our hope.  The joy we see disappearing beyond the horizon.  To that struggle, this quote struck me–“…the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.”

Wow.  I think most of us “know” that we are supposed to face pain head on, to walk towards it despite the hurt that continues & sometimes grows worse over time….but too often I fill it with other things, or turn away, or put off until I’m “more ready” to face it, all the while staying in the dark, holding onto the last glimmer of light that has so recently seemed to vanish. Staying here though, holds the light at bay, and refuses to see that only through the darkness can you see light again.  

Sittser says, “The decision to face the darkness, even if it led to overwhelming pain, showed me that the experience of loss itself does not have to be the defining moment of our lives. Instead, the defining moment can be our response to the loss. It is not what happens to us that matters as much as what happens in us.” This really spoke to me….once again I am reminded that we ALL have trials, we ALL have situations that are overwhelming…that doesn’t make us unique, it doesn’t separate us from everyone else because it’s something we all go through.  But the choices we make in response to these difficult situations, are what define us & make us who we are….they define who we will become.  “We do not always have the freedom to choose the roles we must play in life, but we can choose how we are going to play the roles we have been given.”

Isaiah 41: 9-10, 18 says, “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…..I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” This gives me hope…knowing that when I was in darkness, hidden in the furthest corners of the earth, Christ came to find me. He brought me out of that depth & into the light. If Christ has done this once, we can hold fast that He WILL do it again.  
I’ll leave off today with this last quote from Sittser, “In the valley of suffering, despair and bitterness are brewed. But there also character is made. The valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making.”

Let’s journey together through the darkness, alone & yet together, to run towards the light that we yet are waiting to see.  May we trust that God is with us to protect us & hold us though our hearts ache with pain & our limbs shutter with fear. He will give us wings as eagles and feet like deer, able to stand on rocky ground.

A fork in the Road

Alright, I just HAD to share this story I read last night… An older man “the Sage” and a young boy were walking through the woods. These were woods that were WAY out in the middle of untouched land. They followed a footpath that had been worn down & when they were completely immersed in the woods, the path split into three directions. The two men stopped & wondered which way would take them to the waterfalls they were seeking. The Sage asked the boy which he would take, if only one would lead them to the falls. The boy didn’t know, because none of the paths were marked and said if he chose one, he’d be worried the whole time that he had chosen the wrong path. Then the Sage posed the question…what if all three paths led to the falls, then which would you choose?

That’s how the story ended….them deciding which path to choose. I’m not completely through the whole thought of this chapter, but basically…..it’s about us, on our walk with God. Sometimes we have choices in front of us, that aren’t marked. All three look good, all three unknown paths…. It’s hard to choose if you think that only one path is the “correct” one. But if God is so good, and big, can’t he direct us all to where He wants us to go, no matter the choices we make?

If we take too much time trying to figure out what God’s will is for our life….what path he wants us to take…we will bog ourselves down with “stuff” instead of just DOING what God’s will is, and that’s to love God & love people. He can you use wherever, whatever your choices, whichever your path. Are we DOING God’s will right now? Or are we just THINKING about what He wants us to do?

Our eyes are on You

We know not what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) It’s true, do we really know what we’re doing?  What is this mission we’re on?  Keep our eyes on Jesus. When we don’t know what to do, where are we supposed to look?  To HIM.  The author & perfecter of our life.  

Many times, things come into our life, and we count them as coincidence.  We ask why they happened, or blow them off like it doesn’t mean anything….but what if it SHOULD mean something?  I sometimes go through life, noticing some things and not others, or maybe paying attention to things that are big, and not noticing the seemingly insignificant happenings of my daily life.  But those things can and ARE used by God to shape us and mold us.  We as a person might be confused by the events of our lives, but God seeks to use those, in growing us into the person He’s designed us to be! 
So here’s a thought from Jerry Sittser “God, too, is an artist, but the materials for his works of art are not marble or canvas but flesh and blood. We are the ones he wants to shape into beautiful creatures. He, like any artist, sees what ought to be in us and chips away at everything that keeps us from it. That is the essence of God’s grace for discipleship, his initiative.”
Don’t you sometimes feel that God is involved, but kinda observing to a point what is happening?  I do sometimes.  I forget that He takes initiative in putting this or that in our way, to help us…maybe not what we would consider helping, but more…to form us, give us opportunities to grow perhaps?  Think about this quote from E. Stanley Jones, “Don’t bear trouble, use it….Take whatever happens–justice and injustice, pleasure and pain, compliment and criticism–take it up into the purpose of your life and make something out of it. Turn it into a testimony. Don’t explain evil; exploit it; make it serve you.”
Hm…puts a new vision out there, doesn’t it?  So when we don’t know what to do, or when we don’t understand what’s going on, we’re to look to God….but also, as Sittser goes on to suggest, we should keep one eye also on what God is doing IN us, not just around us.  What are we supposed to take from this situation?  Who are we supposed to become?  Why are we here and not somewhere else?  
Let’s look together, at the days we have here, there, wherever, and think together…..am I supposed to be learning something here?  If you’re answer is yes (which it probably should be…) then what is it that I’m supposed to see?  Seek God, and He’ll reveal that to you….individually.  It might not come right away, that’s why we’re to seek HIM.  So…go for it!

Home…

Walking, stumbling, to a home I’ve never seen. This is the way I go, and the path that we are on together. The way of Christ is so unknown, unpredictable and yet unchanging. He IS. Only by looking toward Him are we able to see just who we truly are, who we are created to be. When we look at ourselves all we see is who the world has made us, or who it tells us we should be. It is only when we look to Christ, and God the Father that we can clearly see who we were made to be, who we aim to be and where that person should go. Maybe not where–God doesn’t always tell us that but He sometimes says how–we know how all we have to do is look at Christ.

So while we walk with Christ in sight, we are moving forward, but if we get distracted or carried away we may stumble. We don’t or won’t know where we’re going if we don’t keep our eyes on Christ. And how will we know? We are heading to a homeland that we’ve never seen before–none of us. All the more reason to look and follow after Christ. He knows the way. He IS the way. Only He can lead us home and give us the peace that our souls burn for. Only then can our sails be loosed and our anchors et–we will be home.

Wholly Yours

It’s interesting how God divinely orchestrates pieces of the puzzle to fit together perfectly, and all in one weekend. It never ceases to amaze me how that happens. The sermon I heard last evening, was speaking about paying attention to the grapes & thorns in life…seeing the Spirit at work in people. Then I read in a book last night, all about how when we come into the faith, sometimes we can become lopsided Christians…”We will fight God’s battles without learning to rest in him and thus exhaust ourselves and perhaps become cynical. We will discipline ourselves to maturity but never be enfolded by grace and so become rigid and self-righteous. We will be healed of our problems but rarely accept the cureless pain of helping others. Or we will climb the mountain of financial, spiritual and popular success but refuse to descend into the pit of defeat, where most people live.”(The Adventure, Jerry Sittser)

It goes on to encourage us to discover the multi-faceted realm of Christ, the life he offers & what he truly intended us to learn & become. There’s so much, so many things about life & faith that I have yet to learn. It’s exciting to search for it, frustrating sometimes because my nature wants to know it all NOW, and yet that’s just not the way it works. It’s about a life of seeking, developing and learning new things about God’s grace, love & forgiveness. About seeing ways to love people out of the love you have for God. …many ways that I’ve never even thought of I’m sure. In Matthew 5, there’s a guideline if you will, about Christian maturity…here’s the list:

3″Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11″Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This goes into every aspect of life, making one’s life fully sweet, not thorny….looking at this description, it doesn’t seem like you can really (or should really) put Christianity in one compartment of your life without it affecting everything else around it. Let Christ transform your WHOLE life, let’s do this together, dive in to see His truth and his variety of joys He is seeking out for us.