Known

stones

To realize we are not lost in a massive crowd, to realize we are thoroughly and intimately known by the most powerful Being in the universe and to know that he still loves us is the source of all joy.

The Psalmist wrote:

“Lord, you know everything there is to know about me.” (Psalm 139:1 TPT)

Falling in love is a risky undertaking. The truth is that the romantic idea of falling love is often more about seeing ourselves as attractive and lovable than developing an altruistic love for another person. Attention from someone we don’t respect fails to carry much authority, but when a person we admire tells us, through word or action, that we are worthy of attention our sense of value goes up in our own eyes.

In the process of falling in love we gradually expose more of our heart’s vulnerabilities as we search for acceptance. It means lowering defences and possibly giving another person all the ammunition they need to hurt us. Some people feel the risk is too great, especially if they have known betrayal before. Mutual vulnerability is a kind of insurance, but no guarantee against deceit or exploitation.

At breakfast this morning my little granddaughter and I talked about what makes a good story as we munched our crunchies. All the princess stories, she pointed out, go mostly sad-scary-happy or sometimes scary-sad-happy. Sometimes she wants to stop reading the story during the scary part, (we’re reading The Secret Garden together). Happy-sad-scary stories are really bad, but who remembers happy-happy-happy stories?

Many stories of true love start with a misunderstanding of the nature of the other person. There’s a scary part. But…Mr. Darcy is wonderful after all! It’s the stuff of novels — especially paperback romances. The brisk woman in the foreman’s hat proves witty, warm, and kindhearted! The lone guy on horseback hides a poetic soft side under a tough exterior! Sad-scary-happy!

What if our guardedness keeps us from learning to clear up lies we have been told about someone? What if we have been told lies about the character of God? What if we bail at the scary part?

We miss the opportunity to be known and to see ourselves through the eyes of the One who loves us perfectly. If we dare not risk posing the trust question to our Creator for fear of condemnation or rejection we miss the chance not only to know Him, but to know ourselves.

Falling in love with God is becoming open and vulnerable to the only person in the universe who can show us how to fall in love with ourselves – the way He sees us in the future as well as the present, with acceptance and the power of grace to become so much more than we are now.

My word for the photographic meditation exercise yesterday was “known.” I have learned that God is the initiator. He loved us first. He has always known us. There is nothing in our hearts that shocks him. He risked everything to show us his amazing love. He made the first move.

He says, “This is Me, naked and vulnerable on a cross out of love for you.”

Our part is to respond by taking the risk of saying, “Just as I am…this is me. Do you love me or am I just another stone among billions?”

He answers, “Yes. You. I love you. Just as you are. With an everlasting love.”

 

 

The Squeeze

Photo: moulded

Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.

(Romans 12:2 -J.B. Phillips version)

I’m weird.

I’m weird and finally okay with it.

Some people are just meant to be on the edge of the crowd, not really out there, but not really fitting in either.

If something is trending you’ll find me wending down some other path. I figure the trendies have got that one covered.

When the tourists are snapping photos of each other in front of  iced mountain peaks, I’m focusing on lichen blanketed rocks in the ditch. I weep for the clown, rejoice for the beggar, fast at the feast,  and arise to do battle at night. When the clan gathers for a celebration in the heat of a summer’s eve, I slip out in the moonlight to breathe the cool falling cedar and pine air as it settles along the creek bed.

My poor, dear mother never knew what to do with me. I was hopelessly out of step.

I tried. I really did. I wore the uncomfortable fashionable clothes and the crippling high heels. I endured the horrid chemical smells of perms and hair dyes and nail polish. I spent far too much of my income and far too many years of my life obsessively following diet and exercise programs that, in the long run, always left me in worse shape than when I started. I listened to hours of pop music trying to understand the allure of a limited assortment of repetitive chords, rhythms and lyrics. I read the best-sellers and watched the Oscared pondering the pay-off of fear and pessimism. I paid attention to political pundits who knew what was wrong with everyone else’s ideas and I faithfully endured more sermons and devotional talks than I dare to recall. I tried to participate in the church ladies’ games (which usually involved rolls of toilet paper and or unscrambling baby and cooking related words.) The only spiritual maturity I gained from those exercises was learning how to doze with my eyes open and with an is-every-body-happy-smile on my face.

Then I realized one day I was spending a lot of effort trying to win the approval of people who didn’t really have mine -not that they were doing anything wrong, it’s just that I had no passion for the things that seemed to move them.

There is only one person whose approval I really need, and that is God’s. He likes weird. He can work with weird. When I look at the weird folk he loved in the Bible I realize I am in good company. Jesus didn’t exactly fit in either.

The crowd can move on without me. I’ll catch up later. Right now I am just enjoying watching the osprey flying a pas de deux, the daisies growing in cracks of asphalt, and working on becoming who God intended me to be in the first place.

An hour away

Photo: looking north

(Click on photo for larger version)

The far mountains in this photo are about an hour away.

We tend to measure distance in terms of time in this vast country. It will take an hour to drive to the village at the base of those farthest mountains. In one hour the time will be here and the place will be now –and the details will be much clearer.

We live in the present but have an awareness of the future lying just one step further ahead on this journey. God is present-future. When he forgives our past, it is forgiven.  He sees who we will become as clearly as if it were today. He knows the plans he has for us and calls us by our future name. He desires us to see ourselves from his viewpoint so we will have the courage to walk in our new identity.

He remembers the future. He shows it to us by his words and allows us to say, “This is a picture of me when I was older.”

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2)

So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.

The Woman at the Well

The Woman at the Well

My soul longs for you as a parched land.

The memory of honeyed smiles crumbled

and caught by the wind of too-many-words

has scattered among the freeze-dried roses.

Dust fountains, flowing with artificial love

choke the living well,

and like the foreign woman

I have poured buckets of dirt into cracked clay pots.

Sir, give me this water,

this living water,

that I might not have to

come here again

to lower my craving

into the dark well

alone.

Jesus often chose to reveal profound truths about himself to women first. He ignored a lot of cultural taboos. The revelation of his true identity to a lone woman at a well in Samaria is one example. I’ve heard so many sermons about this woman and her five husbands and the one she was shacked up with who was not her husband. Across the centuries she is still judged as being promiscuous -and probably seductive.

I knew a woman who had been married five times. I admit to some curiosity as to how she managed to snag five men when I had lovely, talented, caring, single friends in their forties and fifties who had not yet managed to snag one.

Then I met her fifth.

Well, let’s just say anyone could catch one of those. Most people with sense would have taken him off the hook and thrown him back in.

The thing about the cultural norms Jesus was defying is that they were different from many of ours. We don’t realize how revolutionary his relationships with women were unless we understand how disrespected and powerless they were in that place, at that time. Women could not choose to divorce. Men chose to divorce. A provision for divorce was made in the Jewish law so a rejected woman would not starve. A divorce allowed another man to claim her as property so she wouldn’t languish in poverty like many widows in India have done for centuries.

If the woman at the well had five husbands and another guy, it’s because she was rejected five times. The most common cause for rejection was sterility, a source of shame in a place where women were treated like cattle. The likely reason for her to be at the well alone in the heat of the day was not that others considered her a tart, but that she considered herself as damaged, rejected goods. The guy who was not even her husband was probably at the end of a line of very poor options.

Her astounding boldness demonstrated by running back into the town to tell everyone about the man who told her everything about her life at her Messiah encounter speaks of the change of identity Jesus is able to impart. He is not unaware of our reality; he does not reject us for it, but he offers us a better one.

Encounters with Jesus, the real Jesus, the living water, cause us to see ourselves differently. When we understand who he sees us to be, we can leave the craving for identity behind, run in new freedom and make a difference in the world.