(I'm not one for hokey Jesus pictures, but today I needed to see this one. )
Most of the time I write about my struggles in general terms, in the hopes and prayers that others will find it relatable and ultimately encouraging. But remove those expectations because this may be a post of a different kind.
Today I'm having one of those dark days. If you've never experienced one, seriously, just stop reading. If you have, you know how low you can feel. My version today was a deadly concoction of depression, sadness, loneliness, anger, frustration, weariness, disappointment and downright melancholy. Brutal and ruthless, my "flesh" was on this war path against my "spirit." It may or may not have been a legitimate attack of the Thief (as I officially now call the Cretan, the father of all lies), but whether it was my flesh or the enemy, I still felt...well, crappy (for lack of a better term). My spirit was putting up a good fight, countering negativity with truth like, "God is good." Yes, I know that, spirit. "HE has not abandoned you." Yes, I know that too. I'm supposed to be this ever-rejoicing Christian, Lord. But somehow it didn't matter to my flesh who just continued bemoaning, and my bag of spiritual tricks was failing.
It's raining today. I could've kissed God for at least allowing the weather to match my sentiments. I don't think I would've handled a sunshiny day very well. I sat outside and smelled it for a while, that wet earth in a place where those scents are rare. It was oddly comforting being reminded that falling water can elicit an aroma from dust. I am dust. Maybe all of these tears competing in a race down my face are doing something like the rain. Unlikely, I think.
Anyway, these tears are different than others. They seem to be coming from somewhere deeper as though the proverbial dam had burst despite all my handy patchwork of each and every hole. Maybe I should "phone a friend," dismissing that though as quickly as it came. "There's too much water and my filters need to be changed before I could do that." What else is there to do but talk to the only One who can do something with this Mess? "But if I talk to Him, He's just going to make me feel better and I think I'm rooting for my flesh this time." Misery and Agony are starting to get cozy. The Spirit starts to whisper things to my weary soul (Hey, when did I invite Him to this party?), "He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might He increases strength" and "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest." But, I don't want to spend time with you, Lord, or did you miss that? Just leave me be. Although if you had an urge to let me fast-forward past all of this gruesomeness, I'd be much obliged. Yes, I said, much obliged...smh. I mean, even Paul who knew it was better to stay rather than to depart and be with You felt that way because he had purpose, like You were using Him to actually affect people. You shut yet ANOTHER door yesterday where I could have impacted lives for Your Kingdom. This hallway that I'm standing in grows darker by the day with all that You've closed recently. I guess You just don't want to use me, and if that's the case, which I would COMPLETELY understand (I mean, listen to me), just take me home to you. I'll make a fantastic heavenly Janitor. I'll even whistle while I work. But at least I'll be free.
Fine, I'll read, but I'm not going to like it, and it's not going to apply anyway.
"he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him." Daniel 2:22
Huh. I am most definitely in a dark place. Yeah, and You are Light. Uh-oh, there's some cross-references.
"[He] declares to man what is his thought,
[he]makes the morning darkness." Amos 4:13
Why would you make the morning darkness, if You're the Light? Aren't you all about bringing Light TO darkness? Maybe you reveal these deep hidden things when I am in darkness by your Light?
"He uncovers the deeps out of darkness
and brings deep darkness to light." Job 12:22
So apparently You can do both things since You're the Creator of both light and darkness. You're trying to show me something in this dark place that I'm in, aren't You? Something that can only be seen by Your light? I can't deal with that stuff unless you show me, Lord.
Enough of this, I'm just going to return to my regularly scheduled Bible reading, it's not like He could have any more to say.
"You have kept count of my tossings,
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?...
You have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life." Psalm 56:8, 13
WHAT. IS. HAPPENING. You're telling me you keep these tears? You actually store them in a bottle and record them in a book??? Why? Why would you do that? You would deliver me so that I can walk in the LIGHT? Like this is actually why you have delivered me? So that I would no longer walk around in darkness?
I don't know, Lord. I'll admit You are certainly striking a chord here. Okay, just one more.
"With my voice I cry out to the Lord;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me,
You know my way!...
There is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.
I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, 'You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.'
Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!....
Bring me out of prison
that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me." Psalm 142
FOR. YOU. WILL. DEAL. BOUNTIFULLY. WITH. ME. David wrote this while he was where? IN A CAVE.
Okay, Lord, okay. I get it. You SEE me. You GET me. You KNOW me. And you know what you did for me today? You CARRIED me. Even in this dark pit, Shepherd, You picked me up like this helpless lamb and held me close as I was trembling.
I think I'll stay here and make my home here with You, Refuge. No one ever cared for me like Jesus.
I don't know if Leo DiCap (as I affectionately call him) is still hooked up to the machine or what, but I must be. Lately ideas have been bombarding my brain showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. My environment may be a factor. Certainly being around another creative type has some sort of stimulating effect on my own mind. Additionally, all this "free" time allows for many mental "Sunday afternoon" strolls, as it were. I'm also not shoulder-deep in snow or in core-chilling temperatures as the rest of the country seems to be right now which prevents that proverbial black cloud from hovering over my being. There is some sort of unique shrouding happening not just with my environment but with my soul. Yes, a "soul shrouding."
Pathetic though it my seem to certain ones of you, readers, I have desired to find myself in such a circumstance. It has its obvious disadvantages, as I've mentioned in previous posts, but the advantage of mental and physical space to dream is RARE. Never do I want to discard such an obvious present, if not for myself then for those who yearn for yet cannot have it, for one reason or another. I recently watched someone make those giant bubbles with a large ring and some soapy water. He handled the ring with such care so as not to lose the water prematurely. If he executed his task correctly, the wind helped create this floating iridescent orb of beauty. The good ideas look like this. And, incidentally, I FEEL like that bubble in the graceful and playful dance my mind does with that moment of brilliance.
But sometimes, actually most times it seems, along the way, that bubble, and all its colorful vividness bursts. Reality burdens those light, exciting ideas to the point that they gain girth and deep discouragement sets in, the kind you can feel in your bones. And why? Because of those lousy limitations of time, money, human resources, and my own lack of ability and skill. It becomes painfully clear that I've been deceived. They wore a beautiful veil, but behind was this obese darkness. They looked like they were floating, but were woefully stagnant. Their masks belied their true nature: only murky potholes riddled with despair, interrupting my life because they hinder pleasant passage and progress. On days when my ideas look like this, I weep. I weep because I am convinced they are a curse, and nothing like the blessing of which they boasted. Those irritating restraints make me feel that it is pointless to even have the ideas in the first place.
And then I remember something significant. I remember SomeONE pretty significant. Someone who came to bring me LIFE, in whose presence there is fullness of JOY, THROUGH Whom and FOR Whom all things were CREATED. I remember someone else who comes to steal, kill and destroy, who prowls around like a roaring lion, not to nibble, but to DEVOUR.
So when all is stripped away, what remains? What is the TRUEST nature of an idea? Is it the bubble or the pothole?
Or is it something else entirely? What if ideas are not merely delightful beautiful bubbles of joy but powerful pockets of grace? And if I am to extend His love and His grace to others, is that in some way accomplished when I SHARE ideas? Almost like a detergent gel pack that unleashes this incredible power on all those dishes. What if the Thief's tactic is to annihilate, darken and defeat that idea so that not only am I crushed but so is the opportunity for another to enjoy God's grace? That is one crime to which I do NOT want to be an accomplice.
Finally, what if God has been purposefully sheltering me under those wings of His ("soul shrouding") so that He might flood me with His own creativity? Maybe the source of ABUNDANT life, also desires to bestow upon me grace upon grace. (John 1:16) Hallelujah, it is so.
I praise you, ETERNAL FOUNTAIN OF CREATIVITY for sharing all that you are and have with me, your wretched servant. May I not trample on the grace you continue to show me even after you have already shown me the greatest grace by giving me a future in heaven with you, where we'll have eternity, and your endless resources to actualize all YOUR ideas. Thank you for letting me borrow them so I can come to know who you are even more by the ideas that you give. Amen.
Maybe ideas aren't your thing. Maybe this makes no sense to you at all. But what GRACE pockets does He give that are as endless as He is?
Set Jaw. Furrowed Brow. Focused Eyes. That's exactly what I picture when I think of the word: VALOR. It's my word of 2014, and I am working my way through Proverbs 31, in a quest to be worthy, excellent, honorable, and yeah, valiant. I mean, who wouldn't want to be those things? In theory, though, right? It definitely sounds like a lot of work and sacrifice. It sounds like pain. And not like hangnail pain. Like there will be bruising, the kind that makes you wince. Like there will be blood and war wounds. And for what exactly? That's the question.
In stories where VALOR is involved, behavior that is classified as such is motivated by love or loyalty, by obedience, and/or by service. Inherent in the word is some sense of purpose and reason. These are my first impressions of the word. And guess what? They're already being modified by the One who DEFINES valor. This description isn't wrong, but it needs, as Tom Hanks would say in You've Got Mail, tweaking.
One of the first verses I've been focusing on this month is "The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain." (v. 11) Now, I'm not married, but I hope to be one day, and I want to be someone who's worthy of being confided in, worthy of trust. As I've been chewing on what that means, I read this verse today, "Saul went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched." (1 Samuel 10:26) Then I REALLY started to get excited because what if being a trustworthy person means that you have a heart that God can touch?! And THAT is precisely what MAKES you trustworthy! So, by being that malleable clay in the Master's hands, by being sensitive to the leading of His Spirit, being REACHABLE by my CREATOR, I am capable and worthy to be relied upon because I am in HIS hands!!!! And this should strengthen my relationship with both God AND others. And if there is strength involved, that almost looks like...could it be?...yes, I think maybe that's a glimmer of VALOR.
So, are YOU trustworthy according to how we defined it? Do you have a heart that God can touch thereby making you more valiant?
Brittany Van Ryn
Working out thoughts with HIM.