Friday, February 26, 2010

oh, for grace to trust you more

My mom often tells me how very "strong willed" I was as a child. I also got 10 times as many spankings as my brothers. (Once I told my oldest brother to "go to hell" while we built a dam in the creek behind our house. He thought it was funny and couldn't wait to tell my mom. (I confessed before he had the chance to revel in tattling and was punished by doing his share of unloading the dishwasher for a week.))

When I was about six years old, I got a dress that I would probably think was hideous now, but that I adored at the time. It had a black satin slip underneath a sheer, long-sleeved cover with red and rust-colored flowers on it. Um, how does that even sound appealing at all? Except for the fact that it swooshed when I walked.

The only problem was, it was a little too big for me. My mom wouldn't let me wear it to church, and I was angry. I remember putting it on and sitting at the little plastic Play Mate table in my room, in the dark, being angry. Brooding. Wishing I had my way. Wanting something I couldn't have. And all because my will wasn't my own, but my mother's. Not fair.

Today I was thinking about the similarities between my childhood relationship with my mother, and my relationship now with my Lord. The difference now is that I choose to surrender my will to replace it with God's, because He knows when the dress is too big for me to wear (so to speak). But I laughed somewhat pitifully at myself today as I realized how often, in my attitude, I sit at my Play Mate table in the dark, being angry because I'm not getting my way. I realized that here I've been praying "I want what You want," all the while hoping that He wants what I want. It doesn't work that way. The followers who tried to mix their own wills with Jesus' were the ones He told to go away and rethink their devotion. The followers who left their everything to follow Him became His disciples.

What would it be like to be completely and wholly surrendered to the Lord, mind, body, and spirit?
"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground." - Psalm 143:10
Saturday, February 20, 2010

self-centered love

Shouldn't it be an oxy-moron?

I have read this passage from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together multiple times over the past few months. But every time I read it I see further just how imperfect my love is, how I love out of my own broken cisterns, and how I love selfishly.
There is...a "merely emotional" love of neighbor. Such love is capable of making the most unheard-of sacrifices. Often it far surpasses the genuine love of Christ in fervent devotion and visible results. It speaks the Christian language with overwhelming and stirring eloquence. But it is what the apostle Paul is speaking of when he says: "If I give all I possess to the poor, and surrender my body to the flames" (1 Cor. 13:3)--in other words, if I combine the utmost deeds of love with the utmost of devotion--"but do not have love (that is, the love of Christ), I would be nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2). Self-centered love loves the other for the sake of itself; spiritual love loves the other for the sake of Christ. That is why self-centered love seeks direct contact with other persons. It loves them, not as free persons, but as those whom it binds to itself. It wants to do everything it can to win and conquer; it puts pressure on the other person. It desires to be irresistible, to dominate. Self-centered love does not think much of truth. It makes the truth relative, since nothing, not even the truth, must come between it and the person loved. Emotional, self-centered love desires other persons, their company. It wants them to return its love, but it does not serve them. On the contrary, it continues to desire even when it seems to be serving....Christ stands between me and others. I do not know in advance what love of others means on the basis of the general idea of love that grows out of my emotional desires. All this may instead be hatred and worst kind of selfishness in the yes of Christ. Only Christ in his Word tells me what love is. Contrary to all my own opinions and convictions, Jesus Christ will tell me what love for my brothers and sisters really looks like. Therefore, spiritual love is bound to the word of Jesus Christ alone. Where Christ tells me to maintain community for the sake of love, I desire to maintain it. Where the truth of Christ orders me to dissolve a community for the sake of love, I will dissolve it, despite all the protests of my self-centered love. Because spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother or sister. It originates neither in the brother or sister nor in the enemy, but in Christ and his word. Self-centered, emotional love can never comprehend spiritual love, for spiritual love is from above. It is something completely strange, new, and incomprehensible to all earthly love.
How much I fall short!

Lord, forgive me for my self-centered love, and teach me Your love, which is so contrary to my human nature and the emotional love of this world.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

feeding your inner-introvert

Extroverts are like those huge trees in Florida whose roots lay on top of the ground like monstrous wooded Octopus tentacles, sprawling out for human interaction. The sunshine of people's presences and the mist of retirement communities's sprinkler systems is enough to feed and water them. (I actually know nothing about these trees, so I hope no horticulturalists are reading this, disapprovingly clicking their tongues at me. I can't take disapproving tongue-clicks!) Their roots soak up the environment around them like scaly reptiles in the sun. Sssssssssss.

Introverts, however, are more like trees whose roots are buried deep in the soil. They need gulps of flood water to penetrate the soil, or else the heat of the sun scorches their leaves and leaves them wilted and pitiful.

I am an introverted tree who has been trying to water my roots like a gargantuan Floridian tree, and now my leaves are wilting. I love the sun for its chlorophyll and vitamin D, but without water I'm scorching, and the sprinkler systems of the extroverted world are not enough.

I realized last night that loving people does not mean that I can be around them all the time. All the energy I have I would love to spill onto them, but so many things are taking up my energy that I'm drawing on reserves to give to people until I am slowly being depleted. And this leaves me no time to replenish what I've lost, if every spare moment I'm looking for more ways to BE WITH PEOPLE. It's a balance system I have not mastered, and still don't understand. I hope my future occupation is working with people, so that they can have my energy.

Ways to recover and feed my introvertedness in order to rejuvenate and de-stress:
  • My favorite part of the day is walking to class down my street in the mornings. The sky is always so early, unmarred, and glassy, like a cold pool without the ripples of the day in it yet. I need to relish this more and spend it in praise to the God who created it.
  • Black Beauty. Ultimate relaxing, everything-will-be-all-right movie. What is more serene than watching butterflies land on pink flowers to the music of Danny Elfman?
  • Participating in unimportant - yet not unproductive - things, like watching curling. There is something peaceful about that sport, like golf - except they don't yell at each other in golf ("YUP! YUP!"), and curling is a lot more technical (Team USA: "I'd say you gave it a 7-8. It landed on the button." Me: "Ah, yes, a 7-8. Precisely. You conquered that button").
  • Reading, and realizing I'm not missing out on the world by reading. I'm reading The Professor's House for my American Novel class, and for some reason I'm really enjoying it. When I got to class today, Dr. Vincent began it with, "This novel is about someone experiencing a crisis." Oh. Well, maybe that's why.
  • Spend time with the Lord. Be still, He says. Cease striving, and know that I am God. Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. (Psalm 46:10 NASB & Isaiah 30:15 NLT, respectively.)

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