Monday, October 27, 2014

The Unhealed Present

Lately-- and likely because I'm in a new place-- I've been missing my dad a lot. I've been feeling his absence more palpably, more painfully, and I've been wishing I had a real, live, in-the-flesh father to call or text or talk to about my day. I've been craving that eye contact, that hug, that time spent together where he tells me I'm doing a great job, and that he's so proud of me and that he's excited for this new chapter of my life. 

Sometimes when this pain comes on I think it means I'm backtracking in some way. As if the healing I received in the aftermath of his death is somehow slipping through my fingers and suddenly I'm fourteen and a mess again. But this week the Lord reminded me that the pain of loss is not something we 'graduate' from-- it's simply part of life on this side of eternity. He reminded me that the brokenness I feel is not cause for shame or embarrassment, but rather a reflection of the reality that in the here and now, things are broken and some longings go unfulfilled. In the here and now, some daughters lose their dads. 

And this week the Lord also reminded me that even in the unhealed present, His grace is sufficient.  Even in the pain of loss, the brokenness of my particulars, the unfulfilled longings that are part of reality on this side of His presence-- He sustains me. He fills the gaps. And He reminded me that it's in those very places of unresolved grief and longing that I feel His kindness most gently, His grace most powerfully, His love most keenly. It's in precisely those places of need where I discover, He is enough. 

There's no shame in the longing. But in the midst of it, He holds me up. 


What does your 'unhealed present' look like? How have you experienced God's kindness to you in the midst of it?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Seasons

In my little corner of the world, the seasons are changing. It's getting colder outside. The voice of the wind is deepening. Even the trees are transforming;  their leaves indicate that summer is dying a slow, beautiful death as they turn from green to gold and then cover the earth with their memories. 

In my little corner of the world, the seasons are changing. And at times the change is painful; I miss the summer's nurturing warmth and its cheery, sunlit paths. I miss the languidness of rest in the bright, familiar sun. At times I find myself bracing against this new cold, this harsher wind, this death of the green I'd come to love. 

And yet looking out my window this morning I am reminded that this death is necessary for continued growth. The provision of God in the past was perfect for that time in my life, for that season of my soul. But He has brought me somewhere new; somewhere with its own beauty, its own warmth, its own vibrancy. And so I'm learning to give myself to this transformation. To let God turn my green to gold and yes, even to let the precious leaves I've collected thus far in life to fall to the ground and become memories. 

Because looking out my window this morning I'm reminded that even those memories won't be wasted. Parts of me and parts of my story must die, yes, but their remains will fertilize the very soil that feeds me with new life. I am being pruned, it's true, but in order to bear more fruit. 

And so I say goodbye to summer-- the warm, nurturing season of enjoyment and rest in God's good work in my life so far-- and I welcome the change with its pain and its beauty. And I am comforted, because as I gather the leaves that have fallen and are falling I remember how each of them was also born through this very process: death first, and then new life. Each of them was born through the pain, struggle, and pruning that preceded it. 

The God who changes the seasons of my life wastes nothing. In Him, even death is made beautiful-- because in Him, even death gives way to new life. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

All you need is Love

Our church has been preaching through the gospel of John this fall, and they've titled the sermon series "Love Talks." So week after week, someone's been up there talking about how at the center of it all is a King whose name is Love. Add to that the fact that one of our preachers has an amazing British accent and you'll understand why all fall I've been hearing Ewan McGregor in my head saying, "love is a very splendid thing, all you need is love!" (And yes, I'm planning to go back and watch Moulin Rouge again now.) Anyway, it's been really good post-seminary therapy for me because it's been recalling to my heart and mind the reality that actually, this whole Christianity thing is really simple. 

In the beginning, there was Love. And Love gave of Himself as a gift and created the world. And when we turned away from Love and our hearts grew hard, Love gave of Himself as a gift to heal and redeem us. And the great reward of responding to Love is that we are healed to love in return; to call Him not only God, but Father; not only Lord, but Bridegroom

It's not that my seminary undermined this, or that theological education is inherently dissonant with living into the simplicity of the gospel. In fact, I'm incredibly grateful for what I received and how I was shaped in school. It's just that, for me, I easily get caught up in the ideas, the abstract, the big words, and the important feeling conversations. I can easily become distracted by issues of church politics, who's right and who's wrong, which books I've read or haven't, and whether I'm pronouncing that Greek word correctly or not. And when that happens, Jesus always finds a way to gently but firmly remind me, "It's actually not about all that. It's about how much I love you and whether you are reciprocating and sharing that love with others." 

Today as I was reading the New Testament, I came across a passage that reminded me of this afresh. It felt so personal that I re-wrote it in my own words and held it up like a mirror to my life. Today, it's a prayer: 

“If I go to seminary and learn to read the Bible in Greek and Hebrew but don’t have love, I am just a know-it-all. And if I work for a church and preach eloquent sermons and always know the right thing to say to people, but don’t have love, I’m just making noise. Even if I give my entire life to Christian ministry, but don’t do it out of love, I gain nothing.”  

Love is a very splendid thing, folks. All you need is Love!