Monday, September 27, 2010

When Anger Flares

This weekend I begrudgingly took Daisy (the beleaguered Beagle) along with me for my morning walk. My morning walks are often times I set aside for reflection and prayer, and Daisy's wandering nose often provokes frustration for me. As I felt anger rise in my heart toward her, I began to wonder if my anger was symbolic. I began to wonder if I was really angry about something else, and I was just taking it out on the dog (which is easy to do).

I began to reflect on the fact that Daisy is not the dog we would have chosen. I would trade her in a second for a golden retriever (not proud of this fact here, folks). I am annoyed and angry that the limits on our life dictate that we have to have a dog that is a Beagle or smaller. So, that means either a rat dog or an annoying dog. We opted for the annoying, neurotic dog, because I can't stand small dogs that bark all the time.

My anger is really towards God, and the fact that the financial consequences of following his will have left us poor enough to never (?) own a house where we could pick our own dog(s). I began to feel sorrow for the way I perceived and treated Daisy and began to instantly choose gentleness in my approach with her. She can't help her nose! I would be heartbroken to lose her!

Being gentle with Daisy felt like surrender to my Father, who in turn expects me to be gentle toward myself and my own annoying weaknesses and sins.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Without your wound, where would your power be?

Found another good blog recently called, Broken Believers. One of his classic posts is on the story of the "Angel that Troubled the Waters," an adaptation on the pool at Bethesda story in John 5:1-4. Brennan Manning also quotes from this story in Abba's Child, an excellent book.

The story describes a physician coming to the pool at Bethesda seeking to be the first to enter the pool after an angel stirs the water. When the angel comes and stirs the water and the physician tries to get in, the Angel blocks his way. The following conversation then occurs:

Angel: “Draw back, physician, this moment is not for you.”

Physician: “Angelic visitor, I pray thee, listen to my prayer.

Angel: “Healing is not for you.”

Physician: “Surely, surely, the angels are wise. Surely, O Prince, you are not deceived by my apparent wholeness. Your eyes can see the nets in which my wings are caught; the sin into which all my endeavors sink half-performed cannot be concealed from you.”

Angel: “I know.”


Physician: “Oh, in such an hour was I born, and doubly fearful to me is the flaw in my heart. Must I drag my shame, Prince and Singer, all my days more bowed than my neighbor?”

Angel: “Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.” (italics mine)

Later, the person who enters the pool first and was healed rejoices in his good fortune then turns to the physician before leaving and said:

“But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I — I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood. Only an hour . . . my daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen to you.”

This story is powerful to me, not only because our experience of sadness and suffering can be useful in the hands of God as we empathize with other sufferers, but also because when our suffering is embraced in the presence of God it is suffused with resurrection power. Suffering precedes glory - that is the biblical way. When we embrace suffering (instead of trying to anesthetize it, hide from it or deny it) we can walk into the darkness of other people's sufferings with a power of light that even we may not be able to see. We carry a weight with us, the weight of God which can only be manifested in the darkness. This weight can cause others to seek God merely by being near those who suffer well.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

quick update

I've been struggling a lot since the weekend with depression and lethargy (hallmarks of the orphan). I'm trying to unpack what's underneath, made a little headway this morning. I feel overwhelmed with the thought of leading group this Thursday, but I'm trying to trust the Father with it, that it will work out (perhaps more about that later). I'm also trying to pay attention to what might be shar-able from my story these past weeks.

The big issue I'm struggling with is (as always with the orphan) - can I trust the Father to take care of me and my family? I've been working frantically the past couple weeks trying to "get things done" and "make a memorable vacation" (we were in St. Louis last week) that I've gotten into a deep trend of fending for myself. I'm trying to make a trust-shift, but it's difficult. I feel spent. I feel like crying. I can't carry this damn load anymore. I don't know if the lethargy is from being weary of carrying my world or from being depressed that I'm failing so badly (maybe both).

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Self-Forgiveness VS. Real Forgiveness

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Life Together

‘In confession there occurs a breakthrough to assurance. Why is it often easier for us to acknowledge our sins before God than before another believer? God is holy and without sin, a just judge of evil, and an enemy of all disobedience. But another Christian is sinful, as are we, knowing from personal experience the night of secret sin. Should we not find it easier to go to one another than to the holy God? But if that is not the case, we must ask ourselves whether we often have not been deluding ourselves about our confession of sin to God – whether we have not instead been confessing our sins to ourselves and also forgiving ourselves. And is not the reason for our innumerable relapses and for the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living from self-forgiveness and not from the real forgiveness of our sins? Self-forgiveness can never lead to the break with sin. This can only be accomplished by God’s own judging and pardoning Word. Who can give us the assurance that we are not dealing with ourselves but with the living God in the confession and the forgiveness of our sins? God gives us this assurance through one another.’ (113)

As I think about this, I am convinced that my own "innumerable relapses and . . . the feebleness of [my] Christian obedience" are largely due to this phenomenon. It is not until I am broken and desperate enough to push beyond self-forgiveness to receive the forgiving word of God through Christ. At that moment I experience freedom and the grace-power to turn away from it and to turn toward Jesus. Before that time though, I am often underestimating my specific sins and their effects by going through the motions of repentance words and motions. Better to repent less and mean it, than repent often in shallow ways.

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