Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Staying on the Path

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “the path set before me” as I try to stumble in the direction of the Lord. Two Psalms have been forefront in my mind as I meditate.

He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
(Ps 23:3b-4 ESV)

The Lord leads us in “paths of righteousness,” which would seem to refer to paths or habits of wisdom, godly living, loving others, etc. As I travel through the dark night, my path feels anything but righteous, approved, or blessed. It literally feels cursed. But when I look at verse 4, I see that even this “cursed path” is in God’s hands. The Bible refers to the dark night in terms of dryness, desert, or as here, the shadow of death. Even though I walk through the valley of deepest darkness, I need not fear because God walks it with me. The darkness does not equal my ultimate doom; it is a tool (very painful and confusing tool!) in the hands of the Master Surgeon. Like Aslan walking beside Shasta in the dark in The Horse and His Boy, the only way Shasta knew anyone was there was Aslan’s breath upon him, and his voice gently saying, “Tell me your troubles.”

In Psalm 16 I see another aspect to this path – it is the path of life.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore
. (Ps 16:11 ESV)

This path of righteousness that leads me (currently) through the dark shadow of death is in reality the path of life. Why? because the Author of Life travels with me, and though I don’t currently experience “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” it doesn’t mean it won’t someday happen. I may not even experience it in this life, but when this shadowland existence is swallowed up by life itself – reverberating, pulsating, unstoppable life! – then I shall see that all my paths were in the hands of my tender Father, wisely guiding me through death to resurrection.

Come soon Lord Jesus!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Raging in the Dark

I wrote an email to some safe friends the other day that I think pretty accurately displays some of the issues having to do with the Dark Night. I re-post it here, mostly as therapy for me as I continue to work out what it means.

I feel if I don't write some things down this morning they will dominate my day. I am full of intense anger right now, ready to chuck it all in.
It started this morning when I woke up, generally feeling depressed, but hopeful that I might be able to connect with God. Things spiraled down after meditating on Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (ESV) I felt desperation to feel joy, peace and even hope. I felt called to trust, to believe so that I might experience these things. Not much happened though; I began to think (with increasing rage) that maybe this really is a conditional universe, that maybe the orphan really is right, that I have to work and manipulate to get people (and God) to love me. Why else don't I experience any joy or peace? it must be because I don't trust enough, don't believe enough. What's the !#&! point of doing all these disciplines? I know, I know, it's to "present ourselves." But what good does that do?
"God pursues us."

Really? I don't see it. God pursues us when we pursue him, in other words, we have to manipulate his response. How is this different from what I've always believed (as the orphan??) God pursues and blesses the strong "in faith," meaning those who are better than me.
What would happen if I stopped pursuing God? maybe blackness, silence. I fear my entire "spiritual life" would finally crumble; I'm terrified to consider that maybe there really is no one good pursuing me, that it's all just me desperately trying to hang on and if I let go no one, NO ONE will be there to catch me. "God's pursuit of me" seems to me to be merely a religious coating for my endless attempts to get him to act.
"God grants what he commands."

Really? why hasn't he granted to me? Unless he's waiting for MORE FROM ME so that he can respond (conditional!) All this just seems like smoke and mirrors trying to mask the idea that maybe he just doesn't give a damn about me, that "God's pursuit" is really just my religious mania. I don't know how it can be proven one way or the other, other than looking at a bunch of dusty doctrinal statements and try to squeeze life out of them.

What I see in this is the futility of using disciplines and “devotional life” to run from the darkness. This is shown by my rage when expectations remain unfulfilled. The Lord is gently unpacking these things in my soul, as I come to a little more peace with “sinking into” the darkness instead of trying to manipulate it or control it through devotional practice.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

a short update

I haven’t had much to write about lately. I’ve been in the midst of a pretty dark depression for the last few months as we’ve decided to leave our church of 9 years and see what’s out there. We have been visiting a local church with some hope that it will provide a fit for our family.

I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on inside me; I feel so volatile and angry sometimes. It seems like leaving our church was the symbolic “last nail in the coffin” of whatever dreams I had that there would be a place of “convergence” where my true heart and my gifts & calling would meet. I mostly want to escape into the world of my Xbox.

Lord, have mercy.