Saturday, May 28, 2011

Oil Spill: Part I

What goes in must come out. What goes up, must come down.

What does it mean to be a person of truth? What did Jesus mean when he said, "True worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth?" (my paraphrase)

I wonder if this has something to do with approaching God and others from a place of glass-splitting honesty. (If "glass-splitting honesty" seems an odd combination of words to you, think on it a bit, and I am confident the meaning will come to most of you reading this.) That would necessitate coming to him with both the good and the bad, the light, dark, and in between that we would often rather not admit or talk about. It feels better to come to God and others with a fresh face; radiant with hope, expectancy and faith in what is and what is to come. But what of the times when that faith is just not there, or feels fragile at best?

I think God welcomes it all. Consider the following:

"But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.
The victim commits himself to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless." -Psalm 10:14

And continuing a little later:
"You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more." -Psalm 10:17-18.

What strikes me in this is God's listening posture and his encouraging. Actually, it goes the other way around in the passage. He encourages, and THEN he listens. Many who are used to the "pull yourself up by your Bible bootstraps" method of recovery might expect it to be the other way around, where we cry, followed by God encouraging, saying, "That's it! Cry no more! I've encouraged you!" And while I think that is part of the equation at times, there is something equally beautiful and comforting to be gained from what we see here: Encouragement, then more crying. It's as if God is saying, "I'll encourage you. Now keep crying. Let it all out. I'll encourage you some more, for as long as it takes."

To be quite honest, I have been processing some disappointments lately that have felt like the culminating disappointment of my life. And in this, I have felt God giving me the permission to get angry about it, with him and with what feels to me like an injustice. (I know that God is just, so I am not accusing him. But it is surprising when he allows us to use him as a punching bag.) And this has been scary. But I think it would be less scary if I were to process this kind of grief more honestly and more regularly. It's like an oil reservoir, longing to be drilled, the pressure having built up for so long that upon finally being tapped, the black ooze just seems to pour and pour.

Nobody wants to see crude oil pouring out of their mouth. But an old proverb says that "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." So what goes in must come out. Pain in, pain out. Joy in, joy out. Perhaps the trick is knowing when and how to tap the crude oil reserves so that others aren't subject to a massive oil spill. I think that's what the cross is for...pouring it all on Jesus, while he pours blood and water on us in and more life.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tree at Last

What can you do when your place of greatest hope begins to infringe on your deepest disappointment? What is one to do when cold, hard retreat and impending satisfaction neither seem viable options?

Can one who is lame ever dare to truly walk on his own, when any attempts made previously ended in the same pitiful falling? And by the same token, can one bear to deny any future hope for a successful, stabilized attempt?

Such is the bittersweet flower we call "hope." It is at once a sweet fragrance and a putrid odor, depending on which side of a moment it stands.

Hope...deferred makes the heart sick. But a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Some shoots may grow into beautiful trees, even out of what was once a stump perhaps. But how many times can such a stump bear to extend a fresh, green shoot, groping towards heaven, before it becomes weary of the constant chopping down which it is never quite, and somehow always, accustomed to?

As my mom, Cat Ello, wrote in one of her songs years ago,

"Jesus, Gardner of my heart,
break this fallow ground apart."

Oh to be tree....tree indeed.