Thursday, December 13, 2012

Deep Blue China

Have you ever experienced something in life that just made you back up from God?

Not run. Not turn away. Not even get mad at Him. Just back up.

Keep Him at arm's length.

I recently walked through something that caused me to do this. And the most frustrating part? I did it knowingly! As each day began and ended, I was aware of God's presence, I knew His truths, I even continued to listen to worship music and believe the words I was singing.

But something in me held back. I functioned knowing He was right there, at a distance. It took me months to figure out why...

I had opened myself up to God in some deeper ways. I had spent intense time with Him and thought I was hearing Him clearly. And then He surprised me with something different, something other than what I was expecting. ("In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" Proverbs 16:9...)

It a little bit left me reeling. I had been on my knees in prayer and it left me hurting. Instead of pressing in deeper pushing through the fire, I backed up. I told myself the pain was too great. I know God refines us through fire, but man, this hurt.

So I allowed my heart to numb itself. Just a little. Enough to carry on with life in a fairly rich way, but confused about how to move forward. I found myself wanting to want to read Scripture. Wanting to know what to say to my Father. But words and feelings weren't there.

Then one day I saw Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love on the bookshelf. It was one of those divine movements, you know? When you're sitting on the couch...stuck. Stuck in a circular pattern of thought. Frozen in the numbness.

The mind is its own place, 
and in itself can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heaven. 
- Milton

But Something flickered inside when my eyes grazed the binding of the book. I found my body moving, my hand reaching for the worn pages.

And I began to read. The story inspired by the book of Hosea from the Bible. The account of God's redemptive love for sinners. Words familiar to me from previous readings, yet the depth of the story was fresh and new. I was connecting with the characters in new and deeper ways. I saw myself in Angel, the prostitute who spent years numbing herself to everything. Hope was continually crushed in her life until there was no sign of it left. I saw myself in Michael, the farmer who, after hearing God's prompt to rescue Angel, loves her back to life. Only to be broken and confused when she runs.

What Angel felt with him was too real. She thought you can't get hurt if you don't feel. You can't lose hope if you keep yourself from having any at all. And as Michael carefully and patiently took her defenses down, she backed up. The risk was too great. Life was easier on her own.

I can endure my own despair, but not another's hope. 
- William Walsh

Until one day she realized something. Life without hope is no life at all. Life is movement and motion and love. A numb heart is dead to these.

I am dying of thirst by the side of the fountain. 
- Charles D'Orleans

I felt my heart slowly dripping as it thawed. Blood began to return to places I allowed to become numb.  I found myself in a new place of insecurity with God's love. And (per usual) God used a song to reveal this to me. Mariah McManus' "Say It Again"...

Lose my mind
Trying to get in your line of sight
Everything is quiet when I close my eyes,
Here we go again

So it seems, I'm fighting harder for you than I ever did for anything,
Caught in a daydream
So I'm just gonna let myself fall into this one

Here we go again, it's all happening,
or is it all in my head, who says this daydream has to end.
My heart's caving in, it's all happening
Do you remember when you told me you loved me,
I told you to say it again?

I listened to the song over and over again. The line "Do You remember when You told me you loved me, I told You to say it again" pierced my heart every time. I kept thinking about the line, wondering why it impacted me that way. What I found was a hunger for God's love...the consistency...the reassurance that no matter what I did, His love was still there...the repetitiveness, knowing He would say it again and again and again. Until I believed Him. Until I felt it.

And He did.

The words have been on repeat in my soul. I believe Him, I feel Him. 

And I'm walking toward Him again. Admittedly, with some hesitation. But also with more guidance. Seeking wisdom from outside resources as I walk, stepping deeper with more care than before. "Now I'll be bold, as well as strong, and use my head alongside my heart." (Mumford and Sons' "I Will Wait")

Walking through life numb is like walking up to a feast with a paper plate. God is inviting us to sit with Him, at a table set with the finest china. 

Put down your paper plate
Come to the table made
Deep blue china 
Found on the table by the wine
So fine
It brings out flavor like
He brings out color in life

As I read the final paragraph of Rivers' epic novel, I knew I must move forward again. And something in those words gave me the courage...

Love the Lord your God, and love one another. Love one another as he loves. Love with strength and purpose and passion and no matter what comes against you. Don't weaken. Stand against the darkness, and love. That's the way back into Eden. That's the way back to life.