Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Enough for Both of Us: Day 26 of 31 Days of Falling by Faith

It's election night. I'm not glued to watching or reading about returns—which means no Facebook until the morning (no small challenge for me, home alone with the Internet). Watching won't change the outcome, and it won't help me sleep. I'd rather save my strength for responding to the real outcome rather than fritter it away on speculation.

I prefer instead to use the rest of this 26th day of blogging to share a few more thoughts in response to Dawn Eden's My Peace I Give You. I'll begin with a quote from chapter 8:
"Drusilla, a Catholic orphan who was subjected to brutal abuse by her foster father and siblings, felt as a child that she had been 'thrown to the wolves.' 'I had to pretend to be a wolf so as to keep myself from being torn to pieces,' she writes.... 'I no longer live with the wolves. I am a cat again and happy to be one. But I have not forgotten my time in a wolf's skin. At times I still feel shame, feel I deserve to be abused.... But in Jesus' wounds I remember that the flames burned but never owned me. I belong to Christ and I never want to belong to anyone else.'"
The first time I read that last sentence—"I belong to Christ and I never want to belong to anyone else"—I reacted the same way I did while reading the first pages of another book I blogged about and quoted some during earlier days of this 31-day challenge: Ronda De Sola Chervin's Becoming a Handmaid of the Lord. Early on page 1, for example, Chervin writes, "Longing for eternity has always been easy for me to understand."

Not for me.

There are two things that I remain in awe of yet mystified by when I read or hear about them—because I seem, to myself, so incapable of them: (1) feeling—I mean really feeling, not just intellectualizing—so much love for Jesus that I would long for Him and look forward with all my heart and mind to being in His full and complete presence after my life here has ended, and (2) letting go, in this life, of every other longing except that one.

Considering that more often than not I have lived my life with no sense of anchor in this world, why aren't these things easier for me, especially since, seeking help, I have read so much about them? Why can't I live adrift contentedly, trusting only the wind—or even want to live that way enough to ask for the grace to do so? Why can't I stop longing for human love, human belonging, human security and take comfort in longing only for God and heaven? Why, more often than not, does longing for these things hang on to me like a sharp-teethed, lock-jawed dog?

Is it because while I was "growing up" I wanted so much to have these things but never really felt like I did? Is it because I have sometimes thought I had them, only to lose them to disillusionment, shame, abandonment, death? Is it because I carry around unsurrendered anger at God for "allowing" shaming and painful things to happen? Do I resentfully accuse him of taking away what I need, or of giving me a counterfeit version that ended up hurting me more, I have complained, than the original lack?

Dawn Eden gets it. She opens chapter 8 of her book with a story about a police officer who arrests "a man who had been systematically abusing his six-year-old stepson." The officer wondered how he could "look into the eyes of that little boy and tell him that God really does love him and wants nothing but the best for him after God let that go on for so long." Eden writes near the end of the chapter (and book) that this "was the very question that haunted me in my own life: If I were to meet my younger, abused self—the little girl who still lives inside my memory"—who sometimes takes over my life even now, I would add—"how could I look into her eyes and tell her God really does love her?"

We are hard to convince. And it is hard for us to remain convinced.

I have learned one solid thing that transcends this difficulty (though I sometimes forget I have learned it): feeling is not what is required to love or be loved. That is, my love for God and God's love for me cannot be measured by and does not depend on how I feel. Neither should my love for others.

So, I have decided it's OK to give myself a break if I can't accomplish, or even ask for, those two things I mentioned—to feel so much love for Jesus that I will long for him alone and nothing and no one else, ever. If God wants to give me that freedom, he will. Meanwhile, or otherwise, he will continue to love me enough for both of us—and that will be enough.

Amen.

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