Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Steerage and the Lamp

God’ll make it right when everything gets going wrong,
and we’ll wait on him in the morning, wait on the lawn.
We’ll dance on the lawn when it’s green and growing back
from a winter of tears and of breaking my back.
And you healed me one night when I laid and cried;
I reached out for your arm, caught your eye.

 The Grass After Winter - from one of my favorite songs by Zach Winters. 

I just love how he writes, "we'll dance on the lawn when it's green and growing back from a winter of tears and breaking my back."

that is a picture of my life, what should be a restful pasture is a crunchy brown smear of pitiful grass, soaked with my tears. Did you know that when sheep are left to their own devices, that is, without the guidance of a loving and watchful shepherd, they will eat the same grass over and over again until it is a muddy swamp and they are literally making themselves sick? They need a shepherd to move them from the muddy places they have destroyed with their incessant habitual eating. They don't know how or won't move on their own. They die there without a shepherd. 

I need a shepherd. I need a shepherd so badly. 

Transparency is hard. It's so much easier to hide. it's so much easier to pretend like I've got it all together, to tell myself that I've got it, when I really don't have it all together. I look at my finances, at my every day life, at my ridiculous defenses that say if I just meet every expectation and nothing else, I can't fail. someone can't point to me and say, you're not contributing enough - get out. It paralyzes me from being brave. It paralyzes me from growth and initiative and creativity and all of the things that bring glory to God. instead, following all the rules - whether someone told them to me or I made them up for myself - makes me safe and brings me glory because I did everything right. and I die there. I just die there. 

I've been feeling convicted lately about hiding my real convictions and going along with the flow. I've heard from many, many Sojourners that Brandon Barker called many of us out of hiding with grace on sunday, and I'm so excited to actually listen to it. But I wasn't even there on Sunday and I feel the conviction. Some part of me has been preaching to myself that I am a sellout, that I go along with things knowing they will eventually bother me when I am willing to pay attention to why, and it's so not true. Another part is trying to bring glory to myself in all things. Taking credit where I have no right. Another part slaps a smile and a shallow conversation on my outsides and just walks through life. Like those 80s movies with Anthony Michael Hall asleep in class with his sunglasses on, making it look like he's there, and he's not. Totally owning it. 

and then those lyrics up there take a hopeful swerve. right? we reach out and we're actually surprised He is there. We cry and lay down in defeat and He heals. Because that's who He is - he's a good Father. and He is devastated with love for us. He sees right through the mess, the tears and the broken backs from carrying all that junk around. And He calls me out of this darkness and into light. He calls me daughter. He takes me back to the promised land, to the places where my wild heart is captured by the mercy and grace of His love. He takes me to the green pastures and the still waters and He says, nowhere you can see or point to I don't have power over. 

Who is this person, who even the winds and sea obeys? (Matthew 8:27)

So, a few weeks ago, our parish took the time and challenge to write our own psalms. and to be honest, I did NOT want to write this psalm that I wrote that wrecked me beautifully in the end (because that is sometimes how Jesus works) I mean, I spend a significant chunk of my life writing - I write for a paycheck, I write a blog when I have too many thoughts, I write for extra money for freelance projects, I even regularly write (or blog) to process my own thoughts and heart. It's what I do. Writing is not hard for me. 

Confronting things I don't want to confront is hard for me. Going before God and saying, I'm not okay and I need help is hard. for. me. 

So I waited until the last minute to write it. Literally. I wrote it two days before I had to read it aloud to my parish, people who are like my second family and probably see me more clearly than I would like. I chalked it up initially to "writer's block" (okay) and said I would read it on the THIRD week we read psalms. Seriously. I was majorly hiding from this. 

I actually started out trying to write this in a coffeeshop, got absolutely nowhere, ripped it up, went home and laid in the bathtub for an hour sulking.

And finally I owned up to this whole thing: I do not feel this. I don't like it, I don't want to, I'm not sure God is listening, I'm a mess, He doesn't want me like this, I am not worthy, I CAN'T. 

and that was the place I started, faking it, and made myself write. I turned on Balmorhea (check em out if you don't know them or if you like Explosions in the Sky.) and by the time 30 minutes had passed, I am not ashamed to admit I was crying too hard to see my computer screen. The words just flowed out. Jesus met me in a very sacred place - that place that I thought I couldn't go because I wasn't good enough to be there with him. It was literally the most comforting, vulnerable, beautiful worship. and I was writing. but when writing becomes worship for me, I don't even realize I am writing. It just happens. 

By the way, the song I stuck on repeat after a while by Balmorhea was so divinely and aptly named "Steerage and the Lamp." ha. The slave in steerage, a slave to her own pride and stubborness and desire to stay in the dark and avoid things forever is confronted with, gently approached by, the Lamp - a kind and warm light that is freedom and mercy and grace and love. 

and so I read it and you know, for someone who is absolutely (like heart pounding, palm sweating) anxious about speaking in front of my parish, my voice didn't shake. I read it and it was real and it was true and I knew it. All the glory goes to God for that one. 

And now, in another uncharacteristic move, I'm putting it on here. Not so you can read it and think, man she has a gift with words. Nope. This is transparency living in freedom and in light. This is the glory of a King who RESCUES. This is a reminder to everyone who reads it that this is possible for every believer, every person on earth who sees a burning bush, a whole world aflame with the glory and goodness of God and chooses to take off their shoes and worship. 

this is a reminder to myself that I never, ever stop needing God. 

so. here ya go. 

Psalm 928 - Steerage and the Lamp 

It’s late afternoon. the wind picks up as sunlight filters through the spaces between the leaves. I am sitting under my favorite ancient tree, in a quiet space - this is literally and metaphorically - i am away from the noise of my life 

but i’m also away from the noise of my mind. 

I close my eyes. I know You are here. You meet me here. You meet me here when I ask You to. You meet me here when I try to hide from You. the pages flip and the sun warms my shoulders and I feel the wind pick up as I read…

who redeems me from this pit? 

who brings me out of my self imposed darkness? 

who takes off the thick cloak of shame draped around my shoulders? 

who crowns me with steadfast love and mercy? 

who satisfies me with good, putting a salve of grace over my eyes? 

who teaches me to spend my treasure not on the bread that doesn’t satisfy, but the riches of knowing who you are? 

who makes me lie down in green grasses, swaying with every breath you breathe out, next to still waters you have calmed with your voice? 

I stop for a moment, listening to the rustle of the wind in the leaves

I think it might be your voice. reminding me of these things. refining me. teaching me. 

just being with me. you are a KING, and yet you come to this place. to me. to be with me. 

my heart feels like it is about to beat out my chest. i sit very still, and in my mind I can see you, a gentle kindness in your eyes as you take off my heavy boots, putting my hand in yours. 

I protest.

But I am weak, I am so weak. I am small. I am not worthy. my heart is black with my sin. I see myself clearly for who I am, wrecked with sin, devastated by it, and I am humiliated. I am ashamed. I can’t stand for the weight of it. 

the only thing I can do is fall on my knees, my head bowed before you. 

but. amidst that…..still…..in loving-kindness, el Shaddai, Adonai, Abba, El Roi - the God who sees - has made me, knit me in my mother's womb, known me before time began as well as He knows every star in the sky. HE is not too busy to notice what a tiny sparrow is doing in His kingdom. 

I can talk to you. I can approach the throne you are sitting on boldly. you are here with me. you are here. with me. me. 

you are the shepherd who comes after me, a lost and panicking sheep. 

you are the father who takes me, his weeping daughter, into his arms. 

you are the father who welcomes me home when I have been so far away. when I have been running. trying to fix myself and the mess I’ve made by myself. and failing miserably at it. 

you are the bridegroom awaiting his bride, dressed in the affirmation, grace and confidence you have put in me. 

and you say to me, I am your shepherd, I am your father, i am your bridegroom. you do not have to want for anything. when your enemies confront you, I will stand in your place. when you walk through the deepest valley of anxiety and despair, i will never leave you. I have never left you. 

I am here, and you will not want for anything. 

when you ask for me to be here, I am here. When you cry out to me, I am here. When you lay all of these things at my feet, you don’t have to pick them back up. this is where you find rest. you can put down your protective defenses. 

and still, I protest.

sometimes the darkness is so thick I cannot see at all. but then you tell me to reach out my hands. I hesitate, I’m not sure. but when I finally do, I feel you there. and when it seems like I cannot take another step in blindness, you hold out a lantern, flickering in the night. you are the one who turns my darkness into light. Jesus I am so thankful. This time I fall to my face in gratefulness for who you are. midnight to dawn, minute after minute which turns to year after year, you are the same. you are so good. you are so good. you are more good than i can write. 

and so I take a deep breath. and I open my eyes. 

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