Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Sorting of Life Stuff

Mental slates, etched with lists—projects imposed from within, partnerships of giving, deadlines and logistics from without—the red tape and brown earth that define our waking hours and the labour of our hands. This is where I’ve been writing, been scratching, been wanting to cross out and wipe off. Big items: large because of their unknown daunting workload; avoided items: procrastinated because the labour measurement is known, and dreaded—these things mark the back wall of my mind.

So, I’ve been piddling. These little things and big things and concrete things that need doing, they’re boring, known, un-thrilling. They’re the stuff of normal life.

I never considered myself a procrastinator, because I am always busy with one thing or another, and a busy day is a worthwhile day, right? If motion is constant, surely it is better than stagnation. But this nagging shadow creeps across the sunshine of my long work days: what if the things you are doing are keeping you from the things you should be doing?

What if all the fluttering is because I’m afraid of the narrowing demanded by single focus? I know enough of my jack-in-the-box tendencies, after all, I’m one of those multi-tasking people: highly efficient, and thus, highly desired. Aren’t I? Am I? Is that who I want to be?

And I think of the sisters who lived and laboured together in dusty, oppressively-hot Israel. The one scurried and hustled: so efficient, pristine in her domesticity; but inside, she ached for more. She took offense when her younger sister could just sit and do nothing . . . she’d worked all her life to get to a place where there was nothing to do, but could never achieve it. The struggle ripped her to shreds, so she didn’t know whether she was coming or going, fighting against what she wanted the most, afraid to release her own ridiculous ideals of herself. If she stopped, would Mary pick up the pieces? No, she would stay sitting, and let the house fall down.

Martha could not rescue herself from the futility of her labours; because her labouring was only a symptom of her inner bondage. The house chores were never the issue—Martha would not sit still and learn, would not be quiet in her heart, would not let the silence search her soul. Martha was terrified of exposure, so she fought it with frenzied goodness.

I can’t save myself from my downfall, my default to stress and strain, my habit of cramming life so it feels full. I’m not supposed to save myself.

The difference for Martha, the difference for me, is not a change of situation, but a change of position. Jesus spoke, and transformed Martha from a worker to a worshipper. In the future, Martha would work and serve again, because that’s what she did. Jesus just changed the reason why, the unction of the heart, the first purpose.

So, the outside does not always change. We go on arranging and rearranging (that’s all work is, after all: moving an item from one place to another, be it a man’s fascia, or a crystal bowl, or a dust particle), but the heart changes.

I thought I had to change who I am, what I am, what I do, and how I do it. Jesus comes, and says, “Love Me with your heart, with your soul, with your mind, with your strength.” He knows who I am. He made me to function whole and holy by His indwelling life.

And the slate slowly clears, the blank space is good. I do not need to fear an empty-looking future, or a confusing present, or a dissatisfying past. “I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me. Your rod, and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Because, at the end of the long work day, the only thing I will have to show Him is what He has given me: the mark that I am His, and He is mine, and that’s all I need, really, to truly live.

(photo courtesy of goole image, because I'm no photographer)

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Pause

Dear Pilgrim,

Words come, but not in the form I can yet relate in cyberspace. I am being washed with the Word of God, soaking, letting it run off me, sweeping off the clinging death that would kill me; washing me, the dead body, to be brought to life again by the life of Jesus.

This word washes me today: "For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified . . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Song of the Wind

Dear Pilgrim,

After weeks of donning light shells and thin finger gloves, winter finally settles into the neighbourhood. Everyone expected him weeks, even months ago, with the gale force tenacity he bellowed last year. But no, winter waited. Christmas passed brown and windy, the breathy exhale always accompanying the sunshine. We embraced the sun, and cringed to face the wind. The constant droning and moaning, piercing exposed sinuses, taunting the out-of-breath explorer, dismaying man and beast as it propels flames across the landscape—it grates our minds and aggravates our souls.

But if we want sunshine, we must accept the wind. The healing balm that coaxes us outdoors, with upturned faces, viewing the golden world, comes with the wind. The draining, changing, threatening wind—unpredictable, flighty, menacing—this keeps company with sunshine.

But what is the wind, really? Just blowing and blowing air, invisible, harmful only because of what it stirs up, or knocks over, or carries around. But just the wind . . . it’s just a breath. It tells us we are here, seasons change, nature’s garments flutter and flounce. It teaches us to hammer down what is important, and let the little things fly. It informs us of change or danger, blowing dust off our cars, cramming dirt into our windowsills. It gives and takes, always exchanging what it holds, never grasping it long, always taking it somewhere else.

The wind, it tells me that I too am vapour, practically invisible, a constant droning till I die away, moving things about through work, rearranging, then my body will lie quiet. The important stuff needs securing, the trivial needs shooing . . . and strangely enough, it’s the vital things of life that are invisible: relationships, looking rightly at the world, knowing why we are here, who we belong to, and where we are going. If we can’t nail these things, we haven’t much substance to carry, and will feel empty passing through the tunnel of time.

Because one day there won’t be wind, we won’t be scurrying. We will know what is truly valuable. And we’ll either love it, or shrink away from it forever.

God, help us now to love Your reality, Your unchanging nature, Your faithful hand, wherever You lead us. Because You are good, and want good for us, help us trust Your heart, and not chase after the empty wind.

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