I recently watched the movie Annilhation. It’s not my usual type of movie (I’m not much into sci-fi or scary movies) but so many friends recommended it. In that way you could tell it wasn’t a feel-good kind of epic sci-fi, but a “that really made me think and I’m still thinking about it” kind of movie.
Near the end of the movie, when trying to explain what she witnessed, the main character said, “It wasn’t destroying… it was changing everything. It was making something new.”
What an analogy for the Christian life. For better or worse, we can destroy things and then build them back up into something new.
I remember hearing about how difficult the Bible Content exam was when I first began seminary. It was legnedary. The seminary president said he failed it. The theory was that taking the test was about humbling the students as they entered the seminary experience… breaking them down.
Sometimes we must break down in order to build something new. Sometimes we can break ourselves down too much and perhaps even build the wrong thing up in its place. This is what’s so tricky about building.
I’m thinking I need to leave it all the Builder.
I am linking up for Five Minute Friday a five-minute free write with a word prompt each week. Today’s prompt is “Include.” http://fiveminutefriday.com
I stared at the vanilla latte on the table in front of me. My friend Linda asked questions about what I had shared, and I searched for something sure and concrete to hold on to. The small red table between us reminded me we were at Target and not in the privacy of a home. But that no longer mattered. I felt lost. It didn’t matter who knew.
My chest began to ache as I answered some of her questions, and I moved the cup toward me in what looked like a desire to keep my body warm. But I needed comfort, not warmth. I was scared. That’s why we were there together.
It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving week. I was 4 months into a new job and terrified. My trauma was resurfacing and new trauma was being formed. This time I was aware of it, and it was happening like the quick burn of a sparkler rather than the slow burn of a candle.
“The body keeps score” is a phrase I’ve learned this year. I haven’t studied trauma much, despite having been through a couple of small ones myself. I’m trying to be more focused on the healing rather than the details how trauma manifests itself. That is a new concept for me, as I previously believed that if I knew all the whys and whos and whens that it would all be solved, understood. And I would heal.
But the true path to healing is much messier. More hues of grey rather than the crisp certainty of black and white. Healing feels like your eyes are partially closed while walking through a dimly lit room, stepping over legos and pillows; you find your way in the dark by experiencing both pain and safe places to land.
My safe place to land was in the eyes of my friend who sat across from me that day and very logically said, “Well, you have options. You are not trapped.” The freedom of this statement caused me to exhale sharply, and I realized I’d been holding my breath for many, many months. Maybe even years.
It’s been three years since I exhaled. And every year around this time I remember exhaling. I remember the mountains, the job, the drive to work, the stops at Panera to bring breakfast to my staff each Sunday. I remember the co-workers, who were eventually able to exhale two years later, too. I think about driving around Tucson, longing and hoping. Healing and crying. Feeling this sense of being taken up into a tornado where all I could do was react to all that was happening around me.
I remember being released, thankful that I was one of the few in a trauma who have options. I remember that part of the trauma was in my stubbornness to stay, where each step into the job meant stepping on a lego. I couldn’t remain in that job, that system, that was eroding my heart with the fast burn of a sparkler.
The body keeps score of seasons, moments, traumas. That’s why I remember this each year. I wish the score would settle because revisiting that season of my life is hard. But as I revisit I am reminded that hues of grey are often more beautiful to look at the simple black and white. These hues reveal the reality of the human heart and the sinfulness of our actions towards each other. They help keep me grounded in what’s real rather than what I wish was true so that I can make my way through the dimly lit room with my eyes more open than they were before.
I love curated playlist by moods, and after a recent conversation (see my last post) I decided to create one based on the season of Autumn.
I had an online conversation lately with a few men who were sharing Spotify song lists for the Autumn season. I read in fascination how they described an emotional change that occurs when summer ends and Fall begins; how the music they listen to shifts. One suggested it was about a mood shift from the upbeat tunes of summer into “sleepy” music transition that would eventually lead into Winter. Another guy mentioned the mood of longing, how Fall brings out feelings of nostalgia for him.
This morning I was listening to one of the playlists recommended, and I felt my heart rate slow down. My mind wandered into remembering an old friend, and as I clutched my cup of coffee, I felt the gift this was: a slowing down.
I missed feeling the seasons change when I lived in Arizona.The temperature changed, but the seasons didn’t. Well – I take that back. It sort of felt like a season change in the spring when the Palo Verde tree blooms and sent my allergies into a tailspin. But at least a color changed…. the only time of year that really happened.
Looking back on that I’m realizing what I missed more was a shift in mood (though the beautiful scenery changes of the Midwest were certainly part of it). I missed the contemplation that settled into my heart during the Fall, the slowing down the snow fall would bring. And then the rejuvenation that happened in my body when I watched the brown earth turn into a thousand colors in the Spring, and the energy of Summer as flip flops and t-shirts became my uniform.
So as I sit in this contemplation today, feeling the chilly Fall weather from my head to my toes, I feel my heart beat just a little bit differently. I remember. I’m… wistful. Fall feels like the Sabbath we forget to take during the week. Perhaps God built the seasons for us so our bodies would send us the signals we need: to slow, to rest, to remember, to long.
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
It’s pretty common for me to use the phrase, “pushing back the Fall” when I’m speaking or teaching. This is part of the privilege of being God’s hands and feet on this earth. He uses us to bring healing, to bring light. In God’s providence, we are daily given opportunities to make the earth more like how God intended it to be when he first created it.
This weekend I’ve been struck by the line in The Lord’s Prayer, “as it is in heaven”. In the context of the prayer, Jesus is speaking on how God is sovereign – that his will is done on earth and in heaven. But it got me thinking about how this phrase reminds us of the great ache we all have: the ache of longing for a home we aren’t yet in, but standing in this place, forgiven, called to advance his kingdom on earth. Already given grace… not yet fully restored to glory.
As it is in heaven
Longing for things to be as God intended is part of the human experience, even for those who can’t name that. We all inherently understand this world is just so broken. And it’s so much easier to look at the world as broken, forgetting that we are, too. It starts with us. This is how revival begins, in the heart of one who recognizes that they are forgiven and are meant for more… yet before the “more” we must stand here on earth and call God’s kingdom down to be part of Jesus’ redemption story.
Redeeming the world one step at a time. And it starts with me.
I’ve always wished I was one of those “soft” people.
Not weak, of course. But tender. With no rough edges. The kind of person whose presence makes you feel calm. The kind of soft that responds carefully and with compassion, rather than jumping to judgement and self-righteousness and a “my way is right” way of thinking. Without defense and thought of how it all affects me, but considers what else might be going on in the situation.
A very soft person has come into my life recently. I’m in awe of her. She responds to everything in love. She is always concerned for me and how I am adjusting to a whole new life. She is ready to jump in and help whenever it’s needed, and often anticipates needs I could never foresee. When a difficult situation arises, she has this way of making it all better without compromise for what is best.
She is modeling to me the great fruit of the spirit: gentleness.
I’ve far too often felt like a bull in a china shop. Stumbling over people with my agenda. Running wild and free with a grand plan ignoring everyone else’s. And any warning signs along the way. My clumsiness has gotten me in trouble so many times, I’m not sure numbers go high enough to count.
But also isn’t even about “getting into trouble,” honestly. That would be as if I just didn’t want to get caught in my sin, rather than actually not want to sin… to be changed from the inside out. To not “appear” like this bull is like the Pharisees with their shiny and polished cups on the outside. To actually not be the bull is to have a fully clean cup.
Matthew 23: 25-26
For years, I’ve tried so hard to be the gentle and wise person on the outside (with varying degrees of success.) I make so much of trying to appear soft, that I think if I fix that part, the actually being soft will follow. It’s just like trying to glue the fruit onto the branch. So I know, deep down in my heart that I am going the wrong direction… so why do I keep going back to doing instead of learning about the being? For the task is so much easier for me to understand and grasp then the abstract idea of being present and considering everything holistically.
Deep-seeded in this sin of mine, and it may even be that all-important root (i.e.the idol, not just the surface sin) is self-righteousness. It’s a very strange thing knowing that I have a very low self-esteem, but realizing one of greatest sins I struggle with is self-righteousness. But it makes sense. I’m
simply looking for other ways to make myself feel better, and I am looking externally for those things. How I appear to the world is one of the ways I do that. And believing I know better than so many others is my sick and twisted way of trying to feel better about myself, forgetting how this causes me to view others as less than.
I don’t know how to be gentle. Maybe I never will. But I guess I can take some solace in the anvil. Knowing that I am being reshaped and formed into God’s image. An instrument is only useful if it’s the right shape for the task set before it. If I’m on the anvil, it means God still see me as worth reshaping.
Sitting on the soft mound of dirt and sand, I carefully craved a long and narrow path with my hands in this sandbox. Digging deeper in some places, I created ups and downs for the water to flow. Then dragging the water hose over, I filled up this path and began to imagine and dream.
The summer of my 11th year I was obsessed with making sandcastles. Every morning I first threw on a t-shirt and shorts, ran out to the barn to feed the rabbits. Carefully pouring pellets into their bowls and filling the bottles with water for the day, I impatiently did my chores. Then I was off to the sandbox my dad created, where I’d spend hours building.
It wasn’t really a sandbox. It was just a pile of sand over by the shelter of trees protecting our property from the country road that would often kick up dirt during the dry season. The sand mixed with grass and dirt, and when I added the water so I could have the all-important moat, it nearly turned into mud. But I had figured out how to contain the moat to perfection and even create a bridge with a discarded piece of wood… imagining the bridge drawing up to protect the princess from the dragon.
Small buckets created the tower and painstakingly I would create finials at the top of each tower, creating places for those watching over the princess to hide behind and shoot arrows at the dragon. Smooth out the sides perfectly, I created towers and towers of different sizes and shapes. It was my dream home. I relished the moment when I filled up the pathway with the water, watching it rush through and around the castle I built. This would protect the princess even more.
I look back on that summer of building sandcastles and wonder if there was some kind of metaphorical dragon in my life. I was clearly the princess, but at 11 years old, living a very sheltered rural farm life, I can recall no dragons. Perhaps the dragon simply resided in the holes of my heart. But for one perfect summer, those sandcastles created happiness with my hands. And my heart.