I meet with people. I listen to their stories. I step into their space. They talk about their life – their triumphs, their failures, their loves, and their pains. They also talk about their god. More
She has awakened a certain loneliness that has laid dormant and undisturbed.
It is a Phantom that haunts me in the quiet places.
It is not fast and does not chase me, and yet I am forever pursued.
When I stop running for a moment to catch my breath, it is upon me!
I have made great strides to eliminate the silent stalker.
I have surrounded myself with love. Not easy love-shallow and fleeting but with love withstanding, divine, covenanted, refined.
I thought I had won. How clever am I! I thought I dispelled my Forever Companion that visits me in my sleep.
“Curse you, leave me be, go back to where you came from. Why has the woman brought with her such an unwelcome guest as you?”
Be still and listen to what I have to say.
Be quiet and be drawn into my embrace.
It is true that I have wounded ten-thousand but I have lost none.
My wound does not harm, it may burn, but it does not harm, and is given with a kiss.
I could be your tender lover, more satisfying than the women who provoke me.
But how poor you have treated me – never once have you offered me your cup to drink or your bed to lay.
In your desperate place you labeled me alien and called me intruder, kicked to the curb with no where to go.
You never imagined something like me, as big as the sky and as vast as the ocean could have a rightful home right here in your chest.
It is not I that haunts you, your Forever Companion, but the possibility of you.
The Unfortunate Burglar:
I am the unfortunate burglar. I take and steal, yet have acquired nothing.
I seek from others what they do not have.
I pillage from imaginary storehouses they do not own.
Any trace of confidence or contentment without magnifies a deprivation within and ignites my insatiable appetite.
In the morning I will steal your security that keeps safe from all of my deepest fears
In the noontime I will grab your affection that fills me to the brim with perfect love.
In the evening I will slip your smile into my pocket and your knowing eyes will lift me with eternal hope.
When I awake I wonder where all my treasure has gone, and begin to scheme where I can steal some more.
It is an unhappy event to find a soul you would rather be with than with yourself.
Romantics have told us there is someone out there, your better half, to make you whole.
I say I am my better half and me too, together with myself I am complete.
But another part, who does not abide in me mocks me.
She says you are not whole, and I look just the right size.
The lie would kill me a thousand times and I would still lean in as if it gave life.
…Speak to me again.
When Jesus uttered the words “It is finished” that same day in a pagan temple a family brought a goat to be slaughtered, but for them there was no sense of “It is finished.” For they had brought a goat before and they would inevitably bring a goat again to be slaughtered. They loved their god and with all the best intentions wanted nothing more than to please him, and so diligently they offered exactly what the they thought he asked of them. This would end up being an ongoing ritual for the rest of their life. Years upon years of dead goats but for them there was no “it is finished,” no assurance that their god was appeased.
There is a story of a boy running through his house, arms stretched out wide, pretending he was an airplane. As he rounded the first and second corner he knew he could fly faster if he was only able to cut the corners a little tighter. Approaching the corner of hallway he calculated out the best flight path. But this time he cut it too close and clipped a picture hanging on the wall. The picture fell to the ground and broke it’s frame. This was his parents’ favorite picture. His first instinct was to sweep up the broken glass and hide the picture. “Maybe they wouldn’t recognize it was missing,” he thought. The feeling of guilt was overwhelming him. “Of course they’re going to notice it’s gone” he convinced himself. He needed a new plan. He would take all of his savings out of his piggy bank and buy them a new frame, and if that wasn’t enough he would do extra chores around the house. He would mow the lawn for a month, he would do the dishes for the next two months. Before his parents even had time to notice anything had even happened, let alone respond with loving grace, their little boy who they loved more than anything had thoroughly punished himself, heaping on self-condemnation.
All of us are, to some degree, just like that little child with God. When we do something wrong, or when we slip back into that all too familiar sin, our first instinct is to hide. Without thinking we grab the broom and start sweeping up the broken glass, and hope God doesn’t notice. But then the guilt starts to overwhelm, it eats at us. “Of course he’ll notice, he notices everything.” So then we must take more drastic measures into our own hands. We must repay him somehow. We must do something to show him how sorry we really are. “I’ll give more money or volunteer more. I won’t take part in Church activities for awhile. I know what He’s thinking, I should probably hold off on the “Jesus stuff” until I have my act together. I’ll save him the breath, I already know what he thinks of me; I’ve let him down once again and I’ve REALLY disappointed Him this time.” Before we even approach God, we have already thoroughly punished ourselves. We have served a sentence, God never condemned us to.
Today let us hear the words afresh: “It is finished.” The guilt that we heap on ourselves, the hiding and the shame, the paying-God-back with good behavior – aren’t those all just modern day forms of sacrifices they used to bring to the pagan temples. Aren’t these things really just more dead goats? Can you reflect on the cross and lovingly gaze on your Jesus who gave everything for you? Consider what are some of the ways you punish yourself so that God doesn’t have to. What are the ways you try to pay God back? What are the ways that you hide your sin from Him? What are your sacrifices, your dead goats? And can we hear him say, “I don’t want any more dead goats. I don’t want you to punish yourself with guilt, and hiding, and repayment. I love you and want you to run to me.”
In the final post of my 3-part “Dear St. John” letter, I wanted to actually give some helpful practical advice. There is a lot written about what we’re not supposed to do (ie. don’t do, just be, etc.) I wanted to give some encouragement of helpful ways to “be” in a dark night. More
In part 2 of this “Dear St. John” letter, I want to address all of the ways you will be tempted to respond to this confusing season. It’s important to realize that just because God isn’t seeming to pick up the phone, leaving him 200 voicemails a day isn’t the solution (metaphorically speaking). More
I hear a lot of people using the term “Dark Night” to describe a multitude of different things going on in their life irrespective to whether or not it is a psychological, emotional, physical or spiritual problem. This is a term made popular by St. John of the Cross in the 16th Century, and he had a very specific idea in mind. Because of the the confusion I’ve written a “Dear St. John” letter. It’s dedicated to those who are currently going through a “Dark Night” and have never had the words to describe it before. More