Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Summer of Diving Deep


I digress.

About now, in the peak of all her glory, one must slip off the shoe of summer and eye that big fat blister she's left behind.

It may also be a good time to have a mid-way reckoning with those mustard stains on the couch, or at the very least soberly consider wiping up the Popsicle residue out of the freezer. I swear, even the barbecue seems to be sagging in the middle from the never ending ritual of lighting her up just to burn her down.

It is just summer's way.

When August blooms, the hyper-glow of go begins to get a little frayed around the edges and we just keep opening and closing. Opening and closing. Opening and closing. To the point of sparking those rusty hinges into a blaze on our dead lawns. 

Which I get.

Summer is special.

She's the daisy crown atop tangled curls. The sun-kissed lips splashed with sweet wine. She is ice cold watermelon and stubbly legs that we just can't seem to keep smooth. But we don't mind. She is everything we dream about on the bitter gray days that force us into itchy sweaters.

And yet, this summer has me spellbound for a different reason.

I can't get comfortable. Which is very un-summery of me.

I clink the ice in my glass and watch the sun set and my heart aches. I don't like it. I am grateful and appreciate this life I enjoy, but for reasons I'm still sifting through, my chest burns with knowledge too heavy for me.

You see, I'm the type of gal that intentionally digs holes in her heart byway of bending over an ancient book. I keep looking for treasure that apparently a holy homeless man said I would find if I just kept at it. And what I've found reminds me of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where he swaps the bag of sand for a golden idol without tripping the booby traps.

I feel like I've found out that my treasure is worthless. And the unimpressive bag of sand in the corner (that I don't want to pick up) is what's of real value.

I was applauded for chasing down dreams. Not Jesus.

Don't get me wrong, Jesus was the guy you wanted as your co-pilot for sure, that was always encouraged. Strap him in the front seat, so when you're about to crash you can call out "Jesus take the wheel!" But never ever, just let him sit in the driver's seat to begin with. That's just reckless.

So from a young age I believed that I was in charge of my destiny if I just worked hard enough, looked the part and never said no to an opportunity. And now, that I've said no to just about every opportunity for a smaller and smaller life (some of the opportunities said no to me, if I'm honest), I realized something life-flipping. 

Jesus isn't who I thought He was. 

And neither am I.

For someone who has been a church goer her whole life (except for those few years which I prefer to pretend didn't happen) and stayed on the straight and narrow (if it wasn't too narrow) and did the right thing (if it didn't hurt too much) is coming to terms with this: I've been dipping my toes in the most languid pool of truth for years, but never fully jumped in and stayed put.

Sure, I've been waist deep a couple of times. I've even put my head fully under. But I have this annoying habit of being so shocked by the dark, deep waters and the cold that cuts to the heart of me that I run full throttle towards the shore.

Square one.

Back to that square of beach towel underneath a striped umbrella with my list of to-do's and a much more shallow glass. My spiritual summer is always there waiting for me. Lighting me up, just to burn me down.

The back and forth hot-potato-handling of the Truth when I hear it, means that instead of gripping tight despite the pain, I place it back into the basket and ask someone to pass the butter.

I'm learning I need to be more irresponsible with my faith. Indefinitely.

I read a book by Shannan Martin this summer that broke a cistern in my heart that I can't fully recover from. It is leaking out all over the place. It is leaking onto my wallet. Onto my plans. Onto my family. Onto my actions. And it is calling me into a place of naming names. Of telling the truth. Of asking the hard questions.

Her book begins when her and her husband moved from their dream farmhouse and left their lucrative jobs in politics to move to a grittier side of town with the singular mission of simply paying attention. And showing up. A lot.

I already didn't like the book at this point. My heart was beating too fast. I was going to put it down. And then I read this:

"We were practicing our obedience, attaching training wheels to the unsteady idea that maybe we were useful to the kingdom in the midst of our everyday lives. For one of the first time's ever, a need presented itself, and we simply responded. Yes."

Ok, I could do that. I need to do that. I've been doing that. I need to do that more.

Because if Jesus isn't who I thought He was. Who does that make me?

Well, it makes me an excellent cheerleader. A wonderful sideline ribbon dancer. It makes me a great pamphlet to the BIG ride, except I've never really ridden it myself. It makes me a wonderful cleaning lady, who often doesn't deep clean the own mess in her heart. It makes me someone who keeps pulling the chain on the weed wacker while watering the weeds.

And yet.

Oh the big yet.

And yet, he has been faithful to make me hungry for more than what everyone tells me I should want. Not just to donate to causes. To participate in them. 

This makes me squirm. And it makes me alive.

And so I've started small. Because I am bad at this.

I've started giving up stuff secretly, sacrificially and quietly. I invited people into my life that I wouldn't of a few years ago. I denied myself certain things, not out of self-regulation, but out of the pursuit of joy.

 I started praying for ways I could be useful and helpful to the people right in front of me. And waited for God to answer me. I started wanting to know what Jesus actually says about my stuff and my talents and why I have those things and what I should do with them.

Like he demonstrated in the 15th book of Matthew:

"But Jesus wasn’t finished with them. He called his disciples and said, “I hurt for these people. For three days now they’ve been with me, and now they have nothing to eat. I can’t send them away without a meal—they’d probably collapse on the road. His disciples said, “But where in this deserted place are you going to dig up enough food for a meal?”

Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”

“Seven loaves,” they said, “plus a few fish.” At that, Jesus directed the people to sit down. He took the seven loaves and the fish. After giving thanks, he divided it up and gave it to the people. Everyone ate. They had all they wanted. It took seven large baskets to collect the leftovers."

My favorite parts of these verses are: "But Jesus wasn't finished with them." And, "How much bread do you have?"

I can not claim to be a Christian and not give away my life to this end. To the edge I creep, because I believe that he is never finished with us and that we need to hand over our lunch. Not so that we can sit in the dirt hungry and used up, but that he can fill us up in places we didn't even know were empty.

Shannan said it best when she wrote, "That there is always plenty in the economy of abundance when we take seriously our bit role in the rescue of his people. God looks at you and me and decides we are worthy allies. Each day brings the question: how much bread do you have?"

When we take seriously our bit role. 

That hits home for a former Hollywood resident who would have considered such a small insignificant part a huge failure at one point in her life. You should have seen my old head shot, I was going places let me tell you.

Failure is becoming my friend. That is progress in my book.

I'm still wading into the deeper waters. But I'm not running back to the shore yet, because He has already shown me something beautiful.

That first of all, he takes care of me. Secondly, that I can't only care about that. 

This is the Jesus I was talking about. The one who doesn't feel cozy. The one who is asking that I use my tiny, rusty reputation for the benefit of those who need it, and to stop making excuses for my dinner party guest list and start welcoming in the unexpected and the needy.

I do not want to do this.

But I don't have a choice at this point. I know my Bible too well.

The Great Hope is that I am loved. The Great Grace is that I am forgiven. These truths are the spurs on my boots that move the saddle. But it is not the ride. It can't be. That requires nothing of me.

He wants to see if we take Him at his word. If maybe, just maybe, this year we won't run for the shore. 

I have been moving in the direction of God for awhile. Jesus has been incredibly patient with me, but way too often I've been reading His Word with my editor's pen, giving my strike-through muscles a work out. Secretly, very sub-textually, I've been carving out a golden idol that looks a lot like an American Jesus in Santa's clothing, instead of the heavenly Jesus who is a bad ass warrior with a thigh tattoo of King of Kings and Lord of Lords on his thigh. (Rev. 19:16)

A thigh tattoo.

Seriously. I judge those people. (If you have a thigh tattoo, I ask your forgiveness.)

Here's what I'm saying. This summer has been a heavy one for me. Heavy in the way that my Christianity should have always felt. He has so much more for us. And it has nothing to do with getting more.  

We have enough. I have more than enough. You probably have enough. We're good, friends. We are.

How much bread do you have? Just think about it. And then hand it over. Because I'm beginning to believe it is so much better off-shore.

We're in this together,

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