Anxiety settled in during May, and I weathered a rough couple of weeks. Hence, the silence in this space. I don’t publish when I’m struggling to keep my head afloat. The clouds have lifted, for which I’m so deeply grateful I could click my heels like a leprechaun.
Still, I hate dwelling in the state of “between” things, the space where I’m not where I was and not yet where I want to be. I want to be at a final destination, in a settled place. I want stability in my grasp for an extended time. I want more than just bread for today. I forget there’s no guarantees in life. All I hold is this moment. I can’t fast-forward, rewind, or pause. Continue reading
I like circles. Feeling hemmed in by a sphere of safety. I’m the person who carefully reads rules and directions. In new places, I carefully look for signs and instructions about how that system works. I want to know the expectations, boundaries and guidelines. I’m probably bordering on some kind of dysfunction.
So, why this obsession with rules and safety circles? It’s not because I like order or because I’m inherently rigid or because I love structure. I’m fairly comfortable with a good deal of chaos and disarray. Additionally, I’m suspicious of authority and rules.
A few years ago, in one of my seminary assignments, I railed against the idea of prayer working like a vending machine — as though we toss up the right words and phrases and out comes our spiritual Snickers in response. God’s not a vending machine. And I still stand by that statement. God isn’t a machine we manipulate and control.
Yet, as I’ve been thinking about prayer again for a class I’m teaching at my church, maybe the vending machine metaphor isn’t entirely bad for thinking about prayer.
I’ve lost count of the conversations I’ve had lately where I’ve chatted with people about our pictures of God. It’s like a theme in my life right now. The picture of God which seems to be dominating the field is God wagging his finger in eternal disappointment with us. Frustrated. Ready to give up or write us off. Like maybe, even though we try, we don’t amount to much in God’s eyes.
God met me this weekend. Last week as I was preparing to speak with my pastor for the first time, I was highly nervous. Part of that was a struggle to discern what God had to say to me in the topic. So, I asked a few friends to pray that God would show me what the message was for me.
Well, God delivered. Not what I expected. Not anything related to the topic I was speaking on. But, over the past two days, I’ve had one of the most powerful God moments of my life. I’m overwhelmed. I even started writing poetry again for the first time in ten years (Meme, if you’re reading this, you’ll probably be thrilled about that, though the poem itself is rusty and clunky. Further, no, I’m not showing it to anyone at this point, possibly ever.).
It all began with communion Sunday morning.
Earlier this summer, I noted on Facebook that Chung Hyun Kyung’s book Struggle to Be the Sun Again upset my theological worldview. I found myself asking what it might mean to do theology in my context.
I thought other people “did” theology. They wrote it. I consumed it, looking for “right,” bright and shiny ideas about God. I approached theology as my own reflection about the nature of God. Grounded in the Bible, of course. But largely a private enterprise. Personal. And predominantly, right thinking about God — orthodoxy if you will.
I’m a bit wilted these days — feeling bent over and dried out. The drive to perform is eating at me; the dancing bear circus act drains. Doing things with excellence is a good thing. When pursuit of excellence becomes the crux of my identity, that’s problematic for me. The performance drive inhibits my capacity for joy and rest; it also amplifies my anxious voices. I’ve been feeling incapable of real and deep rest. Brief escapism, yes. Rest, not so much.
At Holy Yoga two weekends ago, my instructor Todd was reading from Jesus’ baptism and temptation story in Matthew 3 and 4. He started talking about the search for approval as one of the temptations, and that totally zinged me.
As I wind down with seminary coursework and pending evaluations on my performance, I find myself increasingly operating out of a drive for approval. Please like me. Please think I’m awesome. There’s no space for rest in this mindset because everything is an opportunity to think I’ve let someone down, to think someone is judging me for a perceived mistake.
In simpler terms, it makes me wicked anxious. And highly neurotic. And also prone to call J with silly things to have him talk me down from my crazy. Thank God for that man, and that he is amused by and patient with my drama! I usually know I’m being ridiculous, but it’s easier to recognize when I say it out loud instead of leaving it in my thought loop.
And then, I found myself struck by these words from Dorothee Soelle, “I do not need to cling to these things because I myself am held fast. I do not need to carry a burden because I myself am carried (Death by Bread Alone, 82).”
I sat there stunned. Wrote the words down in my journal. Soaked them in into my soul. This is the way I wish I was. Not wandering around with a death grip on things I feel like I need to control or not desperately performing to make a grade. And I have a long way to go to get there.
Lord Jesus Christ — have mercy on me.