admission: the price of one heart.

May 23, 2011

Here in this bright city, dark eats the land up and my mouth is dry. My grandmother cooks for herself and eats in the living room with the television; I sit blur-eyed in the bone-sapping cool of her room. I have ousted her. I drink Yakult on her bed. Outside was too blunt for me to understand today so I went home and slept.

Home. Green and cool with the brightness outside the dawn, blackbirds in wet grass. Now there will be frost, and silence, and the cold breath of air that sweeps the tangled cobwebs of myself free. Long black stockings and heavy materials, weight in my hands, books. Lights of my old home, this is my new home. I have lost myself in between. I am found, solid and heavy, straddling a hundredweight of ocean.

Now we live a land that does not take up space, caught in midair with the voices of many others, discontent and restless and seeking information. Now it is you I see. It is a very bad idea. I can ramble, I can wind in words until they unspin on my spool of the false cold but we come to what it is: I am thinking about this, about- you, and it is a bad idea. It is a very bad idea.

Be self-controlled, putting off all that binds. What is it again? Oh.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”” 1 Peter 1:13

It caught me this morning at church. Mph. Thanks. Thanks, God. (There was also Romans 12:2- ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Brilliant. Just brilliant. Matching pairs.)

Evil desires. Is this really so evil? This desire? And yet, anything that is not stuck on, based in, done in faith- where is it again. The last part of Romans 14:23- ‘ and everything that does not come from faith is sin.’ Just googling gets me John Piper with this paragraph:

‘The most penetrating and devastating definition of sin that I am aware of in Scripture is the last part of Romans 14:23: “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” The reason it is penetrating is that it goes to the root of all sinful actions and attitudes, namely, the failure to trust God. And the reason it is devastating is that it sweeps away all our lists of dos and don’ts and makes anything, from preaching to house-painting, a candidate for sin. In the original language, this is stressed even more than in our versions: it says, “Everything which is not from faith is sin.” Anything, absolutely any act or attitude which is owing to a lack of trust in God is sin, no matter how moral it may appear to men. God looks on the heart.’

and later on-

‘Saving faith means resting in the promises of God. What promises? All the promises, including, God works everything together for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28); he will follow you with goodness and mercy all your days (Psalm 23:6); he will not leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Saving faith is confident in the promises and power of God. Therefore, it is not anxious about tomorrow but has joy and peace, taking God at his word. So Paul says in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Trusting the God of hope gives joy and peace. And the reason it does is because our confident hope is that God is at work right now and tomorrow in the everyday affairs of our lives so that only what is best for us happens to us.’

It’s an interesting sermon. I know people with very divided opinions on John Piper, but nonetheless, here’s the link.

I’m afraid. I don’t know what the world is like, what my worldview is like when I live entirely by faith. I used to think it was this wholesome, fiery, energetic- almost-naivety. This roundness of trust, childlike and simple like the feeling I get from some of Eugene Peterson’s ‘The Message’ paraphrase. That’s what I’m afraid of, that it is like that. That embracing the reality of God in this world, living by faith, ‘resting in the promises of God’ means- not thinking, perhaps. Not doubting, not being incessant and thoughtful and thin in the heart and grey, shadows and bad days, the mind that understands the darkness and not just the darkness but the normality, the meanness, the everyday. Being all emotion-led and innocent as doves, blindness and fire and devotion. But just thinking about it now, I don’t think so.

I think- I hope– my thin greyness, my thoughtful melancholy, is equally applicable. I can see the work that God is doing in this world without being an extroverted emotion-spewing crazy hyper-charismatic. I can be rational, and doubtful, and fearful. And I can seek God with all my heart, and trust him when he says he loves me and that he is working in me and in my life. I can do that in the dark of my own head, in the seedy grimness of these remnants of depression, in the incessant scrape of panic and anxiety. I can trust God, and trusting God, having faith in God’s promises, doesn’t mean that I will suddenly become On Fire In Love Undoubting Hand-Lifting Amen Jesus Freak. I am not saying that this is not a valid lifestyle choice. I am saying that this is not me. I have never been an On Fire In Love Undoubting Hand-Lifting Amen Jesus Freak, not even as a kid. I asked too many questions, as a kid, and I’m realising nowadays that I was a melancholy child. Secretly. I did a quick run-around of my old church with a camera and a lot of the places I took photos of were places I’d snuck into to hide, to be alone, to be nostalgic and unhappy in, or secretive and quiet and alone. That’s me, that’s me too. I’ve never been just noise. I’ve never been happy-clappy. I climbed up ladders and into hidden lofts and disappeared into underground hallways and sat in the corridors and on distant steps by fishponds while people sang hymns and preached because I have always had problems belonging, always had problems staying, always been too full of- something, my own restlessness, my fears, my own insurgent thoughts.

Admittedly, a large amount of my childhood at church was spent running around hugging people as well. There is that. We will not discount that.

Now I do not have a church because I cannot stay in one, because something in me sends me back out to walk and to think and to not belong. Something in me rasps at worship sessions, at the muttered, orgasmic breathiness of “Jaysus. Oh Jaysus.” behind me, of- of emotive splurging. I am afraid of emotion, of an excess of emotion where it is connected to God. I cannot do it- or, when I do, it is in small amounts- gentle, and quiet. Or full of despair and misery and fear. And sometimes, full of hope. But ecstatic surrendering to emotive musical accompaniment is not something I feel capable of, not something I wish to- to do, to blatantly throw my heart around. God is someone I am only beginning to understand, beginning to trust. I do not feel like I can roll around batting come-hither eyes with loose and flaunting limbs on Egyptian cotton sheets. I do not know if I will ever be able to do that. Metaphorically-speaking. Religiously-speaking.

I love God. But I am so full of fears and seditions and quiet unhappiness and underlaid anger, so full of my own self. And I am so prone to doubting, so prone to mislaying myself, to stepping away. So prone to the dark. And I like the darkness- a world irradiated by light, without shadows at all, would be one I would not wish to know. I do not think your world is like that, God. I think your world is one that has the dark in it. Even your kingdom. I am realising that. I hope I am realising it correctly. Because a world without dark in it, here, in this brokenness, this side of the Fall, this side of Redemption, is an unrealistic world, a world that doesn’t take part in the lives of people everywhere who are miserable and broken and twisted in nearly impossible ways. People who suffer. I think one of my greatest grievances against the Happy-Clappy is the ignorance, the pushing-away of people who suffer. It makes me angry.

The God I am beginning to understand, the God I trust, is one who steps into the dark. The one who heals the broken. Who does not rise blindly above it with hands held high and a firesome soul, a God who does not see and does not care. This is the God who sits in the dusty streets with us, who touches the untouchable with bare fingers. The God who transforms because he is deeply in the darkness, as well as in the blinding light. God who heals, God who mends what is broken, God who is patient with the darkness and the troubles of this world because he loves his lost children. God who walks through the valley of the shadow of death time and time again, searching for those he loves. God meets us here. God is with us here, in the dark. And it is not a case, I think, of bringing us out into the light- but of bringing light into the dark, candles and candles and fire growing until the dark itself is illuminated and we can see- what we have hidden, ourselves, loathsome and filthy but being cleaned, being changed. And yet there are still shadows.

I don’t know how biblically correct that metaphor was. But the idea still stands, I think. God does not drag us out by our hair, kicking and screaming, into the blindness of the daytime until our eyes are seared with the blinding horror of it. God is kind.

There are so many things I am afraid of, but the patience of God is something I trust. Is something I hold onto, in the seedy grimness of myself. It makes everything alright. Gives everything its perspective. Rightness. Sets the world to rightness.

Which- returns us to- the beginning. Jesus. What would you have me do? Am I conforming? How do I not conform? Are these desires evil? I know, I know there are so many buts and ifs and nos. So many cancellations, things in the way. Reasons why not. So many reasons why not. But- but.

I like him. I think he likes me. And I am a fool.

There is so much more to this than just liking. This is why I need to let it go. I just- God. God. Give me self-control, then. Give me patience. Help me let it go. Do not let me do this from fear– any of this from fear. Hold my heart still and let me see it for what it is between your hands. Changed, in your hands, from what it always is in my own head. Let me be yours, first. Nothing else. Yours first. Do not let me go.

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