Sunday, December 26, 2010

Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.     John 1:14  NIV

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.  
Hebrews 4:12-13 NIV

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly;   Colossians 3:16 ASV

Infant holy, infant lowly,
For His bed a cattle stall;
Oxen lowing, little knowing
Christ, the babe, is Lord of all.
Swift are winging, angels singing,
Noels ringing, tidings bringing:
Christ the babe is Lord of all.

Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping
Vigil till the morning new
Saw the glory, heard the story,
Tidings of a gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,
Praises voicing greet the morrow:
Christ the babe was born for you.

The baby, totally dependent, helpless to care for himself, at the mercy of poverty and homelessness was also the Word of God made flesh. I find this incomprehensible and at the same time this mystery penetrates me and stirs great hope and possibility. The fact that God chose to send His only begotten Son to take on flesh and live like us and with us and as one of us declares the infinitely great value He gives to humanity. The Word, the Logos, the creative force that formed the heavens and the earth and holds all things together, chose to yield himself to complete powerlessness. Christ the babe was born for you and me.

I work retail. In the month of December we will see more than 20% of the year’s sales. A third of those sales will be made in one week. We call it retail madness. And every year I struggle to balance the work I have been given to do and my desire to “let the Word of Christ” be born in me anew. I look for the Word to pierce the madness with truth and light. I am reminded everyday that Christ came into a world in conflict. I see daily the battle for supremacy between greed, hording and all expressions of insidious pride and hope and grace and generosity. It is into darkness, poverty, loneliness, and all stalls of imprisonment that the baby was born.

This year has been somewhat of a different one for me. In part, it is because my immediate family has agreed to give no gifts except a commitment to spend a weekend together in January. We have rented a house in my husband’s hometown and we will gather together from Ohio, D.C, and North Carolina and give one another the gifts of time and space. We will see extended family. We will remember and we will look forward. For me, this plan has been a blessing of freedom, both realized and anticipated.

This year is also different as it is the first Christmas season without my father. I dreamed not too long ago that my step-mother told me he was not dead, but taking a nap. So, I went to find him. I entered a long hallway that was brilliant white and with many doors lining both sides. I didn’t know which room was his. I woke with a sweet yet mournful feeling as though he were present yet absent at the same time. The taste of that dreamed stayed with me for days.

My father taught me as much in his dying as through his living. He held life gently and so encouraged me to seek to learn to live the same way. Since his death, I have found myself practicing disciplined acts of relinquishment. And in doing so through this season of advent I was reminded that preparation for Christ’s coming must involve laying down and putting off. I must fling off all that hinders. I must lay myself bare of all self’s want of power and control. I have imagined a ritual of stripping off all my clothes and throwing them in the fire and then putting on new garments of wool and linen.

To be born anew with and in the Infant Holy requires a surrender of all rights and privileges, power and authority, ought-to’s and should-be’s in exchange for the blessed state of the Infant Lowly. All of self is to be uncovered and laid bare and simple. We cannot cling to or horde what we deem necessary or most valuable. We must fling open the doors to our stored up and protected self. Then, the Word can dwell in us richly. He has come to penetrate our very beings, even to the divide of soul and spirit. He has come to dwell amongst us, with us, between us, and within us. Let him in.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Notes On What To Do While Waiting

My soul waits .. hopes
With you is forgiveness .. unfailing love.. redemption
-from Psalm130

I await my Savior who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform my lowly body so that it will be like his.
-from Philippians 3

How long, O Lord, must I call for help? There is strife and conflict.
Look and be amazed.
The revelation awaits an appointed speaks of the end ..though it lingers wait for it.
O Lord, I have heard. I stand in awe. Renew in our day .. in our time make known. Remember mercy. Decay crept into my bones. Yet, I will wait. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines .. the olive crop fails ..the fields produce no food ..there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls..Yet, I will rejoice. I will be joyful in God my Savior. The sovereign Lord is my strength.
-from Habakkuk

Even so, Lord, quickly come to your final harvest home.
Gather all your people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
there forever purified in your presence to abide.
Come with all your angels, come, raise the glorious harvest home.
- from the hymn Come, Ye Thankful People Come, vs 4

Sing. Tell. Glory in His name. Rejoice. Look to the Lord. Seek. Remember. Proclaim. Declare. Ascribe. Bring an offering. Worship. Tremble. Give Thanks. Cry out, “Save us.”

You are thirsty.
You have no money.
Come, buy without money.
Eat what is good.
Seek the Lord.
Call on Him.

Forsake your wicked ways and thoughts.
Turn. I will have mercy. I will pardon.
For, my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.
My thoughts are higher than yours.
My word will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I and peace.
-from Isaiah 55

Simeon waited.
Anna fasted and worshiped and prayed
-from John

Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for Him.
Every valley shall be filled in.
Every mountain and hill will be made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight.
The rough roads shall become smooth.
All mankind will see God’s salvation.
-from Isaiah

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
Share with him who has none.
Act justly, fairly.
Do not accuse falsely.

Jesus saw them following and asked,
“What you you want? .. Come and you will see.”
-from the gospels

Get ready to cross over.
I will I promised.
I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Be strong and courageous.
Be careful to obey.
Meditate on the word.
Do not be terrified or discouraged.
For the Lord your God will be with you.
Get ready.
Go in and take possession of the land I am giving you.
-from Joshua 1

Listen. Give ear. Come. Hear me.
That your soul may live.
I will make a covenant with you...promised faithful love.
Seek the Lord.
Call on him.
Forsake your wicked ways and thoughts.
Turn to the lord.
-from Isaiah

Be anxious for nothing. Pray. Be thankful. Rejoice.
Think on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praise worthy.
-from Philippians 4

Believe. Live by the truth and come into the light.
Depend on God.
Glorify God.
Worship God.

Your righteousness must be “otherly”
    Blessed are 
      the poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry, thirsty, merciful,
      pure in heart, and peacemakers ,...
Be salt and light …
Be reconciled to one another .. forgiving radically ..
Let it go.
-from the gospels

There must be acceptance and knowledge that sorrow fully accepted brings its own gifts. For there is an alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmutted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness.
-Pearl S. Buck

In the hunt for solace we discover who we are and such a discovery can lead us to the revelation of inner peace.
-Chris deVinck

Love your enemies. Pray for them.
Your Father knows what you need.

Forgiveness is the mark of the Father on and through His children.

Forgiveness is a blessing...the act of mercy and grace. Receive it. Give it.

Behold, I will create new heavens and new earth.
The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.
Weeping and crying will be no more.
-Isaiah 65

Release the captive.
Extend grace.

Do something ridiculous that you know God wants you to do.

The law of the Spirit of life set me free.
God sent His son to be a sin offering.
So, I live, setting my mind on what the spirit desires .. Life and Peace.
The creation awaits in eager expectation .. subjected to frustration in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into glorious freedom of the children of God. We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption and redemption of our bodies.
I hope for what I do not yet have. In this hope I am saved.
In all things God works for good.
I am more than a conqueror.
I’ll never be separated from God’s love.
-from Romans

Psalm 130

A song of ascents.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
  to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
  Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
  so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
5 I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
  more than watchmen wait for the morning,
  more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
  for with the LORD is unfailing love
  and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
  from all their sins.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Baptism and the brain

From Wikipedia we find these references to baptism:

Baptism signifies: [Romans 4:11-12] [Colossians 2:11-12] [111]
From an article by Curt Thompson, M.D., author of  Anatomy of the Soul,
we read these words:

Current neuroscience supports the idea that spiritual disciplines line us up to allow God to change us in ways for which we hunger and thirst. As we meditate, pray (especially contemplatively), fast, seek proper solitude, confess, submit, study, and engage in other such disciplines, we create space for change. In this sense, when Paul writes in Romans 12:2 that we are to no longer “be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect,” he’s not kidding. This transformation of which he speaks is not metaphor.

Paul was no neuroscientist, he wrote that which neuroscience would now confirm: that the transformation that God began with the resurrection of Jesus is now being extended and grounded in our very brains. This is where hope resides. This transformation of our minds is no mere abstract concept conjured up by a first century apostle. No, it is God physically at work through His Spirit, doing the very thing Jesus claimed he would do. Real change. Real hope—for our relationships with our friends (and enemies), our spouses, children, neighbors, and the creation. God’s Kingdom come on earth (or, as it were, in our brains) as it is in heaven.

I was born into and raised in the community of the Presbyterians. I have spent 30 years as a communing member of 3 different Presbyterian congregations. This foundation and a 16 year visit into the Methodist denomination, have convinced me of my need for divine intervention. When one looks in from the outside at the Presbyterians usually the first 2 associations that come to mind are predestination and infant baptism or in more glorious terms, the sovereignty of God and salvation through grace. But, unlike most born and raised in this denomination, I was not baptized as an infant. Nor was I baptised when I made a profession of faith when I was “born again” in my teen years. I was baptized as a child.

I think I was around 4 years old. I remember the small chapel with green carpet and soft low lighting. I remember it was a cold, wet, and blustery day, maybe a Sunday afternoon. I remember standing to the right of my mother and father as they brought my new sister in their arms and handed her to the minister for baptism.

From the Presbyterian Book of Church Order we read:
Although our young children do not yet understand these things, they are nevertheless to be baptized. For the promise of the covenant is made to believers and to their seed, as God declared unto Abraham: "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee." In the new dispensation no less than in the old, the seed of the faithful, born within the church, have, by virtue of their birth, interest in the covenant and right to the seal of it and to the outward privileges of the church. For the covenant of grace is the same in substance under both dispensations, and the grace of God for the consolation of believers is even more fully manifested in the new dispensation. Moreover, our Saviour admitted little children into his presence, embracing and blessing them, and saying, "Of such is the kingdom of God." So the children of the covenant are by baptism distinguished from the world and solemnly received into the visible church.

I remember the sense of mystery and otherliness that saturated the room. My older brother and sister were there and likely an elder to witness the sacrament. But, somehow, I knew it was not about them. It all seemed very important. Likely, I had been sternly instructed that I should stand very still and be quiet. The fact that I had to wear a dress had already pressed heavily upon me the gravity of the event. I was told that the minister would place water on my head. First, my parents placed my baby sister in the arms of the minister. Words were spoken and questions were asked and answered. Then she was given back to them. Next, it was my turn. I don’t recall if the minister asked me any questions. I don’t know that I said anything. But, I remember His hand on my head.

Now, more than 50 years later, I continue to experience the mystery of the covenant forged between me and God through identification with Christ in his death and resurrection. I know now that that moment in the chapel when I was just a child was not so much a turning point, but instead a moment in time in which eternal truth was declared. I know that when I was baptized is not as important as is the fact that I have been and am baptized. And within my union with Christ, I am being transformed. As we read in Curt Thompson’s article, what began with Christ and into which I have been united, there is a very real and new life that was birthed and is being shaped. In active participation in the sacraments and spiritual disciplines and through fellowship within the kingdom of God I am being changed. It is possible, in fact promised, that I will be changed. Though the evidence of my transformation has not been seen in an instantaneous miracle, it has, nonetheless been amazing and miraculous. I know that my Creator is still at work in my mind and body and spirit. I know He will finish what He began.

This morning I reread the story of the taking of the Promised Land by God’s children led by Joshua. My journal entry of notes on Joshua 11 looked like this:
   ….a huge army;
  …..numerous as the sand;
   ….all the Kings joined forces together to fight against Israel;
   THE LORD SAID: DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THEM, because I will hand them over slain.

Later, in chapter 24, I read these words:
“I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. 13 So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant. 14 Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness.”

I saw yet again, the confluence of the very real Divine Life and the very real Human life. I saw again the impossibility of gaining salvation and victory over sin by human effort alone. I heard the call again to yield to the collision that brings death and then life. I hear again, “Now, Fear the Lord.”

Over the years, I have come to recognize the power in the discipline of confession, and not just confession of sins, but confessions of faith. I believe it is true that much happens when we declare, shout out, sing and speak praises, proclaim, acknowledge, and ascribe glory to the Lord. After years of reading scripture and listening and hearing the Word of God proclaimed through preaching and teaching, there is now evidence of it’s impact on my mind. I think differently, I speak differently, I feel differently, and I live differently because I am under the influence of a very real covenant relationship with the One who redeemed me.

I confess with my mouth and declare aloud that baptism has engaged all of me to Christ. At the same time that I am one with Him and He with me, it is this covenant relationship that does not allow me to live in isolation or separated by self protection. In fact, I can not. In my baptism I am immersed in the fellowship of all God’s children. I am being transformed. We are being transformed.

When I stand to sing with the congregation something happens. When I join with believers and say the words of the Apostle’s Creed and pray the Lord’s Prayer there is a creative, transforming power that is in us and amongst us. There are times I perceive it  physically and emotionally and sometimes I simply choose to believe. When I stood as a witness to my grandson’s baptism and remembered my own, I believed with all of me that God had placed His hand in the water and, through His baptism, continues to work with us as the potter with the clay.

I continue to feel His hand on my head, the cleansing water washing my conscience, the words of acceptance and blessing, and the declaration of my adoption into his family. I believe he lives with me and in me. I believe He moves and has His being even in my brain, in the space between the synapses, in the electrical charges, and in the mix of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, melatonin and other chemicals. Even at times when it seems I have been left at the mercy of these chemicals and that surely they have joined to form a huge army, numerous as the sand, I hear, “Do not be afraid, because I will hand them over slain.” I remember, I know, I feel, and I live immersed in Him and He is greater than my heart, my mind, and my spirit. Even as I wait and circle in and move through this wilderness, I know the results of His and my sufferings will produce satisfaction. The very real work of transformation will be completed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Life Out of Death

The light slides across my front yard from a different angle this afternoon and takes on a color that is unique to this time of year. In spite of my grief over the loss of light as we march toward winter, I have to say that what light we do have is beautiful. The movement of the light through the trees half laden with leaves no longer green, stirred the sluggish waters of my soul to declare with my mouth that there is One greater than me. And He is worthy of praise just because He is.

I dug out my running tights and laced up my shoes for what I thought would be an obligatory 30 minute jog down and back on the greenway trail behind my house. I needed exercise, but these days it feels huge to get unstuck from my lethargy long enough to get started out the door.  But, today I made it through the door and to the trail. Surprisingly, I kept going past the end of the trail and onto the pipeline right of way that eventually takes me to the river. It was a beautiful afternoon with the rich variety of autumnal colors and smells drawing me on and into conversation with the One who made the seasonal cycles. I had a lot of not so new things on my heart and mind.

I have been reading a book written by Kent Gilges, entitled A Grace Given. On the front of the book are these word: “There is a blessing sent from God in every burden of sorrow. There is hope in that, hope even in a dying child.” The author tells the story of his first born daughter, Elie, who as an infant had a tumor growing in the middle of her brain. The story weaves through doctors offices, hope springing out of despair through a promising surgery, a near deadly seizure, a long hospital stay, a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, and countless encounters between Elie and her parents, grandparents and others impacted by her dying self over her 10 years of life. Gilges says this of his daughter: “More than a handmaiden, Elie herself is the hand of God, the dove that descends. A child purely innocently and utterly dependent is the gateway to divinity. Elie has been a centering point for God in our family.” pg. 192

I thought about death and dying on my walk/run through the woods along the pipeline. My father died this past spring after  living with cancer for a year and a half. That year and a half was bitter sweet and brought my family many blessings out of sorrow. The greatest blessing we gained was time...time to live and breathe and have our being together. My Father was our centering point for God in our family. He knew where he had come from and where he was going. We were blessed to be with him.

The grief I have experienced since his death and made complicated by other losses coinciding has been dressed in the familiar expressions of depression. For most of my life I have felt the vacillating force and moulding weight of depression. Winston Churchill named his depression “the black dog on my back”. Depression, in it’s endless shapes and forms and degrees of power, seems to always want to destroy one’s life. Sometimes the threat is very real. Depression can be dark and mysterious, wild and potentially deadly. But, today, on my walk, the “black dog” just trotted alongside me, almost manageable. I even felt free to think that this force of death has been for me a “gateway to divinity”.

Today’s display of autumnal creativity comes because of death. In the same way that reduced light and increasing cold yields brilliant variations in color as the leaves finish their season of life, I found myself allowing for the truth that there are some beautiful results of the lessening light and the cold passages through my seasons of depression.

I watched a movie last night in which a woman was caught up by a tsunami and the raging waters carried her through the small town. At one point she crashes headfirst into a submerged structure. Her life ebbs away and the waters drag her under. What she “sees” as she is dying cannot be described to others after being resuscitated. Yet, she has been transformed. Her death and encounter with that which is beyond death transfigures her. Others think she is crazy. She is forced into a place that isolates her. In a similar way, depression, in its greatest strength, is like being overwhelmed and dragged down and under with a sense that your life is ebbing away. You feel isolated and alone. You feel blind and powerless, helpless and desperate. You struggle and thrash. Sometimes fear runs rampant and screams at you in many voices at the same time. And then sometimes you crash. The struggle is over. The fighting stops. It is in this passing through to surrender that you see the light and afterwards nothing is quite the same.

Of course life with depression is full of these life/death/life experiences. Sometimes the “dying” lasts for days or months or longer. All the while, you are reminded that the “black dog” can never be tamed completely in this life. But, of course, you have to try. You have to pay attention. Consistent efforts to discipline must be practiced. Medications must be dispensed. You research the best ways to train him. You pay out lots of money for the latest whisperer class. You blame your husband for creating the monster. You blame anyone and everyone and every circumstance. Mostly, you blame yourself.

But, it is possible the black dog, the powerless child, or the drowning self leads you to a place that otherwise you might never see. You catch a glimpse of life after death...full of faith, hope, and love as everlasting truths. Promises become greater than reality. Then, you know. You have to believe. Not to believe will give power to death. In believing, you begin to see the One who creates beauty through the dying. You know Him when He draws alongside and partners in the suffering. You know He has been that way before. He walks with you amidst the fire. He goes down into the deep water ahead of you. He finds you in your misery. He releases your feet from the snare. He saves you from your shame. He is greater than your body chemistry. He is the Potter, you are the clay. He turns your mourning into dancing. He is the One greater.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Do You Care?

When I consider your heavens
the work of your fingers….

What is man that you are mindful of him…
that you care for him.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands..

from Psalm 8

The Lord formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being. Man is both of the earth and of heaven…filled with the breath of God. The Lord formed woman from the bone of man. He took the bone from man, formed the woman, then brought her back to him. The plan was a good one. “Lord, why do you care?”

I stood at the water’s edge trying to determine if the tide was coming in or going out. The pelicans gliding just above the water’s surface caught my attention. The air was still and I tried to allow my soul to become immersed in the rhythm of God’s creation. “What is man that You are mindful of him?” Why do you love us as you do when we wander so far from the plan? Why do you love us so much that You continue to pursue when we turn away and hide…rejecting your gift of life’s breath. Why do You care still, after all this time? Why did you delegate Your rule to us when You knew we would think it was our own? You wanted fellowship. We wanted autonomy. What is man that You would love him still when he can’t put down his need or his wants and instead, like the rich young ruler, turns and walks away, heavily burdened with sadness. 

Why? Why would You suffer for those who turn away and reject You? Why would you continue to love and suffer for those who are notoriously weak and unable to unclench their hands from their fears or who are so grievously self engrossed as to be unable to even see You standing in our midst. The gift You give is forgotten, lost in the busyness, put aside while we go on with the lives we create for ourselves. We have taken the authority you gave us and created our own little kingdoms where fear, selfishness, greed, anger, and bitterness shape our days. Yet, You do care. Your love never ends. The tides come in and the tides go out, washing away the words we speak…”I won’t” … ”I can’t”…”I don’t deserve it” … “I am unworthy”…Washing away the fear, the selfishness, the anger, the mistakes, the disappointments… Consistently, rhythmically, You bring us new life over and over.  Why?

When Dave and I reached our 23rd anniversary we took a canoeing trip to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We paddled across Fontana Lake, up Hazel Creek to a beautiful camping area in a pine forest. Sometime during this trip, as we lay in our small tent, Dave suggested that for our 25th anniversary that we throw a big party and renew our vows. My silent thought was that I wasn’t sure we’d make it to our 25th. I thought it would be horribly dishonest to make vows to continue what I thought we had lost. At that time I felt all we had was a memory of our commitment. The revelation that the Lord gave me in 1974, as I drove my Volkswagen beetle home for spring break from UNC, was that Dave was the man with whom He would join me. That truth and the 3 children we were raising together were the ties that kept me from fleeing from what seemed long in the process of decay. Years of stressful circumstances had over time eroded the joy and playfulness of our marriage. Selfishness, weakness, inability, depression, family and work related anxieties piled up and smothered our peace. I was dreadfully tired and devoid of hope. The thought of the years dragging out with the past repeating itself made me cry out, “Lord, show us that You care. When I consider the heavens….what is man…? But, we are yours. You took the rib…you formed me…you took me to this man. You breathed life in our nostrils. We have not handled the responsibilities you honored us with. We don’t deserve your attention, much less your love that creates life out of death. But, please come.”

“What is man that you are mindful of him?” Man, to whom you gave so much freedom, took the gift and ran. Why did you go looking for him? Why did you call to him? Will you come this time? Do You love us with everlasting love? What does that love look like? Are You really mindful. Where are You in this mess? Have we screwed up beyond redemption?”

God is not a man. Man was formed by God from the dust. Love created and formed and shaped and then let go, allowing us the freedom to choose, to name, to rule. Did He know we would fail to live in His love? Did He know in 1976 that the man and woman He joined would find the life they had built together crumbling 20 years down the road? I believe He did, knowing that He would use it to continue His plan.

I hiked through the woods along the Eno River, pouring out my grief and my confusion, when I was stopped in my tracks before a decaying log. “Kick it”, the still small voice instructed. In doing so I realized that the death of the old would create a rich, loamy soil from which the new would grow. “Let it die.” Could I trust the Creator of the universe to grow a new life out of the old? Didn’t He need me? Why was I so afraid? Why did I feel so powerless, so hopeless? Why did life seem so meaningless?

To allow what was to die was a dreadful thought. To choose to trust in the Maker of this man and woman was to step onto the platform and let the noose settle around the neck of my self-rule. It was to take the authority to rule that was given to me and step under the umbrella of God’s rule, believing His rule is love. He asked me to choose without feeling, without seeing, without knowing what would come next. He asked me to return to basecamp and be reconciled to Him. He called to me to come out of my hiding place and confess my nakedness and my shame. He asked me to let Him love me. Why was this so hard? Why was I persistent in thinking I needed to make it right? Why did I think I needed to dress myself?

The fear that pounded in my chest took me far away from the love of the Creator. “I was naked and afraid.” I am tainted with shame. I have been wrong. I have failed. I have hurt You and another. I can’t do it. I fear punishment. I fear being found out. I am angry and bitter. I fear rejection. I fear seperation. And the list goes on. Reality was overwhelming. I wanted to hide. I retreated. I disappeared deep within myself. I wanted to succeed in dressing myself in love so I could come out into the light. But, I couldn’t.

When our daughter Rebekah was a preschooler she was fascinated with changing her clothes. Three or four times a day she would appear with a new outfit on. The combinations were creative and entertained us endlessly. She loved her pink “jellies” and her red, green, blue, and yellow striped skirt worn with her flowered top. Her brother Mark was equally in love with his outfit of cowboy boots, surfer shorts, and tank top worn days on end one summer. It was permissible to allow them the right to choose their own attire until it came time to dress for church. We couldn’t allow them to dress themselves, as they were not able. With great joy, I would dress my children in appropriate attire. I would fix Rebekah’s beautiful blonde curly hair and dress Mark up in sporty flannel pants and a red bow tie.

In this same way I had to present myself to my Father so that He might dress me in presentable clothing. Dave and I, in desperation, in all our shame, humbled ourselves before the representatives God sent to us. And they prayed on our behalf. They anointed us with oil. They walked alongside us. Slowly, the mystery of God’s love pealed back our layers of calluses. The challenge was to let go of what was, to lay down our agenda, to put aside our demands, and allow ourselves to be naked yet unashamed. Grace abounded through the love and patience of Christ’s ambassadors. I met weekly with friends God had anointed to bless me. They would wash me with prayers and dress me with love and acceptance. They would speak the truth of forgiveness and turn me toward God’s promised redemption.

And Dave and I made it to our 25th  anniversary. We threw the big party. We renewed our vows and stepped out of the ashes, dressed in grace and forgiveness. The work of making that which is good out of all things continues on a daily basis. The wonder of God being mindful of us is a constant reminder of our need to humble ourselves and press on through this place in between. We marked our 34th anniversary this year. The journey continues.