Posted in Poetry & Mere Musings

Sometimes It Doesn’t Work

The therapist says, “Stay with me.”

What he means is “don’t dissociate.”

Don’t let the midnight swallow you whole

and make you forget how beautiful the sunrise is.

“Don’t let his words papercut your skin

and transform it to burnt ashes

to be tossed in some lonely, cold fire later.”

He means, don’t dance with the devil, or even fight him

Slit his throat.”

 

And most days, I do.

Most days, I’m more demon slayer than distressed damsel,

more conqueror than conquest.

But tonight, in the quiet, 

I let the silence get to me. 

I let it eat my shard sliver of confidence

in a silent surrender.

 

Swinging between two worlds,

of times long past and should-be forgotten,

and of the times here and now,

with the therapist and my trauma I can’t trample.

 

And God says, “My grace is sufficient 

and my strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

God’s grace is sufficient

and the therapist tells me, “don’t dissociate, stay here.”

Are they mutually exclusive? Complementary? 

Like a wing’d creature still moves 

through the azure sky with hurting wings, 

I can still be made strong in my weakness.

Maybe the therapist was right.

Perhaps God knows what He’s doing. 

All I have to do is trust the process.

 

But that’s hard right now.

So tonight, I’ll cry and wash away 

the trauma with tears and trepidation,

wake up in the morning, and scream into a pillow.

Because sometimes, it just doesn’t work.

Posted in Christian Life & Theology, Stuff No One Talks About

Living in Tension

Disclaimer: This post is going to be all over the place.

Living in tension is a weird place to be. I’ve been thinking about and evaluating my friendships a lot over the past month, but especially this week. A few days ago, I had a falling out with an old college friend over Facebook Messenger. I’ll spare you the details but he decided to terminate our friendship which, if I’m being honest, was a good thing, as we had grown apart and were only engaging in surface-level small talk. Still, when it happened, it stung a little.

Morning Wake-Up Call

I woke up the next morning thinking about it, the cauldron of friendship, once bubbling, that, now, has nothing but mold at the bottom, too hardened over the years to scrape off. Stuck. Stagnant. Silent.

It made me think about my relationship with Yeshua and how, for a while now, I haven’t been as good of a friend as I could be to Him. Case in point, I’ve been isolating myself by ignoring God and trying to bear everything on my own strength. I’ve treated God like a genie and in that, without even realizing it, I slipped into the mindset that says “If I do the good Christian things I know to do then God will reward me with good things. If I don’t do those things—regardless of my motives—then He won’t bless me.” The inverse of that is this: If bad things happen, if I plummet in my health or job, then I must not have faith or God isn’t blessing me and He is displeased with me in some way. Navigating through this tension is hard. I’m questioning myself: Are my motives for doing or not doing something coming from a place of genuine love and adoration for Yeshua or fear of punishment or guilt from the keen awareness of past/current sin patterns? How much of this is because of my sinful nature rearing its ugly head, Satan messing with me, Yahweh testing me, or an automatic trauma reaction that I need to learn how to replace with a healthy medium?

The Pain of Living in Tension

Living in tension is not for the faint of heart nor for those with a weak will.

With the cultural rise of doing everything we can to be comfortable and avoid pain at all costs, in addition to acting as if we are gods and control everything, including the culture that consistently lies to and ensnares us, it’s almost too easy to believe the masses and think that Yahweh is not good or kind or cares. This life is a daily act of balancing on a tightrope with starving lions growling beneath you, waiting for footslips or tired limbs to just collaspe in the tension of following Christ (not just being a believer) and giving in to agnosticism or worse, cultural Christianity. God is still behind and before me, holding me up in His arms and guiding me forward so I don’t fall to my death but it is not easy. Some days, I want to give up. Most days, the pangs of loneliness are too much. The “freedom” my college best friend has in her Christian-deconverted, newfound-Wiccan rituals seems enticing, not because of the specific pagan beliefs but because she’s found a pseudo-home to rest from her religious trauma that doesn’t require sacrifice or obedience to anyone but herself. Rereading that last sentence makes me super aware of my selfishness and sinful nature.

As I said in my post, If I Were to Leave Christianity, This Would Be Why, my main reason for leaving the safe haven of my God would be because of my own selfishness and desire to be God. My heart is saddened by this realization. I pray God have mercy on my soul. At the same time, I want to be honest with you, dear readers. God is worthy of praise and adoration and absolute surrender. Not because He has a giant ego that must be satisfied 24/7, but because He loves you and me. Who else would willingly die for you? I mean, your parents love you and they would die for you but they’re not God. They can’t take away the sting and shame of sin. They’re not omnipresent. They can’t hold you when you’re up with anxiety at 3a.m. Only Yahweh can. And even in knowing that, and believing it with complete confidence, my heart still wants to wander sometimes. The tension continues. May God have mercy on us all and shower us with His lovingkindness as we navigate through it.

Posted in Christian Life & Theology, Stuff No One Talks About

Closer Than Your Next Breath: How Self-Reliance Spits in the Face of Grace

We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

I read those words yesterday morning and did little more than agree with them and marvel at the language Tozer uses throughout The Pursuit of God. I wrote a digital note on my Kindle that read: “Help me know, recognize, live in the reality of the fact that You, Lord, are indeed, closer than a breath away.” I breathed then, deeply and intentionally, to illustrate that point to myself. God is closer than our next breath.

Do me a favor and just sit with that for a minute. The God who created the stars, the planets, and every complex system in your body is not far off in some unreachable place up in the clouds, He is here. Closer than your next breath.

I did not feel the weight of Tozer’s words until later.

***

Yesterday was a trying day. I had errands to run and doing them throughout the city on the bus is no easy feat, especially when pressed for time. So when I got home, I ate, slept, ate again upon waking, and then, did the human thing and made a choice to sin. Note I didn’t say I “fell into sin” or “made a mistake.” According to the dictionary, a mistake is defined as “a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgement, inadequate knowledge, or inattention.” That’s not what yesterday’s action was. And for the record, we humans “fall into sin” the way we fall in love—by choice. Nonetheless, I digress.

There is a moment between temptation and the act of sin (or escape). It is in that moment that choices are made, whether beneficial or not. I did not choose the road less traveled; I chose the wide, vast road. I chose self-reliance instead of grace. The Scriptures say that in the flesh “dwells no good thing” and the writer of Proverbs echoes this. In Proverbs 14:12 he writes, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” I knew the action I chose to do yesterday was wrong but it did not hit me until I was in the midst of preparing for bed that I had committed more than just the obvious sin I was seeking repentance for. So I repented again. Not for the obvious sin, but for the “lesser known” ones: the sins of omission, namely the sins you don’t know you commit until the Holy Spirit reveals them to you. In relying on my own strength and in my ability to logically think my way through temptation, I, essentially, slammed shut the “way of escape” God provided and ended up with more regret than I could stomach. And that’s when Tozer’s words from the morning hit me.

GOD IS NEARER THAN OUR OWN SOULS, CLOSER THAN OUR OWN SECRET THOUGHTS

When the weight of the inspired theologian’s words hit me, I wanted to hide. I couldn’t of course, because you can’t hide from God—everybody knows that—but I wanted to try anyway.

I didn’t.

Instead, I sat in silence and I felt Him waiting on me. (Imagine that, God waiting on me to speak to Him!) I panicked through my prayer but I finished repenting and ended my prayer with thanks for His ultimate sacrifice: Jesus.

Now, I see that Tozer’s words were not meant as a threat, as if to place fear into the hearts of sinners, but as a reminder to those whose hearts belong to God, as an invitation to intimately know the God who is nearer than our own soul, closer than our next breath.

Posted in Christian Life & Theology, Stuff No One Talks About

If I Were to Leave Christianity, This Would be Why…

There are many things in and about Christianity that don’t make sense: the sovereign mandate to kill hundreds of men, women, and children; the outlandish and outrageous commands in the Levitical law; the command the we must forgive others or our own sins won’t be forgiven—as someone who has been in abusive and traumatic situations and relationships, this one hurts and confuses me the most—and the fact that sometimes, God just seems like a cosmic bully (just being honest). All of that can be understood, even accepted, on some level, but that’s not my breaking point. I have read enough of the old, wise theologians to know that nearly every intellectual problem, for the most part, and if one is seeking honestly and in earnest, can be answered within the Biblical text itself, if not a sound theology book or two.

No, my breaking point is much deeper than merely questioning if the flood “really happened” or if God’s decision to wipe out the entire human race in the name of a do-over is “humane” or not.

Beyond the Surface

At first glance, the intellectual wonderings seem to be what people think will be the end of the conversation, but that’s just surface-level stuff. The real matter goes deeper, way beyond the surface.

“Do not have other gods besides Me.” (Exodus 20:2)

“The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it. (Matthew 10:37-39)

This, above everything else, beyond all my intellectual doubts, gets me every time. If ever I were to leave Christianity, this would be why. This is my breaking point: I want to have control and God says, “No.” Some of the things God allows to happen, both in the world at large and in my own life, baffle me to no end. I cannot, for the life of me, understand His ways or why He does the things He does and I want to. The fact that I can’t angers me something fierce.

To leave Christianity—to leave God—because I want to be the one in charge and He denies me would be quite foolish. Some of the things He allows is downright painful and I can do naught to bring about change or a small portion of comfort to those suffering—myself included. I feel helpless in that regard, knowing that whatever God allows to happen will come to pass and neither I or anyone else can change His hand in the slightest. I feel more oft like a pawn in a cosmic game of chess than an adoptee of the Most High. Nonetheless, He calls me his, even though for the past few months I’ve been going back and forth between two opinions, flirting with the idea of whether or not to leave again.

Flirting with Danger

The first commandment God gives to the Israelites infers that there are other gods that exist besides Yahweh, either man-made from other religions or idols we make ourselves. It seems from a Biblical context though that God—that is, Yahweh—is to be the only really true cosmic Divine Being. If I were to leave, there would be no solace, no solemn, quiet, safe place to rest my weary soul nor would I find comfort for my ever-questioning mind.

In the End

All that being said, I know that if I left—again— I wouldn’t come back.

In fact, I would die. I don’t mean that spiritually, I mean literally.

I would kill myself and have absolutely no qualms about doing so because I’d have nothing.

I still have doubts; I still have questions; I still have panic attacks linked to spiritual things. I haven’t left Christianity or God despite my wrestling—and it’s only by His grace that I haven’t. So for now, I’m just sitting in the corner, so to speak; taking my time, being still and knowing that He is God. And that remains true, regardless of if I leave or stay.