Paradox of Full: When We Think We Are, We Aren’t

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I recently read a blog that contained an excerpt of The Heidelberg Confession. I had to pause for reflection as I read:

“Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”

What is my only comfort in life and in death? I can with all assurance say that I believe the answer above is my confession. But my life experience will show that I have not experienced the truth of those words. Not here, not now. I believe there is a future day when I will be with Christ and my fullness in Him will be realized. But can I experience that fullness now? Can you experience that fullness now? Perhaps. But our potential is blocked by the madness of sin in our lives. The sins that have been committed against us and the sins we have committed against ourselves and others. And these sins, at times, confuse the signals in our brains and cause us to feel empty when we really aren’t. I over-eat to compensate for my emptiness. While I have never been morbidly obese, the eating behavior is still present. It is hard-wired in my brain and tells me that eating is a pleasurable activity and I can feel full any time I want. Of course this is not true and many other people would attest to that, because we have to keep eating more and more. So, what is happening here is at the root of desire.

Every living thing on the planet has been given the gift of desire. Desires drive us toward fulfillment. We desire to be full or to be filled. We are motivated to seek fulfillment over and over. Why? Because we also experience emptiness. When we are empty we look for something to fill us again. We don’t like the feeling of emptiness, so we seek to be filled. This is good desire.

While our desires are common,( need for food, water, intimacy, etc) the expression of those desires (what we desire, where we desire, and with whom we desire) are as varied as each individual. Our past experiences, our culture and our families, in many ways, shape the expression of our desires. While the desires themselves have been declared by God to be “good,” sin and suffering has affected every part of our being as humans and that includes our desires.

The paradox is this: We attain to be filled here and now, and while we can have some fulfillment we can’t have it all. Everytime we engage in eating or sexual relations, sports, recreational activities, building our families, worshiping God (collectively or individually), we have to keep coming back to be filled and filled again. Because we get empty. We don’t like empty. And this is especially true of people who have been abused or are experiencing abuse of some kind.That is because their brain has lost the ability to recognize their own feeling of empty and full. So,some turn to sexual promiscuity, or they develop eating disorders, or eat more than their body can metabolize. They turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the unavoidable emptiness that is so much a part of their life.There is a heightened desire, almost a feeling of desperation to be filled all the time, but they cannot attain it.

Here is the solution: Since we can’t avoid emptiness on this side of heaven, we can choose to be grateful for the feeling of emptiness because it ultimately brings us to the only one who can fill us completely. He fills us with His Spirit for this life He has called us to. Everytime we feel empty we are reminded that we are totally dependent on God for our food, for our health and for our joy in living. Yes,on earth, we need to be filled over and over again. Because we belong to God and He has given every provision for us to come to Him for filling, we can know that in Heaven we will be filled with Himself and we will have no need for any other fulfillment. He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water and the Door by which we will enter into an eternity of riches that have been promised to anyone who is acquainted with physical and emotional hunger in this life. There will be no more cravings or hunger of any kind.

I want to leave my emptiness behind me. I want to be filled by the Spirit of the living God. I can give myself wholly to the Christ who emptied Himself so that I could receive His fullness. The Heidelberg confession lets us realize this dependence on the finished work of Christ, for our fulfillment now, and at the time of our death when we are finally emptied of this body that we carry on earth. Come with me on this journey, together we will discover the endless provisions of an Almighty God!

Dependent for Life

dependenceOh Lord! I am but a suckling at your breast, drawing desperately from You to fill my need. My dependence, my trust is in You alone. Who, but You, can satisfy the deepest longing of my heart?

Oh Lord! I am but an unsure child at your knees. To go away from you or stay close, I cannot tell. I long to explore–my soul demands it! But who, apart from You, can satisfy the deepest longing of my heart?

Oh Lord, I am but a young woman, defiant in your face. I so often choose what the world offers to rescue me. I depend on and I long for what I can see, feel and taste. Not believing that You, only You, can satisfy the deepest longing of my heart.

Oh Lord! I am but full grown, trying to stand at your side. My own children are learning to trust You for themselves. Please let them see through these mistakes that I’ve made, that You, only You, can satisfy the deepest longing of their hearts.

Oh Lord! I am but an old woman, kneeling at your cross. Touched by the life-long bestowal of your costly grace. You have been present, You’re the very air that I breathe. You, only You, have satisfied the deepest longing of my heart.

I am ready to come home.

Sexual Intimacy with…God?!

waterfall

Sexual Intimacy with…God?

Imagine this: You are alone with Jesus in your secret place; let’s say… a waterfall. There is a soft mist spraying from the gentle falls, tumbling over the mossy laden rock-ledge where you are standing together. You are clothed in only your skin, facing your Beloved. Jesus drops His robe and reaches for your hands to pull you close to Him. He whispers in your ear, “You are the most beautiful of all my Father’s creation.” He steps into you and you feel the warmth of his touch and the tingle of His embrace. You melt in His arms as your tears gently fall on His chest. You are overwhelmed by His desire for you and feel absolute joy in His intimate presence.

I’m sure a few eyebrows shot up at the suggestion of this imagery. Some Christians may in fact, be very disturbed with this visualization. If so, I invite you to pause and try to think differently. I, like you, have become accustomed to thinking of Jesus as the Lover of our Souls. This is how we were educated in our churches and in our religious schools. Pay close attention to the words of the hymn written by Charles Wesley:

Jesus, Lover of my soul,

Jesus, I will never let You go.

You’ve taken me from the miry clay,

Set my feet upon a rock and now I know

 I love You, I need You.

Though my world may fall,

I’ll never let You go.

My Savior, my closest friend,

I will worship you until the very end.

Do not these verses portray a flesh and bone human being, desiring, worshiping and loving the Savior and being loved by Jesus in return? He made our bodies as well as our souls. The first breath we took as infants outside the womb, was a God-given gift of physical life. Jesus created and desires this kind of intimacy with His creation. Not just our souls, but our bodies, which will one day be resurrected, as is His own. Our bodies are important to Him. In Scripture, our bodies are referred to as “The Temple of God.” (I Cor. 6:19-20) His Spirit literally lives inside us.

 Now, suppose in our visualization we begin to imagine the intermingling of our spirit with Jesus’s Spirit. Since Jesus’s Spirit is the Holy Spirit, third member of the Trinity, this is already a blessed fact with each believer because they, too, possess the same Holy Spirit. What a great mystery is this unity with the Godhead that cannot be severed! We, as Christian believers are one with the Triune God. To meditate on this fact alone is certainly nothing short of mind-blowing!

Let’s suppose, once again, that in our visualization we begin to have erotic thoughts. What now? Do we shove them away, thinking them to be unholy or sinful? Sex with Jesus? Can that possibly have its place in our thought life? The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 5: 31-32 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and His church.” If I am not mistaken, Paul is using the analogy of sexual intercourse between a husband and wife, to describe the relationship of Christ with the church (all believers). Many of us get so caught up with the first part of that verse, dealing with the oneness between husband and wife, that we forget the verse is really about Christ and His intimate thoughts regarding oneness with His church, His Bride. So, if Paul can use this analogy in His sanctified imagination, why can’t we?

 I think, at times, we limit ourselves because we are thinking from the perspective of broken and sinful human lives. There are no longer boundaries in our expression of our sexuality in this world. But when God first created sex there were definite and very good boundaries. When God created Adam and Eve, He made them gendered and He blessed their sexuality and the expression of it. He commanded them to have sex. (I doubt whether they fought Him on this idea!) It was a very good idea. In the context in which God created sex, it is meant to bring pleasure, awareness, and is the most tangible way to give one’s entire self sacrificially to their mate. It is a form of transparency between two people who give themselves to the other like nothing else we can experience on earth. It is meant to remind us of our own desire and longing for God, and for His desire and longing for us. The fact that our sexuality has been corrupted is not a problem for God. It is a problem for us. The shame of what we have done to push God out of our lives is what keeps us from enjoying Him in every way possible–even sexually.

 When I am alone, and in need of comfort, the assurance of God’s presence and closeness; I believe it is right and good that I have intimate thoughts of Him and the marriage to come between Christ and His church, of which I am a member. Did we not dream of those days before our own marriages here on earth? Did we not think of the wedding night and the many days to follow, where we would enjoy the loving attention and delight of our spouse? Where we would reciprocate all that our spouses gave to us? These thoughts are pleasing to a God who created human beings to love and enjoy the intimacy of sex for a lifetime, so why not think intimate (even sexual) thoughts with the God/Man who promised to return so He could wed His Bride.

 Most of my adult life, I wouldn’t have dared to entertain this kind of thinking. I would have thought it to be evil, sinful and lustful. The fact that I would even spark the idea of having sex with Jesus, even though He will someday be my husband, would not have occurred to me. If it did, I would not have been able to share it with a single soul. I surely would have been excommunicated from my church. It was in therapy where I learned to visualize, breathe, and allow awareness to become the focus of thoughts that could calm my troubled heart and turn me to the only One who could satisfy my every need. This is still a work in progress and always will be, but visualizations such as this, will help me during the dark days when I realize that as a bisexual Christian woman, I have God-imposed boundaries on the expression of my sexuality. He knows, He loves, He cares, and He alone will be my husband, my lover, my friend.

Undone

imagesCA3T7X6EThis is for all those who have loved someone who was off-limits to them. There is a pain so exquisite and palpable that you feel it more intimately than you have ever felt anything before. Your emotions run the gamut from sorrow to guilt to desperation. But there is one who loves you even more than your love of this person you cannot have. He loves you and me so much that He gave His own Son as a sacrifice to redeem us. He knows exactly how we feel.

Choking on the dust in my nostrils.

I cannot shake this sin.

My iniquity sticks to me, blankets me with mud.

No wonder I feel like dirt.

This filth is a living, breathing demon

Who dares to defile a child of the King.

The King watches, and waits,

Patiently, tenderly.

He does not remove my pain,

Nor does He attempt to wash me from my uncleanness.

He already has. He already has.

Porcine pleasure has me wallowing in the scum again.

As if there is an ecstasy in being covered with my own feces.

What a conundrum, this.

I am white as snow, but not here, below.

There are apparently parts of me that must be continually destroyed.

So I wrestle with the Unseen for release of my spirit.

My soul is held in bondage by the idols that caress and lick my wounds.

The flesh must go or my impurity remains.

For I am dead to sin, and yet sin feels very much alive in me.

What? I am confused. He is immutable.

He stalks the stalker,

Pours oil of healing on the heads of the perverted.

This God of mine who created pure desire,

Has left me without excuse.

How I long for that forbidden fruit!

That which I have no right, nor have I contested and won.

But that which is apart from nature to soothe and comfort

For what I have lost.

What seed was planted within me that I should want this thing?

Is not His compassionate stroke enough?

Did there grow inside my mind this insidious beast?

That glory of sameness to which calls me retreat?

What evil has captured my idolatrous heart

And spun it to the ground?

Did God create me to slither and grovel?

Oh that redemption would find me in this pit!

“Create in me a clean heart O God;

And renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence;

Take not your Holy Spirit from me.” (Ps. 51:10-11)

Rest

bird_at_waterfall

From my reading today in Streams of the Desert, by L.B. Cowman:

“Two painters were once asked to paint a picture illustrating his own idea of rest. The first chose for his scene a quiet, lonely lake, nestled among mountains far away. The second, using swift, broad strokes on his canvas, painted a thundering waterfall. Beneath the falls grew a fragile birch tree, bending over the foam. On its branches, nearly wet with the spray from the falls, sat a robin on it’s nest. The first painting was simply a picture of stagnation and inactivity. The second, however, depicted rest.”

I always start my day with what I consider to be both rest and rejuvenation at the same time. I have an early appointment with my Creator in which I hope to lean into Him a little harder, learn about Him a little smarter and allow His light to shine ahead of me so I follow Him a little more bravely. Since I am human, I do this more in theory than in practice, in spite of the fact that I rarely miss my morning appointment. Some days, I simply hope to find rest.

I am learning that life simply does not go the way we plan. It does not matter whether we are male, female, white, black or any other color, healthy, sick, rich, poor, privileged, underprivileged. We all have this in common. We are broken and we live in a broken world. But here is the secret I think the second painter wants us to realize. We can experience rest among the turmoil, and in fact, that is where we will experience it the most. But it comes with a price. The price of letting go and trusting Someone much higher than ourselves.

I like what the Proverbs 31 women, Girlfriends in God,  have to say about this topic of trust and rest.

“Truth is always the basis for trust and trust is always the basis for rest. We rarely take time to stop, be still and listen, allowing His truth to soak into our hearts and minds where trust and faith grow strong on a steady diet of truth. As a result, our faith is weak and rest is hard to find. When we learn to sit at the feet of Jesus, we will know Him better, trust Him more and find the rest we so desperately crave. Clarity of purpose and right focus will come. And that, my friend, is the cornerstone of a life in balance.”