Blessed

Sometimes, a whisper is all that is left in my gut at the end of the day.

There are matters, at times, that leave me feeling tired, weighty and weak; because I don’t know the way out of the web I’m stuck in or have woven. Even that basic detail I can’t seem to clarify or sort out.

But, I know God knows all the inner workings of my seemingly complex problems.

And this is good.

But somehow, my flesh still feels some need to sort it all out before my eyelids close.

And this is stupid.

Why is ‘dying’ so hard?

Because this:

“The bedrock in Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possession; not decisions for Jesus Christ, but a sense of absolute futility – I cannot begin to do it. Then Jesus says – Blessed are you. That is the entrance, and it does take us a long while to believe we are poor! The knowledge of our own poverty brings us to the moral frontier where Jesus Christ works.” – Oswald Chambers

Real life requires dying first. And the enemy and my own flesh want to avoid that dying at all costs.

Because my flesh still wants to be rich and have a claim – whether it’s personal pride or desiring the good opinions of others – I easily get side-tracked on a loop of mental pretzel twists when I hit a chance to die a little more.

But, Jesus told me that I am blessed when I am poor in spirit and when I feel hated by others and when I am weak.

There is mystery in this that I am still unpacking.

Regrets of the Dying

In the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, apparently the number one regret at the end of people’s life is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

I’m pretty sure I never saw a movie where I was rooting for the protagonist to submit to the doomish, narrow opinions of others who wanted to shut down the dream.  (That would make for a pretty lame movie.)

Struggling to work out the vision God has given us amidst the real-world cast of characters that surrounds us has made it clear to me that fear has been a dominant feature in my life; let’s just say I’m not exactly ready to star as a hero any time soon.

I was never scared of spiders or of getting sick or normal day to day stuff; I’m not a wimp, generally speaking.  But, the quiet background noise of fear has penetrated my thoughts over the years, especially as I have stepped out in greater and greater faith, often prompting me to overly care about what other people think about me and causing me to feel strong guilt when I fail to live up to other’s expectations for my life.

But another book I read recently (Fear No Evil) articulated what has been forming in my mind for some time now: “Behind every fear there is a lie.”

Behind every fear there is a lie.

Fear = lie.

Fear is not of God, because perfect love casts out fear.

And so, whether I’m afraid of disappointing others, or getting ‘too weird’, or being totally misunderstood, or fearfully wondering if I will even make it through the mess of this day (if I don’t, I suppose it will prove the critics right, I am in over my head), I’m learning that all that anxious thinking is at best unproductive and at worst massively destructive.

Why do I mess with fear?  Why is it so hard to punch it in the face and just get over it?

It recently occurred to me that of my closest circle of friends in elementary school, I am the only one with children.  The others are doing marvelous, meaningful and glamorous things with their lives.  Yet, it struck me afresh that what will last is the life we build.  Our ideas and art and efforts will endure a season or two or five, but children carry the spirit of life into the next generation, to a place I will never go.

This crazy work of cleaning up goobery faces, waiting out tantrums, matching 8 million socks again, and clearing mold specimens out of the containers at the back of the fridge, is all for a greater purpose: life beyond me, life beyond here.

And that’s the dream we have, essentially: Life, abundantly; life free in Jesus.

Honestly, I don’t know where our story is going, but how can I be afraid of a dream like that, a dream that is woven through scripture like a perfect golden thread?  There’s no fear in that, only victory.

Fog vs. Freedom

As a mother, I have a {metaphorical} blazing target on my back.

I’m fair game to the one who hates my God, because I would dare to lay down my life for others, embrace love, and press into the Holy One.

What utterly confounds the enemy is that I would seek to know the power of God through the fellowship of His suffering, as opposed to bathe in waves of self-centered loathing/delight with my selfish self.

The Thief can’t handle this kind of thing; he can’t handle mothers. 

The very essence of a mother is love, sacrifice and hope.  The enemy abhors this goodness, so, he aims to wreck us; sometimes in big ways, but sometimes in little, endless, drip, drip, drip ways.

There are times, there are days, where I seem to hit a wall of dense fog; could be at any moment, but I’ll walk right into one.  And, boom, I’m down, choked by a stream of dark head-talk, and I’m overwhelmed with unbelief and fear and anxiety… wondering what on earth I am doing, and can I really handle it, and I need help with some of this load, and there must be a better way, and how do I respond to ‘problem x’, and are my efforts and dreams even worthy, and how do I face that ‘y’ situation again, and will I ever get the rest I need?

This fog gets me off course fast; my eyes sink into my own self and I choke on the immensity of my situation.  At this point, the enemy has me positioned right where he wants me: focused on myself and my weakness and the freakiness of the whole overwhelming world.

I sensed that fog, that cloud of oppression, walked right into, and then believed it.  I permitted my mind to agree with the darkness, and allowed unbelief and fear to fog over my vision.  Though my position in Christ remained secure, my flesh took the bait.

But, little by little, as these fogs roll over me, I’m fighting back:

“No, fog {lies}, you are not my problem.  I am free and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I have put my hope in God Almighty and I will not fear.  There is no fear in love!”

Then I stop the mind tapes; I just force them to stop rolling.  I rebuke the garbage fog and press into love.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. -1 John 4:18

On the deep, beautiful inside of us, we who know Christ, have already been perfected in love.  Fear is no longer our master.  We are fully, fundamentally, forever free from that bondage, though the Thief will assault us daily, hourly to agree to carry baggage that is no longer our own.

He’s got a millstone around his neck and he wants to wrap it around mine too.

I won’t have it.

I’m free in the midst of all this messy chaos of family life, because my spirit is fully equipped for every challenge and my eyes are on God who is my ever-present hope.  I just have to remember to see through the fog, instead of embracing it.