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For The Days When I Don’t Love You

Dear Jesus,

This letter is for the days when I don’t love You.

For the days I don’t feel You.

For the days I can’t hear You.

This is for the days when I seriously wonder if You really love me as much as I’ve heard.

This letter is for days like today. There’s nothing really wrong but there’s nothing really right. Days like today, I miss You but don’t seem to care enough to do anything about it.

Today, I can’t accept the fact that this all feels like work. And I know, it’s supposed to be work. Relationships take work. Growth takes discipline. You never promised it would be easy like that. But days like today, knowing that doesn’t feel like enough.

Because page after page, my diary is full of entries about how I wish I loved You more. How I wish I’d love You better. Days like today are more common than I can bear to admit. But there it is. The ugly truth looming in my heart. The unbearable realization that there are so many things I love more than You.

You ask, “Do you love me?”

“Do you love me?”

A sharp pang in my heart as you ask a third time. Because I know… I know. Most days, I don’t.

So I’m asking You… is Your love enough for the days when I don’t love You?

Can Your love fill up all that is lacking on the days when I don’t love You?

Could Your love still save me on the days when I don’t love You?

If at the end of my earthly life, if at the end of my diary, all You can find are entries of wishes and hopes of loving You more, does Your grace cover all of those days?

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Warts and All

This is a repost from my original blog written on 10/14/2012

From Genesis 32:

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with human beings and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

————

In a strange turn of events, the frustration that seemed to pull me away from grace is the same thing that seems to be driving me back to the cross.

I’ve been struggling with God. Wrestling ‘till day has finally broken. My stubbornness, my arrogance, my pride refused to let grace prevail over my sinfulness. So God, in His infinite mercy, has given me a limp.

I am walking with a limp. A thorn in my side.

Because I’d rather have learned my lessons well and present myself as wiser, more mature, having beaten my issues and I no longer have to struggle because I’m that good now. I want consistency. I want to put meaning to my past struggles. I want to win.

But like a deep, puss-filled, infected wound, one treatment isn’t enough. I require repeated disinfecting and cleaning. Because if it were as easy as I wanted it to be, I would start walking without Him. I would need community less and less. Because some part of me still believes that I can achieve some sort of holiness on my own. Without really realizing it, I act like all His sacrifice, pain, and suffering endured on the Cross falls short of the atonement necessary to cover my sin. So, in part, I need to save myself.

I mean, that’s what we were brought up to believe right? If you work hard enough, you can have it all. You aren’t just given things without working for it. You get what you put in.

I’m a lot like Jacob. Worried that God won’t do what He has already promised to me. So I tried to take matters into my own hands. I tried to secure His promises with my own hands. I tried to learn my lessons well so that there would be no next time. Tried to force letting grace work in my life because I know it ought to instead of actually experiencing Christ.

My walk is anything but perfect. Anything but polished. It’s rough. There are ups and downs. Yet part of me stubbornly still wants to seem better than I am.

“It is very easy to forgive others for their mistakes; it takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed your own.”

At last, I cannot hide my limp.

Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader and later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England. It was customary back then for royalty, when having a portrait painted of them, to have it done in the best possible light, omitting much of their physical flaws. Contrary to this, Cromwell asked to have his portrait painted, “warts and all”.

Friends, here I am. Warts and all. I have wrestled with God. I am wrestling with God. And in my struggle, have been given a limp.

It’s a limp that reminds me of my arrogance. Reminds me of my inadequacy.

A limp that disables me from going too far on my own. A limp that forces me, mid-struggle, to cling tighter to the One I wrestle with.

The wrestle is exhausting. The stubbornness and arrogance that had seemed to prevent Grace from prevailing turns out to have never stood a chance against one single touch from the almighty.

And just like that I am rendered powerless, helplessly grasping on to Him.

“I will not let you go ‘till you bless me”

Hallelujah for my limp. Hallelujah for He is patient through my rebellion and struggling, only to win me over in His timing.

Hallelujah, I will not let You go.

Hallelujah, He never lets go.

Limp Puppy Dogs and My Control Issues

My dog occasionally has this problem with his hind leg. Not sure what it is though I’ve done some internet research that suggests perhaps it’s a condition called luxating patella, which is common with chihuahuas.

The reason why we haven’t brought him to a vet is because it happens rarely and he’s always fine after he relaxes. But still, seeing him hobble around so scared as to what’s happening with his legs (so much so he’ll pee where he stands) never fails to break my heart. He’s usually back to normal within a couple of minutes but I still despair in that short amount of time.

Tonight, I feel especially heart-broken to sit by and watch him hobble around scared. When he started limping, I knew it was the same little leg spaz that would go away soon. But I couldn’t help but follow him around nervously, fretting over his situation.

The worst of it all is that I want to do something to comfort him. He looked so miserable and scared. He limped around in circles sometimes stopping to look up at me almost as if he was looking to me to do something. But holding him seems to make it hurt even more. There’s something in my not-being-able-to-do-something that wrecks me so much. The fact that he can’t advocate for himself the way a human can. The fact that the most I can do is stand idly by, futilely trying to convey my love and caring presence to him.. to no avail.

I’ve been reading the book Finding Calcutta by Mary Poplin. It’s a memoir about Mother Teresa. Critics of Mother Teresa (hard to imagine that people actually had criticisms about her) often pointed out that her approach to poverty was misguided or that what she was doing was unproductive. Sort of along the lines of, “why are you feeding the poor directly instead of “teaching a man how to fish”.

The book has been teaching me faithfulness to the small things and redefining what I think is meaningful or productive. As her famous saying goes, “small things with great love.” Feeding the poor directly or caring for their immediate and specific needs may seem, in the long run, “unproductive” but in Matthew 25, Jesus claims these small things not only loving acts to the person but to Him personally.

I find this to be troubling. Troubling because I like to know that my efforts are productive. Troubling because it’s exactly the kind of faith Christianity demands: faith despite what isn’t seen: the immediate fruit of my work. Trust in His sovereignty in the midst of very real suffering.

I’m troubled because I want to feel like I have some control over suffering in this world. The delusion that I could control suffering around me was comforting because it sort of temporarily pacified that chaos I felt within. Because accepting reality is to acknowledge that life is completely and utterly out of my control and when I’m being real with myself, I’m not ok with that at all. So I relentlessly seek control without being conscious of it.

Tonight, Grace takes the form of a little puppy dog with a shotty back leg to show me my powerlessness. To show me just how deep my broken need to be able to fix everything runs. That it’s not about being able to control the suffering around me, but incarnating Christ in the midst of suffering. (I should probably take a moment to say that this post isn’t actually about me incarnating the love of Christ to my not-actually-dying puppy)

Mother Teresa’s critics might be correct in saying that what she does may not yield any worldly productive result. It won’t change anything about the system for her to sit by a dying man on a street corner in Calcutta. But to that one soul, even if just to be present and dignify him as a human being made in the image of God, perhaps Mother is incarnating the love of Christ. That sums up much of what I’m reading about Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta and Mary Poplin’s experience with the Missionaries of Charity: being present among the poorest of the poor, the dying, the ones who can’t advocate for themselves, who don’t have the means to help themselves or the ability to let you know how to help. I wonder if I could sit by the bed of the dying poor and accept the fact that I am not God.

I guess what I’m saying is: freaking out about limp puppy dogs is revealing within myself a heart that doesn’t trust God. I’ve put so much importance and trust in my own power to accomplish things but a limp puppy dismantled it so easily. Incarnating Jesus in a broken world is much less glamorous than I want it to be I think.

The question I’m asking myself tonight is: Am I willing to follow Jesus, to be his hands and feet, even if it means not be able to do anything other than performing the mediocre miracle of simply being present in suffering and incarnating the love of Christ? 

Theology of Weakness (11/26/2011)

I’m reading a book called The Emotionally Healthy Church By Peter Scazzero. The book centers around how we don’t like to live in brokenness and vulnerability. Most of us are blind to how broken we actually are or if we’re aware of our brokenness, we try to cover it up. Our culture values “strength” but we’ve wrongly attributed “strength” to battling on in life while ignoring and not dealing with our issues. When we fail to deal with our issues, we build walls. They keep people out but they also trap us within. We may become arrogant or prideful in our attempts to seem unbroken.

Learning from Paul’s Example:

Referring to the “thorn” in his side: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ 2 Cor. 12:8-9a 

Scazzero comments: “Paul did not want to lead out of weakness. He repeatedly told God, “I can’t take it.” God’s power would have been seriously diminished through Paul if he were arrogant or full of himself.

Paul’s growth in Christ parallels his increasing sense of weakness sinfulness:

  • Gal. 2:6, AD 49, After being a Christian for 14 years, He writes about the apostles this way: “As for those were held in high esteem — whatever they were makes no difference to me.” He appears proud and headstrong.
  • Six years later, AD 55 “I am the least of the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:9)
  • Five years later, “I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people.” (Eph. 3:8)
  • Finally, two year before his death and perhaps after walking with Christ for thirty years, he is able to see clearly, “I am the worst [of all sinners]” (1 Tim. 1:15)

Scazzero asks, “What happened? Paul had grown in his understanding of the love of God in the Gospel. He had become stronger in Christ by becoming weaker: ‘For when I am weak, then I am strong’” (2 Cor. 12:10).

Walking as a Cracked Pot (Also from the book)

A story I heard wonderfully illustrates this countercultural truth.

There once lived a water carrier in India. He used two large pots for his task. He suspended a pole across his neck and attached a pot at each end of the pole. One of the pots had a big crack in it while the other pot was perfect. The perfect pot always delivered a full portion of water from the stream to the master’s house, while the cracked pot arrived only half full each day.

For two years this water carrier made the same journey. The perfect pot became proud of its accomplishments. The cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfections and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. Finally,one day by the stream, the cracked pot spoke to his owner about his failure, “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize that I have only been able to deliver half my water to your house. There is a crack in my side which causes water to leak out. Because of my flaws, you don’t get the full value from your efforts.”

Then the water carrier replied, smiling, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” On that trip from the stream, the cracked pot looked around. 

“Did you notice there are flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?” the master commented. “That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we passed these spots, you watered them. Now for two years I have been able to pick those beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, I would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

It is the way God works.

I am not finished with the book yet.. but it has already ministered to me and I hope this story ministers to you as it did me.

I pray that we would learn to walk as cracked pots. As we press harder into our walk with Jesus, I pray that we would not be afraid or ashamed when our broken parts are revealed knowing that it is nothing new to our God who created us. May we embrace our handicaps and limitations as gifts and allow the Gospel of grace to free us to be able to admit where we are weak so that Christ can be strong and the power of God can flow through without our prideful disruptions.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. –2 Cor. 12:9-10

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