Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The world's claws

Good morning, God.

I read this:
'I was not created to marry, have children, work a good job, and be comfortable financially, but I was created to be with God for all eternity... A good way to determine if the world has its claws in you is to ask yourself whether or not you would want to die today... Today I am working on true faith in God, knowing if God took me to be with Him that He would take care of my wife and my boys because he loves them more than I do.
It made me think. 

It made me uncomfortable. It made me defensive. What's wrong with marrying? Having children? Working and being comfortable financially? All these things are not inherently bad... Can't I be what I was created to be while still being those things? And then...

Last summer I found a lump in my breast and the doctor thought that a biopsy would reveal bad news. He told me so. I came home and planned my funeral. It's saved in the 'documents' file on my computer. That night I sat alone in the kitchen after the children had gone to bed and I cried and cried and cried. I trembled and I yelled out to you in my heart not to take me home just yet. Running through my head were devastating thoughts that I wouldn't see my daughters grow up, marry, have children. I wouldn't be writing them letters at university. I wouldn't be going on holidays with my husband when the children were all grown up. I would never do the things that I wanted to do with my life; things I thought that you wanted me to do. It was all coming to an end. 

And I was devastated. How would my girls manage without a mummy? How would my husband cope with working and caring for them?

At no point did I find peace and comfort in thinking that if you took me to be with you, then you would take care of my husband and the girls because you love them more than I do. In fact, I didn't think much about coming to be with you at all. I was completely focused on what I perceived that I was leaving behind. This must have told you an awful lot about where my focus is. 


So the world has its claws in me, does it? How does a person really manage to be in this world but not of it?  Does the guy who wrote that little quote honestly have such an open handed grip on his life that he could genuinely step away from the things he holds most dear without a backward glance? 

I love you, Lord. You know I do. There are times when I know that I don't belong here; when it's blatantly obvious that I don't fit in. I know that there is a place where I won't be plagued by anxiety, frustration, confusion and fear. I know that when I come to be with you then I will be more alive than I am right now. I know that where you are is a place of perfect peace where self consciousness and grief and loneliness don't exist. When I sing in church and the angels join in, when I read something and I hear you loud and clear, when I see a special sunrise or a rainbow or ice crystals or a dragonfly my soul swells and reaches out for you. But when it came to the crunch last year I hung onto the world with both hands. It wasn't a decision, it was an instinct.

Let your light shine
So the world has its claws in me. Is this a spiritual maturity sort of thing? Will I grow into a person who holds life so lightly?  Life is so full; so many people need me (do they? Would they manage without me?); so many things need doing (but must they be done by me?); there are so many things that I have yet to do with my life (are there? Surely that's up to you...) Surely I haven't finished yet. Maybe that's why I'm not ready. 

Now I know that I'm being hard on myself. Anyone would tell me that. I don't know of anyone who has their eyes so focused on you that they can live fully in this world while being totally wholehearted about the next. But then, I don't know, do I? I don't know people's private griefs, or the state of their hearts. I don't ask questions like that. But you know the state of my heart and I want it to please you.

A few months ago a friend and neighbour of mine died. He knew he was going to die, and he had peace. The magnitude of that struck me powerfully at the time, and still does. The defensive voice in my head tells me that maybe it all looks different from a hospital bed with a prognosis like my friend's - I don't know. So much I don't know. But he had peace. He had a lifetime of knowing you and loving you and when he arrived at the threshold of your Kingdom, it seems to me that he stepped over it without a backward glance. 

Lord, I don't have anything as valuable as you, but knowing that doesn't stop me looking around me longingly. I can do nothing for you at all that you need, and yet I long to do something with my life that honours you. I know full well, in my head, that all the things that I hold tightly clenched in my fists here in this life are small and transitory and trivial in comparison with the treasure that you offer me. I know. I am surrounded by people to whom I turn for help or advice before I turn to you. I am surrounded by stuff that pleases me more than it should. I have plans that are definitely my plans. I don't hear you as much as I might because I haven't learned to listen that well. 

I have some way to go, don't I? 

I want my priorities to be in the right order. I want you to come first, but it's a constant battle. You know the state of my heart, don't you? I don't want to be so hung up on my motivation for everything that I can't get anything done or decided or considered without wading through a load of angst. I over-think and I over-analyse.

So my conclusion is that you know me. You know me through and through and still you love me. I am sure that there are times when you are pleased with the progress I'm making; sometimes I can feel your pleasure. There are times when you are not so pleased and you want me to pick myself up and try again instead of lying beating the floor with my heels and wailing about how unfair everything is. There are times when you nudge me back into line in no uncertain terms. I know that you love me for who I am, not what I will be, what I do or what I think. I know that you care about me right now, imperfect and anxious and tying myself in knots. 

So that's what I give you. All I can do is lay it down as it is now and invite you to come and change what you want changing.

I'm going to come home to be with you one day. Maybe this afternoon, maybe in forty years time, maybe somewhere in between. You know when and where and how. In the meantime, you have a Plan for me and I pray for wisdom and discernment so that I can fathom the next step. The next step. The next step. I trust that you're going to change my heart day by day, moment by moment, so that all fits into place as I grow into the person you want me to be. My timing would have you do it all today, right now, but you know best. Little voice in my head whispering 'but...but...but...', shut up. He does know best. 

So give me more faith, Lord. What the author above refers to as 'True Faith'.  The sort that shows you to the people around me; so that when they look at me they see you. Build on the foundations that you've established, God. Make them strong enough to withstand the gales and the storms. Build tall and beautiful so that people can see. Show me how to unhook the world's claws while still appreciating the wonders and blessings with which you've filled that same world.

I'm a work in progress. I'm not finished, am I? Help me to take each day as it comes and fight each battle as it arises instead of looking ahead to where someone else says I should be and feeling defeated. I am so, so blessed with all that I have around me - my family, my friends, my home, food and drink and warmth and a Bible and a pen and a computer and a little fluffy ladybird thing in which my phone sits that makes me smile. What about that? 

I don't want to be dissatisfied and discontented, but nor do I want to live as though this is all there is. I know that it isn't the case. 

There is so much more. As they say these days: So. Much. More. 

Lord, make my heart more like yours. Give me your vision, your words. 

Let your light shine. 

Travis Verge, Walking in Shadows 2008, Anomalos Publishing

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