I Should, I Must

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Strike the match. A scent, the barest whiff, of burning wood. Lay flame to wick. Spark, flicker. The darkness illuminated.

The candle of hope. Now the candle of peace.

I sit and watch the little lights shining, my mind filled with “shoulds.” If anxiety was a country then overwhelmed would be it’s president and should would be the law. Should go out and walk. (Even if it is raining. But I don’t really mind that). Should deep clean the refrigerator. Should go through all the papers in the filing cabinet. Should find a good deal on and install (by myself, of course) new flooring for the whole house.

I lost sleep last night, thinking of all the “shoulds.”

The Martha voice won’t win today. I’m tired of her. Tired of her unending demands. Yes, there’s always work to be done. And that’s kind of the point: There’s always work to be done. There’s always a chore or a project. While ignoring them is no good, neither is letting them master me.

And all too often, they do. Call it a personality mark or a sin issue, but whatever it is moves me to slip easily into workaholism, growing more and more fearful the harder I push and the more I take on. The mountains grow. The piles get bigger. No matter what I accomplish, no matter what I check off of the list, it’s never enough.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

– Augustus M. Toplady, Rock of Ages

Today I rebel – against myself. Against my natural tendencies. Against the worry and the woe, against the struggle and the strife. As soon as this publishes I will grab my iced coffee (yes, even in December because hot drinks are gross 98% of the time) and my Bible. I choose to tell Martha to shut her mouth and chill.

For it is peace I crave, the peace that is found only in the presence of the Lord. Sometimes I find that in the middle of the work, but today I turn away from the “should” and latch on to the “must.” I must curl up at His feet. I must remember that He judges me not on the carpet stains left by the previous owners that I can never get out no matter what cleaning agent or method I try. He doesn’t care about that stubborn spot on one of the shelves in the back of the fridge that remains despite my best scrubbing efforts. He doesn’t shake his finger at me if all the DVDs don’t get cataloged all at once.

He sees me through the overlay of Christ, in whom my life is hidden. Purchased at great cost. He sees me in a way that I can never manage to see myself. He takes my hand and, in the quietness and authority that characterizes the voice of His Spirit, says, “Come sit with me, little one.”

In that is peace.

My journey to faith. (15)

A Spiritual Snit

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

The preschoolers, man. The preschoolers.

They can’t sit still. I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture, but something in their little bodies makes it impossible for them to cease all motion. They don’t pay attention. Their brains just can’t focus on anything for longer than a minute. They ask the most random, non-lesson related questions I have ever heard. They’re obsessed with their shoes and whether or not they want to even be wearing them. All the really want to do is dump the bucket of legos on the Sunday school room floor and go to town.

I want to shake them all.

And then one of them prays and thanks God for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And the pretty flowers. And dogs. Another offers to share his toy with the new kid. They scribble wildly-colored designs and dream up fantastic stories. They get excited to make little presents for people and pour equal amounts of affection and snot into the projects. They are supremely confident that Jesus loves them. It’s just a fact like breathing.

I want to hug them all.

Then someone yells or there’s a disturbance in the force and we’re back to the shaking.

Teaching preschoolers is not my gift. It’s not the thing I would naturally choose to do every third Sunday. But I think sometimes God asks us to do the thing that sets our teeth most on edge.

Because it reveals something about us and about Him.

I’m a whole lot more like those preschoolers than I’d like to admit.

The insomnia began on July 31. (How sad that I can name the day). When I don’t sleep well, my anxiety worsens. My temper gets shorter. A haze clouds my vision, so to speak, and it all seems horrible. An, “I hate everything and pants” sort of moment.

I sink into a snit. Sulking in the corner. Glaring.

I just want to dump the bucket of legos on the floor and to heck with the rest of it, thank you very much.

I don’t want to pay attention. I don’t want to do the things I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t want to put forth the effort.

A spiritual toddler, for reals.

God sure does put up with a lot from me. (From us. We can be honest). He patiently, so patiently, keeps on leading, keeps on teaching. He waits when I get distracted by the shiny. He lets me play with it for a minute and then shows me that it’s not what I really want. When I sit down in the middle the road and pout, He doesn’t kick me. He doesn’t heap condemnation on my head. His Spirit speaks to my soul with a gentle, “I told you so. But we can chill here for now.”

He knows when I get heart-weary. He knows that my mind plays tricks on me. He knows that Satan’s game is to throw temptations my way and then call me names when I give in.

He defends me.

Think about that. We’re these stumbling, bumbling people trying to run with our wobbly knees and shaky ankles when we can barely walk. We don’t have very good balance. We suffer from deep spiritual ADHD. We fall and get bruised. Sometimes on accident. Sometimes on purpose and with full knowledge of the pain to come.

We cry and scream and throw things and kick up dust. We stomp our feet and say, “I don’t care! This is too hard! I don’t want to!”

Satan laughs and says, “See, God? See how much she sucks? You should shake her!”

Christ just holds up a nail-scarred hand before the Father and says, “She’s Mine. Snit and all, she’s Mine.”

The beautiful holiness of His advocacy makes me uncomfortable in the best possible way. That One so perfect and true and good would take up for me… That He would choose to embrace me when He has every right to shake the life out of me.. That He would condescend to wipe the tears and snot from my face and, say, with a smile, “Let’s try again, shall we?”

I’m not ashamed to tell you that I’m crying right now.

As they say, the struggle is real. The war between the old woman and the new woman rages inside of me.

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” – Romans 7:15 (NKJV)

And so I bow my head, indebted forever,

“…to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” – Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV)

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Alone

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

‘Tis a gift, this writing life.

‘Tis a greater gift to know writers.

Kate. The scribblers, the dreamers, the thinkers and schemers. We are: alone.

Go.

And now I’m all alone again; nowhere to turn, no one to go to.

Without a home, without a friend, without a face to say “hello” to…

“On My Own” (lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, music by Claude-Michel Schönberg)

Go.

Eponine’s famous solo from the musical Les Miserables opens with these heart-rending lines. She wanders the streets of Paris, the air thick with the electricity of impending (and doomed) revolution. Her heart aches with unrequited love for Marius (the man who stupidly falls for the vapid Cossette, for no apparent reason other than her blonde hair). Eponine pours out her anguish, her voice bouncing, echoing, off of the River Seine.

Long has this been my favorite moment.

Jean Valjean’s plaintive “Bring Him Home” never fails to stir the audience. The (spoiler alert) death scene at the very end makes me cry every time. But there’s something about Eponine. Something about this woman, to whom life has been so cruel, that pulls at my soul.

Perhaps it is because I am well-acquainted with aloneness. After being in a crowd for longer than ten minutes, I crave it. Stop the noise, the smells, the jostling. Just let me be.

Yet this can be a dangerous thing. It can be more than aloneness.

How quickly loneliness moves in.

For months now I have been slowly isolating myself. Little by little. Choice by choice. Familiar enemies, sorrow and anxiety, wrapped me tighter and tighter in the softest of blankets. Lulled me into a place of numbness – until the numbness suddenly burst into a pain too great to bear.

There were no faces to say “hello” to, for I had turned them away. Out went the plea to my friends. Please understand and accept my strangeness. Please come to my house, eat chocolate and make fun of Donald Trump. I love you even if I can’t figure out how to say so.

This is the struggle of my life. This is the double-edged sword. I’m an off-the-charts introvert and there’s no doubt I need time to myself. I need to be able to process or just stare blankly at a wall. Equally do I need time with others. I need to be amongst my people, the men and women who, though far from perfect, have laughed with me, cried with me, kept me grounded. Each one is a good gift sent from the Father above.

No woman is an island.

No woman is meant to be all alone.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

I have to include a video of this gorgeous song. From the 25th anniversary concert.