Thursday, 23 September 2010

(A Sick Woman)

     Luke tells this story. It begins with a crowd, full of expectation of what Jesus would do and say. And into the midst of this crowd runs a desperate father named Jairus. His only daughter, who was only about twelve year's old, was dying. Jesus responds, and follows Jairus through the streets. As He walks, I imagine they are walking at quite a pace. But the crowds are making it difficult, they are pressing about Him on all sides....
    ....I then read these words, 'And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.' These words make me pause. This woman had lived in isolation and shame because of her sickness. Her pain kept her in a place of devastating aloneness. What she suffered from was not acceptable to be around. Blood was unclean. She was dirty and unheal-able. For twelve years she was told (and no doubt told herself) again and again, 'You must remain in seclusion. You cannot be made well and whole. You cannot be free.'
The words and the silence, the shame and the disgrace, wearing down the last vestiges of her strength. 

     Then, somehow, she hears of this Man. This Miracle-Working Man, who has set people free time and time again. Perhaps it was the stories of the lepers (also excluded and isolated in their unacceptable pain), or maybe it was the blind beggar who was thrown out of the synagogue for defending Jesus' healing power. Whatever it was, it called to her downtrodden and seemingly faithless heart. It spoke of HOPE. And it was this Living Hope, this Word of Life, that drew her out of her isolation and depression. It called so firmly and overwhelmingly that she left her place of hidden shame and stepped outside. She broke the law. She went against the conventions of religion and society and showed herself, vulnerable in her sickness and pain. In a faith of desperation she steps out. 
    Not only does she step out, but she reaches out. She touches the very edge of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stops. Jesus stops. He, in a persistent and intentional voice asks, 'Who touched me?'. People denied it; His disciples questioned the sanity of His inquiry. But Jesus remained persistent, 'Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.'
    It is then that this woman, trembling, steps forward again. She knew in this moment she couldn't go unnoticed (so great was her sickness, and how obvious was her healing!)....But how scared she was still. Imagine. This crowd must have been overwhelming to someone who had been in isolation for twelve years. With an irregularly beating heart, still reeling (and possibly still overwhelmed in her unbelievable healing), she came forward and fell at Jesus' feet. And then in an act of incredible bravery she tells, 'in the presence of all the people', why she had come out from her pain and touched Jesus' cloak.....and how she was healed. Then Jesus says some of the most beautiful words anyone can hear. He says, 'Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.' He calls this woman, who to everyone else was a stranger to Him,....He calls her daughter and He imparts a peace into her heart that completes the healing. A peace she's never known before. The beauty and depth of these words overwhelms me.

    Sometimes I think we feel like what we struggle with is not acceptable. We tell ourselves, 'I should know better. I shouldn't have to struggle with this. Why is this affecting me?'....I know that in myself there's a constant dialogue. It speaks of a standard of perfection that I try to live up to. And when I constantly fall short, when the hidden pains and sicknesses of my heart surface, I feel guilty. Guilty that I (I of all people?) struggle. I should be over this, shouldn't I? I feel unheal-able.

    But oh what lies those words are! What poisonous, deadly words those are that we can choose to listen to in the solitary moments and times of waiting in our lives. So it is then in a desperate act of vulnerable faith that I must step out. I have heard whispers and stories of the Healer....that His hands are gentle and humble and able to heal. All the same, it's scary, it's hard to admit your sickness and brokenness.....But the abandonment of self in that moment enables the freedom and healing of Jesus to rush into my life. 

    Yet we sometimes can't stop at stepping out (of the boat, of the house,....), but we have to then reach out. Ask, seek, AND knock.  And then we have to step out again. Do you know what gives me the faith to step out, ask, and to be persistent, though? It's what happens right after this story. Right after this woman is healed, a man comes up to Jesus and Jairus to say, 'Your daughter is dead....don't bother the teacher anymore.' And do you know? Jesus goes anyway. He says, 'Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed'.  Jairus, having just seen a healing, decides to believe Jesus. And the daughter was raised from the dead. Jesus isn't 'bothered' by our sickness. He isn't 'bothered' in the matter of our healing. HE CARES. Oh how He cares.

    I don't pretend to know how healing works all the time, nor do I believe in a formula. But all I do know is this....I have caught a glimpse of this Man. This Miracle-Working, Word of Life, Living Hope....And He tells me to trust. He tells me to 'always pray and not give up' (Luke 18). He tells me that I will look back on this time and wonder, 'Why did I not trust and rest in You?' He longs to heal me, to bring me into freedom....Jesus? Help me to trust You.

'I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
    for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is Your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for Him."
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him,
    to the one who seeks Him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.'
(Lamentations 3:19-26).

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Consolation of My Soul.

Sometimes I can't measure the journeys and secret pathways that God leads me on. Sometimes that's frustrating. Do you ever feel like the thing you've been holding out for might never come to pass? That you'll be forever in this waiting, hidden and unable to move forward? I can see the future, that 'city of promises', but how do I get there? What am I supposed to be doing? What should I be doing?.....Do. Do. Do.

So here I am. A year later. Still no job. Still nothing to sink my hands into. Still waiting. 

I turn inward asking myself how I've grown and what progress I've made....and it's all rather fuzzy. Like a photo that's out of focus. And maybe that's the point? It's not finished yet. I can't really quantify what this past year has done in my heart, soul, and mind. But somehow I feel it's bigger than that. It's about sitting at His feet, and resting. Worshipping. Sometimes it isn't about the service that we can give, and what we can do....sometimes He wants us all to Himself. I feel like He's always convicting me of this. Christ's gentle hand comes down on my shoulder and He stops me saying, 'Sit down, my dear. Tell me about your day.'

But even with the knowledge that Jesus is here, that I can hear His voice, anxiety grows within me. Tenseness comes. The worries of life press down upon me. I cry out....

'Come Thou down unto me, come and replenish me early with Thy comfort, lest my soul faint for weariness and dryness of mind. This (grace) alone is my strength; this alone giveth counsel and help. This is stronger than all enemies, and wiser than all the wise. Thy grace is the mistress of truth, the teacher of discipline, the light of the heart, the solace in affliction, the banisher of sorrow, the expeller of fear, the nurse of devotion, the mother of tears.' 
(Thomas a Kempis) 

I've been pondering a lot this past wee while about the emptying of the self, so that the presence and fullness of God Himself can come rushing in. Throughout the day, whenever my heart races or my mind is crushed with the seemingly impossibilities of my circumstances, He has been whispering to me, 'Breathe, my daughter. Breathe. Abide in me, and I will abide in you. Dwell in my rest, and accept my calm.'

'My daughter, the more thou canst go out of thyself, so much the more wilt thou be able to enter into me. As to be devoid of all desire of external things, produceth inward peace, so the forsaking of ourselves inwardly, joineth us unto God...Follow thou me: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Without the Way, there is no going; without the Truth, there is no knowing; without the Life, there is no living. I am the Way, to which thou oughtest to follow; the Truth, which thou oughtest to trust; the Life, which thou oughtest to hope for. I am the Inviolable Way, the Infallible Truth, the True, the Blessed, the Uncreated Life. If thou abide in my way, thou shalt know the Truth, and the Truth shall make thee free, and thou shalt attain eternal life.'
(Thomas a Kempis) 

It's the accepting that's hard, though, isn't it? Sometimes I find the love of the Father too great. Too glorious. And the love of those He's placed about me is too overwhelming.....Why is it so hard to accept? Perhaps that's a question for another time.

'His will is our peace: it is the sea
    into which all currents and streams
    empty themselves, for eternity.'
(Dante Alighieri)

When Anxiety is Great Within Me....

Heart-tenseness swallows my sight as
My rigid limbs refuse to obey commands;
Furrowed brows of lost pathways
Through the mind's agitated rememberings.

My throat closes over, restricting
Breaths, shallow in the heat of thought
Swirling, whirling, twisting, falling,
Dark. Yet ever awake and watchful.

Tired eyes strain to glimpse a ray,
Hope traded on the market of fear,
Cheaply consumed; compressed, confused.
Anxiety? Why have you beset me?

I want to melt in to nothingness;
To turn away from this path,
My heart sick with hopelessness.
I feel betrayed, forgotten, alone.

'So did I,' whispers the still,
Quiet Voice. Gentle. Humble.
'In the night of my soul,
The cup was (too) bitter.'

'But in three suns' and moons' distance
Life came pouring into my fibre.
The crushing power of peace
Restored the muchness of me.'

'I AM (who was the I WAS and 
Will be the I WILL BE)
Able, un-overwhelmed, victorious.
And that same muchness is  yours, eternally.'

....Your consolation brings joy to my soul (Psalm 94:19).