[Quick context…Michelle Stavens aka Meesch is the spark to Lauren’s Letters. She is the youth coordinator at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Fort Worth and has built the ministry into a loving community of people founded on Jesus Christ. I was fortunate to be a part of the group for two years and upon leaving, Meesch asked what I thought about writing letters to stay connected to the group describing what God was teaching me in this next season of life pursuing professional soccer. I was all for it, and it wasn’t too long until it bloomed into this blog. So thank you Meesch, and I hope you all enjoy!]
I have been home for exactly 5 months and 3 days. Way longer than I had ever anticipated. Way better than I ever expected.
I thought I knew quite a bit about how things worked, about God and about myself. Turns out what I do know is probably equivalent to less than a grain of sand. Maybe smaller still because Jesus says the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a mustard seed and “though smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade” (Mark 4:31-32). Maybe it is better to know little. It seems that the growing takes a lot of unlearning, so maybe knowing less means enduring less of the discomfort of unlearning. Pastor Tony Evans says that growth means confronting imperfections. Jesus came to eat with the sinners, not the righteous. There is an element of agony about confronting imperfections and that’s why it often seems easier and better to be ignorant of them. Being ignorant doesn’t allow growth though. We don’t know what we don’t know. Dismissing the reality of ourselves leaves us disillusioned and floating. Feeling deeply is better than barely feeling. This can all be head knowledge, though, unless we get a taste of it as truth. I got a large dose being home, and the taste remains unmistakably on my tongue.
I had to confront some demons coming home. The demon of how I treated my dad when he was sick and how I perceived my family as faulty. The demon of how I viewed the parish I grew up in and how I felt I was fed the dos and donts of Christianity over the love of Jesus Christ. The demon of legalism and superiority. The demon of counting deficiencies as unlovable. These are a mere sample but are the big hitters. I did and still do have a hard time reconciling the good and evil inside of me. I did and still do have a hard time seeing myself and others as whole people, not defined solely by the moments of good we tap into nor condemned by the moments we fall into evil. This makes me think of Peter especially. Peter rightly tells Jesus that He is the Son of God when Jesus asks who Peter says He is. Jesus tells Peter that he is blessed because it is not flesh and blood that reveals this to him, but the Father in heaven. He gives Peter the keys to the kingdom.
OK dang, we see you Peter.
Just being totally transparent, I am sure I would have been envious of Peter in this moment. It is not quite a paragraph later in the Gospel that Peter revolts to Jesus telling the whole group of disciples He is going to be persecuted and killed. It seems reasonable and even righteous that Peter would be opposed to this, caring about Jesus and desiring justice. However, Jesus reprimands Peter telling him, “get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but man.” Jesus calls the man He gave the keys of the kingdom to, Satan… what? This truly blows my mind. But Peter is a man, and as a man, he is liable to be a stumbling block. It is inevitable. Check this out though.
Jesus Himself on the cross before He gives up His spirit says, “my God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” Surely Jesus remembers what He had been telling His disciples right? That the Son of Man would rise after 3 days and defeat death? Surely Jesus remembers when He was baptized, the clouds opened up and a voice said this is My Son with whom I am well-pleased? Jesus is the stone the builders rejected, a precious stone, the cornerstone, a sure foundation, a rock of offense. Surely Jesus remembers who He is?
Peter is but a man. Jesus is man and God. Even Peter knowing Jesus is the Son of God and following Him doesn’t keep him from denying Jesus three times. Moreover, the people accusing Peter of being a follower of Jesus don’t believe him when he repeats himself that he is not a follower. Peter has to change the way he speaks to try and convince them! It takes more effort for Peter to indulge fear than to let the truth of who he is rest. Jesus being man and God experiences the temptations that torment men’s souls like fear and doubt without succumbing to them. The only explanation I can come up in my extreme poverty of knowledge for why Jesus would say what He did is Jesus was indeed a man, and in the experience of great anguish, called out to His Father.
This is the picture of humanity. Fear drives us to denial and self-preservation. Anger drives us to resentment and bitterness. We all carry wounds that leave us especially guarded and thorns that when left undefended, lead us into pits we would otherwise like to avoid. All of which spills out into words. The things that defile a man come from the inside. Oh, the power of the tongue indeed. Peter had to change the way he spoke to convince the Jews of his denial of Jesus. How the tongue can both accurately and drastically inaccurately give testimony to the truth within us. How do we even dare to hold ourselves to all that we say?
This all is quite maddening to me. For one who puts great stock into words and their proper usage, it torments me they can be so mishandled. And I am one of the foremost mishandlers. Being fearful to speak leaves a wanting just as speaking incorrectly or inappropriately. I am guilty of leaving things unsaid all too often. Not trusting myself to speak and wanting too badly to say only the right things. It reminds me of Moses and his encounter with God in the cave. God tells Moses to confront Pharaoh, and he is overwhelmed with doubt about his ability to speak.
|10Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”|
God swells in might and says to Moses…
11The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12“Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”
AND MOSES STILL RESISTS. In anger, God tells Moses his brother Aaron will be his mouth, for he speaks fluently.
Gosh, it seems unimaginable why Moses would still be fearful after God straight up telling him He will teach him what to say. At the same time, I feel you Moses. The promises of Scripture are clear. We still doubt. Jesus tells His disciples over and over and over again, “do not be afraid,” yet, we are still fearful. God pitches His tent to dwell within us. We still search to be filled by things of the world. The Son of Man cries out to the Father as He bears the death we cost Him. We still feel unloved.
Confronting the imperfections and the demons and the dark corners of our soul leaves us at an impasse. Even the high octane, prideful and self-sufficient person I am knows who Jesus is, just as the most ravenous of demons. The flesh knows it cannot compete with the Son of Man. It can put up a mean fight in attempts to put off surrender, but surrender is the only end.
I am not sure I have put to surrender all the demons I have confronted while being home. Sometimes digging into my relationship with the Lord makes them angrier and seemingly more ravenous to wreak havoc on my soul. Pride seems to swell even as my desire to spend intimate time with the Lord increases. The battle rages on and the defense against the thorns of my flesh is constant. I hope to give in to God and what He tells me in His Word more often than not and to accept His grace when I fail. I hope to trust His mercy in the fight and continue to confront my imperfections, not accepting anything but growth and not being satisfied with anything but the taste of His love; in the anguish, crying out to Him, “my God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”