Thursday, April 30, 2015

On Grapefruits, Disillusionment, and Seeking the One Thing

Sometimes my purse gets overloaded with stuff. My husband and I have an ongoing joke about it, which started with a funny misunderstanding years and years ago.

I asked my husband to hand me my grapefruit. He asked where it was and I said, "I can't find it. I think it is in my purse." What he heard was, "I think it is in my purse but I can't find it." The image, of course, being that my purse was so full of junk that I couldn't even find a grapefruit in there. To this day, no matter what he needs to dig out of my purse, he will always (and I mean always) say that it was somewhere in there under the grapefruit.

I no longer carry a purse large enough to house a grapefruit (though an orange or apple has been seen bulging out the sides), but my bag can still get chock full of stuff and it gets heavy and burdensome and I can't find anything I need. At that point I really just have to dump it out, sort out the junk, and put back the important stuff. I don't really need the 27 grocery receipts or 9 pens. Nor do I need the half-rotten apple, the baggie of graham cracker pieces, or the melted Hershey's Kiss stuck to a penny. But I do need my wallet. My lockbox key. My allergy and migraine meds. (And perhaps an unmelted Hershey's Kiss, still in its wrapper.)

Sometimes you just need to sort things out. To get down to the basic necessities. That sorting is especially essential when the junk is getting in the way.

That is what I think disillusionment is. Junk getting in the way.

I know many people who are disillusioned right now. And by that I mean disillusioned with the church and with the current expression of Christianity as we know it in our culture. And to be honest, I am one of them.

My disillusionment has been building for years but has now hit critical mass. It is more obvious to me when I am in environments that seem to heap more and more stuff into my already overstuffed bag. The ways we should be and the things we should do. The words we should say, the gifts we should have, the hoops we should all jump through. The ways we should vote. The causes that should garner our attention. The ways we should relate to our children, our friends, our coworkers, our enemies. And just the right doctrine. Always the right doctrine.

I am worn out. I can't carry this bag any more. It is so full of so much stuff that I have lost the ability to find the things I need. So I am dumping. I am dumping it all out and looking through everything and putting back the good stuff. The necessary stuff.

A long, long time ago, way before the grapefruit/purse incident, there were a couple of ladies. They had an important guest in their home and one of the ladies was busy doing all the right things. I am sure she would be praised for her industry and her conscientiousness and her servant's heart. She might even be applauded for her organizational skills and her hospitality and her appreciation of beauty. She might even have killer cooking skills. She was getting things done and grew irritated with her sister, who was not helping at all.

Instead, her sister was sitting with the guest. Soaking up his wisdom. Basking in his presence.

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10-41-42

"Only one thing is needed."

When my relationship with God, when the life he has called me to live, becomes too burdensome, it might be because I have too much in my bag. It is time to dump things out, sort out what is needed. Lighten the load.

"Only one thing is needed."

Mary sat at Jesus' feet. She was not chastised by Jesus for not jumping through all the right hoops.

"Only one thing is needed."

May God give me wisdom to stick with that one thing.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Unfamiliar Paths

When we lived in town we had a neighbor a few streets away who was legally blind. He could see fuzzy shades of light and dark, but nothing else. He walked by our house every day. A known path.

I would imagine that the familiarity brought comfort and certainty in a world where he would otherwise be quite lost. Those bumps in the road and cracks in the sidewalk were his friends, telling him how far he had gone and how far he had to go. He knew what to expect when he got to the top of the hill or when he got closer to the dull roar of traffic on the main road. The familiar path was his lifeline to a safe and secure existence.

I cannot imagine how completely disorienting and even terrifying it would have been for him to be plunked down in a place he that he did not know and told to take a path he had never walked. How every step would be uncertain. How every turn would bring the unknown. How he would have no way of knowing how much longer before he reached his destination or even if he were going the right way at all.

It is hard to lose your beaten path, your known way in the world. It is disorienting. Uncertain.

Sometimes that comes with the loss of a job, a career, a home, a friendship, a marriage, a life.

How do you move forward? Where are you even going?

There were times in this past year that I said that I felt like the Israelites in the desert, but with no pillar of smoke by day or fire by night to guide me. And no parting waters before me.

Yet God says this:

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, 
  along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; 
I will turn the darkness into light before them 
  and make the rough places smooth. 
These are the things I will do; 
  I will not forsake them.     -     Isaiah 42:16

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known.

There are times when I am too blind to see the pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. This is taking utter dependence to an entirely different level.

Along unfamiliar paths I will guide them. 

My blind friend would know the terror of being on that unfamiliar path. Yet I know that terror, too. Many of us do.

How do you move forward when everything in your life has changed, sometimes gradually, sometimes in the blink of an eye?

How do you move forward when you have no idea where your next paycheck is coming from? Or when you have no idea what God wants you to do with your life? How do you move forward when all you worked for is gone? When dreams are crushed and hopes dashed? How do you move forward when your trust has been betrayed? How do you move forward when you have seen your husband snatched from this life before your very eyes?

I would imagine that you must take the hand of one who knows where they are going. Someone that you trust.

Absolute, utter, complete dependence.

Terrifying? Yes.

But he will not forsake you. He says so.