Monday, September 23, 2013

Letting go of goals....


It's interesting the way a movie can move me, make me introspective and pensive.   The Horse Whisperer was one of those movies.  And not for the way that it would seem.  Sure it asks the question about love and choosing love and do we even choose who we fall in love with.  What is the moral decision for the heroine to make?  When trying to decide between two good men, is there a wrong decision? (Actually, there IS as it will have a dramatic effect on her family)  But that's not what got me thinking.

The scenery in the movie is breathtaking.  But what is equally awe inspiring is the contentment with which the family lives their lives.  Into their routine, seemingly mundane ranch lives comes this very cosmopolitan woman.  A woman of obvious breeding.  Well traveled.  I'm sure, to their untraveled eye, she looks and seems exotic.  Maybe a bit of a fantasy.  But in reality, it is this visitor who longs for what this family has.  She appreciates, as do I, the contentment they enjoy.  Sure, they have imaginations and longings for travel and the unknown.  Dreams of visiting exotic places.  Who doesn't?  But it doesn't drive their lives.  They are content to live their lives with a simple appreciation for what God has given them and an equally simple but moving realization that their ARE those less fortunate.  And you can't help but get the impression that when they meet those less fortunate, they are quick to help, even if it costs them.

I've referenced this quote by Conrad Hilton, because it seems like that's how we are encouraged to live our lives.  Both in the family of God and without.  Constantly driven.  Driven to pursue our dreams.  Driven to build something great.  Do something great for God.  Keep moving forward. Do something that has eternal impact.  It can be exhausting just reading through inspirational quotes that keep driving us forward, ever forward.  We're admonished never to settle.  We EXPECT the best because we DESERVE the best.   And we're led to believe that contentment only comes as the reward for accomplishing something not simply taking up space on this planet.

But everything in me rejects this the way my body rejected some bad meatballs I ate a couple of months ago:  almost violently!  I find that I want to RUN from this kind of thinking.  I'm tired of goal setting.  Of believing that my life has to MEAN something for me to find meaning.  That I have to DO something great.  That my very existence must be justified and my oxygen must be paid for by my relentless intentions and purposeful actions.

We tend to overlook those in the Bible who lived a quiet life.   Who worked with their hands, minded their own business and loved their brothers and sisters.  Rather, we are prodded by our church leaders to make a difference.  To be driven by a purpose and to live our lives with a purpose.

And what is the purpose of our lives?  From everything I've read from the Bible, our purpose is simply to love God.  With all our heart. With all our mind.  With all our might.  And how does He say to do this?  He says, "Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."  I think it's just LOVE (as if there is such a thing as JUST love!  What else is there besides love?).   Loving those whom God moves through your path.  Loving those who are mean to us.  Showing kindness to everyone, most especially the ones who seem to deserve it the least.  Loving the life God has given us and living in gratitude for what we have not working our tushes off for what we don't.  Of seeing the value and the beauty in the lovely act of BEING a child of God and realizing that in that alone our cup runs over.

So, today, I am content.  I'll say to myself tomorrow, "I am content".  And the next day and the next.  I'm entering into the rest that my Savior promised me.  I don't need goals.  My gifts aren't made for goals, but for the delight of my father and the needs of my neighbors.  There is no success.  There is no failure.  There is a simple rest, delight, comfort and contentment just in BEING.  Godliness (which my husband reminded me that God takes care of) with contentment (my resting in the first part) is great gain.  (Read)


Sunday, September 15, 2013


Yesterday, my husband said one of the nicest things he could possibly say to me.  He said, "You know, if you don't want to go to church tomorrow, I understand.  It's going to be really crowded and if you want to stay home, that's cool."  BINGO!  Permission!  I find that I'm someone who feels like they need permission for just about everything.  Wearing white in the winter?  If I can find a fashion expert who's done it, that's my permission.  Not enjoying "church" (well, I don't need permission to feel what I feel, but I guess I look for permission to act on it)? I'm thrilled when I read or hear someone confidently speak about their faith AND their issues with "church".  So yesterday, I had that much longed for permission NOT to participate in something that I'm not excited about AND kind of feel like a hypocrite attending.

Today is a "big day" at our church.   A huge crowd is expected and I couldn't be less enthused.  Even this morning as I lay in bed reading, I could feel a twinge of guilt.  How could I not be over the moon excited to see "God at work"?  How could I not want to be a part of that?  What will people think that I'm not there?  Lemme just park it here for a minute.  That last one is really the biggest deal for me, if I'm being totally and completely honest with myself and everyone else.  What will my fellow church members think when they see my husband there and not me?  Will they feel bad for him that his wife "not with the program" or not on "fire for God" (how I loathe that phrase)?  Will they see me as a potential ministry?  Will they question whether or not I really have "got it" in terms of salvation?  I wish I were at the point where the opinions of others don't matter to me, but I'm not there.  I'm ashamed that I'm not there, but there it is.

But the more I lay in bed and read words of grace by Robert Capon, the more I felt permission.  In fact, the more I GAVE myself permission.  Permission to just be me.  Permission to feel what I feel and not over analyze it or even analyze it at all.  Permission to freely admit the truth about me TO myself.  Permission to NOT smack on my "church" face and get with the program.

The fact is, I can/could get bitter.  I can (and sometimes do) ruminate on my life in fundamentalism and it can really piss me off!  And that being pissed off can turn to bitterness.  I taste in my present church a flavor that I tasted in fundamentalism.  If you've ever tasted the distinct bite of cilantro (an experience that puts senses taste and smell simultaneously) then you'll always recognize when a dish contains it.  That's what I sense in my church experience now.  It's a flavor of fundamentalism.   Unlike cilantro (which I LOVE), it's making me turn up my nose like someone just boiled eggs.  It evokes memories of sermons admonishing me to "Do something great for God!!" or "Get on fire for God!" and all the fear and self loathing that came with that.  Because, (and I am almost scared to type this), what if it doesn't matter to me to do something great for God?  (Did I really just survive typing that?  No bolt of lightening?)  What if, after so many years of squinting my eyes and bearing down real hard like I'm trying to give birth, I just can't make myself understand what it means to be "on fire for God" or "sold out for Jesus" or "all in".  Those phrases make me painfully self aware E-VER-Y minute of the day of what I'm doing or not doing.  What I'm feeling or not feeling.  Am I being spiritual enough?  Should I like watching that show?  Should I really be spending my time like this?  Would Jesus laugh at that joke?  And it just makes me NUTS!

I don't want to get bitter. In fact,  I REFUSE to get bitter!  And, oddly enough, permission seems to play a part in not heading down Bitter Boulevard.  My church doesn't need to change for me.  It doesn't need to change to suit me.  The pastor doesn't have to alter his message or direction or anything else to placate me.  And the flip side to that is that neither do I.  A pastor (any pastor) isn't the final say on God's word.  And neither am I.  And maybe we're both right or maybe we're both wrong.  But God will sort that out in His time.

This getting permission FOR me FROM me is a new thing to me.  Honestly, I've never really trusted my thoughts.  The fear of being wrong seems to plague me.  And so I tend to look to the confidence of others.  There are so many people that just seem to be certain about so many things, and I (foolishly at times) tend to trust their certainty over my doubts.  A trait that has not really served me well.  This whole permission thing is uncomfortable for me, but maybe with practice I'll become more comfortable in acting on the things and trusting the things that I hold dear.  As my kind husband says, "It's a process...."