Recently, I've been wrestling with the Lord over some big issues in my life. As a victim of fraud and deceit, I've been wondering what justice looks like this side of heaven. With so many wars and genocide in the world, and with so much anger and hatred in my very own neighborhood, I've been questioning whether love, even Christ's love, really can prevail. And as I negotiate relationships of various kinds, I wonder whether the the fruit of the spirit will ever be ready to harvest in my life.
The Lord and I have been wrestling in lots of ways over these issues. I shout at Him in prayer; He directs me to a Psalm to remind me He's in control. I make compromises in my behavior; He brings pain and discipline to my life before I get too far off track. I weep uncontrollably; he whispers my name. I make a small step of obedience; He fills me with the joy of his presence.
Last week, I was thinking about this wrestling, how audacious it feels to be wrangling with the God of the universe. Then I recalled several of David's Psalms which seemed like a bit of cosmic grappling in their own right. "How long, O Lord?" and "Why do the wicked prosper?" I also remembered another God-wrestler who wouldn't let go of the Almighty until he got a blessing: Jacob.
The part of the story that came to me a bit later, however, was that chronic limp Jacob received after his all-night match. God gave him the blessing he asked for, but he left him with this reminder that blessings come only from the Lord and often on the heels of pain and suffering.
This wrestling I'm doing feels somehow right at this stage in life. If I weren't wrestling, I would probably be despairing or giving up. And the fact that God is fighting back, working hard to keep me engaged and involved with him, is worth whatever limp I end up with.
This is the blessing I guess I'm really looking for, after all. Just to know He's with me.
July 31, 2007
July 23, 2007
Several days ago, as I was arriving at work and just about to step into the elevator, a man who works in another office in my building arrived at the exact same moment. We each did a couple of fits and starts, trying to negotiate through body language who should go first. Then, he graciously stepped back, threw open his arm toward the elevator, and said, "You go first."
Chivalry is not dead, I started thinking to myself as I climbed on board the elevator.
Then he added, "It's the woman's burden. You always have to go first."
I laughed, mostly because I wasn't sure how else to respond to such a nonchivalrous comment. And then I said something polite and demure, like "yes, I suppose you're right."
But the comment stuck with me throughout the day, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how NOT right he was. In a world where gender roles are blurry to the point of confusion, these small social courtesies that allow for the very real differences between men and women are less a burden and more a necessity. A privilege even.
Issues of masculinity and femininity are becoming more and more newsworthy as women assume roles of leadership in politics, government, cultural and educational institutions, and religion. But the inclusion or exclusion of women from such roles does not change the definition of femininity. Or masculinity, for that matter. Who we are as men and women is something much deeper, more integral to our being.
In a time when messages about womanhood often try to persuade me to feel either exploited or empowered, and when my day to day activities as a single woman often leave me feeling genderless, I decided to be encouraged that a man would offer me a spot on the elevator first simply because I'm a lady.
Even if he didn't actually say it that way.
July 12, 2007
Recently, I was sorting through my cardboard recycling, breaking it down to take to the transfer station. As I was tearing apart boxes and flattening our cartons, it struck me how much of my life I could trace back to the remants in the recycling tub.
I found two pizza boxes from the night I took dinner over to a friend's house and ended up running around in the back yard most of the evening with her two young sons. I folded up a carry-out container from an afternoon meal with a friend from out of town. I locked my keys in the car that day, and our time together took a much different turn than we had planned. There was a Coca Cola box which once housed 12 cans of pop, and it struck me as out of place since I don't buy or drink cola. Then I remembered it was one of the many items that had been discarded by one of many pedestrians and motorists who mistake my front yard for a trash can. I recycle as much of the refuse as I can, which I figure is better than if they actually had thrown it in a trash can.
This pile of refuge I was sorting through became a tangible version of the memories I store in my mind for years, even decades. Every once in a while, I pull them out and run through the stories that have shaped my life. The memories that still have purpose are the ones I recycle, going over the details so I can glean more growth, more gladness.
Some memories were thrown away immediately because they were too embarrassing or too painful. I didn't try to recycle them; I put them directly into the garbage. I'll probably run across them again some day in a different package or in a different place. And this time, when I'm through with them, I'll look for ways to give them a second life.
Some of the memories have been kept too long, however. They've been gone over enough, and their beginning to smell. I keep them though, hoping they'll have a usefulness again someday. Holding on to them seems like the easy thing to do, but the longer I hold onto them the harder it will be so someday let go.
"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." --Philippians 3:13b-14
Ted's Remember Lot's Wife