This next week or so, “working on my blog” is going to take the form of editing and reworking things. I will be writing and rewriting my bio pages and reworking the design some; figuring out how this whole things works. Hopefully, I will be back to regular postings next week. But, if things appear and disappear this week, that’s why. Thank you for your patience….
I was thinking more about forgiveness. I feel like I’m really good at forgiveness because I don’t really stay angry. I don’t really get angry that much, when it comes down to it. I don’t hold grudges. But now I’m starting to think that I don’t really forgive people and love them. I just stop thinking about them and what they did. Which was never really an issue before, but now I am called to forgive some people that I have to continue to think about. And I am having difficulty because I want to just forget about it and them. I don’t mind suffering through not getting to exact my revenge, but I don’t want to remove their sins so that I can bear to be around them. Or consider them. Or think about them in passing. To put it into the framework of the metaphor of the cross, I think I am willing to be the substitute but I don’t want the atonement. I want to just stop thinking about them altogether. It’s not really the same thing. Wanting to not think about someone at all isn’t loving them. It’s just a very innocent sounding way to murder them in your heart.
But Tim Keller says this: “Forgiveness must be granted before it can be felt.” (You might remember, I quoted that the other day ago.) Which I take to mean, you can do it before you feel it. Like love. You can love someone without feeling it. It’s not really “fake it till you make it.” It’s more of a reframing of how we do things. Society would tell us that we have to feel pleasant things for people before we can love them “authentically” and that our actions must mirror our feelings or we are hypocrites. But that means we don’t do anything unless we “feel like it” because that would be “inauthentic.” No one wants to be fake.
I don’t think that is a Biblical idea, though. I think the Biblical idea of being our “authentic selves” is about being in Christ and being obedient and true to what God would have us be. So if forgiveness means loving someone and loving them means wanting good for them, I can do that without feeling it. When Jesus forgave us on the cross, he may or may not have felt it in his heart. At Gethsemane, he prayed that he would not like to go to the cross and die for us. But he would do it, out of obedience. And he prayed for us. He asked God to forgive us. So I can pray for good for someone, I can work for good for someone, without really liking it. Even if I don’t get all warm and happy when I think about good things happening to someone else, I can pray for them to happen. And even if I don’t feel good about someone, I can still do good things for them, like help them or give them a birthday present or whatever.
It is a sin to hate someone in your heart, but it is not a sin to feel nothing for them. Love is not about feelings. It is about what you do with regards to someone. If I want you to die a painful death at my own hands, but I give you a cheese Danish and tell you to have a good day, that is hypocrisy and not love. But, if I am shopping the Danish aisle and I think, “You know, who likes Danish? That one guy. But I don’t like that guy. He kicked me in the face! I don’t want him to have any Danish. But, Danish is a good gift of God and God wants us to enjoy his good gifts. Moreover, maybe if I give him a Danish, he will see the beauty of the Danish that God made through the hands of the baker and he will get to know God through his joy in the Danish. And he may love God more. That would be a good thing that God would want.” Then I buy you a Danish and give it to you, with a handshake and a “good day to you!,” that is loving you. Loving you like Jesus.
I don’t have to like you to love you and I don’t have to like you to forgive you. I just have to love you to forgive you. And vice versa.
I may not like the idea of people who have hurt me being saved in heaven with Jesus. But, if I love Jesus and, therefore, love the people who have hurt me, I will forgive them and love them and want them to be saved in heaven with Jesus. I may not like the idea but I will hope for it. Because I love God, and God loves them. And I think that the best kind of love is born out of obligation and commitment.
Was that last sentence surprising? I know it goes against what many people think, the ideas that are generally put forth about love in Western culture. I have to admit, I don’t really understand why so many people devalue the idea of duty and obligation. I don’t know why people prefer the idea that a person would love them as an outpouring of feeling rather than a sense of honor and obligation. I don’t understand why someone would prefer any relationship to be based on liking the same things and having fun hanging out, rather than on covenant and connection and history.
Feelings change. If I only hang out with someone because I like them and they are fun and we have lots of laughs, what happens when their spouse – or their dad, or their kid – dies, or they lose their job, or get cancer, and they aren’t so much fun anymore? My husband may not like me every day, but if he feels covenanted to love and care for me, a duty given him by God, well, that’s not going to change. God does not change. And if my husband has to set aside his own feelings, desires and well-being to obey the calling that God has given him to fulfill that duty, isn’t that the most loving, most sacrificial thing he can do? Isn’t that the very definition of loving me as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her?
I guess, after all these years, I’m finally learning that forgiveness and love don’t mean having warm feelings for someone. They certainly don’t mean not having bad feelings for someone. Forgiving someone means letting go of your desire for revenge so that you can love them, which means picking up a desire for their good. And none of that has anything to do with feelings. It is intentional. It is active. You can feel angry and do those things. You can feel hurt and do those things. It might be harder, but you can do it. Jesus did it and he made a way for us to do it.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” –Colossians 3:12-14
I converted my wardrobe over from Winter (what we had of it) to Summer. I am still doing the whole 333 thing. I only have 33 things in my closet. So my closet has 30 hangers in it and then I have 3 pairs of shoes.
In the picture, you can see most of my wardrobe. There are a few empty hangers which would normally contain the clothes I’m wearing and a few things that are in the laundry.
So here is my wardrobe list (pictured, from left):
1 black lined windbreaker jacket
3 zip front hoodies (fuschia, teal and mint green)
1 black Casting Crowns hooded sweatshirt
1 pair black skinny jeans
1 pair black leggings (laundry)
1 pair red and black plaid leggings (laundry)
6 skirts (red and brown print, orange, white sequined, coral and green print, black and white floral – not shown, black lace panels – not shown)
1 long multicolored sweater
1 Shirt dress – teal, white and grey color block
7 T shirts (orange, sea green, green paisley, oatmeal, white – laundry, black – not shown, Jason Gray concert tee)
2 long t shirts (black, grey)
4 long tank tops (green palm trees, pink tie dye, rainbow tie dye, orange batik)
1 dressy blouse – black with red, tan and white print
3 pairs of shoes (black ballet flats, black mary jane flats, red and black plaid Airwalks)
I have to say, I am really enjoying the whole dressing 333 thing. It’s awesome to just not think about clothes on a daily basis, but then to have kind of this fun puzzle every few months to rearrange and fit my clothing needs into just 33 pieces. It is a simple, pared-down wardrobe that never overwhelms me with choice. Plus, I know exactly how every piece of clothing in my closet is going to feel on any given day, because I wear them almost every week. That is a big bonus for my Sensory Processing Systems.
Another cool thing is that my closet is half empty. Now that my other family moved out, I will have a sewing room downstairs again. So I will move my sewing machine down there. I don’t really know what to do with the other half of my empty closet. Storage is always good. It’s an odd feeling to not know what to put in a space in my house. I am usually one of those with way too much stuff for the space I have.
What can you put in one half of a standard double wide bedroom closet? Maybe a bench and some hooks to hang clothes that are not ready for the laundry yet? I have been looking for a valet type thing. Hmmm….Time for some planning. And maybe some Pinteresting! =D
Huh. If you go on Pinterest (or anywhere on the Internet) and look for closet remodel ideas, you will get, almost exclusively, ideas about how to use your closet space more wisely, pack more things in there, make more storage. There are hardly any ideas about how to use up a lot of closet space very inefficiently. Go figure.
I am reading Tim Keller’s very awesome book, The Reason for God. It is very good. This morning, I was reading the chapter about the cross and why we can not remove it, as some people want to because it is so offensive. He talks about how the cross relates to forgiveness. I had to restrain myself to keep from just highlighting everything. Here’s what I did highlight.
(p. 196) “Forgiveness means refusing to let them pay for what they did.”
“Forgiveness must be granted before it can be felt, but it does come eventually. It leads to a new peace, a resurrection. It is the only way to stop the spread of the evil.”
(p.198, talking about Dietrich Bonhoeffer) “His forgiveness was costly suffering, because it actually confronted the hurt and evil before him. His forgiveness was not what he called (in The Cost of Discipleship) ‘cheap grace.’ He did not ignore or excuse sin. He resisted it head on, even though it cost him everything. His forgiveness was also costly because he refused to hate. He passed through the agonizing process required to love your enemies, so his resistance to their evildoing was measured and courageous, not venomous and cruel.”
(p.199-200) “Forgiveness means bearing the cost instead of making the wrongdoer do it, so you can reach out in love to seek your enemy’s renewal and change…Should it surprise us, then, that when God determined to forgive us rather than punish us for all the ways we have wronged him and one another, that he went to the Cross in the person of Jesus Christ and died there? As Bonhoeffer says, everyone who forgives someone bears the other’s sins. On the cross we see God doing visibly and cosmically what every human being must do to forgive someone, though on an infinitely greater scale. I would argue, of course, that human forgiveness works this way because we unavoidably reflect the image of our Creator.”
(p.200) “Jesus Christ is God. God did not then, inflict pain on someone else, but rather on the Cross absorbed the pain, violence, and evil of the world into himself…this is a God who becomes human and offers his own lifeblood in order to honor moral justice and merciful love so that someday he can destroy all evil without destroying us.”
“There was debt to be paid-God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born-God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.
“We have seen how human forgiveness and its costliness sheds light on divine forgiveness. However, it is divine forgiveness that is the ultimate ground and resource for the human. Bonhoeffer repeatedly attested to this, claiming that it was Jesus’s forgiveness of him on the Cross that gave him such security in God’s love that he could live a life of sacrificial service to others.”
I was watching a lecture by Dr. RC Sproul for my Ligonier class, wherein he talks about interpreting the meaning of the Bible. He uses the analogy of art. He says that when we look at art and try to interpret it, we are trying to discern what the art means, that is, what the artist meant when he made the art. Then he talked about the movement in the art community to put emphasis on the meaning that the viewer took from the art, some artists even going so far as to say that they didn’t put any meaning into the art and that the only meaning is what the viewer brings.
That whole thing is so weird to me. How could you make a painting or a sculpture or a poem or whatever without having some intention or feeling or meaning behind the creation? If you were to do that, it seems like it would only be done as some kind of statement on your own perception of the randomness/meaninglessness/futility of life. But isn’t that meaning that you invest into the art? I don’t believe that God thinks that life is futile or meaningless and I don’t think he creates that way, neither his creation nor his word.
But then I started thinking about how when you look at a piece of art, let’s say, Jackson Pollock’s Convergence, just for example, you may be able to discern what the author intended this piece of art to say. You will probably also see some personal meaning in it. It will make you think of things. If you see a meaning in the artwork and the author doesn’t intend it, does that make it invalid or incorrect? Does it mean that meaning isn’t there? Maybe one person just sees chaos. Another might see the streaks of orange and yellow as excitement and happiness. Another might see the little pops of blue as representing little birds and go off on a Disney style fantasy. You could show this painting to 50 or 500 different people and you might get as many different interpretations. The artist could not have imagined all these different meanings that people come up with. I mean, if I look at this very descriptive painting and it reminds me of my first apartment in college and, therefore, I think it is a statement on overwhelmed exhaustion, loneliness and fear. Jackson Pollock couldn’t possibly have foreseen that, 22 years before I was born. (Just for the record: it does not remind me of my first college apartment. It doesn’t remind me of anything. Pollock looks like drop cloths to me.)
But God could. God could bring me to this painting because he knows that in my heart I need to work through the loneliness and fear of my first year of college. God could know what the paint scheme of my first apartment was like and find a ridiculous painting and show it to me. Heck, if he chose, God could make Pollock paint that ridiculous thing in those particular colors for no other reason than that I would see it 63 years later and make a huge breakthrough on some of my post-teen angst. And he isn’t limited to just the one or two meanings. He could, simultaneously, know the heart of every person that would ever see this painting, know what they are going to need to see and put it in there so they could see it.
When we study a painting, we ask, “What does it mean?” and there can be many answers depending on what each of us sees or what the painter had in mind when he painted it. But when we talk about scripture and we ask “what does it mean?” Dr. Sproul says we are trying to discover what the words literally mean. When he talks about what each of us sees and what it “means” to us, he would call that application or significance. So any given passage can only have one meaning, but infinite applications and significances. Can they all be valid? I believe the answer is a qualified yes. God can not lie or sin, so he could not imbue scripture with a meaning that would do either of those things. But, assuming that the applications we see are consistent with scripture and God’s character, then, I say, yeah. God could have put all that significance in there.
When Matthew wrote his gospel, he couldn’t have known that I would be thinking about God’s attention or that I would be writing this almost 2000 years later, any more than Jackson Pollock could know the color scheme of my first apartment. But God did. And every single word of the Bible was written from their inspiration for ours. God knew every devotional, every blog post, every journal entry that would be written, every struggle revealed, every reassurance needed, when he inspired the scripture. He knew it all at the beginning of time, before he even knit the stars together. When Matthew wrote this, when Jesus said it, God knew that I would be sitting in this chair at my dinosaur of a laptop, quoting it.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
How can we not be constantly overwhelmed by a God this awesome?
I guess a thing I am supposed to take away from my study of the life of Moses is about idolatry and not worshiping other things. I just keep getting these messages about casting down idols. Right now, I’m struggling with whether or not I should get some rabbits from someone that I don’t want to get them from. It’s embarrassing to even admit it, really. It’s not even that I don’t want to see her or talk to her. It’s not even that then my rabbits would be from her farm and descended from rabbits from her farm. The problem is that getting successfully bred rabbits from her just reminds me that she has successfully bred rabbits and I have not, when it comes down to it. It’s ridiculous, really, because it probably won’t even happen. But it does give me something to think about.
This plays into my own idolatry in two ways, actually. First, I idolize my competency. I only like to do things that I am good at. To have God call me to things I am not good at or to want to do things that I am not good at, is grating. And to be reminded of my incompetence in this way is particularly…annoying. The issue isn’t insecurity, like she’s better than me. The issue is my second idolatry problem: me coveting her freedom to spend her time learning about homesteading and gardening and whatever she wants. And I don’t have that freedom.
My first and foremost focused interest must be God and his word. I can not replace any of my study time spent on that with time spent on gardening or rabbits. I have to do my Bible study and writing first because those are the things God has called me to. For me, that is what obedience looks like. Then, after I do those things, I can start on my own interests. If I run out of energy (and I often do), then that is that. And, some days, I am just so jealous of people who don’t have to make that choice, that sacrifice of what they want on the altar of what they are called to. I am jealous of people who can spend their time and money and energy on things that they choose, things that are fun or interesting or whatever, never thinking about duty or obedience. And I am jealous of people who don’t have to make that choice because they have the energy for work and hobbies.
But I have to repent of those desires. I wouldn’t really trade my eternal reward for hobbies and fun on earth. I wouldn’t rather be selfish and focused on what I want. I want God to take those desires and that love of the world from my heart. And when he does and I focus on him and his word, I usually end up getting enough time on my interests to satisfy me and I manage to treat other people better and myself.
It brings home, though, exactly what a demand Jesus is putting on us when he says we must give up our lives and deny ourselves, what that can mean. Sometimes the sacrifice is not about big things, sometimes it is about the littlest things, the minute to minute choices we make every day. How those things speak to and from our heart.
This is one of those places where the focused interest is both a blessing and a curse. I love that I can get interested in something and the more I learn about it, the more I want to learn about it. The more I read the Bible and the more I know about it, the more I want to know and the more I want to read it. I want to spend hours and hours and hours doing it. Once I get through a chapter or two, I want to read 20 more. But, the more I focus on one thing, the less I want to focus on anything else. Everything else gets to be more boring. Which is awesome except for when it’s things I need to focus on in order to be more effective in my life.
I guess, though, if I have a choice (and I do), I will choose to make God the thing that I want, the thing I want to get deeper and deeper into, the thing that I want more and more of. Everything else can be a chore.
More importantly, when I think about what all this tells me about God, it’s amazing. The God we worship holds the galaxies that he created in place with his word. That same God wants to be so integral in our lives that everything we do and say would be an act of worship. He had the Israelites camp all around the Tent of Meeting so that they would always be able to see the cloud that he was dwelling in. He set up the sacrificial system so that all of their lives would revolve around it. He instructed them to talk about his word and his commands constantly. The Creator of the Universe and Time wants to be in every minute detail of us. I can think of no reasonable response but to put him there.
Sometimes my own spooniness (if you are unfamiliar with spoon theory, you can read about it here) is such a part of my experience that I forget about it. I plan my activities and think about how much I can do each day automatically. If one of my kids has a dentist appointment later today and I have to go to BSF tonight, I know that I better not plan anything for Tuesday. If I have to leave the house, I know I can’t do too much in the house or I will be dragging butt through whatever I have to do out of the house or, if that’s not an option, I will be on my back all day the next day. I think, after my aversion to people looking at me and my multiple anxieties and phobias, this is the thing that affects my day to day life the most.
Before I knew about autism, I didn’t handle it very well. I didn’t know what was going on, so I just beat myself up for being lazy. Nothing was ever good enough. I never did enough for my head but my body always felt like I was falling apart. And every few days to two weeks, I would fall apart emotionally. I would either just start yelling at everyone, give everyone the silent treatment or break down and cry for a day. Or check out completely for weeks at a time. Between a bit more maturity (for me and my life/kids) and some self-awareness on my part, I am usually conscious enough of my own state that I don’t run myself to the point where I just meltdown for days. I only get to the point of shutting down usually, which is hard for me and requires consideration on the part of my family but, generally, leaves no permanent casualties. But that has taken 40 years to get to.
For the most part, these days, I have a lot of things under control, I think. I still don’t do as much as I would like. I hate how much time I have to spend…resting. It’s like a bad word in my head. I don’t want to rest, I want to use every minute, but I don’t because I know what that gets me. Sick and crazy. So, it annoys me, but I go slow and I only do so much. My house isn’t as clean as I want, but my kids get more of my spoons that way. It’s a constant balancing act. If I know I have to cook dinner for friends coming over, I keep that in mind all day long. And I don’t cook the day before or the day after.
This week, I think I forgot how many spoons mental things take. I spent much of my time this week doing mental things: writing, reading, Bible study. I started my Ligonier class yesterday. And I felt pretty good. Then this morning, I was eating breakfast and I just couldn’t focus on my Bible reading. So I thought, “well, maybe I’m tired. We have stayed up a little late the last two nights. Maybe I just need a nap.” I never used to sleep during the day. I just hated it because I ended up groggy. I think I was actually crashing because now I can lay down, watch one episode of something, maybe sleep, maybe not and feel better when I get up. It’s like vegging out meets napping. Veg-napping.
That is not what happened today. That’s what I wanted to happen, but that is not what happened. Today I laid down to watch a couple episodes of The New Detectives and the next thing I know I’ve been asleep for two hours. And then I roll over and toss and turn my way through another two hours. And it’s so hot. And that, for me, is crashing. It’s almost like being sick, except I’m not. I just feel tired and a bit cold and unfocused and then I lay down and fever sleep all morning. (You know, fever sleep? Hot and sweaty no matter what the temperature it is, you want a blanket but then you’re too hot. You half wake up every twenty to thirty minutes. You have crazy dreams that don’t make any sense and, even though, you slept for hours you are more tired then when you laid down and now you are sore and sweaty.) Then I’m groggy all afternoon. And before I know it, I’ve lost a day.
That’s what happens when I run out of spoons. That’s why I didn’t get to the next lesson of my Ligonier class. That’s why I didn’t get any photos taken or any planning done or any housework besides washing my sheets done. I am pretty lucky I got my Bible reading done and got my kid out to the mall. That’s why I’m writing this at 7 pm and I couldn’t think of anything else to write about.
And I still feel bad about it sometimes. I think, I am just as capable as anyone else. I should be able to do just as much as other people do. There are women out there who do everything that I do and they have jobs. Could I have a job? Maybe. But I don’t think I could do anything else. I think 40 hours of effort is all I have and I can either spend it the way I do now or on a paying job. Which would be far more stressful for everyone. Would I like that more? Maybe. Would I prefer to not have to guard my energy like a precious commodity? Probably.
Then I wonder. If I could just be going and going and going 24/7, or even 16/7, like some people do (and if I could, I would), would I ever just sit around and talk to God? Would I have read the Bible straight through a dozen times in 7 years? Would I give most of my life to a volunteer organization and help kids study the Bible? Would I spend any time thinking about God or reading or studying his word? Or would I be so busy going and doing and cleaning and making and cooking that I never even thought about anything?