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Friday, February 21, 2014

Making Martyrs

These were some of my most treasured quotes. They were mantras from another life, another worldview, another theology...The theme being that I am of less importance, my wants, my pain, my circumstances, my desires, my health, my state of being is of less importance compared to all that is required of me as a "privileged" daughter of God. It is a kind of thinking that invites pain, struggle, and agony as way of spiritual enhancement; a way of rising in the ranks of God's "called"; believing that only the strongest and most devoted can survive such circumstances and so you constantly test yourself by diving in and welcoming the Grim Reaper of faith.

I used to have nightmares, at the time I thought they were dreams, on a regular basis about me being killed for my faith. I just knew I was going to be martyred, a bloody gruesome death, for my beliefs. I used to think I was being prepared for it. I had no doubts about this. It was my little dark secret I kept within me. I unavoidably believed that my God was leading me to this honorable death.

You know they say that dreams are the mind's way of processing information that's not been fully processed in the wakened state. And how could I not be dreaming about such things when the infiltrating doctrine being fed me is of such monstrosity? It's sick. I read through my past journals and I read how this type of thinking devoured my thoughts and how I had even learned to think like I had been taught to think. Where was Stephanie Diane Gray in all this? What what she really thinking back then?

The sad truth is I don't think she was allowed to think back then. I don't think she was heard. Because the truth is that she was being killed for her faith. My beliefs, my way of thinking, was killing every God-given unique thing about me, turning me into a type-cast I had been taught to honor and admire. Stephanie was being martyred because of her beliefs and it was her beliefs that were killing her- beating and bruising her identity until there was no life left there.

And you know who saved me? The God I used to believe wanted me dead. I didn't know how wrong I had been about Him until He rescued me from that way of living. I hardly knew Him at all. And I feel as though I have been saved, truly saved, maybe for the first time. Who knows. But, having been raised in the church, these words, "I once was lost but now am found. Was blind, but now I see." finally aren't just words anymore- they finally are personal.

It is scary to me how impressionable the mind is and what effects those impressions take on life and living. It scares the ever-loving-shit out of me. It's easy to see how an idea can transform into something like the Holocaust; you hammer an idea into people's heads until they believe it's true, before long anything can happen. And I wonder, what does this self-depreciating Christianity look like in 10 years? Will there be any soul left to salvage? Or will we all have killed ourselves for our style of faith?

 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

She

Picture this scene:

On one side you've got Jesus, on the other side you've got a woman with a trash can in her hands. In her trash can is all sorts of rubbish and junk. She's aware of its stench, its contents, its appearance, its weight, its filth, etc; it is the reason she is on one side and He is on the other. In her mind, she can't approach Him until she's cleaned up this rubbish. In her mind, this rubbish is why He "won't" and "can't" approach her. But here He comes. She's shouting, "Unclean!" Letting Him know to keep His distance, she's not clean enough yet. She's so embarrassed and ashamed as He comes closer. In her mind, His eyes will be fixated on the filth between them. But she's wrong. His eyes are locked on her. And without shifting His gaze He gently takes the trash can, she's too humiliated at this point to care what He does now, and He flings it's contents in the air, spreading the trash on the ground all about them. She can't even look at Him now. Her shame is complete, she thinks. She buries her face in her hands, unable to face her garbage and her "Exposer". But to her suprise, He invites her to dance. And in the midst of all her rubbish and on top of all her garbage they dance. He never takes His eyes off her. Slowly she loosens up. Slowly she begins to trust Him. Slowly she begins to trust herself. Slowly the rubbish is reduced to dust. Slowly she begins to realize that what He was after wasn't really a "what" at all, it was a "who" and it was her.

 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I once carried a burden...

I once carried a burden. It was the sum mount of my convictions, my responsibilities, my sacrifices, my duties, my calling. It was this massive heavy heap that I carried, convinced it was my lot- my God-given assignment to bear. It was excrutiating and I knew it. It was killing me and I could feel it.

My spirit was cracking under the extreme weight of it all, but how could I cave? This was what I believed to be the summit of life. This is what it meant to follow Him. Yes it hurts. Yes it's killing me and crushing me. But isn't it supposed to? Isn't that the point? We follow Him, we serve Him, till we are reduced to dust and ashes for His glory?

Well that's what I thought. It's hard. It's supposed to be hard. It's not supposed to be easy. Right?

Right?

Was that bit about "My yoke is easy and my burden is light.", was that just a joke? Or was that true and I'm just not there yet? Am I just so in the way, so displeasing to You, so undeserving, that I'm just not ready for light and easy? Or maybe I'm just too weak and I need to be stronger and then it will be easy and then it will feel light. Yes! I must be stronger. It's my fault. Forgive me Lord for being so weak and selfish.

One day a man of God came to where I was living and working and he instructed us to go out and find an object that we felt like we were supposed to bring to the service He was arranging for us. For reasons unknown to me I brought a car tire. When I came into the room I found that he had created a wall of chairs, a barrier of sorts, and we were going to climb over it using our object. I thought it over and over and all I could figure was that the tire symbolized for me to keep going, that the tire was my part that I was to carry. So I heaved the tire up, held it over my head, and began to take the hard steps to cross the barrier. But it was heavy. My arms began shaking, my knees began to buckle. I'm struggling not only to hold it up, but to stand firm and not tumble over. I begin praying, "God I'll keep going and I'll do my part because I'm not it..." I'm on the edge of breaking, telling myself to be stronger crying out, "Your yoke is easy and your burden is light." as if saying it will somehow defy the laws of weight and gravity and alter the makeup of this burden and/or my abilities....

And then the man of God came over to me and said, "This is too heavy for you to carry and you're strong so you'll grit your teeth and do it, but wheels are made to carry and you just need to roll with it." So I started over. I climbed back down the barrier and faced it again, but this time I simply rolled the tire to the other side, not up and over mind you, but on the ground where it should be. And then I felt free to plainly climb over the barrier. It felt easy and it felt light.

I wish to God I could understand why we do this to ourselves. Why we make light things heavy and easy things hard. Why we make it impossible for us to be well. Why we think life is always about dying and love always about denial. I wish I could understand why we take tires and carry them instead of letting them carry us. I wish I could understand why we hear words like, "try harder" but we are deaf to words like, "rest" and "easy". I wish to God I knew why myself and my kin are such damn masochists; why we hurt ourselves and insist that it's godliness.

I wish there was a clear enemy to blame. I've tried blaming the Church. I've tried blaming pastors and leaders. I've tried blaming religion and culture. I've tried blaming the devil and I've tried blaming myself. And every time I come up lacking and unsatisfied. I have only found that there is no justice down that path, no resolution to be found there.

So without knowing why, I simply know that we do. We do this to ourselves and call it God.

We have been convinced that faith merits grace when grace is in fact the current upon which faith is simply carried. We, in so many ways, are like little children carrying buckets down to the river, filling them up, only to carry them up hill, dump out the contents and repeat our arduous acts of penitence.

There is no trick. There is no catch. His burden is easy and His yoke is light. And if it is not my friend, then it is not His but your own that you carry.

Would you roll with it? Would you stop carrying the tide and let the tide carry you?