Wednesday, August 21, 2013

really know

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”  

                                                                       ~Socrates


It's funny how, when it comes to wisdom, that I live with the notion that the older I get, the more I will somehow have--mostly because I will know a lot more stuff by then.  Who would image that the opposite is actually true?  That I will not grow in wisdom because of what I know; I will actually grow in wisdom because of the realization of all I don't know.  I've actually thought about this a lot recently because it seems that the older I get, the more fragile I feel.  I was actually telling some friends about this the other day; and it is not something that feels like a bad thing, but something that feels like the best of things.

I love the dictionary definition of the word fragile: vulnerably delicate.  I feel much more vulnerable, and weak, and unsure these days--much more at 53 than I did at 23, or 33, or even 43.   And this fragile, vulnerable, unsure place within me is actually doing an incredibly good work.  It is opening me up, in such a wonderfully beautiful way, for God to enter in.  Because it's not that I'm unsure about God and his character, that's not at all the kind of vulnerability I'm talking about.  That kind of unsure would be frightening.  But the type of unsure I'm talking about is being unsure about what I really know about Him (or myself for that matter); really know in the Genesis 4:1 Adam knew Eve and they conceived a son sense.  It is a deep and intimate type of knowing.  And as I become more and more aware of what I do not really know in that way, it opens me up to God's Spirit and God's voice and God's presence in ways that I was simply not open before. 

For example, I know that God loves me, but if I am really honest, I don't really know that at all; not compared to the level to which it is really true.  He is simply too big, His love too immense and too extravagant for me to truly know it.  I can say that I know God loves me, but in reality I have no idea what that really means or how much it is really true.  I am only just beginning to scratch the surface of it all; only starting to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18).

It seems like the biggest obstacle to really knowing something is what we think we already know.  When I think I know, I have stopped the conversation, I have stopped seeking, stopped pressing in to all that I don't know.  I have arrived; gone as far as I plan to go.  My knowing has, in essence, closed the door on really knowing.  So often in conversations, or in listening to someone speak, or in reading a book, or even in reading the Scriptures, that voice (which is not the voice of the Spirit) pops up in me saying, "Oh yeah, I already know that."  And in an instant I have closed myself off to the possibility of really knowing--knowing more deeply--because of what I think I already know.

I guess the moral of the story is that knowing is a lifetime endeavor, a journey that is never completed this side of heaven.  It is a deep well that we can never find the bottom of...and I am so glad!  I just hope that the next time I feel fragile (or vulnerably delicate) I will embrace it for the good soil of the Spirit that it is.  And when I'm tempted to close the door by thinking I've already got that one down, I will catch myself and realize that I have just missed an opportunity to grow in wisdom.  And that I will turn and open the door to the Great Mystery in my unknowing. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

whose house am i building here anyway?

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.


                       ~Psalm 127:1-2


At times it is easy to convince myself that the work I do, and the ministry I have, is all a part of  a deep desire to see God's kingdom grow and God's house be built.  And I think, to some degree, that is always true.  But at other times, I also become aware of much darker feelings and motives that lurk beneath the surface of my heart and soul.  At times it becomes painfully obvious to me that what I am really trying to build is not His Kingdom and His house, but my own: my own kingdom, my own reputation, my own resume, my own sense of value and worth.  What I am really trying to do is build a house that will impress and delight all who pass by; leaving them saying, "Wow, that is the most impressive house I have ever seen."

The way I know this is true involves the feelings and voices that live way down in the darkest parts of my being; ones that bubble to the surface uncontrollably from time to time.  They show me that something is amiss deep within.  Sometimes it bubbles up in the form or criticalness or frustration when I hear a story of someone that is being commended or praised for something they have done really well.  Sometimes it bubbles to the surface in feeling threatened or defensive when I see someone far more gifted than I exercising their gifts.  It is an incredibly ugly thing to admit, particularly in public.  I mean, aren't we supposed to celebrate those things in others?  If I was truly about building God's house, I would be glad and grateful rather than insecure and fearful whenever his kingdom and his purposes are being advanced.  It's these kinds of things that make me aware that I am actually trying to build my own house rather than His; or, at the very least, trying to build both at the same time.  And, as the psalm clearly states, anytime I do that, it is only in vain.  I am eating the bread of anxious toil; trying desperately to feed on something that is not food at all, at least not food that is lasting and satisfying.  And when I somehow convince myself otherwise--that I must be building some extraordinarily incredible house or accumulating some impressive resume--I will never find true rest (or be given sleep).  I will be far too busy toiling vainly.

Only when I come to recognize and to know myself as His Beloved will I ever find the rest my soul most deeply longs for.  Only then will I be free enough from my fear and insecurity to be about God's house and God's Kingdom, rather than trying somehow to use Him in order to build my own.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

fragile


I feel your love as you hold me to your sacred heart, my beloved Jesus, my God, my Master, but I feel, too, the need I have of your tenderness and your caress because of my infinite weakness.

                                                                                ~Charles de Foucauld