November 30/Dec 1:

 

I don't know what to say tonight…I have been struggling with so many odd things this last half of the year…really bizarre, some things I haven’t had to deal with in over 10 years maybe…

 

I cannot remember much detail about these--except the one this week, which I will share with you in a minute. I can vaguely remember about a week or two of having an 'undertone' of bitterness toward the Lord, probably for not acquiescing to my 'demands' about something or the other…I remember how strange it felt, now that I know more about the beauty of His heart and the good-seeking nature of His love for me…

 

I can remember a couple of days in which I felt almost 'mocked' by God--my perceived need in a given circumstance or two was so much greater than His provision in those circumstances, that my flesh felt mocked or taunted by the gesture…Again, hyper-strange, since I know so much better than that, and am so aware of His tender care for me…I even remember moments in which I wanted to somehow 'punish' or 'hurt' God(!!) because he wouldn't give me what I wanted--a temper tantrum and retaliation impulse. He wouldn't support me in doing X or Y, so why should I even try any further?--I remember being able to actually 'feel' the objector's hubris in Romans 9.19, showing up in my OWN versions of 'holding God hostage' (this is so comical to me now!) with "well, if You aren't going support me in this, then I had better stop altogether, since I certainly wouldn't want to be actually fighting You, now would I?"…!!!

 

But these came, were noticed, and went away, because I discussed each of these with my good-hearted Father constantly…"I am feeling this, Lord, and I hate this--I know better, and its irrational, but my flesh is still going at this"…"why in the world, Lord, is this undertone of bitterness here!--I have NO reason whatsoever for this, and I still am experiencing Your grace and good in my life RIGHT NOW"…and as I was honest about these bizarre, infantile, idiot-centered (some of you will catch the Greek linguistic joke there…smile), they slowly evaporated in the warm sunshine of His heart.

 

But the most helpful experience in the series was a few days ago…

 

I was getting rather frustrated and confused about what in the world I was supposed to be doing about work and finances and such…and I started in on my prayer time in the morning (I pace around and pray aloud for these sessions with God…and I generally look up, often at the same corner of the room C.S. Lewis probably referred to in the Screwtape Letters…smile)…but that day I had to 'vent' to my Lord…I told Him how frustrated I was with my situation, and what 'looked like' His failure to lead or guide or provide…I told Him I was at a loss how to obey, what direction to follow Him in, what blind spots I couldn’t see in my approach to finding His well, etc…I pointed out (argued) that I had done MY PART recently in changing my attitude toward the inescapability of work in my life, and toward the level of 'aggressiveness' I should have relative to that (at His insistence, I felt)…but peppered throughout my 'complaint', my 'lament', and my 'psalm' were honest and respectful admissions on my part that I had no grounds to fault Him for anything--including the trackless nature of my existing situation. I consistently--and honestly--affirmed that my frustration was not indicative of a change in my view about His goodness. I pointed out that He had taken me through scores of such experiences over the past 30 years. I admitted--cheerfully--that the situation today certainly did not 'convince' me of His non-involvement in my life, of some distancing on His part, of some new "Judgment" tactic with me…I freely and warmly admitted--in the midst of cries of "what in the world is going ON, Lord?!"--my awareness of His tender and gentle presence in my life, and even my confidence in His wisdom in structuring this experience for me and my good. I literally have no doubt that He has engineered this experience for me (in that mysterious swirl of action we dully call 'divine sovereignty') , and I have zero reason to doubt His beneficence and good-intentions in this experience, so my frustrations are NOT about some failure-of-grace on His part(!), but rather on my own inability to respond correctly.

 

Although…maybe my "respectful frustration" IS some version of the proper response…Paul knew the deep peace of Christ, but was constantly anxious over the churches (1 Cor 11.27f) and sometimes was without 'peace of mind' (2Cor 2.13)…He knew the deep joys of grace, yet could experience deep sorrow (Rom 9.2; Php 2.27)…He knew the awareness of the presence of the sovereign Lord, yet sometimes could "stand it no longer" (1 Thess 3.1f)…

 

And certainly sullenness, silence, and avoidance would have been the wrong response on my part.

 

There is no contradiction between the Christian's deep-spirit current experience of the New Future, and the surface, "light and momentary troubles" of our daily lives under the Cross--just as long as we live in BOTH areas at the same time. Without the deep-peace and deep-sense of our Lord's presence and grace, we would be overwhelmed by the surface waves. And, if we live in denial of the troubles and difficulties (meant for our growth and response), we are dishonest and insensitive--and sometimes, stubborn and resistant to His pedagogy (Heb 12.1-13). Without this honesty on the part of SOME PEOPLE, we wouldn't have the Psalms, now would we? (smile)

 

I am convinced that frustration is a lot like fear, boredom, loneliness, and other feelings, in that they are often 'meters' to let you know when something 'needs attention'. It can be a call to review where you are, and what 'unfinished business' you might have in your relationship with God. It might alert you to issues of the "flesh" that need to be recognized and judged by you (as a mechanism of deterrence and avoidance, for your welfare). This is our only real way of dealing with the "flesh".

 

Just a couple of years ago, I made (and lost) a wonderful friend. One of the helpful-to-me things she often said was "you can't improve the flesh". It was a great, clear way of pointing out that the Christian doesn't 'reform' the flesh--for it cannot be "fixed" or "changed". It is constantly at war with our spirit (Gal 5; Romans 7), and all we can do until it is 'left behind' at death is to quarantine it, by living our lives in the "new world" of love, freedom, beauty, grace and 'whatsoever is good and true'. When it breaks out of its quarantine area, we are to judge it ourselves (1 Cor 11.31f) and in so doing, re-quarantine it in the "old world" of death, selfishness, and ignorance.

 

At the end of that morning, after sharing my heart fully and passionately with God, nothing changed except me a little…my frustration was still there, but the temptation to obliquely and vaguely 'accuse God' , 'suspect Him', or 'look at Him funny' was gone…my debts and bills were still there, but the ability to focus more on "what of TODAY's needs are not being met--if any" instead of "how am I gonna feed us in three weeks" (cf. Matt 6.34) helped keep my perspective clear and honest and confident… there were no new emails, suddenly requesting my billable services, but my heart was more patient and prayerful when each 'fantasy of failure' or 'worst case scenario' presented themselves to me…

 

I also remember arguing with Him about the difference between the 'My yoke is easy' and 'take up your Cross and follow me'…I tried to argue Him into perhaps 'averaging out' those two loads (sigh). The 'yoke is easy' passage, of course, is about the simplicity and freedom-creation and beauty of His commandments to us--"love" and "trust" (compared to the religious loads referred to by Jesus and Peter, in Luke 11.46 and Acts 15.10 respectively). And the 'take up your Cross' refers to the acceptance of a death-sentence to self--that the way of love involves a continual self-sacrifice (that is NOT self-conscious or ostentatious in its nature!) and perhaps/sometimes  a painful and difficult path. His process of growing a bigger heart in me (so I could love more) involves some rigor and difficulty…But I think I will settle for His design of the process--He certainly treats me better than I treat myself… (smile).

 

That's all the rambling I have tonight/this morning…I have a couple of other shorter and less-intense Tank replies to write before I post this (I hope, I hope, I hope)…

 

I hope your holiday season is as full as possible of warmth, freedom, celebration, thanks, and people…

 

In His love,

Glenn

 

 


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