I have been thinking, which is, actually, a good thing. It was one of the reasons I realized it was time for a break. When you’re too busy to think, you really are too busy.
I think about life, because life means something different to so many different people, depending on the time and place, the culture and the societal positioning. What people accept is largely based off of what they expect.
I am poor, but I am not poor. I am lonely, but not lonely. I care a lot about taking care of others, but I’m deeply self-absorbed. It all depends where along the sliding scale you put me. I see or hear people who pack up everything and move, and I think, I have too much stuff. But I worry about my stuff. About the noise my car is making and about my laptop dying. But does it matter at all? There’s always the third-world argument. Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder what I’d be like if all my “stuff” was stripped away. Would I be less anxious, if I didn’t think I ought to expect the perfect solution? If I realized that eating and sleeping were already two of the biggest gifts a person could have?
I tell myself it doesn’t really matter, because I am here, so here is where I am. But somehow it does matter, because God is everywhere, and where God is truly is important. Not the bubble of me. How do you get outside of the bubble of you, when you are wherever you go?
Part of what I struggle with is the understanding and belief that God is using me, and will use me. This sounds silly, maybe, given how when I just recently quit my job I had patients and past patients tearing up and telling me resolutely that they were happy for me. But it is true; vanities of vanities tends to catch up to me. It’s too hard, often, for me to remember that if God is everywhere, that includes right here. Even when that bubble seems to envelope me, and I can’t seem to hear anything but my own pulse throbbing in my ears–God is still there, working. Working, and using me, even when I don’t realize I’m being used as a vessel of His grace. He doesn’t let us know ahead of time–“OK, get ready now, because I’m just about ready to use you!” It’s frequently in the subtle things that we don’t even realize we’re doing: the smiles to random strangers, the “just doing my job” times, the listening when someone speaks.
Be we–or at the very least, I–are results driven. Okay, there, I did that. What did that accomplish? What happened because of what I did? Was it worth it? Should I do it again? Was it all a mistake? Did any good come out of that? Even results-driven in terms of planning. What is the point of that? What will it accomplish? Will the benefits outweigh the costs?
But I wonder if that really a valuable metric. If so often we can’t see the benefits of what we’ve done or where we’ve been, is attempting to measure the benefits any use at all? The obvious statement would be that there is no metric, but this feels too vague and undefined. Maybe there is some other metric with which to measure the worth of your decisions and life. But every metric I’ve seen is equally unsatisfying. They’re missing the point. What is the point?
Walking with God.
Where is God?
So I see myself subconsciously trying to make God more tangible. If the important thing is being with God, then let’s make God easier to hang on to, so we don’t get so easily side-tracked. It makes me realize how false religions are so easily started, because it can be so hard to hold on to something that isn’t tangible. I’m a hands-on learner. How am I supposed to learn about something, some One, I can’t put my hands on? You’re supposed to walk with God and talk with God, but you can’t see Him and can’t hear Him.
I complain, but I already know. How many times has God told us, again and again, to seek Him? That’s active, and that’s intense. It isn’t usually, “Look, admit it! I’m standing in front of you with a big, flaming sword. Helloooo? I’m right here!!!” Instead it is–Seek Me. Find Me. Search. Look. Ask. Be persistent. That always gets me. For some reason it really bugs me that God basically says, “Look, you have to nag. Don’t ask just once. Be like the widow. Pound on the door like the guy at midnight.” I mean, it’s encouraging that I’m not doing something wrong when I don’t get an answer as soon as I ask. But it’s really frustrating all the same. Can’t we just, you know, deal with it like adults? Talk it over, agree on a course of action and move on? What’s up with all this pounding on the door stuff?
Here’s the thing. Sometimes people like to get together a monastery so they can better devote their time to concentrating on the God-ness. That’s faith, right? But God is all about loving people, so you go out into the world to love people. (That’s works, right?) But now there’s all that hustle and bustle and cares of this world, and sometimes it’s hard not to lose your steadfast gaze on God, and then everything falls to pieces. And we know we need both–faith and works, or faith showing itself by works–but it’s so hard not to try to find some kind of formula that will keep you on the straight and narrow. If you could just nail the right proportion of withdrawing quietly before God and going out into the world to be His ambassador, you could keep a razor-sharp focus on Him always. Right?
I know there is no formula, the same way I know I need this time of quiet. I only find myself looking for it because everything is so much easier if you can keep your eyes on God “with childlike simplicity.” When you’re busy marching around Jericho blowing on the horns, you can either stand there thinking to yourself, “What I am doing? Seriously, stomping around in a circle and making noise? Who am I kidding? Maybe I need a new plan. Maybe I need to be blowing harder. I guess maybe if there were enough of us stomping hard enough at one time, maybe it would cause a mini-earthquake. Let’s see, how many people would we need to get that going? If each footfall is approximately 80 pounds of force. . .”
Or you can say, “Dude! God has this under control, and I’m just here for the party. Let’s stomp around and make noise!”
I want to do the latter, but I’m nearly always doing the former. I can’t shake the feeling that there’s probably something more important to be done then stomping around and make noise (results-oriented, remember?) or else that I’m not stomping and making noise good enough, and that probably I should be doing it better. But other times, I get this other feeling. One that says I’m trying too hard, and I should just show up for the party. I should stand and watch God work, the way I used to watch adults working. Sometimes you could go and fetch them something, but mostly you just watched in fascination and tried figure out what was going on and how it was all going to work together and be amazed as everything came together. It was cool. It was kind of relaxing, sometimes. You felt like you were learning, but the world didn’t depend on you.
Sometimes I think we wish we had more of a bird’s eye view of what the heck was going on. But I think we imagine that angels have more of a bird’s eye view, and then it says the angels are busy watching us to learn what God is up to. So maybe the bird’s eye view is over-rated. I think maybe it is more in the attitude, as much as a results-oriented person finds that annoying. You can say, “Oh, God, please show me what You are doing and how you want me to be a part of it!” all angst-ridden. Or you can search out what God is doing just to enjoy what God is doing, without being worried that you’re going to screw-up God’s symphony by playing your triangle half a beat late.
I am finding that dwelling on the smallness of me and my reasons and my resources is getting me nowhere. God made me, He already knows my smallness and weakness, and that’s not the point. The point is His greatness and His reasons and His resources, and that they are to be sought and enjoyed. Both, together.
My patients would sometimes complain to me, “This isn’t easy!”
“No, of course not!” I would laugh back. “If everything was easy for you, you wouldn’t need my help and you wouldn’t be here!”
Sometimes I think we get mad that it’s so hard to seek God, but I don’t think He is under any impression that it would be easy for us. That’s why He tells us over and over again to do so; if it were easy, He wouldn’t have to encourage us to do it. The same with being thankful, or being joyful, or being still. God, why is it so hard to be still? But if it were easy for us to be still, He wouldn’t have to tell us. If it were easy to know that God was with us, He wouldn’t have to tell us, over and over and over again. We feel like we’ve failed when we can’t do those things, but we’re right where God knows we’re at. Yes, it is hard for you to be still. Let’s practice it. It will bear fruit. Yes, it is scary for you to trust Me. This is how you’ll learn that I love you, and I want you to learn how much I love you. So it is time to do scary things, and My love will drive out your fear.
I want to know what we’re doing, but what we’re doing is learning about God’s love. I want Him to make me into a better and better Martha (poor Martha; and if I held to patron saints, she’d likely be mine), and what He is saying is, “Honey, you’ve got it all wrong. I came here to do the work. You’re here to benefit from it. Come sit down and learn how much I love you, and stop trying so hard to impress me. I already know you; you need to come know Me.”
I’m climbing over the edge of the boat, but there’s an awful lot of wind and waves. Hold out Your hand, and keep saying my name over and over. . .and over. . .