Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cold Shoulders and The Holy Spirit~

"Aay, Beautiful. Your back's not even covered."

Waking up
to a cold feeling of night air
brushing up against my back,
a tear slipped down my cheek
as I remembered the words my husband spoke
each and every time
he would roll over
and see me sleeping on my side,
covers half way down my back.

"There you go," he would say
as he pulled and tugged on blankets
until I was tucked in all the way up to my ears.

Then, a kiss on the nape of my neck,
followed by his arm settling perfectly
in the crook of my waist
while the whole rest of him snuggled up behind me,
and we would drift back into sweet sleep.

I don't know why.
But try as I may,
I have never been able to cover my own back.

It's why,
now that he's no longer here,
I often awake to the cool night air
brushing up against my back,
followed by a tear rolling down my cheek.

No one likes a cold shoulder.

As my husband
and the one sharing my life and my bed,
covering my back during the wee hours of the night
was something only he could do.

And ,
when he was here,
and when he did -
my man had me completely covered.
There wasn't an inch of skin that wasn't
hidden beneath the warmth of a quilt
or the softness of a blanket.

And I'll admit right now,
this is an uncommon correlation,
probably not something anyone else but me might think of,
but lying in bed one night,
I came to understand in a whole new way this passage of scripture:

Now I am going back to the One who sent me.  . . . 
Your hearts are filled with sadness 
because I have told you these things. 
But I tell you the truth. 
It is better for you that I go away.  
When I go away I will send the Helper to you.
 If I do not go away, then the Helper will not come.
~John 16:4-7

When Jesus,
who was The Word and divine in nature,
became flesh and walked sandal-footed among us,
He chose to live out His days here in human flesh,
as a physical man.

And, as a physical man,
He could only be one place at one time.

Although the great Teacher,
He could only teach those who were within earshot of His words.
Although the great Healer,
He could only heal those who were within reach of His touch,
(or as in the case of the Roman Centurion,
those who were blessed
to have someone approach Jesus for healing
on their behalf.)

It's why Mary and Martha,
Lazarus's sisters,
grieving the loss of their dear brother,
greeted Jesus with the words,
"If only You would have been here
our brother would still be alive."

And, wrestling with covers
alone in bed that night
I kept thinking this:

When the one person
who is able
isn't there to do it,
whatever it is
can't get done.

Not right, anyway.

I can't cover my back like my husband could
and Mary and Martha couldn't heal Lazarus the way Jesus could.

There are just some things we can't do on our own.

It's why,
when Jesus was issuing His very first command
to the newly formed church,
after His resurrection
and prior to His ascension,
He told them this.

While he was eating with them, he gave them this command: 
"Do not leave Jerusalem
but wait for the gift my Father promised
which you have heard me speak about.  
For John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
~Acts 1:4-5

Wait.
Don't do anything until you have the Holy Spirit.

Reflecting Jesus to the world,
fulfilling the great commission,
being the church that God intended us to be -
we can't do any of it
without the Holy Spirit doing it
in us and through us.

He and He alone
is the one
empowering us,
instructing us,
equipping us,
convicting us,
prompting us,
teaching us,
enabling us,
anointing us to do the work He has called us to do.

He and He alone
is the one who has our back,
willing and able to do all that we can't,
in a way we never could.

And, this is why it was to the disciples greatest advantage
for Jesus to go away
and for the Holy Spirit to come.

Jesus lived and work beside them,
but the Holy Spirit
would live and work within them.

He would literally inhabit their very being.

And, because He would -
Jesus told his disciples
(and I believe this applies to you and me, too,
when we choose to follow our Lord and be His disciple)
they would do even greater works than He did
while He walked the earth.

And what captured my thought
as I pondered all of this
while trying to cover my own back
was a powerful quote I once read:

"If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today,
95 percent of what we do would go on
and no one would know the difference. 
If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church,
95 percent of what they did would stop,
and everybody would know the difference."
~A W Tozer

My man is gone,
and I can't help but notice the difference.

But,
what about the church?

Are we following Jesus' first command?

Do we as the church,
wait until
we have been given
and have received
the Holy Spirit's ok,
the Holy Spirit's green light,
the Holy Spirit's guidance,
the Holy Spirit's wisdom,
the Holy Spirit's power,
the Holy Spirit's anointing
before we try to do what only He can do
in us and through us?

Or do we instead
fumble with our pride
and pull and tug
on our own talents
on our own thoughts,
on our own agenda,
on our own ego
in an effort to cover our own backs?

Yes, there are some things we can't do on our own.

And, when it comes to spiritual matters,
we shouldn't even try.

A cold shoulder in the middle of the night
is one thing.

But what about those who have yet
to come, know, and experience Jesus?

Waking up
to a cold feeling of worldy air
brushing up against their life,
they come seeking refuge in the church,
longing for the only One who
can truly cover their back.

But sadly,
so often,
when they do,
we as the church
are so busy trying to cover our own backs
by "looking spiritual",
we don't even see them and their needs.

And, if we do,
instead of waiting for,
inviting in,
and completely relying on
the Holy Spirit
to do what only He can do,
we aimlessly spin our wheels
trying to do what we can't do
on our own.

And do you know what happens
when this happens?

Not only do we end up getting a cold shoulder -
sadly,
SO. DOES. THE. WORLD.

And, when this happens,
I imagine a tear
slowly makes it way
down the cheek
of the Father,
and the Son,
and the Holy Spirit.








Wednesday, January 10, 2018

When Loving Means Walking Away~

Perseverance?
Sure, I've got that.

Not the kind that runs 10k marathons.
Not the kind that climbs Mt. Everest.
Not the kind that types away on the keyboard until the last word of a 698 page novel is on paper.
(At least, not yet, anyway.)

No, my kind of perseverance usually shows up
in a beat-your-head-against-a-wall-that-isn't-budging
kind of way.

Blow after blow after blow,
I keep going at it.

Day after day,
month after month.

My latest attempt has been a 5 month one.
And, I am sad to report,
the wall I was up against hasn't budged an inch.
Zip. Zilch. Nada.

In fact,
to an onlooker looking in at this wall,
no visible sign
of any kind of ongoing battle
or attempt to move it
would be seen.

Aahh....but turn your eyes in my direction,
and it's easy to see
battle scars of every kind,
still fresh,
declaring to all,
defeat.

Five whole months, -
one month short of being half a year's time,
and nothing to show for it but
lessons learned.

(Because we all know,
tucked into every battle,
woven into every challenge,
God is faithful
to instruct us,
to teach us,
to mold us and remake us more into His image
if we are faithful to mine through
all the muck and all the mire
to obtain His treasure,
all the while allowing the Holy Spirit
to have His way in our life.)

Lesson # 1:
(and I will admit this came as a true shock to me!)
Help Can Be Toxic

For the past five months,
I have been trying to help my mother.
Only my mother
didn't want my help.

I felt she desperately needed it,
while she on the other hand,
was desperate for me to stop handing it out.

The more I tried to help,
the more she resisted.

This was our wall.
And, a wall erected in any relationship is never good.
Faster than you can say
"but I was only trying to help",
our relationship turned toxic.

For her. For me.

"Go home."

My mom told me.
My sister told me.
My mom's sister told me.

So, I did.

Shattered. Broken in a million pieces.
Feeling like a complete and total failure.
Three days ago,
I came home.

These,
the words of a text message from my mom
when I arrived home:
I know you were trying to help,
but the help you were giving
was the wrong kind of help needed.

And I learned one of the hardest,
yet most valuable lessons of my life:
When the only kind of help you know to give is wrong,
it's not help at all.
You might as well go home.

Lesson #2:
(only because of lesson #1)
It's Ok to Walk Away Sometimes

Honestly,
this lesson was even harder to swallow
than the first one.

My father passed away 14 years ago.
My mother is now 82.
My mother's home is a day's drive away
from me and my other two sisters.

How,
when you feel your mother needs help,
do you walk away?

How,
when as a child your mother was there for you,
do you walk away?

How,
when you worry and wonder how she will be,
do you walk away?

And most difficult of all,
how,
when you feel God called you there to help her,
do you walk away?

Not easily,
not quickly,
not neatly,
that's how.

That's why it's taken 5 months.
That's why it wasn't until the toxicity level of our relationship
was sucking the very life out of both of us,
that I finally packed my bags for good.
That's why I'm so weary and worn
and completely undone.
(and truth be told,
she probably is, too.)

It's not easy to walk away from the one you love,
but maybe,
sometimes,
it's ok to walk away.

Maybe,
sometimes,
it's the only way.

Lesson # 3:
Knowing Doesn't Take Away the Sting

Just because you've learned your lessons,
and just because you've made your choices
based on the lessons you've learned,
doesn't mean you will walk away "unharmed".

You will still feel the sting.

There is a part of me that stills wonders
if I could have done more,
if I could have done it differently,
if I could have budged that wall -
but wondering doesn't change what has happened,
and wondering doesn't change what is.

And what is
has left a huge sting in my heart.

And maybe,
just maybe,
this is the sting of love.

Love never fails.
~1 Corinthians 13:8

Love?
Yep, I've got that, too.

Not the kind of love that knows how to help.
Not the kind of love that knows when to walk away.
Not the kind of love that knows the thrill of victory.
(At least, not yet, anyway.)

No, my kind of love usually shows up
with a sting,
but that's ok.

If true love means

giving the only kind of help you know
(even if it's wrong),

crying a million tears and enduring sleepless nights
filled with "why can't I?"
and "how can I do better?"
and "God, please forgive me",

trying until your heart
(and the heart of your loved one)
is torn, battered, bruised, and beyond exhausted,

walking away when it's the last thing you think you should do,
and one of the hardest things you ever will do,
for the good of the one you love,

than I am a lover extraordinaire.

And, I am trusting in the One
who taught us how to love in the first place, -
believing that -
in the end,
true love
(no matter how it might look,
no matter how it might seem sometimes,
no matter if it looks as though
it has loved and lost)
never fails.