Two steps forward, one step back--isn't that the way it's supposed to go? Not one step forward and two steps back.
Another missed obligation. Another invitation declined. Another appointment cancelled at the last moment. This is my new life, and I hate it.
A nearly empty calendar that somehow feels overwhelmingly full. Another week of days made up of doing just one (if that) of the tasks I used to whip out ten or twelve of in a single day.
Mike says he doesn't know why I'm so anxious to return to the old me. Since the old me is what resulted in the new me. I know he's right--being that person nearly killed me--but it's like a drug. I NEED to be that person. I long to be that energetic, efficient, you-can-count-on-me, do-it-all-and-with-STYLE kind of girl I once was.
I am addicted to the identity I built up in that world I'd created for myself. Addiction is not too strong a word. The withdrawal symptoms are sadly telling.
I've been reading a fantastic book by John Eldredge called Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus. It's been one of those books that even before you reach the end, you're going back to re-read parts. It's deep and yet wonderfully accessible at the same time. If you've ever felt like Jesus was distant or cold or too saintly to really be an intimate friend, you'll find a grace-filled new perspective dripping from the pages of Beautiful Outlaw.
One of my favorite chapters deals with the rich young ruler (Mark 10). I guess I never identified with this person before; I'm far from wealthy, for starters. But there are countless similarities I have missed. This young man was a good, sincere and honest person. He truly tried to keep the law. He really thought it was doing it. He'd been doing it since he was a small child.
But he knows there's something missing and he stops Jesus on the road and begs for an answer. Where am I still lacking?
Jesus provides it by simply pointing out this man's secret love: Money. It is "his life-source, his security and status." Everything he thinks about himself, knows about himself, believes about himself, is colored by his wealth. Either he thought it didn't matter or he thought it was under control. It wasn't.
Eldredge is spot on when he says Jesus knows the exact thread to pull that will unravel our carefully woven life.
For that nameless young man it was money. For me, it is my own capabilities. For you, it will be something else. The wealth is not the point--it's just the name of the idol.
I've been a Christ-follower for well over thirty years now and often felt his poke in my pride, a well-placed finger pointing to a spot I've been blissfully ignoring. But this--this is nothing like those gentle admonitions and times of cleansing and re-direction. This season of illness is the thread that has unraveled my life, and as the curtain falls in shreds, it reveals an idol in the hidden alcove.
The rich young ruler has his answer; he blindly turns away, grieving. He is shaken to his very core; the truth laid bare in that simple encounter with Christ has been a devastating blow. He is worshiping, trusting in something besides the living God, and has broken the first commandment of them all.
Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
It is a catastrophic encounter. A crossroads that will force a decision. The choice is his, yes; but the choice to make it is not optional. Confronted, exposed, no longer able to justify or ignore the facts, he must decide to bring it all under captivity to Christ, or not.
And in one of the Bible's best cliff-hanger moments, we aren't told what he chose.
Two things about this passage in Mark 10 give me hope. The first is that verse 21 says, "Jesus looked at him and loved him."
Before this young man, clothed in flesh and bone, stands El Roi: the God Who Sees Me.
All his pretenses, all his walls, crumble with a glance. Fully comprehended and fully loved in the same heartbeat.
I, too, like this young man, am seen and loved. The sincerity of my heart is known, as is the truth about my motives and intents that I have not even admitted to myself. I am bare before Him, all my weaknesses displayed in broad daylight, and still He loves me.
There aren't words in my vocabulary to emphasize how comforting that certainty is--or how far beyond human understanding that compassion goes.
The second is that the story doesn't end there. There is a postscript, the end of a conversation with the disciples continuing down the road after the young man has stumbled away, his empty hands clutching on nothing but a bunch of unraveled threads. The idol is entrenched, deeply rooted and carefully guarded; it will be a battle to break it down. The disciples are pessimistic about the outcome. But Jesus lays to rest any doubt that eventual victory is within the young man's grasp.
"With man this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God." Mark 10:27
Did he make the right decision, to bravely face what he had carefully woven his life around, and continue to pull the thread Jesus started? I'd like to think he did. As Eldrege says, maybe, as Jesus turns back to the road, there's a twinkle in His eye. It's not the end of the story. Someday this young man will take up his shield and slay the dragon with the strength his Father will give him.
There is power beyond imagination, for me, too, to deal with this shameful, audacious self-reliance and any other idol that must be cast down from the throne on which I have set up a usurper in the place of Almighty God.
There is love and compassion enough to wait as long as it takes for my battered faith to be bolstered again for battle.
There is mercy and hope shining in the darkest and most dismal night, the deepest season of depression and anxiety. With man, ending all this chaos, fear and disorder is impossible. With God, nothing is outside the realm of possibility.
God Who Sees Me, full of compassion, today I turn away grieving, my sin so plainly exposed, a choice to be made. Forgive me for clinging to the pile of unraveled threads because I'm so afraid of empty hands. Forgive me for trusting in my own strength and abilities. Thank you for taking them away from me for a season in order to expose how I have raised up an idol in Your place. Thank You for looking on me with love--still, despite everything You know about my past, my present and my future. Thank you for the promise of an impossible victory made possible only because of Your ultimate authority and omnipotence. Sustain me through this long learning of the lesson, but do not quit until Your will in my life has been accomplished. You chasten those You love. Help me view the present unpleasantness through eyes opened to the goodness of Your plan. Amen