Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dodging Fast Balls

Life is full of hard decisions, upset schedules, hectic days, long months...One fast ball after another. Most days the ball hits you right in the face, and it's all you can do to catch your breath before the next one comes. Some days you can actually duck in time as it goes sailing by your face, but eluding the next ball is even harder still. Then there are days when you see the fast ball in slow motion, and when you hit it, it soars so far that you wonder how you did it.  Most often for me, I get hit smack in the face. I've never been good with balls, whether it be a soccer ball or life fast ball. I have been blessed enough to dodge a few, but actually hitting them seems few and far between.

So many things tell us that life is suppose to be grand and beautiful. That each new day is the start of a new adventure. We've got bookshelves full of how to books, telling us how to enjoy our vacation to the full, how to create fun memories with those around us, how to make a holiday more special. Do more of this, buy more of that, do more meditating, think happy thoughts, make yourself look on the positive side. And we nod, and say "I can do that!" and we try. I've seen some people succeed on doing those things, and others (like me) who have finally quit trying...but whichever category we fit into, it seems like we all have the same outcome. It simply doesn't work. We aren't happier. Even when these thoughts come from Christian sources, there's something about our hearts that simply doesn't grasp the concepts, even if our minds do.

Sometimes we are so afraid of feeling deeply, that rather than experience joy and sorrow, we trade it for a weak form of sadness and a shallow happiness.  We think that, in so doing, we are shielding our hearts from great pain. What if shielding ourselves from great pain in emotion, is actually creating more pain in numbness?

You've heard the phrase, "pull yourself up by your boot straps". We've all been told to get back up, dust ourselves off and keep going, because you can do it.  All I want to do is lay down and kick my feet and yell and scream. I think at times, we all want to do that. Our sinful nature that caused us to do that as children was no more alive than it is now. We all have days we simply don't want to give grace, don't want to do the dishes one more time, don't want to get out of bed. We all want to scream "I don't want to!" Yet we still go back. We trudge though life, slinging mud as we go. We get filthy, truly believing that getting through life and getting out clean and joyful are antonyms. 

But I'm telling you God washed me, and he says that he only needs to wash my hands and feet, that my whole body doesn't need another bath. And just like Peter, I want him to wash me completely because I'm not sure I got clean the first time. And I easily forget how he comes and washes my stinky, dirty feet. How he's not too much of a King to get down on the ground to touch the feet that have trudged through unnecessary mud. I shake my head in wonder, my head still shaking 'no'. 

But how do I not? How do I not trudge through mud, how do I not get hit by those fast balls, how do I not get frustrated and forget the graces and see things as ugly, and not except those gifts that are somewhere around me? How do I not close my eyes, when closed eyes protect me from all the things I fear. How do I slow down. Stop. Listen. And feel the water rushing over my feet, making them clean. And does the washing ever really stop, or is he working on it now, even as my head shakes a stubborn 'no'. I don't know how to stop this unending cycle, this torrent that makes this sacred ground into mud. The scary thing is, sometimes I Don't Want To!

 I read the words of John, I see the storm through his eyes. My heart searches for reassurance... I want to see Jesus through the eyes of 'the one Jesus loved', because surely he sees clear?
John 6:16-21 : That evening Jesus' disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn't come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them, "Don't be afraid. I am here!" Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!

That second sentence, it catches my attention, I pause long. I see myself in that situation...I see that situation in my life. That moment you actually hit the fast ball, you're standing on your rock, Jesus Christ. I'm seeing the graces, thanking him, and extending them to others. I know for a fact I'm where he wants me to be, and that he has a plan.
 Hoping he'll come back before that next hit. I see the sun going down, that next obstacle in my path coming swift, and rather than stay on that solid rock, I go back into the mud and hope to make it till I can find a new rock to stand on, another experience of God to keep me safe for a moment. In heading into the mud on my own, I try to step lightly and not get so covered in the mud, but on my own there's no way to keep clean. My moments are getting crammed with things I have to do, decisions I have to make, people I have to please. As the chaos surrounds me, my heart is no longer trusting, and I can feel myself slipping.
And just like the disciples, I experience my own gale, and my seas grow very rough. And I grow afraid. No longer looking for Jesus, the only thing I want, is to get to the other side. You can taste the panic, the tears surface. You feel all alone. And like the disciples, instead of turning around, I keep heading strait into the storm, not going moments like this, but hours...even days. The disciples had been fighting their storm for at least 6 or 7 hours when they finally looked up into the face of Jesus. And relief? It doesn't fill them. Fear does. And not just a small amount of fear...they were terrified. 

In the midst of our storm, how easy is it to doubt if the God we see now, is the same one we had communion with before we jumped into our day? What about the Jesus who met with us that one morning we actually took time for devotions. Kind and welcoming, the one who washed our feet. After doing everything wrong, after yelling at the ones we love, neglecting the things we should have done, ignoring the graces, and complaining through our day, are we afraid that this Jesus we see now is someone else?

What if we listen to his voice? What if we grasp on and hold tight to his word. The word that says I am the I AM. The one who reassures of who he is, who displays how he is the same even when his children sin? That's when we become eager to have him close...and we arrive at our destination. 

I write down the scriptures, I post them around. I see the ship in my bathroom, the one that always gets dusty, and who has time in this crazy life? And I smile at the fast ball that I actually get to hit this time. Breathe. It's okay. It's only when I let the torrents of shame touch that dust that it becomes mud. And I thank God that he holds those torrents back when I see dust as simply a reminder...a grace. That dusty ship becomes a great reminder, to invite God into my boat and be thankful that he dusts me mud.
And wasn't our destination really not a place, but to be close to him?