Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The luxury of silence

One of the comments from my "Saturday night services" post really surprised me. Mark said, "keep blogging Jennifer, we need your voice." The reason this comment stuck out to me was that this issue of using my voice, was exactly what I was wrestling with God about. Two of my mentors have also spoken specifically into my life in the last few weeks about this, affirming the need for me to use my voice.
At another point in my life, with that kind of encouragement, I wouldn't have hesitated to inflict my voice on others. At this point though, I am a bit more realistic about what I have to offer. Sometimes there is wisdom in what I have to say, and sometimes people do benefit. At other times, I make a fool of myself, and say exactly the wrong thing. Choosing to use my voice means simply to use it, releasing control of when or if it is valuable. When I hold tightly to control how I speak and present myself, what I say loses its value. It becomes a sermon, rather than a sharing of a broken life with which others can identify.
It is a little less than reassuring to move forward with this knowing that the calling to use my voice, like life in general, is messy. Sometimes I would rather stay silent. In silence, I can avoid the kind of self-disclosure that exposes my weaknesses. My calling is not to be wiser or smarter than anyone else; it is to live an authentic and transparent life. I'd much prefer the luxury of the facade. I'd love to speak only when words of profound wisdom well up inside and roll off my tongue (or fingers, as I type). Such luxury however, is not mine, and so here I am. Messy, complicated, ironic, hopeful, and occasionally wise.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Self-indulgence and disillusionment

I bought a Keith Urban cd today. I bought it for the same reason that I rented my favourite romantic comedy last week: I'm avoiding the indulgence of bitterness and disillusionment. I've shared with some recently that I don't believe in romance. Of course I know what I am supposed to believe; I'm talking about what I actually believe, or in this case, don't.
I'm not so self-absorbed as to believe that it doesn't exist at all. My parents aren't faking. After nearly thirty years of marriage, and having faced a number of challenges together, they've built a relationship that is beautiful to see. Many of my friends are also in relationships that are a joy to behold. For my single friends, I have endless hope that love is around the corner for them. For myself though, I just don't believe it.
Of course I hope I'm wrong. That's why I'm listening to Keith Urban today, and refusing to indulge in a bitterness that will build impenetrable walls. Maybe someday I'll find out that I'm wrong. In the mean-time, there's a lot to enjoy in life.

The Uncensored Version

I woke this morning with the certainty that someone was praying for me. It's a nice way to start the day. I had gone to sleep amidst angry prayers, and woke to the warmth of being enveloped in the love of Jesus. I wish words could do justice to the experience of God in life, but they can paint only the smallest picture with which to identify.
I'm glad to be honest with you all about my life, and my faith. My life is an open book to my close friends, and that's how it is with God as well. Obviously He knows me better than I know myself, but I still tell Him everything. It means a lot to me to be able to be honest with God in my prayers. I share a lot with my closest friends, but God gets the uncensored version. (My friends are shuddering right now... there is an uncensored version??) It occurred to me this morning what a brat I am with God sometimes. I let loose on Him a lot more than with anyone else. That's the reality. Should I feel ashamed of that, or try to clean it up?
I think it is kind of like how we are with family. The closest people in my life are those who have fought with me. They've seen the worst sides of me, and still accept me. I often say that I can't be really close with someone if we have never fought.
This is not to excuse my being bratty with the Creator of the Universe. I'm wrong of course, every time. I won't contest that. I am thankful though, that He gives me the freedom to be myself around Him. I can be honest, and be my bratty self with Him, and He accepts me unconditionally. Until I am faced with contrast, I didn't realize how hard I try to please people. Until being totally free in one relationship, I didn't realize how much I work at being likeable, and unoffensive to the people around me. It's freeing really, to have a place where I don't have to worry about being "too much" for the other party in the relationship. With God, I never need to fear that I will ask too much. I will never be too needy. He will never be disgusted with my weakness. He'll never stop to re-evaluate whether I am worth the effort of relationship. He will never be shocked and horrified by what He sees in me. He knows me. He loves me. He is at work in me, refining me, teaching me what it means to live my life in Him, letting Him love people through me. I'm a brat, but I don't have Him wrapped around my finger. He lays clear boundaries that give me security. He always chooses what is best for me, though I don't always understand it. I rail at Him, cry to Him, and lean on Him, and in the end I know I am safe with Him. The weight of the world that I carry on my shoulders is lifted by Him.
I know some people call religion a crutch. I don't know about "religion", but I know that I find life in my relationship with God. Pass me the crutches- my legs are broken anyway!

Pioneers blog

Ok, we've taken the plunge.

The organizational blog I talked about before is launched. I now have my personal blog here, and my Pioneers blog. If you're interested, you can see it here.

It's going to take me a bit to get into the flow of it. I'm nervous, and excited about it at the same time.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Saturday night services

I used to go to North Park by myself for Saturday night church services. Occasionally I'd go with a friend, but most often by myself. It was often a very lonely experience, as I never seemed able to connect with people my age. I'd go in by myself, sit among strangers and enjoy the service, then go home.

Now I know a lot more people, and I get plenty of good heart-to-heart fellowship with other believers... but the church service is not where that happens. The service for me is often a place where the heaviest things on my heart reveal themselves, urged to silence no longer. I sit or stand there during the extended worship time after the message, and just talk to God, wrestle with Him, and cry out to Him, all the while being reminded of truth through the worship songs.

Tonight I went to church with a friend, and as I sat there, blinking back tears, and trying to keep my lip from quivering noticeably, I remembered why it was convenient to go alone. :)

I don't want people to see me crying, but I don't want to pretend I'm stronger than I am. I wasn't crying noble tears tonight because I was moved and inspired by the worship. I was crying because amidst all the songs about surrender, I most certainly did not want to surrender. How's that for an admission? :) I have a sense of what He is asking of me, and I don't want it. I want Him to see that it costs too much, to see that I am too weary, and He should ask someone else.

He'll win of course. Not because He'll force me, but because I can't imagine living another way. I feel like Moses right now, at the burning bush, telling God that He's got it wrong. The youthful enthusiasm that once drove me has faded and dried up: I'm only 26, how can this be? Now I'd be content to live in the wilderness, with the simplicity of a life looking after some goats or sheep.

I'll choose Him... because in my heart I want Him. For tonight though, I couldn't just sing words that my heart wasn't in. For tonight, I'm still wrestling it through with Him. I know I'm being bratty, but really it's trust in Him that frees me to ask Him any question, confident that He'll have an answer. The process is just a bit painful sometimes.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Blogging pressure

I've been trying to figure out why I am so terrible at blogging these past 6 months or so. I know it's pretty normal for bloggers to fizzle out after a while, losing interest and enthusiasm... but that's not quite it. I still have a lot to say, and a strong desire to write. My life, as usual, provides plenty of fodder for reflections and stories. But something has been holding me back.

I love to write, and like most writers, I enjoy knowing that what I write is being read. I have a bit of an eclectic blog, sharing a variety of things that are interesting to me. It's been pleasantly surprising over the past nearly two years to find that people are actually reading this blog. It's been nice, but as the readership widened, it got harder to write. I've often reminded myself that this is a public blog, but knowing people CAN read it, and that they ARE reading it are two very different things.

I feel it like a calling on my life to be an open person. Authenticity and transparency are high values in my life and friendships. I've chosen many times to be open here, because in the end, I know a lot of people can relate to the things that I wrestle with: especially life and faith issues. My aim has been to share my journey: as complicated and messy as it all is sometimes. If you can't relate to the situations I write about, you can probably relate to the messiness of it all. I don't even get extremely personal on here; the deep stuff I save for my closest friends and God. There's a lot that doesn't end up on this blog. :)

Looking at nearly two years worth of blogging however, I see the accumulation of a lot of me on here. Sometimes, I just honestly feel like hiding from the world. The desire to be known is overshadowed by the fear that to be known is to be rejected. It would be nice to be transparent, and to have it all together. The obvious reality though, is that to be transparent is to reveal weakness.

So, overwhelmed by the accumulation of what I have revealed thus far, and intimidated by the growing pressure to keep writing, I made a choice to withdraw. I chose not to use my voice. I chose safety (in many areas, not just this) instead of risks. It seemed better than continuing on, revealing more weakness at a fragile time in my life, and inevitably letting everyone down.

I guess I'm writing this as a bit of a catharsis. The admission frees me to let go of the expectations and pressure I feel. I love to write. I even think that sometimes I write pretty well. But sometimes, like today, I'm just getting thoughts out and that's my purpose: communication, not stellar writing.

And now, having written so infrequently for these months, I think I've shaken off a lot of readers. I can start afresh with a blank slate of sorts. :)