Monday, November 17, 2008

Obstinate Children-A Reflection

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15 b

I’m reading Isaiah 30, the chapter about God’s obstinate children. I love that Israel (and my extension, me and you) are called obstinate children. Hey! You! Punk adolescents who think you know everything about everything! You’re gravely mistaken. Stop pushing and pulling at your boundaries, stop trying to do things your own way! Just stop. Rest. Wait. Your work isn’t working; your work is slowing down enough that you can actually hear My voice.

That’s exactly what I needed to hear today.

And so I lectio'd each of the important words...

• Repent. Turn away from the things that do not bring you life, from attitudes, behaviors, actions, thoughts that drag you farther and farther from a close relationship with God, things that isolate and alienate you from your true self and from others. Repent. Don’t merely apologize, don’t beat yourself up over mistakes and sins. Repent. Start walking in the other direction and don’t look over your shoulder with longing. Repent. Accept healing, be more alive, more human, more real.

• Rest. Stop rushing. Calm the turbulent waters of your thought life, the racing pulse of the chronic worrier. Take time to breathe, to hear the sounds of the birds through the incessant noise of the city. Smell the jasmine under the car exhaust and cigarette smoke. Rest. Live in the present, not a prisoner to the past nor rushing so quickly into the future that today becomes a blur. Rest. Without guilt, without fear, without laziness. Just be. Remember who is truly in control of every situation, be comforted, and relax.

• Salvation. Not so much a once-for-all-eternal-heavenly salvation; these words speak to me of an ongoing salvation that’s a daily occurrence. Think of all that you need saving from today: from an overflowing to-do list, a stack of should’s as high as the ceilings in this old house, a nagging sense that something is being overlooked, the weight of imperfection, the rusty shackles of sin, that dog whose incessant barking is driving you to the brink of insanity...Salvation. Rescuing. Salve, healing balm, curative. Accept that which restores health, gives you new life, that which leads to a place of safety and security. Salvation.

• Quietness. Impossible in this city. Squealing brakes, shouting children, barking dogs. The vendors with their carts and horns, the loudspeakers blasting sound clips and propaganda, the cellphone and doorbell unsilent. Is quietness outside myself? Or is it an inner quietness, a silence within me that is unshakeable in the midst of so much tumult? Quietness like this is found only through great struggle. Have you ever sat quiet to meditate? After twenty seconds, I feel as though my brain will rupture from the stress of subduing the random thoughts that play some kind of chaotic full-body contact sport between my ears. Every synapse is exhausted from the effort of quietness. And then, for a few seconds, all pauses. A calmness descends…quickly kicked away by the barrage of thoughts, frustrations, prickly heat rash and that dead cockroach in the corner. Yet even though the experience of that silent peace, that quietness, is fleeting, it is valuable beyond words.

• Trust. Strength. The things I struggle most with. Trust. Depending on another’s strength and not my own. Can’t we put this topic away for another time? Isn’t it the sort of thing to be pushed into the background until I’m more prepared to deal with it? Get the rest of the junk in my life sorted out before I have to deal with trust? With facing the limitations of my own strength, which is pitifully weak? The word resonates within me. Trust. Don’t procrastinate on this one. Don’t put it off, brush it aside. You need this. Just trust. Because all those petty excuses for not trusting? The whining of an obstinate child. I’ve been obstinate most of my life; that I was prepared to accept as part of the package that is Jenna. But a child? God help me! That feels like spiritual regression...but Jesus tells us to be like little children. Maybe the problem is the obstinacy.

Darn. This will be harder to deal with than I thought.

Time to make lunch. Ruminate. Sit quietly and listen. Squelch some of that impulse towards obstinacy...

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