Thursday, February 16, 2012

A servant's despair, a child's joy...

When you are a huddled mass of misery, it is easy to fall into despair over your faith.  When you are a huddled mass of misery, it is easy to fall into despair over your faith, especially if you are an ex-evangelical.  For when you are a huddled mass of misery and an ex-evangelical, you are crushed by the weight of the burden that you are not serving others when you are huddled in misery.  You are not being Jesus to them.  You are not witnessing mightily for your Lord.


Mary, my sister in Christ, my writing partner, the most gentlest and (to me) wisest of women, has written me about witnessing and then sent the words again because I lost them, but I am not ready to share what she said.  Mostly because her pen is ever so much better than mine that I am holding out foolish hope she will just write the post for me.  No matter that she's recovering from pushing out a cherub whilst chasing around two other wee ones!

I think, though, that her words are ringing in my ears in a perfect harmony to what Fred prayed for and with me today, even as this insidious (and, yes, I mean what that word means) praise song is crashing about in my beleaguered brain.

Pastor Eric Brown is a hero of sorts to me.  I am sure that Lutherans are not supposed to have heroes other than Jesus, but he is.  I find him to be brave.  But mostly I just plain old like what falls from his pen.  For all the talk about keeping things about Jesus, he actually does do that. You might think that lately this is a "topic" for him on his blog, but back when I was on Facebook, I would find his comments popping up here and there in discussions.  In my uneducated opinion, he has a penchant for pointing back to Jesus, back to Scripture, back to our Confessions. This is not just a new soap box for him.

Adding to my uneducated opinion is my arm-chair analyzing: he's not trying to argue, not trying to grand stand, and few folk interacting with him seem to get that.  Part of my problem on Facebook was that I was so very distressed when reading what I thought were theological discussions laced with things that were not from our Confessions, from our Scriptures.  I think I am beginning to understand they were not really theological discussions.  I mean, it was on Facebook!  What was I thinking?  Besides, most of the instant chatting, instant commenting is so...egocentric.  A word I perhaps use too much is pontificating.  But that's what it seems like to me.  And maybe that is because so many of the comments were about me, about man, about what we should be doing. Funny thing for a bunch of Lutherans, but at the end of the day, the greatest passion was for positing a particular position, not proclaiming the theology of the Cross, not crafting a soap box of Christ and Christ alone.

Anyway, Pastor Brown has been writing a bit on his blog about not putting law about a particular matter on other folks where the Scripture makes no law.  Sometimes, when reading his little bits and pieces, a part of me sighs in relief. The part of me that is weary of trying to be a good Christian...the Lutheran way.

So, swirling about my mind are his words about not putting burdens upon others about which Scripture has not spoken clearly and definitely. Also in there are Mary's words about witnessing.  And then the praise song that will not leave my brain:

Make me a servant, humble and meek
Lord, let me lift up, those who are weak.
And may the pray'r of my heart always be;
Make me a servant, make me a servant,
Make me a servant, today.

Do not get me wrong...serving others is a good work, what we are charged to do.  In fact, during my formative years as a young Christian, the highest compliment you could receive was to have someone declare you to have a servant's heart.  But the prayer of my heart should not be about "doing."  In a way, this praise song is like this absolutely gorgeous Steven Curtis Chapman song, Heart's Cry.  I love listening to it.  I love singing it.  However, it is insidious as well.

This is my heart's cry
I want to know the One who saved me and gave me life
This is my heart's cry to be so close to Him that all my life becomes
A testimony of my Savior's grace and love
This is my heart's cry

Gorgeous.  SIGH.  I love melodies like this one.  I just do.  However, how in the world can my sinful flesh ever be a testimony of my Savior's grace and love?  Both songs point to me, while seemingly praising Jesus.  They point to me and my work and my testimony.  The cross is the only work that matters. Jesus Christ is His own testimony.  His is the only testimony that needs to be told.  Period.

[Did you happen to notice the pronouns in these songs?  Me. My. I. When you get caught up in blog comment threads or Facebook comment threads, note which pronouns are most prominent.  It is a rather telling exercise.]

Well, there I was, a huddled mass of misery listening to Fred pray with and for me--Fred who had no clue what has been swirling about in my mind--and he was praying about God's servant Myrtle.  Hearing servant made my heart sink.  After all, how do you serve God when you are a huddled mass of misery?  How do you serve God when you are so very tired, tired of pain and more pain and still more pain?  Tired of being the person who rides elevators because she cannot figure out which button will take her home?  Tired of having to think about everything she eats, tracking contents and calculating interactions?  Tired of being so cold that she can do nothing else but huddle in misery and wait for it to pass?  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  All that flooded my heart and mind and soul as despair washed over me in the heartbeat of that single word.  Yet Fred immediately added, who is not only His servant but also His daughter, His beloved child.

I nearly laughed.  I mean, Fred is an undershepherd after all. I shouldn't be surprised that Christ could use his mouth to speak to me.  Yep, speak to me, to Myrtle.  For joy washed away the despair.  Joy washed away the despair of that heartbeat, of that word, in a great tidal wave because what else does a child in pain do but huddle in misery longing for her parent to hold her, to love her, to help her through the pain?  Not joy from how I have served God, not joy from how I have been an incredible, godly testimony of grace and love.  No, the joy is that I am a beloved child of Christ...even though I am a huddled mass of misery.  Because that's what children do when they are overwhelmed with pain and confusion and fear and exhaustion.  They huddle and wail and want to be rescued.

After hanging up with Fred, I stumbled into Target to pick up the latest, greatest medication to combat my migraine misery.  Of course, the prescription had not gone through even though I waited in the parking lot for an hour, so I had to use my phone on a land line call for the umpteenth time this week to try and get the prescription filled.  While waiting for the pharmacist to count out my magic pills, I laid down on the floor, not caring about the stares I was getting.  After all, my huddled mass of misery self that is wracked with a terrible stabbing pain behind my left eye and a head that is simultaneously trying to implode and explode is a beloved child of Christ.

On the way over to the pharmacy counter, I passed a display and then back tracked.  While the whole world would probably be "shoulding" all over me about how I had no business plucking the two bags I chose off the shelf, I just knew that if Mary were there beside me, she would be cheering me on, clapping me on the shoulder, and offering to carry the bags for me so that I could keep my eyes covered from the bright lights in the store.  My new coping mechanism: alternating eating Cadbury's mini eggs with M&M's new peanut butter eggs.  "Chocolate," Mary would be sure to say, "is a good gift of this world God has created for us.  Enjoy it!"

Thirty more minutes before I can take my new magic pill, the pill I asked the pharmacist to think good thoughts about as he counted them into the jar.  He chuckled.  He would like for me to stop coming in huddled in misery, chasing a new solution for the migraines that ebb and rise like tides of pain.  How much more does my Creator and Savior and Helper wish for me to leave the pain behind?

May it be soon.  If not, may God grant me the grace to believe as I struggle with unbelief in the darkest moments of that misery.

I am Yours, Lord. Save me!


ftwayne96 said...

I think Fred would be greatly embarrassed if he saw this post.

Myrtle said...

I guess it is a good thing, then, that Fred is just a railroad drifter, a bum, a livermush lush who cannot read!

ftwayne96 said...

Oh, he can read alright. He just prefers Proust, Joyce, and Mann to almost anything else. ;-)