Guardianship

Water wheel
Jon Uriah

I woke this morning to my heart bursting.

With ideas, dreams, desires.

Within half an hour, a little too much caffeine was added to the mix, making my insides reminisce about the peaceful days of early July, when fireworks exploded outside the body.

I’m not sure what happened.

Just that, when I went to sleep, I didn’t have the same capacity I experienced when I woke up.

Which is good, because there’s a wide selection to choose from on the To-Do list: three jobs notwithstanding, the lawn needs mowing, the garden weeding, the tomato plant (which is fruiting!!) needs support if I’m going to taste any of that fruit….

My heart feels a little like that tomato plant. Like desire has grown too quickly for the strength of my spine, and its weight is just…sort of pulling me over sideways.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about placemaking and sustainability.

I did the obvious things in response to the cultural hype of zero-waste living: ditch-and-switch all things plastic for bamboo, single-use for reusable.

I must’ve spent close to a thousand dollars, renovating the externals of my lifestyle for long-term goals, and I’m happy I did that.

But now the Lord is taking sustainability into deeper regions of my soul, with a word over this season: guardianship.

Similar to stewardship, to investment. Guarding the good he continually brings to my life.

It also means, “leave no thing orphaned.”

All the parts of my soul should be mothered and fathered. And all the things I put my hand to I must claim responsibility for. It’s incomplete to jump on a gardening trend because growing your own vegetables is sustainable, but leave behind the parts of your own heart that need tending.

Here’s what I’m realizing: it’s not enough to participate in a lifestyle switch just to participate in a lifestyle switch.

You have to cultivate desire for it. You have to answer the why first, and then the how.

I want to stop buying bread because it comes in plastic packaging, which never biodegrades but pollutes our oceans, but how will I get bread, then? Am I ready to undertake making my own gluten-free loaves? Do I have the capacity and the desire to make this a sustainable switch? (Presently, all things cooking- and food-related are burdensome to me.)

Or will I burn out, because I’m also abandoning clothes shopping since I have a sewing machine (that I barely know how to use)?

The truth is, abandoning a convenient, consumerist lifestyle for intentional, sustainable living is more work, not less (whatever the minimalists propone!). It’s a lot of work to mix your own mayo and DIY your own lotion. Apply that same intentionally to your work, to your relationships, your dreams, and your future, and you could burn out quickly if you launch prematurely.

But if you walk with God, you might also wake to an exploding heart because maturity is coming quickly.

See, the best part about receiving a word from the Lord is that it always comes with the equipping intact. He didn’t say guardianship to me as the next thing to learn. He said it to me as the next thing to practice. 

He’s already equipped me with the ability to guard, cultivate, and steward through his Spirit.

Now, to the furthest reach of my desire, I get to participate with the sustainability of his heart. It’s less about making a list of all the switches I want to make and more about cultivating an unmanageable desire.

Because then he has to give me a capacity to match.

And, really, what’s more intimidating to our faint hearts? The stress over biting off more than we can chew?

Or the untameable growth of a desire that’s heaven-sized?

In the face of a God who will always outdo us in dreaming, we choose to belittle our desire until it’s more manageable. Which sidles up a little too closely to soul-killing duty.

I don’t want to cook meals because it’s my duty to sustainable living. I don’t even want to cook meals because it’s my duty to the earth, to my own convictions, or to the Lord who entrusts me.

I want to cook meals because it’s my joy. And if I don’t have joy there, something orphaned in my heart needs a guardian.

Good thing I have the best keeper–one who has promised never to leave me or forsake me. With him, everything is to my advantage, and every advantage is sustainable.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Brick-a-Brack

watering can
PC: Glorin

I pass, for the first time, through the double-doors into the homemaker’s heaven:

Hobby Lobby.

Bright lights and long aisles and…instrumental Easter hymns playing over the loudspeaker?

Observing the 30-day devotionals and wall-hanging Bible inscriptions, I presume the owner is Christian.

Immediately overwhelmed by the size of the maze, I ask an employee to show me the chalkboard markers.

We pass rows of craft supplies, bolts of fabric, Easter bunnies and plants, picture frames and furniture.

I feel an unfamiliar conflict stirring up inside me, making it difficult to concentrate on the employee’s direction.

Excitement and inspiration (the endless possibilities of homed decorating!) colliding with something like…revulsion?

I pause briefly at an aisle that catches my interest, craning my neck to see to the top of shelving laid neatly with farmhouse-style goods. Serving platters and jars, kettles and bottles and baskets and spouts, all with distressed finishes, or that green/blue patina mimic of rusting copper.

My revulsion turns to anger. Someone is making a profit off somebody else’s insecurity and attempt to construct an identity through an aesthetic!

What someone would naturally achieve by living and laboring for generations on a real farm in the country is duplicated in a sweatshop in China for five dollars, then sold for quadruple to an American suburbanite who will change their theme in five years when the next trend emerges!

I’m all a righteous, red flush and rage.

Until I realize I am the one with the insecurity and constructed identity. I am the suburbanite, and the anger is the Lord’s.

Someone across the Sea is not making a fair wage in good working conditions so I can furnish a new house! This elusive home I’m trying to find and create, telling the Lord I will do it with him, but first not understanding what it is to be at home in his presence.

Not understanding the injustice done to others to fulfill my desire, which is a false identity in the first place. I’m compensating. A wooden chicken for the assurance that I belong.

Oh, Jesus, give me rest from this striving!

All that comes is vapor (Eccl. 11:8)…. And when we’re dead and gone, and the accumulation of our striving blown away with our last breath, all we’ve left is a crater-sized carbon footprint of the landfill junk that once constructed our worth.

What can I do against such reckless, pervasive sickness?

Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgement (11:9).

I pass, for the first time, through the double doors of the Earth Maker’s heart, and I find grief.

His grief over the system, my grief over missing his heart in all this. There is more of heaven’s will to be manifest on earth, in my life!

He’s preparing a place for me, the truest home. It’s available to me right now, in his heart.

Will I exchange my perfectly-curated, white-picket-fence, Christian-American dream?

After all, it’s just an illusion.

 

The Pizza Guy’s Here

marie-antoinette
© Columbia Pictures 2006

For a persuasive moment, I see the evening unfold before my eyes:

Me in sweats, an old beanie.

A movie on Netflix, likely a rom-com,

a glass of wine,

and a microwaved Lean Cuisine, still in its plastic tray.

The vision jams in my mind’s eye and begins skipping on replay, mocking my Friday night, Saturday night, every night for the rest of my life;

and, really, it’s the sequence from every rom-com ever made, showing the same scene over a time lapse, only with a different sweater, a different lounging position, and a mound of take-out cartons piling up.

I suppose it’s all those rom-coms that’ve stuck the scene in my head in the first place.

Still, there’s an appeal in it.

Netflix has got some great originals…and French wine is available at Top Valu for under ten bucks.

As I move toward it in my heart, with victimized resignation, my spirit does a backwards somersault, as if trying to create reverse momentum. Why would you choose that?

Obviously I have no comeback that would satisfy my honest places. Excuses are for the parts of us that have already departed from the truth, and the Spirit only deals in truth.

It’s aggravating in this moment, but truth is the most satisfying channel of life right now, aggravating because it’s also quite narrow in its permission. I’d give anything to be working an evening shift, or unpacking boxes in a new apartment, or even to have a book I’m excited to read (taking suggestions, by the way.)

Truth, by its nature, is sufficient, however. Even however limiting it may feel. You can spend many an evening with nothing to do, no one to do it with, and apparent little to look forward to, and still be satisfied with only the truth.

The truth of who Jesus is for you, and who you are to him.

The truth is that a lifelong addiction to romantic comedy is not my destiny–pardon my French. (Are we confessing the truth? Because I’m drinking French wine as I write this. Don’t worry, I’m not under its influence. I ate the Lean Cuisine earlier, and it was full of rice.)

Why am I taking up a victimized heart posture as if that’s all I amount to? Even for a single evening, I don’t have to resign myself to less than who I am created to be.

Truth is like your friend, the pizza-delivery guy, who always arrives in the last fainting moments of craving, with permission to be honest like an extra side of cheesy bread.

(Tip that guy, because no one delivers like the Holy Spirit.)

Honesty ushers in grace, and grace is the channel to receive love–a need of which you buffered a rom-com in the first place.

Take whatever it is you do on an aimless evening and ask yourself: why do I do this?

And then ask yourself, is it consistent with the truth in me?

The truth is, I’m supposed to be on the wrestling mat of my soul, where Holy Spirit wants to pin me.
Instead I’m bobbing-and-weaving around him, avoiding some painful truth–’cause let’s be honest, truth is also the scalding cheese on top of the pizza that blisters the roof of your mouth for a week.

…I’m boxing the air, feigning a warmup, because I know I’m supposed to be wrestling him, I’ve just left the honest place for Excusez-moi, there’s just one thing I need to do first…

My spirit knows it, it’s telling me so. It’s practically doing gymnastics in my stomach, and I think drinking wine is the solution to decompress??

It’s called a holy unrest, people.

It’s meant to agitate, to get you to pay attention to the fact that your soul is not free. Your freedom is the best tip you could give Holy Spirit.

During these aimless evenings, whether it’s momentary or a movie-marathon, slow down enough to confess the truth: you are made for more than what you’d choose for yourself.

Then ask Jesus, what exchange would you make? 

I bet you every evening of the rest of my life he’ll tell you this truth: I’ll give you my life for yours.

What Trees Tell Me of Secret-Keeping

 

crabapple

The best part of spring, particularly after such a long winter, is the sudden opening of buds where you weren’t paying attention.

There’s this time lag, between the snow melting, and the little green nubs appearing on the trees, and the flowering of the blooms, that I swear happens overnight. Literally, in the night, when I’m sleeping and won’t see it happen.

Trees must be good secret-keepers, I think.

You wake up one morning and step outside the door, and there’s a bright pink tree waiting beside the porch. Ta-da! Those crabapple trees are like little girls in pink tutus, showing off for their father.

And every spring, I am surprised. (Just the other day I went for a walk with Mom and Dad, and we had to stop and sniff every crabby bloom, exclaiming and taking pictures, as if they were as foreign as a Japanese cherry blossom.)

I think the surprise lies in the lack of attention. I’m not hanging around, noting the growth of the buds every morning so that I’ll be ready when they flower. And if I were, I wonder if the flowers would be as lovely…

God grows things in me in a similar way. Those things I would consider myself paying attention to. But there’s always a deeper, more subtle thing he is cultivating, which happens during the night (Ps. 16:7) and you discover when you wake up one morning, finding you have bloomed.

I’m anticipating this summer to be a long, slow season of re-fathering.
Of stripping back the honesty of myself to levels of exposure that feel like they could kill me.
A reset of the last twenty years.
A time to lay foundations of faithstone that God will teach me himself and show me myself in him, the only true identity.
A consecrated time to establish our thing. (My pastor, speaking about having secrets with God, said of his daughter, “She and I have a thing, and we both know it. A thing no one else gets. God wants to have a thing with each of his kids.”)

Probably half of those things happen while I sleep. There’s a lag time between God inviting you into a new space, and showing you the fruit of that obedience. A most-admired speaker said, “God waits a long time to move suddenly.”

You walk out the door of your heart one day, and there’s a bright pink tree bowing in the breeze.

God is teaching me to be a good secret-keeper. Trustworthy of his heart’s secrets. He’s teaching me to be his little daughter in a pink tutu, lost in her Papa’s delight, in her own beauty, in the assurance of her place in his heart.

This morning when I woke up, I caught the fragrance of a new bloom. And after such a long lag of winter wandering, it was the most glorious, foreign flower.