When I Need to Get Back

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I sit on the back step wrapped in a blanket, the steam from a coffee mug curling up my chin.

The sun is a happy smile strutting across the sky, looking this way and that, melting all winter blues with its cheery disposition.

Can I hang onto this sadness when spring is so pregnant with promise? 

The exhaust pipe at the back of the house emits an aroma of chicken and potatoes from Mom’s crockpot.

I’m suddenly twelve years old, cocooned in a nest on the dry portion of the steps, with piles of March snow still heaped in the backyard, and heaps of books and notepads and pens piled around me.

I’m filled with nostalgia, and an ache as deep as this year’s winter. A longing for home that is not of this world.

Jesus appears on the step below me, resting his head against my Afghan-covered knee, and I get the impression that the happy strutting smile is his. When I need to get back! That smile is the light left on….

I have so much to give you, he says–an observation, a promise, and an invitation all at once.

My sadness feels penetrable only by his sentiment–a lifting of the spirit–because it holds no condemnation for where I’m not, only hope and expectation for where I will be.

I want to receive all of it, I tell him in return, and I’m grieving because there is so much of my heart that would settle for a natural landscape, for a home in the physical. There is so much of me that doesn’t recognize the gift he is offering, that of himself.

My only promise for the spring.

To refuse him would be to continue in an internal winter. But how do I accept?

This conundrum: my connection to God the Father being Jesus, and my connection to Jesus being Holy Spirit, and my connection to Holy Spirit being my spirit, of which I am so unfamiliar!

A spiritual landscape planted invisibly in a natural one, and I would’ve settled for the natural one. How to see beyond the visible? 

I cannot escape this desperation for home, my own striving to work and earn and apply and secure and set up and maintain a rented house, when all he is looking at is my rest in him, so that I can become his resting place where, by his Spirit, he supplies all things.

I am the home.

He is the home.

We, together, belong.

How do I leave this effort in the natural to reside in the spiritual? How do I receive all Jesus wants to give me?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Does it start with the recognition that I have nothing, if what I have is in the natural? That God wants to move me to a reality where all I have is him? That to lose my life for his sake is to find it?

Does it begin with internal emptied-ness? Embracing the emptying because it makes room to be filled with the kingdom of heaven, which is spirit.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

And this, the sadness.

The recognition that the process demands a mourning of many things, which may last  the long, dark night of the soul, but cannot swallow up the joy of the morning.

Night’s mourning, and joy’s morning.

It starts with the emptying of the sadness–my choice to lay down a mourning that has had its time–and begins with the filling of his happy, strutting smile–the choice to receive what he is waiting to give me.

Receive the comfort of his presence, by which I will encounter all the home I could ever conceive.

It’s starts–and continues to the end–with that childlike instinct, trust. Do I believe him, that his Spirit is in me and equips me to learn the kingdom of heaven.

He is infinitely patient, but the choice is ultimately mine: will I rest, and trust, even indefinitely, that the Lord will teach himself to me?

He’s gone away to prepare a home for me.

He’s promised to come back and get me.

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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.

Hunger

under the greenwood tree

Teach me your language.
The child in me, wide-eyed Wonder,
is your mimicry.
My spirit is in early development
but in its prime for teachability.
How do I speak the language of heaven?

Start with taste.
I know all ten-thousand hairs
on your tongue.
Every nerve ending
regenerating
every ten days
so you can renew your taste
and see that I am good.
Your spirit has a tongue–or didn’t you know?

When you stitched this skin together
in the womb,
you used words, not thread.
The language of heaven is encoded
in my DNA.
Teach me your tongue.
Every lilt and swell,
every syllable.
Meet me
where the practice of consonants,
curling the tongue to the palate
and the pucker of lips to produce vowels,
ceases
and fluency begins.

There is a time to sew
and a time to rip out the seams
and start over.
Start with breath.
Wind that stirred life from death.
There is a time coming
when all dust will return to the earth
and the spirit of man to God who gave it.
You cannot breathe apart from me,
so you cannot speak apart from me.

Hunger.
The language you teach me?
There is a pang in my belly
eating out all other desire,
a hunger that grows
like the fanning of flames.
I am empty,
my soul cries,
Daddy, feed me!
Fill me with your Spirit-wind
and I will taste and see that you
are good.

Why do you work for that
which does not satisfy?
I am the bread of life.
Come to me,
eat and live forever.
The bread that I give for your life
is my body,
and whoever feeds on me, abides in me.
Apart from me, you can do nothing,
not even hunger.

I am depending on you.
Every breath, every pang.
Teach me
the language of heaven:
the splatter of blood poured out,
the crack of breaking bone,
you were emptied.
The gush of water overflowing,
the whoosh of wind descending,
I am filled
only to find
my taste buds have reflowered,
and I am learning the fluency
of hunger.