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.
A towering shade tree, green leaves unfurled, branches hanging low.
I had picked the soil I thought I would flourish in, but he supplanted me to an open pasture and put down immovable roots beside a stream.
Here, birds are beginning to flock to my branches for refuge.
Chickadee. She lowers her core temperature to thrive in cold environments, congregating with those of her kind.
She stores her seeds and berries in a cache and calls, chickadee-dee-dee, to the other birds to feed them.
She is not shy to approach a human and eat out of his hands.
Chickadee, he called me. You eat your portion out of my hands and show the other birds where to get bread.
God showed me to a friend as a tree, but this time, “there is a limb growing out of you sideways.”
The limb is a necessary branch to the structure of the tree. It stems from my beliefs about God’s goodness. Rather, it stems from my unbelief about God’s goodness, because it’s growing out sideways.
It’s growing out sideways in the life I think I want to live–my own methods, my own definitions of what is good. I have to send all my nutrients to keep the limb alive, because the Gardener is not going to cultivate a dying branch.
The rest of my tree is suffering because of it. My leaves are wilting and thinning, my branches no longer strong enough to support the nesting birds.
“He wants to prune back, or break off, the limb,” she says, and I’m imagining him grafting the limb into the structure of the tree where it will receive the nutrients of the earth instead of my own effort.
I feel the breaking-off like the snapping of a bone. I feel the grafting of the limb like the resetting of a bone, followed by the slow, slung process of reforming.
If the tree is the integrity of my heart–that secret place where I join the honesty of myself with God–then I have come home where I was walking out on a limb.
excerpt from a yellow Legal pad February 15, 2017
Unless a grain falls to the ground and dies, it cannot bear fruit, and your death among the snows of winter buried a seed that has grown into a mighty tree.
He supplanted you in your crystallized desire, broke you off like a dry branch and grafted you back in, to a tree planted by streams of water, for his namesake, for your joy.
Dance, oh feet, upon the muddy pasture! The ground is plowed and ready for planting. Participate in the sowing, so you may reap a harvest.
This morning I woke to the beckoning of a chickadee in the tree outside my house.
It reminded me of the word God whispered to me, the same January morning he showed me my tree: mercy like birdsong.