When You’re Asked Questions You Cannot Answer

No one was awake, the house was silent and cold. The mug of hot coffee warmed my hands but nothing else. For a few hours, both the house and myself were like a tomb. The dead among the living.

So I walked out and away from the dead house. I let myself be lead but still, I could not bring myself to go up those stone steps. And the bells didn’t ring so much as clank that morning. I turned away from the old church and leaned into my pain. What could have soothed me then, I do not know.

 

When people are difficult and hurtful and situations don’t work out as you had planned, I try to redirect myself. Try. I’m not always successful.

Because what could this moment teach me about Christ?

Could this ever bring me closer to God?

And how am I supposed to reflect that divine love to others when I feel broken?

 

What happened was wrong yet here I am under question. Brought low and humbled by the question of myself.

 

In questioning ourselves we should not be afraid. Merton once wrote to the effect that when we become the question, we also have in us Christ as the answer. Because we do not lack an answer. What we lack is compassion. Under it all, not just faith, should be compassion.

And I lacked in compassion when I finally chose to respond to the questions being asked.

 

What happened cannot be changed and the words I flung around, so carelessly, cannot be unsaid. He left for work and the memory lingered.

So I prayed for forgiveness.
I prayed for healing, calm, and peace.
That the bitterness and rejection not define us.
For strength to change. Hearts to be shaped more intentionally.

 

But I never asked why because I knew who the answer would be.

 

Risking Yourself to Find Yourself

I have been and am still wrestling with it, right there on the ground, dirt and sweat and tears. It’s the words on my lips and the beat of my heart these days. And if I could only dig deeper, really sink into it, I just might get it.

John 1:1-18, I’m committed and it’s etched into memory. Someone has said that what a heart knows by heart, a heart knows.

Indeed.

 

Because in there is the courage to be. Our true selves are tucked in somewhere in there. Words written almost two thousand years ago know me better than I know myself. So I breathe deep and keep digging.

What I’ve unearthed is few but precious compared to the dirt that is on me.

So I roll it around in my hands and on my tongue, all of those throughs and ins and beings. I’m sure I’ve polished them smooth, I’ve gone over them so many times.

And I bring in others, theologians and scholars, to help with the task. Some are more useful than others but all contribute to the necessary work. Some make me uncomfortable as they force me outside the boundaries I’ve imagined and really, this is what Jesus calls us to do. Everything belongs, nothing is wasted.

 

Something has been raised out of the dark. What exactly, I’m not yet sure, but it’s essential. That I know.

And really, I know little else. But faith isn’t certainty, it makes room for doubt and in doing so becomes one of our greatest blessings. Faith persists despite our lived reality. Because you can’t deny that something has come into being through him and in him. Our true selves are found only in Him.

Jesus calls us to the freedom of knowing who we are, our true identities, as children of God. Born not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. Here is our courage to be, to claim life with and in and of God as our own. The boldness we have, we have in Him.

 

The Greatest Risk

“The measure of our identity, of our being, is the amount of our love for God.” -Thomas Merton

 

So we find ourselves when we love God fully. We find our selves, our true selves, in loving him.

This is where we should root ourselves, firmly in our love for God, in the place of joy and real living. And this love must be shared. It cannot be stored away or hoarded; this will only leave us smug and righteous and living falsely. Our lives are a joyful sacrifice given out of our love for God.

 

But love requires vulnerability.

Here, I falter. I stumble hard. Because vulnerability so often brings pain. You could lose it all. But what I’m really saying when I live like this is that I don’t trust God. And then, my vulnerability becomes something shameful.

If you’re living, really living, it all points to the cross. To the one who gave it all away out of love.

Where is this passion for God’s will in my own life? Some days, I just don’t know. Grace is all I have then.

 

As an essential part of our humanity, let’s reframe vulnerability. Let it be something to be cherished because when we are vulnerable we are acknowledging our limitations and God’s sovereignty. It is the fullest expression of our trust and in those moments we are most fully alive. And then we are free to be our truest selves.

 

 

How to Make Order from Chaos

In planning, I feel safe. Lists and calendars bring a sense of ease. Yet the beginning of each week makes me tense up. The days stretch on and who knows what each holds? The week starts with a jolt, I barely know where or how to begin.

I do what I can with what I’ve been given and the rest I leave to Him. All things came into being through him, so that I must trust. I must trust that from the dark and nebulous something will be brought forth just as it happened way, way back. In Him and through Him came all life. This is where you start.

 

Logos, judgment, reason, wisdom. Word

In the beginning God’s word called life into being and His wisdom brought order and meaning to what was otherwise nothing.

 

His word still calls us into life, His wisdom empowers us to live.

Spirit calls to spirit, life to life. The deep reverberation of faith.

 

 

So this is how you start to set it to right. Because to be human is to be a little lower than God. It is our glory and honour. When we live as the fullest expression of our humanity, we are therefore living as a part of who and what God is. You can only get a grip on it all when you remember who you are and to whom you belong.

 

And then you trust. Because the light shines in the darkness and it has not yet been overcome.

 

Living It Out with Trust and Hope

There are bills and notices. Reminders and statements of what’s left and what’s left to give. And cars break and everything starts later than it should. No one says “thank you” or even notices what’s been done. There are still dishes and a meal to make and more after that.

There are times when it feels like too much, I forget who to trust. I am restless to get it right, to do it better. I forget that we, like those who received the letter, are holy partners in a heavenly calling.

The everyday is my biggest distraction. But it’s where I need to be and where I must live in God’s grace.

Always, when I turn to the word, I am reminded that faith is not just believing but living in patience, obedience, and with hope. Because what we have been blessed with is an anchor of the soul. And whatever I thought separated me from God, well, it doesn’t.

And when I need Him in a real and human way, I need only look to the one who reflects His very being. The constant and unchanging character of the one in who we live and breathe and find our rest.

This is what I must remember when I am falling or failing. Ruthless trust is the only thing that’s needed.

Living It Out

Every quiet word is a plea to put Him first, to make Him the centre.

But maybe I don’t know what that actually means or how to give flesh to those words. How do you respond to that which is given freely and always? And what of those days when even fervent prayer feels like throwing a pebble into an ocean?

I read recently that the incarnation is ongoing in us. God’s presence, right here, is felt through us. So the face we wear is the face God wears. And the words we speak are not just our own.

When we are cruel or thoughtless, lacking in compassion, we are saying to others that God is such.

It wasn’t meant to be this way.

So I’ll give my words skin and pulse and breath by living it out.

When I am wrong, I repent.
When I am wronged, I will forgive.
Where there is doubt, I will be faithful.

Give consolation freely,
and love abundantly.
Seek to understand, truly.

In the living of life, prayer becomes more than words but a a way of being. And in this, the Living God is felt and remains present. Imago dei is not just what we are but what we are called to do.

Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of man for it is the image of God. -Thomas Merton

Making Room for Grace

In summer heat and light and abundant life, in the passing of time, I found I had died. Or so it felt then. A milestone birthday, they say, but I remember only the loss and pain. A sense of separation so deep I was adrift outside myself and everything and everyone.

I think of it still. How can I not? What good is such pain?

Finding meaning in the hurt only comes with time because we need space to experience God’s radical grace.

What I was living before was shallow. No living waters, nothing to dive deeply into. It was a faith worth losing. And the pain was about losing the familiar, losing who I thought I was.

Because before we can be a part of God’s transformative work, we must first be transformed and redeemed.

God makes space for us to kneel and be humbled and become something like new. But not just once, always. For at the heart of Christianity is death and resurrection.

So the pain is never without purpose. You haven’t wrecked your life yet. Because it is through our brokenness that we come to know God.

And we don’t go it alone. His love is always extending out towards us. He is always working in us and through us for his glory.

At the Doors

Image

In the centre of town, it looms. And I cannot help but turn my eyes up towards the stone and the spires and the silent faces.

I watched as she walked quietly up the steps, all habit and devotion. She slipped in the side door and I couldn’t help but wonder what it feels like to give your life away. To empty yourself so that there is more of Him.

But I could only pace outside.

 

The bells rang as I walked down the back steps, through that small wooded area where nothing really lives but squirrels and the late night doings of teenagers. All dark and quiet and isn’t that how I live my faith these days?

When I left it was dark but now the sun was up.

On the walk home I thought about what it must have been like to first see those churches rise up, the coloured light falling in. It’s the same even now. I am still a poor, broken sinner feeling awed and small.

 

Blocks away, I fingered the keys in my pocket and wondered why the traffic and construction still sounded like church bells.

Everything Starts Out Small

It’s not that I want more time to do more things or see more places, foreign lands or salty seas. To struggle with maps and words or run till I am breathless and sore and bleeding.

What I want is to dig in deeply. Thick, ropey roots here and now.

But years of neglect left me feeling dead and hollow.

Sure, there were prayers in the delicate time between wakefulness and sleep. But to who was I offering my petitions? Who would care about such pathetic blanket gratitude?

Faith is just a word when your actions say “I don’t believe.”
But there is never nothing; there is always something. And we are never alone.

Right here where I am, the small is being made enough. With God’s grace I’ve been given the space to grow. This space, here in the midst of everything – place to hear what I need to hear most.

With time real gratitude has emerged and the small, the ordinary, is elevated by thanksgiving and faith.

This is how you truly live. This is how you make a life. All the small details are worth noting because this is life with God. And what you have is grace unending.