A Bitter Heart

I heard something today that spoke straight into my heart. (Except I chose to suppress it because I can be so stubborn and closed off at times…) It went something like:

You are not obligated to be the same person you were five minutes ago.

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit hardened in that I don’t like listening to correction or criticism. I talk down to myself all the time and second-guess my motivations. I’ve become so judgmental and closed off, only feigning vulnerability. It irks me to see particular people happy when I’m not. I feel as if I’ve become a bitter, spiteful old woman–needy, hypersensitive, annoyed at nothing, at everything.

I’m so wretched. Even as I write this and see the poor state I’m in, I don’t want to change. It’s difficult to describe… I’m sick of hearing people talk about God and how loving and good He’s been in their lives when I cannot see Him moving in my life. It’s been a dry and barren season and I have ceased seeking Him. I’m not hungry anymore! I’m full of myself–too full, in fact, that I’ve begun to feel empty. Tired. Drained.

A bitter heart is hardened so that any sort of criticism–even ones given out of love–will rub it the wrong way. A bitter heart refuses to cheer up, clamping its lips shut when a grin      begins to emerge. A bitter heart is the saddest kind… there is no room for love. A bitter heart only cares for itself, and it doesn’t know how to care for it well. It cannot see good and refuses to acknowledge its own wrongdoing. It refuses to change. So it grows old and weary and ever more twisted… God, help me! Help me to surrender my pride. Because surely, it is this stiff-necked vanity that keeps me from admitting I am wrong to sulk and pity myself, wrong to wallow around. My contempt is unjustified because I, too, have been ransomed by grace.

If you are teaching me patience or humility or faith, dear God, have your way in me. Let me not be hardened any longer. I wasn’t made for anything else but to love You and be loved by You.

And let me remind myself… that if You, the Lord of all lords and King of all kings loved me enough to lay down Your life for me… if You still love me the same, God, I believe You can touch this heart of stone to make it Your own. Have Your way.

You must increase, I must decrease… oh the pain of absolute surrender… thank You that You see me fit to be humbled. Thank You. Your love knows no end. And in every season, You are still God; I have a reason to sing. I have a reason to sing.

 

 

Oh what to do…

A day passes so quickly, time ticking so relentlessly. And in 7 days, a week has gone. Only 4 weeks, an entire month. 12 months, another year. Oh what to do… there aren’t enough hours in a day.

I can’t even begin to think of where I’ll be 5 months from now, taking flight. High school won’t be my home anymore. Everyone around me seems so ready to leave, so self-assured, eager to explore and expand and grow. I feel overwhelmed by the pressure to grow up. I just want to stay here, comfortable, tucked under my dad’s wing, sheltered… I should be ashamed, right? Ashamed at my own complacency. And I am. All the same, I don’t know if I should be guilty for loving the present day. People always live for the future or remain stuck in the past… but I’m so content with where I am today–the experiences that led me here, the hopeful possibilities of tomorrow–that I can’t bear to shed this skin I’m in. And do I have to? People say, “never change.” Is that possible?

Farewells are excruciating. I’m never ready to leave. I never say “goodbye” first.

“God is not scandalized by your sin”

Those were the words of American Christian minister and author, Roy Ratcliff, to the students at York college after having baptized notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in 1994.

Those are the words I remember when I fall to my knees, alone in a dark room, burdened with a heavy load of guilt and shame and fear. Those are the words whispered so tenderly to me when I wrench my heart before my all-knowing God, the One who has been and will be, who has seen and will see.

A year ago, I was struggling with a particular sin, one that I’d dealt with for as long as I could remember, one that would bother me when I was at my weakest, one that’d manifest itself in secret places, one that’d leave me feeling afraid of God, disgusted with the animal I was…one that’d prompt me to run away and hide. So I was Eve in that garden, having devoured the forbidden fruit, now aware of my own nakedness and terribly afraid. I was so tired of my prayers. They were always the same. A thousand promises I’d broken before God…there was no covenant of old. There was no heavenly sign. There was only me, so pitiful and broken and worn. So I lay still, the tears already sliding down my temples into the soft crown of my head. The room was dark, painted with shadows. And I was alone.

Sick. sick. sick. I was sick of myself. of the cycles. of going through the motions in the hopes of purging my guilt. And after prayer I’d probably leave the room, hymns weighing heavy on my lips, nothing really changed. Unbelieving.

But that night… I remember it still so vividly. Laying in the utter dark, I wept. And I felt frustrated and confused and sad so sad so sad.

Music was playing quietly…“I will be still/and know/and know You”
and God opened my eyes to see…and catch the slightest glimpse of Him. He showed me mankind’s sin from the wake of the dawn from the dawn of time to the end of time…the brutality, the envy, and murder…the vast array, the multitude, the mountain peaks and valley lows, and I saw His heart. His grief. His hurt. His love.

“Though the earth give way/though the mountains fall to the sea/though its waters roar”

“I am forever Yours”

“I will be still/and know/and know You are God.”

And after the images had flashed by quickly quickly quickly, after all had passed under the hot white eye of the sun, after He’d seen and known, there was the tender whisper in the dead of night…

still love you.

And so my quiet weeping became a sort of guttural sobbing as He reminded me again of that grace. His son hanging on a tree, looking at me. His son saying It is finished. So that when I fail and fall short, I can weep freely in the throne room where He sits, white robe trailing…a host of angels singing holy holy holy are You. I can run freely to Him. And I don’t have to hide like Eve did. I don’t have to be afraid. I can sing. I can sing:

“There is no fear
as I look upon You”

Wondering at school

Sometimes I watch you walk home alone, music dangling out of your ears, head bowed low. I wonder what’d happen if I walked over to you and asked you about happiness or loneliness. Would you open up to me? I wonder what’d happen if everyone understood that even in the dirty, crowded hallways at school, we have so much power. Wonder what’d stir in everyone’s hearts if we knew the weight of our conversations, the inexplicable importance of time. Wonder what we’re all doing here…sitting in rows and raising our hands to speak, laughing about unfunny things, talking about everything,

getting nowhere.

Little Moments

Baby sister and mom on the floor. They are engulfed in oceans of blankets…soft cotton and hushed giggles. Glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling, hot tea by the glowing lamplight. Nighttime here.

A bike ride at the park. God’s breath tangling my long hair, a happy heart, blurring past blurring past blurring past, freedom.

Soft glances he gives me in between chapters of our favorite book. I look away quickly and he smiles. A flushed face. I carry the magic home with me.

Glitter glue. Hand-spun yarns. A few lost stars wandering. Eyelashes. Snowflakes and gossamers, whispers in the dark. Hands folded, saying grace. Wrinkles. The scent of rain. Pine needles on a forest floor. Palm fronds shivering together.

…these are the little moments I cannot share by speaking. It will be too much like giving away parts of myself. So I keep them safe, tucked into the folds and lapels of my mind…the enchanted moments of my every day. Everything beautiful and lovely and raw.