Monday, May 7, 2018

finding God in feminine endings

I saw a play once called “A Feminine Ending” by Sarah Treem. The main character is a musician with high hopes that deflate as her life begins to unravel with adversity on all sides. At the end of the play, she says, “The term ‘feminine ending’ is used when a piece of music ends in an unstressed note or a weak cadence. … I’m afraid this is a feminine ending. I’m…afraid.”

Any time a movie starts with life being rosy, I begin to feel uneasy in anticipation of what will fall apart. I much prefer when things start out rocky and the only way to go is up. I want the authenticity and depth of a story with some conflict, but I want to see that everything works out in the end. That’s what I want in life, I suppose—authenticity and depth mixed with hope. Sometimes when we are stuck in the depths of suffering, with no discernible way out, we need to know that it’s ok to not be ok and that our not being ok is not a permanent state. As believers, our feminine endings are more like painful pauses.

Psalm 89 starts out joyously. For 37 glorious verses, the psalmist praises God and recounts the covenant He made with David. Verse 1 begins optimistically: 

I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever, 
With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.

He goes on to praise the Lord for His mercy, faithfulness, and strength. In verses 19-37, the psalmist relays what the Lord said in His promise to David. The Lord is quoted as saying that He has anointed David and will strengthen him and that God will conquer his enemies. Verses 30-34 express God’s promise of unconditional love:

If his sons forsake My law
And do not walk in My judgments,
If they break My statues
And do not keep My commandments,
Then I will punish their transgression with the rod,
And their iniquity with stripes.
Nevertheless, My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him,
Nor allow My faithfulness to fail.
My covenant I will not break,
Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.

The Psalm takes a sudden turn in verse 38. With the exception of a brief doxology in the last verse, the rest of the Psalm is filled with expressions of pain and despair. After the psalmist reminds the Lord of His covenant—God’s own words spoken to David—he says in verses 38-40:

But You have cast off and abhorred,
You have been furious with Your anointed.
You have renounced the convent of Your servant;
You have profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.
You have broken down all his hedges;
You have brought his strongholds to ruin.

The psalmist seems to be saying, “You promised this good thing, but it doesn’t line up with what I see happening.” These verses have a lot of “You” statements directed at the Lord. This seems like a pretty bold move, but God can handle our anger, frustration, confusion, and disappointment. Like a young child spinning out of control in the middle of a temper tantrum while the parent stands, ready to soothe the child, we can express our big feelings to God and trust that He remains steady. When we are in a pit of suffering, our circumstances seem to indicate that God is not fulfilling His promises to us. Worse than our pain is the sickening feeling that the Lord has abandoned us, which feels like a betrayal:

How long, LORD?
Will You hide Yourself forever?
Will Your wrath burn like fire?
—Psalm 89:46

When I was in the midst of a difficult season, I felt like I was living in a fog and couldn’t get to the Lord no matter how hard I tried. I certainly wanted to feel His presence, but most of the time, for a season, He seemed very far away. We are told in Scripture that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, that God will never leave us nor forsake us, that when we were still sinners, He loved us. These truths do not cease to be true when we can’t discern the Lord’s presence with us, but it can be painful to live in the discrepancy between what Scripture says and what we feel. To make things worse, well-meaning believers may pressure us to deny our pain in the name of trusting God, but real faith requires honesty. 

My Nelson Study Bible notes that in voicing the people’s feelings of despair, the psalmist “allows the process of healing to begin, even as the people wait for deliverance from the Lord.” Before we can be healed, we must open our hearts honestly before the Lord. 

Though it’s uncomfortable, I sort of love that this Psalm has no resolution because I need to know that the Bible is for real people in real life going through real pain. I need it to not read like a sitcom that resolves everything in 30 minute episodes. I need it to allow for the complexity and uncertainty that we experience in real life. There are oh-so-many stories, Psalms, and Scriptures we can turn to for hope, but sometimes it is comforting to know that we don’t have to rush to get our feelings to line up with what we know will be true, in the end. 

If you are experiencing a season of pain that is unresolved, remember the Lord’s promises. Tell Him what He told you and why you’re upset. Tell Him what makes you angry or sad and why you feel betrayed. He can handle it, and He will stand by, steady and true, ready to comfort you even as you wait for the deliverance and peace that is promised to His children. And then, after you have had your say, even if you don’t feel like it, speak the words of verse 52:

Blessed be the LORD forevermore! Amen and Amen.

Though we are angry, sad, and confused, we trust that He is faithful, and we wait to see what He will do. Verse 52 is not the conclusion of this individual Psalm only, but of Book III of the Psalms. When we are living in pain, we are in but one piece of a bigger story, to which the conclusion will be our hearts singing His praises, over and over again, as we experience His glorious deliverance.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

limitless: a reflection on identity

You said I am made in Your image. I’m beginning to see myself in You and You in me. I used to think You looked a certain way and that I needed to be set aside so that You could shine through. Now I see that one gender, one race, one ethnicity, one personality is not nearly enough to contain the fullness of God, except in the person of Jesus Christ. We are all different expressions of Him, pieces of the fullness of His glory. 

The more I study racial unity and issues of gender and racial equity, the better I understand the need to see yourself represented in role models. Inspiration comes at least partially from seeing ourselves in someone else who is doing something that we didn’t think we could do because of our limitations. When we identify with someone we admire, that person is like a mirror, reflecting back to us who we could be, who we can be. So it is with God. He has made us in His image so that He reflects back to us who we could be, who we can be, and even who we are through our identity in Christ.

When I became a mother and was living in the sleep-deprived, postpartum haze of new motherhood, I lost myself for a while. I thought I was "just" a mother. Now, I see “God, Our Mother” in this poem by Allison Woodard  and I can see this part of You in me, imperfect though I am. When I gave birth to my children, my body broken for them and my blood shed in the process of bringing forth life, allowing them to “take and eat” of my body, I was like You. You said to offer my body as a living sacrifice and to take care of “the least of these,” and I can think of no better description of my painful, difficult experience with giving birth and breastfeeding.

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"
--Isaiah 49:15

When I feel You have something pressing You want to tell me, I immediately start looking for words, and I am a little embarrassed at my need for You to be so direct and literal with me. Then, I find myself in a little chapel, waiting to hear from You, looking around desperately for some words to hang on to, and I hear You whisper, “I like words, too.” Jesus, the Word become flesh. My love for words is a love for You, The Word of God.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
--John 1:14

When I was a child, my family laughed and rolled their eyes every time we watched a movie and I interrupted to ask incessant questions about what was happening. My brother teased me when, as a 10 year old who had gotten new glasses, I asked whether my family thought that Jesus had 20/20 eyesight. I studied the Enneagram and found that one of the names for my personality type is “the Questioner." I notice myself worrying frequently that I am taking up too much space in conversations when I ask question after question, but I can hardly keep from doing it. I want to know more, to understand more thoroughly, to consider more perspectives, to dig deeper. Sometimes I think that I am too much, too intense. But then, I see all the questions You ask in scripture and suddenly, I think, “Hey! He’s a questioner like I am!” You use questions to draw people to Yourself, to engage them, to make them stop and think, to lead them to discovery, to teach and to enter into greater intimacy with those whom You love. I see the beauty in being someone who asks questions when they come from a place of love and purity, and now I can love this about myself because I love it about You.

When I think of You creating me to resemble You, I am undone. I can see value in myself that I could not see before when I thought that I was just an imperfect thing that needed to be set aside in order for You to show through the cracks. In awesome wonder, I behold the beautiful expansiveness of God and can’t believe that You took parts of Yourself and put them in me, crafting me not around but actually from these bits of You. 

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

--Colossians 1:16

What an awesome, beautiful, mysterious thing for You to do! Loving You is loving Your imprint on me. Let all the defense mechanisms of my false self fall away so that when people look at me—and indeed, that when I look at myself—we see not just Your reflection but actually Christ in me. Behold, Your masterpiece. 

 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
—Ephesians 2:10

You are so great that one small part of Your vast creation cannot contain Your limitless glory. When I push beyond the limits of who I thought I was, letting go of shame and embracing the way You made me to be, my view of You expands. When I look past the bubble I've lived in most of my life (my own culture, gender, socioeconomic class, race, personality, etc.), and when I reach out to connect with Your beautifully diverse people (of all cultures, races, genders, personalities, etc.), my understanding of You deepens. When I drink in the beauty of nature--from the vastness of the ocean to the intricate detail of a dragonfly's wings, knit together by Your hand--I am drinking in the nature of the Creator. To know Your creation, Your image bearers, Your craftsmanship, is to know parts of You. 

...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

--Ephesians 3:17-19

You overwhelm me with Your fullness over and over again, and I am amazed and grateful to know that I will never get to the bottom of Your riches.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.
--Psalm 139:6

1. Consider the most salient parts of your identity. How do you see the person and character of Jesus through those parts of Your identity?

2. How does seeing His beauty in You affect the way you see and feel about yourself? 

3. How does it affect the way you see and feel about others who are different than you but are His image bearers, nonetheless?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

what I didn't tell you at church on Sunday

“You’re taking up too much space.”

The thought bubbles up from somewhere deep within me and yet also right below the surface, as though it were tired of being shoved aside. Today it has decided to crowd out everything else, growing bigger and louder like a toddler’s temper tantrum, demanding my energy and undivided attention.

Unable to push it back anymore, I concede. 

“Yes,” I think, “you are right. That is precisely how I feel.” 

I know this feeling. It has a name, and I am learning to call it out accordingly. Hello, Shame. I see you there, trying to lurk behind the corners of my mind, growing in the dark like a shadow that lengthens as the sun goes down. When I acknowledge you, you begin to shrink back, afraid of the exposure.

I know I am battling shame as I walk in my new, brightly colored Easter dress down the breezeway to the open door of our church. Today I have made myself taller with my wedge sandal shoes—“normal height,” I think, compared to my short stature. I’ve made myself look more put-together with extra makeup and a fresh haircut. “Too short,” I think, self-consciously brushing my bangs aside and then pushing them back down where they were before brushing them aside again. 

I look around at the other women my age and realize that I stand out in my white dress with the bright splashes of blue and green flowers all over. I don’t want to stand out; I want to disappear, to fold into myself so no one will notice me. I am taking up too much space.

I go to worship and have a little trouble losing myself in the music at first. The pastor says that Jesus loves us and asks us to reflect on how that makes us feel. I have been overwhelmed by His love for me many times, but at this moment, that is not my initial response. Right now, I don’t relate to any of the examples the pastor gives—indifference, happiness, or skepticism. No, this time, when I hear that Jesus loves me, I want to shrink away, unable to let myself be seen and loved. I know this feeling. It has a name. Hello, Shame. I see you.

I worship You with my lips, but my heart has been distant. I want to be with You, but lately I’ve felt like I can’t get to You or let You get to me, like there’s a barrier between us. I look at it and try to name it. It’s not exactly a wall, just a bit of a gulf between us, something to wade through. I haven’t been letting You in. Forgive me.

Then the worship music is playing again and the refrain cuts through the fog and pierces my heart: “The cross has the final word.”

I listen to the whisper of a thought, “They don’t get to define who you are. I determine your identity. The cross has the final word.” 

Forgive me for allowing society, culture, other people, and my very own sinful self to hand my identity to me like an entree on a platter, prepared by someone else. That job is only for You, and You say my worth to You is equal to the cost of Jesus’ perfect, sinless life, laid down and poured out for me. 

Shame says that my struggles will always be the same, that real transformation is a lost cause.
You say I am a new creation.

Shame says that I am not worthy of belonging, that I don’t fit in.
You say I am Your child, a co-heir with Christ.

Shame says that You look at me and are angry, displeased with my inadequacy.
You say I am beloved.

Shame says You won’t want to deal with me until I’ve dealt with my mess first.
You say I am Yours, just as I am.

Shame says I am separated from You by my shortcomings.
You say I am forgiven and restored.

Shame says that when I open my mouth and talk about my true self, people see what a mess I am.
You say I am clean.

Shame says I am only as good as my last accomplishment.
You say I am worth the most precious thing You have to give.

Help me to accept the love You desire to lavish on me. Help me day by day, moment by moment, to accept Your love, to believe Your truth, to love You back with my whole being. I can only love You in proportion to how I have been able to receive Your love. Soften my heart and remove the barriers which I thought could protect me. Perfect love casts out fear. When I abide in You and in Your perfect love, the fear falls away. A loved person is invincible because she has that which matters most and cannot be taken away. 

Your perfect love lifts me from shame as You see me exactly how You made me to be. You look at me with the gaze of One who knows all and sees everything and loves anyway, and then You hand me back to myself. I am changed even as I become who I already was in Christ. Shame says I’m a lost cause. You say that I am being renewed day by day. Praise to the One who promises to complete the good work He has begun in me but loves me just as much now as He will on the day of completion.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

the spiritual practice of lament

O Lord, how long?
How long will injustice plague our nation, 
Taking the lives of the oppressed
And poisoning the hearts of the oppressors?
How long will we believe that some lives matter more than others,
That grief for the lives of the marginalized is commonplace and unimportant,
A tool to be wielded in the hands of politicians?
How long will the very air we breathe be steeped in lies about who we are,
Some overt and blatant and others subtle but just as insidious?
How long will we point our fingers and say, “Not I!”
refusing to examine our own role in injustice
And the way our very souls have been damaged by our own superiority?
How long will rhetoric and political agendas replace true lament and right action?
How long will we go on living without regret or repentance,
Our willful ignorance a sign of the very privilege that is killing Your beloved children?

Save us from ourselves, O Lord.
Forgive me for my complicit inaction,
The entitlement that pushes me to push myself ahead of others,
My safety, reputation, motives, and behaviors unquestioned 
While others are robbed, shamed, mocked, and killed by the system of oppression
That I have neglected to acknowledge.
Forgive me for my part in it all.

Bring about the healing and reconciliation that You desire, 
Reconciling us first to Yourself and then to one another.
Jesus was blameless, without sin, and made Himself one of us,
Suffering at our hands
Yet He initiated reconciliation with us—
the broken ones who refused to see our own brokenness,
The ones who mocked and hurt and ignored the only One who was without sin,
Broken for the broken ones.

And now, the same story plays out again and again,
The story of the broken ones breaking others so that we would not have to face our own brokenness.

Forgive us, Lord.

Thank You for the willingness of people of color, 
though they have been hurt and disadvantaged,
To engage in reconciliation with me, with us—
the very ones who benefit every day from the system of oppression.
Thank You for their resilience, their grace, and their Christ-like forgiveness.

Thank you that where two or more are gathered in Your Name, You are in their midst.
Be in our midst today, and do the work that only You can do.
Turn our mourning to dancing,
Our sorrow to joy,
Our fear into faith,
Our despair into hope
As we delight in the richness of diversity that You created
Because it was good.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

fear and faith

Sometimes God waits for me to come to Him to ask questions, read the Bible, and dig for answers, and sometimes He initiates the conversation. I’ve had an ongoing conversation with Him about anxiety lately, and it has been bothering me. In the Enneagram work I’ve been doing, it has become abundantly clear that my primary sin struggle is anxiety. I’ve been working to unpack that, notice it without judgment, and examine it. In the video I watched last week in my Enneagram Journey class, Suzanne Stabile listed each personality type and the corresponding passion/sin, as well as the remedy for that passion. For my personality type (a 6 on the Enneagram), she said that fear (anxiety) is the passion, and the remedy is not courage, but rather, faith. As I’ve thought about why she made that distinction, I’ve realized that courage is what is needed in circumstances that are frightening, potentially dangerous, or difficult. In contrast, faith is what is required in relationship with someone who is worthy of trust.

I read recently in Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God Bible study, “You don’t need more faith; you need a more comprehensive and accurate view of the faithfulness of your God.” Like everything, the most effective method for growth in the area of faith is to get to know Jesus better. To know Him is to love Him, and the more we understand His true character, the more our faith will grow because we will find out through relationship with Him that He is faithful (worthy of our faith).

During the same week, I read in Beth Moore’s The Quest Bible study that, “The same soil that has been fertile for fear is fertile for faith. If you can find your fear you can always know where to send your faith.” This helped me to realize that as a fearful person, I actually have a great capacity for faith, but I still wasn’t sure how to transform fear into faith. 

As a young child, I frequently had unexplained stomach aches, which became less abstract anxiety when I was a teen. From a young age, I have known I was a worrier and have read and memorized scriptures about not being anxious. I always saw the scriptures as something to read over and over in my attempt to will myself into not being afraid. Honestly, it wasn’t very effective because my focus remained on circumstances outside the context of my relationship with Jesus. As I have come to fall more in love with Jesus, I see the admonishments not to worry less as a stern chastisement and more as compassionate, gentle encouragement from a loving father who is pained when He sees His children wrapped up in fear. 

The Lord has pretty obviously been speaking to me about the connection between fear and faith, but I was still didn’t understand how to move from one to the other. Yesterday, He seemed to initiate the conversation with the eagerness of a child excited to share a new discovery. When I woke up, the voice that I have come to recognize as His—a thought that seems to come from outside of myself—said, “I want to show you something.” I pulled up the verse of the day on my Bible app and read 1 Corinthians 13:13 in the Amplified version:

And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.

My mind zoomed in on the explanation for “faith” given in the scripture: “abiding trust in God and His promises.” Suddenly my struggle with anxiety, caused by a lack of faith, made perfect sense in light of what I have learned through the Enneagram. Faith is essentially trust. Enneagram 6s are skeptical, struggling first with overwhelming self-doubt and then with trusting others as we turn our self-doubt outward and onto others. My anxiety will never go away as a result of me summoning up the courage to do difficult things, though that can be a good and noble pursuit. For me, the way to peace will always and only be found in deepening trust in and intimacy with Jesus. 

I thought of the many times God says to “be strong and courageous” in the Bible, which is often followed by some variation of, “…for I am with you.” When the Lord tells us to be courageous, He is doing something more beautiful than I realized—He is validating us while simultaneously calling us into greater faith. As a parent, I would not tell my child to be brave if she were not facing a situation that warranted bravery. I am well acquainted with her fears because of my relationship with her, and I know when she is about to attempt something that will be particularly difficult for her because it will require her to face one of her personal fears. When I encourage her to be brave, I am acknowledging that she is about to do something that she perceives as scary or difficult. However, I encourage her to not allow her fear to keep her from doing something that will be good for her. 

When God tells us to be strong and courageous, He acknowledges that He is asking something of us that will require bravery based on His intimate knowledge of our unique fears and insecurities. However, He also invites us to view our circumstances through the lens of our relationship with Him. We may be weak, fearful, ill-equipped, and inadequate, but He says of Himself, “Take heart! For I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) and “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). We must acknowledge our fear before He can help us move beyond it, and this glorifies Him because it prevents us from diminishing the greatness of what He does in and through us. When we become too enmeshed in the shame of being anxious, we miss out on witnessing the miraculous work He can do in delivering us into peace and deeper faith. If we can admit our anxiety and bring it to Him, we can then shift the focus from our circumstances to our relationship with Him. Through faith, or “abiding trust,” in Him, we find peace. Ironically, the anxiety that indicates a lack of trust in Him can be the very thing that increases our faith if we develop the habit of bringing our struggles to Him. 

When we let go of the assumption that He is as displeased with us as we are with ourselves, the real work of healing can begin as He calls us into deeper faith and trust. As my faith in Jesus has begun to grow, He has taken me on greater adventures than I could have imagined for myself. I am grateful for new adventures and the abundance of life in Him, as well as the moments of anxiety that draw me swiftly back to Him. Maturing in our faith may simply be “shortening the leash,” so to speak, so that we never get very far away from Jesus. In your weakness, behold His unfathomable might. He turns water into wine, sorrow into joy, and, blessedly, fear into faith.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

too much

I have been feeling overwhelmed by life lately. I am sorry to say that it is an all-too-familiar predicament: I find myself smack in the middle of too many commitments and then feel bad that I can’t give my best to all of the things I’m doing. After a long, difficult season of anxiety and postpartum depression, when I was isolated and had such a limited capacity to do anything outside of survival, I have emerged feeling energetic and ready to get back to thriving instead of just surviving. In my zeal, I have become involved with many good things for the purpose of self-improvement and growth as well as to assist others in their personal growth. 
Priscilla Shirer, in her Bible study called “The Armor of God,” talks about our tendency to focus on changing ourselves instead of spiritual health. She articulates my predicament so clearly and accurately that I have been turning this over in my mind. I am so excited about what God has been doing in my life that I have taken it and run with it, trying to chase after personal growth at an accelerated speed without pausing often enough to check in and seek God’s guidance and discernment.

In one of the video portions of the study, Shirer compares our sins to a Whack-a-Mole game, where we keep trying to swat at them even as more are popping up because we are not looking at the deeper root cause. Instead of chasing after self-improvement, which is a good thing, we do better to cooperate with sanctification, which is the better thing. There is a subtle difference between the two. In self-improvement, we are driven to try to make ourselves better, but in sanctification, we partner with the work the Holy Spirit is doing to conform us to the image of Jesus. Both require effort and discipline, but sanctification is driven by the leadership of the Holy Spirit rather than the wisdom of men. 

As adults, we are all drawn to some form of excess—too much food, too much dependence on others, too much independence, too much pride, too much fear, too much anger, too much of an addictive substance, and on and on. I’ve noticed that I get caught up in a pattern of getting involved in too many activities and commitments, becoming overwhelmed and exhausted, pulling back from everything so I can rest and refocus, and then jumping back in again. Often after a season of withdrawing and reprioritizing, I emerge refreshed and more in tune with exercising discernment in what I say “yes” to, but in my excitement, I quickly fall back into saying “yes” to too many things.

In Luke 4, Jesus spends all night performing miracles of healing and casting out demons. Exhausted, He withdraws to a deserted place, presumably to spend time alone with God. The crowd comes after Him and entreats Him to stay, but He refuses, saying that He must preach to other cities, “because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43). We have no one-size-fits-all answer for most of our decisions; sometimes God calls us to go, sometimes to stay, sometimes to reach out, and sometimes to pull back. Staying connected to the Father helps us to stay connected to our purpose, set by God, who steers us away from the mediocre and even the good in order to redirect us toward the best. 

Recently I was pondering my overwhelmed state during the worship time at church. Surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ, I leaned into the familiar intimacy I find with the Lord when I join the congregation in singing worship songs. I prayed earnestly for sanctification, feeling hopeful and refreshed to remember that the Holy Spirit is at work in me continually. As I was praying, thinking about the Whack-a-Mole image, I pictured my heart with sins like tree stumps popping up all over. Then I saw Jesus come and level them all, pulling up all the roots in the process. In this mental image, my heart was laid bare, smooth and shiny and exposed. The pain of the leveling was like a wound from a life-saving surgical operation. Then I saw Jesus on His hands and knees, using His hands to smooth a healing salve onto my heart. I was overwhelmed by the tenderness of Him tending to my vulnerable, hurting heart. This is a picture of the painful process He allows in order to save me from the deeper pain that comes to an untended heart. Like a doctor sewing up the sutures after a surgery, Jesus provides the comfort I need while I wait for the healing wounds to heal. 

Tears poured down my face as I found myself again overwhelmed by the tenderness of Jesus toward me. The more I experience intimacy with Him, the more overwhelmed and in love with Him I feel. As I reflected on this feeling, I realized that it has become increasingly familiar. When I feel overwhelmed by life and by my own brokenness, taking time to pull back and reconnect with God shifts everything. Instead of being overwhelmed by circumstances, sin, and brokenness, always striving to prove and improve myself, I am overwhelmed by His tender love and kindness toward me. Ephesians 4:22-24 says we ought to “put off the old self” and “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” When I let go of a destructive behavior or attitude, the letting go is not enough; I need a positive replacement behavior or else I will return to my old ways of doing and being. 

Perhaps we become overwhelmed easily because we were made to be overwhelmed. God created us to be overwhelmed by everything good in Him: His love, grace, righteousness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, compassion, mercy, gentleness, power, and justice, to name a few. Our limitations give us an appreciation for His boundlessness; our need points us to His sufficiency; our scarcity mentality positions us to receive from His abundance. We become overwhelmed by life because we are small, fragile, broken beings, living in a broken world. We have a choice to make. Will we be overwhelmed by life, by our sin and brokenness, leading us to try to cope through our own ineffective strategies? Or will we let ourselves be overwhelmed by the love and goodness of God? We cannot conjure this up on our own; we can only experience this through the intimacy of relationship with Him, by our cooperation with His Holy Spirit.

My mom has a bank of stories about her children that we have heard repeatedly as we’ve grown into adulthood. In one of them, she says that as a little girl, I would often ask her to buy toys at the store and she would respond, “No, Lindsay, that’s too much,” meaning that it was too expensive. One year for Christmas, she asked me what I wanted for a present, and I responded, “I want something that’s ‘too much!’” 

God delights in our desires for “too much” because He is the only one who can meet them. In an old journal from several years ago, I wrote and asked God for “more,” and wrote that I wasn’t even sure what that meant. He took that prayer and exploded my reality, my understanding of who He is and who I am in relation to Him, and I will never be the same. C. S. Lewis says it this way:

     It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are     
     half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite 
     joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum 
     because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are 
     far too easily pleased.
     -C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses

Let us allow the goodness of God to pull us into an intimacy with Him that explodes our preconceived ideas and opens us up for healing, freedom from bondage, and abundant life through our intimacy with Him. When we feel overwhelmed by the cares of this world, instead of returning to our dizzying attempts at coping with brokenness, we can begin to recognize that feeling as an indicator light that points us to Jesus. He longs to overwhelm us with Himself. After all, the gift He longs desperately to give to us is decidedly “too much.”