Something has been bothering me. Weighing heavy on my heart. It has to do with what Jesus says about Himself in John 14:6.
Here Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
There are those I know, Christ followers, who do not really believe this. They believe that Jesus is the only way for them, but not for everyone. This makes me very sad.
Here is my thinking.
If there is any other way to God, any way other than Jesus, then we don't need Jesus. We don't need what Jesus did for us on the cross. His shed blood was unnecessary. His suffering was needless. If there is any other way to God.
If there are other ways to God then we can pick and choose as we like, and live according to our own desires and wisdom.
If there are other ways to God then what did Jesus go to the cross for? Why do it if there are other options for us?
I don't believe there are other ways. I believe the fact that Jesus did go to the cross is proof that there is no other way. No other atonement for sin. No other doorway through which we can walk to have intimacy with God.
I believe that Jesus is very necessary. Absolutely, utterly, completely, irrevocably necessary.
I believe Jesus when He says that He is the way, and the truth, and the life. I believe Jesus when He says that no one comes to the Father except through Him.
I have staked my life, and everything I hold dear and true, on this belief.
What about you? On what, in whom, will you stake your life?
I honestly don't know what to say, or how to start, to express my heart. There are so many thoughts, but after taking a journey through our shared history I think these things are what you most need to hear.
I would like you to know, deeply within yourself, that being a girly girl is a GOOD thing. It's not a bad thing. God made you to enjoy frills and twirling skirts and pink and sparkles and magical stories of adventure and beauty. That's part of the beauty in you that God placed there to be enjoyed. But not all. There is so much more beauty that you carry than is seen on the outside.
There are forces in the world, bad forces that will use all sorts of voices, to crush you and make you into someone cold and hard and dark. Those forces DO NOT WIN! Not in the end. Hold onto that. It will help you.
You were made to love and laugh and sparkle. You were made to passionately and deeply feel and to imagine -- bright castles, towering mountains, soaring hawks, white horses racing across windy fields, a good king and a kind prince who are strong and whose hearts you touch and move. You were made for love and delight. All of the voices that tell you differently are lying to you. Do not believe their lies. Do not believe HER lies. Do not believe HIS lies. I know that you have, but you don't have to any more. The good king and kind prince are real, and they say what is true. They say "Do not believe their lies. Believe in the beauty you were made to be, and believe the beauty you have to offer the world." Believe their voices.
I know that nobody taught you these things. You weren't taught that beauty is good; that being sensitive and a person who feels many things deeply is good; that being delighted in is a good thing to desire. But beauty is good. Being sensitive and a person who feels many things deeply is good. It is good to desire to be delighted in. God delights in you and He made you to desire that from Him, and from those He will send whose hearts are good and open and can re-present Him to you. Just as you can re-present Him to them.
If I could step through a door in time and space, I would take you away from all of the dark and heavy and angry and mean and hateful things that came into your life and person when you were far, far too young to be able to cope with them. And even that...THAT thing...that awful thing that nobody is every able to handle, no matter how old or grown up they are, because it is just too evil. You survived them. They hurt you and left marks, but you are not destroyed by them.
If I could step through the door, I would take you away from all of the bad and we would PLAY! We would go on adventures! We would run through the fields and pick flowers and wild berries! We would feed the horses and we would stalk the squirrels! We would skip and swing and twirl and laugh and dance! Oh...how we would dance!! We would create the good memories so that when dark seasons come - and dark seasons do come in this very broken world - you would have so much good on your insides to hold onto that the dark season doesn't seem as endless and hopeless. Because hope is remembering forward. And you were made for that, too. You were made for hope.
Faith, hope and love. These things remain. You, little Miss Michelle, were created for all three of these.
Have you ever been on a mission trip to another country? Or even within your own country? Where you go there and do things and help people and love on orphans and then leave and come home to your normal life?
I haven't. My history in ministry has been one of being support personnel, and support personnel doesn't go on adventures. Support personnel stays home, holds down the fort, and...well...supports the adventurers.
I've been rethinking that particular box. I know people who have gone on trips to various places - Mexico, Haiti, Guatemala, Kenya - and it has touched their hearts and fostered a greater appreciation for all they have in their lives. I don't know what I have to offer in the mission field, but I think I could play with and love on some orphans. I could do some manual labor. Pain a wall. Something simple which requires no great skill set.
But, along with having my heart drawn toward the possibility of stepping out into the mission field, I have started to wonder what it is like to be them.
By "them" I mean the ones to whom we go and minister. The destitute and the orphans. What does it feel like to be them? What does it feel like to have your world invaded by people from outside your normal sphere of life? Where those outside people come and build buildings, and do things that help the people who live in your village, and engage with your life and heart, and then they leave?
I think that's what's nagging at me... What does it feel like to be an orphan whose parents have died, or whose parents can no longer take care of you so they left you on a doorstep somewhere in the hopes that the people of this place can provide? Abandoned. Discarded. That has to be such a heart-wrenching, horrible feeling.
So you are there, in an orphanage, with a lot of other kids whose stories are similar. The people at the orphanage do their best to take care of everyone. Then your world is invaded. People from the outside come. They bring stuff. They help build things or places. Maybe they drill a well. They do things. They love on you and engage your heart and tell you about a God who loves you. Then they leave. How does that feel? What does that do to your heart?
What does it do to their hearts? Those orphans. Who have already experienced abandonment and rejection. What does it do to their hearts to have their worlds invaded with goodness and blessing only to have the invaders turn around and leave?
Beyond the words to what is left after the deeds - what is truly communicated?
I have been in Austin now for approximately 15 months. After 20 years working for the same organization, and living in the same apartment for 17 years, to move to an entirely new city is a bit of a shock to the system.
Since I've been here, I've lost friends and made new ones. I've joined communities and had to remove myself from the same communities. Not all, but enough to where I feel the loss as something irretrievable.
This is not at all what I imagined when I moved here. For some reason, I believed that when I moved here things would be different. I believed I would get to know what it feels like to belong. To know...really, REALLY know...what it feels like to have relationships I can lean into. I cannot say that those things have happened. Not in a deeply experiential way. Not in a deeply experiential way that I recognize.
Nor can I cast blame. I cannot say that I blame my ex-friend for defriending me. It's painful, but I think I get it. The communities I removed myself from had areas where there were challenges, but it's not all on them.
It's on me, too.
For the longest time I resisted going back into therapy. I'd done it before and didn't want to go back there. Admitting to the need for more therapy feels a lot like having "TERMINALLY WRONG" written across the forehead with a permanent marker. It feels like a place of shame.
As many of my previous blog entries imply, I've had enough really bad things happen to me from a very young age so that there are reasons why shame is a cornerstone of my internal house.
And yet, shame is new area of exploration for me. It is an area that will definitely be addressed in therapy.
As a book addict, I thought I would have to discipline myself to read this slowly. I love Brene Brown's TED talks, and had the notion that I would be able to breeze through her book. I was mistaken.
I am not through the second chapter and have found this to be one of the hardest books I've ever read. What was I thinking?
In a recent conversation with someone around the topic of community participation I asked the question, "Is it worth it?" The answer I received was a definite, "Yes!" The question underlying the question was really about belonging. About belonging when one doesn't belong, when the void on the inside is a constant thing, when the sense of being isolated is the strongest when in the midst of a group.
I suspect the person would still say that it is worth it.
But I'm not sure. The fact that I am still unsure that it's worth it says several things, I think. It says that there is a value shift and a paradigm shift that has to take place. It says that the shame goes very deep. It says that shame and belonging are antithetical.
That goes back to belief. Core beliefs. Beliefs about oneself, others, relationships, and life.
This means getting to some basic things. But how to believe what I/we don't believe? Positive thinking doesn't seem to work. From other things I've read, there seems to be a body of research that indicates that all that positive affirmation stuff is actually counterproductive to creating the kind of paradigm shift that is healing to such core identity issues as shame.
I wish I had the answers, but I don't. I'm too new to this exploration. There are others who have gone before me and I hope to learn from them.
Your feedback and thoughts are most welcome. Please comment freely!
And extra warm-from-the-oven brownie points for reading this far...