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Epistemology

We avoid the topic, diverted glances and changes of subject

The emptiness in me,

The lack of presence in arms folded;

No flesh of my flesh will be rocked by tendons and bone of arms created for cradle,

No cries will be answered with calming coos and soft whispers in engaging darkness;

Some say to comprehend my mother, Mary, God’s Love, to full capacity

is to know the furrowed brow, the quickened heart,

the surrender of self into the waking and sleeping;

I guess I’ll never know the veracity of the platitudes,

I only know what I know.

 

As an English teacher I appreciate figurative language, especially in the Bible.  That is why I have a great deal of affection for the Old Testament.  It is absolutely rich with imagery.

It is also why I’m very careful to quote it as if it is literal.  As with God engraving my name, I’m not sure that is literally true, but an image that demonstrates how much he cares and loves me and knows me.  That has always been a beautiful image and understanding of who God is.  I’m OK with it not being literal.

I teach my students that your prior-knowledge or lack thereof can be the impetus or obstacle to a greater understanding of a text. I just listened to a podcast that proved this point and made my own understanding of Isaiah 49:6 even more significant to me.

Hank Fortener, of Mosaic Church Los Angeles, gave a message centering on the compassionate image of God.  He explained that owners of slaves would often have their names branded into the palms of their slaves’ hands in order to claim them if any of them ever got lost or tried to escape.  The audience of Isaiah would have known this piece of information.

As a result, this image becomes more than just an image of God’s knowledge and remembrance of me, but His declaration that He belongs to me.  Sounds odd saying it and reading it, but it seems that is much of the message of that statement.

Isaiah 49:15 begins with another image, the image of the mother who cannot forget her own child.  If you think of that analogy part of her remembrance of her child is not just due to obligation but due to a mutual bond that is between mother and child.  I call mom, my mom.  It’s possessive.  She calls me her daughter.  Again, possessive.  Part of the reason we cannot ever forget each other is because we belong to one another.  I am hers; she is mine. 

Claiming God as mine seems a little strange and a little self-indulgent but that is because I’m used to thinking about possessing things, not people. To think that God belongs to me seems to lesson him to a “thing.”  But, this is the very notion that moves me.  God, with his power and his knowledge of who I am, chooses to have a relationship with me, not built on his power and his ownership, but on a belonging, one he creates and arranges.  This is not how he is obligated to operate; this is how he chooses to do so.  That is an amazing love.

So literal or figurative, that image will forever mean to me that I have God and God has me. I am his and he is mine.  I will feel some song lyrics very differently now.

Daddy’s Lap

My dad was a former MP in the navy with the ill-conceived tattoos to prove it.  He has broad shoulders and a worn and ruddy complexion, but when it comes to his little girls, and now his grand-daughters, he is the softest of soft.

There was no comfort like the strength and stability of my daddy’s lap.  There was no place warmer and safer than the embrace of my daddy.  I always felt the most loved there. 

I miss those moments.  When I occasionally visit my dad there is always at least one moment  where I try to make that connection once again.  I imagine it looks pretty silly, this 40+ year-old woman trying to climb into her father’s lap.  The good news is his lap has gotten a little bigger since I was little, so I still can kind of fit. 

Those are moments I wish I could somehow feel with God; Not a figurative special sunset hug, or the breeze on my cheek kind of presence, but a big, soft lap with an embrace that can be truly felt.

The last couple of days I have felt this need in a deep way.  Not in an unusual way, as I have been emotionally here before, but in a “my heart hurts” kind of way.  I can stand up to life and to other people’s opinions of me for a while, but then I grow weary of the fight and just want daddy’s lap, a soft place to fall, where I am safe and comforted and loved.

But, I find God doesn’t provide much of that.  I wish it were different, but I also understand why that is not the case.  The more and more I journey with God the more I realize how much he tempers me with His presence, but even more with his silence and even distance.

I can’t rely on my senses.  I can’t hear him, touch him, feel him.  Then I have to rely on faith.  “Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.”  Blessed are those who can not have a hug from God but know that he does exist and everything is for the purpose of strengthening their character, their perseverance, their faith.

So tonight I hurt, and humanly long for daddy’s lap, but I know that tomorrow will bring a faith that was stronger than the day before and I will be OK with the figurative hug of knowing him even if I can’t sit in his lap this side of heaven.

Praying tomorrow comes soon though…definitely.

This Week’s Daily Reminder

James 4:7-10

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

I was just going to memorize 4:7 although I wanted to add the draw near to God part, but then stop.  However, I think I need to memorize up through 10.  I need to begin at the beginning and that is to acknowledge that I can’t do this on my own, that my very nature gets in the way.  I would like to forget that I am a sinner, but I cant, because I am.  I don’t wallow in it though because my essence is in the one who redeemed me and therefore although my nature does not change, my identity does. 

So, I’m not very good at this surrendering thing. That isn’t breaking news to me as I’ve known this for a long time. I think it is a pretty common thing for us mere mortal types but I think the sum of my personality plus some history has made my independence a little more entrenched. I too often delight in my individual accomplishments and I have a real difficult time asking for help.

I don’t have a difficult time devoting myself to God but I do so in my own strength. I have difficulty steering my will and surrendering it at the same time. I’m really disciplined in the former but very undisciplined in the latter.

I need to do better in this area because I’m running into walls and stubbornly kicking at the bottom bricks and scratching at the mortar with my fingernails. The result: broken toes and raw and bleeding fingertips. OK, more like a 10 pound weight gain. I do love a hyperbole on occasion.

This morning I was faced with the reality that I had gained 10 pounds of my 30 pound weight loss back. I’m so mad I could spit in my own eye. But, of course, as Oprah will tell you, it is just a symptom of a much larger problem.

Little Ms. Fiercely Independent lost 30 pounds through determination and hard work. But, Ms. Fierce cant keep it off in her own strength because of the sinful tendencies she can’t fight off on her own. So, I need to learn how to surrender consistently. I am positive that there are other areas of my life that could use a daily acquiescence as well.

So, here is what I am going to try. A memorized verse a week about surrendering that I am going to mantra the heck out of to remind me to surrender daily. There are plenty of verses on the subject, so I’m not going to get bored. I’ve also set my pedometer alarm to buzz throughout the day to remind me to pray for the ability to surrender. Let’s see if this works. Ask me about how it is going.

Saying It Out Loud

I said it out loud and then found myself in tears.  A desire I have, I said out loud.  No one was around to hear it except the ears of that part of me that sometimes rationalizes and refuses to hear and then excuses things as if they will go away with a reason.

What I said will remain between me and God if for no other reason as for the intimacy that sometimes comes with a shared secret.  But He heard me give voice to it, something I’ve been holding onto in a corner of myself that I have tried to forget. I was afraid to do so out of fear that He might turn me over to some desire that would lead me away from His best.

Somehow saying it out loud has changed it, changed me.  Maybe it’s just the honesty, as if by my ears hearing it, I’m no longer dodging the persistent shadow.  It’s not a shadow anymore. Light and sound has made its way into heart of the matter.

It’s Too Quiet

I finally did what I thought I needed to do a while ago.  Yes, I did something incredibly monumental.  A watershed moment.  I gave up cable.  This is a pretty big shift for a kid who grew up with a TV in her room her entire life and used it as a night light,  Quite often it was the only companion I had, and is the reason I could probably quote lines from the Brady Bunch. This is huge

I really didn’t think I needed it anymore.  There were days where I didn’t even turn on the TV, so I thought that this would really not be much of a difference. I figured I was done with my TV fascination and sure could use the money I would be saving by getting rid of a cable bill.

Well, what I didn’t anticipate was how quiet my house was going to be.  I’ve tried a Netflix substitution and even podcasts, but I’m finding it very difficult to find the kind of mindless background noise that TV provided.  I actually want to listen to the podcasts I listen to and I have a similar problem with music.  I’m finding I miss the voices of TV that allowed me to go about doing other things and yet still feel less alone.   Strange.

I”m sure I’ll adjust, but it is just an interesting turn of events.  I may actually have to get used to hearing my own thoughts.  Yikes.

Thrive by Switchfoot

Seems rather relevant right now