Sometimes it is time to put up the white flag and surrender. This past week has been one of those weeks culminating in leadership retreat at NCC.
I love NCC. I love it for a number of reasons... none of which I am really going to mention right now... but there are a number... a big number.
This past weekend was leadership retreat. NCC pours a lot into their leaders, which is part of a sort of food-chain that grows purpose-filled leaders, and strives to make disciples that love Jesus. We have only been back in DC for a week and were pulled into leadership retreat and accepted with open arms. Even though our lives are messy right now, it is so good to be back with people who are working with what they have where they are right this minute. It encourages me. Sure, they aren't perfect, but if they were i would be worried.
As the final session of leadership retreat would down, there was a time of confession asking what we needed to confess to God and give to Him in order to go "All In." I knew that this was occurring at the end of the week-end, in part because I used to help plan this event. Still, I managed not to connect the dots on things God has been working on my heart with this week. I was reading in Mark some more this week. (Let me once again reiterate that i am a lousy Bible reader. I love it when I do it, but i definitely am a binge Bible reader, and still am working on getting better at that. ) This week I read over Mark 8 a couple times. In the first chunk it details a time when Jesus feeds four thousand people from a few loaves and fish... one his oft referenced miracles. Shortly after that miracle, he and his disciples are on a boat and the disciples start worrying about where the bread is going to come from for their upcoming meal because, well, they are on a boat. Nothing like forgetting snacks before a trip in the middle of nowhere. Jesus ends up scolding them roughly saying "Seriously guys? Have you learned anything from the experience we just had together? You honestly are still concerned about bread when I just fed a bazillion people with next to zip." Jesus even asks them how many baskets of leftovers they picked up, and the amounts are something in the neighborhood of BASKETS full. Still, the disciples seem to not quite connect the dots.
The disciples and I have a lot in common when it comes to my tunnel vision. As a literary device the disciples are you and I. Let's not dumb down the brilliance of the complex stories of the Bible. I see myself so clearly in this story this week, because provision is something that I have wrestled over praying for and have struggled to have even tiny faith about. That mustard seed that Christians talk about sometimes seems so intimidatingly real and solid compared to the faith I am trying to belch out of my soul. Like the disciples my eyes and ears have failed to function on the spiritual realm. I have had huge disconnects in seeing God's miraculous provision for me and accepting it. I have even been able to acknowledge it to other people with my mouth but not been able to accept it with my heart and there are a couple big uglies of sinful junk heaps that seem to get in my way over and over again. Pride. Fear. Motives. Those three things keep me from fully living in God's plan for me, and this week I could feel God laying into me about my sin issues in those areas.
I hate talking about sin. Part of me is very "I'm-okay-you're-okay-whatevs-it's-all-good-blah-blah-blah-hippie-hair-and-flowers" and I am coming to realize that that part of me is not sanctified. Sin is not okay, and not only not okay but it is really hard to talk about and difficult to define. What is a sin? I am not talking about what ARE sins... that's an easy thing to look up in a concordance or google the poo out of... but what is a sin. I am pretty sure it was my husband who, when asked this said "anything that keeps you out of community with God and/or others." I have generally tried to use that as a working definition, and it sucks. I want to be holy and set apart, but i am a messy mess. I have a hard time admitting when I am wrong, and I try to justify everything at all times. Somehow my inner self is still 6 years old and has to hit other kids back when they smack me and call people names and cry when i don't get my way. So when God is pushing at my concrete heart get really bent out of shape and upset. Then when I am given a chance to confess these sins that God is pulling out of my death-grip, it is often those very same sins that get in my way of confessing. Pride. Fear. Motives.
When that time came this weekend, I don't think I have ever felt more realistic about my issues, and honestly that seems like the biggest blessing. When God chooses to humble me in public, i usually turn into a crying snotty mess, and I find that extremely embarrassing, like being the kid in the dunce hat in the corner of the classroom. This time since i was paying attention to God working on my heart, I actually had a brain when confession rolled around. On the thinker to feeler scale I am truly a thinker. For most people who know me, that sounds bizarre since i am also fairly emotional, but i do make decisions based on thought and reason and not feelings. I don't trust my guts to tell me what to do, and my feelings lie when it comes to morality. So, having confession while still have a brain that isn't completely drenched in sad and panic chemicals was wonderful. I could truly recognize what it was that God wanted from me and how I was worrying about bread after witnessing a miracle.
Ian and I have been living out of suitcases for about two years, and have never been in serious want of anything important. We've had food, a roof over our heads, and we've been healthy. We've had BASKETS full of blessings above and beyond, and I still I lie awake at night wondering about where my bread is going to come from.
In Mark 9 there is all sorts of crazy that happens. Jesus brings the crazy where ever he goes. About half way through the chapter a man comes to Jesus asking for healing for his demon-possessed son whose life has been threatened by the seizures that happen to him. The father says something along the lines of "if you can heal him, will you please show us mercy and do so?" and Jesus replies "If I can?" (nothing like insulting God incarnate) and tells that man that all things are possible for those who believe. The man's reply is beautiful. “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
This really challenges me and my pissy American-feminism and spoiled-middle-class-brat self. When I insult Jesus by saying "If you can provide for me, then would you please do that?" and God provides for me in a way that challenges the sins that bind me, I respond Him not with "help my unbelief!" but rather with lashing out of temper tantrums because i want a hand-out and not something that helps me. I want Jesus to do my homework and whisper the answers to me during the test. I want God to train for the race and do the weight lifting and puking in the streets and then when my even comes, for Him to pull a Freaky-Friday body switch and let me win the race. What i don't get, pretty much ever.... is that he ALREADY HAS. he took my place in death, and I just can't grasp that because I have not experienced the final prize of his sacrifice.
So here I am at almost 2 a.m. pouring my guts onto the computer, because i need to remember this. i need to remember that i have confessed these things and that God knows that I know because we've been working on this, and now it is time to notice it and let it go in daily life. It's time to not wonder where the bread is, but to exclaim “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” And upon hearing that prayer Jesus healed the boy in the story, and I can trust that he heals me.