A Matter of Heart

Hello and Happy Sunday!

I'm really happy to be back writing and blogging again, and letting some of my thoughts and inspirations bloom and be released into the air for others to read and see. I find there is something so beautiful about letting there be transparency in life: an openness and vulnerability into who we are, set before other people, because there's something wonderful and real about being seen

About letting authentic thoughts, feelings, or observations - about life, art, the world, relationships, growth, whatever - be available and open to others. About just allowing what we're gathering about life, and where we currently are in it, to be shared with others to heal us all - even if just a little.

Sometimes that's hard to do. We struggle with trusting we have anything important, or coherent, to give, say, teach, or share. We sometimes lose the trajectory of our story (anyone else ever feel like, 'what the heck am I doing' in life?). We may sometimes be struggling with sin or disobedience - not listening to our conscious, our authentic self, our inner compass, our truest voice, our God - and so we hide away in guilt or shame, unable to share ourselves because we're not, at our core, comfortable or proud or certain of who we are.

That one is the worst.

And lately I've been thinking that that one plagues more people than we probably realize. I can speak from experience - but I probably wouldn't if it weren't for redemption and deliverance.

Every human being struggles with things like this: purpose, legacy, feeling loved or worthy, lostness, vagueness; meaning and meaninglessness; wanting to feel whole but not knowing how to really solve the problem of putting and keeping the pieces together... whether or not you can articulate how deeply or with what intensity those concerns and feelings have plagued you, if you're human, they have, haven't they? They plague us all. 

For some, there's no escape - just temporary fixes or solutions to either maintain good feelings or minimize bad ones. We seek peace or pleasure, distraction or acclaim, personal success or knowledge or enlightenment... but still there's always something missing.  

I write these words today because they've been a theme in my own life recently: namely in the lives of a lot of people orbiting my life, and in my own life, in relearning the truth I already know. How do we tell other people that we know the answer but it isn't a matter of knowledge, or 'thinking better,' or more therapy, or positive attitudes, or positive thinking, or the circular reasoning of 'work on yourself and good things will come?'

Maybe the best way is to live from the belief we truly hold, and share our own story, and let it speak for itself. 

‘I’m saved because I’m right.’ No, you’re right because you’re saved. Get it in the correct order. You didn’t get saved because you’re right - you got saved because of the grace of God, who loves you and gave His son for you; and the Holy Spirit, which touched your heart through the word of the gospel so that you found yourself believing.
— Dallas Willard

And if what you are beliving - not you - is right, that makes you saved: from hopelessness, from being irredeemably broken, from mistakes, from guilt and shame, from whatever you need saving from.

The way we see the world is most impacted by the story we believe is most ultimate and most true. And most times that story is not really about us.

That's what happens when faith is a worldview, and not a religion or an opinion. Do we look at the experience of life as a series of trials, letdowns, defeats, difficulties - or even triumphs, glories, joys; or any other positively or negatively engineered circumstances - and say, "this is all part of the story of my life, and I must figure out how to deal with it to affect my own ends?" 

Or, are we unwaveringly aware that life's ultimate mission has to be something bigger than just us - our success, our provision, our happiness, our peace - and we have instead the worldview: "this is all part of the story that God has written, and I must figure out not how to deal with everything so that I am positively affected at all times, but so that God is glorified in all ways at all times?" 

What are we sure is the most ultimate and most necessary and most true story that should be being told with the life we have been given? Should it reflect us, or something even more beautiful than us?

As long as we put ourselves in the center of our universe, our universe will be too small to satisfy us. We tend to look at our lives and say, 'why is this happening to me?' or 'why do I feel this way?.' We orbit around ourselves. We judge ourselves - and we are the jury. We want to save ourselves - and we look inward for the answers we're looking for while knowing they aren't there.

There's an understandable modern intellectual struggle with the relevance of belief in a Savoir - because intellectually it makes more sense to be introspective and figure things out on our own. To look at yourself and figure yourself out and dig into the popular idea of your own divinity of who you are - without confronting the reality that the only reason you're looking is because you know it's not in you in the first place. 

While this (unpopularly) downplays our own personal sense of empowerment and levels the idea that we're optimal in ourselves, it's still true. It's counter-intuitive, it is (in the beginning) a hard train to jump on, but true. The void in the human heart is exactly the size of God.

When we realize this, something starts to click. A light goes on. I once had a friend explain Christianity to me like this: as a vertical experience. The only religion in the world where instead of you climbing the mountain up to God (you doing the work, you upping your levels, you evolving and learning and 'growing spiritually' and then you get full access to God), Christianity operates exactly the opposite way. 

It starts on the premise of what God has done.

He comes for you. He has been seeking you. He wants you. He always has and He always will. This is a story about acceptance, not earning. 

Nothing will open you up to love, forgive, find peace, and have an unshakable sense of eternal hope than understanding not that you already possess but that you need to receive all those things. We simply can't give what we aren't getting, and we know, really, that we cannot self-generate.

You can learn everything in the books about what it is to love, but you won't really know what love is until you receive it. You can understand the concept of forgiveness, but it's just an idea until you've been forgiven. You can work all you want thorough the guilt and shame of your mistakes, but they'll always underlie and drive your behavior unless you have not just a 'cleaned-up' but an entirely new reality through which to look at the world. 

Yes, I think we express to the world what we want to express to ourselves. The story we tell with our lives is the product of what we believe. 

Life is never perfect. As long as I'm being honest (and this whole story is for another post, and a little besides the point, but...) I'm not sure where life is taking me right now either. In the past few months I've failed to get a number of jobs I've applied for, and I don't have one right now. Pretty urgently, I need a new place to live, and I don't know where that will be either. And I have the same bills and student loans and desire to build my bank account that everyone else does. I know God might work things out right where I am - or He might say, 'I need you to go somewhere else.' Maybe He's in the process of lining everything up, and maybe He's in the process of taking everything away. 

Emotionally, that's scary, disappointing, and defeating. I don't know what He's doing, but I do know Him. I believe a set, fixed, unchanging truth, in the calm and the storm. On my best day, I believe my ultimate identity is as a fallen, imperfect human being saved by grace and what God has done for me on His behalf. 

And on my worst day, thank God, I believe the same thing.