“Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live for ever.”
“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. May you shelter them, and may those who love your name boast about you.”
C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite Christian authors. It can take some thought to get the point he is making in some of his writings, but the effort is well worth the understanding that I gain. Some time ago I bought a journal that consisted of various C.S. Lewis quotes followed by about a page and a half to write my own thoughts about the quote. This blog entry is a quote and journal entry from that journal.
I come back to St. John: “if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart.” And equally,”if our heart flatter us, God is greater than our heart.” I sometimes pray not for self-knowledge in general but for just so much self-knowledge at the moment as I can bear and use at the moment; the little daily dose.
Have we any reason to suppose that total self-knowlege, if it were given us, would be for our good? Children and fools, we are told, should never look at half-done work; and we are not yet, I trust, even half-done. You and I wouldn’t, at all stages, think it wise to tell a pupil exactly what we thought of his quality. It is much more important that he should know what to do next.
I like Lewis’ prayer, for just so much knowledge of my own failings and successes as God deems to be appropriate for my spiritual growth today. If I was aware of all that God must do to complete the good work that He has begun in me, then I would be overwhelmed and feel completely hopeless at the enormity of my need. On the other hand, if I were in one single moment to be aware of all the good that He has accomplished in me, then I might become vain and think myself better than others whose canvas is still bare.
I am like an unfinished painting, more than just the bare canvas, but not a finished work fit for hanging in God’s art gallery. I feel as though my underlying sketch has been completed with Christ as its foundation, and some of the paint has been applied, but all the colors and the detail are not there.
What I need and hope is for God to help me see myself as He deems appropriate, not as He sees me (for He sees all that was, is, and is yet to be in me). If I saw myself as God sees me, that would be too much for me to bear. But I am thankful He knows what is best for me, and allows me to see just what I need.
You, dear broken believer, are also an unfinished painting – a masterpiece in the making. I pray He shows you just so much of your failures and successes, your weaknesses and strengths, as is beneficial to you this day so that the next brush strokes may be perfectly applied by the Master Painter.
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
There is a simple holiness about a believer that Satan hates with a passion.
There should be a joy and peace in any holiness, and if there isn’t then you’ve got the legalistic version. And Satan delights in that. His ministry is to destroy that which the Holy Spirit has instilled within you.
Satan is disgusted with the real thing. It intensely bothers him when he detects the real thing that is within you. Holiness is the flag which he wants to shoot down. Satan is incredibly experienced at this, he has been at this for several millenia.
“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
1 John 4:4
In this toxic environment Jesus gives us His grace. We have been given the power to overcome the strategies of the devil. He are commissioned to resist him. All of heaven is watching us. Angels stand by to assist us. God’s Word helps us.
It is the simple believer who overcomes hell’s fearsome blasts, for he rests exclusively on the Blood of Jesus. “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). Jesus has given us His very blood to save our souls.
My illness was never meant to be an excuse tor ungodliness. I may be disabled but He leads me down “the paths of righteousness for His name sake.” I honestly want to follow Jesus (even if I don’t it so well).
“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”
Titus 2:12, NKJV
“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”
“Religious people love to hide behind religion. They love the rules of religion more than they love Jesus. With practice, theCondemners let rules become more important than the spiritual life. “
— Michael Yaconelli
Mentally ill people are rarely seen in our Churches.We are pushed into hiding our true identity; we can come out into the open, but only if we agree to play according to the rules–their rules. We are expected to censor ourselves, and say proper things at the right time. Pharisees [who are alive and well] insist on a level of purity that all must maintain. [Hey, I am not picking on anyone, it’s just a generality.]
If I say that I am depressed, paranoid, manic or desperate, I will upset the apple cart and muddle up everything. “Truth? You can’t handle the truth?”, [from the movie, “A Few Good Men”.]
But– if we use our shortcomings as credentials– we have the ability to speak about grace, love and of self-acceptance, with real authority.
Christians with mental illnesses, have been given a gift that we are to share with the Church. The Holy Spirit has sprinkled us into each fellowship of believers. He places us who are presently afflicted and suffering into strategic places.
We are “sprinkled” throughout the Body. Our “gifts” are to speak to the Body, spiritually about a lot of things, but especially grace. We are bearers of grace. We’re the audio/visual department of the church.
If our fellowships become religious, it might be because we in our weaknesses, have allowed ourselves to be silenced into submission by the “interpreters” of scripture. If we don’t like the rules, we are told to go elsewhere. We are not welcome, they say with a thin smile.
But don’t you see, that is our moment to shine! Our “unsightly” presence shouts out to the “wonderful” people, proclaiming grace in weakness. Those who receive us, in a way, receive Him. Those who turn from us, muffling us, are doing that to Jesus. Frightening, isn’t it?
I would strongly suggest that we take our illnesses into the open.
That we become transparent before others. As we do this, we can ‘oh-so-gently’ guide our fellowships into true grace and love. They look at me and they see Jesus. And that is our ministry as mentally ill people to the Church. Our weaknesses are really our strengths.
9″ But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”
10 “So because of Christ, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NLT
[This is a re-blog of one of our core teachings, originally posted 11/20/2009. I felt it was time to bring out of our musty old closet and set it before you again. I hope that it resounds deep within, and that it encourages those who must mix their discipleship with disability.]
Gentleness means recognizing that the world around us is fragile, especially other people. It is recognizing our own capacity to do harm and choosing instead to be tender, soft-spoken, soft-hearted, and careful. To be careful means that you are becoming aware.
Perhaps this idea of becoming careful brings us the closest. People who know exactly who they are become the most gentle of human beings. They now live for others, and show a deep-seated care for even the “least.”
Jesus was gentle just as much as He is strong and wise and bold. You could say He was always gentle, even when He was bold and authoritative. No once did Jesus show unkindness in His words or teaching or actions. He was kind all the time, even when He was tired and hungry.
“He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. 21 And his name will be the hope of all the world.”
Matthew 12:20-21, NLT
“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto.”
“The higher people are in the favor of God, the more tender they are.”
“Perhaps no grace is less prayed for, or less cultivated than gentleness. Indeed it is considered rather as belonging to natural disposition or external manners, than as a Christian virtue; and seldom do we reflect that not to be gentle is sin.”
“Gentleness is an active trait, describing the manner in which we should treat others. Meekness is a passive trait, describing the proper Christian response when others mistreat us.”
“Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.”
Mark 11:13, NASB
Perplexing isn’t it? I personally have lived with a certain amount of ambiguity with this passage. I have questions that I’ve swept under the rug. Why did that poor tree get cursed? It wasn’t the trees fault, after all. And didn’t Jesus realize this? So why go through the theatrics?
I don’t know if this is the case with anyone else. I hesitate to ask around. But recently have come to a better place about this entire event. The traditional view is that it comes immediately after “the cleansing of the temple” and that explains a lot. The fig tree is always emblematic of Israel. (The Old Testament is well populated with these references.) Mark adroitly organized his account in order to connect both events.
Jesus has no issues or vendettas against trees. But He does take an issue with things that claim fruit, but really have nothing. There is nothing but leaves. I’ve been told that the figs do grow, almost as fast as leaves. The lush greenness is the prime indicator of the succulent fruit. At least, it has the potential.
The beautiful leaves announces its fruitfulness. This tree was loaded, but had nothing to show but leaves. Within God’s plan for Israel was for fruit. Enough to feed the nations that would stream to Jerusalem. Instead, it was worthless. There was nothing to be had. Loads of leaves, and the promise of an incredible harvest, but zilch, zero, nothing.
Hypocrisy is a deadening experience, with a certain sterility in it. Israel was finding this out, and Jesus is now declaring it to the nation. A corrupt temple, and a fruitless tree; this were all indicators of hypocrisy and showiness. The luxuriant leaves loaded the tree, but ‘where’s the fruit?!’
Sometimes we declare that we are fruitful, on the mere basis of our leaves.
At times we can be a wonder, and make an exceptional statement. But when He comes, and looks up at our limbs and out to our branches, will He find fruit, or just lots of green? Leaves are pretty much all we can do. And we do it quite well. But the fruit is from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22.)
Israel failed God. They became religious and neglected mercy, and justice. Humility and graciousness. The widow and the orphan were not part of their personal equation. They produced leaves by the wheelbarrow load, but were missing out on the authenticity to what was true, and what really mattered.
Pharisees will do this, and they turn into hypocrites who do not possess what they profess. A hypocrite values true godliness, but he personally falls short of all those things he admires. But he will never, ever admit it to anyone. And even we who struggle so, must continually admit that we stumble and falter as we try to follow.
I may be a ‘screwy’ excuse of being a disciple, but I have decided I don’t want to deceive people. God, help me.
“This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people.”
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
— C.S. Lewis
I think I am often a creature of habit, far more than I’d like to admit. I rather think we choose our habits, and inclinations. They in turn decide our paths. We give ourselves too much credit, to decide and direct. Simply put, we are not that big. I honestly don’t think we have the power to steer our lives.
Somebody once told me, “The purpose of life is not to find your freedom; but to find your master.” I don’t live that way, at least my inner propensity does not include God. Did you ever think something like this? “I wish God did not exist. I want to be in charge, and I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it!” Living it all with no rules and no accountability! Somehow I still seem to find myself sitting on my throne.
But as we get older, our hair goes gray and we look in the mirror and see bags and wrinkles, we realize how vulnerable and how tenuous life really is. If we are honest, and sufficiently self-aware, we find ourselves needing to understand that we will never be able to seize control of the known universe.
“Life is what happens while you are making other plans,”John Lennon observed. It seems that reality is that it is something that springs on you, and you have an epiphany, shocked to the core. Life has happened, and you didn’t even realize it. We are quite undone, and we don’t really understand what it is all about. This is often the case.
I sometimes look at myself in the mirror, not in vanity, but in amazement. The ugly tattoos, and the ‘track marks’ are from another life. I have scars on my wrists from a couple of suicide attempts. There is an amazing surgical zipper scar from a brain tumor. I walk with a cane. I am learning how to be broken. And everything that has happened has happened for a reason.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.” I sense that he did learn, otherwise he couldn’t of said that.
Re-reading this I decided that I ramble a lot. Forgive me. Maybe there is a scrap or two in it for someone.