“You don’t walk in the faith you profess.”
That’s all I heard.
After that, her words were nothing more than noise; incomprehensible noise much like the grown-ups in a Charlie Brown cartoon.
Wah-wah. Wah. Wah-wah-wah.
Her words grabbed my gut and twisted it tight, wound it up in wads, kneaded and folded it in on itself, double-tied for good measure.
I felt like that giant ball of barbed-wire sitting out in the desert somewhere in Texas; just a big rusted, twisted wad, too big and aged and entangled for anything more than it is: a gawk-worthy curiosity along the way to somewhere else.
And it made me mad-
the feeling more than her words, so when my senses gathered I retorted some Self-saving reply. I replied in words I no longer recall, but of this I’m sure: I gathered my pride and wound it up tight and tucked it in just as close as I could and covered it with excuses, camouflaged it with “buts” and “if onlys” and “maybe whens”, deflected with “walk a day in my shoes”.
And then, I stilled.
There is nothing to fail if nothing is done
Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
The sting of words is rarely a result of lexicon, but rather one of truth.
She was right.
I didn’t walk in the faith I professed. My words were merely lip service, a deceptive smoke and mirror display pawned-off as truth. I was talking, but no, not walking.
I was crawling. At best.
I was a fraud. A hypocrite. Most assuredly much too weak to be the slightest worthy.
So I stopped.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Jonah 1:1-3
I rose from my knees. I closed my Bible. I stayed home on Sundays.
Days turned to weeks became months and time simply lumbered on-
one day blurring into another,
and another and my heart shriveled like late fall fruit still clinging to a sturdy vine til one day I fell away, withered and dry as dead bones.
I became a work of fiction, became some pale, lifeless creature moving about in the dead of night dragging my limbs behind me searching for something to sustain me, make me whole.
Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22: 54-62
Existence resumed: rise to the blaring clock, bathe, drive to work, work, drive home, clean the house, wander the house, feed the cohabitants, feed the Self, lie down, await the alarm, do it again.
Hunger nagged inside. Slowly at first. So slow I barely noticed. But it grew, and it grew. And it grew even more. Persistent. Ceaseless. Consuming.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
I busied myself with more work, more people, more wandering. More sleep. I watched the sky for the sun to set low enough for sleep. I learned to sleep in the light. I slept as often and as long as my mind would allow. I learned to make my mind silent.
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
And yet, I awakened. I awakened and I was oh so hungry. So I ate and I busied and I ate more. I worked more, I slept more. I ate again and again. And yet, I starved.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4,5
My back hurts when I kneel. I ramble long and question often. I question my Bible, my Pastor.
I question God.
I grumble about this world. I murmur about people. When either confound me, I look up and ask, “why?” When either hurt me, I want to run. I want to run just as far as I can. Yet, still I ask, “why?”
I grumble loudest about my Self, my life. I grumble about all the things I want- things to have, things to do, things I don’t have, things I can’t do. I look up and ask, “why?”
I want to be still, and warm, and comfortable.
I have no problem believing in God. Of Him I am so very certain. It’s the believing God part I struggle with. Wrestle with.
And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:23,24
I want to be still, and warm, and comfortable-
I know He loves you. Of that I am so very certain. Me? That’s another matter entirely.
I want to be full.
I’m so very frail. So very feeble. So weak and unworthy.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
I want to be so very full there is no doubt.
This, here, now, is the feast. This is the nourishment and the filling-up. This is how belief blooms and takes root: by offering-up all my broken pieces; by gathering each and every one with nicked and blood-tinged fingers, holding them out on wavering hands, to you- to Him- saying,
“Here.This is all that I am.”
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:6-10