Monday, May 17, 2010

Come to me... and I will give you rest

How often do we truly rest? We rush to work, rush through lunch, rush conversations, rush the deadlines, rush growth (physical, spiritual, financial), rush relationships, and we even rush through pain, doing anything it takes to make it go away and to make things better.

I was reminded today of Matthew 11:27-30 that says:

"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

 I have been working so hard recently... saying, "Debbie, you should be able to handle this. You should be able to get over this. You should be able to believe the right things, feel the right things, think the right things. If I just try a little harder and keep working at it..." Man, that is exhausting! Today God brought this scripture to my mind, and all I heard was an invitation to come to Jesus for rest, to stop trying so hard, to stop pushing, even in my faith and heart.

It's funny. I say I understand grace. I talk about it and preach about it, but it seems like I just peel thin layers of understanding off one by one not realizing there are a thousand more beneath. I never thought of this passage in the context of grace before, but that is what it is all about, isn't it? That Jesus invites us to rest our souls in him.

Jesus says that only those to whom he reveals the Father can know the Father. Sounds a little exclusive... but again, it is this abundant grace of Jesus that we cannot even know the Father without his generosity; but in the very next sentence Jesus invites all those who have been burdened so heavily, to come and find rest for their souls in him. Even our searching for the Father finds rest in Jesus. Ahhhhhh... what a relief... In my struggle to understand, to believe, to be certain, to KNOW the Father, Jesus again says, "Come to me, all who are weary... learn from me... I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls." Stop fighting. Just come...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Diamond Diaries

As women, there are a lot of cultural influences that tell us who we are, what we want, what we do or do not deserve, and what makes us of worth, of value. Most of these voices, unfortunately, are broken, replacing the voice of God with the voice of selfish desires in a culture that is often striving to lift oneself up and push others down. The voices of broken hearts by broken people.

As I think about my own heart responses, those of my beautiful friends, and the stories I see in movies, television shows, trashy romance  novels, and even the classics of Jane Austen, I see a subtly destructive message that I believe has led many a woman (including me) to live in ways that destroy our hearts, bodies and minds. Think of any chick flick you've seen recently. He's Just Not That Into You, Pride and Prejudice, Everafter, Never Been Kissed, etc. The woman is portrayed as having an ordinary, unremarkable life, until the fated day when her "savior" comes into the picture. There is uncertainty, drama, risk of loss, and then the culmination when the couple is finally together, and the ordinary, unremarkable woman now has happiness, significance, completion, a confirmation of her worth. And we believe this.  Think about it. Think of everything you do to gain the approval or love of a man. And what do you feel when those attempts fail? The one person who could declare you "worthy" by the proof of his love, declared you unworthy of his love. As a result, you wonder whether or not you are worthy of anyone's love. I don't presume to know the expriences of every woman, but I would dare to venture that almost every woman in this country has experienced this feeling at one point, or many, in her life. We're taught from a tiny age that the most important moment in our lives will come when we are finally rescued by a prince.

I heard a song this morning that says, "we are diamonds waiting to be found... a glimmer in the corner of our eyes... when I look into your eyes I see the tip of an iceberg..." We know we are messed up. We all are. There is so much brokenness in all of us, imperfections, selfishness, pride. And yet, there is an inner worth, that may be covered up by so much sin, rejection, pain, and shame that even we refuse to believe it. It's the diamond underground, the iceberg covered by muck. In a world inhabited by billions of people, where does this significance and value come from? Why should I believe it?

Genesis says that God created men and women in his own image. His own image! Do you realize the significance of that? "God don't make no junk!" The most beautiful, gracious, perfect, loving, just, holy being in the universe, made us like himself. And he declared us good. Through a broken world, in which we have all made decisions to move away from God rather than towards him, that image has been covered in filth and it reflects dimly the nature of its creator. But God desires to restore us to himself, to all that he has created us to be. God doesn't make junk, and he made you. The nature of our brokenness means we  have a hard time even receiving that love. Somehow, we keep striving for our own worth, significance and happiness in other places believing that we know better than God how to be declared good. It is God alone who declares us and makes us good. When we look for that in any other place we will be continually broken.

It was Jesus who, dying on a cross, traded our own sin for his perfect righteousness, so that this image could be restored. He again declares us good! He declares us worthy. And that worth is proven by his love for us. 1John 4:10 says: "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."  Romans 5:8 says: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. " God considered us worth dying for even when we were steeped in sin and muck. We rejected him, but he chose to love us. He offers us restoration, to truly be declared "good." Instead, we look for this declaration elsewhere, saying, "No, God. Your love is not enough. I don't believe you. I need someone else to declare me loved." And so we continue living out the story of our culture in which a woman is only truly fulfilled, loved, and of value, when another man says she is. I pray that we would remember that we are already of worth, as we let God clean away the filth and lies to restore the beautiful image he created. Let us remember that we were created in his image and that he longs for us and pursues us with his love, even to the point of sacrificing himself for us so that we could be restored to him and again be declared good.