Dancing with the Holy: On Being Broken, Spiritually Mended and Called

Dancing with the Holy

It was holy—it was so intimate, so exquisite and precious, that to put it down in words here for you will diminish it immediately. That is the nature of being Spiritually Mended.

There I was, clinging. I came with a cavernous pain, my need was huge.

I came saying to myself I’m broken into pieces. I’m useless. 

But isn’t that the way we must always come to Him, open?

I’ve been hurting. Life’s been bitter and difficult for a long, long time.  Most recently I thought, I won’t survive this.  But here’s the beauty of what I learned: We are all Broken and the Holy One offers healing.

This weekend was Pulse, a conference for Artists in the Church.  I barely showed up, but there I was breathless and desperate. I sat. I worshiped. I walked amongst other artists and creatives. I sensed the Spirit of God who is always with us, mystically and profoundly, but at times we allow the chaos and rush and performance and pain of life to intervene.  I did.  I had.

I thought this weekend might be intellectually stimulating. In my pride and arrogance, and no small amount of insecurity, I slipped into critique mode where others always come up lacking. Reflexively I began to evaluate and not admit that I was there to receive.

God saw my haughty heart.
God said bring me your broken heart.

And there it was, in tension.

I think I’m too good for this.
I think I’m not good enough.

Both, And. 

Strangely that is the dichotomy of being Spiritual Creatives.

We have to accept our humanity but so many days it is our very humanity that gets in the way of growing spiritually and being able to celebrate – being able to absorb, to revel, to dance and sing with others who are different from us, perhaps even better than us, at least more accomplished and successful and happy.

It is there, in our doubt and weakness, that we must face our brokenness, humbly. And receive from and celebrate others.  And most importantly accept that God has gifted us all in some unique, distinctive way.

I sat, knowing all this and facing that I’ve allowed my broken heart to keep me from Believing, from Creating, from Joy, from Hope. To receive A Holy Call takes brave heart.  We know our brokenness, we’re all too aware of our ugly hearts

God was saying to me—I want to use the way I’ve made you, I want your Story.  It has a purpose.

Say What?

I was imprisoned; the bars surrounding me were of my making.  I had built a cage and painted a bold sign on it: DISQUALIFIED. I believed it too.  I came convinced that my brokenness disqualified me from making anything good, from being useful, from my life holding a Holy Purpose.

Life’s psychotic touch had sucked the breath out of me; it felt as if I might drop dead in a moment from the strain of life’s challenges. I was living a lamentation, I was walking dead with Job, and I was crying and desperate on my knees confessing with David.

I came, fraught and anxious, suspicious, daring God to speak.

But I came.  And that’s really all he asked.  Come to me.  I came, doubting.  Worried that if I surrendered there, admitted my weakness, I was already disqualified to create and I’d get a double crushing from God.  How twisted, fearful, and uncertain I was.

And He called me: Beloved. Chosen. Blessed.  

Like Mary when she learned that she was to be mother of Jesus, as she was being told by the angel that this was her destiny — doubt, disbelief, and dismay all ran through her. And yet she did not question it or seek clarification.  She boldly said, “Yes. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.”  She believed.

I’m full of doubt, disbelief and dismay. I keep thinking I’m not good enough, I’m too broken. I am certain I of all people am shattered into so many pieces that not even God can glue them, paint them, write them, duct tape them back into something useful,and in that,

I am wrong.

Jesus called to me: Beloved Sister, I love you.

I thought all my pain had made me self-centered in a gross distasteful way, “curved inward on myself” as Tim Keller calls it, “creating a dissatisfaction, irritability, an envy and brooding, a resentment toward others” whose lives aren’t as painful and difficult as mine.

I resented those whose spiritual walk seemed dreamy, whose day-to-day was so much less complex than mine.  Who seem to create so easily, have less troubles, and live full of joy – I disliked them all!

But I heard Him. He called to me, the Holy One breathed in me an awareness this weekend.

  • Broken doesn’t disqualify. 
  • Honesty and transparency are not shameful when you are living on the way to healing. When there is Grace.
  • God’s work is Restoration; he’s in the work of renewing us.
  • We are made in the image of God for a purpose, to live, to worship, to create beautiful art!

But, all for His Glory not our own.

“Whoever wants to save her life shall lose it, but whoever loses her life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

This is what I see now. We’re all wounded. Some of us admit it.  

In disclosing my story, there is a cost and risk.  Living and creating on the precipice of risk and possibility, that’s petrifying.

But it can also make you gentle and empathetic. It will help you SEE others differently; both their pain and their glorious gifts and you’ll want to dance with them! I don’t naturally dance, literally or euphemistically, so this is a holy uncomfortable realization.

God made me with an inclination to be vulnerable and with a melancholy that aches within me. Many days I resist admitting how much the pain sits on me heavy, thinking it makes me look weak, less than holy, and not good enough to be a spiritual leader.

I’m learning: Confessing our anxious humanity, fraught with our need, perhaps even accepting our brokenness, this living on the edge is accepting the way God put me together.  Have you accepted the way God put you together?

And this is accepting a Holy Call.

She named me—Story Teller.  She didn’t know me or my story but she said it’s important to tell our stories.  To the audience of many, she said our Stories Matter.  As we learn to tell our Stories of Suffering, they become an Offering.  As we set aside fear, we can accept the gifts God has given us.  He didn’t make a mistake.  And this opens a Doorway to a different life.

This song says it all.

Joyful, joyful we adore thee.

God of Glory Lord of Love.

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,

Hail the as the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin, sin and sadness

Drive the dark of doubt away, Drive it away

Giver of immortal gladness

Fill us Fill us with the light of day Light of day!

As Artists we live on the Edge of the Precipice and we have a Choice.  We live between the worlds of What I Am and What is Possible with God.

Because of the Hope we have in Christ, we can lay our inadequacies and fear, our sin, our broken duct taped hearts, whatever it is, we can lay it all down at Jesus feet.

We can accept that we are broken.
We must accept that we are healed, we are useful, our life has a Holy Purpose.

Both. And.

And then, we must listen to Him, with our intelligence and fierce expectation, with our minds and hearts.  This discipline of listening (John 10:3-4) is as important as our confession.

Creatives are you listening? 

How is God shaping your soul?  How did he make you, both the strong and the weak parts?  He wants both. What is he saying to you in your broken places and how is he mending you? That’s your story.  That’s your Purpose and Holy Calling. It is through our Stories that God will renew the world, in the coming together of Us and Him.

The visions are intoxicating and limitless, filling the world with the Light of his Gladness. Frederick Buechner’s challenge is to find “the voice of our own Gladness.”  That’s where we find our Call.

I woke up today, still Broken.  I’ll face this day with my Fears hanging heavy, like most days.  The difference is, today I’m refreshed and relieved to start again.  Mercifully, I’ve found some Gladness.  I’m filled with a little bit of light; the rays are shining through the shuttered places in my heart.  In sharing this I hope, just for a moment that you see it too, as you dance with the Holy that you’ll find your gladness too.

{faith is waiting, leaning in. a lump in the throat}

It is the prolific writer and theologian, Frederick Buechner, who said:

“Faith is different from theology because theology is reasoned, systematic, and orderly, whereas faith is disorderly, intermittent, and full of surprises…. Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting.”

A poem that came to me this morning.

MORNING FAITH

a mother wakes in the darkness.

shivers, the room is cold. there is a sacrifice,  rising

before them all.  it is also her survival.

the sky inky blue black, she stumbles down the stairs.

these moment, early

are thick

with her worries, cloying.  she sits

physically surrendering to the Holy One’s presence.

Let me be your life.  

Let me fill the crevices of your heart where you still fret and worry.  Trust in me and surrender your doubts about ephemeral things like destiny, talents and purpose.

Your fears about the children, and their walk in faith.

Your anxious heart can be full today if you open your sweaty grasping hands.

Surrender Child. Trust me.

Why is it so daily, this laying down of self?  Letting go of control?  This giving in, this

believing

again, today.

MELODY

“That we may come to be one spirit with God and be found under grace, may God help us all! Amen.” — Meister Eckhart, a modern translation.

the life i touch

The life I touch for good or ill will touch

another life, and that in turn another, until who knows

where the trembling stops

or in what far place my touch will be felt

Frederick Buechner

——————————————

(Carl) Frederick Buechner is an American writer and theologian. Born July 11, 1926 in New York City, he is an ordained Presbyterian minister and the author of more than thirty published books thus far.[1] His work encompasses different genres, including fiction, autobiography, essays and sermons, and his career has spanned six decades.

Anticipation … is Making Me Wait.

“Faith is different from theology because theology is reasoned, systematic, and orderly, whereas faith is disorderly, intermittent, and full of surprises … Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting.” — Frederick Buechner

It’s the new year.  Which means nothing really except a calendar roll over.  It provides an opportunity to reconsider our focus and intentions.  The children continue with their job of school.  Husband continues with work and musical passions.  He started a shoe-gaze type rock band in 2010 and that will continue to be his focus outside of work.  We each continue with the opportunities before us.  At church we are taught to love where we live; that’s my challenge in 2011, as I seek clarity about …well,  me.

What I’m Learning.

I’ve thought hard over the past few years and realized that I am stuck in a way.  As God has done this incredible work in my heart, mind and soul and then put me back together into the person of his making, rather than being confident in the transformation, I have grown afraid.  Fearing the hell of depression returning I’ve grown cautious and careful, reluctant to take risks of any kind or to believe in the possibilities of my future.  I have forgotten how to believe that I have a future and a hope.  Sounds strange and odd to me as I write it down but as I sat at coffee this week with a new friend, we talked about our areas of brokenness and healing.  I expressed my worry that my “mess” is impacting my children in negative ways.  I was expressing the worry I have over my complicity.

I realized in a flash of insight that I have carried an awful load on my back.  A load of fear.  And in many ways of doubt and lack of faith!  Doubt that God has plans to use me … any more.  Doubt that I have something unique to give … to the global plan of God or even local Madison.  Doubt — nagging at my soul, tearing at my heart, filling my mind, even consuming my hope.

If I could sum up what I feel God has led me to and through in the last few years, it is found in the lyrics of the song Holiness by Sonicflood.

Holiness, holiness is what I long for, Holiness is what I need. Holiness, holiness is what You want from me.

So, take my heart and form it. Take my mind and transform it. Take my will and conform it. To Yours, to Yours, oh, Lord.

Faithfulness, faithfulness is what I long for. Faithfulness is what I need. Faithfulness, faithfulness is what You want from me.

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for. Brokenness is what I need. Brokenness, brokenness is what You want from me.

© 1999 Gotee Records; HOLINESS LYRICS – SONICFLOOD

What I Know.

This path and my story over the last few years has been about the metamorphosis of my person.  A reshaping.  A tempering.  An internal spiritual revolution if you can forgive the dramatic way of expressing it.  But it has been nothing less!  Healing implies God is finished, which is untrue.  But He allowed me to fall apart and he put me back together again.  And I learned a few things from those years of pain.

… I know God has given me the spiritual gift of Mercy. I have never been more sure of anything.  Painfully sure, to a point that I question  His care because it hurts so.  But I am learning what to do with that.  There is so much more I need to know about this and what to do with it.

… I know God has given me a Voice through writing and my photography — a way of speaking that people listen to.  A way of telling the truth.  I am learning to hone it.  And learning to listen to Him.  I seek more quiet spaces in order to listen well.  I find the noise of life to be debilitating and soul sucking!  My ability to listen to God and to listen to my heart, mind and soul and believe in my ideas is also progressing.

… I know God has put in me a thirst, a hunger, a hollowed-out cavern of unsatisfied need for the WORD of God which I cannot live without satisfying.   I want to know what to do with it?  And so I wait.

... I know that God has given me “eyes and ears” for the Ancient Tears of Women through out the history of the Church and perhaps this is a part of the heart of mercy.  I do not know why, but I do hear them crying.  And I know something must be done, said, understood, written so that future women & girls do not have that same spiritual pain.  I live in it, breath it in and out.  Their tears and cries echo in my soul becoming my tear, my cry for justice, mercy and hope for women in the Church.  As I said, I don’t know why.  I don’t know what I am to do with it yet.  And so I wait.

… I am impatient to see and understand why I have these gifts and why I hear these voices with an equal measure of apprehension and anticipation.

… I confess that I have not trusted God or believed that I have a good future ahead of me.  In my years of being broken down, losing e v e r y t h i n g that I knew to be true and solid,  God has taken the shards of what I once was, swept them up and formed me into something else — someone other than who I once was.  I just haven’t believed that this someone could be useful to God.

You see in those years, I was driven.  And insecure.  Hungry for authority and power, for significance.  Passionate,zealous and perfectionistic.  Continuously pushing myself.  Never satisfied with my work.  Rarely satisfied with others and overly judgmental, critical and irritated.  I became lonely, sad, and most importantly spiritually lacking a true faith.  I was bereft and lost as up until a few years ago I did not comprehend that Jesus died for me — yes, if I were the only one here on earth Jesus would have given his life for me — my life, my sin.  Me.  I could not accept that.  I didn’t not understand G R A C E.

And then God began to work.  And though painful it is beautiful.

But I still don’t want to live a small life.

“I live a small life. Well, valuable but small. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it or because I haven’t been brave?Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail.

I fear insignificance and I fear my need for the opposite.  The search for significance has run deep in me.  As long as I can remember I believed that God had “saved” my life for a reason.  As a toddler I choked on a peanut and through a series of dangerous events came close to a predicted death (This was in Papua New Guinea and Australia in 1968) but God intervened; At least that is what I have always believed — that He saved me for a reason and I have been searching for that reason my entire life.

I have been Searching.

Do you believe this? I think I do.

“When God created humankind in the divine image, the highest expression of that image is the power to be a decision maker. In this sense, one is never complete, but is always being formed by the decisions we make. If this be true, God casts the responsibility on us to choose that which is best for us. These choices come inevitably from the judgments we make about what reflects our highest selves.  Each one of us is a unique person, with gifts, abilities and desires that give us the opportunities for creativity. To discover who we are and what those deep desires of our hearts mean gives us the clue to making decisions about what we do with our lives. If we choose wisely, we will experience the joy of growing a self and offering it as a source of strength to others. This does not mean that God is not with us in the critical moments of decision-making. Through prayer and meditation, we have access into the divine Presence that provides guidance and inspiration. God is never so pleased as when we stand up and make a moral decision that reflects our desire to live at the highest and most useful level attainable.”  —The Rev. Dr. Brooks Ramsey

To end where I began, with Beuchner, I am reminded that “faith is disorderly, intermittent, and full of surprises…. Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting.”

Yes, I am waiting with a lump in my throat. I’ve learned some things.  I anticipate the new year with hope and joy.

Yes, anticipation.