Good morning faithful readers!
Thanks for your patience as I am taking a final writing class at Emory this semester and was required to submit a significant chunk of writing for my final project. Good news – I am attempting to write a book! I’ve never done anything like this before and I am learning a lot. Mostly I am learning that writing a book is a lot more like a journey than a day trip. I’m three chapters in and the book is already taking turns I never expected.
Which brings me to what God and I are communicating about these days: Adventure.
Adventure is a funny word for me. As you grow up and get older you start to buy into the things that your natural temperament wants desperately to set in stone for you. I was a nervous kid growing up and as my mom reminded me just this weekend during her visit to Atlanta, I struggled with change. I didn’t like to try new things. This was not news to me. I’ve always been this way. But lately, I’m wondering if this life narrative of mine is getting in the way and is driving key parts of my life when it should really be riding shotgun. It appears to be the difference between letting my ego run the show as opposed to my spirit-led soul.
If you pick up Elizabeth Gilbert’s amazing book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear you will see her address this dilemma head on as she encourages her readers to lean into a creative and adventurous life. Gilbert knows in this wise way that all of us are living every day trying to keep our devilish fears from running our show. She knows that our egos, the psychological parts of ourselves that tell us who we are, are necessary but also dangerous if we don’t understand their proper role. In the book she says this:
“Your ego is a wonderful servant, but its a terrible master – because the only thing your ego ever wants is reward, reward, reward…An unchecked ego is what Buddhists call “a hungry ghost”- forever famished, eternally howling with need and greed…My saving grace is this, though: I know that I am not only an ego, I am also a soul…My soul, when I tend to it, is a far more expansive and fascinating source of guidance than my ego will ever be, because my soul desires only one thing: wonder.”
Isn’t that lovely? And true? It reminds me of this amazing passage in the gospel of John when the disciples ask Jesus about a man who was born blind. They are walking along and pass this man who, due to his deformity, was begging on the side of the road. “Rabbi” The disciples ask him, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Then, after spitting in some mud and wiping it on his eyes Jesus heals the man of his blindness.
I love this passage because its one where Jesus goes right after the lies we all tell ourselves. Think for a moment about anyone you’ve ever known who’s had something about themselves that they hated. You know…like…yourself. We all have parts of ourselves or our history that we wish were different and because they aren’t going away we’ve figured out some incredibly creative ways to hide them. Some of these hiding places are simply sentences we tell ourselves to keep from being exposed as a fraud.
Me, personally? I’ve always hated the part of me that’s so scared all the time. I feel like I have some natural talents and if I just wasn’t so damn afraid all the time I could really take those talents out for a spin. Forget simple blog posts. I’d write a daily blog post AND I’d write bestselling books! All while keeping a perfectly welcoming home and remaining happily married.
God knows me though. He knows that any human talent unchecked by reality will spin out of control into a god that can’t hold what its promising. So God lets me stay afraid. And I go to him on what is by now a moment to moment basis and he whispers “I’m on the case. This isn’t about you. This is about me.”
And then, for a moment, he heals.
Jesus’ healing of the blind man reminds me that God knows us better than we do. Jesus spoke so clearly to the blind man’s heart, as what blind beggar wouldn’t sit on a curb and wonder if he’d done something to deserve his disability? On a particularly bad day he’d surely blame his parents for passing along the genetic code that left him unable to see.
Jesus stomps his foot right in the middle of that hot mess and says:
“Stop talking. Stop thinking. Stop blaming. Stop planning.
Open. Up. Your. Eyes.”
Your weak spots are not about you. They are not about your parents. They’re not about a list of do’s and don’ts. They’re about God, working mightily through your weaknesses. They’re about the paradox of the gospel made manifest. They’re about what God has been saying since the beginning of time. If you will own your smallness God will finally have room to move. And Oh, the things you will see.
Now, Open your eyes!
A few weeks ago I was walking around our neighborhood when I saw a sign at someones curb with a note on it: “Free to a good home.” I was curious and removed the note to see a wall painting that is now hanging in our living room. It says this:
“Wouldn’t life be great if we all lived a little of it everyday.”
Y’all, if you know me, this is HILARIOUS.
It has to be hilarious or I’d be hopping mad that God is rubbing his message in. It appears God is opening my eyes to the fact that I’ve been listening to my ego, my natural temperament, for a little too long. I’ve got a go-to line that I tell myself that says I’m just a scared little girl who has to do the things in her routine comfort zone or she’ll fall apart. I don’t think I even realize how slowly and slyly that line has weaved its way into my soul. So God, knowing this better than I do, has given me line after line after line in my life about adventure in recent weeks. He’s quite clearly trying to convince me that its time to let go of the side of the pool and join him in the deep end.
Here’s the funny thing…I don’t even necessarily know what any of this means. I have a general understanding of a few things on the calendar this year that will require some faith muscle. So far only one of those things is set in stone. And I think that’s actually the point. Its not so much that God is saying for me to hop on Expedia and book a flight I can’t afford to Europe as he’s saying I should just reach out my hands and hold onto his. He’s saying what my devotional read a couple of weeks ago:
“Give yourself fully to this adventure of increasing attentiveness to My Presence.”
He’s saying that we could be 30,000 feet in the air on a plane to the Bahamas or we could be sitting in pajamas on a rainy day in Atlanta and it doesn’t really matter. The adventure is in the communion of it all. The adventure is the fact that we’re doing it together. Because the only thing better than going on an adventure is going on an adventure with someone you love.
God will use anything from a man born blind to a woman born with a nervous temperament to get his eternal point across:
He is good.
He is glorious,
and he is reaching out to people like you and like me to re-frame the categories we put ourselves into. He wants to show the most important people in the room, namely ourselves, that he is a God of mercy and goodness and light. Truthfully, I think he’s waiting until we’re all so tired of the personal/communal blame game that we sit on the ground in our rags, lift up our faces and ask for eyes that can finally see. May the good Lord hasten that day.
“When we follow Jesus, it means that we don’t know exactly what it means, at least in detail. We follow him, letting him pick the roads, set the timetables, telling us what we need to know only when we need to know it…When Jesus says ‘follow me’ and we follow, we don’t know where we will go next or what we will do next…we follow the one who does know.” -Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way