Friday, December 31, 2010

Forgetting and Remembering

As I have read various blogs and posts this past week I quietly became troubled with the amount of people that seemed excited to forget events from 2010. In some ways I get this. There is comfort in forgetting. Paul took this comfort when he said, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,” (Phil 3:13). The freedom to consciously lay some things down is a gift. There is a way the past can haunt us that is not good. I had hoped to have my book published in 2010. To remember that the book isn’t published brings some pain to the surface. It is painful to walk into a book store. Each book seems to mock my work and my dreams. I can say, “Lord I lay down my attachments to the book that hold me captive to despair. Hold for me what I shouldn’t be holding and help me to move into 2011 with some hope. ” Somewhere deep inside of us lies a hope that all things get set right in the end. This is not something we want to deny. That doesn't mean we taste or see the redemption we long for in fullness now. It is a future looking I don’t have control of this universe type of feeling. Still connection to the Lord ought to help this hope lift our countenance so that we move towards the future in such a way that we participate with Him in working all things together for good. In this context I want to forget the attachments to events that keep me locked up. I want to consciously ask the Lord to help me with whatever bitterness, resentment or despair I have attached to events from 2010 that keep me from participating with Him. I want to move with Him toward what is good. Forgetting can be part of that process.

However, I don’t think that means forgetting is always good. When the Lord told the disciples to ‘celebrate’ his death and resurrection – to do this in memory of Him (1 Corinthians 11:24) I have to believe there was some pain in that. I really can’t begin to imagine what it was like to actually walk with the Lord – to watch him suffer – to see him die and rise again and then to hear that the whole event should be celebrated. As much as we are to consciously ask the Lord to help us forget some things we also have to ask him to help us remember some things. Both remembering and forgetting is painful and we are quick to avoid pain. I spent years putting together my thoughts on marriage and did a bunch of marriage seminars along the way. Then I took three more years to write out these thoughts and get help editing. I couldn’t begin to count the amount of work I have put in that manuscript. When I think about the fate of it being in someone else’s hand I begin to feel very vulnerable and I want to forget all the work and hope wrapped up in it. I want to shut my head and heart down and stick them into the sand. I want to forget as a way to avoid vulnerability. However, as I remember the work and expectation that is in the manuscript my vulnerability turns me towards the Lord and I say, “Please help me with this. Please don’t forget. As I remember I am moved to ask You to remember.” I don’t want to forget that I have written a manuscript or the work that is behind it. I must remember those things to stay alive towards what I hope will happen in 2011. My attachments to the manuscript I have written are mixed. Flesh and spirit. Good and bad. I want to forget the connection to those things that are unholy and I want to remember what is holy. What I don’t want to do is to be directed by the avoidance of pain. I don’t forget to avoid pain or I don’t remember to avoid pain. Forgetting can help me with pain and forgetting can increase the pain I don’t want to experience in the future. Remembering can be celebrating something painful in a good way (the Lord’s death) or celebrating something painful in a bad way (my book still isn’t published). What I need most in 2011 is a deeper level of God consciousness. Perhaps we should start the year acknowledging the vulnerability that comes to the surface as another year lies ahead. “Lord, help me to forget and lay down what I need to from 2010. Bring those things to conscious memory and help me to participate with what you are doing by forgetting what I need to forget. However, help me to remember and bring into 2011 what is good even if that is painful. I want to participate with You toward good. And continually comfort me with the thought that You don’t live in time and that You hold me as I stumble forward.”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Disgraceful Incarnation

Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly (Matthew 1:19).

How much do we overlook God’s kindness, or work or revelation because we are good people who like to bow out of shameful things quietly? When we are too driven to be good moral and religious people we often fail to follow God into more. We tend to glamorize Christmas but think about it from Joseph’s perspective. Don’t you think he believed there wasn’t any room in the inn because he had messed up? I imagine he walked away questioning why he married Mary and may have felt shame in that moment. I can’t picture him comfortably enjoying his first born son (that really wasn’t his) being birthed in a manger. His shame in that moment wasn’t because he did something wrong. It was because he was willing to follow what God called him to and the world often does not understand, accept or embrace God or his ways. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful (1 Corinthians 1:27). When I started Daymark 13 years ago, because the church I was on staff at was having financial problems and I had to go part time, I felt it was because I had messed up. If I had heard God rightly I would have been in a different position. It took me 10 years to accept that Daymark was God’s leading and that it was a good idea. I could run through most of the other major decisions in my life and show you the conflict I felt in choosing them. There were always questions and shame surrounding the decisions I have made and the paths I have followed. When God embodied himself in the form of a man he was born to a couple facing shame in a manger outside of town. In some ways it couldn’t have been more scandalous. So, my thought is this. Let’s embrace the shame we must face with more courage and hope. It is often the place God is revealing Himself and carrying out his plan. Merry Christmas!