Pitching my Tent

I am still wrestling. Please, someone, if you have some cure for this in a bottle give me a prescription!

I know that God has forgiven me of all my sin. And that because of this I have no right to hold anything against anyone. Not my friends. Not my family. Not the jerk guy who cut me off. And certainly not my own husband. I know that my life is bought and doesn’t belong to me. I get it.

But not really.

What I feel like on the inside.

Because when it stings, when I feel unloved – whether real or imagined, when he eats the last of the cereal and puts it back (hey, I’m hormonal) I find myself on the end of a very tired rope. I cry, I get angry, I shut in or lash out… And I try to deal. Try being the operative word.

HOW do I love in those times? Like, practically, literally, how? I try to do nice things and be helpful, I try to show active grace, I give whatever I can give, but the bible says to forgive someone “from your heart” (Matt. 18:35) and my general attitude, the way I feel and think and perceive things is not exactly untainted by the hurt. Even when I can manage to show love and grace, inwardly I am screaming. I don’t think that is forgiveness from the heart…

I talked to my sister in this crazy faith, Beth to process these things and she pointed me to Exodus 33. It chronicles how Moses would pitch this tent outside the camp and it says, “everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting.” On one particular occasion Moses who is clearly grappling with similar “how the heck do I do this” emotions himself, asks God to show him His ways.

Shrug, sigh, breathe. Even the big man with the rule book had trouble.

Beth also reminded me that the Israelites wandered for-freaking-ever in the desert as God refined them. And when I think about this whole mess, I wonder if my feelings aren’t my current wilderness. Attitude vs. Feelings, right? {You know, I have actually been scared to post my thoughts on certain things because I’m pretty sure writing that stupid post in particular was like a big neon sign to God that I wanted to work on it and be challenged at every angle. :P} So perhaps I can forgive from the heart without feeling it… Perhaps my heart {which, when I looked it up in the concordance, means quite a lot} can be pure even when my feelings aren’t. Which honestly doesn’t really make sense to me.

Hence the wrestling.

Because my feelings are an outpouring of my heart. Really. Sure, they are fickle and sure, my heart left on it’s own is kinda rotten, but it isn’t on it’s own anymore, is it? More processing with my crazy-faith-sister Tessa and a revelation {ready for this?}: My heart is not where it should be.

I know. Shocker.

In Christ I am a “new creation” {2 Cor. 5:17}. So my heart ought to be new, too! I ought to be feeling love for my enemies {that’s a non-negotiable according to Jesus} and patience toward any trial. But I most certainly do not. My feelings directly contradict what my King commands me to do and feel because as Jeremiah says it, “the heart is deceitful above all things.” So what gives? If I’m new in Christ, why is my heart still trying to deceive me? For some reason {God?} Romans 12 came to mind.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasingand perfect will. {vs.1-2}

This isn’t automatic. I can’t pray for change and then expect to be made new. Paul tells us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices…. That takes action. That takes a very difficult, painful decision to do something so totally counterintuitive. It means putting my deceitful heart – the one I’ve grown kind of attached to the last 26 years – before God and watching Him crush it. It means the death of my right to an apology, my indignation, my own form of justice. It means I don’t get to decide how my enemies are dealt with or who gets the benefit of my genuine love and heartfelt service.

And It means that when my heart is deceiving me it is my own damn fault. Ugh.

In Romans 12 Paul doesn’t say, “you’re going to be transformed, just hang in there until it happens.” He says, “Get yourself on that altar and submit everything you are to God – and don’t jump off of it, stay there while He goes through your entire worldview with a fine toothed comb to make you a totally different person.”

Oh, and it will hurt.

The “renewing of your mind” part is downright scary. That means I have to volunteer to let God do a lobotomy on me if I really want this deceitful heart to be put to death. Despite it’s desperate pleas for mercy this heart must die. Daily, apparently. If I want to please God, if I want to abide in Christ, if I want to be called His child all I have to do is part with the one thing I love most: myself. So… when I struggle so hard it is because my self is fighting back against this sacrifice. I know it means the death of me so I drag my feet all the way to that altar. Yet God is so sweet… And in my anger, in my hurt, in my frustration and selfishness, as I reach out with what seems like such a meager plea – a plea like Moses’ to just please, God, please show me your ways – He speaks to me. Through whispers and crazy sisters and His very words.

***

The other night I was out to dinner with Gabe. He mentioned casually {while making a totally separate point} that God loves us and forgives us. It unsettled me. I poorly tried to tie his thought into my discomfort, but ended up just admitting that I don’t believe that.

It was suddenly very clear: all of this feelings and heart and self-fighting-sacrifice business comes down to a simple lack of faith. That I struggle so hard is only an indicator of this dangerous disbelief in what God has made so plain. If I really believed that God – GOD – loves and forgives us… Loves and forgives me, I would not have so much trouble letting go of who I am in exchange for what He deserves.

And so, in the middle of a nice restaurant with delicious food and packed tables, Gabe and I prayed to the God I am doubting to forgive me and to help me. Right there, in this restaurant, God met us. In a normal conversation my spirit would not be quiet and in a simple, desperate prayer it found it’s truest love.

The struggle isn’t over {oh, so not over}. I trust I will battle my flesh until the end of this world, but I want to fight. God has made me over and over. I have seen the results of trusting Him. I’ve seen what comes of discomfort, what is birthed out of painful sacrifice and I want in. I want to give this God the heart He wants to make new. Every day. And I know I’ll stumble so much, I know I will give into my heart’s rebuttals, but this is the race I want to run. And I want to win.

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