Well, this is a fun post. I didn’t know what to call it, seeing as there are probably five million options to encase the following lines.
#13 I’m a sinner
I realized this bizarre phenomenon several years ago, of course. I was thirteen. I had moved to Colorado, was hating my parents, hating God, pretty much hating everyone and everything.. and one night it sort of struck me that this overwhelming sensation of disdain towards the entire world just wasn’t going to work out for me in the long run. But at the same time, I couldn’t seem to stop loathing the created universe. It was pouring out of me, even though I managed to fumble my way through classes and social settings without giving away too much of the war going on inside. I even managed to smile my way through church most of the time though that might have been from the need to impress a certain young man who was on the worship team. I mean, let’s be honest, no boy on the worship team is going to be attracted to a girl who hates Jesus and lies in bed at night telling God he doesn’t exist. And then it sort of happened on Easter (such lovely and thematic timing. It was so cliche that I almost hated the change in my heart even more than I hated what had been going on and who I had started becoming). I don’t know what happened. It was one in a series of events that have occurred through out my life which impress upon me the very supernatural essence of our lives in the hands of God. But something happened. I started crying and I kind of “re-met” Jesus and here I am today: house sitting for the small groups pastor of a mega church and his wife who works at a local Christian school. And I don’t hate the dog I’m watching, or the thousands of crosses I’m finding in the oddest nooks and crannies of this oversized home to three.
So being a sinner isn’t some kind of new realization and self discovery. But the last several days I have been surprised in some of the ways this dual nature thing keeps playing out. Let me explain:
I consistently have been pushing God aside lately. It isn’t anything major. I mean: I’m going to church, I have been seeing Christian friends, I am continually being convicted about things (like tithing, my time devoted to God, my discontentment, my nasty habit of not honouring my parents, etc). Yet there is this nagging feeling that something has sort of been left out, or discarded rather carefully and then left behind. I took the dog for a walk today, along winding sidewalks towards Daniel’s Park and straight into the blinding sun. My boots sloughed along underneath me while I had my arm outstretched and Boomer straining against his leash. I was waiting for a friend to text me back about plans for the weekend. By plans I mean the fact that I am driving him to work tomorrow because his radiator “blew up” last night in 10 degree weather, and I’m still not clear on how he made it back to his apartment. I thought my phone vibrated in the pocket of my third coat but when I finally managed to dig it out (while yanking Boomer back from the street) there was nothing but the familiar locked screen shifting through pictures of leaves and clouds. “Flipping Brett, text me back!” I sort of snapped and jammed the phone back inside my pocket. And in one of my five trains of thought I went back to a time when I said the same thing at work while waiting on a text from the same guy and my friend Abby looked at me with a bemused expression: “I feel like you are always waiting for him to text you back.”
Because Brett is sort of like my crutch. And I’m sort of his. It’s this really weird, messy friendship. He’s seen me through two break ups and I’ve walked alongside him through his first steady relationship in years that crashed and burned sometime between the falling leaves of September and October. I went to Harry Potter with him for his birthday and whined about waiting in line for almost four hours in the cold. He made sure that I was safe the night we went downtown in a huge group and people kept trying to buy me drinks and he kept pushing the 45 year old away and snapping that I was only having water.* I get random texts from him like when he’s freaking about the radiator blowing on his jeep last night, and I am always asking him to translate what the men I’m dating are saying to me. So you see, we’re really good friends. But there has been this problem lately.
He’s making… advances?** I don’t think that’s the right word. It’s just that on occasion I get weird texts about how frustrating I am with my Christian morals and how both of us are too stubborn to change to make something work. I just keep pushing it aside, sweeping it under the rug. We have this understanding: it’s. not. happening. I mean, we have always known that since the first time we argued at work over whether or not Jesus was the son of God and born of a virgin (compared to the cult of Mithras and the whole Saturnalia issue). It’s not even a question in my mind. But I think for some weird reason it has become a little more ambiguous in his.
And what does this have to do with my sin? Well, a lot.
Brett’s my crutch, instead of Jesus. I don’t go running to my Bible when I’m lonely. I don’t seek God out in prayer when I’m stressed and worried. I want to.*** I really do. I want that to be the automatic response when I am struggling with something. But it isn’t. I do that second. Usually I text Brett and tell him I’m frustrated: with work, with a boy, with money or with life in general. I mean, that’s what I do when Ghena’s not around. Which means, that I sort of go to Ghena first, and then Brett, and then God. Which means that Jesus is #3 on that list.
How did that happen?
I fasted over the summer at one point and it was glorious. I mean, I don’t love fasting because I love food. I like baking, I like cooking. I love the smell of thyme simmering in water just after I throw in the pasta and a bay leaf. I adore the squish of gnocchi between my teeth, the splurting juice of cherry tomatoes dancing off the roof of my mouth, I love the sting of my eyes above chopped onions and the sticky film of fresh garlic. I love food. But fasting was this great experience because I kept having to seek God for strength when coworkers were eating and my stomach was making noises like a bear just come out of hibernation. I was aware of my weakness and for a good deal of time afterwards I was continuing to lean on Jesus because I had gotten into this habit while fasting. It was grand. I don’t know when I have been more aware of the presence of God or my continual need for him. But something happened. Maybe it was when I dated Nick. Maybe it was my seething jealousy over weddings and relationships as my singleness began to seem more permanent. Maybe it was the stress of work. Maybe it was a desire to fit somewhere, anywhere, and the fact that I wasn’t finding community among Christians to be very easy (if at all feasible). Maybe, maybe, maybe.
But I started making all these bad decisions. I started slipping dow an icy road, steep like Dravus St. in Seattle, icy like Breckenridge when we haven’t had fresh snow. I haven’t done anything terrible (and yet, all sin is terrible). I started talking more about Jesus and following him less. I saw my hypocrisy through glazed over eyes. I was running from it. I think that’s when I started doing sprints. I had to push harder and harder to clear my mind for a few minutes. I stopped writing, or I started writing, or I just sort of existed in my notebook.
But on Sunday night, I talked with Alicia for over three hours. And she said that’s going to be okay. God works things together for his glory and he can do that with me too. And on Tuesday I went out shopping with Jed and I was attentive even when he explained what a pixel is (which took all my strength to listen to and not feel insulted that he should think I am so technologically inept. But I appreciated his gentle teaching manner and I could respect it). And I realized that was something like the work of the Holy Spirit in me. Which is bizarre. Because I told Alicia I’ve been so stupid. She just kind of laughed, said she’d done the same thing, and then she said in her halting way that maybe, if we move forward, into God’s arms, in a few years we’ll look back and laugh and not be so worried about all this because we’ll see:
we’ll see that God knew what he was doing even when he let us go our own way. And we’ll see that we can never outdo him and thwart his great plans.
I have all these idols that I’ve put in front of Jesus. Brett, running, writing, money, my plans, my life.
It’s almost a little terrifying to see how quickly we can go from hearing God, enjoying our time with him, striving for his glory, and realize that it turns into a selfish pursuit of… ourselves. I’ve been filling my needs with things that I thought would satisfy. But they don’t. Because I cannot run forever with my crabby knee and aggravated shin splints. I cannot drink enough lattes to keep me awake and out of the land that loiters between sleeping and waking and in which I seem to most often face my failings. I cannot buy enough clothes to cover the sin that resides deep within my chest. I cannot write the plague of the fall out of my soul. And I will always be waiting on Brett to text me back.
I’m slipping all over the place. This world is seductive and easy to fall into. But I think, today on my walk with Boomer, in the blinding sun and nippy wind that cut through my jacket, I think I reached up a hand and asked to be pulled out. Please. Please.
save me from myself.
*John should get some credit here too. I have a distinct image in my head of the creeper leaving his gold digger girlfriend at one point and asking to buy me a drink and both of them stepped in front of me and told him to back off or get me some water, but I wasn’t drinking.
**And this is the other reason this is a huge sin issue: am I using him? If he keeps making romantic comments, even while always finishing the statement off by reaffirming that “it’s a bad idea”, if he keeps saying junk like that, am I leading him on by not putting a firmer foot down? I always agree with him and tell him I am not interested, or rather, I say that he doesn’t love Jesus so let it go… But is it leading him on to continue being such good friends? Is it using him when I shrug off and ignore these bizarre advances and don’t deal with them head on–because I don’t know how I’ll manage without him? And doesn’t that make our friendship a huge idol? Because I don’t know how to manage some of my stress without him? Part of me says that’s what friends are for, but if he is romantically interested, then maybe there are some [emotional] boundaries that need to be more clearly defined… Friendships with guys can be such a pain.
***Romans 7.19: For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want… (7.24) Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (NASB)