In him, all things hold together.
My mood was as gloomy as the rain-soaked morning. A heavy fog had settled in overnight, painting the meadow a depressing gray. I put another log in the stove and resigned myself to a day indoors.
“Why are there so many contradictions in life, God? How do I cope with it all?” I asked rather dejectedly.
“My Son answered that question,” God replied.
“On the cross. He carried all the world’s suffering and allowed Himself to be transformed by it with His resurrection. He showed you that if He could hold all the contradictions in life, you could too. Remember, His death on the cross taught you to not project your pain onto others, creating scapegoats or enemies. He taught you to not stay trapped in your pain. You can hold all the contradictions and allow them to transform you, with love, just as He did.”
“But it’s so hard to do sometimes,” I confessed.
“That’s why you pray. That’s why you walk closely with me,” God answered lovingly. “That’s what Jesus did.
“It’s a big lesson to grasp on a wet morning,” I replied.
“I’ll sit with you and open your eyes and your heart so that you understand,” God answered.
Movement in the meadow caught my eye. A flock of birds had descended on the feeders, happily pulling sunflower seeds from the long wire cage. How beautiful they were against the backdrop of the ominous sky.
“Yes, please help me to be more like Jesus. It may take me a lifetime but I’m willing to learn.”
God rested His hand on my shoulder and the lesson began.
Don’t judge others.
“Put that away and come and be with me,” God whispered to me as I scrolled through my Facebook feed.
“Just a sec. Let me see what’s happening in the political arena,” I answered, unable to tear myself away from the news.
“Your ego,” God said, “is keeping you from me.” I thought I could hear a slight sorrow in His voice.
“But these things are important, God,” I argued. “I need to stay informed.”
“What you need is more compassion,” He answered.
“Compassion?” I asked.
“The people with different political beliefs are no different than you. You both have the same roots of evil capable of growing in your hearts,” God explained. “It is only by spending time with me that you put away your judgment of others and replace it with compassion. It is only then, that you can truly love.”
I turned off my phone and put it on the table. I pulled on a sweater and went out into the garden. I sat under the pear tree and opened my heart to God; to love. Only then, did I see my own part in adding suffering to the world. Only then did I see that my judgment creates division, which is against the very thing that Jesus commanded that we do—love one another.
“Help me to be aware of my own sinfulness, so that I don’t judge others,” I prayed. “Help me to love. Please.”
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity,
but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
~2 Timothy 1:7
I sat in the quiet of the rising sun, out in my garden. I prayed and pondered my life, thinking of all of the many twists and turns it had taken.
“You aren’t your story,” God said. “You are not the events that have taken place in your life,” God answered. “You are more than a mom, a coach, a sister, a daughter, a woman who has been abused or hurt. You are more than a person who stopped drinking. You are more than a person who had a brain injury and lost everything. You aren’t even your name. You aren’t Jennifer.”
“I’m not? Then who am I?”
“You are not a who. You are a what,” God said gently. “Instead of getting lost in the story you tell yourself about who you are you, think about what you are. You are a part of my creation. Your true nature is far greater than anything that has, or ever will, happen to you. Drop the stories. Then, drop the storyteller. Let your consciousness expand beyond the boundaries you’ve created. Remember what you are.”
“That may take me some time and effort,” I said. “I’m not used to thinking in those terms.”
“I’m here to help you,” God said. A songbird lifted her voice to the morning. I turned my face to the heavens and closed my eyes. I did my best to forget who I am and to just be what I am. For a moment, I was at peace, no longer bound to my story. I was fully connected to God.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace
as you trust in him, so that you
may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
I can’t remember who taught me how to ride a bicycle. I do remember the dirt lane that I tried to navigate and the big pine tree that I crashed into. I recall the bike wobbling side to side as I desperately tried to keep my balance. It took me quite a few attempts and quite a few falls before I could ride comfortably. But once I learned, there was no stopping me. I rode my bike everywhere. (It was great being a kid in the ’60’s. So much freedom!)
This morning I felt like a part of my life was wobbling side to side and that soon, I’d cash into something. I snapped Shakespeare’s leash to his harness and off we went for a walk. That’s always a good remedy for when I’m stressed out. It didn’t take long until I felt God’s hand on my shoulder. “You’re worried,” He said.
“I’ve got this really big responsibility on my shoulders and I’m not sure I am up for it,” I said. “I’ll feel like an idiot if I make a mistake.”
“If you knew that your big responsibility was part of the plan I had for you, would you feel differently about it?” God asked.
“I’d feel even more stressed! I’d want to be perfect for you!” The minute the words left my mouth I knew how silly they were. I know God doesn’t expect me to be perfect.
“What if I run along beside you, and I guide you, Would you feel better?”
“Would you do that for me?”
“Of course! God said.
I knew that much like learning to ride my bike, I’ll learn how to navigate this big responsibility if God runs along beside me. I may crash from time to time, but once I learn, there will be no stopping me. Wait. Correct that. There will be no stopping us. Once I learn, I’ll be peddling but God will be riding on the handlebars, pointing the way.
“You’ve got this!” God said, and patted me on my back. I grinned from ear to ear.
“Thanks!” I said, and turned towards home.
“…The kingdom of God is within you.”
“Stop searching!” God admonished me this morning as I was sipping my decaf latte before the start of my work day.
“I didn’t know I was searching, God,” I answered.
“You look for answers in things outside of yourself,” He said in His usual gentle way. “Your answers are inside yourself because I put them there.”
I took another sip of coffee and swallowed as I pondered His words. “It’s hard to trust myself.”
“You’ve been told by people all of your life that you weren’t good enough, I know,” God said. “Everyone has that problem. But you’ve got to have faith that I’m in your heart. I won’t steer you in the wrong direction. I promise.”
“What do I need to do to trust you more?” I asked honestly.
“Let go of your own understanding. Let go of your ego. Listen to your heart, not your head,” God explained. “Talk to me more. Listen to me more. Meditate more.”
I swallowed the last of my coffee. “Okay, God, I’ll do my best to do those things. You’ll help me, right?”
“Don’t I always help you?” He asked as a reminder.
“Yes. You do. Always. You’ve never let me down.”
“What you desire is inside of you. Trust it. Nurture it. Love it. It’s my Spirit, tucked into your heart and soul,” God whispered. I reached out my hand and felt the warmth of His touch. I was ready to start the day.
Happy Valentine’s Day my friends!
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”
“This stinks,” I muttered under my breath. A situation with a friend was bugging me. A lot. “Why can’t people get their act together, God? I asked in a rather testy voice. I spent the better portion of the morning complaining to God about the situation. He got fed up with it right around lunch time.
“Stop it!” He demanded. “Stop complaining!” His voice was unusually loud.
“But my friend…” I didn’t get to finish my sentence before God cut me off.
“When you complain, you’re telling me I am not doing things right,” He said. “Don’t tell me how to be God.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry.” I offered my apology. “If you are in charge, I guess I don’t have any room to complain, do I?”
“Spend your mental energy on giving thanks, instead of grumbling,” He suggested. His voice had softened and for that, I was grateful!
“Yes, God. I’ll do that,” I answered. For the rest of the day, every time I wanted to complain about my friend, I gave thanks for my friend instead. By the end of the day, I was at peace. I felt love for my friend again. I went to sleep with the promise to wake the next morning with praise and thanksgiving for all things. I promised to not complain to God, to myself, or to others. I’m challenging myself to remember that God doesn’t make mistakes.