Monday, January 28, 2008

the eternal now

“Live in the holy carelessness of the eternal now.”
George MacDonald


I’ve been pondering “the now” a lot of late. I suppose that’s what happens to many people after multiple weeks of unemployment, as funds begin to dwindle and you can no longer fill your time with activities that cost money. Pondering is free, if not always enjoyable.

There’s a line from the movie Garden State that I’ve always loved: “Have fun exploring the infinite abyss.” From a distance that does sound incredibly appealing, but the thing about infinite abysses is that once you begin exploring them it’s easy to get lost.

Pondering is an infinite abyss. There are some neat treasures to be found, if you can handle the muck you are going to dig up as well.

I found this verse the other morning: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14 ESV).

You only have to be silent. Only implies simplicity. And while there is a certain simplicity in a single goal, it is far from easy to funnel all of your energy into one place. I would much rather have God hand me a lengthy to-do list every morning. To have a plethora of interesting, challenging, even boring tasks to fill my mind and body.

I just want to do something. Anything, but sit patiently. I found this phrase in a book I’ve been reading: “I was the sea, longing for the shore. I made waves” (Thomas Schmidt, A Scandalous Beauty).

I want to make waves.

But that’s not what God asks. He gives one directive: be silent. In other places He says to be still and know He is God. Or there’s the time He tells Martha that Mary’s “one thing” of sitting at His feet is all that is necessary. All that is desired.

And yet, after years of telling God that I’d do anything He asked of me, I am still learning that anything includes nothing. I want a mission. An objective. Something life-alteringly brilliant and thrilling and challenging. I just never expected (or desired) a mission that consisted of silence and waiting.

How do I remain in a constant state of meaningful nothing? Instead of knowing God in my silence, all I can do is hear my repeating inner monologue echoing loudly down the hallways of my mind: “Be quiet!” “Shhhh!” “Sit still!” “Focus!” “Hey you, Mind—shut it!”

It’s enough to make anyone crazy.

I know the last thing you should do when trying to abstain from something is to focus on the forbidden. But when I fast, I can’t stop thinking about food. And when all I want to do is to hear and obey God, my mind refuses to stop coming up with different ways that I could “help God” answer my prayers. Ways I could manipulate situations to get the results that I long for.

And still He says “be silent.” That’s all I have to do. And for an hour or two—three tops—I succeed. But then I get restless and in frustration find myself mentally rumpled, like waking after a night of tossing and turning—more tired than when my head hit the pillow.

It would be nice to end this essay of sorts with a Christian cliché to cleanse the palate after a potent meal of mind-boggling conundrums. But I can’t. There’s nothing like a healthy dose of reality to sour shallow, if well-meaning, phrases.

I will say that God is in control. That He has a plan. That His ways are infinitely beyond mine and I will never plumb His depths. But beyond that I will remain silent. (That’s what He’s been trying to get me to do anyway, isn’t it?).

5 comments:

karleeanne said...

No one could have written it better...You have such a gift with writing! I've always admired your photography out loud...nows the time to tell you how much I appreciate your writing! I love you nnaoj!

Dad said...

At times we are to 'do' . . . at others we are to 'be' (be still and know I am God . . .) - not always so easy to know when to which! Your 'eternal now' post has me thinking! And remembering those times in my life when life wasn't moving like I thought it ought to be . . .

Lorelei said...

I know that we are in different seasons, friend, but savor this 'eternal now' as it will produce life-altering and course-adjusting to where He's taking you. I'm more than excited for you in this time, as you've searched out and scouted the different lands and now, He's left the final decision up to His deciding, which is going to be more than you expected and very different; as His way always is. I love you, friend, and I'm praying for the vision for you, too, and what a better time to be still and silent than in the snowiness of winter where the snow makes all surroundings silent and still and quiet (of course, once the blizzarding stops)? Much love, my shmo, my jorm.

You Know Who I Am said...

Way to go, courageous woman of God! Not many of us would have the courage of foresight to pursue a purpose to a time of undesired transition. It's okay to wrestle before the Lord. Remember that wrestling with God leaves you crippled, but wrestling before him produces perseverance...and perseverance...well, I'm at work and don't have time to look up the verse (ironic, I know) and I don't want to botch it by memory.

You are the coolest and most active unemployed person I've ever met. I'm still rooting for a 100% photography funded employment. I've told the Big Man, and submitted my mustard seed...so, just be prepared.

Hehe...sometimes it's just good to giggle, even if you don't have a reason.

I watched The Itallian Job last night and the part where Seth Green yells and then says "yeah...got...the Holy Spirit! It's a good train...you should get on it!" Just thinking of it makes me laugh (out loud) yep, LOL.

Love you P-Jo.

Uncle Joe said...

sister, you are exceedingly wise for your age.
i'm going to come back and read more when I have time...