Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Traveling Light" - Chapter Four

This chapter clobbered me.

The title and subtitle hit hard: The Prison of Want: The Burden of Discontent. I've been struggling with a bunch of discontents - family health issues, financial challenges, vocational questions - a bunch of stuff I can't fix (at least very quickly). Needless to say, my discontent has me in a spiritual dungeon. "I give up" lurks on the tip of my tongue.

Then Lucado lands another punch with his fill-in-the-blank exercise on page 32. "I will be happy when _____." I could fill a legal pad with stuff for that blank. My list of thanksgivings is pretty short (not because of an absence of blessings, but because I am looking at my wants instead). A very convicting little exercise, and it hurt.

Meanwhile, just to make myself more punchy, I read Bill Hybels' Holy Discontent. Some things should have us up in arms, if they are things that God wants to change. Jesus showed us this kind of discontent. And all of us should experience heartfelt frustration with our own sins.

One of my favorite spiritual writers is John of the Cross. His Ascent of Mount Carmel has much to say about cultivating holy discontent. "Nada" ("nothing") is his key word - the course of the Christian life is to label anything less than God as "nada." He counsels us to give up sins, of course, and material things that can become idols. But he also counsels a habit of setting aside good things (a favorite spot to pray, a favorite prayer book, etc.) because they, too, are not God. He likens the spiritual life to "weaning." The comfort of a mother's love and warmth, and the sustenance of her milk, are good things, but they are not our destiny. They, too, must be "nada" if we are to grow up. And he notes that mothers in his day would rub bitter herbs on their breasts when it was time to wean their children.

So, some of my discontents (I think of the vocational issues) might be holy. I've spent almost twenty years building stuff for The Episcopal Church, only to have TEC come in and exploit or corrupt it for a "nada" agenda. I should experience discontent with this situation.

But my personal discontents (the longer list) might well be the "bitter herbs" by which God is weaning me from self-centered wants ("nada" stuff). He wants me to be more in His presence, and more like His Son for my family and for other people He calls me to serve.

Looking forward to your comments. Chapter 5 on Thursday.


Anonymous said...

To begin with, I 'wanted' to send my comments and they disappeared. Please, kind blog person, remove the first comment if it actually posted!

I grew up in a family that always wanted "stuff". I learned to 'want' stuff at a very early age.

God took away my father so I was quite angry with Him. I wanted my father back.

My mother and siblings were cruel to me. I wanted OUT.

They told me that I was too ugly to find a spouse, so I found one just like my mother's husband. I 'wanted' their approval. But my husband having been like my mother's husband also meant that he was a danger to himself and others (including our daughter), so I divorced.

As a single parent and continuing now, except for a few brief interludes, I remain estranged from them. At least I stopped 'wanting' their approval.

During one of the brief interludes when my mother and I were speaking to each other, we had an interesting telephone conversation. I said that I felt sad, but wasn't sure why. She said "you need a man". That was her generation. A woman MUST have a man. THEN I shall be happy.
Uh huh.

My response to her was "...but if I don't meet a man that I could fall in love with and yet, succeed in raising my daughter to be healthy and happy, and if my career keeps moving upward (it was fun and financially rewarding), if I succeed in caring for myself too, and continue to go to this wonderful church, must I, at the end of my life this side of heaven, consider myself a failure because I never found a man?"

She was speechless, obviously did not understand me, so I changed the subject.

I later heard the funny "wanna know how to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans." Getting married was not in my plans.

As God would have it, I did remarry a wonderful, generous, compassionate man and it's been over 17 years. We have 2 boys that we adore, the youngest is seriously handicapped.

More chaos, loss and hurt has befallen our family by the time we reached our 40's than many families see in a lifetime.

More chaos, loss and hurt has come to many children than WE will ever see in our lifetimes.

So, after I've gone through my list of 'wants', I pray that God's will be done and that we stay close to Him to get through it.

I still 'want' the chaos out of our family.

I 'want' my health back.

I 'want' the Anglican Family to grow and grow.

I 'want' my son to be properly educated and cared for. It has always been a fight with the school districts.

I want to know that the road ahead will be smoother.

I 'want' my daughter back. The extended family on my side assured her that I was evil and she believed it and ran away. That was 8 years ago.

I want my wonderful husband to be more at peace with himself and the world.

...I am sure I can think of more...

After I go through my lengthy list of wants, I remember the "wanna know how to make God laugh..." and go back to what I did as a single parent: think of 5 things that happened that day for which I am thankful.

The Friendly Lady in the Black Office Chair

Alice C. Linsley said...

Dear Friendly Lady, May Christ God send angels to minister to you and your family. May the Merciful One grant peace that comes from Heaven. May the Spirit water your faith daily so that this lovely bloom continues to show God's glory, even as it does today.

Anonymous said...

It's Wednesday night, and did you get your Powerball ticket? You have to play to win. Funny. They never say you have to play to lose! How many of us dream of what we could have if we would just "win" the big one? I've been lectured by my mother (when she was still here with us) about "you might as well set fire to your money", as well as from financial gurus telling me I would be better off investing that one dollar. I've often responded: "I feel like the one dollar is worth the price of the dreaming I get to do". Well, I didn't buy a ticket tonight. Reading this chapter this evening made be think back to the times when I have bought one. And, Max Lucado is right. Those times, I have often felt as though I were in a "prison". That prison isn't what I possess, but it is a prison I have built by what I DONT possess. Desire for independence. Wanting to go to work with a whole new view (I don't need the paycheck). Wanting to have it all, and even wanting to have it all to use as a weapon. Max asks us to repeat several times: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want". Try it. Remember it the next time you pick up a catalog, find yourself at the mall for unexplained reasons, or stand in line at Lewis Drug hoping to win the big one.

Anonymous said...

To Alice, bless you for the gift of prayer that our precious Lord has given you. Thank you for writing such generous and loving words. He obviously had a plan for you that you have taken to most graciously. I am humbled, honored and deeply blessed to have been on the receiving end of your precious gift. May the love you give return to you over and over.

To Scott, yeah, I think you got it, money takes other peoples' power over you away. That's the temptation to buy a lottery ticket, not so much to be rich, but to be free of the prison we put ourselves in when an employer dangles a paycheck over us.

If we are fortunate to be as blessed as you, we eventually remind ourselves that the Lord indeed is our shepherd and we shall not want, regardless.

You are a good person and would like the freedom to do more good without the threat of losing a roof over your head.

If anyone could handle financial freedom, you could. I know this because I know you. No doubt you would pray about how to use it and even more people would be blessed by your works than are being blessed now.

What a wonderful blog this is!

The Friendly Lady...