Not Fair

But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.

In all my insecurities and pridefully mistaken notions of awesomeness–I constantly vacillate between the two extremes–my one lasting hope is that I’m never going to get what I deserve. And I’m trusting in what’s already been done to do something new and good and perfect now in me, despite the mess I’ve made.

And how did I end up in this mess, anyway?

All I was trying to do was save my own skin. But so were You–so were You.

Good thing.

Redeeming Twelve-Tone Music (Kinda)

It’s pretty safe to say that I’ve always pretty much hated twelve-tone music.

If you don’t know what that is, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: it’s basically a mathematical way to approach music that was invented in the last hundred years to shake up the music world.

And it’s always ugly. ALWAYS. Which was kind of the point. But that doesn’t make it any less awful.

But along comes Vi Hart and she explores not only the philosophical ideas behind it (which made my head hurt a little, though not in a bad way), but she made twelve-tone eerie and beautiful.

Give it a look. I let it play in the background/side screen while I worked on other stuff–I don’t have thirty minutes to just sit and watch something like this, though it’d be cool if I did:

In the Name of Love

mirror-with-ornate-frameGet ready for Bill’s duh statement of the day: I can’t see myself. Well, I can see parts of me. But not all of me. And looking in mirrors doesn’t help that much because I still see a backwards version of me. That’s why seeing a picture of yourself (or hearing your own voice, for that matter) is such a shocking thing: we don’t look (to ourselves) the way we actually look (to everyone else).

My soul isn’t any different. I know what I think I’m like on the inside. But I don’t “see” myself clearly. Not at all. Thus trying to diagnose and mend my own soul is a dangerous endeavor–a lot like how it goes when I try to cut my own hair by looking in a mirror.

Well, something happens to me from time to time. It would probably happen more often if I asked Dad for it. But I don’t. I’m usually content in my blissful ignorance of my own failings and sins and temptations. Yet Dad doesn’t always wait around for me to ask for his help–sometimes he sees me headed toward the precipice and he steps in because he loves me.

How this time? A prophecy from my wife. And when she prophesies, it’s really just the Spirit kicking me in the spiritual teeth with words of truth that smart like hell all while she doesn’t even know she’s prophesying. (Yes, prophecy from the Spirit still exists. No, it’s not full of bangs and whistles and fireworks–it’s words from one Spirit-filled Christian to another.) It’s a lot like Eustace having his dragon skin removed by Aslan:

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy—oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.

So, what’s my sin? Idolatry. What idol? Get this: her.

Suck.

wooden-heart-2But I love her. Like, I way love her. I would do anything for her. I would sacrifice myself for her. I would go to the end of the world and back for her.

Ah. Yeah. Now I see it. If you subbed in Jesus for all of the “hers” in the last paragraph, all would be hunky dory. That’s the way it’s supposed to be for the King. But not for my wife. At least, not over and above allegiance to and love for the King.

To be honest, I struggled hard in my heart. The way I loved her was good and right. Wasn’t it? How could my love for her and my devotion to her be bad?

Enter another story (I’m apparently in a CS Lewis mood today) called Till We Have Faces. To give a horribly simplistic and overly generalized summary, it tells the story of how one sister loved her sister in such a way as to nearly destroy her. It’s an astounding book and both times I’ve read it, I was caught off-guard with the turn it took near the end and the overlaying complexity of the protagonist (really, just read it for yourself–I’m explaining it horribly).

But to give the necessary background, most of the book is devoted to the older sister citing her case against the gods for how they have brought misery upon her and upon her sister. And interestingly, I still find this part of the book somewhat bland to read ( I say it’s interesting because her self-blindness–like mine–is lame and kinda boring). But then the turn happens. In the very last part of the book, the older sister finally understands that her case against the gods was really a case against herself; that in the name of love she had displayed, to quote an essay I found, “a tyrannically selfish possessiveness.” What she thought was love for her sister was really deep-seated selfishness. It was self-love. And it turned into hate toward the object of her “love”. (Again, I plead with you, read the book. It’s truly worth the time.)

And so, in a book written decades ago, I find myself. I love my wife so fiercely because I love myself.  I want so badly to believe that I love her selflessly, but I love her for myself. And I expect from her the impossible–to be my hope and my joy and my salvation. There’s no other word for that than “idol”.

And so, I’m laid bare. My skin has been stripped by the Lion. I have no turn left but to turn–to repent.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
(from Psalm 51)

 

Faith and Doubt

For some, believing in Jesus and loving him with a full heart is as simple as breathing. For me, not so much. If I were to extend the breathing analogy, I suffer from my own version of spiritual asthma. Sometimes believing and loving and serving is unnatural and hard and laborious. Sometimes it’s draining. Sometimes it’s downright discouraging and hopeless. Suffocating. And like the real asthmatic who knows exactly how to breathe and simply can’t, I know how I want my heart–my soul–to be and I simply can’t.

I don’t have any solutions or answers here–I’m simply inviting you into the struggle with me. But I acknowledge it’s a hopeful struggle. I cling to the goodness and solidarity of God’s promises like an inhaler. It doesn’t necessarily make things feel any better, but it’s what holds me together at all.

On that note, here’s a song I love that I listen to (and sing along with) as one way my soul cries out to God:

My friend Scott has waded through these waters publicly as well and it’s been to the good of my soul to be invited into his struggle with him, even though it’s horribly painful for him. You can find some examples here, here, and here (though his whole blog is worth reading).