fruit of the spirit

Building a Mystery

I’ve started several posts over the last few weeks and have posted nothing. *sigh* I’ve entered into a period of growth and the growing pains have been…interesting. Do I share them? Do I enter into full vulnerability here where anyone can see? What is the point of blogging if I’m not willing to share my process?

So here I am with a deep breath, my heart beating rapidly in my chest and my palms sweaty as I toss all the posts I’ve started to write away and get down to brass tacks. This blog is about my journey, after all. All the bright and shiny moments along with the all the muck and mire and, well, shit.

God has been asking me to fast for some time. I’ve been blissfully avoiding his prodding until last month when I couldn’t really ignore it anymore. My life was stale and my spiritual journey felt none existent. I was sleepwalking, no longer fully participating in my life. So I prepared for a month-long modified Daniel fast. I wanted to hear the Holy Spirit. I wanted something big and spectacular to be revealed. Mostly, I wanted to move forward and I finally realized that I was getting in my way.

So I fasted. I didn’t have huge epiphanies, didn’t see visions from Heaven. I didn’t hear God’s voice in clear and certain ways. When I started I wanted this to be a time of deep revelation. I wanted to come out the other side different. Changed. Enlightened. I think God laughed at me because my motivation starting out was so very wrong. What I learned instead was to rest. I learned to pray simple prayers. I was given a picture of generational bondage in my family line, though I was not delivered of that bondage during my fast.

God wasn’t going to deliver and change me in one go. I see that now. This fast was a way of clearing the deck of the noise buzzing around in my mind and paving the way for this next leg of our journey together. It wasn’t a way to bypass all the work ahead of me. More a way to accelerate the growth process. Was I disappointed I wasn’t magically changed? Sure, if there is away out of doing the hard work and get the same end result, who wouldn’t choose that? Come on, you know you want to raise your hand along with me.

So no drastic change. In fact, very little work within me through the first three weeks of my fast. I didn’t sense any change, really, until the last week of my fast when I spent time at a conference where Graham Cooke conference. His words are so full, his message so pregnant with revelation and meaning, I left each session feeling like my mind had been through a blender. But something in me shifted. Something Claire and I had been discussing. A cloud I was living under called Acedia.

I’ve been praying for clarity for a couple of years now, but something always seemed to fog my mind. Acedia is a sneaky bitch, whispering little things in one’s ear, zapping energy and focus, eating away at motivation. Lulling a person into complacency. We are not dangerous warriors when we are complacent, when we are suffering deep ennui. This is not a mental disorder such as depression. It is not melancholy. It’s subtle and insidious and breaking away from acedia is very difficult. Especially if you don’t know the ennui and complacency in your life is the result of being preyed upon and agreeing with this lying spirit.

During the conference I prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill me so there would be no room for Acedia. So I would hear only his voice. I prayed I would see the agreements I had made so I could renounce them. I was done. I was tired of never gaining traction. Never moving forward.

My prayers were answered in a subtle but meaningful way. Wouldn’t it have been cool if the light of heaven had shone down around me in that moment? Or the Holy Spirit filled me so completely I collapsed on the floor? Hmm, in retrospect, no, that would not have been a good thing. I would have been mortified! God knows this and in His kind and knowing way he gave me something else. Instead of something dramatic occurring, I heard the ocean. I love the ocean. I am not a complete person if I am not able to be around large bodies of water. The ocean soothes me, the lapping and crashing of waves renews me.

And that night I heard the ocean. And I knew that God had agreed with my prayer. That life will never be the same.

I still have acedia clinging to me like a petulant child, and sometimes I listen to the whispers and I want to agree with them. I’m so tired, too tired to clean the kitchen. I’m too sore to get start my day so it’s best to stay in bed and sleep. My job doesn’t hold meaning. But I don’t. God is with me. God has given me so much, a kitchen I can use to cook healthy and tasty food. A home. A family. Friends. A way to earn money and expand my skill set. Thanksgiving is the enemy of acedia. Rejoicing is the foundation of life in Christ. So I’m learning to rejoice, to look at my life and circumstance with thanksgiving. I’m learning to be the woman God created me to be.

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Who is Jesus?

I was having an insightful conversation with my friend Claire about the evangelical church in general and my church in particular. Comments shifted, as they do, to the heavy heart I have for my pastor and his wife. They are wonderful people. Gifted. Talented. Both have a strong desire to serve God and to shepherd His people. Both are under a yoke that is not from Jesus. They have a picture of Jesus and it is not the true Jesus. It is something false and it is sucking the life out of them.

So many people have a false picture of Jesus. And they are loathe to let go and embrace a clear, truthful picture of who Jesus is. This runs rampant not just in Evangelical Christian circles, but everywhere. My BIL is an atheist and he rejects Jesus because all he sees, all he had been shown growing up, is a false Jesus. He is right to reject this false Jesus. What he’s not willing to do is seek out the true Jesus.

I understand. I almost walked away from my faith because of the oppression and the false beliefs of who Christ is that I had been taught and modeled. I attended a faith based college and if you ever want to see the faith community in action, check out a campus at any faith based higher education institution. After putting in my four years, I was turning cynical and questioned everything my younger self ever believed of who Jesus was and what it meant to be a Christian. The instructors, staff and students at this college  may have been willing to accept legalism, false humility, the subjugation of women, and a works based faith, but I wasn’t. There had to be something more, something different. I needed it to be different.

I married and moved to a new state. I attended bible studies and joined a sunday school class with my husband. I did my devotionals. And I cried every day because none of these actions felt as though they were leading me to the God my grandmother introduced me to. Instead of feeling love and compassion and acceptance, I was judged. If I spoke an opinion or asked a question that caused someone to think (gasp), I was shut down. I was told I needed to be more like the Proverbs 31 woman. I needed humility. I needed to encourage my husband to be the head of my household and essentially think for me. When I discussed my desire for a career, I was shut down and told a good Christian woman and have babies. Make a home my husband would long to come home to. Pray, study, serve.

I was not attending a cultish church. This was a very mainstream, very large church in my community. There were professional women in this congregation, but the overall teaching was to do, to follow a model someone decided was the one size fits all answer for every married woman.

Initially, I did pray that God would remove my longing for a career, to help people in a different way. I prayed my husband would make enough money I could stay home and be a homemaker. I prayed for the desire to be a homemaker. Which is really funny in retrospect because anyone who knows me knows I don’t love to clean house and cook meals. I’m not fond of my vacuum cleaner and doing dishes gives me a rash. Laundry? A necessary evil. I would do really well with a maid. In one sense, those prayers did help me see the value in those acts, but they didn’t remove the desires that were imprinted upon my heart.

I felt called to be in the workforce so I was. I sought out God in the “secular” world and believe it or not, it was there and not in church that I found Jesus. You see, Jesus does not live in an ivory tower. Jesus embraces the masses. Jesus is unafraid of getting his hands dirty. He meets needs. He loves. He laughs. He lives. Jesus became real to me when I stepped outside of the teachings of my church and stepped into life. My prayers took on a conversational tone. Here was someone who wanted my questions, my opinions, my fears and my joys and didn’t care if they were all a messy tangle of need and longing. He just wanted me to be real.

I am still learning who Jesus is and am learning to distinguish between what Jesus asks of me and what false spirits masquerading as Jesus want to take from me. It’s not always easy to distinguish between the two, but I’m learning.

What does this have to do with the prophetic? I need to know whose voice I’m listening to. If it’s not Jesus then I need to shut it down. How do I know I’m hearing Jesus? In the words of Graham Cooke, if the words are full of the fruit of the spirit, then it’s God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23