Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Worthy, Not Worthless Words

Remember, Seek, Surrender
My Testimony in Scripture


"If you will repent, I will restore you that you may serve me;
if you utter worthy, not worthless words, you will be my spokesperson."


Jeremiah 15:19

An Excerpt from a Blog, January 14, 2006
It snowed my first day in Kansas City - great, huge flakes that clung to each other as they drifted through the sky, creating wispy cotton trails in the air and landing in strange patterns on the back deck. I ran out onto the front porch in my "happy bunny" pajamas, the ones that say DUMB DUMB DUMB in a rainbow of colors on a backdrop of bright yellow, my hair pulled back into what is affectionately called my "frump-girl" pony-tail. (For those of you who don't know, "frump-girl," apparently, is my alter ego who tends to surface on bad hair days and early mornings.) After standing in amazed delight (you'd have thought I had never seen snow before), Bailey and I ran around my front yard in mad glee, barking and giggling, respectively...

It was a long drive out to Missouri from California, and an even longer journey for my spirit. It started with a flood, was accented by tornado strength winds and a few attack-tumbleweeds, and ended with a Super Walmart the size of my home town. The snow was my icing on the cake. It was also heart-breaking as it finally sank in with every passing mile and each passing day that the old is gone.

Something inside of me convulses at the thought. The old is gone.

And yet how I wish that the old was gone! The memories, the heart-ties, the child-like hope that somehow things do work out and love conquers all, the haunting rejection, the occasional nightmares; I wish I could purge myself of those things, that I could be rid of the reminders and the loss and the emptiness and the sadness.

Life goes on. Cities come and go, a stream of lights. Days come and go, a processional of moments, uncomfortably unfamiliar, strangely vulnerable. There is unmistakable joy here. But there is undeniable anger and unshakable grief, too.

* * *

Just before I received this passage, just before making the long trek to Kansas City, I sat in a coffee shop with my mentor and her son. In a strange turn of conversation, they challenged the paradigm with which I had grown up, a paradigm that said women had no place in leadership in the church and had no call to ministry.

I had never considered such things before, but as they talked, strange ideas began to percolate. I remembered my confusion at 17 when every university in the western US was banging down my door, asking me to come, and I did not know what to do. I considered law. I considered psych. I considered communications and music and English Lit. But the only thing I really wanted to do, the only thing that really mattered to me, was learning about God.

I remembered high school speech classes in which I took great joy crafting messages that intertwined music and scripture and life. I remembered getting in trouble when I was about 8 - maybe 10 years old - for "preaching" at my sisters. I even chuckled at the thought that, when I was still in grade school, I wanted to push that old pastor off of the podium and tell people what was really going on.

Could it be that I wasn't so confused after all? Could it be that I simply lacked the community structure necessary for making sense of God's equipping, God's passion, God's call?

There is no way that I could know how that simple line of questioning would begin to change ... everything.

But before I could even consider such things, God had more to teach me about what it means to repent. The year prior, 2005, had been a year of inventorying a dead relationship and walking through the stages of grief and divorce. But God wasn't finished; He had to take me further back, back to examine hurts and character defects the pre-existed my marriage. Living in a manner worthy of repentance means looking at the fabric of one's soul, of one's bent, and taking it before God and others to be healed, re-shaped, grown, redeemed. It means making decisions about one's future based on the reality of one's past - not living in the past, but not living in denial of it, either.

The analogy is one of a recovering alcoholic who really has no business walking down the alcohol aisle in the grocery store, particularly if he has little sobriety time or if that is what gets him into trouble. He will never be wise enough to make that decision unless he has faced and owned that he has a problem, examined his particular set of weaknesses, and then accepted that he will have to live his life differently because of it - perhaps forever. This is the humility of repentance. It is accepting what is true about ourselves and living it, submitting to the consequences.

This was the year that God began articulating an unmistakable call on my life - a call to live in a manner worthy of repentance. I look back now and see that this verse was like the first whisper of God's desire to use me, to use what I had come from and through, to use my testimony, to create and solidify the commitment necessary to be a minister of God's hope, forgiveness, and peace. I look back now and this verse embodies my theology of ministry; I have nothing to offer the world but my repentance, my recovery, and somehow as I do that, I have something to offer the world ... worthy and not worthless words ... words that testify to God.

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