May 25, 2009

the many faces of god

there are boundless images of christ. he calls himself father, bridegroom, savior, redeemer, lion of judah, spotless lamb, truth, love, the way, and the list goes on. in life we travel through a myriad of colorful seasons. we experience times of great joy and celebration, times of sweet contentment and restfulness, and there are times when we endure challenges and arduous journey's through the wilderness. in each of these varying walks we often cling to and fall in love with the many figures of god. perhaps it is not by our choosing at all that we grasp to certain facets of this multi-impressioned king, but moreover it is by his inexpressible grace that he reveals to us who he is in a fashion that parallels to our desperately soiled needs. 

for myself, the name of god that i most often return to is "bridegroom". when i was a young twenty years of age god shattered my bubble of complacency and introduced himself through the song of solomon. it was one of those stories you hear of so often that you find it easy to grow cynical of. its the familiar tale of those who became christians by randomly opening up the bible and discovering a passage of scripture that spoke in such a powerful way that it caused them to devote the rest of their lives to following after christ. well, that's what happened to me and i will never, in all my life, forget that divine moment. at the time i shared a bedroom with my baby sister and we were getting ready for bed. she was on her side of the room texting away on her cell phone and i, laying quietly on my side, decided to pick up her beastly sized bible and take a gander at what it had to say. i wasn't totally ignorant about god and scripture necessarily; for i was raised in a christian home. but i was clueless to what it was to truly give my life to god. after wiping the dust off the cover i opened to song of solomon 4:9 and being the insatiable lover of poetry and deeply crafted romantic that i am, i was immediately intoxicated by the words which read;

"you have ravished my heart my sister, my bride. you have ravished my heart with one glance of you eyes."

 from that moment on i bow to the one who calls himself "bridegroom".

it was about four years ago when a new character of christ began to illumine in my soul. it is that of a provider. in my family we didn't have an abundant amount of income to rely upon. i watched my parents worry over finances and learned at the ripe age of thirteen if i needed or wanted certain things them, i would have to help contribute. i didn't think much of it at the time because that was all that i knew. but now, years later, i am sifting through the damage caused by identifying that i was my own provider and i am beginning to open wide my mouth and taste the provision of christ

last thursday stephanie, the young woman that i mentor asked me; "what do you want to do in life?". i chuckled because what i really want to do is a little bit everything! i explained to her that i would love to continue in photography, i would love to write poetry, to do youth ministry for the rest of my life, to be a wife, a mentor, a mother, a college professor who teaches the poetry of the old testament, and a spiritual director. all of this is why i resonate with the words of van gough when he said, "to way to know life is to love many things." truly, i love many things. 

a few days have passed since our conversation and during my prayer time this morning god connected a few dots that until now, dangled randomly in the infinite space of my heart. what i saw was how he took the desires i hold and graciously fulfilled each and every one of them (with the exception of being a wife and a mother of course). this summer i have six wedding photography gigs, over these last two years i took english and creative writing classes where i was able to construct piles of poetry and i just happened to work at a church that linked together art and worship and so on many occasions i was asked to pray with poetry. i am going back to school to study english writing and theology. as a youth leader i teach and most often my teachings are based upon the poetry of the old testament. every thursday i mentor stephanie. much of what i do is birthed from the mysticism of intercession and through that i am able to lead students and friends alike to discern the movements of the spirit in their own lives... each passion completely provided for. 

this image of god as my provider still has a long way to go in order to brightly illuminate the steps that i walk. but with one passing day at a time i am slowly beginning to sacrifice the notion that i need to provide for myself. the words; "your heavenly father knows what you need", that jesus spoke in his sermon on the mount are ripping away the crippling fears i carry and in doing so, making room so that i might be able to receive them more fully. bridegroom will always be the foundational characteristic i cling to, but out of that the branches of provider, warrior, lion of judah, truth, love, savior, and everything from the beginning to the end spring forth.

May 18, 2009

i have heard people who don't agree with the whole concept of myers briggs, or strength finders, or the such. they say it confines and cheapens their identity to a finely structured box. and when i allow myself to pause and see things through their eyes, i can see the value of their opinion. as human nature so brokenly gleams, we are judgemental, discriminatory, and viciously kill all mystery in order to gather some form of knowledge (which if we pause to think about that, what we really crave is control, and knowledge can offer that in a diluted way).

however, i believe there is also transforming significance to these tests. they invite us to understand ourselves and others in a different light. i for one have benefited from them in a radical way. i am a sensor and a feeler. intuition only comes through my senses and thinking is built upon a foundation of emotion. these tests have opened my mind and heart to better discern the ways in which god works through me. it is as though i discovered a secret code to the journey of life and with it the scattered puzzle pieces are easier to fit together.

all this to say, if it were not for "personality tests" i may not be where i am today. 

"the whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of man's life, to get behind the facade of conventional gestures and attitudes which he presents to the world, and to bring out his inner spiritual freedom, his inmost truth, which is what we call the likeness of Christ in his soul." ~ thomas merton

in the fall i will begin studying at bethel. ultimately i'd like to study spiritual formation and pursue a life of spiritual direction.  this vocation parallels comfortably to the peculiar ways god created me. when i take an aerial view of what ignites passion within my soul, more than anything it is guiding people into the deep mystery of the triune god. the movements of his spirit are like the wind, who can tell where it will blow? but to pray and sit at the feet of jesus out of a desire to discern the untraceable paths of his spirit - whether for my own life, for our nation, for injustices around the globe, or in the lives of my students and friends; is a facet of ministry god has laid upon my heart. 

"a spiritual director is one who helps another to recognize and to follow the inspirations of grace in his life, in order to arrive at the end to which god is leading him." ~ thomas merton

it is a sad truth that spiritual directors get a bad rap within the church; as though this vocation is lesser than that of the pedestal dwelling theological scholar. over the centuries we have valued knowledge more than mystery, answers more than wonder, and control more than surrender. the beauty of a spiritual director (and theological scholars as well, do not misunderstand me)  is how they re-direct the mysticism and boundlessness of following after christ while encouraging the spiritual within the soul. 

i think it requires every one of our senses to discern the inspirations of grace in our lives. if my boss had never required us as a youth ministry staff to take tests of personality i may have never received understanding to the sensory based formation of my make-up. i would have shy'ed away from the prospect of spiritual direction because it's so rarely spoken of among the, as thomas merton names it, "normal religious". 

"in a word, he (the spiritual director) is only god's usher, and must lead souls in god's way, and not his own." ~ thomas merton