Retreat

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This October is a retreat month. I’m not retreating from life, but retreating to recapture and redefine life. Yet these retreats have been hit or miss, sporadic and unconventional. I started the month praying, “God, what would you have me know or experience by the end of the month?” The only response that came to mind was a prayer to remember who I am, God’s daughter.

Two weeks into the month I disappeared for 24 hours. I had hoped it would be 48 hours hidden away among the prairie grasses, talking trees, and babbling brook. But it was just 24 hours that allowed me to reconnect with the stars and my art. I even got a glorious fire. Surely that escape provided the answer to my question, “God, what would you have me know or experience by the end of the month?” Sadly, no, it did not answer my question. Just the gentle prayer, “Help me remember who I am, your daughter.” And a word to meditate on, “Courage.”

And now the last week of the month is here. Once again I have taken time to retreat from the noise, as least as best I can. I have absented myself from Facebook for the week. Well, mostly. A shooting outside my office on Monday was detailed, and articles that I find worthwhile have been shared. Yet I have restrained from checking and filling the void with the noise of Facebook posts. Rather than looking outside myself, I am forced to look inside. It’s what I wanted, what I’ve longed for all month, but now that I’m looking I find the inside is a little cluttered.

The clutter is my old habits of thought and emotion. I find myself tripping over things that no longer have any use or validity. Whether or not I actively purged them from my life previously or not, I’m now seeing them as something unfitting for my life. The house has changed, the layout is different, yet the same old custom pieces from the old place are here. They don’t fit. They stick out, disrupt the flow of space, and simply look wrong in this new setting. Other pieces have been moved in to fill the gaps, but now the old pieces are ill-suited. They must go.

I’m not a big fan of clutter. This might surprise you if you saw the paper on my desk – at work and at home – or the piles of books that line my bedside, yet those have purpose and flow. Some times the piles are bigger, some times they are non-existent. It is “stuff” that I am constantly purging. If I don’t use it, need it, or love it, I lose it. It is now time to lose some soul furniture that I no longer use, need or love.

It is time to immerse myself in the new world of belonging, engagement and kinship. I need to deepen my understanding and experience of what it means to be God’s daughter. I need to learn a new language of inclusion (of myself) and embracing. I need to know what it means to have the courage required to move beyond “just” healing and reconciliation and into growth, expansion and joy.

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Just ‘Cuz

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Why does God love us? Really. What is it about us – weak, willful, ugly, messed up humans – that makes God want to know us? What is it that makes him go to such extreme lengths to be in our lives?

Just ‘cuz.

God has NO reason to do this. Except he loves us. Like the sunrise, it just is. Yet WHY does he love us?

Just ‘cuz.

Is there anything we do that makes us more lovable? Can we do the right things, help the right people, have the right job, do enough good things? What is it that makes God love us? Nothing. He created us from nothing, with no need to fill within himself. He didn’t need companionship. He didn’t need us at all. He simply WANTED us. From creation we are wanted.

Just ‘cuz.

Unfortunately, most of us grow up thinking that in order to receive love, we must do something to earn it. Do your chores – get praise or allowance. Get good grades – get praise or money. Be a great athlete – get praise and attention. Get the right hair style, wear the right clothes, put on the right make up  – get praise, possibly money, definitely attention, and we hope, a bit of love. We are conditioned to seek praise and fulfillment however we can get it. Even in godly families, this can get messed up.

In ungodly families, it is totally whacked.

As a child I unconsciously learned that nobody cared for me or wanted to spend time with me or wanted to be bothered by me. Of course, I KNOW this is not true. My head fully knows this, as does my heart…for the most part. But it is a struggle that I deal with and probably always will. It became one my first assumptions about life.

Because my family was so broken and each of us kids so isolated, we all learned to take care of ourselves. We could never let ourselves feel badly, at least I couldn’t. If I did, a sibling would set me straight. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” The fact is, I felt sorry for them too. I felt sorry for the whole messed up family.

I learned that I was not worth being with or spending time with. Even writing that, while knowing how untrue it is, still brings tears to my eyes.  More than the demands of work, my parents weren’t home or involved. My mom resented her life. My dad, though sober and walking with Christ for decades now, could only be found at one of two bars. We kids learned that we were not important.

This leaves lifelong scars.

For me as a young adult, those lessons showed themselves in pride, arrogance and self-sufficiency. I didn’t need anyone. I could do everything. Weakness was not an option for me. All very American qualities. All very unhealthy and destructive. All very untrue.

I operated within my childish understanding which kept people at arm’s length. This way they couldn’t hurt me. It made it all the harder, however, when I was in fact deemed unworthy of love by someone who had pledged that love ’til death. The pain of that betrayal reverberates through my past and shouts against what my heart knows: I am loved, just ‘cuz.

God is rewriting these lessons. Showing me love and care from the people in my life. Demonstrating “Just ‘Cuz Love.” People have supported me without me ever asking, even before things in the mission were happening. To me, that is grace personified and a true act of God through another human being. Others have encouraged me with prayer, by joining in the mission, by caring for the things and people I care about, by talking to me and being in my life because we matter to each other.

God is also teaching me to ASK. For most of my life, I wanted my parents and family to do things or be a part of my life because they saw a need or desire in me or because they simply wanted to. This, of course, is a recipe for disaster. Passive aggressive behavior breeds dissatisfaction and unrealized expectations. People are not mind-readers, nor should they be. So now I ask. I expose my need, thus my vulnerability, and I ask. Before, asking meant I was insufficient and bothering others. Now asking is welcoming people into my world and trusting that they have enough fortitude to say no, yes or make a counter offer. I want people involved in my life and I want to be involved with others as well. Asking implies receiving. The reality is asking and receiving are still hard.

When I sense God on the verge of doing something through me and in this mission, as he is now, the lies assault me. God is wanting to bring complete healing to those areas of hurt. Last night as I prayed, I saw God opening the scar and cleaning it. Dirt, debris, infection and other toxins that were poisoning my life were washed away. It was painful, but a good kind of pain.

The wounds are still open. They need to ooze a bit. Nice image, I know, but accurate. When we don’t allow full cleansing, the wounds of our lives will scar over but never be fully healed. They can poison our blood and bring death. I don’t want that. GOD doesn’t want that. He wants to bring healing, freedom, reconciliation and wholeness.

So what, you might be asking, does this have to do with the mission? Everything. All that I am is a part of the mission. My ability to see into people’s hearts, to listen, to hear their unspoken pain stems from my own brokenness.

Mission comes out of brokenness.

Imagine a woman broken and beaten down in life by abuse. What would it mean to her to hear, “God loves you just ‘cuz.” I love you, just ‘cuz. What would it mean to someone to know that while I have no money to give them, I’m going to be their friend and introduce them to my friends. Mission is being in real relationship with messed up people, just as God is in relationship with us, other messed up people. Mission is about showing people that God loves them, just ‘cuz.

Just as he loves me.

Just ‘cuz.