Thursday, March 16, 2023

Swimming Around The Rock

 I have felt depression laying its desperate fingers across my mind for weeks.  Lately, as I try to make my way back to a sound mind, I have begun to feel more and more frantic.  There has to be an end, a way out and I'm so desperate to NOT feel this way that I expend all my energy trying to chase after a sound mind, which I am learning is counter-intuitive.  There's something about rest that I haven't quite learned yet, but I'm close to understanding and implementing in my life.

God promises we are never left alone and he promises that when we draw near to him, He will draw near to us.  

Do you know WHY God can promise that?  Do you know why it's so easy for God to draw near to us, when we finally surrender our own will and draw near to him, instead of striving for the answers?  BECAUSE HE'S ALREADY THERE!  It isn't that God puts up a wall and stays WAY over on his side, and then when we finally draw near to him for comfort and refuge, he can come from far off to rescue us.  I lived under that lie for most of my life, thinking that I could push God away, far from my heart and current situations.  I had such a small understanding of who God was and the depth of love Jesus poured out on the cross that I believed I had some kind of power or ability to force God back onto "his side."

The reason it is so easy and God can draw near to us swiftly is because He never went anywhere.  He has always been right by our side, just waiting for us to #1 SEE HIM and #2 be willing to show him all the dark places in our hearts and minds.  He wants us to lift them up to him, like a child shows a drawing to a parent.  He has the ability to look at the messes we make of our hearts as a loving parent looks at meaningless lines and scribbles on a page. 

Maybe what we made is complete trash.  Maybe our efforts to make a life worthy of Christ's sacrifice is a jumbled mess that doesn't make any sense.  And yet still, God asks us to show him.  Show him what we are hiding behind our back.  To stop looking down in shame, and to look up - to him.  To see his eyes.  If you were to look into God's eyes, not expecting shame and condemnation, you would find all the things you have been searching for.  His eyes are so full of love and pride for the wrecks we are.  We are broken vessels, and God is the artist who created us.  Beyond that, God finds delight that we even tried to make something to begin with and he draws us close for a hug and tells us how beautiful our creation is, for no other reason than because he believes it is true!

It is impossible for God, the creator and artist, to pile shame and guilt on us, his creation.  That is the exact opposite of what Jesus' life was about.  He lived and died to prove to us that our shame doesn't hold any weight in the eyes of God.  He knew our tendency to let shame rule us, and so he put shame to death once and for all. And all these years later, so many of us still live as if shame has a place in our lives.  We have misunderstood and mis-preached in our churches what the Cross was really about for too long.  If we aren't preaching that the Cross brings freedom from the shame that shackles us, we are doing something wrong.

Today I was really feeling the heaviness cover my mind and body.  As I was driving home from work, I was talking to God about this and was thinking about how it feels like I am swimming through a tangibly thick fog.  My movements are slow and I'm not making much progress.  And as I was pouring my heart out to God, the song Promises by Maverick City Music came on.  And as I was contemplating this thickness I was swimming through, I heard these words:

I put my faith in Jesus

My anchor to the ground

He's my hope and firm foundation

He'll never let me down

The minute I heard them, the picture in my mind that I wasn't really certain I was seeing clarified.  I saw this large rock in the middle of an ocean.  The rock cannot move.  It is fixed to the ground, anchoring itself in the midst of the wind and waves all around.  It is immovable.  And if it is my firm foundation, then what in the world am I doing, swimming around the rock, in fog I don't belong in???

As soon as I realized it was my perspective that was off, the immediate thought was to let the guilt and shame for forgetting this crush down on me.  But by the grace of God, I have been learning that shame doesn't have a place in my heart and I realized that what I really needed to do was to climb back up on the rock and just STOP.  Stop striving.  Stop trying to find the shore, as if the shore or the other side is somehow accessible by getting down from that Rock that is to be my firm foundation.  If I stay on the rock, where the footing is solid, I don't get lost in the fog and the thickness.  And I certainly don't have to try to swim through unknown and terrifying waters by myself.  But if I get down off the rock, I position myself AWAY from God, who is a place of safety and peace and protection.  

Hear me.  The depression hasn't magically gone away, just because I realized that I had once again been trying to find a sound mind by STRIVING.  But sometimes shifting perspective back to its proper place is what is needed.  Sometimes stopping and just waiting for the wind and waves to die down is necessary.  Maybe God isn't asking me to dive into the depths of the crazy in my mind and fight my way through to him.  Maybe he's simply asking me to sit on the rock for however long it takes for that fog to pass.  Because here's the thing about fog.  It DOES lift.  It DOES move away, leaving a clear path again.

And the crazy thing is that this Rock, this firm foundation, while fixed, moves through life with us.  It is always right there beside us (underneath us if we are brave enough to stand on it), ready to be a place of safety and a place of rest.  But God doesn't force us to climb back up on the rock and wait out the storm with him.  He certainly wants us to, because like any good parent, he wants to protect us (from ourselves most of the time) and he wants us to be able to navigate from a place of safety.  He understands that when we jump down into the ocean and try to swim through all the noise that we are moving away from him.  

Sure, we might stay near the rock, practicing all the things we have learned in our lives of faith, and we might not be actively running into sin.  But he wants us to understand that we don't have to get off of that foundation at all.  We don't have to be in the thick muddy waters on our own.  YES, we have to be IN THEM.  That is life and it is hard.  But we are never asked to walk it alone.  We don't have to swim blindly through the fog.  We won't get anywhere for our striving outside of God-in fact, we end up going in circles, never really making progress.  And yet, if we get up on that rock and look out, while we may not see the path, we WILL see light on the horizon.  There is HOPE out there, and we simply cannot see it while we are in the water, trying to swim through the fog.  We HAVE to get back up on the rock if we want to see the hope that is on the horizon.  And we have to wait there until the fog passes, so that we can then safely move through the waters again, clinging to the Rock that will never fail.

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