Not List Items 201-250, but “How the List Changed”

I struggle today with my list.

Yesterday, the writing was uneasy . . today, it became something I recognize from so many activities in my life: miserdriving, that is, roaring myself hard towards something again which causes angst.

Questions, uncomfortable questions, tenuous questions, cloud my mind.

Is it pantheistic to thank God for the ripe peach?  Do I begin to worship this very peach when I do it?  For when I think of that Georgian ripe peach, I feel myself longing for another, consumed with a greed that shoves all goodness of character out of the way to grab another experience for myself like this one.

Is it hedonistic to rub a plush rabbit against my face and enjoy the soft fur?   I feel myself flee to the wastelands, the empty lands, dry sands and harsh winds, the heat of condemnation, the desert where I feel I belong.

Is it careless, insufferable to thank God for a hot chocolate while most of the world looks on, suffering for a crust of bread?  Guilt surfaces and I feel like a soulless body, running with hungry hands for the rotting pleasures of the physical world.

Is it irreverent to write a list in which I may think of the gift of the Passion of the Christ and then the gift of how musical notes look across a page?  Surely something terrible, something dreadfully wrong has happened here.  I want to run screaming from this list before the blasphemy of what I am doing swallows me whole.

I realize I must face two very difficult things.

1.  That I have stopped thanking Christ for these things as gifts, and started looking at them as unholy gratifications for which I long.

2.  That I fear the physical world of joy may in some way, however slight, compete with the spiritual joy so that, compared side by side, that peach might somehow diminish the love I feel for Christ as He tells the crowd to throw down the stones.

I want to run from this.  I feel the weakness of my flesh–how readily I will give up holiness to rush to physical pleasures!  How soon I would betray my God and Savior for something as paltry as a peach–like Judas running after the thirty pieces of silver.  I want to close down the list, place up a sign “Closed for Maintenance”, and leave the sight with tools scattered across the ground, hoping to come back and find it either torn down or open again in a way that makes sense.

And what about sacrifice?  What is this list teaching me of sacrifice?  Who do I think I am, that I should take for myself a pleasure when my Lord and Savior denied them all to save me?

And what about humility?  Who could I possibly think I am, that I should be eating a peach anyway, or bragging about it to anyone?  Am I better than the child in Rwanda who digs through trash cans for scraps of edible garbage?  Oh my soul, but I flush with tears to think of laying claim to such a thing!

What is all this list-making doing to help the world?  What is it doing to help me in my walk with Christ?  Or is it just an excuse to covet things I have experienced in my life, and long for them again?  A chance to lay out past moments like idolatry and obsess on them, worshiping the temporal brokenness of this world rather than the All-Holy and Exalted God?

And when did the list become a longing for more things, rather than a praise for what I already had?  When did it become thirsts for more, rather than fullness for what has already been given?

Am I not supposed to rank these things?  How am I supposed to place, on the same list, things of internal, infinite difference, such as the forgiveness of a woman when stones were in hands and the mouth of Hell was opening under her feet . . and a stupid, stupid peach?

And ah, something is revealed in my miserdriving.

I lived an idolatrous past.  This I already knew.  I still, nearly every day of my life, struggle living this way.  The worship of gifts instead of the Giver.  Of breadsticks with alfredo sauce.  Of Lord of the Rings and the love of Sam.  Of free, unfilled summer time.  Of Ben and our romance.  Things, things, things.  I tighten my fist.  I close down.  And in my horror, I seek to throw them all down to prove they do not control me.

Cross peaches off the list.  I do not want anything that hinders me from God.

When I experienced the love of God, it was like nothing I have ever had, nothing I expect I ever will have again in my life on earth, something that has never gone away from me.  Even if the most wonderful things happen to me, nothing could compare to what it was like to realize God loves me.

And in looking at that love, I want, incrementally, to throw everything else off.  No peaches.  No moment of rest in the branches of an oak tree.  No moment of thrill touching my cheek to Ben’s.  No moment of holding a strawberry gummy snack on my touch and feeling my tongue swell with the rush of sweetness.

Idolatry, idolatry–run, run!

I have had, probably nearly most if not all of my life, a problem with obsession.  Obsession of bad memories.  Obsession of bad things that could happen.  Obsession of sin.  Obsession of fears.  Obsession of gifts.

It is a last and most powerful stronghold in my obsession.

Two weeks ago, I went to the grocery store and stocked my pantry with good food.  I rarely do this.  I usually try to eat a variety of things I don’t care so much about or bring a single meal home.  And I can tell you exactly why.

From the moment the food was in my house, I began to obsess.  What if guests come over?  What if they eat my food?  What if God tells me to bring some of my organic strawberry gummy snacks to share with my Sunday school children?  What if Ben comes, and he eats too many of my special organic frozen pancakes?  What if my mom makes a sandwich out of my organic food?  What if God tells me to ask my mom if she wants such a sandwich?  What will I do?

Is this ridiculous, embarrassing?  How I know it.

I sit in Olive Garden, my favorite restaurant, and I think, What if I have to share something?  What if someone takes some of the alfredo sauce for my bread?  What if I don’t get enough to eat?  What if my friends start sharing food with each other and I’m expected to give away some of my portebello ravioli?

It may sound funny.  It is not.  It may sound outlandish.  And it is.  But how to control it?  What do I do?

I have had this affliction of ingratitude for as long as I remember.  As a young child, I got a notepad of colored papers with hearts, and I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I owned.  I would flip through it and think, What if I use one of the pages, and the notepad will be missing a page, and then the gift will be ruined?

I would hold my favorite teddy bear, Sniffles, as a child and ask, What if someone takes him from me and hurts him?  What if God doesn’t let me take him to Heaven?  What if he is burned up in the fire?

And on and on and on.  Gift after gift after gift.  Obsession after obsession after obsession.  Fear after fear after fear.  Idolatry after idolatry after idolatry.  Fists clenched tight.

Oh, God, dear God, how do I let go?

Since I no longer seek idolatry, my solution has been to cut from my life all stumbling blocks.  No stuff.  No tasty food.  No laughter.  Sometimes what I do allow in my life I analyze for flaws, that I may be comfortable with it.

How on earth does someone such as me expect to write a list of gifts from God?  How do I do it without becoming materialistic?  Without becoming hedonistic?  Without wasting more of my life than I already have pursuing peaches instead of the Kingdom?

And then I realize, OH, OH!  THIS IS A SYMPHONY.  

And I am both despising and coveting the prelude . . running back frantically to try to hear its melody once more, to be comforted by the faint beauty in the notes . . when God is in the Second Movement of my life.

Not to be despised nor coveted–and neither any longer sought after.  This is the Prelude.

I have begun my long kiss goodbye to my prelude.  I no longer need to streak backwards after it.

I see hints of its melody in The Second Movement, to remind me of the first love notes I found of Christ, among my small and meaningless life, before I met the musician Himself.  But the new notes of my old melody are deeper, richer, more beautiful, like silver dripping from a page.

Now it is not the sweet peach itself that makes it to my list any longer.

It is that the peach reminds me, even so faintly, of the sweetness of tasting the love of God.

The music back in my Prelude days was weak, and in the faint hearing of it, I distorted.  The peach back then–it was only the peach. It was only the momentary sweetness on my tongue.  And then it was over, and then I longed for more.  And I thought I needed more peaches.  I thought I needed to find a way to hold the peach longer on my tongue.  But the purpose of that note–the purpose of all notes in the Prelude–was to lead me to the Second Movement.

The plastic carousel giraffe with its combable tail and snap-on bow became the end all, for I did not understand the music at all back then.  No wonder it confuses me now to look back on those first notes!

But it wasn’t the notes in error.  It was me.  God Himself was using even so little a thing as a plastic carousel giraffe with its combable tail and snap-on bow.  Oh my word!  Surely, as Ann Voskamp says, as Jacob said long ago,

“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16)

Now I see.  It is not that I am to look back on that plastic carousel giraffe and long for it once more.  It is that I am to look back at the love note that giraffe played in my Prelude . . that deep longing for peace in a six-year-old’s heart, of combing the tail of a gentle giraffe and giving it pretend beauty . . Now I smile at it . . Now I acknowledge it . . Now I await for the same note to appear in a mightier way in The Second Movement–where I live my life right now–and it does.

Even the things I held in idolatry–all the extravagant money I spent on my meals in restaurants–even in my gluttony, my covetousness, God sent a musical note through the slit of my nearly-closed heart: the note of seeking joy.  Though I could never find joy in my sin, I heard the note that I was seeking joy . . and that beautiful dot and line and flag on the staff of my life was yet another love note sent by my Father to woo me to Him, the real and everlasting joy.

Now I understand.

I can be delighted not in the silly things I clung to from a selfish heart in my Prelude, but in the notes of God He sang to me anyway.

I can let go of the prelude when I need to, because God is in the Second Movement of my life. 

And now it makes sense.  And now I can listen to the music.

be filled by the Spirit:

speaking to one another

in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,

singing and making music

from your heart to the Lord,

giving thanks always for everything

to God the Father

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

submitting to one another

in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:18b-21, HCSB)

Published in: on January 12, 2013 at 2:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

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