Thursday, May 31, 2018

some things i've learned, part I

To set the stage on this thing I've learned:
  • There is a scripture that reads basically that man is nothing compared to God, our Father. That he has all power and all knowledge and that we do not (being mortal; being children). 
  • When I was a kid I loved the book "A Ring of Endless Light" by Madeline L'Engle. There is a part where Vicki, the young protagonist, is talking to her grandfather (the Yoda of this book) and he mentions the following poem by Robert Browning 
If thou couldst empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the Ocean shelf,
And say — "This is not dead," —
And fill thee with Himself instead. 
But thou art all replete with very thou,
And hast such shrewd activity,
That, when He comes, He says — "This is enow
Unto itself — 'Twere better let it be:
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me."
  • In the bible, Jesus says several times that He is here to do not his own will, but the will of his Father. Jesus is our perfect example in all things.
  • I am independent by nature and by nurture from an independent mom. I have an innate self confidence. I like to climb mountains and set goals and cross things off lists. Because it makes me feel human, it makes me feel capable.
                      If your mind is at all like mine, you can see I grew up with some beliefs that seemed contradictory. On the one hand is the inborn self esteem, this belief in myself and my abilities. On the other hand there is this contradiction - we should turn our lives over to God; that he knows better than us; and that we should not do our own will, but the will of God (to me that says, at the very least, that our wills are anything from uneducated to stupid to outright bad). That we should be 'empty all... of self' so that God can fill us with a higher mentality. Being replete with something that is just us is disappointing to God. 

                      Stage: set.

                      Almost 18 months ago, I was sitting in church and the girl speaking made an analogy--life is like a maze. And praying is like having access to a map. The directions from point A to point B, from the entrance to the map to the exit, are right there. Can you imagine, based on this struggle inside I've explained, my reaction? 
                      Well, what is the point of even being in the maze? Just to follow what's already been laid out clearly in front of me? A robot could do that. A lemming could follow. There's no exploration. There's no learning. There's no achievement. I don't want a map. What's the purpose if I don't make the decisions on my own? Just to get into the maze and check a box for God? Going point A to point B.  Where's the progression? What's the point?
                      (not knocking the girl who was giving the talk, I understand her point.)
                      So I thought about it. I asked people about it. I prayed about it. One person that I asked was my home-teacher, Garret, when he was visiting and asked if we had any questions we'd like him to study for us. Well, yes, as a matter of fact, what is the purpose of life if we're just supposed to be lemmings who don't make our own choices and let God make them for us? So we can be puppets in his hands and move when He says move? Why would it even be necessary for me to have a brain? Just so I can be aware that I suck? I'm not buying it.
                      Garret took that away and studied it. And he brought back a bunch of things: these great insights, some things I'd heard or though before, some brand new. They didn't solve my problem though. UNTIL. Until he read the following from Lao Tzu: 

                      Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub;
                      It is the center hole that makes it useful.
                      Shape clay into a vessel;
                      It is the space within that makes it useful.

                      Cut doors and windows for a room;
                      It is the holes which make it useful.
                      Therefore profit comes from what is there;
                      Usefulness from what is not there.

                      Boom. It is not my worth, my capacity, my ability that's improved upon by communicating with God. He created me as he created me. He gave me life and a brain and ability. He gave me worth. It truly is innate, no matter what I do with my life. It is my usefulness that improves when I communicate with God.

                      Back to the maze. Rather than prayer being a map, it's like I'm talking to someone who's in a helicopter hovering above the maze (here in Utah we have these massive corn mazes every fall. The year after Larry Miller died, the entire maze was like, an acre that from above looked like Larry's face). So God's up above this massive maze. And he's got a walkie-talkie. And he gave me one. And I can turn it on if I want; I was taught how. Since God can see the whole maze, he can tell me where to go yes. How to quickly get out of the maze; point A to point B. But He can also tell me "Hey, Jillian, over to your left a few corn rows, there is a little kid who fell and scraped his knee. And you have a band-aid with you. He needs it. Go give the little kid a band-aid."
                      God equipped me. He sent me here, he gave me this stage, this maze (that may or may not look like Larry Miller). Sent me in and I have on me what I have on me. What I brought with me. I'm not alone here either; there's plenty of people who are walking the maze too. Who I can help. God wants me to make it out of the maze--not like a lemming, but as someone who was here. Who participated in the lives of the other people in the maze. Since he's above it all, he can see it all. He can see who has the band-aid (in this case it was me), and who has the water bottle when mine runs out, and who needs a lift cause they twisted they're ankle, and who we will make us laugh while we're walking, and when we need to part ways because the band-aids are needed over here and the water's needed over here. 

                      If I want to be useful to God, I pray. He made me capable. He made me intelligent. He gave me a body that can interact with the world. I'm already capable. That's not a question and God knows it. The question is if I'm going to be useful to Him. 

                      That's something I've learned. Our capacity isn't in question. Our usefulness is. I truly, deeply believe and resonate with that. It is true.

                      And P.S., I reserve the right to change my mind later if I want. 

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