Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: March 17, 2004

evening thoughts

Something squeaks in the distance, I can’t tell if bird or beast, and unusual sound, only heard because of the absence of any other noise. The night sky is clear, with the planets arrayed to the west and east, passing over this house through the night. Flying things which I have been seeing must be already in bed, nothing stirs. For some reason I notice the bit of brown patches in the cedar nearby, it is fully alive, unlike the pines, and yet it has some stress which causes branches to die. Not many, but they stand out in the bold green of those that live.

I like to be challenged, to have my positions set against, for in these cases we see what is underneath, whether wisdom, or sin, or folly, or courage. Usually there is a blend of these, interacting within a single decision. We can see our good sides come out even as our bad reveals itself. That was part of a conversation I had today, in which my decision to leave my old church, and stay away, was questioned.

What I noticed in the conversation was that I know all was and is in God’s hands. And yet… with all of this is the mixture of pride and pain. I did a lot of interesting things there, that others are carrying forward. I suggested a lot of ideas, which then were rejected and now are being taken up, by others. I miss being able to contribute, and I find it difficult to hear of how others are finding success where I found walls. I fought the battles, and they reap the rewards. In some ways. This is not the noble side of me, this is that side that wrestles with pride and vainglory. “I did that,” I want to say, “look at me, not these other folks.” Which, of course, denies my claim that God is the one who should get all credit. And yet I hold this belief firmly as well.

If I was a catalyst, a part of a the process and did my part as God willed, using my skills and insights during a key time then was moved out, I should be pleased to have done what I should. But, within that lingers resentment that I wasn’t able to be fulfilled, that I wasn’t able to really stretch and reach out the way I knew I could, expressing and growing in a way which would be marvelous. I wasn’t recognized by some key folks, and I felt alienated by others. Not that I didn’t have affirmation… maybe I had too much. But, it didn’t work out, and now in conversations I feel conflict within, wanting the church to be a success, but feeling bitter that my role in this was cut short, with others who had better politics gaining the joy of seeing progress. Some of these also benefit from a different timing to be sure, nothing less than God’s hand working in their lives. But others… I don’t know. Which is what bothers me, and it bothers me it bothers me.

It’s all about wanting to prove myself, to show that I am capable, to impress this world with my gifts and talents so that people would say what a fine fellow I am. That is, of course, the definition of vainglory in my mind. That’s where my faith crumbles at times. I get jealous of how other people seem to move forward, when walls come up in my life. Simple connections never seemed to make it, while others tell me of stories of serendipitous meetings.

In this is develops a denial of God in my life, a wishing that he worked in the way he works in others, thus becoming dissatisfied with his plan for my life. I don’t think it’s coveting. I’m happy they have what they have, I just want my own versions… whether its success in relationship, in ministry, in anything really. I don’t wish their downfall, I just wish for my going up. And seeing people standing on the heights that I gaze at makes me wistful, and sad. I know in my heart this is not right, and yet it stands.

Because at my core I say many words of explanation but I simply have no idea why life has not worked in the same way for me as it has for others. God’s hand is strong, and sometimes I wish he would lift it for a moment and give me some peace. I can dawdle along for a long time without such thoughts, but when exposed to those places I want to be, seeing others enjoy the favor of God, I lose sight of my goal and end and role. Not as bad as I used to, but still enough to puncture my joy.

Maybe this is why I’m whiled away in some ways. Isolation is important for seasons such as this, because then we do not see those things which cause us pain, leaving us to focus only on our story, keeping our purview only on what God is doing with our particular role. When we compare our lives with others, with others who have what we wish for ourselves, we lose our way. This is especially difficult if ours is a lonely, unique road that no one shares. We can’t dance our dance while watching how others are dancing. Especially if we are still learning the movement and rhythm.

So, it seems right to want to flee from this, but that is fleeing from our own embedded vice. Thankfulness is the virtue which fills this hole, a thankfulness for past and present and future of God’s work in our lives. That is what I need to develop at this moment. More than convincing myself of this I need to find it for real. There are many reasons for me to be thankful, and to have faith.

I know this and yet I do not. That is the spiritual battle I face at this moment. Maybe sleep will clean out the system. That’s the next task ahead of me. So to that I go.

morning

When I first awoke it was very quiet out. My wind sock rustled in the wind, though I could barely see it. Not much can be seen or heard at 2:30 in the morning. I woke with an urge to pray for various friends, and to read some Cassian and even a text on salvation – another friend has been asked questions about God and salvation and the wider world, so I thought it would be good to brush up. I know the questions I ask, but the other questions which I have not asked in a while force me to go into the mental files and bookshelves. I didn’t stay awake very long, some more cold medicine put me back to sleep about two hours later.

Now, roofers are doing their job at a house nearby, while a chickadee chirps sweetly in a nearby tree. It is another Spring like day in the mountains, and if not completely devoid of human noise, it is thoroughly beautiful out.

I feel like I’ve done my part with the website design, having given two days to its management and arrangement. Now, I can focus on my regular updates, without worrying about particulars of look or navigation. I do not know if there are many of us around, but I have a strong feeling that this website is part of my spiritual disciplines, urging me forward, keeping me accountable, and maybe, just maybe, helping me interact with a wider community, whose names I mostly do not know. The Spirit surely does, so all I can do is my part.

I’ve found myself reading the great texts again, spurred by the ability to respond. That is what I notice about myself, I have a hard time doing for the sake of doing. I want to interact, to see my efforts go to something constructive, even if it is what is now a hidden little spot in a wider web world. I love ministry, to be honest, to provide resources and thoughts spurring others on. Given my hermit like status these days the opportunities are limited for such a passion. Though through all of this I can at least feel like I am doing a part. Who knows what God will make of anything I do? All I know is to do those tasks before me at each moment, not worrying about the bigger picture. He provides the daily bread. And I can rest in him, doing what he asks, however peculiar or different. It’s how we learn to ride the waves of the Spirit in our lives, and such a ride has no comparison in this life.

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