To be a Christian is to be a tadpole, a creature undergoing constant metamorphosis. For me, this state of perpetual motion can be dizzying. The sheer motion of my surroundings sometimes leaves me exhausted. However, it is also energizing to be learning so much about sin and grace and goodness and temptation and love and resurrection and all that sort of thing, and I here recount one recently discernible development in my spiritual tadpole timeline.
A peek into my spirit in late January or thereabouts would have revealed mainly fear. My weekly tutoring sessions terrified me. My neighborhood terrified me. The things I read in school terrified me. The future--and more keenly, the past--terrified me. Evil terrified me; goodness terrified me. Sin terrified me, and the terrible tongs of sanctification terrified me. I terrified myself. Of what were these fears concocted? Lies. Lies about God, and the world, and where joy comes from, and what really hurts. I'd fallen asleep on guard duty, and all sorts of false ways of thinking had slipped in unchallenged. Hence, I feared what was good for me (obedience to God, sacrifice, hard work) and craved what hurt me (avoidance of God's will, selfishness, wimpiness). I was convinced that these smokescreens of comfort were what I wanted, yet I was far from satisfied.
Clearly this is a lifelong fight, but I'm hopeful that I've gained a few inches of battleground. It hit me like it hit the Prodigal Son: Here I am, miserable in a state of grasping paralysis, unwilling to let fall my shreds of safety into my Father's hands, while those who risk it all for him are happy amidst poverty and abnormality and adventure. What fruit am I getting from this stony reserve? Only death.
There was another way, one marked Obedience. Instead of running from the cross-cultural friendship and ministry opportunity that is my weekly tutoring gig, I could submit myself to God's leading and embrace it. Instead of avoiding my siblings' demands on my attention, I could look them in the eye and not miss what God was sending me. Instead of whining and wimpiness, there could be hard work and real fruit and solid sleep. Instead of a constant gnawing in my insides that I tried to sate with coolness and beauty and people and books and other creatures, I could be full of the love of the matchless One.
Thus presented to me by the Spirit of God--through reflection, and books like the ones on Islam and Christianity that a dear friend lent me, and J.I. Packer's panegyric to the Puritans called A Quest for Godliness, and a talk on Bonhoeffer and faithful obedience and courage and America and the future from Eric Metaxas, and a sermon on remaining faithful through tribulation from John Piper, and probably other things--the way that had looked like a doorway to prison was unmasked to be the tunnel out of prison. The thing with this scary full surrender to God is, you can either fear doing things, and so not do them, or you can do things, and so come not to fear them.
"I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly," said the man who came to tell us what God gave him to say--the One who also said, "I am the life." The one who gave himself.
We have Him. It's a truth so heavy and happy it's hard to get my hands around it. But my perspective on the work God was giving me to do, from school to evangelism to sisterhood, changed. I embraced the burden and the unknown, and fear gave way to sweetness.
The other day in the untethered train of thought that comes while performing menial tasks, I pondered this solid peace of mind of mine. Is this what it is like, O God? Being yours? This rest, this Peace of God, this absence of fear, this presence of joy? Almost too good to be true. And of course this feeling is not constant, though the reality is. As my faith, my practice of setting my feet down to walk on the truth God has revealed, grows sturdy enough to weather these little squalls, my Teacher sends heavier rains to deepen it even more. As C.S. Lewis says, once we've mastered the current lesson and have come to rather enjoy it, it's time to move onto something harder, something again unfamiliar and unwelcome.
But what can stick with me is this evidence that the one setting me the lessons knows what He's doing. His lesson plans are to prosper me and not to harm me. Next time I'm out of my depth, I pray I'll trust him sooner. He's good. How long will it take me to learn this?