everything in me groans, aches, slumbers.
there is an inner rejection to life.
a desire to be buried, to be hidden, to stay safe and comfortable
and removed from the world, from life, from anything that is “out there”.
there is a desire to stay in this state of equilibrium and control,
to hide from the world, to sip the coffee and read the books,
and snuggle in the bed sheets and stay trapped inside a
false sense of security that life is placid and kind (not chaotic and cruel).
everything in me wrestles with me.
there is an inner battle from the waking.
world war three will be this:
the war against oneself,
the war against the enemy within,
the war against mental wellness.
imagine if we were never to stir,
to arise, to awaken, to act, to move.
imagine if we were to play it safe, to stay in our lanes,
to retreat to the trenches of privilege, to slumber in security.
imagine if we were to expend effort
to embrace every new day like a blessing.
imagine if we were to wake up with hope in the bones
and joy in the heart and no fear, no complaint, no burden.
living requires an inner strength,
an intrinsic motivation and desire to choose life.
life has become a choice, not a gift.
life has become a war.
we do not battle between life and death.
we battle between a comfortable life and a surrendered life.
we battle between an abundant life or a half-lived life.
we battle between a life of fear or a life of faith.
i understand these truths of life.
but nothing in me is any more inclined
to choose life or receive life.
why is my spirit so resistant?
why is my heart so faint?
why is my mind weary?
i know the (un-commercialised christianised) reason for this day,
the celebration of resurrection, this moment where the cross longer resembles death but victory,
where the grave is no longer an end but a new beginning where life is claimed.
so i shower, straighten the hair, dress.
i sip the coffee.
i want to attend church.
i want to be transformed by this testimony of the cross.
but a part of me feels like
this want is a should.
i should go to church.
i should go to church,
it’s Easter Sunday.
i should go to church,
i’m a Christian.
Church is family.
Church is community.
Church is where truth is proclaimed.
Church is where i want to be on Easter Sunday.
b u t
Church isn’t where i have been for a while.
Church isn’t somewhere that feels safe anymore.
Church is somewhere i spent many days, years, weekends.
Church is somewhere i served, poured, thrived.
b u t
somewhere along the way,
Church also become somewhere i grieved, i hurt, i wounded.
Church became somewhere of interventions into my spiritual state.
Church became somewhere of misunderstanding and falling out with community.
Church became somewhere of relational pain and spiritual abuse.
i love the Church
b u t
i have been in a season of healing
and reconciling my experiences of Church
there are deep wounds that only Jesus can heal
especially when said wounds are inflicted
by those who claim to be his hands and feet
i will not detail the wounds here.
i will not remain a victim.
i will stand in the victory of Jesus.
find me here in my morning wrestle:
i want to attend church. but i also don’t want to.
i battle myself and am grieved
when i am to go by myself.
my partner does not wish to join me.
my mind immediately jumps to future me.
a mother who takes her children to Sunday school
while trying to explain why their father is not coming to church
i am to go by myself.
but something in me had already known this.
that this would be a solo journey.
we are all sojourners.
so i turn into the carpark of the church plant,
this pop-up church in a local community centre.
i have never turned into this carpark-street,
and so i follow the car in front of me,
assuming the only reason one would be turning here
is to follow the sign to the lighthouse, to follow the light.
i follow the car, and as i follow, i realise
the car has taken us back to where we started.
we missed the turn off into the carpark,
and both ended up back at the lights,
needing to perform a U-turn to park.
i am still convinced the car must be heading where i am going,
as it indicates to turn back, to try again, to commence the loop to the carpark again.
i can’t help but feel helpless, like a lost sheep
following who i thought would lead me to where i was going,
but who turned out to also be a lost sheep.
a lost sheep following a lost sheep,
isn’t that symbolic of life?
the car performs the u-turn, and i do too.
we are not ashamed to retrace our steps, to re-enter into the carpark,
to follow the course to our desired destination
i eventually hop out of the car,
late, but thankful that i am not the only one who must be new.
it is one of those moments
where one does not know how to walk:
do i walk with confidence,
as if i know where i am going,
know who i am, know what i am doing?
or do i walk slowly, cautiously,
sending signals to the outer world that
i am hesitant and unsure of my path?
a group are gathered in the entrance,
they say hello and welcome me.
i feel awkward and probably look it too.
i can’t help but notice the difference in me.
i used to be the person on welcoming teams.
i used to boast the smiles and the hellos.
now i am the one bowing my head and walking in.
if i can’t see them. they can’t see me. right?
i know better than this. i am better than this.
why do i feel ashamed? why am i walking in shame?
i am called. i am a child of God.
these are my brothers and sisters.
this is the safest place to be.
this is the way to find the Way.
this is the entrance into embrace,
into community, into fellowship.
Church is where i want to be on Easter Sunday.
so why don’t i feel like i want to be here?
why don’t i feel like i belong?
why do i feel like an outsider, a foreigner,
a guest in the house of God – not a child coming home?
i find a seat in the back.
the seats are in a semi-circle, all facing inwards. the band in the middle.
the little archway is intimate, like a gathering around the fireplace.
i learn later that this is not their usual set up,
this was a decision made to honour the last supper,
to give the same level of intimacy and together-ness
as Jesus’ disciples would have felt on that night.
the pastor would later spend
an extended time in John 17.
reiterating and immersing us
in Jesus’ prayer on behalf of his disciples.
the pastor describes it to us
as an example of intercessory prayer,
where Jesus intercedes for us before the Father.
each word he wants to hit close to home,
so he personalises the words,
he speaks it over his congregation.
he speaks life over them,
Jesus’ words of life.
he prays as Jesus prayers.
he lifts up this setting, the last supper,
before us, as a way to remember
the way Jesus showed us
to love others, to unite with others.
the service opened with song,
with praise to Jesus.
it is all the kinds of praise
i would expect on Easter Sunday.
it is worship and awe and
declaration and celebration.
but it is foreign, it is distant.
i cannot sing,
because i do not have a voice.
i cannot lift my hands,
because i feel disembodied.
i read the words on the screen,
and my mind receives them as true.
but does my heart
not believe them?
i cannot tell.
i am stuck in this
state of uncertainty.
i cannot sing.
i do not know the songs.
b u t
i know the words.
i read them. i know them.
i know they are truth.
i know these are words of life.
song after song.
an hour of worship.
the entire time,
i cannot open my mouth.
i cannot sing.
i do not have
the heart to sing.
i cannot join
i battle with myself.
do i leave? do i stay?
why can i not sing?
am i not the same person i used to be?
what happened to my heart of worship?
what happened to my devotion?
what happened to my heart?
i feel like a lost sheep again,
but this time, i just feel lost.
i start to lose hope.
somewhere in that hour
there was a pause for a welcome.
the infants are sent to Sunday school.
since it is Easter and School holidays,
the older kids remain for a kids talk.
there is talk of life, the new creation we are in Jesus.
all this talk of life.
i see the screen. there are no more song lyrics.
it says in cursive font “alive”.
i see the church signs:
hope. joy. peace.
i hear the scriptures.
life. life. life.
why do i not feel alive?
i see the worship leader
full of joy and awe and wonder.
she sings with such
bright-eyed glory for Jesus.
i watch her. i sway to the music.
b u t
the deeper swaying
is the stirring, wrestling within.
am i dead?
why do i feel so acutely
surrounded by life?
in the welcoming break,
i sit, wearing all black.
i feel like a black sheep,
seated in the back,
lost and wrestling:
with life and death
presence and absence
church and gospel.
i watch the children around me,
i hear the buzzing of community.
i rub my legs.
i stretch my hands.
i pretend to look at my nails.
i bite back the sting of tears
the sting of this social death
i try to distract myself
i am invisible.
i feel like an outsider.
i question why i came.
i am question why i am here.
my eyes start to water.
the bite almost breaks
i am losing the battle within.
i see the timer
on the screen ticking.
i have been sitting
alone for four minutes.
f o u r
of self-doubt and
i want to leave.
but i also want to stay.
i don’t want to be here.
but i also want to be here.
i don’t know if I can do this.
i can do this.
i don’t feel like singing and worshiping.
but my heart wants to sing and worship.
i am about to implode
with my pendulum heart.
a woman, her eyes kind,
her arms quick to tap my shoulder with grace,
comes to kneel beside me.
she breaks me from me spell;
the magical world of inner turmoil.
i had just about bent down
to grab my keys, to leave …
… before the waterfall takes me.
i drown in this death
to take over me.
the bite that stings
the ducts and depths of me.
i am greeted by a stranger.
she barely says hello
and i am weeping.
w h y.
r u n.
my eyes betray me.
my tears fall like a fountain from heaven.
unable to say anything other.
sorry for my presence.
sorry for my emotions.
sorry for my mess.
sorry for my turmoil.
sorry for my questions.
sorry for my hurts.
sorry for me.
s o r r y.
i cannot speak.
she comes to sit beside me.
i manage to catch her name,
to fumble that it is my first time visiting.
but before we know it,
the welcome time is over.
she asks if i am okay sitting alone.
she leaves and points to where she is sitting.
i sit and try to collect myself. suddenly the gathering,
the whole facing-towards each other feels claustrophobic.
i feel stupid for crying.
why did i cry? why am I crying?
stop. stop. stop crying.
stop. stop crying. stop.
i was at breaking point.
i was about to leave.
and that small, gentle grace.
that enabled me to stay.
life won. light won.
my tears dried,
but my heart still felt
wrung out and
strung out and fragile.
i could not stay.
i could not stay.
but i had hope.
i had that small grace.
i could stay.
there was kindness
in this cruel world.
there was something
worth fighting for
and that something
(someone) has already
the victory is here.
the life is here.
Jesus is here.
i can tell his presence his here.
it is me who does not remember
what it feels like to be in this place,
to be in the presence of God with others.
the pastor describes the unity we have
as brothers and sisters in Christ.
he explains that there is something
more powerful than us communing with God,
it is US community with God – the collective us.
instead of a usual sermon or message,
a man from the congregation
is invited to share his testimony.
he speaks of Jesus’ work so powerfully
(and the enemy’s works to steal kill and destroy).
the reality is real.
the spiritual truth
to his testimony
i sit there and am reminded:
yes, this is who Jesus is.
yes, this is how Jesus works.
yes, this is what Jesus came to earth to accomplish.
yes, yes, yes.
my heart does believe.
my heart does know.
so why is my heart
so weary? so afraid?
the testimony is a man
who speaks of God’s ways
as greater than our ways.
he testimony is a man
who speaks of Jesus’ ability
to minister to us no matter
what state we are.
he describes his journey to Jesus,
to an encounter with his glory, his angels.
in the lead up to his moment with Jesus,
he describes his hunger, his attacks.
he was on a solo year travelling, a sojourner,
and he found himself in a spiritual discovery,
asking all those who he met “what do you believe”.
he would hear of the beliefs of these fellow sojourners,
some muslim, some jew, some christian.
he describes this supernatural thread he notices,
that brought him to Jerusalem, to a hostel that had a window
looking out to the very street that Jesus carried his cross.
latin for the ‘sorrowful way’
or ‘the way of suffering’
in that hostel, he had an encounter with Jesus.
Jesus knew all the questions stored in his heart,
and had come to answer him, and to give him the Spirit,
to pour a hot oil over him that was a showering of love,
a blessing of peace in the midst of his fear.
he was specific about depicting the nature of Jesus like this,
that when he entered Jesus’ presence,
Jesus did not point to all of his mistakes, all of the wrongs in his life.
Jesus simply answered all his curiosity and wondering with:
“i am the one you are looking for”
and in that declaration of “I AM”
came the knowing, came the presence
came the unconditional love
there was no condemnation
there was no shame
there was no judgement
there was only a saving grace,
a love so sweet and purifying,
that there was no turning back.
it was a call to the Way, a call to follow in this Way,
a call to find answers to questions
in the same path Jesus walked with the cross.
the way of suffering
after the man’s testimony,
i am reminded how God works in all of our lives.
how he gives each of us a story
of his transformative love at work.
how we tell it, how we experience it, how we translate it.
that this Love-working is a life-long mission.
to stop the pendulum hearts swinging.
for the work of God is not a one-time act, it is a constant act.
an unveiling and re-telling of truth.
this ministry of reconciliation
is forever weaving healing into our lives, into our stories,
forever redeeming us from a false version of life
to the true way, true truth, true life.
when the pastor comes to lead into a time of communion,
the service has already extended for two hours.
i am weary. physically, emotionally spiritually.
but i have come this far, i refuse to leave.
i know i am meant to stay.
the pastor describes glory so beautifully,
he paints a picture of glory:
as that which has been hidden, being revealed.
that which has spender and beauty, that is too great to fathom,
being uncovered before our eyes, the veil being lifted.
that, is glory.
the unseen, the unknown, the untouched,
becomes accessible to us.
i realise this describes
the season i am in.
this is why the words touch my heart,
like a finger print on the pulse of what
i have been trying to understand, to feel.
here is a new dimension of spiritual life
that has been carved,
my heart is still learning
to operate in this new pattern.
all the institutionalised Christianity that has been
born and bred into my blood
has been pumped and drained,
and i am left with a shell of who i am,
dry bones crying for life.
i know these bones are what matter,
not the flesh, not the Pharisee-layering
of performative Christianity.
i have removed myself from church
not because i am not a Christian,
but because at my core,
i need to be unclothed from Christianity
(with a capital C), and clothed with Christ.
this unclothing is a stripped back version
of surrender and spiritual life than i have ever lived.
serving doesn’t look like church pews on Sundays,
it looks like stepping into the messy chaos of everyday life
and loving and serving those God has given me.
whether at work, at home, in the gym,
i am called to be Jesus’ hands and feet.
i was so exhausted and depleted
from serving IN the church
that i had forgotten how to BE the church.
my season has been an unclothing,
an unveiling, a revealing of the bare bones of faith.
to be a new creation, requires removal of the “old”.
for some of us who have been raised Christian,
the “old” isn’s seperate from God,
it’s intertwined as a cultural injection of Christianity.
i am a Christian,
but i don’t often speak “Christanese”
(only in these blogs, which are an inner unravelling)
i am a Christian,
but i haven’t been regular in church for over a year
i am a Christian,
but i don’t post about it as much,
or manipulate my poetry to convey as such.
i am a Christian,
but i have removed myself
from Christian community
to find Christ.
i know Christ,
i love Christ.
but i could not
for a season
bear to be present
in the body of Christ.
some might say
she is dismembered
she is not a part of the body!
remove her, cut her off, burn her.
she does not belong.
she is not a Christian.
but is this not
is this not
r e j e c t i o n
in the desert place,
in exile from community,
there is temptation .
in the waste spaces
there is a fight:
to return to living water,
to re-commune in community,
to re-discover what truly comprises an abundant life.
i have been in these waste places
in the desert of despair and devotion
central to all seasons
has been my yearning for Jesus
who he is
what he represents
i know he welcomes
the least of these
i hope you
will not judge me
will not condemn me
will not criticise me
for my journey
at the last supper,
Jesus asks his Father
to protect us
before he departs
his disciples may not have understood
the full extent of his departure then,
but we can read this with new eyes now,
knowing the path, the death, the life, the victory that laid before him:
“now am departing from the world; they are staying in this world,
but i am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name;
now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are”.
Jesus desires us to experience
this same union with each other
as he has with his Father.
when the pastor shared these words,
i knew immediately the importance of unity, of comm-unity.
yet there was a fear in me,
a reminder of how i have been burnt by community before.
by the brokenness
that can break community.
Jesus speaks of how “not one was lost”
when Jesus was Shepherd of the sheep.
as these words are spoken,
i am reminded that i am not a lost sheep, a black sheep.
i have a Good Shepherd. i have a way to follow.
i have a Shepherd who will not lead me astray,
who will not let me wander into despair and death
and half-lived truths of who he his.
he will lead me back to his truth,
his promises, his presence.
and there i was.
back in his presence.
Jesus sacrificed himself, a sacrifice that came
with his own understanding and trust of his Father.
he knew he was walking
in the purpose, the plan of his Father.
he knew this cross was necessary.
“i give myself as a holy sacrifice for them
so they can be made holy by your truth”.
His love and desire is for us
is to experience what he has experienced.
He suffered, so that we may be set free.
He died and rose from the dead, that we may rise,
that we may be made holy, that we may experience the same glory he speaks of.
the unveiling of truth, of hope, of eternity with our Father.
“i have given them the glory you gave me,
so they may be one as we are one”.
there it is again, the desire for us to share with Jesus
in this heavenly fellowship with the Father,
and that we may together, as the church, share in earthly fellowship
with the Father through the Spirit and the Son.
“i am in them and you are in me.
may they experience such perfect unity
that the world will know that you sent me
and that you love them as much as you love me”.
why is Jesus praying for these earthly mysteries?
how can these be heavenly truths that we claim as earthly realities?
i do not want to live in half-hope, mystery, unknown, unmotivated waking.
i want to be alive.
i want to live in hope, in truth, in knowledge of walking with my risen King.
when Jesus had first turned to heaven and spoke to his Father
in this last supper intercessory prayer, he says:
“i brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.”
Jesus has brought honour to his Father’s house here on earth.
Jesus has brought an unveiling, a revealing of truth and hope and light.
Jesus has completed his Father’s plan, he has fulfilled his Father’s purpose.
by completing his Father’s will, and not his own will, he has brought the focus back to his Father.
He has the intimacy with his Father, that has existed before the world began.
when the Father and the Son operate on heaven and earth, they do so with shared purpose.
there is a shared desire and love for revelation and truth.
when Jesus intercedes,
he asks boldly and confidently
for his Father to act, to protect.
he speaks with assurance
in who is Father is and what his Father will accomplish
through him and through his disciples.
i can see, as we share communion,
that there is a sense of unity in the people of God
because of this image of unity
we are given between the Father, Son and Spirit.
there is this interactivity and intimacy we can experience
when we share this vision of the trinity, of history, of divinity,
and life and death and love and power and hope.
after the service,
i am still sitting in
my uncertainty, my shame,
my tears, my fragility.
i am unsure whether
i can muster small talk
but i stay.
despite my desire to go.
for the hundredth time that day.
and i meet many fellow believers,
who are warm and kind
desiring only for me to feel
like i have come home.
and so i sit with my discomfort,
and learn to embrace the life that is on offer.
i see that my comfort or discomfort is my own filter,
my own protection, my own shield in this war against my heart.
but God so wants my heart to be free,
that he sends me into what feels like a war zone:
so that i learn to let down my guard,
to listen to the truth of John 17:11.
for this is truth:
that my heart is protected by my heavenly Father,
and that there are angel armies fighting for this love
that life is to be a source of deliverance from death.
i am welcomed.
i am in that building for three hours.
Good Friday. Easter Saturday. Easter Sunday.
on the third day,
he rose from the dead.
on the third hour,
i rose from my death.
i choose life.
i receive his life.
i see his death.
i see his life.
i want to be alive in Christ.
i know this requires:
a heart that can breathe, that is free.
a letter to my heart:
i have bound you in fear.
i have restricted you.
i have sheltered you.
i have wanted to protect you
from harm and hurt.
i have held you back
but you are the church.
you were made for church.
you are me.
you were made for me.
join with me.
join with my people.
join in community.
this is Easter Sunday.
this is resurrection:
deliverance from chains
and fear and death.
deliverance into life
and hope and freedom.
my heart can breathe.
my heart has hope.