Thursday, November 21, 2013

Life, L'chaim, Leaning

We are alive. 
Yet at times dead inside. 
At times unable to fully live. 

One of my favourite passages in the Bible comes out of Deuteronomy. It reads as follows:

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." -Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Moses is at the end of his life and the Israelites have wandered in the desert for 40 years and they are about to enter the Promised Land. The choice is laid out before them very clearly. They can choose the blessing or the curse. Life or death. Living in the land or living in exile. God had promised them the land and His blessings and the land was rich and they would be prosperous and be in relationship with a God who had a deep desire to bless, love and multiply them.

Seems like a pretty easy, obvious decision. 

They chose life at first, but after awhile, they drifted and chose death. They saw something that seemed better in the moment, yet it was those things that would lead to their destruction.  

Sometimes I read about the Israelites and arrogantly scoff at how dumb they were to live their lives in such a way. And then I am radically humbled as I see in them such a clear reflection of myself and how so often I choose death over life. I often do it without thinking, because I want whatever is easier, whatever feels good and brings me pleasure and gratification in that moment. 

God calls us to choose life. 
To choose God. 
This isn't just any old life we're talking about. 
This is deep, abundant, rich life. 

I'm learning that part of choosing life involves embracing all of life, the good, the bad and the ugly. And yes I've talked about this before, but I will talk about it again. And likely again in the future. Embracing my own pain, accepting death, welcoming sadness... these are all included in a choice for life. Avoiding and running away will only create more problems and although they feel good in the moment, they are choices for destruction and death that will ruin me in the end. 

The prospect of choosing life is sometimes overwhelming when looking at the scope of life. I was recently challenged to ask myself the question:

What does choosing life look like in the next five minutes? 

Every decision I make within the next five minutes, as small as it might be, is a choice for life or death. 

For me today, that meant taking time to get ready and do my hair and makeup. It meant cleaning parts of the house that were in disarray. It meant enjoying writing letters to friends in the company of a friend. It meant enjoying time in the hot tub while stargazing (except the hot tub ended up being frigid, so the better choice for life in this case was to avoid the hot tub and make a puzzle instead). It meant taking a 20 minute nap. 

There's no set formula for what choosing life looks like. But, in the next five minutes, how is God inviting you to choose life? What does that look like in a tangible way right now?  

As I walk this journey with my mom, I am facing a lot of these questions frequently as I see her own strength fade. Yet lately, as there have been different improvement, I celebrate the ways in which life is evident within her. Today was the first day in months that we went on a non-medical outing and it was fantastic. We took silly pictures. We laughed and joked together. We marveled in awe at the beauty of the snow-covered mountains against the clear blue sky. 

We chose life. And it was wonderful. 

One of my favourite musicals, Fiddler on the Roof, has a song called 'L'chaim, To Life'! (Okay, I don't actually know if that's the real title, but those are the main words I sing really loudly as I dance around whenever this song comes to mind). I love singing this song, and shouting 'L'chaim'! from time to time, because it reminds me of this choice that is placed before me moment by moment. What will you choose?

To Life! To loving God, obeying God, and holding fast to Him. To life! 

How will you choose life in the next five minutes?
(I'm going to choose life by posting this and going to bed).


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pain, Presence, Perfected

Pain. It's an ugly word to many. It's something we try to avoid or fix or get rid of.  It is a topic I come back to often. Pain brings with it a lot of emotions that are quite messy and not so pretty. 

But the more I think about pain and observe it in my life, the more I start to like it and embrace it. Pain is a place where I meet God in the most beautiful, gentle, intimate way. Pain is a place where I can connect and weep with others. Pain is an experience where God's glory and character can shine. Pain is a place where God is present and where Jesus meets me. Would I wish away pain from my life? Even the most agonizing, difficult moments? Never. It is a beautiful thing and the better I become acquainted with pain, the more I desire to be in friendship with it and make the most of our relationship. 

Recently I asked the question, "Does a life of following God mean pain?" Some would suggest that to live is to experience pain. There are so many ways in which I could avoid or cover up my pain yet being in relationship with God requires me to face it. Sometimes I feel like God has created a space in my life for pain to come. 

Until I recognize the beauty and value of pain however, I will simply feel attacked by God. As I'm growing in this, I feel greatly blessed. That I can grow and be transformed. That I can meet God intimately. That the beauty and life that God creates out of my pain will be far greater than the pain ever could have been. 

I cannot allow myself to think that life consists solely of pain, although it is tempting in those moments where the hole of pain in one's insides feels bottomless. When I step back, there is so much beauty, blessing and richness to behold and celebrate that I begin to see how God is weaving my story together in a way that is far greater than my hurts and pains. I don't want to miss out on the story. 

So, the other day when I asked God if following Him meant pain, the answers I received included:

"Yes, I'm making it into something beautiful."

"Yes, and I am with you, Emmanuel."

"Yes and I am doing something beyond anything you could ever fathom"

"Yes and I will weep with you"

"Yes and I'm holding you tightly and carrying you."

"Yes and you can trust me." 

"Yes, but your life is not limited to pain-there is a depth of richness and beauty present therein"

So I will continue to grow in embracing pain and lean into God fully and completely, trusting that God is doing an incredible transformation in and through me, as God is glorified and His character revealed. He is making something beautiful.