an open letter

to my anonymous friend who commented on my post yesterday

"Most women need a room of their own, even if it is outside their home." - Germaine Greer

A Fundamental Shift is my room. It is where I come to sort out all the shifting that goes on in my heart and my soul and my head. The Shift has an open door; anyone can come and visit, and anyone may say what they like about what I have to say. Until now, I've never felt even slightly uncomfortable with that.

Today I actually took down a post because of something you said. Obviously, I've put it back up, but it was almost instinct to withdraw. I seriously thought about deleting your comment altogether, but then I thought... no. Let's see what comes of this. A small skirmish over Tennyson's merits wasn't quite what I expected. :) But there it is.

So let's dispense with Tennyson and get that over with: "Ours is not to question why; ours is but to do and die." ???? No. I will stand with Job on this one: "But I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God." (Job 13:3)

Have you read Isaiah 43:1-44:5? Check out 43:26 - "Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence." In the context of addressing their sin, and explaining how He's going to save them from it, God still invites His people to come and talk to Him. Abraham argues with God to save Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33) and while God still destroys the city, He never expresses displeasure with Abraham's questioning. And in Hebrews 4:16, we are invited to "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." If what we need is an answer, I doubt God will turn us away. "In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." (Ephesians 3:12) As adopted sons and daughters of God, we've been given the right to go to Him, just as we are, completely fallen - but "the wise trip on grace," as the song has it (it's "All Fall Down" - I can't remember who sings it... Erin O'Donnell, maybe?). And it is what I've tried to do here.

No. I do not need to understand God's plan in order to obey it. I do, however, need to know what it is. You can't do what you don't know to do. Every child needs the security of knowing where the boundaries are, and they will test them boldly to make sure they are where they're expected to be. I am no different.

I need to know - from the Lord, and not from anyone else - whether it is still okay for me to not wear shoes on stage. I need to know - from the Lord, and not from anyone else - whether my friend who had the guts to look me in the eye and say, "look, this is idolatry" - is right. It sounded right on. He had a point. But he can't know my heart. He can only make an educated guess. He's usually dead on about me - especially when I don't want him to be. But I'm not sure about this...

And that is all I've been trying to say. I don't really give a rip what anyone - even my elders, honestly - think about me leading sockfoot. This has always been between me and Jesus - something we have that's unique to our relationship. Because I can honestly say that I worship with my shoes on - when I'm biking, or reading, or taking a walk on the beach to watch the sunset - I'm not sure it can be claimed that I must be sockfoot in order to worship... yes, it's an issue in church sanctuaries, but that's the only place it is. And to be honest, I really think I have some pretty solid reasons (as listed in the link back to last year's post on the issue) for that.

I think the logic as to why the leaders want me to wear my shoes is a little off - tho not in its heart, mind you. I know that they genuinely want people to encounter the Lord. What concerns me about it is all the logical conclusions you could take it to, and it leaves me wondering where it ends: if you use any criteria other than "this is a biblical form of worship and therefore acceptable practice" to determine what does and doesn't happen on stage, you run into a lot of subjectivity. I'm personally really distracted when someone wears baggy shorts that are practically falling off or socks with sandals - but if they're comfy in God's house, and obviously enjoying God's presence, then I'll shut my eyes and praise God that they're meeting with Him. Yes, we need some sort of a dress code, but seriously... socks with sandals are much worse than my very surreptitious black socks. but there we go, being subjective...

And at the end of the day, it's arguing semantics. Do I disagree with them? Yes. Do I think they're out of line asking me to do what they think is best? NO. Do I want to argue with them about it? You bet I do. Am I going to? Probably not. What I am going to do is the right thing to do: I am going to wear my shoes. And I am going to worship. I am going to worship the way I did last night - BY CHOICE.

We sang this song last night at Torch called "Waste My Life" by Misty Edwards. It says, "I am in love with You; there is no cost. I am in love with You; there is no loss. I am in love with You; I want to take Your Name. I am in love with You; just let me cling to You, Jesus."

I had a really hard time singing it at first. I don't feel like I'm in love with God. I know I am, but I don't feel like it. Instead, I feel like we're arguing, and I don't know exactly about what. I've known, as Sara pointed out, that there is something in all of this that I am still missing. Something I'm to learn, to understand, to finally GET that I haven't yet. I want to know what that is, and I want to know it sooner than later. So I am arguing. I am worrying this issue to death. I am not letting it go. I am knocking, seeking, asking continually and wearing myself out in the process. But this is something I need to know. In some odd way, the very wrestling that I am doing right now is sort of an act of worship... I am declaring, through my struggle, that God is worthy of my worship, and that I want the worship I bring to Him to be acceptable. To be offered up in spirit and truth. To do that, to worship that way - is why I need to know His heart on the matter, and the truth about whether or not I'm an idolater or a follower of Christ.

And I am not condemning anyone, my friend. Or if I am, it is only myself - for my failure to learn the lesson I'm supposed to more quickly. Or less publicly, maybe.

My friend who thinks I'm an idolater... what I appreciate so about him are his courage in saying it to my face, and his honesty about his own struggles in his walk. He's recently been in a place where he's felt so emotionally distant from God that it's made him want to weep at times. He's bewildered by that seeming "absence" of presence... but he's pressing on. God has still been speaking to him, and working in his life in some pretty amazing ways - and he can see it, but doesn't feel it (or hasn't felt it) the way he's wanted to. So I know that at least on some level he knows what I mean when I say, "I find myself unable to worship." Tho I probably didn't explain it to him very well. What I mean by that is simply that I don't feel the emotional connection I am accustomed to feeling when I lead worship. There's a weird disconnect going on - and there has been for a few weeks. It's like I'm objectively watching myself grow as a worship leader and engage more freely - and I'm not actually doing it... but I am. I just don't feel it the way I want to. And the shoes question has made it worse. Because I want to be doing what I'm supposed to be doing to honor His heart, and I'm not sure what it is, because I'm not sure if this little ritual is wrong or not....

Every couple has their own special things. Jesus and I have always had this. Being asked to give it up is hard. It's an honest struggle. Having someone I love and trust say that it shouldn't be a struggle at all has made me seriously question. So I am seriously questioning. Out loud. In my room.

And you attacked me. Or I felt that you did.

The way you wrote about the situation makes me think you are someone I know. I'm not going to call you out here in my room. But I'd appreciate it if you'd email or call or something and at least give me the courtesy of knowing who you are. And if you're not... well. You are still welcome in my room, and I can't make you state your name. You can hang around as anonymously as you want. But please be careful with how you phrase things. Even if you believed what you said about me condemning people... you could've found a way to say that in love that mightn't have hurt quite as badly as it did.

(HT: ASBO Jesus)

And trust? I'm with Job on that, too... Job 13:15 - "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face."

He's welcome to set me straight. In some ways He already has. And I'm sure there are still things I'm missing. But I know He loves me, and will give me the mercy and grace I need - both to get through this struggle, and to lead with my shoes on. At least for one weekend, anyway.


Happy said...

p.s. did you read this post

because it has occurred to me that maybe without that context you didn't understand what i meant about spear throwing - and that saying i won't means i'm CHOOSING the better way...

so much of this, at the end of the day - almost every post in March, actually - is coming down to the difference between choosing God's way for me because it's the right thing to do and hoping that the emotions to back that up will tag along eventually. so please, if you haven't read all that, go back and catch the context, okay? please...

faintnot said...

My dear friend Happy,
As I sat reading your posts and all the comments I was suddenly mindful of a book I read many years ago. It is "Rees Howells Intercessor by Norman Grubb. Rees was a man taught of God and he was called to do some things that caused him conflict and friction with parts of the church as well.

Anyway, I thought I would try to quote from Chapter 16 which is named "Called to a hidded Life":

"Actually, the intercession porved to be the first step away from a public ministry into a hidden life.
For three years, after his day's work was done, Rees Howels had been at the mission every night. There were meetings fie evenings a week and the other two were spent in visiting. His work in the pit took him from 7am to 4:30pm, and then he had the two-mile walk each way in all weathers. There was no time to attend any other meeting, for he hardly ever left his flock, except during the week of the Llandrindod Convention to which they took as many of the new converts as possible. The work had become so well established that many people were coming in from the surrounding districts on Sunday evenings'; it was like a continuous revival.

.....The difficulty Mr. Howells had was to find time for prayer. Really his only opportunity was on that two-mile walk to the mission, one mile of which was over a lonely common. He always tried to be alone for that mile and, after leaving the last house behind, would remove his cap and continue in the attitude of prayer. The conventions of those days made it an unheard-of thing not to wear a head covering when out of doors. But when alone, the presence of God was so real that he always bared his head.
This became so much a habit that he never once crossed the common without putting his cap in his pocket...But curiousthough it mnay seem to us today, nothing would have induced him to go hatless in the daytime! As he said, "The hatless brigade was unknown at the time!"
This apparently trivial habit was the first thing used by the Spirit to make him dead to the influence of the public. One Sunday morning very early, he was with the Lord in prayer. 'The glory of that morning was far brighter than the light of the sun. There was such a peace and solemn hush that I felt the place was holy ground. I ahd felt it sometimes before, but it was far maore intense that morning...The Lord then showed me that the place of agiding in the intercession to which He had called me, was to keep in the attitude of prayer all day. For the first time I could not take my hat with me! To walk through the town, to go to the mission would be impossible! I could never do it! Never!"...

Well, Happy, it is far too long a chapter to continue word for word here, (get this book) but I will try to tell it myself.

Rees did not want, at first, to go anywhere because he knew that the Lord had called him to this attitude of prayer which meant no hat. He didn't even want to go to the mission where he preached. He was afraid the influence of the public would be too great over him. He shared about how much of the world is still in us.
Since he came from a well known and highly respected family he also worried about what his actions would do to them. What a pickle he was in. Rees was faithful, however. Come Convention time a friend offered to pay his way to London to attend. Rees went. When he got off the train in Londaon his friend and others were there to meet him. He didn't have a hat on. His friend offered to give him a hat thinking Rees couldn't afford one. Rees refused kindly. He explained that he could not accept this offer as he was trying to gain a place of intercession. Rees offered to go back home so as not to humiliate his friend.

It was through this episode that the friend confessed he was being dealt with by the Lord concerning his pride and well.....
get the book, Hap.
Sometimes we are really doing what God has ordained for us and it is not about giving in to the demands of others but risking to lose the offer to worship so as not to go against this place of abiding you have found....
Only you know, friend, if what this is about is icon, idol, or the abiding place that you and the Lord have together...
I would not trade that for anything.

Happy said...

Oh, Linda... Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this.

Icon, idol, or abiding place... i hadn't thought about there being a third option. But that's what it is. It's become my abiding place. (And a very portable one!) :)

I love Rees' story... I will definitely be going out to get that book. :) Thank you for taking the time to type all that - I really needed to hear it.


faintnot said...

my typing was atrocious so forgive...I am glad I made Happy happy :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Hap. Struggle away, my friend. I believe it's actually a necessary part of our growth! The birth of anything amazing always begins with a struggle. Jacob struggled with God, was blessed and entered a new season of relationship with God he'd never known before.

I KNOW your heart is right and that's what matters. I think God is up to a little questioning!:-)

Regardless of the outcome I am convinced this is a part of God moving you forward and I am so impressed at how your response is submission even when you don't agree. It means you have your eyes open, your mind working and your heart RIGHT!!! It reminds me of one of my favourite scriptures, "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart."(Ps 24:3&4)
I'm positive He's pleased.