Oh, Betty Duffy. I KNEW not to pray for an increase in humility.
This year, I’ve been thinking (praying even) about how the spiritual life is not really linear. It’s not about advancing or backsliding. It’s not a “journey,” which would imply that we’re the ones doing all the work, all the traveling and moving forward towards a static God. Rather, the spiritual life is about letting God in, becoming a tabernacle, a holy place where God can dwell.
Last night I drove myself far far away to another healing prayer evening with the charismatic Catholics. I'm told I have to attend three of these before I can join their secret club (a rule I believe was made up on the spot when I asked what qualifications I needed to have), so I went. I went as someone who is advancing along her journey quite intentionally, diligently, methodically, logically. I also went as someone in need of healing prayer - the last few days I've been extremely anxious and I can't find a good (or good enough) reason.
As I sat in the quiet, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, receiving holy rest each time a gentle prayer minister laid her hands on my shoulders, I laid out my doing and striving and seeking. I can't say I handed it over - I quite enjoy doing and striving and seeking. But I agreed with the Holy Spirit that maybe those things had no place in the church that night. That maybe I should just sit, and rest. Receive and bask. Become a dwelling place.
On the third day of the Bethel conference I chose a seat on the far side of the sanctuary, where the swooping camera crane blocked much of my view of the worship team. I actually stood off to the side, hugging the wall, and put aside (as best as I could) all my feelings of otherness and unbelonging. And during the morning worship session I was filled with what I can only describe as security. It wasn't a physical feeling, it wasn't even a marked change from whatever I'd been feeling before, it was only a secure and solid knowing that God was within me. A stranger had put his hand on my shoulder halfway through the last song (there is no personal space at a charismatic conference) and when it was over he beamed at me and said, "You are totally supposed to be here."
I was reminded of my time on the intercession team at Urbana in 2012. From my perspective I had contributed nothing - NOTH. ING. - to my team. I had basically just sat in the room while everyone else did the hard work of intercession. The one thing you could say for me was that I'd been PRESENT. This "performance" of mine, at any other time in my life, would have felt like a massive humiliating failure.
Except: I came home from Urbana aware of something entirely wonderfully new, that I'd earned a big fat F in intercession and God loved me anyway. Not even anyway. God loved ME. The end. Because he loved me, because he wanted me on that team, that was all that needed to be. It was, for real, the first time in my whole life that I didn't equate my worth with my performance. Sad? VERY. Freeing? Ohhhhh I cannot even TELL you.
And even THAT was God's gift to me. I have NO IDEA how to stop equating worth with what I do and how well I do it. Even now I just say, "Hey God, YOU know what I'm like" and then fling myself at the cross and hope I stick. Right? Every time I stick I think, "Oh Jesus, thank you for putting the velcro on today, otherwise..."
Last night I tried to see how I'm pursuing God with this worky, strivey, need an A+ sort of demeanor. Like he's a contract order for macarons I'm trying to secure. I actually didn't have to try very hard. It's OBVIOUS. I have a LIST of things I need to sign up for and accomplish to get where I think I'm supposed to go. But people kept putting their hands on me and I kept feeling this sinking softening folding into myself, so restful and peaceful and OH. There's God inside me, a voice in my mind saying I am here, I will never leave you.