For When You Have No Words

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Last week, I sat down at my laptop to write a blog post. I titled a page and began to peck away at the keys before everyone woke up.

The next day, I once again set the laptop on my knees and plugged away at words, this time careening in a different direction.

By the end of that typing session, I had two very different partial-posts and no ideas of what I actually wanted to write.

When writers look for advice, there is one thing we’re always told:

“Write what you know.”

In other words, go out and live life. Write about things you’ve actually done or experienced. You can’t write if you don’t have an existence outside the written word.

But, dear writing community, I have stumbled across another problem.

I have discovered that it is possible to live so much that you run clean out of words.

Thoughts worthy of blog posts can come in fits and starts, ordinarily. Lately, though, I have been so immersed in life that when I sit down to think of a good post topic, I lean my head back on my headboard and go blank. Ideas pop up and I quickly squelch them.

I wonder if there is such a thing as too much writing material.

Just now, I live in a new world everyday. I wake up to complications and emotions that I’m just beginning to learn how to ride out.

Learning how to be an adult, in a house of six adults. Trying to give daily, intensive love to eight other people. Discovering how my family members and I handle stress. Finding out just how unreliable feelings are. Caring for my big, crazy family, sometimes long-distance. Looking for new things to learn. Opening my heart to bigger hurts and bigger loves. Juggling a schedule that isn’t even funny. Hoping to pull off a good job for my supervisor. Trying to find out where social media fits in. Learning that my life balance is something I have to discover by trial and error…lots of error. Squeezing in a book or a podcast in there somewhere. Singing, a lot.

Sometimes life lessons crystallize in slow motion, over a period of days or weeks. These days, so many lessons pour over my head that I’m slow to catch them, much less be able to put them into words.

But, even here there is a lesson.

When life crowds out your words, go back to the basics.

Jesus. Run back to Jesus.

Life can get too confusing. It gets crowded–full of mess and hurt and blessings and busyness. Whether the days whiz by or crawl, they often don’t seem to get any lighter. Breathing can be hard, and living can be weighty. Life is hard to condense into a neat package and tie up in a bow.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s not supposed to be nice and neat. 

I think life is meant to be a paradox. Everything may be wildly incoherent and out of my control…but all wrapped up in the hand of God.

“I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.”

 – paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 2:2, from the Message –

When the apostle Paul went to Corinth, he didn’t try to help people make spiritual sense of their lives with anything other than the Gospel. Jesus was the totality of His message.

You see, the Gospel merges the broken, jagged puzzle pieces of our lives into a coherent whole.

Jesus–the crucified and resurrected Redeemer–truly redeems. He buys back the lives, the days, the purposes of every detail of existence. Because of Jesus, the picture of our lives, though incomplete from our perspective, starts to make sense.

Life doesn’t work without Jesus.

In the book of Acts, Paul quotes the Greek philosopher Epimenides, using Greek poetry to describe the centrality of Christ:

“For in Him we live and move and exist….” – Acts 17:28

The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus, “[by] his own mighty word…holds the universe together” (Hebrews 1:3, CEV).

This truth is the reason why, when I am drained of words, I still have one word:

Jesus.

I don’t have to make sense of my crazy, whirlwind world. Taking one day at a time, I just have to love the next person in front of me, “do the next right thing,” and offer up each moment as something I’m doing to make my Savior glad.

The Gospel says that Jesus is enough.

When I run out of understanding…

Out of energy,

Out of intuition,

Out of words…

He is still there.

In Him, I am not a chaotic mess. In Him, I am centered.

In Him, I am home.

 

Chased by the Multitudes

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“And seeing the multitudes…”

– Matthew 5:1 –


Do you ever feel…chased?

About to pop for one minute of stillness? One blessed second without voices asking for favors, more tasks added to the to-do list, another job arriving in your inbox?

Multitudes find me, especially at the end of the day, when the day’s grit has scraped a raw path between my toes. My skin and my patience both wear thin.

Multitudes seek me, especially in the early morning when the sky is a quiet, starless navy in the hour before dawn. I try to soak in the peace–but then it shatters.

Multitudes swarm. In the house, in the driveway, in the church down the road, in Wal-Mart. Everywhere.

I wonder how Jesus did it. I’m not God, I don’t do miracles, I have sin weighing me down–but how did He handle the constant press of bodies, the endless needs, the truth-hungry, the miracle-seeking?

I think Jesus was emotionally and physically drained at this point. Mark’s Gospel says:

“And He said to [the disciples], ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” – Mark 6:30

I don’t pretend to understand the full implications of the total humanity and Divinity in Jesus. All I know is He is sinless, yet voluntarily vulnerable to grief and pain. Some commentators suggest Christ’s withdrawal was to get out from under Herod’s nose, since it was not His time to die, nor was His death meant to be a beheading like John’s. But as my family recently read this passage, I jolted, realizing the draining situations He had just left behind.

It’s part of humanity–rejection hurts. People he loved turned their backs on Him–family perhaps, craftsmen who had grown up hewing wood with Him, women his mother had often accompanied to the well, families that his family had traveled with on the way to Jerusalem for Passover. These weren’t random strangers, these Nazareth-born Jews that rejected their Messiah. They were his brothers-in-law and childhood schoolmates. This is not a glancing blow–what a sorrowful, deep wound for Jesus! I think we are mistaken to think that just because He is fully God that His Deity shielded Him from hurt.

If this were you, how would you take it? What if your siblings thought you were crazy? What if your extended relatives called you a blasphemer? If your church tried to throw you in jail or hired a hit man to get rid of you? If the kids down the street that you played with growing up, your classmates throughout school, all of the people who had rubbed shoulders and gone traveling and laughed and eaten with you–what if every single one of them rejected you, viciously?

The ache. The disappointment. What a heavy spirit Jesus surely carried after that encounter!

And then to find out that John the Baptist had been murdered by the manipulated Herod Antipas. Jesus’ ministry had launched out of John’s proclamations, grown by the disciples that John had nurtured. The wild joy and fearlessness of His cousin surely had refreshed Jesus many times–and now he was dead.

Matthew 14:13 recounts:

“When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by himself.”

He took his disciples and left.

“Yes. Rest. That’s what we need.” Don’t you know that the disciples were relieved to shove off from shore and row to a place free of Roman puppets and cranky neighbors and–most of all–free of people!

So they got away, to a deserted place.

And, almost before they could turn around, the crowd appeared. Five thousand men, not to mention their wives and children!

And Jesus had compassion on them (Matthew 14:14). Compassion.

When the day has wrung me out, I don’t feel like compassion. I feel like running. I feel like hiding. I definitely do not feel like teaching, or ministering, or feeding one more. I want to get away and rest a while. Or forever.

But that is not what our Savior did. He stayed.

Of course, there are times that we must rest. But for most of us, that time is NOT just whenever we feel tired, is it? Again and again in our lives, we have to push on in spite of pain or exhaustion. We have to work toward the prize. We have to pray for compassion, for enough love to give to just one more person before we collapse into bed at night.

Press on, sisters. Don’t lose heart.

Cry out for one more drop of mercy to share, one more word of love to scatter, one more smile to brighten a path. Let’s be women enough to rejoice and thank God even while sweat is dripping from our faces and our muscles burn with effort.

Because the multitude is so much more than just a cluster of unmet needs.

In the crowds He sends to us, Jesus often tucks in someone who needs just what we have to give.

Tucked in His own multitude of 5,000, low-on-faith disciples watched and wondered. A boy saw his lunchbox turned into a banquet. What joy!

Are the sufferings now worth anything compared to what we are promised in return, one day?

This, like so many things, is about faith.

How we face our “multitudes” is about faith! Do we really believe that God will reward our labor? Do we really believe that we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9)? Do we really believe that the next person that comes in front of us is a person we are heaven-called to love? Do we really believe what Jesus said–that the last will be first, that whoever loves Him will obey Him?

With wisdom, we will take breaks. We should seek rest and recreation, allowing ourselves to be refreshed, enjoying the good things that God provides.

But let’s not wimp out, girls! We have a mission of love to accomplish, and such an awesome Captain leading the charge!

So next time I get up early and my silence shatters…

The next time you drive into the lot and the people descend…

Remember Jesus’ compassion. Remember how much we are forgiven. Think of how lavishly we are loved–and then, “go and do likewise.”

Besides…who is to say? Sometimes we are the teacher at the front of the crowd.

And sometimes we are the needy child, carrying a sack lunch, unaware of the glorious blessing about to swoop down on our head.