To You Who Are Tempest-Tost

I am constant, I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy, I am wise
I'm the only one who knows your heart's desires
Your heart's desires
-Jill Phillips, "I Am"

...and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
-Matthew 7:8

I think it's time to write because I am feeling broken, and I have found that God seems to speak through me even more when I am not sure what to say.

Lord, I humbly ask for words.

I have been doing a lot of self-understanding and self-compassion work lately (see last blog post). I am someone who is considered by many who meet her to be more vulnerable than the average person on the street, but these layers I am looking at lately are even deeper than my usual depth. I am being shown some of my blind spots, areas of my life that have kept me from understanding just how much Jesus loves me, Elizabeth, and how deeply adequate the reality of that love is.

I am trying to learn to listen to myself more. So, that's both exciting and scary.

I am trying to figure out my place in acting, which seems to be the struggle of the decade . . . s for me. But even tonight, as I walked back to my car from watching some live theatre with my cousin, and found myself in the old, familiar mental struggle, trying to use all of my analysis skills to uncover my life's calling, I heard a different, whispering voice in my head.

I felt the dirt of the parking lot brushing my cheeks and chalking up my feet, and I looked up at a clear, black sky. In that sky, straight up ahead was the Big Dipper, a reminder of steady things that are bigger and more enduring than me. To my left was a crescent moon, made clear and sharp by the cloudless air. And inside me, knowing that one of my native languages is movies, the way a good daddy knows his daughter, the Holy Spirit's whispering voice reminded me of a scene from The Matrix.

It is the scene shortly after Neo has been unplugged, freed from the machine-dominated system he has always unknowingly lived in, and he is laying on a bed in the real world, surrounded by members of the rebel group who have been freed from the matrix and are trying to free other people.

Neo has acupuncture needles all over him and can't seem to move his body, and Morpheus, the rebellion's leader, sees the question in his eyes.

Morpheus: You're muscles have atrophied, we're rebuilding them.
Neo: Why do my eyes hurt?
Morpheus: You've never used them before.

Neo looks confused.

Morpheus: Rest, Neo, the answers are coming.

I walked through that dusty parking lot tonight, seeing the ancient constellations and the moon that Shakespeare dubbed "inconstant" but which God calls "the faithful witness in the sky". And that movie scene came to mind, and the voice that this sheep knows said to me something like,

"You don't have all of the answers you are seeking yet, Elizabeth. This is a process. But I am with you, here, now. You are okay. And you are doing great work! You have made such progress through hard things."

It wasn't an audible voice, more like an impression made deep in my heart's core, which is often what the Good Shepherd's voice "sounds" like to me. And it calmed me. And it answered a question I didn't know I was asking: "How do I find a port in this storm?"

This year, I will be serving on the steering team for our Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group, and I was asked to lead a 5-minute devotional for our steering team retreat. In the devotional, I ended up reading Emma Lazarus's poem, "The New Colossus", which she wrote to raise money for the building of the pedestal at the base of the Statue of Liberty:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 
With conquering limbs astride from land to land; 
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand 
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame 
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name 
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand 
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command 
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. 
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she 
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Then, in that MOPS devotional, I pointed my fellow mighty women to the ultimate colossus:

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
-John 10:9-10

Recently I was in New York and I wandered into a beautiful Episcopalian church I'd never been in before, near the Reservoir in Central Park. It is called the Church of the Heavenly Rest. I ventured to go in because the door was open and there was a sign out front welcoming passersby in to pray. I loved that open door policy. I had always seen that kind of thing in movies, people going into churches by themselves to sit in a pew and connect with God in a visceral way. How wonderful.

I found a spot in a pew somewhere in the middle and sat down. I looked up at the blue hues in the stained glass around me, and at the central figure in this artistic masterpiece of a structure inside which I was sitting: a figure of Christ above the altar, standing there with a shepherd's crook tucked under his left arm and with his right arm outstretched as if reaching out to connect with anyone looking at him.

I started crying as I felt the Shepherd speak to his sweet lamb, "Elizabeth, what a privilege for you to be here, sitting here, in New York, this city that you love, with the Statue of Liberty you spoke to your sisters about standing proudly out there in the harbor. I want to remind you, here and now, that I am the door."

I walked out of that church in a state of . . . otherworldliness.

I am broken, but not crushed. I am perplexed, but not in despair. There is a Daddy. He is the door. He walks through storms and they listen to him when he tells them to stop. He knows what he is doing, with me and with you, so specifically, down to the minute, the second, the millisecond.

And this daddy door says,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
-Matthew 11:28-30

I dare you to knock.


Popular Posts