Thursday, October 29, 2009

Surrender, freedom, hatred and judgement

I'm a judgmental person.

That's a happy way to start a blog post, isn't it?

The truth is, if you know me well, that statement was kind of a "what else is new" thing for you to read, and you're probably already losing interest in this post. Stay with me if you can. This time I think I'm actually going somewhere.

I've been thinking a lot about being judgmental this week. Partly because at times that judgmental nature has a tendency to spiral into hatred - especially when someone I love is being hurt. I've spent a lot of time recognizing this tendency in myself, feeling disappointed by it, and frustrated at it, but also sort of helpless, wondering how on earth one changes something that seems so core to oneself.

I love deeply and (try to) love generously. I'm at moments guarded with my heart - like most of the planet I've been hurt often enough to be tentative in offering the whole of myself to others. But, I will watch you closely. If your words don't line up with your life, I'm going to notice. If you're cruel, I'll notice. If you're harsh with your words, I'll see that too. And I have a huge distaste for hypocrites. Given long enough, I will most likely write you off as someone for whom it is impossible for change to occur.

I'm learning, though, that those things in others that so anger me, that draw out that tendency to judge, are often mirrored in various ways in my own life. That that cruel thing that makes me want to react out of anger and hatred towards someone else hits a nerve, because while I perhaps haven't been vocal about it, I'm had equally cruel thoughts. I'm learning that I can't play holier than thou. That sin and rebellion is still sin and rebellion whether it's overtly acted out or carefully hidden within the depths of oneself.

I've been thinking, too, about surrender and freedom. I've written about it several times before. You can find those thoughts here and here, and the most recent ones here.

In 2008, when I first wrote of surrender, I penned the following in my journal (appearing later on the blog in the first post linked above): "Surrender, I’m discovering is not an easy or painless thing. It is rarely bloodless or tidy. It is the thing that comes after the battle, when the losing side is too weak to carry on, and the cost in lives would be too high to let the battle carry on. It is not a place of negotiation. You can ask for the conditions you desire, but you ask from a position of weakness. You’ve lost, and the victor holds the power in the negotiation."

A few weeks ago I wrote this: "Surrender is never easy. That letting go of my rights in favor of something bigger."

I've been thinking a lot about surrender this week. About, to quote DC Talk, "learning to give up the rights to myself; the bits and the pieces I've gathered as wealth." I've pondered the times I've truly managed, even if just for a moment, to surrender, and the relief and freedom that was there, and I've questioned why it is that that freedom has so often seemed fleeting and the struggles have so often seemed to multiply in the wake of those fleeting moments of freedom and surrender.

And as I prayed and pondered, the following scripture came to mind:

"When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, 'I will return to the person I came from.' So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before." (Luke 11:24-26, NLT)

Questions began echoing in my mind, "With what do I fill the free space brought by surrender? Am I intentional in replacing that space with things that glorify God, or do I simply rejoice in a space swept clean, and leave my heart open for greater oppression?"

(I need to pause, here, for just a second, and say that I really believe that sometimes surrender and freedom simply come and last. That we make that choice of surrender, and it is truly freeing. I have simply had a week of the growing conviction that the choices of surrender I've made have at times been less than wholehearted, and that I've invited a multiplication of misery upon myself in some of those moments of revoking surrender.)

Two other passages of scripture have been echoing through my thoughts this week as well. The story that speaks of Moses' face glowing so brightly after the time he spent with God that the Israelites were afraid, and it was necessary for Moses to wear a veil. And, the passage in 2 Corinthians that reads: "Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away...But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:12-13, 16-18, NIV)

These two were certainly passages that seem on a totally different topic than dealing with a need to surrender my right to judge, and with the multiplication of misery at the fail to surrender. And yet, they popped up everywhere I went.

Are you asking yet how I'm going to tie this rather long-winded treatise together? I have a point, I promise!

I woke this morning into the sort of stunned space that follows certain unusual nights in my life.

It was a night where I'm really not certain whether I was awake or asleep. I just know that I watched some rather profound things play out in front of me. That I was relatively conscious of laying in my bed, but that I was transported elsewhere as I lay there.

In this case, some of the details are foggy. Mostly, I saw people. One or two I recognized; most I did not, as they were silhouetted. All were surrounded by a beautiful light. Lovely and golden. An almost internal glow.

As I woke and drove to work, the passage from 2 Corinthians came to mind, and I felt as if Jesus was reminding me that each of these people, whether I knew them or not, were displaying his glory, unveiled.

I wish I could tell you that some of the faces I recognized in the dream were those towards whom I've struggled with hatred and judgmental thoughts. The reality is that that is just not true. The few I recognized were people I love deeply.

And yet, as I pondered that sight all day, all those silhouettes of God's glory, I couldn't help but be reminded that it is simply not my right to judge. That each person, whether I happen to consider them cruel and hypocritical or not, is made in the image of God, and that I need to lay down that rebellious hold I've had on judgment. That I need to be willing to release that hatred. And, that perhaps, if in an odd dream like experience, God can for a few moments give me new eyes that see his glory, maybe he can do that in my day to day life as well - reveal his glory in those I'm so tempted to judge and to hate.

And that, tonight, is my prayer. That the view of his glory within each person, his love for each person, would so overwhelm my eyesight that I have no choice but to fall to my knees in confession and surrender. A surrender that is whole-hearted and not simply making space for further misery. I'm not there yet, but I'm taking steps in that direction. And I pray that those steps will grow.