I know blog posts don't always have to be quite so self-focused, but in the name of paddling out, bravery, vulnerability, and kicking shame to the curb, here goes.
My eldest daughter is a senior in high school, my baby is an 8th grader. Transitions are looming. I'm a couple years into my 40's and not even close to figuring out how to do the simple things in life well with any consistency. Simple stuff...you know, like how much/when/what to: eat, exercise, be wifely, motherly, neighborly, friendly. The basics. I'm feeling about as tender as a turtle without it's shell. Three months ago I might of typed this paragraph with shame dripping from my fingers. Luckily, I'm learning that courage and honesty don't require "having it all together."
A couple of weeks ago I took my senior on a second round of college tours. This time it was two schools in Michigan and one in North Carolina. We begun our visit to Calvin in Grand Rapids with their chapel program. My daughter is an enthusiastic worshipper. She likes big music, dynamic speakers, and lots of energy. So when we checked the schedule and saw that the day's chapel program was going to be Lectio Divina, I was bummed...for her and for me. Lectio is a great spiritual contemplative practice in which you read a small portion of scripture over and over again with pauses in between the readings for reflection and response. Often a few words or a phrase from the chosen verses will rise to the surface and take on a deeper meaning. But we were in the mood to sing and sway, not listen in silence to the Spirit. Borrrring. So I leaned over and knowingly whispered to my daughter, "You're probably not going here, huh?"
Note: Mothers should not judge a college by one chapel service in the first 15 minutes of a school visit. It's one of her top three schools. Application going out this week. Yep, still learning the simple stuff.
As I sat there at Calvin - I put on my pastor hat (not literally, I don't really have a hat that I wear when I'm pastoring) and decided to enter into the process of Lectio Divina, even though I really wasn't "in the mood." You know what? Lectio is pretty cool. The rest of this post comes from the message given to me by the Spirit that day. Sometimes the most courageous thing we can do is say, "yes."
The phrase that popped up fresh for me in that time of reading/reflection was "break in.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21 RSV
Words often define a person - the negative ones: loser, no good, selfish, unworthy, etc. These definitions speak to us through our shame (sometimes from others, often from ourselves). There are also the words of affirmation we receive - "you are awesome, what a hard-worker, so smart, beautiful, caring." And we tend to let the way we feel, or our state of mind, be determined by those positive and negative definitions swirling around in our brain. In turn those definitions often affect our behavior.
As a words of affirmation person - it's those positive words, the phrases and praises that come my way (usually from others, but sometimes from myself on a very good day) that I treasure. Well, honestly, I "treasure" the negative words too. I hold all of them tight, the good and the bad. I store them up. They become my earthly treasure even more than the items I'm able to buy with $$, which might have been Jesus' original intent for this passage. I understand my house or my possessions don't have eternal value. My minivan doesn't define me. But my thoughts, all of those words, these are mine. Try as I do to hold them tight, these "treasures" of words don't hold up very well. A wrong choice, a negative thought, a thank you note, a careless remark and the treasure, either positive or negative fades. Oh those nasty moths, that wretched rust that eats away at my heart and leaves destruction in it's path. I spend energy trying to lock in these words. To make them stick. I believe I need a clear picture of who I am, of how I should define myself. I let everyone but God do this work for me.
But in verse 6:20 Jesus asks us to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, a place where no thief can break in and steal. What would this look like? What if I let God break in instead of thieves? What if the words by which I defined myself were only the ones given to me by my Creator? What if I agreed to let the Holy Spirit clear my mind of all but heavenly treasure, forgiveness, peace, joy, love, gratitude... and I chose to let it stay there? A mind filled with and guarded by the Spirit. What if knowing Jesus and how Jesus loves me was my treasure - my definition? For there where my treasure might be, my heart would be also. No longer rusted and moth-ridden, but full, clear in purpose and function. Abounding in love, filled with Truth.