30 December 2010

Salt – Reflections on brokenness, restoration, and this past year

[I journaled most of these thoughts on a plane after a campus ministers’ retreat, called “Refresh ‘10”, in Kansas City the second full week of December.]

“You put salt on our lips that we might thirst for you…” This quote/paraphrase caught my attention last night when the closing speaker, Pete Greig, mentioned it. He attributed it to St. Augustine, and then he added, “and sometimes the salt may come from our own tears. “

But the tears for me haven’t come for some time. Beautiful moments, prayerful moments, enraging moments, surprising moments have happened, and I can tell part of my body want to respond with tears, yet nothing comes. [Heal me, Lord.]

Rewind a few days: The image brought to mind after the conference’s first morning devotion was of water pouring on dry, cracked ground. The water seeped in, yet the ground was so dry that the cracks didn’t go away… A dry and thirsty land. I had this same image of a dry and thirsty land the following morning, too, and of water spilling forth over the cracks, seeping in, providing momentary relief for a land in drought. Maybe Prayer can be these moments of watering – moments of grace for a drought weary soul. [Lord, help me.]

A cup of salt sat on each table as the last session began. We poured some in our hands and put our hands to our lips. Then we prayed…
As I prayed, thoughts – words and images, moving and still – flashed and faded. Each wrestled for prominence although each has valid space in my heart/life right now. I scrawled the words across the page in an attempt to give each image the voice it wanted to have.

Helps preserve

Brings out and enhances flavor


apathy lethargy

… over-sweetened, comfortable lives need some saltiness…

… prevents the car from slipping, yet stains it in the process…

I pictured my heart shrinking and shriveling like the salted slug as I saw the apathetic and lethargic moments of the past year with clarity and shame. It’s not all the time, and it’s not in all things. There are moments of life and energy that spring forth, yet they are quickly absorbed by the dry, cracked soil of my soul – the broken ground of my heart. It may not show on the outside, yet the inside is crying out for refreshment! Yes, healing and restoration began taking place at debriefing in Michigan in March after two painful years of deployment… we miss the people, but we don’t miss the circumstances… yet healing is a PROCESS and it needs to continue.

We know – I know – God called us out and moved us on, yet I still wrestle with why. Was it for preservation of my life / our lives – hearts, souls, minds, and strengths, and for preservation of our marriage, and for preservation of our calls to ministry (rather than burning out, breaking down emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically)? OR did God call us out because I could no longer love well – serve in love, forgive in love, lead in love… ? Was it my failure to love well that caused our departure?

Was it self-preservation – God caring for us as individuals, as children… OR was it Kingdom-preservation – God caring for God’s kingdom and not wanting that defamed any more than it already is?

I feel that somehow it was a combination of both.

The speaker on Thursday night reminded us of John Wesley’s journey – successful in some mission endeavors, yet a failure in others (e.g. Georgia) to the point of questioning vocation. (and I don’t view our time as extreme as Wesley.)

However, God did not give up on him.
And God will not give up on me,
God will not give up on us,
God will not give up on the Church,
God will not give up on the world!

My heart and soul may feel shriveled like a slug…
BUT God can refresh and revive,
God can Restore and Redeem,
God can Resurrect!

The dry cracked ground takes time to restore. Too much rain or irrigation at once will cause a flood as the ground cannot absorb the vast amounts of water. And then it will take time for the flood waters to recede. Too much rain or irrigation trades one calamity for another.

A slow coaxing – a little rain – a slow irrigation will restore the land without a flood disaster.

While my soul wants the downpour, God knows that my souls does not need a flood.

A starving person may want a buffet, yet the stomach needs to start with small amounts slowly.

A dehydrated person guzzling gallons will only wretch it up, yet a slow intake in small amounts will restore.

Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the Universe,
Who restores the dry parched land,
Who fills our cups to overflowing (abundance and enough) not overflooding,
Who says, “Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it.”

Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the Universe,
Who gives Your children every good thing,
Who provides for all of our needs,
Who gives manna each day (rather than 40-years supply of food at once that we have to carry around).

In this next season of journey I need to open myself up to the small ways that God wants to irrigate my soul – to restore my life. It’s strange, when in drought one can become accustomed to scarcity. In fact, so much so that even when conditions change scarcity can remain the heart-set and mindset – scarcity can become the default mode… This results in one turning down moments of filling, refreshing and relief – for even though the ground can handle the downpour, the default mode of scarcity causes fear of flooding… Why trade a calamity with which one can cope for one that presents more unknowns?

Hosanna – Help me, save me. Alleluia.

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