Tag Archives: truth

Landscape of Love 96: Well

96 well pixabay fountain-788430_1280

Here is our shortcut to the underswell, our drawing up of the sweet holy water, the bucket swaying seductively with its load of comely coolness. And the holy man wipes the sweat from his forehead and sits half shaded, so we cannot quite make out his face, as he asks for someone else to serve him. We sashay over, unabashed, until meeting those thirsty eyes makes an honest woman of us. And all of us fall at those feet, pour out our fragrance, weep on them, dry the sweet sinless flesh with our dusty hair, and run to fetch clean, pure water, that we both offer up and drink down, and which sets us free from all unholy desires. We no longer hold our chin up, but level, no longer sink into the sand in shame, but see our worth. We leave our brazen boldness behind and seek to be desired differently, stumbling in our haste to tell of this treasure, thirst slaked by meeting the Truth face to face.

 

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

Photo from Pixabay

 

Veil of Tears 101: Worthless

 

101 worthless pixabay dollar-979619_1920

Stop trusting in mere humans,

who have but a breath in their nostrils.

Why hold them in esteem?” Isaiah 2:22 NIV

 

Having spent a great deal of the last twenty years unable to do very much at all besides ceiling gazing and cross stitch, I have had a lot of time to perfect feeling worthless. I looked at myself with the world’s eyes and saw only a sick body and a tired mind, a broken heart and nothing much to look at, a person who was too ill to interact with anyone, take very much in or give very much out.

But deciding to stick life out and to continue loving God and my family started to change that perception. It happened slowly, over a long period of time. I found that the deeper I went into prayer, the longer I spent with my Lord, who professed time and time again to love me, the more I could look at my sorry self with kinder, even transformed, eyes. I could learn to look at myself through holy vision. Here was not a useless, social pariah, but a seed, broken on the ground. She only needed some tender care, to be watered and fed, to feel the sunshine of the saviour’s heart-love and grace, to begin to become renewed.

I am not a great deal better physically than when I was at my worst. In some ways, my condition has deteriorated. I can still be defined as a disabled person, as an invalid, in-valid, and no doubt by some people as a waste of space, as a nonentity, a drain on the system. But my head and most importantly my heart are clearer, and the Lord has been bringing me out into new kinds of life. He has spent precious time with me, him deep in my soul and me safe in his heart. It has been life-giving, soul-nurturing, full of unearthly wonders. It has been painful and many parts of me have been rent or refined, given up, lost or changed. I am different, and yet no more or less precious than I was at any other time.

And it is not that I now consider myself worthy of God’s love, or that I look at my former self (a new former self is born and passes every minute of the day) and find her wanting. It is that I know that God looks at the heart and yes he sees the potential, but he also sees the right now, and he loves what is, what was, and what will be all at the same time. He has no more love for one stage over another, in the same way that a parent loves their child for as long as they are theirs to love, whether baby, child or adult, including into eternity. He loves each one of us and esteems each one of us because we are his. He loves us before we grow, he loves us even if we choose not to grow.

Love does not measure or count. It is not tapping its feet with impatience. Love waits, yes. Love endures, yes, but it does not change its nature or its fervency based on any kind of criteria. Love just loves. And once we realise that, it paradoxically makes us eager to become worthy of it, which is the one thing we cannot do! All we can do is seek to love love in return, to co-operate fully with It, to answer both its gentle and its difficult questions with a trusting yes. And then we know that we were loved all the time, and that worth is a foolish, earthly idea that we cannot take into the next realm or the deeper places of our spiritual lives, because worth is a comparative concept. It lays itself against another, or against itself and wants to see which one is better.

Am I good enough yet? It cries. Am I now loveable? What do I need to do? And the answer comes back, you will never be, you always were, and nothing. And I imagine it will most likely take a lifetime for these truths to sink in, especially for those of us told by the world that we contribute nothing, and are valueless. Love tells us plainly, we are priceless. And that is the truth.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

Veil of Tears 94: Harsh Words

harsh words child-1439468_1920 Counselling pixabay

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.” James 3:9 NIV

Don’t you just hate that saying, “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but names will never hurt me,”? It is the most ridiculous lie to instil into children. Name-calling and vicious words wound us just as much as if they did physical harm, and the injuries can take far longer to heal. In addition, the wrong word spoken to us, if we take it on board, can turn our course as surely as the rudder in James’ analogy can turn a whole ship.

Harsh words about my painting from a teacher when I was six stopped me investigating art or the possibility of my own creativity being at all worthwhile. It took nearly forty years to undo that particular sentence’s power over me. A few words are all it takes to break a relationship irretrievably, or to hurt someone so badly that they will never recover. It is also all it takes to hurt ourselves, for once words are spoken or written (and read) they cannot be unsaid or rolled back into our mouths.

In ancient times people spoke words as spells or incantations, believing words to have power. In the Bible we see people and God speaking blessings and curses over others. It is a solemn and precious thing to be able to have an effect on people’s lives by pronouncing truths and promises on their heads. We can say it is all mumbo jumbo, but whatever we hear about ourselves will mark us in some way, especially if it is said by people we love, or who profess to love us. Harsh words, ridicule, insults from a parent or grandparent, or (perhaps inevitably) siblings, are most likely to cause us real pain and form a barrier not only in those relationships but between ourselves and our own sense of self-worth or belonging. Gossip, lies, slander and the tabloid press are also power tools for hurt, causing swathes of untold damage.

Unkind words hurt us right at our very core. They unbalance our confidence, make us doubt ourselves and our value, push us into thinking we are somehow less than others or that we are unsightly or blemished, either outside or in. And because the wounds are invisible, they often go unnoticed and therefore unhealed. Half the time we accept them as truth so deep down (especially if they tap into similar lies told us as children) that we don’t even know that we are swallowing more lies. These untruths are like knots that we need help to untie.

As God’s people, we must pour out gentle words, affirmations and blessings and encouragements, where there have been nasty or vitriolic or untrue things said. This is part of our kingdom work, to heal the world with our tongues. To be the difference, to sing the praise of our fellows in their likeness to their heavenly father. To help each one of us make that connection, so that we can see that we too are lovely. To reteach one another our loveliness as poet Galway Kinnell has it.

When God speaks his love over us of course, we may rely on it, for God’s word always accomplishes what it sets out to do (Isaiah 55:11) and so we can also depend upon his promises, his character and his goodness. For God’s words are always truth and always working for love. Likewise, our speech should be tempered wherever possible with gentleness and grace. There is no more important time to ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” than when we are about to open our mouths.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

83: Injustice

83 injustice pixabay trample-784060_1920 422737

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” 1 Peter 2:23 NIV

Turning the other cheek, as Jesus counselled us to do, is a difficult teaching for many of us. As a former doormat, I used to let people not just walk all over me, but grind their muddy boots into my soul as well. It took me a long time to realise that this was not what the Lord was recommending. We should not seek out suffering, nor is it wrong to protect ourselves from hurt. Boundaries and self-defence mechanisms are necessary tools for getting through life. But when we are insulted or treated badly, it is our reactions that should mark us out as different.

The reason for this, as I have come to understand it, is that whatever is happening to us in the earthly, we maintain as God’s children, our integrity, which is eternal. Julian of Norwich saw in her understandings from the Lord that our true selves are incorruptible and stay close to God’s breast all the while we are alive. Nothing can touch or harm them in any way that will impact the eternal, the true and manifest wholeness and perfection of them. So although suffering hurts us of course, it cannot hurt that unreachable self whom God keeps close. This is why Paul (or whoever the writer of Hebrews was) said “What can man do to me?” echoing Psalm 56 amongst others. It seems we might answer, “Well, quite a lot, actually,” but when we remember that this same man had been beaten, stoned, jailed, shipwrecked and persecuted for following Christ, we must take these words seriously.

For my own part, I think that any kind of insult or abuse loses its power over us when we bear it with gentleness. So yes, we call injustices what they are, and as far as possible we protect ourselves and others from ill treatment, and from inflicting it. Systematic abuse must be escaped and challenged whenever possible, this righteous anger and action is also part of following Jesus: we stand up for widows, orphans, and speak for the voiceless. But where it is appropriate and we are able to, turning the other cheek can be an effective tool for the gospel. It was certainly when I bore the bullying silently and without redress that my school peers got bored of tormenting me. “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God,” says Peter in his first letter (chapter 2, v 19) and he is talking about the severe injustices borne under slavery.

This bearing with the sorrows of today with quiet dignity because we live in the knowledge of eternity (whilst owning our own wholeness and integrity kept safe within the bosom of our God) is the heart of gospel living to this man who walked closely with Jesus. It might rankle with us today, but there is a deep and precious wisdom and a powerful witness in patient, gentle endurance, especially when paired with forgiveness, and Peter, for one, believed it changed those hurting us.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

69: Slander

69 slander file0001155309316

But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; assailants gathered against me without my knowledge. They slandered me without ceasing. Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me.” Psalm 35:15-16 NIV

Slander (and of course its written counterpart, libel) is a particularly malicious kind of gossip. It is not just unkind, it is deeply damaging. It is like a violation of our personal integrity, an attack on us and on the truth. It is an action devoid of all compassion and empathy, where the mocker ridicules and lies about someone, usually someone defenceless, the charges being hard to prove. Slander is a notoriously difficult issue to settle fairly in court, as hearsay and reputation are difficult to discount or protect, and the root of lies is so slippery.

When we are being spoken about unjustly, and judged harshly, that is bad enough, but to have people actually enjoying maligning us is beyond horrid. Sadly, it happens every day in our culture of celebrity, where the media builds people up only to enjoy making them crash to the ground again. It seems we are rarely taught to think of the consequences of our actions or our hurtful words. As long as the lies are entertaining, they seem justified as a diversion, never mind whether they are true or not.

Our God is a God of truth. He is integrity, wholeness, beauty, goodness and holiness. He teaches us that the truth will set us free, even when it hurts. Lying, to others, about others, to ourselves or him, gets us nowhere. He also knows what it is like to be lied about. People slander and insult God every day. He is mocked in words and actions constantly. His goodness and his very existence are doubted and his creation defiled. He knows what it is like to be spat upon by mockers and yet he still insists that we forgive them, as we are counselled to forgive every sin committed against us.

Paul commends himself and his ministry team for enduring “through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;” 2 Corinthians 6: 8 ESV

Slander is from the father of lies and is unsurprisingly used against those who would follow his enemy. But we are in good company when we are ridiculed and hurt, and our Lord will help us through as we emulate his steadfastness and his gentle insistence on the truth.

You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:37 NIV

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from morguefile

60:Thirsty

60 woman-671927_1920 thirsty

Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” John 4:6-7 NIV

 

Noon in the Middle East is fearsomely hot, I imagine, so no wonder Jesus was tired and thirsty especially after a long walk. It’s hard sometimes for us to remember that God incarnate took on board everything that being flesh means. We have so much art that gives our saviour haloes and clean white robes that look fresh from a washing powder advert. We struggle to imagine him dusty, exhausted and longing for a cool draught of water in his humanity.

So thirsty is Jesus, that he foregoes all protocol, not that protocol was exactly something he ever bothered with, and talks to someone female (shock horror) and who is also not a pure virgin or chaste wife (double shock horror) and who is not even (triple shock horror) Jewish. The quadruple shock horror is that she is also a Samaritan, and for a Jew, let alone a Rabbi, to speak to a Samaritan woman, well it is hard to convey just how badly Jesus is breaking the rules here.

When the disciples come back, their jaws pretty much drop to the ground. But Jesus is tired and thirsty and he sees, not only an opportunity to get some much needed water, but a chance to change a life, and through that, many others. In short, he sees that the woman before him is much thirstier than he is.

How long has she sought for the something that will satisfy her? On her fifth serious relationship, this is no youngster, but most likely a middle aged woman with a lot of life experience and a shed load of disappointments behind her. I think she is probably thirsting for a taste of real love, and of integrity. A dose of truth. Probably too, she thirsts to be seen as a person, rather than as an object of either lust or derision. We all know the cruel names given to women who’ve been unlucky in love, or passed around as playthings. We don’t need to say them again here. But we do need to see the way Jesus does. He sees the heart. He sees a genuine seeker, he sees a whole human being in need of a long cool drink of living water. And so the woman at the well, whom history tries to negate by not even bothering to record her name, becomes the first evangelist, and two great thirsts are slaked at Jacob’s Well.

 

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 NIV

 

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

49: The Incurable Wound

48 WOUND pixabay

Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” Jeremiah 18:15 ESV

 

As a chronically sick person, I can so identify with Jeremiah’s way of expressing his and Israel’s pain in this way. The help that doesn’t come is unbearable. Spiritual wounds can feel like this too, never-ending, incurable, seeping and festering.

In my prayer time today the Lord shared with me about the idea of a “soul wound,” a place in us where the enemy finds a potential weakness. He wounds us there, and keeps stabbing away at the same place over and over again, so that each time we think we have got a handle on it and found healing, it is opened up again and never gets a chance to truly be made well. We looked back over the toughest times in my life and I saw in a way I’ve not been able to comprehend before, that each time I was soul wounded, it happened in several similar areas. I wonder if this is the same for other people too? It could be a myriad of things. Loneliness, helplessness, disappointment, misunderstanding, cruelty, abuse, violation of boundaries, addiction, fear of commitment, running with the crowd. You name a weakness and it is doubtless exploitable. The thing is, if the devil can keep picking away at the scab, and sticking those places with any sharp object he can find, that place will become weaker and weaker and its defence non-existent. So we end up with a seemingly incurable wound.

But what I was also shown, was that each of these wounds is based on or around a lie which we can counteract with scripture. So, for instance, a false aim, like trying to be good enough for God to love you. The premise that you need to strive to be good enough is a lie. You don’t need to try, because you never will be good enough for God to love you. God loves you now, already, as you are. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8 NLT) God does the doing in this relationship. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NLT)

Another one might be finding yourself constantly misunderstood. The lie here is that no-one understands you. But God does.

You have searched me, Lord,

and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you, Lord, know it completely.” Psalm 139: 1-4 NIV

Unike Achilles, most of us have more than one dodgy heel, those places where a correctly thrown dart or spear can get under our skin and slow us down. To be sure of what they are, we can listen to the discouraging voices that appear whenever we resolve to do something good, kind or for God. These will most likely also be the same discouragements that try to tempt us away from God’s will. They nearly always have their roots, just as temptations do, in three kinds of misrepresentation. Misrepresentation of God’s word: “did God really say that?” asks the serpent, pointing out other verses and counting on us not to bother to check their validity, context or cultural relevance. Misrepresentation of God’s character: “is God really good? He wouldn’t have done that if he were! He wouldn’t have given me these parents, let that happen” etc. And lastly the misrepresentation of our identity and worth in Christ: “you’re no good, you’re not good enough, you’ll never measure up”, and at the other end of the worth spectrum, “I deserve better, I’m better than that, I don’t need to lower myself.”

Our countering must be swift in order to stop the rot. Just as Jesus came back at the enemy in the wilderness with a neutralising scripture as the antidote to his poison, so can we. Scripture is holy, God is good, there is no condemnation in Christ. And so for every wound there is a lie and many corresponding truths. If we can gather the strength to collect some of these scriptures together, we might make a poultice from their collective goodness, applying them often as a balm to those stubborn wounds. In this way healing can gradually come and the truth really can set us free.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

35: Fundamentals

35 Fundamentals Mf IMG_7713

You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors.” Galatians 1:13-14

“The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.” Augustine of Hippo

 

I’m fascinated at the moment by the dynamics of various groups I belong to on Facebook. A lot of them seem to have one particular bugbear that, if you go near it, sets off a great uprising of offence. A lot of pleasant, amiable people can swiftly turn nasty if you mention a certain idea, or in one case, even one word. I’ve seen people pounced on for the slightest misunderstanding. And these are not religious groups, but ones focussing on art, wildlife and even clouds. Our zeal, it seems, can be put to use anywhere, and is especially dangerous within a group.

Paul understood this better than most, having been one of the golden boys of a group that was so sure of itself it was quite happy to put people to death. How strange it must have seemed to look back at the days when he wanted with all his might to destroy Christ’s church, when he would have seen its demise as an absolute necessity. I wonder if his encounter with the risen Christ that changed everything, was also a change of sight, and whether that is one of the reasons he had to be blinded for three days. A huge metanoia, a turning round, a repentance, a change of heart, sight and mind had to take place.

We need to be very wary of certainty, especially where it is feverishly protected. The truth does not need quite so much armour, for it needs no defence as Augustine rightly said. Yesterday I posted a prayer on unity and not rushing to guard our certainties as much as we reach out in understanding to one another. Immediately afterwards I faced a situation where someone posted something that offended my faith. I was tempted to delete it, but then realised that was hardly practising what I had just “preached” (prayed anyway!). Here was an opportunity to stand back from religious zeal, and be kind. So I quoted scripture and left it at that, and received a kind comment back. In the end I think that probably served Jesus’ ends more than letting my offence, albeit on his behalf, be dogmatic.

The Lord desires that having done all I can, I stand. The creator of all things does not need me to stick up for him, as though he had to hide behind me in the playground cowering from the bullies. Surprisingly, God can take care of himself. My zeal is better used in passionate articulation of the wonders of my God and King, in traversing the deep fissures of prayer, in ardent praise and the avid contemplation of his heart in all creation.

Paul defended his first religion by killing. He defended his second by dying. Perhaps there in a nutshell is the difference between fundamentalism and faith, between religion and relationship.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile

 

23: Sulking in the Sun

23 sulking in the sun MF imelenchon

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” Jonah 4:9 NIV (But please do read the whole of chapter four if you have time.)

 

So, having explored what self-pity is not, in my last few entries, I wanted to try and give an example of what it actually is occurring in Scripture, and poor old Jonah is the victim I’ve picked. Now I am quite an expert on self-pity, having mastered it slowly over a number of years and then having been (mostly) released from it.

I can recognise now that the hallmarks of self-pity are that it is prolonged (though we often dip in and out of it), that it becomes an attitude we live by, that it is almost entirely self-centred, that it smacks of an attitude of entitlement or of self-loathing, and that it twists the facts cleverly to make everything look as though we are at the centre of a vortex of unfairness.

In short, self-pity is permanent sulking. It is our ego throwing a toddler tantrum every time something doesn’t go our way and imagining rightly or wrongly that the world is out to get us. It is all encompassing and often even manages to defy logic. We have persuaded ourselves somewhere deep inside that nothing can go right for us and that the world is not giving us the fair deal we deserve.

Jonah is the daddy of all sulkers. He sulks himself onto a ship, he sulks himself into being thrown overboard and after being rescued miraculously and performing his prophetic duty like a pro, then reverts back to sulking, even about the success of his mission. I told you this is what would happen! is the gist of what he says to God, in one of my all-time favourite Bible verses: “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:2-3 partial NIV)

Jonah is such a practised sulker, he can even take offence at God’s goodness whilst praising him for it. And even though he knows that the city will be spared, he still storms off and sits in the desert “to see what will happen”. He was sent to Nineveh to ask the people to repent and they did. Instead of outward compassion, Jonah displays the giveaway characteristic of someone stuck in the rut of self-pity: he turns even his own successes into failures. Believing that the Lord relenting makes him look foolish is more important to him than thousands being saved from death. This is an ego in extremis. And yet, I have great sympathy for Jonah. I relate to his sufferings, so much so I even wrote a short book about him (yet to be published).

But the thing that lifts my heart about Jonah is, that even sitting in the sun sulking, God is patiently trying to teach him compassion via the lesson of the plant he sends and then withers. The Lord is trying to show him a way out, trying to help him understand the heart of the God he serves, which, (another mark of self-pity) actually Jonah already knows, and judging from the verses I quoted, better than most. He is just choosing anger over compassion because it is easier, because it is ingrained and because his own heart isn’t ready yet to be freed from the stranglehold of ego. The only thing that can perform that kind of often slow emotional and spiritual surgery is love, and God is there with him and us, writing the book on it.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com