Sometimes we make God into what we are. But sometimes, possibly more unaware, we make God into what we’re not. He’s my flaws, areas I lack in, often: logic and reason. I see myself as the romantic one in this relationship. The emotional one. I turn to him with thoughts and ideas, problems and decision. Rarely heart. Rarely in my moods and to hang out a second. Idea: if you have something you need to pray about, pray about it. But if the time you’ll take for that is in a few days, there’s nothing stopping you from hanging out with God now. Just to chill. Just to be with him.
On the morning of my friends wedding all the other bridesmaids were sitting reading their bibles. I felt slightly bad, but I also did not want to – you know, get up – from the very comfy chair I was sitting in. So I thought instead about John 5 – that I’d been reading the previous day – and I started reiterating it to myself, closing my eyes and reading in my own head.
The story in the beginning of John 5 follows a man that I don’t think gets enough credit. Or at least is used far too often as a warning example instead of a pointer to something relatable and inexplicably human within ourselves. The man in question had been an invalid for 38 years and was laying on the ground close to a pool of water, where every know and then the water was said to be stirred by angels and heal whoever bathed in it. I was going through the lines of the story in my head, and when I said to myself, as the man did to Jesus: “I have no one to help me get to the water,” it hit me square in the chest. (To be honest I looked it up, and that’s not exactly how he says it in any translation, in the NIV for example it says: “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.”) But as I said those words out loud – in my head (so not really out loud), I found myself saying it as if it was me, talking to Jesus out of my own current circumstances. Which leads me to my first point:
- We have no one to lead us to the water. Now, the critique I’ve heard against this verse is that the guy had like 38 years to get to the water. Sure, he couldn’t move much, but even if he would have moved just one inch a day, I’m fairly certain that in 13 879 days he would have gotten there. I heard a preaching about this once – about just moving a little bit every day. You don’t want to find yourself 20 years into the future with the same problem you’re carrying today. It was by all means a great preaching, but here’s the thing: I have no one to help me to the water. That is how I feel, in the midst of my sin and worry. Sure, maybe I’m constantly growing and moving, but in the end, when it all comes down to it, I am that man waiting for someone to help me to the place of healing I am incapable of reaching myself.
- Now here’s what complicates this: Was he actually incapable of reaching it? As said in the previous point: he could have reached it himself. He could have moved. So why shouldn’t we? My previous point doesn’t seem valid, because how can we ask God for help with something we should just be able to do ourselves? But this, I think, is what strengthens this example, rather than weakening it, and is a better than many other example of a broken world. Because there’s no one directly stopping you from doing what is right. There’s influence, but there’s no one standing there forcing your hand to choose what’s bad. No human except for Jesus has ever been able to live life without choosing sin, but each and every one had the free will to do so. Each and every one was able to live only being good, but also no one was able to. We can’t make our way to the water, not because we technically can’t, but because we don’t. This is the great mystery of our inability to not sin: The fact that we technically can not sin. I know, I don’t get it either. But if the man in the story had all the excuses, was completely bound to the ground, could never have fought for freedom himself, this would not be as good of an example for us. We find ourselves where the man is, broken, on the ground. Capable of moving, but never quite capable of reaching.
- This weakness is the key. Our inability to get there. I have heard people point out (once again, in very great preachings), that the man never answered the question Jesus asked. Jesus asks him: “Do you want to be healed?” and that’s when he just answers that he can’t get to the water. But honestly, that’s the most natural response. For him, the water is the place where the healing takes place. And this is actually the real point, scratch everything that’s been said until now. Scratch your failed attempts at reaching whatever source or path you think will take you to healing, will take you to a place of redemption; Jesus was standing right next to him. He was looking at the water, and Jesus was looking at him. And we stand, like this, next to the saviour of the universe, and we ask him how we can climb a mountain he has come down from to meet us. It is okay that you can’t. It is okay that you can not climb the mountain of God (every culture has tried), that you can’t reach the place of healing and purity and perfection, because he has come to meet you now, and to your inability to get to the water he answers a simple: Get up. Grab your bed and walk. Not towards healing, but in the healing you have already received.
Yesterday I was walking home through the sunset and I was thinking about how in philosophy, both everything is movement and movement cannot logically exist. That everything is movement makes sense, all atoms are vibrating and spinning and twisting, otherwise we’d fall apart. It’s a solar system in miniature, it couldn’t stand still. But the thought that there’s no such thing as movement, that makes sense as well. The classic example that some old greek dude whose name I’ve forgotten spoke about is of an arrow flying through the air. If you would observe that arrow at any point in time it would be still in the middle of the air. Another moment, it would be still at some other point in its path. But if at any given point it is not moving, how then can it be moving at all?
I’ve been thinking about that because I’m curious about how it’s supposed to work in our own life. Are we supposed to run or stand still? Is everything movement and direction, or do we live better by being empty somehow, content.
There’s argument to be made for both. But I do know that we’re not good at being directionless (and direction must be a form of movement, or at least an indicator of it). You feel it when you have too much time, walking in slight circles, don’t know what to do when you put your phone down. Your direction is off, you’re not exactly sure what you’re pointing towards. That’s dangerous, makes you feel lost.
So about arrows and philosophy or whatever, I side with movement rather being everything. We can not live if we’re not aimed at something, can’t breathe if we don’t have a moment to move into. But then I think it can also be paired with stillness. Actually, what it is maybe – I think I’ve got it now – is this: Movement is a necessity for stillness.
The cure to restlessness is sitting still and letting your mind flow towards something. And it’s not what my prayers sometimes become, an oops-I-thought-about-that-instead, need-to-think-about-God, but it’s the freedom of believing that our hearts are created and redeemed to be aimed at Him. Sometimes you need to control your mind, but sometimes you need to let go of the reigns and believe that when you allow silence, your spirit will know direction.
Prayer is not an argument against God, but a battle by His side.
(From a weekend away with my church. We do this every autumn, go somewhere and fill the days with get-to-know-each-other-games and bible studies. When I was a kid it was the biggest event of the year, sharing a room with friends and staying up til midnight. It’s different now, not bad though. This year I had deep conversations with the adults. I’m in between categories.)
Anyway, thought of the week:
Maybe your weakness is revealed not so you can finally get out of it, but so that you can be in it. Stay in the place of desperation. Find yourself in humility.
Observation: When I don’t feel fully alright with God, I start getting annoyed when someone at work is better at something than I am.
Why is that?
Because when I’m not feeling well I start trusting my own performance. Or rather, as soon as I look away from God I start trusting it. Parts of Gods wisdom we can recieve in our lives and it just becomes logical; we learn sentences or behaviour and its absorbed into our lives. Other people can as well, not even knowing where it comes from. But grace can not continue without Him.
1. You need it anew every day.
2. It is not built on logic.
If you turn to your own brain it will draw its own conclusions. Grace is not in ourselves, not in us by ourselves. Look at it. (Keep looking at it.) Set your eyes straight.
A few weeks ago I had the vision that waves were rising all around this garden, tall and mighty. Like the ocean, like the red sea. And I felt it tonight, standing out there. (And I wondered why it is not falling, why it is not crashing down on doubts and enemies, what are the waters waiting for?) I felt God saying that He’s separating me from it. I am learning to not be all the things I’m not. And first then the water can fall on my enemies without falling on me. How can God kill the army if we’re on the ocean floor at the same time? There’s a height and width and depth to the importance of faith in forgiveness and the death of sin and it being killed off in your own body.
How do I accept this? How do I find so much faith in forgiveness that I’m not even scared of sinning, making mistakes anymore. Not that I should, but maybe winning is when I’ll stop being scared that I’ll fall. Come to the psyche-challenging, all conquering notion that there’s no such thing as falling, only grace, and when will I stop worshipping what I think I deserve.
These are the midnight thoughts that creep through my brain. Either in this form, but usually behind something else.
My empty cup smells like salt water, and I leave Florida soon but I haven’t written about the ocean yet. My thoughts drown before I even manage to get my feet wet. So I remind myself of the tides that have been promised me, I don’t chase the waves but are lifted by the power of the moon.