When “Doing” And “Being” Converge

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For one of the sessions, I got to speak in the main worship center of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church.

In my relationship with God, my heart’s default position is to be a “do-er” for Him. Historically, I prefer task to love. Which, of course, is completely unsatisfactory to Him and destructive to me. Which, of course, is why much of my adult spiritual life has been about unwinding this soul-killing, task-oriented twisted-ness of mine. Which, of course, is why, His calling on my life is to learn to do the long, hard, painful and at times crushingly lonely work of learning to become a better and more complete “be-er” in Him. Which, of course, both breaks and re-makes my heart, all at the same time.

Recently, I was invited to speak at Confluence – the fall conference for the Georgia Baptist Campus Ministries. (If you go to the website, under Conference Details, you can see my photo and bio:)  It actually was quite a convergence of meaningful events for me…the chance to share with hundreds of university students some of what God has been teaching me along the way, an opportunity to reconnect with special friends who do student ministry across the state, and a time for me to be reminded of something of who I am and who God has made me to be. Because there have been moments in this last season of life, as God has been sowing the deep “being” lessons in my heart, when I’ve pretty much lost sight of how I might ever “do” for Him again. deanna teaching

Humorously enough, the topic I was asked to speak to was A Heart For Christ: longing to know Him more. The very same thing God has been talking with me about for the last season of life. And further adding to the chuckles, the only concrete instruction from the conference organizers about what to address was, “We don’t want to add to the students’ to-do lists, by piling on suggestions of disciplines for them to do.” Hmmm. They wanted me to speak on the dynamic of “being” with God, not just “doing” for Him. The very thing I’ve exhausted so much time and energy on gaining for myself. Confluence, indeed.

I am including a link to the talk, for those who might want to hear how it went.

A Heart For Christ – longing to know Him more, Deanna Davis, 9.26.15.

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May My Dreams Be More Powerful Than My Memories

Memories are these mysteriously paradoxical things.  At their best, they help us form the foundation of our lives. Acting like anchors, they secure us to people, places, our culture, our stories and our history.  They give us a place to from which to launch when we are ready to spread our wings and explore…and a place to land when a season of life exhausts us, when we are hurt, and needing to rest.  They create a filter through which we make future decisions, enabling us to recognize what we like, what is dangerous, what we hope to repeat or avoid. They have the potential to make us smile, reminding us of the joy we’ve experienced, of the people we love, of our most human moments when we touch something divine within us and feel the pleasure of our Maker.  In the darkest night of the soul, they can remind us that the sun used to shine, that if we can just wait long enough, it will shine again, and that sometimes, there are treasures to be found in the darkness.  No wonder God encourages His people to remember… (Ps. 103:2, Ps. 105:5) Our stories are powerful. Everyone should have a few snapshots of genuinely happy moments from their lives, if not stuck to their refrigerator door, then to their hearts, where they can encourage us when we need it most.

At their worst though…memories can be terrible tyrants, rubbing our noses in our failures, in our shame, in our disappointments and heartbreaks.  Instead of an anchor, they act like a ball and chain, tying us to a past we would rather leave behind.  They alter our perceptions of who we are and who God is…and their sometimes uncertain nature makes them a dangerous tool in our enemy’s hands.  Destructive memories can follow and punish us with a ferocity that makes us wince internally and hide from others externally.  Their wounds can be ingrained, like an ill-timed footprint in the wet cement of our hearts.  It is there forever, and forever marring what might have otherwise been beautiful…what was intended by our Maker to be beautiful.  In the darkest nights of the soul, these are the memories that taunt us, telling us that the sun will never shine again, and that the God who made the sun, who made us and who allowed our memory to happen, must not love us because of how unloveable it all makes us feel.  No wonder God also encourages His people to forget… (Is. 43:18, Phil. 3:13) Our stories are indeed powerful.  Everyone has memories like this, taped not to our refrigerator door for all to see, but hidden away in the most vulnerable, and most private places in our hearts.

In light of all this, I have a complicated relationship with my past.  Alternately grateful and regretful. Recognizing the value of owning my past, but not letting it own me.  Not wanting to leave it all behind, but not wanting to bring it all with me either. Knowing the lens I use to look at it changes its value.

Oh Jesus, may my dreams be more powerful than my memories! 

May my life be anchored, not to what was, but to who You are, and to what You’ve promised will be.

May my life be energized by hope, by a future focus, and with the optimism of one who knows that You heal broken things, and that You resurrect dead things from the grave.

May my heart be open to the possibility that tomorrow can be better than today.

May the happiness I’ve been blessed with be a reminder that the joy I feel here is but a foretaste of what is to come.

May the sadness I’ve endured be transformed in Your hands… into a doorway that leads to knowing You more… into plowed ground in which my compassion for those in pain grows… into a prized story I treasure and get to share, because You met me in the middle of it and changed its ending.

May I find and chase after the dreams You’ve given me, that You created me to dream…and may I learn to build my life around them…not on the memories that would restrain me.

May the painful memories of my past… become things that have happened to me…not things that define me.

May I be more motivated to pursue what is before me than chased by what is behind me.

May I be willing to let some things from the past go in order to make room for what will come.

May I take You at Your word when You say I am a new creation, that the old has gone, and the new has come…and that the life sitting before me is a gift, is safe, and holds the potential for my deepest satisfaction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women, Dignity, Choice and Jesus (Jesus pt. 25)

When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Mark 5:27-28  

(Jesus asked) “Who touched my clothes?”  “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ “But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.”  Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mr. 5:30b – 34

In Mark chapter 5, we find a powerful story of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, how she meets Jesus and how He heals her. It is one of my most favorites in all of scripture. Perhaps because it involves a woman at her most vulnerable, with the life literally flowing out of her –  and Jesus at His most compassionate, with life literally flowing out of Him. Perhaps because it is about a woman, dealing with very womanly things – and a man who chose not to play the stereotypical man card and excuse Himself from the situation.

Recently I was teaching at a university student retreat on this particular story to an audience of both young men and women. And that evening, I had one of the most eye-opening, most heart-breaking experiences I’ve ever had as a Bible teacher. I was commenting on how awkward this story is – a bleeding woman. Is there anything more gender separating than this? As I said something like, “You men just cannot understand how this must have felt for the woman…”, a young man piped up and said, “Amen!” Everyone giggled. Ha ha. But this only proved my point.

At that moment, that young man unknowingly did something very destructive, very emotionally damaging. He introduced shame into the room. While trying to get a chuckle, to prove his masculinity, he actually told more than half of the room that it wasn’t ok to be a woman. That the things that give shape to our femininity are not ok.

Yes, I know all about what we mention in polite conversation. Yes, I know all about cultural and social mores and norms. But this story is in the Bible. Jesus wasn’t embarrassed by it. And if Mark, the author was, he still included it in the scriptures.

The passage tells us that she had suffered for twelve years from a debilitating disease with no medical cure. No man could ever understand what this type of vulnerability, wired into a woman’s very body, feels like. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met the man secure enough in his masculinity to even try. And I have to wonder if she was afraid of the men who guarded access to Jesus. I’ve seen men actually take pride in how little they know about women – as if who we are and how we were created is shameful or less than a man. Was this part of the reason why she hid and kept her distance? Is it possible this still happens in our churches today?

She experienced deep shame. The narrative tells us that she came up behind Jesus in a large crowd and touched His cloak. She wanted to “remain unnoticed”. (Luke 8:47) Surely her condition, her gender, her fear, her uncleanness, her helplessness, her poverty-both financially and emotionally, led her to hide, as it does for many of us today. Who among us hasn’t wanted to deal with our issues quietly, hoping no one else has to know?

Into this situation, Jesus does something unexpected. He is busy and actually on His way to perform a miracle for someone else – a respected religious leader who, on the surface, was everything this woman wasn’t. Yet, when He knows power has gone out from Him He stops, asks who it was who touched Him, and refuses to move on until that person reveals themselves. We all know that He wasn’t asking this question because He didn’t know the answer. Of course He knew who it was. He knew her name. Her story. The depth of her pain and desperation. He wasn’t seeking information. He was seeking her.

And He didn’t call her out. He asked for her – then He waited till she was ready to engage Him. He let her choose how she approached Him. He gave her dignity.

As a woman in a male-dominated culture, as a victim of a shame-inducing medical condition of which she had no control, as a non-person according to the culture around her, He gave her a voice. A choice. And choice, or lack thereof is almost always linked to dignity. He chose to wait on her, when we all know He should never have to wait on anyone.

I can see that in my relationship with Jesus today, 2000 years later…even though He still holds all the power, even though my relationship with Him is started and sustained by His grace and not my efforts, even though He knows all about me, my name, where and how I am, even though there are many reasons I could give for hiding or giving in to hopelessness…He asks for me. He waits for me. He doesn’t want me to hide. And He gives me choice in how far I go with Him, in the depth of relationship He and I will have. He gives me dignity. He gives me Himself. As much of Him as I choose.