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Twists and Turns

During a session of Lectio Divina prayer, I recently journaled my way through some interior tension, sparked by a line in scripture. It highlighted an image of God I wanted to resist. Rather than scrunch up my face and turn away, I brought my thoughts directly to God. As in many conversations with God, my thoughts felt fragmented, and I didn’t think the conversation was going anywhere. If you hang in there with me, you will see how my fragmented journey landed securely in a grace-filled moment I will carry with me for a long time. 


The Twist


Below is the line from the passage that caused the tension within me. Perhaps you see the paradox I saw which is that, in almost the same breath, God is vowing protection from enemies (our sins) and then reminding David how he removed Saul from his presence. In my view there is no punishment worse than being removed from God’s presence. I will reflect more on this below. 


“I will give you rest from all your enemies….I will not withdraw my favor from him (David’s heir) as I withdrew it from your predecessor Saul, whom I removed from my presence.”


In this passage, the prophet Nathan relates God’s message of protection to King David. I imagine many may find God’s words comforting, but I did not. I share my reaction in the following journal excerpt. I should mention that this excerpt doesn’t reflect my initial anger with God. I was furious that God’s message of protection would include two such different reactions of God.  As I try to do with many difficult conversations, I attempted to get past anger and move to a more productive and open stance of confusion. This was well worth the effort.


Holy Spirit please help me understand. How can you remove anyone from your presence? We are all forever in your presence. Of course nothing is impossible for you, but I have trouble believing you would want to remove any of us from your presence. Aren’t we all precious in your eyes? Am I being blind? Am I afraid? I guess I am. If it’s possible for you to remove one person from your presence, then why not me? I am imperfect, not evil, actually I might be evil in my thoughts. I don’t believe, even though I see it in scripture, that you are both firmly committed to give me rest from all my sins (enemies) and capable of casting one of your own out of your presence.


At this point, I was drawn to tell God exactly what I did believe. Perhaps I should say I was led, as this entry followed a stream of consciousness format which took a few surprising turns. 


I believe that you give us the freedom to choose to alienate ourselves from you, but your love remains. You wait, like the prodigal father, for our return. I believe the love you have revealed to me is not capable of removing anyone from your presence. 


Turn # 1

Given an opportunity to share my thoughts, I felt encouraged to take a breath and think.


If I calm down and simply try to imagine this - I just can’t. I feel you saying to me: ‘then accept what you feel for now, but remain open to further understanding. Accept the mystery and rest in the belief that one day, if it is necessary, you will receive clarity.’ 


As instructed, I allowed myself to rest in this paradoxical idea of God and sat quietly there. After some time, I continued my conversation with God.


I’m glad I was able to calmly live in the paradox presented to me. Maybe this is the message for me today. In this life, we have paradoxes - like loving someone even if they hurt you. The lesson is in the tension between the two opposites. Are you drawing me to live in this tension? I see now that this is a gift. Rather than allowing the tension to run me, and simply react, I can learn to be in it calmly and respond according to your will for me. 


Turn # 2

Though I was satisfied this was a good takeaway from my prayer time, God wasn’t finished with me yet. Having learned in spiritual direction to linger, I stayed a bit to rest in the presence of God, and was surprised by what came next. 


Funny, I don’t feel as if I am speaking with the Holy Spirit, my sister, [This is my image of the Holy Spirit, the feeling I have when I confide in her is that of a dear, wise and loving sister] instead I sense a strong, very powerful, wise man. I have felt your presence before but have avoided knowing you. I think you are so powerful I haven’t wanted to see you. Am I afraid or simply less attracted to this side of you? Perhaps I have not been, until now, mature enough to recognize you or welcome you. As I speak with you now, I remember your gentleness and speak freely. I understand that your power and gentleness really go hand in hand. Have you called me through this discomfort to a new understanding of who you are? [I chuckled to myself as I posed this question. It was a laugh that comes when tension releases, clarity appears, and awe inspires.]  Note, I cannot name you, Father? Jesus? Blessed Trinity? Yet, in this newness, you are familiar. I let go of my literal understanding of this passage, and of you, and joyfully rest in this familiar newness. I am gratefully yours.


In my willingness to lay it all on the table with God, I learned much about myself, and had a revelation into God’s person. My journal entry was several months ago, and this image of God is still not my favorite. My comfort level with this image waxes and wanes (which I’m learning says more about me than it does about God). 


In his mercy, God shares the dimensions of himself I am able to absorb at any given moment. I find it fascinating that I change so frequently, and that God has a dimension for every fluid aspect of my personality. And, to further expand this fascination, God has a dimension for every fluid aspect of each and every personality in existence. How can one possibly wrap their mind around this immensity? I have no intention of trying, but simply to bask in the joy of it. 


The Living Word

When I shared my journey with my spiritual director and heard my words out loud, I was reminded of the danger of literal interpretation of scripture. God’s Word is not meant to be static in one place or time. God’s Word is alive today and is meant to bring us closer to him. What happens in prayer time is not intended to be theological but a personal interaction between you and God’s Word. It is intended to bring us closer to ourselves because God is waiting on the other side of self-revelation.


How many times have you come across a scripture passage you have heard a million times, and come away with a totally different view of that passage, or has an excerpt taken your mind on a journey like mine? This is God’s Word for you at that moment. It is alive and interacting with your spirit and, if you are able to notice it, drawing you closer to the heart of God. 


As I write, I am left with just one question, is there anything more spectacular than that? I encourage you not to miss this amazing opportunity that lies in the pages of your bible. If you do not own a bible, fear not, at biblegateway.com not only can you find a free bible, but several different translations. I find that comparing translations can bring clarity or help you find what resonates best. Wishing you many happy journeys through the Word of God, maybe I’ll see you there. 

 


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