Random Blog Clay Feet: January 13, 2008
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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Inner Resistance

(For those wishing to follow my exploration of Romans follow my link to my newly inaugurated site exclusively for my inductive studies)

As I was waking up this morning my mind and heart were stirring around with questions and feelings trying to understand what is going on inside of me and trying to discover how to relate to life and to God. I sense at times like this that I can perceive vaguely a great deal of resistance deep inside of me. I cannot say specifically what most of it is about mostly because of the vagueness of it but it definitely feels like resistance.

As I pondered that and questioned how I can ever be free of it given that it seems so pervasive at the heart level, I began to also realize that it is one of the greatest obstacles to having real faith. The thought occurred to me that just my penchant for analyzing and trying to figure everything out is my attempt to condense life down to an understandable formula so I can follow that formula to freedom. That is not all that I do but it has to be admitted that I have that bent.

I realize from my study and observations that formulas are not conducive to faith. Formulas are generally the substitute of faith. The very question that comes so easily to my mind whenever I feel frustrated and stymied in my growth or relationship with God is, “What do I have to do?” That reminds me of the times people asked Jesus, “What must I do to be saved?” Invariably the response from Jesus seemed less than directly related to a simple repeatable formula. It is true that we have tried very hard to make His answers to these questions into a formula to apply broadly to everyone's life, but without a great deal of noticeable success.

It seems that the most direct and effective answer, but also maybe the hardest to understand, was when He would simply say, “Believe on the Son of Man”, or “Believe in me and you will be saved.” Then we are faced with trying to unpack what it really means to believe with all the multiple arguments and opinions about what that might mean. Now we are back to who's formula is the right one and who is deceived or trying to mislead others.

All of this confusion has made most of us quite weary over the years. Many have simply given up ever trying to solve this seeming mystery and have just abandoned the effort altogether. Others become dogmatic and deeply entrenched in a very rigid and narrow interpretation of carefully arranged passages and then try to impose their views on everyone else. Still others continue to listen to the questions and longings of their own heart and that of others around them and continue to seek answers that better satisfy the deeper needs of the heart.

Something that flashed into my mind as I thought about these things lying in bed was “faith comes from fellowship, not from formulas”. That certainly had the ring of truth and is consistent with what I am learning in my personal study. But as I think about it I also realize that when it comes to fellowship with other people I seem to get more frustration than I do faith. It is easy to believe that the more genuine fellowship I have with God that the more faith will result, but the problem comes when I hear that God insists that I have fellowship with the rest of His body at the same time. That is where the real questions begin to fly.

But I cannot deny that God will not settle for a single, isolated relationship just between Him and myself exclusive of everyone else. While that is very appealing and many try to go down that path, the Word makes it very clear that with God that is simply not a viable option. If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)

I do not have the answers for all of this. I am simply recording the questions that are stirring around in my heart and the frustrations I feel at being so stuck in my experience. I feel that I am growing far too slowly and that at this rate I will never be fit to associate with the pure, unselfish inhabitants of heaven for many decades. I know that God has many ways to accelerate our growth, but frankly that also frightens me because I know that it will involve a great deal of discomfort and facing my fears.

That takes me right back to where I started. I sense a great deal of resistance inside of me to all sorts of things that I cannot even perceive yet. It is so pervasive that I often cannot get a decent night's sleep without waking up from strange dreams and fears crowding in to pester me and wake me up. Part of me wants to shake off all my fears and live in joyous freedom, but another much more controlling part of me will not release its silent grip on my life and refuses permission for me to abandon myself in the joys of real faith.

At the same time, I am aware very much from my study of the nature and eventual results of retaining resistance inside of me. To put it very bluntly, whatever resistance I am unwilling to release within me to the working of the Spirit of God, to that very same extent I am storing up wrath inside of myself to be unleashed in my own destruction if I am not freed from it. But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Romans 2:5)

This warning was directed not at unbelievers who were abandoned to living in open sin but to unbelieving (in the real truth) religious people who were sure that had a handle on knowing the right formulas and were firmly on the road as being the chosen and saved of God. I have to admit that I find myself much closer to this last group than I do to the first group. But either way, both groups are full of one kind or another of resistance toward God that will result in a revelation of wrath if they are not freed from it before that day. So it does not matter so much which group I find myself more aligned with as it does how much resistance I retain in my heart and mind to the work of grace that God wants to work within me.

When I measure my current life with the Word of God, especially with the passage from 1 John, I have to confess that I have very little genuine love for those around me. I also realize that I cannot remember receiving love very much throughout my whole life, and I find it quite impossible to give what I have not received. That is not to say I cannot be friendly with people who respond to friendship and I cannot have some level of healthy bonding with like-minded people. But that is a very far cry from the kind of love I read about that I must have to participate realistically in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Just a few seconds ago as I discussed a painful situation with my wife I said something that I hadn't really thought about that way before. I have to trust God in faith without knowing how He is going to work things out, otherwise my faith is based on formulas. Like Thomas who insisted he could not believe until he physically touched the body of Jesus (very formula-based reasoning), I too often feel like waiting until I can compile enough viable proof, either external or logical, to convince myself that God can indeed work things out for good. But must I have some idea of a scenario by which God can resolve a problem before I simply leave it in His hands and live in an attitude of praise for the unknown outcome based solely on His goodness and not at all on my ability to figure out how He will do it or what it will look like?

It seems to me that real faith is based on my trust in His goodness that has been cultivated through a very personal experience of that goodness or at least a choice to believe in it based on His word. Real faith is not initiated by external evidence so much as it is a gift from the One who is faithful Himself. My faith can certainly flourish and grow through many experiences of evidence, but it still has to be based on the character and reliability of the One in whom my faith is placed, not on the formulas I create or the hard evidence that I accumulate. Real faith is rooted in relationship and cannot exist outside of that relationship.

So where does that put the issue of resistance? Is resistance preventing my relationship from producing real faith? It certainly seems suspiciously like that would be the case. Resistance and relationship seem like opposing forces pulling in two different directions.

As I think about this I wonder if resistance is not tied to the desire for having formulas or being in control. We naturally tend to resist feeling out of control. But real relationship cannot flourish between two hearts when either or both of them is trying to control the other. Relationship depends on the element of creativity and spontaneity and shared emotions to really deepen. These are all ingredients of the heart – internal realities. Formulas, control and predictability are more focused on the externals, on the appearances and the external fruit instead of on the causes and the roots. It feels much safer to maintain a certain amount of control and resist releasing my reservations to the uninhibited influence of another heart on mine. It makes sense (intellectual) and we can come up with all sorts of very right-sounding and plausible arguments why we must live this way. But how much of this is really truth and how much of this kind of thinking is a smokescreen behind which we hide our pain, our fears and our unbelief?

The frustrating thing about all of these questions is the gentleness and politeness of God to allow us to cling to our false notions and continue to live in bondage instead of enjoying a freedom that as yet we have never really tasted. That is not to suggest that He desires us to live in bondage for a single moment. It is just that He respects and values our freedom so strongly that He refuses to override our choices to remain in our ruts. That is foreign thinking to me and many times I wish He would just somehow force me to let go of my lies and enter into the joy of the Lord. But that very act in itself would destroy my capability to enjoy that freedom, for true freedom always has to be entered through the door of choice, not force. That is just the unavoidable fact of reality.

What do I do with all of this? I don't really know. I guess I am simply expressing where I am at right now and recording it for comparison to what may happen next. I am attempting to condense feelings and notions that defy expression but nevertheless need to be flushed out closer to consciousness where they can be more easily seen and dealt with. I need to expose the things that are causing the resistance in my heart that is preventing me from experiencing the freedom that my heart longs to enjoy. I want to let go of the lies and beliefs that prevent real faith from flourishing and strengthening in my heart.

This is necessarily a very personal journey that is not easily solved by pat answers and platitudes. I suspect however, that it is something that would be more effectively resolved by genuine fellowship and bonding with other hearts if I could just figure out how to get there from here. But then again, figuring it out is probably the wrong approach, a mistaken road to follow. It might be the long way around to a place that could be reached much more quickly if I used the right methods and lived more from my heart than from my head.

So, do you have any thoughts on this? Since I doubt I will solve this by myself I welcome others to join the journey and see what fellowship might produce.

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)