Random Blog Clay Feet: July 04, 2008
Feel free to leave your own comments or questions. If you would like to be in contact with me without having it published let me know in your comment and leave your email address and I will not publish that comment.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Faces From the Past

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. (Romans 14:1 NRSV)

Do not put on one side him who is feeble in faith, and do not put him in doubt by your reasonings. (Romans 14:1 BBE)

Last night I had a stirring experience of the spirit that I want to continue and I want it to have a directional effect on my whole life. It was not a glorious moment of worship as one might think of typical worship with wonderful music and powerful feelings and sensations of God's presence. It did cause me to feel the presence of God, but much more along the lines of deepening convictions and growing revelations of my own faults and a refreshing feeling of need for the transforming grace of Jesus to radically change my deepest motives.

It all began when I remembered the request from a long-time church member for old pictures of our local church building. They are preparing for a “home-coming” later this month after finishing a major renovation and building project over the past few years that connected the church and the old school building where I attended the first eight years of my education. Since my step-mom was the church clerk for many years and was known for collecting records and making scrapbooks, they were sure that she might have some old pictures that would be useful for showing during the homecoming weekend events.

I have been quite forgetful for a number of weeks about looking for this in our home where my parents lived until they died a few years ago, but yesterday I finally had the thought and the time both together and decided to act on it right away before I forgot again and it would soon be too late. I went upstairs and began looking through old scrapbooks and photo albums and eventually found one or two pictures that will be of use.

However, in the process of searching for church pictures, I also began browsing over many pictures of my own parents and family and their old family pictures. I was surprised at how many of them I had never really noticed before and the feelings that seemed to begin to stir inside of me as I spent extra time staring at their faces and trying to perceive something about their personalities from their expressions. I realized that I had never before really taken time to look at some of these pictures of my parents when they were much younger and their parents when they were at different ages. I began to sense much more about them and see similarities between their expressions and some who have come along several generations later.

I also realized that most of the times I have looked at old pictures it has always been in the company of others who may have had their own emotions so stirred that we were all distracted from potentially sensing our own deeper potential feelings. When things like this are experienced in a group the mutual dynamics tend to overshadow the ability for any individual to go to deeper levels in their own spirit. Of course, there are significant advantages to exploring the past with others who can shed light on it. But the aspect of really focusing on one's feelings and wondering about the identity received from previous generations and how much affect that has on shaping the life and spirit and perceptions seldom happens when many people are discussing and focusing more on the externals and events of the past.

As I have tried to develop the habit of being more alert to real-time emotions over the past few years, I began to note that I had a growing sense of pain very deep in my spirit. I tried to unpack the real reasons and identify just what was involved in this pain. I felt nostalgia in some ways, but more so an intense wish that I could connect with these people and form bonds of friendship with them, listen to their stories, perceive their personalities, ask them hundreds of questions and just have the opportunity to hang out with them. The present impossibility of doing that felt repressively frustrating. I was severely limited to just staring at a piece of paper with ink on it that could only convey a snapshot of a point in time of their life and try to perceive what little could be gleaned from the look on their face, the way they dressed or the body language they expressed in their posture.

I spent some time staring intently at my own mother's face when she was much younger than I had ever known her, maybe when she was in her twenties or thirties. My mother died when I was sixteen and I have very little specific memory of what she was like now. So looking at these pictures for me seemed like trying to probe into the mind of a stranger who looked vaguely familiar. I had an unusual, intensified desire to know her heart much better and wished I could share with her my own feelings and hopes and problems. I know she was the kind of person who longed to do that for me and I caused her a lot of pain as I repulsed her attempts to connect with me. Now I wish I had another chance. But I will have to wait for heaven to reconnect with her and catch up on everything.

What seemed quite strange and surprising was that in some of the pictures of her face I thought I could sense something that reminded me strangely of my own wife. Her cheeks and mouth were distinctly different, but somewhere else in her expression, maybe her eyes, I seemed to sense something similar to the one I have been married to for over thirty years. I wondered about this sensation and also wondered if that was part of what unconsciously drew me to my wife in the first place.

I looked at pictures of her father and mother and cannot remember ever really observing them before. I could see in the faces of her siblings and parents a little of the pain and struggles that they must have felt on a daily basis. I searched their faces and eyes for clues as to how they interacted with each other and what their own deepest feelings must have been about life. But pictures are deeply frustrating things for the extreme limitations they place on communication. But they are still better than nothing.

Anyway, I realized that quite likely my own psyche was being stirred at levels not normally visited by my conscious mind and I was not sure what else might develop from this state of mind. But I also knew that I need to occasionally stir up the much deeper levels of my memories in order to allow freer access to the roots that lie buried in that mud that need much more healing from God. I knew that I was only scratching the surface, but in a sense I felt good that I was at least again feeling at all in areas that have laid dormant for many years.

My search for pictures or records took me into more rooms and old drawers and old scrapbooks that I did not even know were in the house. When I moved my search to the old office of my step-mom that contained many of her meticulous records from many decades of letters and bookkeeping I began to uncover more things that began to stir old memories and emotions. Mingled in with much of her things I also discovered some of my own old records that had been stashed in the closet when we hurriedly moved into this house originally upon her death. I even came across my academy yearbook that I was certain had been lost completely. I wonder if it was not here all along and not with my things when we moved in. Or maybe it was a copy originally given to them years ago.

As I began sorting through many papers and files that I have never seen before, I came across financial records involving the construction of this house including when I spent a summer here 34 years ago helping to start it. I found papers in my own handwriting (that amazingly has hardly changed at all) of the hours I worked getting $2.50 per hour. I also came across notes and documents that answered questions I thought had been lost with my own father's passing memories about his intervention for me when we moved away from Texas many years ago. I found the record of how much he paid my previous landlord for the large debt that I had accumulated there and refused to leave until that issue was satisfied. My Dad took out a loan to pay off my debt so that we could move away and make a fresh start in Michigan, but he refused to ever tell me how much it cost him until he couldn't even remember what he had done in later years.

Then I came across a letter that was not that old, maybe five to eight years ago. It is difficult to read the blurry postmark but it is clearly after the turn of the century. The letter was addressed to my Dad and came from myself. I knew immediately what the likely nature of the letter would be given the dynamics of our relationship at that time, but I decided to open it up and read it a little just from curiosity. Little did I know the impact it would have on my own heart and the state of my spirit that I find in myself today.

As I read through the pages that I noticed my Dad had numbered in his own handwriting, I felt like I was reading something familiar while at the same time listening in on a conversation by someone I didn't really know very well. The words conveyed very clearly a person in touch with their heart and trying to be in tune with the Spirit of God. They were appealing desperately to an old man who had become so embittered by years of indulgence in critical attitudes and interactions with others and from persistent fault-finding that he had nearly lost all ability to connect with anyone else from his heart.

I read with growing interest the words that I myself had written and was sometimes amazed at the depth of passion and the humility that came through in the letter. I felt almost ashamed that I seem to have not grown much since then and have even lost sight of some of the perceptions and attitudes expressed in the letter. It certainly brought back to my consciousness many of the issues that plagued our relationship for much of my life and in a sense I was glad for the reminder. I want to give God access to every part of my mind and memories and feelings, for anything that is not yet faced and repaired is a very dangerous liability for me when I come under unexpected pressure or trauma.

But as I finished up the letter I sensed a surprising but overwhelming conviction that I am still in extreme danger of remaining stuck in the same rut of dysfunctional relationships and attitudes as that which trapped my father and his mother and has strongly influenced most of those who have come from them in succeeding generations. Even in the letter I expressed the insight that we were very much alike, and the Spirit of God did not miss the opportunity to reinforce that point on my heart. What I began to realize is that this letter not only applied to my Dad's condition back then but nearly equally applies to my own condition right now. Even though I may not have the extreme problems of these faults fully matured in the life, the tendencies and habits are very much yet embedded in my own psyche and need to be recognized more clearly.

Particularly, I was convicted by a graphic description that I quoted from an inspired source of the activities of Lucifer when he first began to experiment with his ideas of disaffection among the pure, loving angels of heaven. What was so startling to me was the similarities between the way he related to them and the way I see myself relating to people today. I was shocked and horrified that I have so much of the spirit of the enemy operating freely and undetected in my own heart right now. I began to see the results of the subtle spirit of disaffection that still permeates too much of my attitudes but that stays out of sight below the surface avoiding detection. Truly the evil part of my nature is deceptive to the extreme and does anything to avoid exposure.

The discovery of this letter seemed to be calculated to synchronize perfectly with other convictions that God has been placing on me lately. My relationship to the local church – the very same church that my Dad had so much conflict with for so many of his later years – is unfortunately not a great deal better. My spirit at its roots is all too similar to the attitudes that my Dad was enslaved to in his dealings with religious leaders. As I pointed out in the letter to him, when looking at the results of my Dad's choices in life it is not very appealing at all for me to follow in most of his footsteps. But as much as my logical mind can reason that way, my natural tendencies subtly pull me like a strong undertow in directions that I do not want to be led.

At a deeper level I began to perceive even more the deceptive attributes of my fallen nature and its treasonous tendencies that will always lead me into disharmony with God and with those around me. I often feel like I am escaping its control over me but then come to find that it is just operating more out of sight but still all too effectively. I still feel like I am only glimpsing the tip of a giant ice burg, but I thank God that He is at least letting me see that much so that I can beg for mercy and deliverance and seek for help.

I want to cooperate with the Spirit's promptings in this area. I want to grow up and mature and move beyond the obstacles that blocked my Dad's growth for too many years. I deliberately choose to accept and acknowledge what God is showing me about myself and ask for His continued healing. I realize that I need much more help from others, even though I resent being helped by people I sometimes consider more messed up than I am. (Now isn't that a real revelation of a bit of pride.) Coming on the heels of a fresh mining experience through the chapter of Romans 13 I think I have been prepped for an even deeper work that God intends to accomplish in me.

Father, all I can do is to thank You for Your coordination of circumstances and reminders of my imperfections. I confess that I am all too much naturally like my ancestors who seemed to consistently indulge in roots of bitterness and fault-finding that has poisoned far too many people and infected several generations. I do far too much of this myself and I want complete deliverance and healing from this terrible, pervasive disease of the heart and mind. I plead for Your repair and restoration plans to take place in my heart right now. I choose to listen and respond to and agree with Your convictions and I ask for Your sweet Spirit to shine Your brilliance into my soul and expose all the evil and ugliness that still lurks inside. Cleanse me from all of it and fill my life to overflowing with the perfection of Your unselfishness, compassion, humility and genuine goodness.

Father, deliver me from the subtle habits of insinuation, of planting doubt in other hearts and manipulating opinions to make me look better than others. I can sometimes see that I do this on a regular basis and I desperately plead with You to heal me of this fault. It is so deep-rooted that there is no hope of my deliverance without Your strong intervention. Do whatever it takes to transform me into the likeness of Your Son. Glorify Your reputation in my life.