Simon the Zealot at the Cross

The worst that could have happened
has happened—and more.
You were to save us.
And now what is left but fishing and tax-collecting?

i look around and see no-one to help,
So my own arm will work salvation for me.
i must put this despair somewhere.
i must put this anger somewhere.
i need to put this helplessness somewhere.

If Your arm is too short to save,
Surely mine is shorter,
but i have to do something, something—

But not tonight.
Tonight, just let me die with You.

i am a murderer

“Fin was lost. She pulled the trigger.”

i’m rereading A.S. Peterson’s The Fiddler’s Gun, and it’s hurting me. The first time, i read it aloud with my husband. This time, i am sinking into it alone. But the things that hurt most about this book are not the things i expected.

i know already the losses and lostness in this story. i know who dies, who wishes they did, who should have but didn’t. i know Fin’s loneliness and i know where it comes from. i know her sin. i know the sins against her. i know who’s to blame.

What hurts me about this story is the idea that someone i respect and trust created a person, utterly dependent upon himself, and then he hurt her. He spent ten years hurting her.

This hurts me because i also have created a girl, one who is utterly dependent upon me, and i am hurting her. i’m not done hurting her.

When Fin pulls the trigger, my chest opens up, and one thought pounds in my heart: i am a murderer.

i am a murderer.

i too am a murderer.

i hurt for Fin as she loses herself, but i do not identify with her. i identify with her maker. We are responsible for these lives we’ve made, and we have dealt falsely with them. We are unjust.

Whatever sin is in them, we put there. They act on it—neither of them are innocent. They make their own choices—a mystery i can never hope to explain, one that wonders me as often as it grieves me. They act on their impulses in their own volitional ways. But we are responsible.

It is glory for us to create, to make beings in our image as our Creator has made us. But our image is marred by sin that we cannot wash away. We, like they, need a redeemer.

i know that Fin’s maker means to redeem her. i know my own heart toward my girl; i long to redeem her. Redemption requires death. i know this. We never hurt these people because we don’t love them. We hurt them because there’s no way to make them beautiful, glorious, righteous, without bringing them to the end of themselves. i know Fin’s maker wept over her. i have wept over Rixi as well. Am i justified by my tears? When we are finished, will she understand?

For Rixi’s sake as well as my own, i need for Fin to be redeemed. i know where the story will take her and how her hurts and losses and sins will be addressed. But it is excruciating to get her there.

Rixi, no power in Nirth or in all of creation—nothing but your own will—will prevent me from turning all your pain to beautiful. Please let me redeem you.

Thank G-d i am but a subcreator.

Tricksy hearts, Christ’s righteousness, and Holy Spirit indwelling

i was recently, and very unexpectedly, given the opportunity to serve someone i have long respected and through whom i have been greatly blessed. i am honoured and grateful to be able to come alongside him and minister to someone who has ministered to me. Today i asked him for prayer requests and he gave me a short list, and i was grateful for that, too. Then, because my mother-heart leapt up in a fairly predictable fashion, i indulged in a little exhortation.

The upshot is that i am now thinking about the ceaselessness of our need for Christ, even well after we have initially accepted salvation, even years into our sanctification. We never stop needing Him. We are insufficient to carry out the ministry He gives us, but He welcomes us into co-laboring with Him—it is a mercy and a grace that He gives us ministries we can’t handle. He wants to do ministry with us, like a father with His child. He is most glorified (and most proud of us) when we acknowledge and rejoice in our dependence on Him.

My initial thoughts about this were wrapped up in Christ’s sufficiency in us. We’re not sufficient in ourselves, but as we lean on Christ He works in our hearts a winsome gentleness and trustworthiness. i see this modeled in this particular person. i respect him not because i think he is perfect—i know he is not. He is appropriately, but unflinchingly, honest about that, and it is one of the many gifts i have been given through him. His own understanding of his weakness drives him to dependence on Christ. So the idea that someone who rests in Christ is, through Christ, trustworthy makes very solid sense to me. Reliance on Christ makes for a very different kind of leader than the type who will use and eat the sheep. Trustworthiness in a leader is not about brilliance and capability and ego. It’s about grace. A dependent leader is a gracious, humble, servant-hearted leader. And i said something like that, although very much abbreviated.

After i sent that email i continued off and on to think about this. i am thinking of how this works in my own life. i am privy to the tangled mess that is my heart. Those whom i am given to love don’t know the depth of that mess. They can trust me partly because they see Christ in me, and partly because they are ignorant of the areas i’ve kept from Him or the times i rush in without Him. The more i acknowledge my weakness and need and lean on Christ’s strength, the more He’s free to unravel my tangles, but my need for Him remains ceaseless. Therefore, i cannot necessarily trust my own heart, even if those around me do. My filters and devices are a little too good. i can fake dependence. And, sadly, i cannot always tell that i am doing so. i must rely on Christ. This minister whom i love and respect is right to ask for prayer for his own heart. It’s true that we trust him and he’s demonstrated trustworthiness, yet he’s right to not settle back but to continually acknowledge his continual need. Meanwhile, i must remember to pray for him and for myself, and i must remember that he, like i, can only be trusted so far. We’re both in process. There’s only one shepherd who is completely trustworthy; that is Christ.

Summary: Don’t trust your own heart. Trust Jesus’ heart. Lean on Him and listen to the Holy Spirit. Surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth when you’re faking that dependence, and when they do so, listen. You are now the righteousness of Christ, even as He became sin for you. It may be a process to learn to live it, but it’s already true. The one who lives in you has conquered death; He can change your heart. He began that work in you, and He’ll see it through. Do not dwell on your depravity, neither rely on your own righteousness, but rather rest in Him.

Give me another day or two (month or two, year or two, decade or two) and i will probably understand all this a little bit better, if i am paying attention and listening well.

Note: i am writing this to those who have already placed their trust in Jesus as G-d and Messiah. If you have not yet done so, i would encourage you to find a local pastor and have a face-to-face conversation about how your heavenly Father loves you and what Jesus’ death and resurrection can mean for you. He can (and is glad to) work His righteousness in you as well, if you will surrender and rest in Him.

First death

This week i had my first opportunity to truly practice resurrection.

My first attempt at writing this post sounded much too heroically tragic. i came face to face with the wretchedness of my own pride on Tuesday, and it unraveled me. i knew i needed to write about it—to be honest. But my first instinct when i began typing was to glorify myself even in failure.

i am smarter than anyone i know. Call it perfectionism; say i am a high achiever and have high standards for myself, but the truth is that i am prideful. Tuesday my mental image of my perfect self was fractured by a grade i did not expect. It felt unfair. It felt surreal. Surely, it was a mistake. It was not. i failed to earn a grade worthy of myself, and in so doing i was forced to face what was in my heart that i should consider certain grades worthy of me, rather than humbling myself to make my work worthy of such grades.

When i began seminary—even as i was applying—i held clutched in my hands the hope of resurrection. i reminded myself that resurrection requires death. The first time i missed a single point on a quiz i told myself this. It is okay to die. Dying is a prerequisite for the remaking you desire. But even while saying this, i was working against myself. i had flung myself down the steep steps of seminary (see how noble that sounds?), but rather than allowing G-d’s grace to tandem jump with me, or to catch me at the bottom, or even to let me crash that i may be resurrected, i was blowing frantically at the ground as if i could keep myself aloft through my own effort.

To be blindsided by this grade was a grace. It sent me to my face, wracked with shame, and it forced me to acknowledge my pride. i wanted to be resurrected? to be remade? My redeemer (baruch atah, Adonai!) is so eager to redeem me that He will not wait even a whole semester before beginning the process.

As i lay on my face in the chapel, weeping into the carpet, i knew i had a choice. i could feel sorry for myself, even paint myself as a victim of unfairness. Or i could own my sin, celebrate this first death, and look forward to resurrection.

On my hands i wrote truth, truth that after repeated washings has not yet faded.

It hurts to die but each time i’m raised again and i’m something new, something i don’t recognize, something i never expected.”

Practice resurrection.”

Go now with me and define my becoming.”

“Love.”

Today i was listening to Sixpence None the Richer—the album which came out as i was beginning my undergraduate, the most beautiful album i’ve ever heard, an album soaked through with despair and grief and pain and, yes, hope of healing—and was met again by grace.

The Harvester is near. His blade is on your skin
To plant a new beginning: Well then, let the cut begin.”

Resurrection requires death. But death, if i trust His good intentions more than my own sufficiency, will always result in resurrection.

Let the cut begin.

Feathers and Talons

About a week and a half ago, i submitted an essay to the Rabbit Room. i was grateful to have had the opportunity to write that essay, and wanted to share it with the author of the books that inspired it. If he chose to share it with his community, i would be thrilled, but i had no expectations. Meanwhile, i knew that i was sending the essay to them at the very last minute if i wanted it to be read, much less published, before Kickstarter backers began reading the fourth book. i had gotten the public release date mixed up with the Kickstarter release, and so instead of sending them that essay a month or more before readers had a chance to begin finishing the series, i sent it to them in the middle of pallets and pallets of books arriving at their office. This week Andrew is signing multiple thousands of books, which are being sent to over two thousand readers. There’s no reason to expect them even to check their email during all this, although of course i must assume that they have. Whenever Andrew sees it, i hope he is blessed by my interactions with his story—whether the essay is deemed appropriate for the Rabbit Room or not. And whatever happens, i am grateful.

Today AP posted that their friendly neighborhood mailman was off with the second truckload of Kickstarter shipments, so regardless of the status of that submission, it’s time to release my essay into the wild.

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Essaying, part 2

::SPOILER WARNING:: If you’ve not read the first three Wingfeather Saga books, please ignore this post. Instead, go buy the books!

Well, i promised you all a bit more about that essay.

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Writer’s retreat

Next week, i’ll keep a regular 9-5 writing schedule, holed up in a cafe 1200 miles from here. About two years ago, we made this same trek—Jonathan for work, and me along for the ride—and i spent the entire week at the same table in a particular coffee shop, writing and writing and writing. At the time, i felt like every word was taking me another step away from Rixi’s heart, and when we got home i called the entire week a waste—a miserable, expensive waste; i could have sat in our hotel room and read book after book or even watched TV instead of paying rent at a coffee shop. After some emotional and temporal distance, and a few hard editorial choices, i have come to love that week’s work. Rixi and i have been through a lot together, and what at first felt like betrayal has turned into a much-needed lull between storms. She needed that time, and i needed it, but we were both so caught up in heartbreak that we couldn’t see it then.

Now Jonathan’s job is sending us forth again, but this time, i am not just along for the ride. i am looking forward to spending another week in that blessed cafe which, even in the midst of the angst, felt like a sanctuary. Since that time two years ago, Rixi and i have taken many steps on this journey—some tiny, some lurching, some leaping, some backward, some sideways, and not a few that traced circles—and now we will sit in that cafe again and write her life, and do so together.

My list of writing tasks for this trip:

  • Comprehensive structuring of the “little e” plotline
  • At least two narrative snippets from Liedend’s POV
  • Re-writes on two other narrative snippets
  • Letters from home

Time permitting, i also have a few non-Rixi writing projects in mind:

  • Essays: One on Peet the Sock Man; one on a pre-Christian treatment of sin and redemption; two on creativity
  • Library blog posts: National Library Week, the new Christ Center Reads program, our next quarterly theme (faith and arts)

This trip can’t come soon enough! i can already feel the sunlight coming through the cafe’s huge windows, dust motes dancing through the wide open space like laughter in motion.

Yes.