Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Awful Daring of a Moment's Resistance

“He felt, too, that he was utterly weak again, that he was carried along by a peculiar outside force, that it was not he himself who was running, but, on the contrary, that his legs were giving way under him, and refused to obey him.”
— Dostoevsky, The Double

On the suggestion of Mitzie I borrowed Jonathan’s copy of The Normal Christian Life, by Watchman Nee. It’s full of simple truths that I have never learned. He explains how the Christian is faced with two apparently insurmountable difficulties in his search for God: individual sins, and the fact that he possesses a nature which allows those sins. The first problem is remedied by the blood of Jesus—Jesus’ blood flows over them and takes them away. I don’t understand how, exactly, but at this point the only thing that matters is that it does.

But that leaves the problem of our wicked flesh, whereby those sins occur. And this problem God apparently solves by crucifying us with Christ. I remember that verse I memorized in Bible Drill, though I can’t say I ever understood what it meant until now: “For I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

What this appears to mean is that the flesh is dead, and that the Christian life is not a process of trying to please God, for that would be to live in the flesh, but to let Christ live within us. Nee even goes so far as to say we need to declare that from henceforth we will never again try to do anything for God. CHRIST does everything. What a radical thought. I’m sure others will be less impressed than I am (since in retrospect this seems to be the whole of Christianity, and half our songs are built around it), but I find it surpassingly profound. I’m willing to venture that I’ll become the leading proponent in our circle of “Let’s stop trying to please God!” theology. I love this. I could sit and meditate on it for days and days—and have, in fact. From now on, when anyone comes to me with a problem, I will direct them to Jesus. I mean, it’s hard for me to conceive how I could have missed this my entire life. The ENTIRE purpose of Christianity is letting JESUS live through us. We don’t do ANYTHING. We love Him. That is all we do. We love Him. We center our lives around loving Him more. I want God to give me a softer heart; I want to sit before Him every day in prayer and explore the depths of His kindness and brilliance; and that’s ALL He requires—that we rest in Him; that we look upon Him; and in so doing, HE changes us into His likeness. We don’t do a thing. I can’t explain to you enough how enormous this is. Yet, since I live, let Jesus wear the crown. The Bible is suddenly inconceivably immense. I’m realizing I know NOTHING about it. Now it makes perfect sense, how people always tell you we’ll be reading the Scriptures for the rest of our lives and beyond. It’s an infinite book, in part because we’re almost infinitely blind. I love it; absolutely love it.

* * *

So I think I might have figured out how all this started. It began with a question. I’ve noticed that in the last two chapters, there were pointed mysteries involving seeming inconsistencies of character which eventually led me to some deeper truth. For example, at the end of what is now the third chapter, I asked myself how two people such as me and Corey with so little in common could have ever been the friends we were; curiously, God led me to reread my favorite “Father Brown” story, “The Hammer of God,” which involves two men who are brothers, a priest and a drunkard. Both share an obsessive love of beauty—though in the priest’s case, this manifests in an absorption with Gothic architecture, in his brother’s case, with women and liquor. Both are corrupted by their obsession, in some interesting ways.

Now in writing the fourth chapter, I ran across a similar question involving [[Miranda]]. I noticed that I was both fascinated by the similarities between us, and repelled by them. At lunch I chided Booth and Corey for comparing us to one another; then I made a thirteen-page chart listing every instant where she quoted me unknowingly. Why the contradiction?

It involves something which I’ve hitherto avoided discussing in every single draft of my novel (of which there have been about five or six at this point). You see, I sensed that God was using [[Miranda]] for a very specific purpose in my life. But I wasn’t entirely certain what this purpose was. I thought it was probable that He wanted us to be married, because when you’re sixteen, that’s the only the purpose you know. But, here’s the strange thing about it—I didn’t want to marry her. I protested against it. I went even further than that: I rebelled against it. I remember one Wednesday night when Booth and I drove to church together, and on the way we fell into a discussion, as we tended to do, on the purpose of [[Miranda]] in my life. Booth told me all these coincidences had been “providentially arranged,” and that he felt [[Miranda]] was “just like a big present from God” (because that’s the way Booth talked back then). I told him I didn’t like the idea; it seemed creepy and weird. I was fascinated by the similarities, but no one wants to marry their identical twin. “I mean, it’s bad enough that we talk and act alike, but we even have the same face!”

But then we arrived at church and the moment we stepped into the room, Krystal Cervantes was speaking about God’s will for your life, and pleading with us not to resist Him, and imploring, imploring us to surrender in those moments when we heard Him calling us, however hard, however steep, the road might seem. And Booth turned and looked at me and he had that sage, knowing look in his face which he wore so often, always with the most un-self conscious sincerity, and he clenched his fists into a ball and said, “We must join with Him…”

It confirmed my suspicions, which I know I had been feeling in one way or another since the afternoon of Doppelganger Day: God wanted me to marry [[Miranda]], and I didn’t want to marry [[Miranda]].

Yet when I read back through my Journal, in particular my Journal from that afternoon (the thirteenth day of school), I find that I was flightily fascinated with her. You have to understand, it was genuinely creepy. I would say something to Booth, and then three hours later, she would say the exact same thing to me. This happened on probably two dozen occasions. As I mentioned in the chapter, I told Booth I wanted us to start a rock band and name our first album, Life is Beautiful; not more than a few weeks later, [[Miranda]] mentioned in passing that if ever she had a band, she would title her first album Life is Beautiful. She started a “Current Events” binder in which she collected news clippings. She would sit in her desk and read and take notes. I told Booth I thought it was obnoxious being compared to another person every single day—only to have [[Miranda]] make the exact same complaint, word for word, later that afternoon.

And in reading my original Journal entry from Doppelganger Day, I can see I delighted in the fantastical possibilities. Maybe she came from a parallel world! Maybe she was my long-lost twin. Maybe God had given me the chance to see what I would be like if I had been born a girl under different circumstances.

What makes this even more complicated, and scarily affirming, is that all the ways in which we ended up being different, I now realize, are ways in which we were actually the same. At the end of the first trimester, she revealed herself to be shallow, manipulative, vindictive, legalistic, cruel, and self-righteous—someone who used her friends with no great love, and then got rid of them the moment they began to cause her problems—someone, in short, exactly like me.

Yet when (as God had forewarned me would happen) [[Miranda]] turned wicked, my immediate reaction was not to think, “Oh, perhaps these are all problems I have as well.” No, rather, I thought to myself, “Oh, perhaps we are not as similar as I imagined.” Which, as I realize now, was entirely wrong.

And I could see now, for the very first time, what had been [[Miranda]]’s true purpose: to reveal those sins to me, to show me the wickedness of my own heart, to hold the mirror up to the face of the Gorgon, as it were, because I couldn’t see those sins in myself; it required another to show me.

And I asked myself, how did I miss the lesson? If that was God’s intention, then how did I miss it?

And then it all came together…

The last seven years of my life have been a gradually, incrementally-escalating series of judgments from God, each designed to show me the extent of my own legalism and wickedness. With each year that passed, the judgments grew more severe because I was so blind and obtuse, I could never figure out why my life was so dismal, and I had no friends. [[Miranda]] was the beginning of that. God sought to show me in the cleverest and coolest way possible what I looked like to others (because of course I wasn’t the only one who had noticed the similarities; others argued with me over it, when I denied them). It had NOTHING to do with doppelgangers; that was just my mystical construction. Of course [[Miranda]] and I are different people, but it was all in the appearances. He allowed me to see her in such a way that she unfailingly reflected me.

Yet at the same time, it was a judgment. And I sensed that God had a purpose in showing me [[Miranda]], but I knew not what it was. I thought the purpose was marriage, but it was actually judgment (not that the two are always necessarily mutually exclusive).

And this is what I did: I stared at that chart during fourth period on September 2, on Doppelganger Day, and I thought to myself, “God wants me to marry [[Miranda]],” and my heart immediately said, “NO.” It willfully, violently, flagrantly resisted the will of God. It’s entirely possible for a person to resist the will of God while being in some measure mistaken about what that will is. I was resisting His judgment without knowing it. And then, to make it worse, I implicitly rejected it by immediately retreating into a fantasy world, of doppelgangers, parallel universes, and time-travelling twins. This is HUGE. Tyler has always maintained that something happened that day that propelled me into a fantastical realm, a realm of surreal, twisted, fantasy escapes, and ultimately into the demonic. THIS is what happened. I rejected God. I rejected Him by telling Him I didn’t want to marry [[Miranda]], and then I rejected Him by creating a mythical world to inhabit where I wouldn’t have to marry her, because she was my sister from another galaxy/time. (Isn’t that intense?). Is it any wonder, is it merely a coincidence, that no more than an hour later, I was physically attacked by a demonic spirit in the computer lab?

And that act of rebellion made it easier to resist Him the next time; and then the next… so that by the time I finally arrived at the point where I would have realized, “Oh, [[Miranda]] has all these sins, and I probably have all these sins as well,” my heart was too hardened and too blind to see it. And so I ran on, from judgment to judgment, sliding all the while ever deeper into the demonic and the dark fantastical.

So, let this be a lesson to you, whosoever you be who read this blog: Don’t ever resist the Holy Spirit. Even if you don’t like what He appears to be telling you, even if you’re eventually proven wrong about it, never, ever say no to Him. His purposes are good; His ways are sound; and He will never lead you astray.

Trust Him.

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