For His Mastering Love

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“Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”

– Horace

Christmas already feels long since past. With its noise and bluster, I’m never entirely sad to see it go.

drive

The family, the house, the food and drink, the schedules and music can finally all return to normal. School routines will begin again. The boxes will be repacked and the tree will stand bare in the backyard until the Scouts come or until I chop it up for firewood.

I’ll choose a word. Last year, permission was my word to concentrate on, to contain and define my focus. I wish there was a word for the happy-sad of leaving the old behind and moving on. I suppose it’s the idea of “Auld Lang Syne.” It means “old (times) long since.”

“In the days of auld lang syne” is basically like “Once upon a time…”

While Sheri lights candles and unwinds the ribbon from the tree, I write, wanting to help but also wanting to receive her love well. I’ve never been good at it, too concerned with being thought well of, being useful, i.e. loving.

Only that’s not the same thing, is it?

How well do I let myself be loved? I suppose I’m like most men, too independent and proud.

trees

Well we’ve just returned from some good time at my grandma Tillie’s house in Tahoe where my parents live too now. They’ve always been generous to a fault and I’ve been among the greatest recipients, but now they’re helping Grandma and as she ages and her pain increases, her gratitude is wearing thin. I can’t blame her. I curdle under the least amount of strain. But if pain can steal away our gratitude and humility, who are we really?

Why do we think we deserve a pain-free life? Few people really receive anything well, love or pain. But I want to learn.

Charlotte comes in and asks for help bringing the Legos up from downstairs. Because I’m writing about this, I agree willingly. But if I wasn’t?

How can I be more humble and selfless in the New Year? How can I learn to receive better? And what’s a word to capture that?

kiss

After over three years here, the neighbors still don’t know our names. We’re holed up because everywhere the needs seem too great and if we reached out, we’d be smothered. We’re so sure of it. It’s what happens.

But now I’ve seen how unspoken rules can make even the sweetest grandmas difficult to love. And our pain makes us withdraw from life.

Everyone is hurting; everyone feels entitled now and then to complain and act out. To take offense. We get angry and it becomes difficult to receive love. We become difficult to love.

How can I not become blinded by my hurts? To not imagine independence as virtue, but to accept I need help and not refuse it? Taking pride in not needing love is a trap, an empty victory.

My ankle is still healing after my fall Halloween night. It has taken time to accept how slowly I heal. Pain, like pride is universal. Love can also make me cringe. But any relationship requires receiving whatever is given, love or pain. And if we reject love or pain in whatever form it’s offered, we take offense instead and grow bitter.

The choice is ours: which will we take?

sher

If we don’t allow ourselves to be loved, we reject God. But isn’t it also true if we don’t accept pain, we don’t accept Him? Whatever he gives, it’s from a heart of love.

Why do we feel we deserve to have things our way? Where does this entitlement seep in? Our sacred cows, the notions we were taught about life and relationships, these ignorant assumptions that we’re special—whether it’s because we’re advanced, in charge, in pain, oppressed, wealthy, enlightened, talented, religious, unique, cultured, tenured, black, white, in, out—entitlement says “I deserve better.”

Life isn’t about entitlement. Love doesn’t claim titles like possessions it’s owed. It releases any claim of ownership.

Relinquishing our claim to anything but the Maker’s claim on us, this seems like the cure.

I see all the ornaments and decorations going back in the boxes and I realize we will feel dispossessed until we release that we can’t possess any property but what God gives. There should be a word for voluntarily relinquishing what’s not ours. Who will invent the word for the conscious rejection of any entitlement that takes up space in a heart? I want to use this word for my new year: the one that means giving up all lesser claims that compete for my loyalty and deny God room in my heart.

I know power corrupts and money is at the root of all kinds of evil. But maybe as Tozer said, any claim I take is a claim on my life and therefore limits it. Feeling owed becomes a type of ownership and will only diminish, distract and dilute the Master’s ownership.

Maybe the word for 2015 is mastery. I want to learn to be mastered. Can I claim nothing, possess nothing aside from the ownership of my Creator, Redeemer, Deliverer, Almighty God and Best Friend? Crazy to some, maybe But to finally believe love is all, maybe receiving anything less would be the crazy thing.

Then, when others compliment or criticize, I could say, “It’s not me. It’s the Master.”

Who can do what He does? To put away all else that competes for attention and step confidently into the blank days before us? Boldness comes in his love and maybe only by it can we disown all else. The very idea that we could go without every lesser possession but his love, we can only understand that, only give and receive love because he loves us. This guiding light deserves our full hearts, our commemoration the day we finally possess it.

What will you allow God to do in you, despite you, with you and through you this year? Will you allow him to master you? Your experience of life and all it’s joy and pain, it all rests on how well you will humble yourself to receive nothing else.

For there was, once upon a time, a Master who loved…

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,

Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes—

Some have got broken—and carrying them up to the attic.

The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,

And the children got ready for school. There are enough

Leftovers to do, warmed up, for the rest of the week—

Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,

Stayed up so late, attempted—quite unsuccessfully—

To love all of our relatives, and in general,

Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again

As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed

To do more than entertain it as an agreeable

Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,

Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,

The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.

~ W.H. AUDEN, The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden, 1945

For the higher purpose,

Mick

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7 thoughts on “For His Mastering Love”

  1. I barely begin to understand this (would like to hear a discussion), and find it too difficult to do, or even recognize when I might be accomplishing it, vs deluding myself into thinking I’m approaching success–sort of like working at being humble: am I there yet? And yet, I’ve a strong suspicion this “being mastered” must be done. Pushing the “like” icon seems disingenuous. Say on, Mick, say on.

  2. Wow, a lot to think about here, Mick, so much so that I’m doing what I’ve resolved not to do, at least not often anyway. Leave a comment on a blog.

    My resolution for 2015 is “Smile more, eat less.” Smiling makes me happy. Eating less doesn’t, a good compromise.

    Beyond that resolution, I have also “resolved,” to rearrange the parent-care schedule in my life, which after 12 years caring for 2 parents, then 4 parents and now 3 parents — each bound by a separate type of dementia — is wearing me thin, down, brittle. Therefore, I have resolved to claim 3 days in a row every week to write for 5 hours each day. An amazing block of time that lifts me into song each of those mornings. I am also resolved to claim another day a week without seeing, cooking for, cleaning for – doing almost everything for – my father-in-law. No frowns (mine), no yelling (his), no entitlements (his). Yet, here I am claiming my own entitlement.

    So far, at one day in, I carry no guilt. And I am smiling more.

  3. Writing today, started by posting this at the FB group: “This year, of all our years, will this be the one we find out what it means to let God lead? Not for anyone else and not anyone else’s idea of what that means. Only if we really want it. Well do you? So what if it’s not easy? To be more aware, awake, to learn how to embrace life and accept that it isn’t automatic? To master life? Who said it should be easy? Can we find someone who will teach us? Who would? Who can? True masters are hard to find. But there is one already more excited to teach than we are to learn. Imminently available. Waiting for our closer attention.

    “And maybe, just maybe he would have us first realize there’s no distinction between our bodily and our spiritual appetite. What we truly hunger for, what all the world is wanting, is more of him.”

    We watched Babbette’s Feast again last night, one of a handful of movies to watch at the end/beginning of every year (along with It’s a Wonderful Life). Sue, I’m reading the short story by Isak Dinesen now. I think it might inspire you to continue in your excellent resolution…

    Kathleen, that’s it exactly. Whatever he gives, to know it is all for our great good. And to be replaced by his perspective of perfect love, maybe that’s what happens when we take nothing but his love. Not offense, not entitlement, not any lesser possession. To take everything he gives as love. I think that’s being mastered. And maybe the more we do it, the more we’ll be enabled to do it.

  4. simply put: to be a master at being mastered. i like it. the idea. wonder if i have a chance in h—, er no, let’s make it a chance in 1,000,000 years of attaining that ability? i already know the answer. NO! but just maybe He can work with me more better if i were to choose the word become…you know, process, like i am a book He is writing. And His process is??????
    spin your lovable, loves-to-think-and-ferret-out-high-notions-mind on that thar turn table and get back to me.
    i love you
    suzee B

  5. LPF, I love that word. Become. And you are a trickster! I can’t figure out God’s process for mastering you! But if I had to, I’d bet it was just a little like how he has to work with me. With slow, patient moves until I get how nothing I do will work. I can’t think my way, feel my way, drink my way, or even (God help me) fake my way to him. They’re all still MY way, see?

    Yet just when I think my dead ends are endless, He shows me the golden path to the garden I was looking for all along.

    Love the idea that we are like books he’s writing. And one day he’ll be done and others will get to read! Noodle on that for a spell. :)

    Love you more.
    OB

  6. Mick, God has changed the course of my life so many times in the last decade, I sometimes find my head spinning with anxiety instead of just being still and taking one scary step at a time. When I look back to see how far I’ve come, there He is. When I look forward to what I think He wants me to do, there He is. So why am I so afraid? The ground God stands on will never open up to swallow and destroy me. So here I go on another year of new adventures. The key is to keep my head up. Thanks for the beautiful post. So much to ponder.

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