Door with handle

Invited into Intimacy

Whenever I read Hebrews 10, I think of Seinfeld. Not Jerry, but Kramer – the way he would swing the door open and stride into the room without ceremony, without even a knock (no idea what I’m on about? See here). In (kind of) the same way, “…we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19).

Even if our conscience is guilty, we don’t need to hide our mistakes (I hope Dad doesn’t find out!), instead, we can “go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him” (Heb 10:22). We can run into the Father’s presence, even when we’re feeling like that’s the last place we belong. I love how The Passion Translation expresses Romans 8:15-16,

And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!” For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!”

We don’t just enter God’s presence in order to find mercy in a transactional sense. It’s not like we hand over the paperwork and get our account book back with our debt cleared; nor do we hand over our afterlife passport to get our heavenly visa like we’ve entered some kind of spiritual immigration office. What we are able to enter into so boldly is not just an audience with the king; we are invited into intimacy with our God. We are invited into the presence of God in order that we may present to him, and that we may experience his present-ness to us. Just as two people can sit together at a table in a cafe, both sipping their coffees but absorbed in separate phones, we can be in a space where God is, but not be present to him. On the other hand, however, because God is everywhere, the opportunity is always open to us to enter into his presence.

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close-up of Michelangelo's statue of Moses

Unqualified?

When I was in my final year of high school (way back when we called it “form 7”), we were all encouraged to complete a career aptitude test. It was a computerised quiz that asked us a bunch of questions and then spat out some suggestions about what kind of careers might be a good fit for us pursue. It was good for a laugh.

20 years later, I thought I’d try it out again. Turns out I should reconsider retraining as a Forestry Scientist, Economist, Zoologist, Landscaper, or Obstetrician — no, no, nope, maybe, no way.

There is some merit in them I’m sure. It’s worth figuring out if you have an aptitude for a vocation before you pursue it… kind of.

If you think about the kind of person who was taking on the role of public speaker and leader of a nation, there are a few personal aptitudes that it would be helpful; not least the ability to speak fairly well. After all, it’s a public speaking role.

But then there’s Moses.

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The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai

Deep calls to deep

If there was ever a good place to have a meltdown, it has to be in the shower. It’s usually private, you’re alone with your thoughts, and because the water is already flowing the tears come easier somehow. At the least, the fact you’re having a good cry is a good reason to stay there a little longer, and, let’s be honest, any reason will do.

It’s in those moments that Psalm 42:7 often comes to my mind

Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

However great your water pressure is, you’re never literally experiencing the desperate flooding the psalmist describes, but sometimes, in your heart, you are.

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sign on office door mum is working

Embracing limitation

I admit it, I’ve been jealous of people who have been isolating at home without kids during this pandemic. And all that talk about how we can binge-watch Netflix while learning Spanish and crochet and making sourdough after we’ve cleaned out every single cupboard… it grates. Yes, I have been watching more TV than usual and, yes, I have made sourdough (poorly), but having four kids at home means it’s a juggle to do all the things. All the things are not getting done.

Those four little people have put a serious damper on my productivity, and I struggle with the limitations of that… I struggle with limitations all together, but not in a good way.

It can seem like a noble pursuit to be always pushing against your limits. I’m still working my way out of an unhealthy mindset of ministry where a good girl is one who’s run off her feet, forever saying “yes,” and prioritising everyone else’s needs not out of love but out of obligation.

But it’s sin that has us forever pushing at the boundaries — dissatisfied with Eden and grasping for more, instead of being content that we already have everything we need. Not satisfied with being made in God’s image (Gen 1:26-7), the first Adam wanted to become divine (Gen 3:5). The second Adam (that’s Jesus) instead lay down his divine nature (Phil 2:6) to embrace the limitation of the human nature.

To be limited is a very human thing.

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Working it out in you(r body).

For the longest time I’ve been trying to like exercise. I remember a moment, almost 20 years ago, when I was out for a jog (at that pace, I don’t think it merited the term “run”), and I was struck with a joyous realisation that I was finally being someone who I wanted to be. But I was getting married later that summer, so the wedding-dress motivation was strong.

Fast-forward through a couple of half-marathons and four babies and I am still working at identifying as a person who runs. I don’t do it for the wedding dress, or any dress, any more. I do it for the sanity.

I’m learning more and more that I have to work out my feelings in my body, that I need to deal with stress in my body, and more generally that I just need to be a person in my body – and not a person with a body.

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Getting what you want won’t get you what you want

Last night in a moment of self-awareness I decided to scroll through my Instagram. Now normally I turn to Instagram to dull any flashes of self-awareness–I find it to be a pleasant and effective distraction from any nudges towards personal growth. But in this case, instead of flicking through my feed, I looked through my own posts, the beautiful highlights of my life, to remind myself how much I love it.

I did it because I’d realised that I’d gotten stuck briefly into a mindset that just focussed on the things I didn’t like about the stage of life I’m in – I was viewing everything through a narrative of constraint: the things I can’t do because of the little children I have, the freedom I don’t have to determine my own schedule etc etc. If you’ve been there, I bet it’s familiar.

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Adam meeting Eve C12 art

“Flesh of my flesh!”: Seeing yourself in the other

Often my academic theological work can seem (note the emphasis) kind of, well, useless. When you’re spending your days speculating about the future resurrection, you’re quite open to the accusation of being “so heavenly minded that you’re of no earthly use”. And I’m the first to admit that it’s a luxury to live in a society where this kind of work can be deemed “work”. But often the insights are profound and meaningful for everyday human life. So I’m pushing pause on my work this morning, to share this thought prompted by Bernd Wannenwetsch’s writing.*

In Genesis 2, when Adam first meets Eve, he joyously cries

“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

Genesis 2:23

While he doesn’t look so thrilled about it here, no one seemed to be very happy about anything in Byzantine art. They all had a serious case of resting bitchy face, God included.

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