I have a very difficult time shutting off my brain. I analyze. I ponder. I percolate. I ruminate. I wonder as I wander. It just never stops. And I’m an introvert so without some space and time to organize thoughts and feelings- catalogue, tuck them away, express them in prayer, writing or on a walk with a friend-I begin to feel like I’m tending an overloaded ox cart. Feelings slosh over the sides, messily splashing passers-by and thoughts pile precariously high so that even just the flick of a cat’s tail across my wheels is liable to upset the whole thing.
That’s the state in which I’ve been living this week. There are some big issues filling our ox cart, but it’s the small things that make me feel as if I might lose it. I sat in the pew on Sunday with three restless children and their limbs and crayons and papers strewn slipshod on our laps and the floor, our chaos filling up almost every inch of the box of space we inhabited. My husband nudged me to slide down closer to the young, still-unruffled couple that was sitting nearest us so that another family might sandwich us from the other side of the pew in case they entered late. I was dumbfounded that he actually saw room to be made. That few inches of space felt to me like the difference between survival and death by asphyxiation. I pointedly glanced at him then at all the other empty spaces where someone might choose to sit. I resisted the urge to get up and walk to one of them myself. And on an empty back-page from the bulletin, I most certainly scrawled my husband nearly a full page of notes detailing my objections. And then I loathed myself for all of it.
But the life I have chosen involves a nearly constant stream of invasions into my mental, emotional and physical space. I’m ridiculously jealous of those freshly-planted patches of grass that are roped off from pedestrian use, signs placed protectively around the outer limits politely but firmly warning passersby not to tread there. “Please do not dig, pick, mow or trample” I saw one read. My jealousy is not so much directed at the fact that they have boundaries, but at how park users actually seem to respect them and what they protect.
So basically I’ve been a walking/talking storm cloud this week, dark and tempestuous; at best an inconvenience and at worst frightful to everyone else around me. And trust me, I like myself no better than they do when I’m this way.
So as I was reading in Mark about Jesus recruiting the apostles, I almost literally choked with the surge of joy that rose from my soul when I read in parenthesis some words I’d never noticed before:
And He appointed the twelve…and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder “)
I know that all of the disciples had their faults. But what this little parenthesized statement in Mark revealed to me was how fond Jesus was of these men, not just despite who they were but because of who they were! We don’t give nicknames to our friends based on traits that we can’t stand. We give pet names out of affection. It’s not that Jesus took the stormy temperaments of James and John lightly. When appropriate, he chastised them for letting them get the best of them. But Jesus clearly loved them for who they were. In fact John experienced and accepted the love of Jesus for him with such confidence that in his writing John repeatedly- I mean almost annoyingly so- refers to himself as “the one whom Jesus loved.”
Most of the time, I feel like this intensity of mine is the thing that gets in the way of me being one of those “good” Christians. Some part of me is convinced that if I could just control my feelings better or have a more child-like faith then God would be nearer to me. If I could sit still, quietly and calmly like a good girl then maybe, like some majestic stag in the woods, I’d more often see Him gracing me with His presence. But then again, there are those Sons of Thunder proving my assumptions wrong. It was those guys, of all the disciples, that Jesus chose to bring up to the mountain to reveal Himself in transfiguration. It was their eyes that beheld the radiance and beauty of Jesus the Son of God, human nature meeting God, as only a handful of people have ever seen Him on this side of eternity. Then later, Jesus touchingly depicts deep feelings of affection and trust for John when He chooses him to care for His mother, Mary, as He’s dying on the cross. Soon after, John gets to be one of the first witnesses to the empty tomb. Later God chooses him to receive a mysterious vision of future glory which he captures in Revelations.
I do not write this post because I take too lightly my weaknesses, but because I do not want to take too lightly the love of Christ for me. He is not some skittish beast I can scare away with my noise. He is not remotely small and even my largest emotions could never overwhelm Him. And when will I ever learn that His love for me does not depend on my behavior? My prayer this week, for myself and all that may happen to read this is that we be like John: Astoundingly certain, even annoyingly so, that we each are the one whom Jesus loves.