Monday, 20 October 2014

Against Sophistication

"Don't show your ignorance!" and "Don't be silly!" were phrases I heard on a regular basis when I was a child. My family, while not showing it openly, have inherited pride, as well as other things down the line. All I ever wanted was to be good and to love God with all my heart, but an early age, I must have decided that in order to be acceptable and to please those I looked up to, I would NOT show my ignorance, but try to impress people. I had ample experience of failure in mathematics, resulting criticism and low self-esteem, and somewhere along the road I must have taken these words to heart. As a student, before I knew the Lord, I had shelves full of sophisticated books to demonstrate to anyone who perused them, what a 'deep' person I was. I spent my student allowance on books. I even had a lavishly illustrated copy of the Karma Sutra, allowing myself this because I was studying Hinduism. (I tore it up later.)

A year after I met the Lord, I wrote a poem, to illustrate what I was like before I met Him:

Not long ago,
When, whispering winter 
Would autumn fester
Through forest leaves.
A dark malaise would slowly
Grip me in its grasp.
I welcomed the cold
And revelled in greys
Thinking myself
Mystic, sophisticated, aloof
Suspended between extremes of mood
I adhered to relativity, redaction criticism
Reincarnation. My soul merged
With winter wind
Loaded with snow.
I made believe I was ...  nothing.
Warm summers I loathed -
Light startled starkness
And the warmth endeavoured 
To melt me
But could not
For my shell was far too thick and damp 
For merest nature to negate.
The Inviolate Invisible, however,
Invisible, yet obvious (so that men are without excuse)
To the world
He, quintessential Kingship
Wooed the cold and won the Bride
Whose icy shroud 
Vanished at His breath
And turned warm in His embrace.
Winter holds nothing for me now
Summers glow in incandescent splendour.
(I wipe my warm and sweaty brow
And turn on the ice-cream blender.) ;)

  When I met the Lord, I was overcome with the knowledge that I was loved in spite of what I was like. It was wonderful to be a child again, simple, uncomplicated, alive, trusting, walking hand in hand with my heavenly Father.

BUT there were voices of common sense and reason. A university tutor, ridiculing my faith; bewildered parents, unable to understand their 'philosophical' daughter and thinking I had joined a cult; my new Christian friends and Christians I have known since, recommending books, sermons, teaching, all kinds of 'good', well-meaning advice, which fell into my wounded, proud soul like the seeds of a poisonous plant into well-prepared soil. I read Christian books as if there were no tomorrow. I bought them by the box-load.

I know the Lord has called me to write. But I used to think I would one day write a BEST-SELLER and the resulting earnings would go to support what I hoped would be my husband's world-wide ministry. I justified it by saying that we wouldn't have to rely on people's gifts. We wouldn't be a burden to anyone. This was my human reasoning. Secretly, I thought how impressed people would be. I'd show them all. WOW.
Of course, I tried not to let this show and adopted a casual, nonchalant attitude to it. But when I was invited to write a novel for teenagers based on a Biblical character which would be published by a UK publisher, I was thrilled. I sincerely wanted to serve the Lord in this and thought that this was His will. I went down on my knees and committed it to Him. Since then, I have learned, by experience, that He's not so much interested in letting me be a successful writer, as He is in conforming me to His image, which He does by letting me fail.
My first experience of writing a book was what I personally considered to be boring. I was asked to write a dictionary of English words for German elementary school pupils. My second experience of having a book published which I had written (under a pseudonym) was disappointing. The editorial work was second-rate at best. 3000 copies had to be destroyed after I found out, on reading one of my complimentary copies, that the printer had used the wrong plates. The original manuscript had been printed, rather than the version that the editor had wanted printed. When it was eventually finalised, I discovered that parts of the book which I considered important were left out. I've hardly seen anything from the sales of the book. The publisher contacted me a couple of years later and offered to sell me over 800 copies at a lower price because they didn't have room in their warehouse and they had decided to put the English version out of print.

It was published in Germany last autumn and a few months ago, I decided to visit my local Christian bookshop, just 'to see if the book was on the shelves there, and see how many had sold.' A copy of the book was there, and I casually mentioned that I had written it and asked the bookshop owner, who I know a bit, how it was selling.
He didn't seem to hear that I had written it, or at least, this all-important fact seemed to leave him completely cold. He replied, 'Oh not much, really, at all. People don't seem interested in it. But HERE'S a GREAT book! It's written by a woman who's part of a local church close to us here, (he mentioned a name I half recognised) and is a fantasy novel like those of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis, originally self-published, and it's caught the eye of a professional publisher and has been selling like hot cakes ever since. But she's looking for an English translator. Perhaps you could translate it for her?" I politely declined, suggested someone else and beat a hasty retreat, burning with humiliation.

Part of me has tried for years to impress people with knowledge about God, about spirituality, about, as Oswald Chambers calls it, 'my own personal whiteness', my sophistication.  'As long as our eyes are upon our own personal whiteness we shall never get near the reality of Redemption. Workers break down because their desire is for their own whiteness, and not for God.' O.C. Jan 31st 'My Utmost for His Highest'.  The root was lack of self-esteem and pride. 

At base was a lack of knowing who I am in Christ; knowing HIM, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I didn't want to be a fool for Christ, which became glaringly obvious to me one day, when after a conversation about evolution with my father in which I defended the 6-day creation, he told me he thought I was a fool. 
I said, 'Dad, you've been reading the wrong books.' 
In hindsight, I realise that the right books weren't the antidote to my father's problem, but the knowledge of Jesus is. I was just too embarrassed to say this.

I didn't want to be weak, considered stupid by others, and so I was a coward, and relied on human arguments, sophisticated reasoning, intelligence, activities born not out of the command of God, but out of my own ideas. '...the Greeks look for wisdom...' (I Cor. 1:22) and in so doing I grieved the Holy Spirit, because I was not prepared to take my Self to the Cross.

What does it matter what others think of me? What matters is what they think of Jesus. For much of my life as a follower of Jesus I have tried to convince others about Him by presenting my SELF, in  instead of dying to self. At best, I was watching myself presenting Him. By dying to self, I might have revealed the presence and power of Jesus. 

So, Lord, put me to death. May I be weak. May I be foolish, may I be ridiculed and shown to be ignorant. Let me be insulted, let me be defamed, lose my reputation, may others tell me I'm wrong, misguided; just let me be Your simple girl. As long as I am in You, obeying Your voice alone, what does it matter?

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