At Odds With Myself by Lori Biwer-Stewart
Below is a reflection I wrote after discovering this linocut by Biwer-Stewart.
Worship is the encountering of human pathos (human suffering) with Divine ethos (the ways of God). Worship is giving glory to God through the offering of human pathos or suffering into the Divine ways to be transformed. We are immersed in what Sixpence None the Richer called a “beautiful mess” both majestic and terrifying. Our worship must give rise to forms that both express and confront human experience and need, but also how God has reached down to be offered in Jesus Christ. Without giving expression through intercession, lament, and protest to the darker side of the human experience our worship can become a blind, self serving flight from the realities of the world. Worship is the joining of human suffering to the ways of God. Isn’t this what God did in Christ? God took on human flesh to experience the fullness of humanity and death on our behalf to reconcile the Church to God’s own self? Authentic worship lifts up all that is human to the transforming power of life in Christ.
Without such a view of worship results in a diminished focus on confession, both individual and corporate, of those things which are explicit and those which we are merely complicit in by being a part of a sinful society (those things done and left undone). It also results in a shallow and individualistic sense of self within the work of thanksgiving rather than seeing the arms of Christ extended on the cross to the whole world.
These thoughts offered me a new and much needed freedom in a season of frustration with contemporary worship that so often seemed to ignore, not only interceding and lament for the state of the world without Christ, but the fact that we are being sanctified. We tend to focus on the idea that we have been saved (Ephesians 2.5), which is true, but we do so in a premature sense, forgetting that we are all still in process of salvation (1 Cor. 15.1-2) daily taking up the cross of Christ (Luke 9.23) dying to ourselves and the sin that is so deeply entrenched within. Both of which will end only (Romans 5.9-10) in Christ’s final victory.
Asher Lev, in My Name is Asher Lev, responds to his mothers question about why he doesn’t paint “pretty things” saying, “I don’t like the world, Mama. It’s not pretty. I won’t draw it pretty.” True worship requires that we bring real life, in all of its beauty and horror, to the healing and consoling, reconciling and illuminating work of God.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
How can the world be at peace
when I am not even at peace within myself?
How can I have peace when I am torn between
Love and Hatred?
Sorrow and Joy?
Faithfulness and Fickleness?
Wants and Needs?
Work and Rest?
Guilt and Pleasure?
Attraction and Lust?
Sinner and Saint?
I have so much and still want more.
How is it that I both love and hate myself at the same time?
Lord we are anxious…
Not to mention…
Alarmed and apprehensive, daunted and discouraged, disheartened and dismayed, distressed, and disturbed, frightened and frozen, horrified and intimidated, nervous and perplexed, rattled, shocked, startled and stunned, suspicious and terrified, timid and trembling, upset and worried…and at times even numb.
Lord, our souls are not at peace…
Why are we so constantly at odds with our own self?
Is this my lot in life?
A continuous conflict?
It is I versus I and I know not the winner some days Lord.
I live not with one foot in each world…
But each world entwined within me.
This discord within me is too deep for me to comprehend…
Sin, my fallen nature, and your grace are the most intimate of mysteries…
part comedy, part drama, part tragedy is marinated in irony and confusion
and played out in the physical tension that is my life.
Who will rescue me?
Who will rescue me from the aimlessness?
Who will rescue me from this pain and loneliness?
Who will rescue me from the perpetual grey that is my life?
Who will rescue me from the world’s negativity, cynicism, and sarcasm?
Who will rescue me from me?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Lord have mercy and hear our cry.