Bipolar

When it comes to my relationship with God, I’m bipolar. Well, I’m bipolar in real life too but you can get counseling and meds for it in real life. Sometimes I get on the manic cycle with God and I’m all fired up and stuff inspires me and speaks to me and I worship with abandon. And then sometimes it’s hard to even pray, to let him know what’s on my heart, and I almost shut him out completely. I haven’t yet figured out if there is a remedy for that but just like bipolar, it cycles, from one extreme to the other.

I love God even in the “depressive” cycle but I’m so burnt out from focusing on myself, offenses, and my problems that I just can’t see through that haze. The depressive cycle for me are the times when it’s hard to go to church, the times when my own sin and my own struggles get the better of me. I know that not focusing on myself isn’t necessarily the answer because sometimes I need to focus on myself, to do the right thing and to take responsibility for it when I don’t. Also the greatest commandment is to love God, and then to love others as I love myself, and well, maybe that’s why sometimes I treat others so badly, because I love them only as much as I love myself which isn’t always a lot.

Then the mania comes back and I’m on fire and I’m passionate and I have endless energy, determined to enhance my relationship with God and change the world. I look forward to Sunday all week so that I can go to church and worship with other believers, and it’s an amazing experience. I find it easier to not be offended and easier not to judge people as much in the high energy times, and temptation is a little easier to resist.

What I’ve come to realize though is that for me, both of these cycles are necessary in my growth in my relationship with God. Both of the cycles enhance the relationship, even though it doesn’t always seem like it. I tend to emerge from the depressive cycles having gained so much insight that I’d never have gained in the manic cycles, in fact, it’s usually what throws me back into the manic cycle. The laughter and the tears, both are important, and I need to embrace both and be thankful for both, working with the cycles instead of against them, just like I do with my actual bipolar.

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Lectionary Reflections for July 20, 2014

Readings: Genesis 28:10-19a, Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24, Romans 8:12-25, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.

I used to wonder why Jesus spoke in parables so much until I realized that it was partly because stories are very powerful. Stories connect us together and speak to our hearts even when other things cannot. I know that I can often learn as much from a good novel as I can a college textbook, and I understand both kinds of texts in different ways, but the stories are always more personal than the textbook, but both are good. I’ve spent the entire weekend so far working on my book, and I’ve been struggling for a long time knowing that what I had to say was good, but something was lacking. After spending many hours contemplating, I got an idea and I sat down to write, inspired. The result is a book with more stories in it than I originally planned, and the stories are more powerful than anything else that I had to say, the stories are what those reading the drafts are connecting to.

The story Jesus told this time reminds us that only Jesus knows the hearts of others and that we should not be so quick to judge. A Christian and a non-Christian can look identical on the outside, it is only God that knows what is inside. The point of the story is that we don’t really know who is of the kingdom and who isn’t since the enemy works in God’s fields. It’s not up to us to worry about it which kind of takes away the whole ‘love the sinner hate the sin’ mentality, because we need to ditch our own judgments, treat one another with love regardless, and leave the judgment up to God. This is far easier said than done, it’s easy to judge, not as easy to love. But the truth is that we don’t know who is of God and who isn’t some times, and I know that often when I try to judge someone’s spirituality I am dead wrong.

Jesus said it was too risky to go into the field and pull the weeds, because if they did that then the good crop would be damaged also. Sometimes when we cast judgments on others, it is very damaging not only to the person judged but to the body of Christ, and that’s what Jesus wanted to avoid in this story. It’s better to treat people the same and let God focus on who is and who is not of him. Jesus says that in the end it will blatantly obvious who is righteous and who is not, and those who are righteous will gain their reward. Our job is to worry about loving, it is God’s job to worry about judging. 

Pharaoh’s Dream

My pastor has been preaching through the story of Joseph recently, and everything about Joseph’s life has really resonated with me after the stuff I have been through lately. At first I thought maybe it was presumptuous and arrogant to see myself in Joseph’s story, but my friend Julie says that it’s a good thing to see our circumstances through the Bible. I have to say that for me, the fact that someone decided to record Joseph’s story and that it was put into the Bible has been very comforting for me. While I’m sorry Joseph ever went through the stuff that he did, his story comforts me, it helps me to know that I am not alone in what I have been through, even when it seems like others have never been through what I have.

It’s not like I want anyone to have to go through what I’ve been through, because it’s been hell and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy (well, ok, maybe in a weak moment but even then, not really), but sometimes there have been times where I wish I had felt understood. Through the story of Joesph I have seen another person beat impossible odds through the grace and the power of God, and because it’s something that happened in history, I can see the whole story, the bigger picture, and what God chose to do, which gives me hope that there is a bigger picture in my story and that I just can’t see it yet because I’m living the story. I’m hoping that maybe one day someone can read my story and be blessed by it.

Sometimes my pastor will be preaching, and he’ll be preaching about a certain thing but I’ll get something else completely out of the sermon, and that happened a few weeks ago when he talked about Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream. His focus was on the story as it relates to Joseph, but what God had for me that day was in the dream, the interpretation thereof, and Joseph’s advice regarding the dream. The dream is recorded in Genesis chapter 41.

Pharaoh In my dream, I was standing on the bank of the Nile River, and seven healthy, fat cows came up out of the Nile River and grazed in the grassy reeds at the river’s edge. Then seven other cows came up after them. They were miserable, very ugly and thin. Never had I seen such horrible looking cows in all the land of Egypt. Anyway, the thin, ugly cows ate the first seven fat cows. But after they had eaten them, no one would have known they had done so because they were still as ugly as before. Then I woke up. I fell asleep and dreamed a second time. I saw in this dream seven ears of grain, all plump and fine, growing on one stalk. And then seven ears that were withered, shriveled up, and burnt by the east wind sprouted after them. The thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. When I told the magicians about these dreams, there was no one who could explain them to me.

Joseph (to Pharaoh): Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same. God is reveling to Pharaoh what He is going to do. The seven good cows are seven years and the seven good ears are the same seven years–years of plenty. Both dreams tell one story. The seven thin and ugly cows that come up after them are also seven years, as are the seven thin ears burnt by the east wind. These are seven years of famine. As I told Pharaoh, God is showing Pharaoh what He means to do and what will come. There will be seven years of great abundance throughout all the land of Egypt. But after that, there will be seven years of famine. Whatever abundance was once enjoyed will be totally forgotten, because the famine will consume the land. The famine will be so severe that no one will know what it is like to have enough of anything. The doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means this future is fixed by God, and He will make it happen very soon. My advice is that Pharaoh should select someone who is wise and discerning and put him in charge of the land of Egypt during this time Pharaoh should appoint officers over the land and direct them to take one-fifth of all that the land of Egypt produces during the seven abundant years, gather it together, store it up, and guard it under Pharaoh’s authority. That way each city will have a supply of good. The food would then be held in reserve for the people during the seven years of famine that are sure to come to Egypt. In this way, the people of Egypt will not starve to death during the famine. Genesis 41:17-36, the Voice.

When the huge defining event of the last year of my life happened and the course of my life changed drastically, I was left in grief, not sure how to process what I was going through, not sure who I could trust, or what I could say. In fact for a while the grief was so terrible that I wasn’t really able to process much of anything, and I was helpless to change the situation and it was spiritually and emotionally dark and I couldn’t see my way through. I couldn’t bring myself to pray because I didn’t have words, I didn’t read my Bible because I was unable to truly see the precious words even though I could read them. I was unable to let anything get through to me and comfort me.

I realized that part of the reason for this was because my sources were depleted and I didn’t have anything stored up. The story of Pharaoh’s dream got me thinking about how, as life begins to possibly even out some, the next time I am in a season of plenty where I’m not as needy, those are the times that I need to get the closest to God and just enjoy him and get to know him, so that when the next catastrophe comes and my life is again thrown into chaos and I can’t see and my life is in shambles around me, I’ll have stuff stored up inside of me that I can draw from to get me through the time of famine, the time of chaos.