1 : making an attempt
2 : severely straining the powers of endurance
Last Sunday, our rector started a series on the book of James. As a part of his introduction, he talked about what a challenging book of the Bible James is. He referenced Martin Luther's desire to have it excluded from canon, so challenging (and contradictory?) did he find it. Yet my priest believes James is largely about living as though the kingdom of God is present here and now. I'm interested to hear more about this and found the timing of it interesting, since I had only the day before thrown into the recycling pile my notes from an inductive study of James several years prior. I dug contents of the former James binder out of the recycling box and today I got around to reading some of my thoughts and learnings from my previous encounter with this book.
I flipped through the pages today while soaking in the bathtub and by the time I'd read a few weeks' worth of thoughts, I was struck by one thing: how hard I was trying. I read my words and while some of them were and are true, they are also the words of someone who is making an attempt to do more, be better, force change. They are the words of someone whose faith was head based, not heart centered.
It made me sad for that Shannon to read how harsh I was with myself and how desperately I wanted to conform to someone else's image of a Godly woman. Many of the things I said about myself don't even sound true to me now. Where they then? Maybe. Maybe I have changed and grown. But I also suspect that part of why they don't ring true now is because I have typically defined myself relative to those around me - that's one danger of being so aware of what others project with their feelings. And the environment I was in was one where conformity was encouraged, sin should be seen and rooted out and there was one right answer. I always struggled with the "one right answer" portion and I now believe that sin is not so much something for me to identify and remove as something that I have to wait for God to reveal to me. My deepest sins are so much a part of the way I think that I often don't see them as sin - and they wouldn't even be sin for someone else.
As I lay there in the bathtub this afternoon, I gained less insight into the book of James than into my own heart. Reading those reflections and principles made me see that I am a different person now than I was five years ago. You may recall that my word for this year is radiant. I've seldom written about it, so difficult have I found this word to absorb. For most of this year, I've imagined radiant as a command - something that God wants me to become. But today I felt a whisper that radiant is not a command, but a truth that I have been blind to. God thinks I am already radiant. All that is left is for me to see it and accept it. Which is, of course, easier said than done. No amount of trying will get me there. Seeing myself for who I am is not a matter of working my way to it. It's far more like letting go of all that I am trying to do and be and seeing what's left when I am left with essence.
You may have noticed at the start of this blog that I included two very different definitions for the word trying. That Shannon of the James Inductive Study was trying to be someone new. The Shannon of today is walking through some trying times. It's not easy to pack a home up, even under ideal circumstances. Doing so while homeschooling three and with a stress fracture is certainly straining my powers of endurance. Yet I hope that while activity swirls around me and to-do lists swirl in my mind, I can find a small, quiet place in my mind to go and just be with God. Not to try to learn or do anything, but to rest and remember who I am.