April 2017, pt. 1 – Repentance, Burning Lips, and Covenant

In early April I repented of self-loathing. I recognized that the bitter grudge I’d held against myself since December was no less a toxic sin than if I’d held the same grudge against anyone else. There’s something that always teeters (in my mind) on the edge of self-indulgence and coddling, when it comes to forgiving oneself for one thing or another. I’m hypersensitive to our broader culture’s tendency to excuse any and every thing, short of holding to strict or even casual standards of Judeo-Christian morality. But Christ calls us to forgive; and I know from painful experience the fallout that comes from bearing grudges beyond any reasonable acknowledgement of a wrong done against me or mine. So I did the same prayerful forgiveness routine toward myself that I do in regard to anyone who has become less an object of reasonable anger and more an excuse for corrosive and self-righteous venom.

Life goes on.

*

The events of March 24 stayed fresh and impossible into April. I’d expected in January and February of 2017 to spend the bulk of the year left to my own devices, eventually hearing from God late in the year or in 2018. March 24 steamrolled all those expectations and left me not only relieved and gratetful, but also expectant and hopeful. I’d pretty much decided beforehand that I’d never feel either expectant or hopeful again. God is such a good Father.

Encouraging as March 24 may have been, I couldn’t help but wonder a whole lot about how March 24 fit in with the dark weeks since mid-December. I believed without a doubt that I had somehow short-circuited or delayed or outright cancelled some great blessing from God, due to my persistent rebellion. March 24 made all that concern appear to be misguided or overblown. Just like that, “Oh, that whole, ‘You blew it!’ thing; that was just a simple misunderstanding.” Something wasn’t adding up. But I was still encouraged enormously, in the midst of confusion.

**

My lips continued burning in April, in a what I eventually realized was very persistent fashion. The sensation would come and go on no apparent schedule; but it was with me a lot. There were a couple of remarkable instances in which I did make a connection between my lips burning and then not burning, relative to my own actions. Before my three-day April fast, as one example, I’d eaten a normal diet for several weeks, with the exception that I’d abstained from sugary stuff like candy, ice cream, and cookies. My lips were really lit up and just blazing away for many days before and the during the three-day fast. I broke my fast on a Saturday. I forget what actual food I ate to do the breaking – something standard like a banana and a hard-boiled egg. Not too long afterwards, I ate a couple of pieces of dark chocolate. Within the hour, I noticed my lips had grown starkly cool. If it was instructive to see a possible connection between this new hotspot and my eating habits, it was frustrating to realize that said new hotspot was apparently ringing in a new “opportunity” to give up something that I’d really rather not.

The first round of hotspots, from 2009 to 2016, would go away when I masturbated. We know all about that, at this point. And now there was a new hotspot that would evidently go away when I ate sweets. It appeared God was telling me to give up sweets. Or cut way back on my intake. Something like that. I couldn’t tell for sure. It wasn’t the first time that I’d been down that road with Him; I’ve certainly blogged about it before. Throughout April I struggled against this perceived limitation. Why did there have to be another hotspot thing? Sweets? I know for a fact that I was eating sweets with varying degrees of regularity during the 2009-2016 timeframe, and it never had any impact on the hotspots back then. That’s what was bugging me the most in April. God was evidently changing the rules on me. That which was once not linked to a hotspot and any clear suggestion to Quit Doing That was now so linked. (Of course, as I type these words, I’m reminded that the masturbation hotspot didn’t flare up until I’d been doing that whole thing for close to thirty years.) I was back to chafing at God’s direction to stop something that gave me comfort apart from Him.

***

I spent some time in mid-April digging through forgotten drawers, either keeping or trashing whatever I found. In one drawer was a collection of school works that had survived similar purges in the past. One spiral notebook contained class notes from my Survey of the Bible course in college. It was, along with Biblical Archaeology, one of the few classes in college that I truly enjoyed; although I was already (by the time of taking that course) headlong into confirmed rebellion against God. I wouldn’t come to my spiritual senses for another fifteen fairly tragic years.

On the inside cover of the pink Writeright spiral notebook, I found the hastily scrawled name and phone number of friend of mine from high school who also attended the same university. I couldn’t remember if we had the survey class together, and I had no recollection of her writing in my book. I recognized the three-number phone exchange prefix as one being nearly ubiquitous back in that college town. What a simpler telecom existence, in all possible ways. I found out by bored internet stalking of various old acquaintances a couple of years ago that my friend had died of cancer not long before my search. She’d evidently become quite a celebrated and loved teacher in her professional years, judging from the deluge of sentiment from past and present students. Much of the online memorializing made mention of her strong Christian faith; so I look forward to visiting with her again on the other side, where universal suckage like cancer and death are yesterday’s news.

I settled into my easy chair and took one cursory pass through the pages of the notebook, front to back. Most immediately remarkable was the discovery of doodles I could remember making some thirty years back. One fairly sophisticated drawing was a top-down view of me at my drum kit. At the collegiate stage of my life it was going to be drums or nothing that got me through the rest of my years. I had no hope in anything other than a volcanic passion to play music, along with a percussive style to match. College classes were a necessary evil to occupy my time between gigs which would eventually (or else) lead to my career as a rock drummer, beholden to no one.
That scenario never quite played itself out.

I was curious in April 2017 as to how much content from that class, subject as it was to rote memorization at the time, was an easy part of my 21st Century Biblical body of knowledge. I’m always interested in testing myself on Bible content, more so than any other bunch of stuff that I might challenge. I think it has something to do with my old perceptions of the Bible versus current understanding. When I was younger, and especially before the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to truth in scriptures, the Bible was nothing more than an incomprehensibly dense mass of names, facts, fables, and rules. Immediately after my flashbulb transformation back in 2003, the Bible was suddenly a key to life as I’d never imagined it. I couldn’t get enough of reading it. Even the Old Testament. No lie. Fourteen years after that comprehensive and instantaneous remodeling of me, I still find the Bible to be filled with purposeful form and eternal hope, instead of shapeless confusion and tedious regulations.

One more time through the notes, this time focusing on the class content. I was pleased to find that, yes, I did now know pretty much everything that I used to not. The exceptions to that rule tended to be history of ancient civilizations and related cultural context. Our professor was a Biblical archaeologist, so he was a great fount of such perspective. One thing did catch my attention as I read through the Old Testament notes – our professor had heavily emphasized the concept of covenant, in terms of God’s relationship with the ancients. I could vaguely remember sitting in class and hearing him make the point over and over that God would establish covenants with the ancients. He really hammered that point. Back in the day, I had no context for or real interest in the concept of covenant. Covenant was among many words that I had learn well enough to pass a class. But I didn’t really dial into the concept of “You do this; and I’ll do that.” I didn’t dial into it thirty years ago, that is; but the way the professor had highlighted the covenant-ing nature of God thirty years ago definitely reverberated in my April 2017 reading.

This is taking way too long to set up. The point is, it took browsing back through that old notebook to clue me in to the possibility that God had been offering for several years to covenant with me. Maybe “Do not satisfy yourself” wasn’t just a disembodied suggestion, aiming to get me more squared away with the Lord ‘just because’. Maybe all the consistent prophetic encouragements about great things to come were likewise born of a greater purpose than I’d imagined to date. One realization that slowly dawned on my over the previous eight years was that, IF all this stuff was real, and IF it came to pass, it would be absolutely huge. Biblical, even. A covenant opportunity wouldn’t be out the realm of possibility, in context. And if the Creator of the Universe had been graciously and patiently offering to covenant with me, while I’d been fighting Him about whether or not I should continue to beat off…the mind boggles at the waste of opportunity.
Lotta speculation. But it’s worth considering. Anyway, here’s the blessed end of the college notebook section.

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