Tuesday, November 8, 2016
It's a scary thing. When it feels like you're losing your grip on yourself. It's a scary thing. When the time you had all the sudden becomes time you lost. It's a scary thing. When there are dark spots where important memories should be, and you can't figure out why they are missing.
And yet in these scary moments, one memory keeps resurfacing. An old one. A childhood one.
I'm maybe eight and I'm in the ocean with my sister. Laughing, swimming, playing. The beauty and the innocence of our youth surrounds us, and there is nothing that could ruin this moment. Kayli and I are body surfing, gliding over salt-water waves. Bellies full of laughter, swimsuits full of sand. I look over at my sister, her smile wide, her eyes shut as the waves carry her inward, and then I no longer see her. my eyes blur with water, my nose and throat burn from sucking down salt. I can't breath, can't catch my balance, my head is heavy. The under-current has a hold of me and I am spinning and sinking and drowning. My chest is tight with panic and fills with more water as I open my mouth in a feeble attempt to scream. I close my eyes, knowing this is it. this is how I go. and in the moment when I think there is no breath left, that the darkness is going to take me, there is a hand on my ankle and it's pulling, pulling, pulling me to the surface. My back is being drug across the sandy ocean floor. my face finally hit the cool ocean air and my lungs are hungry for oxygen. I open my eyes and see a hand, white-knuckled grasp on my ankle, the hand attached to the arm of my sister. Her breath matches mine. Heavy, labored, exhausted, relieved. She pulls and pulls and pulls until we are on dry sand. She collapses next to me. And I can't tell if I'm crying out ocean water or my own tears. And she's holding onto me in only the way a twin sister can. "You're safe. You're safe. You're safe."
And in my struggle to understand why this certain memory has resurfaced and been in and out of dreams and moments, I am asking questions and seeking out answers. And this morning, staring into my mirror, as I felt myself retreating into my brain, I spoke "Jesus, I can't get lost in there anymore." and I felt like Jesus was leaning in close, whispering in my deaf ear words only I could hear. "Listen, Beloved, I am here. And I am there in that ocean water with you. Tumbling through under-currents, holding you tightly and I have given you the strength. Let me grab a hold of your ankle. Set your feet on the solid ground. And hold you in only the way a Savior can."
Change is a part of life, no matter who we are, no matter how we try to spin it. Change is going to happen whether we like it or not, especially when it comes to Jesus. We can never go before Jesus and expect to stay the same, He is in the business of transforming and molding, and making us lovely and new. We enter into His presence, knowing He meets us where we are at, but in the process of digging deeper and discovering Him, He chips away at the things that keep us from becoming and then changes us. It's growth, it's slow, it's painful, but no one is ever meant to stay stagnant. Change is constant. And it will happen.
Where I am at now is not where I thought I would be, but it's no surprise to God. And I've realizied that God's been giving me glimpses of things I have asked for, and I sit here and look at it wondering why I didn't get the whole thing.
How often do I only expect or ask God for glimpses, for little snippets and then complain about not receiving the whole thing. I get stuck in the under-currents of life. I too often let the world pull me under, because the enemy is clever. he prowls, he watches, he waits, then when I think everything is good, when I've caught my breath and wade back into the ocean, he attacks and I am pulled under the current.
These days I'm feeling reckless - or honest, maybe. Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference. But I am finding that in my moments of loss or in the things I think I've lost, there is this insurmountable amount of grace that covers what I wanted and replaces it with what I needed. That even in the moments where I feel like I've lost myself. There is grace. When I feel like I lost a moment. There is grace. When I feel like I lost a memory. There is grace. And I feel like if God could run out of grace, He would've for me by now. And yet every morning I wake up, He says. "There is more, there is still more."
And Jesus just blows my mind. He takes the most ragged, unlikely wanderers and puts us on the front-lines to flex His glory, wield His love, to heal people just like us. Even when we can't believe we can. He believes we can. He's always doing things like that. His heart is so patient and pursuing.
I love Him with a weak and tattered heart, prone to wander and stumble, but I need this love that I do not deserve, this grace that I have not earned, and forgiveness that I have not sought. I need it and I need it and I need it till the ned.
And after typing all this out, my edges feel less sharp and my heart less heavy. And I don't know if there is anything in this worth a darn, but I know that there is grace for even my messy words on computer screens.
So I'm wading back out into the ocean with my Savior, for He is above, below, and beside me, and sometimes He carries me. I am wide awake, may the dark corners of my mind begin to see His light. I will no longer be lost in there, because He walks with me, He already knows what's in there and I am already found.
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors THROUGH HIM who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus." -Romans 8: 37-39
not even under-currents
His and yours,
Friday, July 1, 2016
Gather around, squeeze in close. I only want to whisper, lean on in. Lend me your ears, a piece of your time, a moment if you will. Let me tell you a story that wrecks me. that breaks my heart and puts it back together simultaneously. One of love so strong, love so grand, it turns everything upside down and on it's head. and nothing is as it was, but everything is as it should be.
The story of a forever sinful people and a forever loving God.
You see lately I've been at war with myself. And I can feel both Savior and enemy tugging at my soul. It started about ten or so weeks ago. About the time the church I've been attending starting going through the series called the Story. It's basically reading the entire Bible Genesis to Revelations as a continuing story. and it's been an eye opening, and gut-wrenching experience. One of a constant tug-o-war, of growth, of doubt, of looking at myself and truly hating the person looking back from the mirror.
Before this series everything to me just seemed black and white. I had my faith, I knew right from wrong, but then words were preached and my hearts been convicted and the black and white have smeared, and it makes a mess as it turns grey. It's always been easier to keep walking around in the dark, I may trip over things and fall, but I can't see the mess. But God's turned on the light, He's leaned down and called into the hollow parts of my faith and of my heart. "It's time, Cameron, stop stumbling in the darkness. turn on the light, walk in the light, be the light."
God's word has just been kicking me in the teeth as I try to choke it down. For so long I've been swallowing the lies that surround me, the truth is hard to throw back and let sink down into my gut. Especially in this series my church is pushing through. And we're only into our 11th week and the Story is wrecking my life!
In opening the scriptures and digging into the meat and the marrow, I'm seeing all that I've missed. Of how much my life, my human condition echoes that of Israel, that of a people who cried out to God when in chains, but when freed, cursed Him. Of a people who wanted all the promises, all their desires without the walking, without the following, without the trusting. And the minute they received them, they traded the gloriousness of God, for worthless idol worship.
This is me.
And when did I start thinking that only when God gives me my desires, than i will serve Him whole heartedly, that only then i will truly pursue the plans and the callings He's fervently placed upon my life. When did I become this woman who's half-hearted in her worship of the Almighty God. Last Sunday Pastor Benji said "God wants all of you or none of you." And when he said those words my heart seized, because I felt it in that moment, I could see myself so clearly, raw and laid bare. I've been standing for so long on both sides of the fence with one foot in the world and one foot in my faith. Almost believing, almost living, almost. Almost. "But almost never works with God."
Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." And maybe the reason I am struggling to find Him is because I cannot seek Him with only half of my heart involved. I need all of it. No halfway in or out. No dipping my toes in the water, I must be, I need to be fully submerged. I need to be fully in Him. Exposed, vulnerable, real, raw, and honest. Whatever that may look like.
There is this deep hunger that I'm discovering, this ache that's been buried under years of crap and nick-nacks. a hunger for something so much more, for something so much greater. for a glimpse into this Upper Story joined into my lower story that He is weaving and writing and creating. But I'm looking at this desert place that is my heart and I'm looking back at God saying "How can anything grow here?" and He's pointing at those desert places, where the wildflowers grow and so many things spring up from the ground and He is saying "even here things can grow." and He's pointing to the dry places of my heart and I'm leaning in close and He is saying, "Cameron even here things can grow."
And I hunger still.
"Piper says the reason we don't feel the depth of the hunger we have for God is because we've nibbled at the table of the world for so long, anesthetizing our desire with lesser things. Lesser dreams. Lesser loves.
Those lesser things aren't good enough to stop the hunger, but they keep us full enough that we don't feel the need to put our lives on the line and seek out a permanent solution. Especially is we're told that solution is God. We feel like we've already been through this, that we've tried that path but it's never gone anywhere that has hit us on a deep life changing level. We think we're doing well out here on our own, maybe if we could just get that one thing we always wanted it would rid some of that hunger. And in this world we have an endless supply of one more thing to try. The hunger we have is manageable, so we feel like God works good as a side item.
And we don't even know what we're missing by not craving Him as the one thing worth trading everything else for. Like manna raining down from heaven, we're too busy wishing for steak, to realize that He has provided what is needed to sustain us." (Grace Thorton).
And my dad said something a couple weeks ago that convicted my heart even more so. It's like God is pulling out all the stops, and I need to open my eyes. You see I had made some snappy comment about someone or something and it wasn't loving by any means, it was the complete opposite. And my dad look at me and said "so, how's your walk with God?" And I know he was saying it jokingly, but there was so much truth in that question, so much conviction in those six words. That here I sit weeks later still mulling it over, still thinking about it.
"God wants all of you or none of you."
Because if I am truly walking with Him it should change me, utterly and completely. My actions, my words, the way I love people. I look at the story of David, just a boy fighting armies, but He brought God into those fights. He didn't claim them as his own, he claimed them in the name of God. And I need to realize that I don't hold the power to save myself or to make myself good and that God didn't start expecting that of me just because I met Jesus. But still I question myself everyday, because if a mere human man can't find me worthy enough to love, how could a God made man find me worthy enough for anything?!?!
I mean He's brought me into this community, this church and its movement, given me people to challenge me and speak truth over and into my life. and it is good. but it still hurts.
"And maybe I just need to stand in that hurt and feel it deeply for whatever it may be... The deep cuts, the hollow hunger, the raw scars, so that it may usher in more truth. Pain, C.S. Lewis said, becomes God's megaphone straight into our hearts, because it wakes us up to the fact that some things are just too big to have a solution here on earth." (Grace Thorton)
We know deep in our hearts there's a bigger story, an Upper Story, at play here. Something grand and beautiful with deep risk. but what a mighty thing it will be to behold.
I just need to dig in deeper and fill my hunger with Him. I need to dig into this Upper Story and realize that He has not forgotten me, never has He. To let go of my life and lean into His. To preach the gospel to myself everyday. Because the good news is just as good as the day I first believed.
and to always remember; He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. He who is in you is greater. He is greater. He is.
Here's to letting Him take control. to jumping all in head first. to my lower story reflecting His upper story. for hunger to be filled with His righteousness.
Here's to beating back the darkness one day at a time. And ushering in more light.
to the Story that will continue to wreck my life in the best way possible.
HIS and yours,
Saturday, June 4, 2016
Sometimes my thoughts suffocate me.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Ready? Okay. Let's do this.
I want to share my story and I want to know other people's as well. I feel deep in my heart that sharing stories, the real, ugly, broken ones, can be a powerful thing. because in sharing our stories, we must first accept them. We must own them. We must stop running from them or pushing them into the corner when company comes over. To share our story is to admit that we've been changed, that there has been growth, surrender, grace, forgiveness. That life may have knocked us down, but we continue to stand back up and fight. We tell our stories. We breathe our stories. We live our stories.
Especially in this moment when it feels like my story has reached a never ending ellipsis. I feel I need to take a step back, scribble on the pages, and reflect on what the Lord is teaching me in this hectic, long, and somewhat rough season.
And it feels like I'm trapped between two souls. One that really wants to stay and the other that just needs to go. to see, to be, to just run and feel wild and free. And I wish I could just split myself in two, and satisfy each half. But it's not entirely possible and I feel it would be highly problematic. For one part of me would forever live in the past and the other part would forever live in the future, and none of me would ever be present.
But really I'm just tired of people's mouths shaped like question marks and eyes wandering my face for answers. "What are you going to do with your life?" "You're almost 26."
yeah, I know that.
"You hardly have any friends."
yeah, I know that too.
"You're not in a relationship."
Yeah, I know that too.
"You've got so much to do."
Yeah, I know that too.
And then there's the other half. "You don't have to know what you're going to do with your life." "You're only going to be 26."
Yeah, I know that.
"You'll make friends eventually."
yeah, I know that too.
"You don't HAVE to be in a relationship."
Yeah, I know that too.
"You've plenty of time to do whatever you need to do."
Yeah, I know that too.
Isn't tomorrow promised to no man? I mean I'm not saying to not have plans, I'm just saying maybe i shouldn't be so mad when they don't work out. And maybe I should stop living just for the future, while I glance furtively into the past. and instead live for the day, for the moments I can usher in. for the breath in my lungs and the beats of my heart.
For the magnificence that is Christ working in my life.
I read once that "change is not for the faint of heart." yet I would also add that waiting and living falls under that category. like real, passionate living. Those things are not for the faint of heart as well.
It's the hearts that are tender under the storms choppy waves of almost but not quite yet. It's the hearts that are broken under the crushing weight of almost but never good enough. The hearts bruised, tattered, and worn from the constant prodding of fingers and hands that grab and pull in every direction of almost but hold on, wait a little longer, move a little faster, you're not getting any younger.
Almost, a word that could cause a natural disaster.
At times I feel like my life is compiled of almosts.
And I've been reading through the Old Testament and it deeply saddens me how much I tend to echo Israel's path of constant betrayal of God, complaining to God, and tantrum throwing when He leads me through the long way to the promise land. That for me, a woman who claims to be a woman of faith, i tend to put my trust more in people, than in God, because I want tangible answers, not just a rushing of wind. and I just don't understand.
but God calls us to trust, not understand. Sometimes "Come and follow me" (Matt 4:18) will be all the instruction we get.
Stop trying to plan your life out. Stop trying to accomplish meaningless things. because He has already gone ahead of me. And I need to dig deeper into His word, lean closer into His Spirit and take my guidance from Him. He is melting down the idols I've set up in my heart, and things are falling apart. But sometimes when things fall apart, the broken pieces allow all sorts of things to enter, and one of them is the presence of God.
I don't want to come to a standstill. I don't want to be at this moment in my life where I say this is it, this is all there is. I want to be constantly moving and learning and growing and discovering new things about God/people/the world/myself. I don't want to settle just because it's comfortable. Though I am also learning that sometimes the moving isn't so much as a motion of my body but of my spirit. That waiting in His presence, waiting on His timing, is just as much movement as any.
And my brain circuit just explode with the epicness of God's grace. That He would continue to chase after and give grace to my whore of a heart. That He would want me. Me of all people. I mean His love is crazy good. Sometimes Love is patient, sometimes it's kind and sometimes it rocks your face off. And God, even in this season of pain, in this season of dryness and wandering in the wilderness He rocks my face off with unconditional, unending, unmatchless love.
And I can see Him, who is that coming out up from the wilderness. My Beloved. He's beckoning me to Him, for He does not leave us in the dry and weary land. His promises are sure and true. And I just need to lean into Him, to have faith, to trust, and to Come and Follow Him.
May I usher His presence in. And may I be willing to trade a whisper of my name for a shout of His.
In the process of allowing God to redirect my steps,
HIS and yours,
p.s. I also have no idea what I am doing with my life. I lay it in the hands of God, may I not pick it back up again.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Loneliness is a haunting thing. It creeps in like a spider, gently weaving its web around the beating parts of my heart. Slowly and surely it coils and it tightens, taking with it the love that is left. And lately my heart feels like a house so full of cobwebs, I can't tell if the lights are on, or if anyone is home. And I feel like it's time to clean this haunted house, but the webs are thick, and it's hard to breathe, and I don't even know where to begin.
I had a dream the other night. It was a strange sensation, waking up with a tear streaked face and sweat drenched sheets.
I'm standing at the door of a church, knocking, when before my eyes the church begins to shape itself into an ark. It's this massive boat and I'm knocking at the door, that has now become a ramp, and no one is answering. No one is letting me aboard. Panic sets in as my chest begins to feel extremely heavy. My breath is labored, my mind racing as I turn from the church and look out into the trees. From the trees come hoards of couples. holding hands, laughing, love in there eyes. And I'm being pushed and shoved further and further away from the ark. I can see the ramp has been lowered and these couples are racing up and into the church. I am running and it seems the harder I run the further away the church becomes.
When I finally reach the ramp, the doors are shut that lead into the boat. I'm standing at the end of this ramp, waving my arms, crying, screaming, "Please, Please, let me in. I can't take this loneliness. Please, don't leave me out here alone." And the millions of couples are looking over the edge at me, eyes full of pity, lips turned into a frown, shaking there heads at me as I scream. And then the rain starts to fall.
This dream has been haunting me for the past three weeks. It sneaks into my thoughts on occasion, when I'm out running, eating dinner, or simply sitting on the couch reading. Most times while I lay awake at night, willing my mind to just shut off so I can get a decent nights sleep. But for some reason my mind keeps going back to this specific dream and the thoughts that have appeared more recently with it.
You see I have read countless blogs and books and post about singleness and dating and everything in between. Heck I've even written about it and have spoken about it multiple times. But writing it and speaking it is a lot easier than living it. And if you are like me, you're probably more than irritated with the discussion of singleness, but how can I not discuss it, how can I not think about it, when it's something that so many people use to define me, or to make snap judgments about what could possibly be wrong with the woman I am.
The theme seems to be that "your dream person will find you once you stop looking." or "when you are focused solely on God then He will put that person in your life." But not once, not one time have I seen anything written about the scary truth, about the question in the back of my mind. "What if "the one" never shows up?"
I guess what my frightening dream is showing me, is a lot about how I feel. Like the church is some sort of Noah's ark. Everyone entering two by two, paired off male and female, and here i am standing at the end of the ramp staring into the boat wondering if they're going to let me board with out a partner. And if I look at the two men I have "dated" or allowed into my heart in the short 25 years of life, they are now both with someone else, and I'm still feeling this loneliness. One after a long relationship when we were just too young to even understand what a relationship was, and the other after a whirlwind of feelings and him maybe not being ready to be in a relationship. But in the back of my mind it just felt like he was saying he just wasn't ready for me. That I wasn't enough, that the whole essence of me in his life was worse than him being alone. And that. Well that just stings.
You see I don't have it all together. I don't have it figured out. As more and more of my friends get engaged or married, as I watch my siblings go on dates and are hopeful about relationships. I sit staring at the mirror trying not to hate on who I am. On the person that men seem to full stop and turn around at. On the person men seem to use as a stepping stone to someone else, someone better. How can one not wonder? How can one not question, when it feels like the whole world is falling in love, and I'm just falling.
And I don't like that everyone assumes that my singleness factors into my being, that when someone learns that I am single, the first question that escapes through muttered lips is "why?" or "is there something wrong with you." As if being alone means that I'm some sort of untouchable, that no man wants anything to do with. but I feel like that. constantly i feel like that.
because it's easy for me to outwardly laugh at myself, while inside I'm cringing at everything I am. It's easy to outwardly say the singleness catch phrases "I am content in my singleness." or "I am just not satisfied with God enough yet." These little phrases that have been impressed upon me since the first time I ever heard someone talk about singleness from a Christian perspective. But inwardly, in the haunted places of my heart, I know I may never be fully satisfied in God, it doesn't seem possible for me to be satisfied in a God who I am constantly discovering. And I don't think I will ever be content or comfortable in being single. It's hardwired into who we are as human beings to desire deep and meaningful relationships, and I crave a romantic love. I crave the toughness of living with and loving another human being.
The problem with me is that I feel like I'm always waiting. That I am constantly stuck in this waiting. And what if I'll be waiting my entire life? Waiting on something that will never happen or waiting on someone who will never come. Just waiting. Waiting for nothing. Because honestly more and more each day my heart feels like a train station, full of strangers always trying to get somewhere else. It 's not a final destination for anyone.
I wish that every thing would just come together. But things don't arrange themselves like a bouquet of flowers. Life is much too messy for anything like that. I wish I didn't have to feel so haunted. Haunted by the idea that when and only when or if and only if someone happens to finally see me. See all of me and actually decided to stick around I'm gonna somehow mess that up too.
And I'm struggling through this. Struggling to understand that I don't have answers to give or a simple equation to solve this feeling. And I just want to stop apologizing for the space I fill up. I just want to not have to write reminders on the mirror to love myself. To wake up one morning and finally feel the weight of not being good enough for him is finally lifted. To gather up the pieces of my shattered heart without cutting my hands.
I guess what I'm trying to learn is that maybe romantic love isn't the only type of love I should strive for. And maybe in learning that, I can find that I'm not really lonely. And I'm just going over and over these words in my head. that maybe, just maybe no other person on this planet was made for me, but in fact were made for themselves. And that maybe love is all about choices. that no one is going to be perfect for me and that we, as a people, as a church, need to stop raising everyone on the belief that someone is out there, just one other person in the whole world, "made for them" because it isn't true. That no one is made for me, besides me. and that other people belong to themselves.
And that there isn't just "one other person" out there waiting for me. That I can love multiple people over my lifetime. I can have more than one soulmate, or none. Or more importantly i can be my own soulmate.
I need to learn that I'm not missing some "other half" but that I am a whole person by myself. And if by some miracle or chance I do find someone to love, to remember and understand that they are a whole person too, not my "other half."
So often though it feels like Christian culture says that we need to be attached to a significant other and we'll finally be adults, we'll finally be living, we'll finally be making a difference in the Kingdom (trust me I went to a Christian College). And it feels like as a single person I am alienated, or kicked off the metaphorical ark. The Church is not made for single people. I feel it every time I'm there. I feel it in the messages, in the couples holding hands while they worship. In the "single groups" and the "have you met this guy, he's a single christian man..." blah blah blah. I feel it deep in the haunted parts of my heart.
I don't really know where to go from here. Because I'm still struggling, still fighting through these feelings of unworthiness. I don't think it's just something you "get over." And I am single because I'm single, but that doesn't mean it makes me feel any better. It doesn't mean I don't question myself constantly. That I don't look at my life, through high school and college and after college and wonder what was so ugly about me, what was so wrong with me that kept a man from even asking me to coffee.
Am I too much to love? Am I not enough to love? the questions bounce and float through the gray matter in my brain. I want my joy back. I want to feel like the girl I left behind 8000 miles across the ocean. Who fearlessly walked into the darkness, with faith and trust in God and everything she was. But I can't seem to find her. So I guess I just have to keep searching for answers. To continue to keep trying to find myself in Christ, but sometimes He is hard to find.
I am leaning in.
Chest cut open.
Haunted heart laid bare.
Teach me how to love myself.
Teach me how to love You more.
Sweep out the cobwebs, turn on the lights. So that I might find myself again.
So that I might find myself in Him.
HIS and yours,
Sunday, March 27, 2016
This morning I waited. In darkness. In worship. In sermon. I waited. Waited for the sun to resurrect itself from the ground and finds itself in the sky. Close to the galaxies, to the stars and the heavens. The light; ever so significant on a day like today. The light, ever so powerful to the darkness surrounding.
This morning I waited. In darkness. In worship. In sermon. I waited. Waited for the Son to resurrect Himself from the grounds in my heart and find His way into my soul. Close to the beating of my passions, to the thoughts in mind. The Light to shine into the ever so clouding doubt that has made me foggy. The Light, ever so powerful to the darkness surrounding. Me.
And lately my doubt could put Thomas to shame. In the past few months I wouldn't have even known if sticking my fingers in the pierced side of Jesus would have brought me back to believing. Because let me be honest, no one ever tells you that when you make the decision to let Jesus wreck your life, the wrecking isn't always something easy or something beautiful. Sometimes it's soul crushing honesty, a peeling back of layers and of darkness to the raw and naked truth of what was, what is, and what is to come. It's the realization that sometimes life is lived in the trenches and I am battle-scared and heavy-hearted. Me. A relentless sinner in desperate need of this Story. In need of His constant grace to cover me in garments of love and peace.
"It just death and resurrection, over and over again, day after day, as God reaches down into our deepest graves and with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead wrests us from our pride, our apathy, our fear, our prejudice, our anger, our hurt, and our despair. And I don't know which is harder for me to believe: that God reanimated the brain functions of a man three days dead, or that God can bring back to life all the beautiful things we have killed. Both seem pretty unlikely to me." -Rachel Held Evans.
I would agree that it seems unlikely to me. And i think because lately I've been struggling with my worth, with who I am in Him. Every once in a while something changes in a persons life that brings about a paradigm shift. And this shift has been happening gradually to me over the past year. The fault lines in my heart are moving and there has been bending and breaking. I felt it every so often, in the months of December and January were depression so deep that blankets covered my windows and oil caked my hair and pretending was the best that I could do. As I wrestled with my faith and with Jesus and with life. The darkness was overwhelming and sometimes I would spend the days in bed crying, dissatisfied with who I was. I could feel the shifting in my heart and I felt as if God just decided at that point to push away from me, to let me writhe in self-pity and sadness and doubt. My thoughts were, why would a gracious and loving God let me go through this, why would a gracious and loving God let all that is happening continue.
The doubt and the thought process in this, I think, comes from hearing people use Jesus and the church as some quick fix or get rich fix scheme to patch up the distraught and destroyed areas or their lives. This idea of a God who opens up parking spaces and takes prayer request for weather and elections and future spouses, while there are children out there dying of hunger and preventable diseases, there are people out there lost abused and in need of something more than a sunny day. But no one wants to wait on God. No one wants patient prayer or long awaited grace and forgiveness.
"The modern-day church doesn't like to wander or wait. The modern-day church likes results. Convinced the gospel is a product we've got to sell to an increasingly shrinking market, we like our people to function as walking advertisements: happy, put-together, finished-proof that this Jesus stuff WORKS! At its best, such a culture generates pews of Stepford Wife-style robots with painted smiles and programmed moves. At its worst, it creates environments where abuse and corruption get covered up to protect reputations an preserve image. The world is watching, 'Christians like to say, 'so let's be on our best behavior and quickly hide the mess. Let's throw up some before-and-after shots and roll that flashy footage of our miracle product blanching out every sign of dirt, hiding every sign of disease" -Rachel Held Evans,
But I am not an advertisement and if this past year has taught me anything is that a quick fix God is just some idol that people, even good intentioned people, have created to bring people into buildings instead of bringing them into the arms of Jesus; where yes, there is pain, and change, and excruciating realness of who we are and who He is.
"And if the world is watching, we might as well tell the truth. And the truth is, the church doesn't offer a cure. It doesn't offer a quick fix. The church offers death and resurrection. The church offers the messy, inconvenient, gut-wrenching, never-ending work of healing and reconciliation. The church offers grace." -Rachel Held Evans.
And in the end that is really what we all need. In the end that is really what I need. As I sit in waiting to resurrect myself from the darkness that so easily entangles me, I reach my hand from the grave and the Resurrection, the Life Himself grabs a hold my hand pulls me from its depths and says unto me. "Daughter, I will never leave nor forsake you." He holds me close. While I lie in bed crying. While I question Him and my life and the future. Looking back, hindsight is, of course, 20/20 and it's easier to write this after going through then in the midst of it all. But I think, especially in this season of resurrection that I need to be honest, that life with Jesus, is beautiful, but it is also painful, it is welcoming change, change that is most often not what you expect or want. That sometimes it is walking through the trenches of a battle that sometimes feels like I am on the losing side. And Each day brings with it new battles to stumble through, but it is in the belief and knowledge of Jesus' resurrection, that even though I may lose some battles, He has ultimately won the war over my life, over my soul and the lives and souls of so many others. That we find faith as we follow Jesus, but we have to have a willingness to wrestle with God. To wrestle with questioning and doubt.
We are all at different stops in our lives. "But the gospel doesn't need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, "Welcome! There's bread and wine, Come eat with us and talk." This isn't a kingdom for the worthy; it;s a kingdom for the hungry." -Rachel Held Evans.
And there is no one person who has it all figured out and there is no one church who has is all together. There is no one person or place that can give us what Jesus can.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm in the middle of a messy life. That only with Jesus can I resurrect my belief from the ground, from the weeds that entangle it and try to pull it back down into the dark. And that all the most beautiful things are pulled from the ground. All the most beautiful things are made in a fire. All the most beautiful things are hit again and again. All the most beautiful things are shaped with His hands. Nothing about you, nothing about me, nothing about us is unworthy, is unredeemable, is ugly. We are made of the most beautiful things.
Even in the questioning and the doubt He is near. Even in the moments where we believe that all faith is lost, that there is nothing left. He is not lost. We no longer need to stand at the empty tomb, crying wondering where He is. For He is not there. He is Risen. Resurrected, Living, Breathing God, who conquered death so that we could live. Who walks beside us, pulls us from the grave and covers us in grace.
"Like every generation before and every generation after, we're looking for Jesus- the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places He's always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these."And even in our searching, even in our belief, there will be doubt, there will be questions, but that doesn't mean we are any less of a believer, any less of His follower. It means that we are stepping in faith, taking the journey towards those strange places where He can be found and where eventually, in eternity we will meet face to face.
Holy Holy Holy to the One who is Risen indeed.
Resurrecting my Belief,
HIS and yours
Saturday, February 6, 2016
December 28th 2015:
The plane lifted into the air as I sank back into my seat ready for the flight into Chicago. I’ve flown my entire life, across oceans and continents and I still get this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I glance around the plane, observing the passengers around me, most are already drifting off to sleep, some are shoving their headphones into their ears. The guy across the aisle from me is digging around in his bag looking for something. So I take a moment to observe him. I don’t know if it’s the writer in me or that i like to soak in the details of people and file away.
He looks to be about my age, maybe a few years older. His dirty blonde hair looked like it had been styled that morning, but at some point his fingers had become restless and decided that they needed to comb through his strands a few times. His profile was strong, and the blue collar shirt he had on was snug against his chest.
He sat up quickly, pulling a bag of mints from his pack. He turned his head toward me and our eyes met. I jerked my head to the right, away from him, embarrassed that I had been caught staring. I shook my head, reaching for my book in the seat-back pocket in front of me.
I turned left towards the voice, placing my hand in between the pages of my book to mark my spot.
Across the aisle guy was looking at me, holding a mint out in his hand.
I looked down at the mint and up at his face again. “huh?” I squeeze out. I hadn’t had a conversation with someone since mom dropped me at the airport at 5 that morning, which was three or so hours ago.
“Would you like one.” He reached his hand further into the aisle closer to me.
“Uh, sure.” I shrugged, grabbing the mint from his hand, “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” He replied as I ripped the wrapping off and popped the mint into my mouth.
His hand still extended into the aisle. “I’m Stephen.” He offered.
“Cameron,” I shook his hand. “Thanks for the mint.”
“You heading home Cameron.” His eyes, a shade of green, looked at me waiting for an answer.
I sat for a moment contemplating if I wanted to have a conversation with this complete stranger or read the rest of my book.
“No, visiting some friends,” I replied, “and you?” Conversation it was.
“Well I wouldn’t call Chicago home, I’d say it’s a resting place, for a much bigger journey.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked him.
And so we began talking. He told me about this job he’s been at in Chicago since he finished grad school a few years ago. That he likes it but he’s wanting to do bigger things with his life.
I talked about all my failed jobs, about my desire to travel and care for those in need, about my first degree and now nursing school.
He would talk and I would ask questions, then he would ask questions and I would talk.
“I don’t even know why I am telling you all of this.” He said at one point after telling me that his trip had been to see his girlfriend who in the end broke it off because of distance.
“Well, Stephen that’s the thing about conversations in airplanes. It easier to say everything without holding back because you know deep down that you’re never going to see the other person again. Sometime it’s easier to share secrets and life with strangers than it is with people who know you.”
“You really feel that way?” He asked.
“More recently I have.” I half smiled.
He smiled handing me another mint as the Captain came over the speaker to tell us we would be landing shortly.
Stephen sighed. “Well all I can say is that you seem like a woman with a thousand stories behind her eyes, just waiting on someone who will take the time to look and to listen.”
“Oh really, you can tell all that by a conversation.” I laughed.
He smiled at the stewardess walking by and then looked at me. “I can tell all that by the way you listen to the conversation. You listen with the intent to listen. With the intent to hear people’s stories and add them to your collection of stories that I’m sure you hope one day to tell.”
“For real.” I smirked looking down at my hands in my lap. Feeling uncomfortable with him reading me.
“For real. You extend grace with a listening ear and if you ask me this world needs more grace. Someday whenever you’re working as a nurse that grace will be important. It’s something we tend to forget. you know?”
“Yes. I do.” I responded looking up from my hands.
We talked some more as the plan landed and taxied into the gate. Grabbing our bags from the overhead bin, we reached the walkway into the airport.
Feeling awkward cause I never know how to end conversations with people. We’re standing in front of the flight screen as I’m looking for my connecting gate, now that my first flight out had been cancelled and he’s heading to baggage claim.
He holds out his hand to me.
I look at the mint sitting in it and laugh.
“Thank you,” I say taking the mint from his hand and putting it in my pocket. “I’ll save it for later.”
His hands still kind of hanging there in between us. “Thank you.” he smiles as I shake his hand. “It was so nice to meet you and talk you.”
“Yeah” I say still shaking his hand, “You too, good luck with all your plans.”
He releases my hand. “You too,” He begins to turn away and then looks back at me. “And Cameron.” He smirks.
“Uh, yeah.” I say reaching for my headphones.
“Never forget grace and never forget their stories.” He smiles, waves, and walks aways.
And i’m standing there staring after him, wondering if I should do something, wondering what just happened, wondering if I just missed something important and then a lady rams into me with her suitcase and I’m aware of all the people flooding around me to see the bored and I slowly back away, my mind retreating within itself wondering, thinking about the conversation I just had and how badly I had been wanting someone to talk to. that I had needed to get all my thoughts out my head and expressed to another human being.
And it’s crazy to go back and read about this in my journal. To relive through this crazy notion that I met this complete stranger on this random airplane who I’ll probably never see again, who spoke into my life when I needed it. Because these past 6 months have been a real struggle.
It’s been this sudden realization that these dreams I had aren’t the ones that I’m meant to live.
It’s like loneliness that has become in most cases unbearable. But it’s hard to explain. I mean you get told you're ugly enough times you start to believe it. You’re rejected enough times and you start to reject yourself.
And there are these moments in my life where everything feels like one huge mistake. In the moments of groaning, so deep, so painful, that I just want to run. run from it all. and then maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much. maybe life wouldn’t hurt so much.
And I have to remind myself that what I am doing is not a mistake, that these things are not a mistake. but that they are living, breathing forms of my story. and they are leading me to something beautiful.
I have to remind myself that a sad moment does not equate to a sad life. and that this may be a sad chapter, but I am not a sad story.
And I must follow them. These stories that are swirling in my soul.
I must follow Him.
I want. I desire to live on the jagged edges of faith, but most days I lack the courage to do so. Courage comes in doing a brave thing, but I am just a timid creature mimicking braveness in little huffs. My mind is an unquiet one, words and thoughts and impulses constantly crashing into each other. i find it hard to focus, hard to concentrate, hard to hear that still small voice whisper “Be strong, be courages, I am with you. I will not leave you. Come my daughter. Come follow me.”
I finally took down the blanket that was covering my windows, keeping the sunlight from coming in. and I finally washed and changed my sheets, and lit that new candle, and put my clothes away, and washed my hair. And I can celebrate in those things.
I came across a blog the other day that said this: “Jesus didn’t issue a command to act like him. Jesus gave an invitation to walk with Him.” Between the “follow me” there is space for stumbling, for questioning, for turning around and saying “Sorry Jesus, this is too tough I’m going home!”
But i think Jesus wanted us to know that being uncertain, messing up, and making mistakes IS a part of following Him.
And I hear Him whisper. “ be brave, even when you are afraid.”
And sometimes I just get tired, so tired of people telling me everything will be just fine, that it will all work out, that i need to this and i need to that. that I’m not reading my bible enough, or that i need to pray about it.
But how do you pray when everything come out in fits of anger and spit. When life is not what you thought it would be. and when all that’s inside you howls in frustration. How do you solve that with words flung into the air?
And it feels like I’m not doing anything. like I’m not doing enough, never doing enough. There are faces etches in my mind 8000 miles across the sea and all I want to do is reach for them. Antone, John, Caren, Suzanna, Joy, Susie, Flora, Mary, Elizabeth, Mateo, Ester, Saloma. Names etches into my heart. Stories burned into my soul.
And it’s hard to be still. It’s hard for me to accept that God has placed me where I am to better serve His Kingdom in this moment. And He’s teaching me that some seasons are less activity and flash and some are more ache and healing. And with ache and healing comes Grace.
Olive Chan wrote, “It is grace that has brought us this far. Grace that will sustain us. Grace that will eventually get us there.”
So it had to be Grace that swirled me up and dropped me into this life. There is no other way. And so by Grace I struggle. By grace I reach toward braveness. Even when there is fear in my heart.
I reach toward the stories that need to be told.
For the people dying while we flip channels.
For the children orphaned, sold and bought, raped and killed.
For the injustice not just in other countries but my own.
To stand up even when I am being still.
I’m tired of people using religion to justify the terrible things they do. And I am tired of doing nothing.
I’m tired of storing up grace and never giving it away.
Even thought life is not where I thought it would be I know it is where God wants it to be. And He knows the groans of my heart, for He groans with me.
Even in that aching and the healing.
I will give grace.
I will be brave.
I will follow Him.
Aching, Healing, Finding Grace,
HIS and yours,
“the whole creation has been groaning… not only so, but we ourselves groan inwardly as we wait. We hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” -Romans 8:22, 23-25.