Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hiatus, "I Hate"-us

So it's been a while since I've published an entry. I've actually started about 8 different entries since school started, trying to sum up what's been happening with me on campus and whatnot. Each time, I got going, outlining the most important things that I could think of, but I never felt compelled to finish up one with anything meaningful.

Maybe that's because it hasn't been meaningful.

It's not that I haven't been doing anything; I've studied, helped co-lead a bible study, been discipled by a good friend, made new friends, and worked on things with Volunteer USF, amid various fun activities. I was thrown at surprise birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, gone roller skating, and other things that were a good time. Yet I couldn't really bring myself to detail any of these things like they were worth writing about. I have good friends, good school, good fun, but what does all that really mean?

It vanishes the instant my hormones change, or something goes the slightest bit off course from what I wanted or expected.

I am thrown again into the tailspin that characterizes life -- one mishap after another, the tiniest taste of chaos that brainwashes us of all the wonderful things we've known before, until the dread subsides for one more moment until the next.

I know that all sounds horrifically depressing, but tell me that it isn't true. We are so prone to emotional dips and highs, that the very cycle is depressing. Even if your life is an exact sine curve of equally high and distant hills and valleys, representing happiness and sadness, just thinking about how you will someday be unhappy again after having been happy will take the joy right out of you. It's pitiful how quickly we can be ripped from the most thrilling and joyous experiences by something either petty or horrific.

We can't just look at those little moments of happiness as if they define us, because they can be blown away like smoke by a slight gust of wind. Then again, we can't define our lives by the sadness either, because that does not last forever either.

What is constant?

That's what I really had the chance to explore this weekend on Fall Retreat. It's always awesome to get away from school to hide out in the woods and just refocus. It starts out tough and ends with such understanding and clarity for me. I am hesitant to meditate on the Lord at first, because frankly, I don't trust Him to teach me anything new, especially when I'm running on 4 hours of sleep -- which is my fault, so let's just take that for what it is, haha. But as Saturday wears on, I find myself thinking radical thoughts for a human being, ones that did not originate in my mind. They both go against everything I ever thought, but at the same time make more sense to me than anything I've ever encountered.

One of the biggest realizations I finally embraced this weekend was this: I am beloved. I am a cherished daughter of the One True King. It is one thing to read that and think, "Okay, I get it. I'm a child of God. Great." We imagine God as our own earthly father and smack all his traits onto His traits. I am blessed with an amazing, loving dad, but he is by no means perfect, and he knows that. It's easy for me to imagine God being upset when I do things wrong, not understanding where I'm coming from all the time, being too worried about me to let me taste adventure, and not being a super sensitive and mushy guy about our relationship. But I saw God as far less than my real dad, even, as absurd as that is. I kept seeing the things in my life that I thought were kind of crappy and blamed God for devising such situations for me to bring me to miserable ends. When I imagined the look on His face when He gazed upon me, it was one of indifference. I am one meaningless, pitiful, useless human being. I screw up all the time. I've done nothing worthy of being placed before the Lord of the universe.

With such a low opinion of my abilities and qualities, little did I realize that pride was holding me back from truly knowing the Messiah.

Did I think I was too bad to be saved? That I was so horrible and worthless that the God who created everything we see, touch, smell, taste, and hear couldn't handle me? That He couldn't transform me into something beautiful, let alone grasp me from dangling above hell like a spider? I might not have what it takes to earn a place in heaven by any work of my hands or lips, but if God has conquered our rebellion and sin for good, He can conquer little ol' me and wash away my filth and shame, replacing them with robes of pure white perfection.

I'm not bad enough to undo this work He has done in my life. When He sees me, He is delighted, because we are reconciled. He sees the perfection of His Son, who died in my place with a crown of thorns on His head, and He accepts me. He has always loved me, or He would not have pursued me so that I might turn around and fall in love with Him. But now I am a citizen of heaven, a daughter of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

What momentary elation or misery can surpass the unchanging mercy and ceaseless love of the Lord?

Realizing this truth has set me free from worrying about finding meaning in the string of seemingly random occurrences that take me from high to low daily. I don't have to worry about whether life is sad or happy, or fret that I am not appreciating the value of either of these things. I only need to be concerned with how much God loves me, and what all He can do through me, and what is waiting for me at the end. If I can't even perfectly appreciate these things at times, nothing chances. He is the same; I am the one straying away again. He won't let me fall away forever in my times of forgetting and discontentment.

I can finally say that I believe that I am righteous to Him. I am right with God. He sees me and is glad to call me His child, and is excited to do good works through me. He trusts me to carry out a small part in fixing our broken world in His vision, and promises to take care of the things that I can't do alone. He made me the way that I am and loves me, flaws and gifts combined into the crazy weird combination of soul and body that I am.

This last part was so crucial for me to embrace, too. As evidenced by my last entry into this journal, I have had to work through being resentful about my gender as a whole. It's not that I didn't want to be a girl at all, but that I resented bitterly how we are treated, and the problems that we seem to face uniquely. I have gone through life thinking that God must have to hate me to make me so much weaker and prone to special abuses, from mere rude catcalls to wondering if any rustle in the dark is more than an animal, and that it was only natural for me to feel this way if God wanted the world to be this way.

Maybe it was only natural that I felt this way because I was designed with an idea of how I should be treated and viewed, and that idea has been so corrupted in the world we live in.

At Fall Retreat, we had a women's seminar that sounded kind of sketchy at first. The speaker was our speaker for the weekend -- a guy. I've never been in a lesson specifically designated as "just for women" led by a man. It seems counterintuitive to set it up this way, because who knows more about how a woman should live than a more experienced woman? However, Steve set us up for some amazing new ideas by preceding his talk with the idea that he would know what's good for us as a father, just as God is a father too. And what followed this statement not only reinforced his authority on the position, but changed the very foundations of who I believe I am.

The world tells women so often that we are the least creation, and the church sometimes erroneously conveys the same message. We were made weaker, having only beauty as a bargaining chip to get anything. We see commands in the bible about standing behind men, the leaders, as helpers to their glory. Our femininity makes us something light and useless.

However, he helped me learn that our femininity makes us light and airborne. We are images of the beauty of God, which is something sought after and desired by men, and is endlessly powerful. Men lead because their job is to point to the beauty of God, and protect it. They are escorts for the embodiments of His loveliest creation, to ensure that they reach the end destination to the fullest. We women crave to share our beauty with someone else, as a gift. When we are robbed of it or resort to bartering it, we lose the joy that it can give. Our hearts grow callous with distrust and self-loathing when our ability to give this gift with joy is hindered. We hide behind a front that says we don't care if our beauty is cherished or not, because it's easier than exposing ourselves to the potential hurt of that gift being abused, or growing lonely in waiting for it to be the right time to give it.

But nothing compares to how it will be to reach the moment when it is not only safe, but glorious, to give the gift of feminine beauty to someone else, someone who will guard it with his life and delight in all its qualities -- especially its selflessness. Just as God rejoices in our willing choice to love Him, so the right man will rejoice in our love being from within, not coerced or manipulated.

He will not boast of his strength over me. He will not delight in exposing my innermost being only to pierce it. He will not stand before me and expect me to love him out of duty. He will not ignore my desires and wishes.

He will use his strength to protect my heart and spirit. He will revel in the special privilege to see more of me than any other person. He will gladly receive my loving actions and words, knowing that I mean them. He will pursue what's best for me with everything he has.

What could possibly be more contrary to what the world offers through traditional lenses of masculinity and femininity, and yet, what could possibly capture my deepest longings and beliefs more perfectly?

Such a vision of the future gives me the strength to walk the path the Lord intended for me with a grateful and patient heart. To look for such a partnership on my own would lead to the destruction of my God-given, beautiful spirit.

This beauty isn't the kind that has me pinching my stomach obsessively, counting the calories I put into my mouth, fixing my hair every time I step in front of a mirror, poking at blemishes on my face, and feeling nauseous when I see what I look like at whatever hour this obsession chooses to strike. It resides in my heart, from a deep contentment and joy in the Lord, and echoes out in a palpable way that cannot be ignored.

All of this would sound like complete horse-hockey to me if it weren't backed up with growing friendships with godly men, for the first time in my life. I am not the object of sexual jokes, or treated like a weakling. I am the recipient of compliments, opened doors, a seat where there wasn't one before, and carried luggage. They tell me to my face in all seriousness that they're sorry for what other guys do, and what they have done before, and that I should expect better.

How many different ways does the Lord have to show me that I am now worthy of every blessing He can give?

How many times will I stand in front of the Lord, pointing frantically at myself and yelling all of the things that He hasn't given me into His face, before I realize that I have everything that He wants me to have, and that if I had anything more or less, I would not have the fullest life that an omnitient, omipotent God has planned?

These are too many questions for me today. I'd rather sit in His radiance and smile with the knowledge that I now treasure in my heart.

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