My, oh my, I haven't written here in quite a while. I never felt like I had anything especially poignant or important to say really -- this semester has kept me quite on my toes. Oftentimes last year, when I really kept writing here, I was just having strings and series of light bulbs going off! It was really a dynamic time at the beginning of 2010; something new would just click for the first time, as if I had been trying to jam a puzzle piece into its place over and over until the Lord gently turned it the right way and it all made sense.
The journey of learning and growing that I've had so far since returning from Sarajevo, living at home the rest of the summer, going back to Tampa for school, and living yet another eighth of my college career (WHAT?!) to its conclusion, has been a trip of a very different nature. I've sat down to rack my brain about what has happened over the past week, over and over again, unable to pick out exactly what is going on. No one day really stands out. Crazy things have happened for sure -- as a college student, you can't avoid it -- but I couldn't pinpoint things that really stood out, or made the week memorable on their own.
This sounds pretty depressing, really. It's like the semester flew by and I saw it go from my desk, or bed, or table at the Marshall Center. It has disappeared so quickly but crawled at the same time. There were plenty of times where I stopped and asked myself, what am I doing? Where am I going? What's the point?
I sit in this desk twice a week by the same people.
I lounge around this chair in the MC at this time almost every day.
I come home and make dinner in this kitchen just about every night.
I procrastinate on the same little reports, labs, papers, and they never seem to let up or change.
Why, then, do I finally feel the propensity to write anything again? What stands out to me all of a sudden?
These past few months have been an enormous arc of a revelation for me, and it is unlike anything I have experienced in my life.
I stand here looking back over the routine, the same heartbreaks that arise from time to time that have appeared my whole life, the ways I am different and the ways I am the same, and I understand the very tip of the iceberg that is what life is really like.
When I really started following Christ, of course I imagined that He would magically make life easier. I envisioned that His help for me was not to empower me in a way I could never do myself to face obstacles in the world, but rather to remove these obstacles completely from my path so I could skip along through fields of flowers without a care in the world. I completely neglected the tales of Christian martyrs throughout history, or people I know who endure such hardship despite their faith, and naively anticipated that He would never let things disappoint or frustrate me by giving me the perfect life where I would want for nothing.
Yet, as anyone with half a brain can attest, this has not been played out. I have hit some of my lowest points after I began to walk with God. Things still go wrong, or don't turn out as I had hoped. People still hurt me. I still screw things up for myself, can't control my tongue, forget things that were important, think before I act, and just plain be mean and selfish. God hasn't taken away struggles, trials, or temptations for me to act in a way that does not honor Him at all.
In my bitterness over how life is not automatically easier just because I have a relationship with God, I found myself thinking about the future. This way that life keeps turning out differently from what we expect or want, it's not going to change. Any plans I've made for myself are really up in the air; I do not have the personal power to control everything. Dreams are likely going to be crushed sometimes. Tragedy is going to strike. There will be beautiful moments, but there will be sad, difficult ones, too. It's something we know but are consistently surprised by for some reason.
It must be because I forget the nature of the world we live in. It is not complete, and it is not right. Things are broken all around us. We as people were never meant to feel alone and unloved, or without a purpose. We were never meant to be afraid of strangers, or even worse, family or friends. We were never meant to starve, thirst, shiver in the cold. We were never meant to be enslaved, manipulated, used, abused. We were never meant to feel guilty or ashamed, whether because of our own doing or because of something out of our hands. We were never meant to inflict suffering on others in favor of our wants and desires. We were never meant to suffer at the hands of someone else's selfishness, either. It all feels wrong because it is wrong.
"Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven." -- Matthew 6:9-10
"He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” -- Luke 4:16-21
The Lord will have His will done on earth as it is in heaven, which is the definition of perfection. It is God's abiding place. We have no hope of entering it in our imperfection without transcendental help from God Himself. And how is He accomplishing it? Christ came to give us this hope to know perfection, and abide with the one God of all dimensions, universes, and creation, where no sadness, sorrow, or pain can exist. He is pure magnificence, glory, and majesty. He is light. The good news is that He offers us the only way to experience this, through knowing Him.
This hope, however, is in something that is not so readily known in our lives on earth. We can taste the eternal glory and wonder of God, and this is His desire for us, but as long as we are alive in this world, darkness will always be in conflict with the light. This place is not perfect, and therefore perfection must wait for the next. Thus, truly, life is a task of endurance. We can be happy often times to be sure, and without God, for that matter. But happiness fades, and ultimately, not every desire of ours will be satisfied on this side of heaven.
What a bittersweet reality to bite into. And that is where I am right now. When I was continually screaming at God, asking why, why, why did He let things be like this, I was forgetting that He alone completes us -- but even that will not happen right now. We are becoming more complete, and there will be a time when we can stand before Him and He will wipe every tear away before eternal rejoicing.
But this life is not yet that time. We will face pain until that day. We will be rejected and rebuffed, see our loved ones pass away, witness horrors on TV or with our very eyes, read old journal entries and cry at our past hopes that have yet to be met. There are many seasons in life, but they all will leave us panting and thirsty for perfect hope and joy without the slightest twinge of sadness or regret in our eyes.
Yet, what a hope lies there in the end. The God we have read about, prayed to, and had the infinitely tiniest glimpses of will bring us to Him forever, in the closest intimacy one can imagine. The God who guided us through the trials and tribulations, showing us the way to face them without giving in to the despairing ways of the world, encouraging us through His saints all along the way, will be fully revealed to His children. Whether or not everything that happened on earth makes sense to us or not, it won't even matter, because we will never have to fear or worry again. It will have all dissolved in the absolute radiance of His glory.
If there is even a chance that this is the truth, then I am sold. I'll throw my life away on just "following rules" by what other people see of me. Whether or not I'm really missing anything by obeying the Lord and not following my selfish desires for instant gratification and nullification of pain, it will be more than worth it in the end.
It is for me and for all believers, then, to wait patiently for that complete satisfaction, no matter how we think God is failing us in this life. He cares for us and is near to us in our heartaches, but ultimately is working out His plan in our lives in ways that we could never understand in the thicket of the storm, while He abides above the clouds. Despite the ways that I have struggled to see Him move in my life these past few months, I now already have the blessing of seeing how He has been there in my disappointment. The gift we have on earth through the Lord's glad provision is not the destruction of whatever threatens our joy, but drinking from the true wellspring of joy to taste what is yet to be ours.
I don't know what life holds for me. I struggle wondering if twenty years from now, I will be unmarried, childless, somehow far from my friends and family, wondering what I did or how awful I was to be so lonely and unloved. Even if this were my fate, and it were even true that everyone in the world did not love me and left me to myself, it would not contradict the truth that God loves me and will change all of that one day. I would do best to tarry forth through suffering with my eyes set on the only hope that there is: Jesus Christ. Because... I cannot do justice to the joy that will be. The blink of an eye that a lifetime is on earth is so incomparable to eternity that the moment I can bow before my Father and sing to Him forever, even the worst injustice and agony that could befall me in life would be forgotten.
No crushed dream of mine would amount to the fulfillment of the best dream, which I will no longer see only asleep, but as my every moment forever and ever.
I realize this all sounds like my family died in a fire or something. In comparison with billions of people in this world, I have so much to be thankful for -- and I am. But, no matter who you are, life will be disappointing unless anchored in Christ, and even then its complete abundance awaits us until we leave the cesspool that is our sinful world. Praise the Lord that he does not grade our pain on a curve, but is near to us in our sorrow no matter its origin. I know better than I have before how vital it is to know God and cling to Him no matter what, to know and become the fragrance of life in a dying world in order to breathe it for eternity. I can't stress that enough. He is the only hope. No matter where I'm living, I am living in the arms of God.
If you are wondering why, calling out to God, or simply sitting in apathy, consider His urging to know Him. There is no other joy for us. I cannot believe I have the privilege of resting in assurance that God will finish me and deliver me to the promised land, and in the midst of anything, that hope will be my bread, water, shield, and resting place.
I want to leave you with Psalm 34, because it truly brings me to my knees in worship:
"I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned."