Awaiting Meaning

We have an instinctual need to make meaning out of difficult circumstances. So what happens when we find ourselves in a whirlwind and lose our sense of direction?

The last 6 months have been a sort of unraveling for me. I’ve craved a simplistic narrative about this season to make sense of it all. I want a clearly defined purpose to console myself or rattle off, but I know now is not time for analysis. It’s time to wait, to abide in Hope, to rest, to trust. 

Margaret Atwood shared a similar idea in Alias Grace:

When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling, to yourself or to someone else.

I’m not out of the whirlwind yet, haven’t reached the other shore. I am, thankfully, becoming more steady and rediscovering unburdened joy. The meaning of this season will sometime emerge and become be a crux in my life narrative. Someday, I’ll have a story to tell of heartbreak, change, and His grace through this all. Still, amid the unknown, I will hope continually and praise my Savior yet more and more, because my Father is generous, kind, and faithful.

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To Be Loved AND Known

In my community I have always had people who would say that they love me. I know that I am so fortunate to have lived around such loving people. There is nothing like it.

Yet… it is difficult for me to accept that I truly am loved as people say.

Having fought relentlessly to hide my pain and turmoil (and any expression of either) for all of my childhood, I ran myself into the ground as a shut-down, voiceless mess. The last several years I have been working to reverse the devastating effects.

I have been on a become-known adventure especially these last few months. It has been wild. In being more open and vulnerable with others about my story, I have had taken both baby steps and uncertain leaps with a fair amount of set backs mixed. It has been both difficult and freeing, exhausting and invigorating,

I want to share with you a quote that has influenced many of these major decisions in the last year by Timothy Keller:

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.

Hiding feels safe. But in hiding, we are also confined. 

I could only accept love to the extent that I was known.

Living honestly does make me feel more vulnerable, but because of it, I am beginning to experience acceptance and belonging in a way that I never before deemed possible.

“A Letter to White Evangelicals from a White Evangelical” by Cole Brown

Cole Brown wrote an article last week confronting a tragic trend among white Evangelicals. He challenges us all to be further transformed by the Gospel of Jesus with humility and courage.

If you follow Jesus, please consider his words. And if you don’t follow Jesus, then pleaseeven more soconsider the hope and grace of Jesus’ salvation!

Please, oh please, join me in listening to the hearts of our brothers and sisters! Let’s learn to listen humbly to those who experience injustice, be it from racial prejudice or other forms. Regardless of our political positions, we as the Church need to change the way we handle the issue of racial injustice. We can’t afford to dismiss others’ stories just because we have not experienced the same perspective and pain.

Real Talk for Straight Folk

Real Talk for Straight Folk.

I just found Julie’s blog last night and am blown away at her sensitive, compassionate, and articulate discussion of being a gay Christian (who holds the “side B” viewpoint). This particular blog post gives insight to ways that heterosexual believers may love their brothers and sisters in Christ who have a homosexual orientation.

Memorial services… for the living

Have you ever been to a funeral or memorial service where people share something along the lines of “I didn’t say this often enough, but I loved them,” “I regret not ever telling them how much they meant to me,” or “Now I wish I had the chance to make things right between us”? Those comments always break my heart. It is so easy to let time slip by without telling our loved ones how much they mean to us. I am guilty of that too.

I have made it one of my goals to “appreciate” the people whom I appreciate. I have found that giving genuine encouragement is surprisingly and unfortunately awkward in our culture. Our verbal encouragement skills are left unpracticed as well as our compliment-receiving skills. Because, let’s be honest, it is difficult to actually receive praise in a humble and thankful way.

I have been blessed with some friends who are gifted with the ability to encourage. They have taught me both how to speak truth and blessing into others’ lives and have helped me learn that humbly accepting the compliment is actually a gift to the encourager.

What if instead of an expensive birthday present, we wrote a thoughtful card explaining all the positive character qualities we see in the person? Or if we had an open mic “memorial service” for someone who was alive so that they may hear how their life has impacted those around them? Let’s reverse the cultural trend of being awkward about encouraging. Please?  It will take a movement, but it’s already underway. Won’t you join me in encouraging loved ones? Do not waste an opportunity to speak life into your family, friends, coworkers, even strangers. Let’s not wait until it’s too late. Let’s celebrate life now. 🙂

The disorientation of change

Some people claim to enjoy change. I am not one of those people. I am thankful for the good that often results from change, but the process is not one that I desire or seek.

I remember one of my professors describing the two different ways people respond to new information: assimilation and accommodation.

Assimilation: incorporating new knowledge into the pre-existing system of viewing life. We respond in this way all the time. When we ask a friend what is new in their life or visit a new restaurant, we process the new information without much problem. This is the kind of type of change that response and catalog it into our worldview.

Accommodation: adjusting a schema to new information. This means adjusting your whole system of viewing life into a new system. THESE are the kinds of changes that are often difficult for everyone: when we learn that we have a chronic disease, when we move into a new culture and need to learn a whole new way of life, when we are betrayed by a long-trusted friend, when something happens to fundamentally change our beliefs and values. Not all of changes are necessarily bad, but they can certainly shake our foundation.

 

I recently graduated from a university, moved to a new house, and am about to start a new job. I have found that this transition has been a change of the “accommodation” magnitude. It feels like my whole world is a little unsteady. Especially in the first week of the transition my mentor gave words to how I was feeling–disoriented. It is as if everything that was familiar has been moved and is out-of-place. One morning I found myself overcome with thankfulness for being able to have moved my clothes dresser to my new place. This seemingly insignificant detail helped me that morning feel familiarity and stability when everything else seemed to be different. Silly as it is, it gave me relief from the disorientation for a minute because I knew exactly in which drawer my socks reside; at least something was still in-place. 🙂

I think being disoriented for now is ok. It’s not fun, but it points me back to the only Unchangeable One. God is my rock who does not change. In times like these, I find myself connecting especially with the book of Psalms. It is full of prayers that cry out to God in times of uncertainty and distress. In “lament psalms,” the writer calls to God in their pain, asking for relief and comfort while still praising the LORD because of the good things God has done and for who He is. Here is a few verses one of these lament psalms:

Psalm 18:1-2, 6 (ESV)

“I love you, O LORD, my strength.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold….

In my distress I called upon the LORD;

to my God I cried for help.

From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry to him reached his ears.

I find such comfort in viewing God as my stronghold who actually listens to my cries.  I could tell stories upon stories of God’s mercy to me.

Transitions can be messy (both literally and metaphorically), and I’m learning that it’s ok… just as long as the transition period is just that–a temporary period that doesn’t last forever. Soon I will adjust to the new way of life and it too will become familiar. For now, I seek the LORD for strength. He has never failed me, and I trust that He will continue to be a faithful provider.

Have you ever felt disorientation with change? How have you found that you cope with it?

If I must weep

“If I must weep with You, My Lord, Your will be done.”

I like to arrange–or rearrange, rather–hymns and put them to new music. I love to connect people today with great hymn writers’ deep theological expressions. “My Jesus, as Thou Wilt” is one that I worked on last week. I usually only end up liking a small fraction of works that I compose and arrange, and this was one of the few. Perhaps I’ll post a recording of it on here eventually.

As I was writing and doing initial recordings of the song, I became impressed with the lyrics. The prayer is emotive, theologically sound, and full of wisdom. It only impacted me, however, to the extent that I was feeling pain.

Have you ever learned a life lesson that doesn’t seem to apply to you at the time? And so you gladly display it as a lesson you are learning, but without actually having to personally invest in it much? God has a funny way of circumventing my pride and showing me that the lesson is indeed applicable for me.

I am learning that often it is only through suffering that l can holistically learn the lessons about which I have cognitively processed.

When life is going smoothly it is easy to praise the God who gives. In seasons of blessing it is also fairly easy to say that you will bless the name of the LORD when He takes away. But what about when He actually does? When life hits, when trials come, my plan to persevere in joy often slips my memory. I know that trials can develop perseverance; suffering can grow faith, mature character, and increase faithfulness to the LORD. So if I don’t have an intrinsically negative view of trials, then why do I tend to view each individual trial as an unacceptable hindrance to my well-being that needs to be immediately reversed? I suppose growing less spiritually nearsighted is an element of maturity which will come as I grow more like Christ.

Why do I bring that up? Suffering’s heaviness overwhelmed my perspective tonight. After much weeping and prayer, God allowed relief from my anguish for the night. He reminded me of the hymn I had just arranged and gave me the strength it pray with sincerity. As much as I protest the process of suffering, I am thankful that God is using my pain to shape me.

I am once again learning (isn’t it funny how lessons seemingly need to be learned several times, in cycles?) that even though God is the Healer and that His healing is something I should seek, pain is not guaranteed to ever go away on this earth. Suffering reminds me to recognize my dependence on the Father; it is a reminder to fix my eyes on Jesus, the Son. It makes me long for my eternal Home for which I am sealed by the Holy Spirit. I trust that God can use evil for good, even if I will not be able to see or fathom it in this lifetime.

Remember. Always remember to remember that God is good. He understands suffering. He sees my pain–both hidden and apparent–and it all grieves Him. I weep not alone, for I have an advocate before God’s great throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16). Praise be to the God of mercy.

 


 

Here are the lyrics (modified slightly to fit a modern audience):

My Jesus, oh may Your will be mine

Into Your hand of love I would my all resign

Through sorrow or joy, conduct me as Your own

And help me still to say, “My Lord, Your will be done.”

My Jesus, though seen through many tears

Let not my star of hope grow dim or disappear

Since You on earth have wept and sorrowed oft alone

If I must weep with You, my Lord, Your will be done.

My Jesus as You will all shall be well for me

Each changing future scene I gladly trust with Thee

Straight to my home above I travel calmly on

And sing, in life or death, “My Lord, Thy will be done.”