Tag Archives: Jesus
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Fear of The Unknown And Not Feeling Known: What Do I Do With All Of My Anxiety?

20 Aug

Frustrated. Sad. Anxious. A clamor, a panging, a feeling that I was forgetting something majorly important. My engagement ring? Well, yes, it was at home in the box, where I’d left it safely the night before, only to be abandoned in my morning haste to beat the traffic that coagulates near Downtown LA on Thursdays mornings after 7:15. But something else? What?

Sometimes pre-wedding anxiety is like that. You just have a constant feeling you’ve left something to chance and that it won’t be okay. Weird, right?  I’ve had too much caffeine. Not enough actual food. In fact, have I eaten at all today, save those two candies in the church office? Hmm. It doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter. What mattered was this: after the rush, after the haste, after the pounding head and spinning wheels and 29.2 miles in 70 minutes, I was here. Here. To breathe. Breathe? Really? Yes, breathe.

I often find myself feeling most at home on beaches. I took this shot on a cold day in South Carolina when I found this deserted beach.

I often find myself feeling most at home on beaches. I took this shot on a cold day in the Carolinas when I found this deserted beach.

I knew what I needed. A trip to the beach. A different beach that I had only been to once before during a Spring Break several years back when visiting my friend in North Carolina.  A North Carolina beach.
And so I sat there in the counselor office, closed my eyes, and we went there. But not just the two of us. I invited a friend along. One it felt like I hadn’t seen in awhile.
He came from a far off place in the distance. We usually meet on tropical shores but today, it was a warm winter afternoon with a slight breeze on that beach in North Carolina. The one where the wispy grass blows calmly, the seagulls congregate in a lazy circle, the water is shocking and colder than you remember, but a comfort all the same. We usually sit on a log together and chat, but I sit all day so I decided we’d walk on the shore. The sky was more clouds than anything. No blues, just soft, muted grays that reminded me that this wasn’t paradise, but it was a place where all slates were wiped clean. Simple. Truth could be revealed here.
He saw me and acted surprised. But not in a “Make you feel guilty” way. More in a “You’re the only person I want to see today and I’m so glad you showed up!” way. He got closer, not a care in the world, dipping his feet in the water, getting his clothes wet like an excitable 5 year old with rain puddles aplenty, too many to resist.  So he jumped in and out of the waves, waving at me? And then his face grew serious. Not in a scary way. In a “Where ya been? I’m so glad to see you!” way. He approached and I exhaled, the first time in weeks.
And we began to walk. I was hesitant. I told him of my fears, still scared that I would say too much. I hemmed and hawwed, skirtted around words, which I never do.
“I’m scared of a new life where I don’t feel known.”
Not just announcing a feeling but the other Unknowns. Feeling alone. I was wondering, wondering if he was going to go to San Diego with me since I had first really met him and grown with him in LA. It felt honest. It was. I was. For the first time with him, my old friend who knew me better than I knew myself. I was saying everything that had been bottled for far too long. Not champagne but feelings bursting forth, a fountain of truth was emerging.
I talked a bunch. He listened. Then I began to listen. I felt him calm my fears. He showed me pictures of when I’d been so scared before.  Brokenhearted. So lonely. He reminded me that he had been there that time. I had been hopeless, I didn’t see a future. He was now showing me now that I have one. That there are plans laid out. Where I will still have choices and friends and where my love with my future husband will grow into that beautiful thing that I believed in when I was a little girl. I will have a place to call home. Not just a physical place, a place where I will be stable and rooted.
A place that will start with Him. Not my husband him, but Him Him. I won’t create it, although I’ll help. I will claim the gift he is giving me. Like the Israelites when they came back to the Promise Land. I will belong. I will be free. I will lead because those gifts don’t go away with a location change. I will look back at this moment. I will remember how deeply I felt and that what I was asking for was courage and faith. I can’t conjure those up on my own. I can’t dream them into being. I had to ask. I had to confess the places where I had forgotten that He is Lord and I am not. I had to let go of me and hold tight instead to Him when the me part ceases to make sense.
p_00044I’ve been wondering how to feel this “joy” people talk about when they are engaged. Mostly I feel stress and like planning a wedding is a full-time job. I’m not a fan of big decisions or “you HAVE to do it this way.” When I left the beach, it didn’t matter. I knew in this way that you know things after an encounter with the Living God that it was ALL. Going. To Be. Fine. I was going to thrive. I was Set Apart. I was Known and better than anything, LOVED.
It was the peace that surpasses understanding. Finally.
It was the easy burden, the light yoke. I get it now! 
It was the flowers of the field ,not worrying, it was the moment when you laugh because Jesus looks down at his wrist where you think the watch will be and it’s not there because he invented time! “Why wear a watch?” he asked. I laughed. A real gut busting laugh….
I’m now back to my quiet couch in South Pasadena, where I will be for three more months before this new unknown, but less scary now adventure begins. The sky is a briliant orange and pink. A tad different from that serene beach calm, but still calm. He’s showing me life and life abundantly. And I’m starting to believe it again because I had forgotten! It is for freedom that we were set free. And so I do what I learned to do and I. Just. Breathe.
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Saying Goodbye To One Who Knew Me Well

21 Sep

I knew her once and well, but not lately.

Her small, lingering laugh.  Her bright eyes that lit up with emotion.

Her gray fluffy hair that I had long ago seen dark brown like my mom’s.

She smiled big and said “Well,” in a knowing tone.

She liked to explain her thoughts and I liked to listen.

She was small in stature but not in heart.

She had it rough, but she lasted longer than all of them:

The Depression, the Second World War, graduating college with a degree in Latin, 4 children (including twins!), 50 plus years of marriage, her battle with early hearing loss, his battle with cancer, his battle with polio, her battle with cancer, 8 grandchildren, moving to separate rest homes, his death, her friends’ deaths, 4 great grandchildren…she lasted 92 years through it all. A feat in its own right.

What was unique about her was that despite her hearing loss, she still heard me.

My Grandma, Elizabeth Vandersall Hanks

Despite her eyes going, she still saw me. She understood far more than they thought.  I sometimes wonder if she went through life behind the scenes, never really getting all the credit she deserved for all she endured. She was quiet like that. A servant.

I tried to take the time to hear and see her back. She felt blessed but wanted more for her family.  She hoped they would understand joy and our family’s deep traditions that stretched back to her father’s love for God, mission, and country.

She voted. She worked at the church. She believed. She instilled that in me in a deep way without having to say many words to do so.

I am bittersweet because she is gone, but only sweet because I know where she is.  Without a doubt, I know.

My Grandma is in heaven. She can hear. She can laugh. She can see clearly now. She feels no pain. She is sitting at the feet of Jesus and he is delighting in her up close.

He surely said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” and he is so proud of her. So proud. 

In the church we often say that we don’t know people’s hearts.  Only God can judge who will spend eternity with Him. But from what I know about God and what I know about her, she is there with him. I don’t know very many people I can say that about for sure, but she is one. And so I’m happy for her.

She taught me how to persevere. She taught me the fruits of the spirit including peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. She taught me to keep going and I learned not to quit from watching her. She taught me just by being.

Elizabeth Vandersall Hanks , my grandmother, one of my first spiritual influences, went to be with Jesus last weekend. I’m grateful. I’m sad. I miss her.  But most of all I’m determined and committed to continue the work she started here and carry on the legacy she left us.  She was first and foremost a follower of Christ.  So I will cling hard and continue on. I will follow. I will tell others, just as her father did and she did after him.

I love you, Grandma. I know you’re happier than our wildest dreams now. More than anyone I know, you deserve this.

Philippians 2: 2-4 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

 

What Veruca Salt, That Guy Who Cut Me Off In Traffic, And My “I Want” Syndrome Have Taught Me About Love

23 Jul

Love is patient.

Wait until the clock strikes 12.

I’ve been reading a lot about love this week. It’s funny because at this prayer series we’re doing at church, we’re studying 1 Corinthians and I was asked to read 1 Corinthians 13 aloud to everyone in the group. I smirked.  This was a week after being inundated with everyone’s opinions about what “love” is everywhere I go. Through a new song from one of my favorite band’s (Stars), I’ve heard “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It.” Or, from another song introduced to me by Love and Respect Now, I’ve been pondering the question, how do we not idolize romantic love or the thought of feeling known in community? (Another blog to come).

Or, another idea of love from one of my favorite ministries, The Living Room:

“Love is more than words spoken from our mouths. It must be lived out in the patterns and actions of our lives.”

According to the Bible, to love means to be patient. I find that interesting that it’s mentioned as the first characteristic of love. Maybe because patience is so difficult for us?

Patient is: “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.”

Two of my favorite kids wait in anticipation for a wedding ceremony their father is performing to begin.

Wow, I can honestly say I haven’t figured this out yet. At all. I want what I want and I want it now. I want people to know me, I want things to work the way I want, I want my boyfriend to read my mind, I want work to be fulfilling, I want to live happily ever after, I want my friends to think I’m awesome, I … I want, I want, I want. And NOW.  (On bad days, I’m kind of like that girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who wants the golden goose.) My “I wants” have become insatiable of late… More food, sleep, time with loved ones, meaningful moments, recognition at work.

Waiting isn’t easy, as I’ve mentioned here before. It’s tough and most of the time, I fail at it. But I’m learning. Last week in traffic I didn’t swear at all when I got cut off! It was a small victory, considering a few weeks ago I actually made my hand into fist and almost raised it yelling something about picking a lane and the fact that driving a Ferarri under 60 on the freeway should be illegal.

Who would want to hang out with this girl? Thus, learning patience is a top priority.

So what about this patience? What does it look like? Here’s what I think:

-It looks like waiting for an unfulfilled dream even if you doubt you can muster even a little seed of hope.

-It looks like being patient with a child that has overwhelmed you, when you’re tired beyond belief.

-It looks like trusting that although you might not be in your dream job, you can keep praying and actively looking without just jumping into something else without cause.

-It is not putting the cart before the horse in romantic love, letting a relationship grow and develop. Trusting that with patience, much will be revealed at the perfect time.

-It’s about not trying to have control, but instead giving ample time to those who might not go as fast whether that be in traffic or in life.

-Patience means hearing someone else out, not interrupting, not needing to be first. Having it not be all about me and instead letting others shine even when I have the bright idea first.

-Patience is sacrificial. It might mean not getting your own way. It could look like delayed gratification (another area I struggle with) or believing that something good could come out of the time spent.

-Patience could mean acceptance that things have not gone the way you’ve planned. Getting back up when you’ve fallen and trying again, knowing that you’re not quite there yet, but you’re getting closer.

-For me right now, patience means knowing that I don’t have all of the answers and that question marks are okay for now. It’s being aware of the fact that I’m in limbo in some areas. It’s not trying to force a false sense of closeness or intimacy with friends, family, community, or in close relationships, but instead letting them play out and being present to a greater reality that I am not in control.

If patience is an action, I may have a lot to learn. So in those moments when I feel the need to control or give up or move too fast or break down, I stop. I ask the question, am I being patient right now? And I remember that I’ve grown in this. There is grace for me. I’m not perfect. I don’t have to somehow master patience. But I can move closer to trust. And to a God who knows me and my impatience and loves me anyway.

What about you? Do you think love is patient? How has this played out in your life recently?  Feel free to leave a comment. 🙂 I’ll be continuing this series on what love is in the coming days.

Guess What Happened When I Didn’t Eat For Three Days…

1 May

Sunset near the beach I was at during the fast

I fasted for three days before Easter. No food, just water. I’ve never done anything like that before and while some might think it to be crazy, I did it in solidarity with my church after our pastor invited us to participate. It wasn’t a competition, although I was surprised that so many people I talked to felt like they had failed when they had to break the fast because of medical reasons. Fasting should always be in order to get closer to God, and it did just that for me. When you don’t eat for three days, every time a meal comes around or even when it doesn’t and you think about your stomach, you have no choice but to think about God and realize we are not promised much in this life and yet we seem to have ample amounts of food.

Being that it was holy week, I thought about the sacrifice that Jesus made for me more than once. I can’t believe he was able to do forgo food for forty days and be tempted! I at least was able to avoid food places and keep my refrigerator full of unappetizing things, but to have bread dangled in front of me or all the power in the world offered to me so that I could change my circumstances would most definitely have been too much. By the end of day 2, I couldn’t get Chic Fil A out of my mind! I had been a strict plant based eater for two months before the fast and suddenly, all I wanted was chicken. My roommate and I even hatched a plan to get it the day after we broke the fast, which happened to be her birthday. (We ended up first going to the one in Hollywood but some half marathon prevented us from even getting close and although it was way out of our way, we ended up at the USC Chic Fil A savoring our chicken sandwiches.) Needless to say, I got a little sick after that and decided that was NOT a good idea. Note to self and to the rest of you: break your fast slowly and if you’re going to Chic Fil A the day after breaking it, be sure to not get the biscuit sandwich AND the chicken nuggets. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.

Throughout the fast, I did something I hadn’t done before. I prayed three times a day. Some call it “praying the hours” and it comes from a tradition where you can connect to God during meal times (there’s a lot more to this. Google it if you want more info). Prayers mean more when you realize how reliant on God you actually are. I started to see God as a provider and I was so incredibly thankful. My words came alive. I meant them and my hunger made me focus on each one in a deeper way. Sometimes I’ve heard about fasting that your hunger is deeper than just a surface level. That was true of me. I realized how much I needed to hear from God on so many issues in my life. I wanted clarity on career decisions and movements. I needed help seeing myself realistically as loved and forgiven. I wanted to give him my regrets and shortcomings.

In this sweet time of communing with my God, I learned to get out of the way.

Because I was more tired than usual, I couldn’t keep up the break neck pace that I so often set for myself. I was forced to slow down. In a year when the word I’ve chosen is “Aware”, nothing made me more aware of God and of myself than not being able to eat for three days. Suddenly everything became more focused. While I would think about what I was going to eat at the end, I was also forced to think about that moment and how I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be yet. And in that, I let go. I had to. Otherwise the food cravings would have driven me crazy. Day 2 I was ready to give up. Day three though, I felt fantastic. I had some mysterious energy that drew me forth. I wasn’t needing food or anything tangible to make me happy, I was just happy because I could be. It was definitely a new freedom that I really enjoyed.

My favorite moments from the fast were on Good Friday. We had an awesome service at church and many came to be together in community to experience the evening together. We took communion around a large table. Everyone when up individually and had their own sacred moments kneeling in front of the bread and juice. I found my eyes welling up with tears from the beauty of it. Oh how desperately we needed God then. Sometimes we pretend we don’t.

The fast taught me that I’m actually not in control of much in this world. My attitude, yes. My blessings, no. Those are all from God. Every morsel of food I buy. My car when it works and when it doesn’t. My friendships. My singleness or the relationship I have. My family. My money. All the dreams I have for my life. All the ones that didn’t come to pass for one reason or another. It all belongs to God. Taking those few days to pause and remember that changed my rhythm.

Suddenly I find myself reaching out to new people I wouldn’t have met before because encounters don’t feel like chance anymore. I’m more grateful for each day. While I don’t want to waste time, I also have learned to enjoy little moments a bit more than I had previously. I’ve encountered “slow” and I’m not as afraid.

I’m sure the fast’s purpose will continue to become evident to me as time goes on. And I might even try to do a fast once a month for a day just to remember all the lessons I took away and to connect again in those special moments with a God who loves me for all that I am. I know in a deeper way that just to be created and to enjoy that creation is enough. And it’s from that place I want to live my life.

The Hike Where I Almost Died, The Risk That Hurt, Singleness, and Other Mini-Thoughts

29 Dec

Mini-thoughts On My Year – #1

At the end of the year, I often reflect on where I’ve been, hoping to find some commonalities, a story, maybe the imprint of God on my life. This year was no different. An unexpected year, to be sure. A difficult year? Yes, in many ways. But did I grow more? Did I stretch more? Yes. Yes I did. Did I impact lives like I’d hoped to? I’d like to think I did even if it wasn’t in the ways I’d originally thought. Did I love until it hurt? Yes. I can say that for sure I did. Did I come out unscathed? No. I have bruises and scrapes. My heart hurts sometimes from loving this much. Was it awkward? Yes. It is always awkward to love people. When it’s really love, I’ve noticed that it becomes a sacrificial act. And it’s intentional. I had to decide to love even when I didn’t want to. I had to step out. Do things that hurt. Forgive. Grieve. Laugh again. Risk again. Know when I couldn’t participate. Know when I had to push myself forward to take part. I had to trust. I had to examine. I had to let go. I had to spend some time in counseling. I surrounded myself with great people. I realized I have a long way to go. Still do.

Mini- thoughts On Singleness- #2

Note: The following is not a boo-hoo fest on being single. Just a few thoughts I’m processing.

The hardest part about risking and having it not work out is that you sometimes lose a friend in the process. That’s what I’ve noticed about dating. It’s a lot of fun to date and get to know someone else. I highly recommend it and think that it’s necessary and essential if you ever really want to be known. But if you do it right, you’ve gained a real friend when getting to know someone and saying goodbye to that person, no matter how long you’ve been seeing them, is painful.

This is especially the case around the holidays, as I’ve discovered this year. When you see couples and families and get Christmas cards with pictures all over them (which I happen to love, by the way 🙂 ) and you somehow hear every version of “Blue Christmas” ever recorded (the one from Glee is my fave this year!), or when you are just having a sad moment when you remember what it was like to not be alone, it does make it a little difficult for us recently single people.

BEGIN PSA- So this New Year’s Eve or even this next year, if you have someone to kiss or you have kids and a family, remember those of us who don’t and give us a hug. Invite us to hang out with you. I realized the other night when I was hanging out with one of my favorite families and my 5 year old friend was bejeweling my fingers and toes after painting them with hot pink Hello Kitty nail polish, that hanging out with families is so healing for me.  I’m reminded there’s more to the holidays than my blues. I’m thankful for how I’ve seen my married friends and their kids grow.  Hug us. Give us a call. Invite us into your lives. We won’t be sorry and neither will you.  END PSA.  

Mini-thought That Turned Into A Story #3

If I could encapsulate this year in an analogy, I would say it was like this hike that I took in the latter part of this year in Malibu.

The whole point of the hike wasn’t to get to the waterfall at the end, although that was a big part of it. I didn’t know where I was going. At first, it was just a street with a group of majestic mansions on it. It was a beautiful walk but did not resemble a hike quite yet. Little did I know what was coming. After the street, I trekked down through the grass, on a dirt path, through the woods. I got to this point where I literally had to crawl up a steep part of a jagged path. Then after I made it through that, I scaled a couple of boulders and pulled myself up. Finally came the rope. In order to climb up the side of this steep cliff, I had to use a rope and lean back while pulling myself up the side of a mountain. I was parallel with the ground. That took trust. Part of me didn’t want to continue.

After venturing past that and a lot of people, I made it to the waterfall. It was beautiful and tall. Unexpected.

Along the side of the waterfall was this branch that jutted out. Next to that was a slim that one could use, if they were crazy enough, to climb up, shimmying their way across a slippery, thin ledge up into the waterfall. It took a lot of faith, a few swear words, a whole lot of trust, and a few people to help me, but I wanted to climb up into that waterfall and make it back in one piece.

The water was cold even though it was an 80 degree day. It was pelting on my head and I was shaking, getting all of my clothes drenched as I muddied my arms and hands, clawing my way up through moss and slippery rocks until I stood erect in my triumphant arrival .

When I could finally stand and enjoy it, I realized something. I had to figure out how to get back down. I had made it up so part of me knew I could make it. But sooner or later, I would have to start down the waterfall the same way I’d come up. I was surprised when I was able to climb down. It took more effort than climbing up. A stranger literally had to prop me up. I took steps and then backtracked, not trusting where I was stepping. I almost cried. Part of me wanted to jump off although I surely would hurt myself in the fall. In the end, I made it  down to safe ground and I was proud. Proud that I had risked at all. Exhilarated that I could do something like that and not die.

Ever since that moment, I’ve wondered what else I could do. How else can I let myself be surprised? How else can I trust? How can I go through 2012 with more moments of triumph?

Risking in community

Mini-thought on Risk #4

Going back to my year, I’m surprised. Surprised that loss after risk didn’t do serious damage to me or to my friends. Yes it hurts. So much. But not as much as it would hurt if I hadn’t realized what I do now. I know more of what I want after I risked and it didn’t turn out. I am healed more from a past that sometimes feels like a bag full of rocks that I don’t want to carry anymore. As much as it has hurt and still sometimes hurts, the risk was worth it.

Tootsie Pops, Waiting, The Real Story of the Cement Truck, and A Return from Tanzania

17 Dec

I don’t do New Years resolutions. For recovering perfectionists like myself, resolutions turn into “should haves” and “should haves” turn to guilt which soon becomes regret. So I don’t do that. Instead, every year, for the past three years, I’ve picked a word that will define that new year for me. Just one word. This year’s is JOY. And if you’re a regular reader, you know what I’ve learned about joy over the past 12 months.

However, instead of pondering about it too much, my word for 2012 came early.

The Roddys before the retreat

It was November. The culmination of a lot of things for me. I go on an annual young adult retreat every year at this time. I have a birthday, usually an occasion in and of itself. Thanksgiving happens. And this year two great friends, Liz and Shannon Roddy, came back after being gone for a year and a half in Tanzania, Africa serving at Wild Hope International. Oh how I had waited for them. In the midst of life I would often say aloud and yet rhetorically, “Liz and Shannon should be here, don’t you think?” At first it was a sad addition to whatever memorable moment my friends and I were having at the time. Then it became a joke to those who know me well. Before I could even say it, my roommate would see the sad look on my face as my forehead wrinkled, my head turned down, and my eyes filled slightly with tears and she would ask, “What, I’m not good enough? Just kidding. I know. Liz and Shannon should be here.”

But they weren’t. For a year and a half (despite the fact that they were doing amazingly awesome things and growing a ton), they missed birthdays, Christmases, milestones.  My breakup, my roommate’s new promotion to pastoral staff, that time I took a missions trip to the Czech republic, births of babies, deaths of people within our church, small moments, big moments. There’s only so much you can relay over Skype. They missed a lot. And I missed them. Waiting, waiting for their arrival back into my life.

When I saw their faces for the first time, I remembered what it was like to have complete  joy return. I hugged them and jumped up and down, probably waking up all of my sleeping neighbors as we lugged their bags into my apartment. Finally. They. Were. Here. And they were in the same room as me, breathing the same air, cracking jokes and able to engage with us without the screen freezing or the power going out. We laughed. We realized how much we had changed. And how much we were still the same.

I found in the time that they were visiting us that I wanted everything to go faster. Maybe it was a hold over from the year and a half of waiting. I wanted to catch them up on everything, hear their stories, and live the life that had been missed by all of us for the past 18 months.

This urgency culminated on our way to the young adult retreat. I was so used to waiting that I didn’t want to wait anymore. I wanted us to BE there. So when our car got stuck behind a cement truck going 20 MPH on a mountain road, I got irate.

The rest of the car thought I was crazy with impatience. I kept yelling at the truck to move over.  He wouldn’t move. Every turn was torture. Every place he could pull over, he refused. Finally, what seemed like hours later, the truck slowly found its way to the shoulder. (My roommate swears it was only 30 seconds that we were stuck behind the truck). After my irrational behavior, everyone else in the car was convinced I needed to settle down. But I didn’t.

I kept being impatient.

And suddenly like that, the Roddys were gone again. The card games, the night at the Lawry’s Steak House with Liz, the pool sharking she and I had done at the retreat, the spiritual conversations. It all went by in a flash.

We're such pool sharks! We were on a roll!

Even in this season of advent. I’m ready for New Year’s. I want to skip through Christmas because I don’t feel like it’s Christmas. I want to get to the good part of the story, the chocolate dipped cone at the bottom of the ice cream drumstick, the Tootsie Roll in the center of the Tootsie Pop.

It’s in the quiet moments I realize that I need to wait. For what, I don’t know. Maybe a whisper. Maybe an answer? Maybe just silence. Yet there is something pushing me forward. I don’t know what it is. I don’t want to miss this chance to wait, though. I know in my heart the greatest gift the world has ever seen is coming soon. And in my impatience, I may miss Him. And that would be a great tragedy.

As I was contemplating waiting this past week, I heard this in a poem by Issac Wimberly in spoken word form that makes me want to be a better wait-er.

This groaning was growing, generation after generationKnowing He was holy, no matter what the situationBut they longed for HimThey yearned for HimThey waited for Him on the edge of their seatOn the edge of where excitement and containment meetThey waitedLike a child watches out the window for their father to return from work—they waitedLike a groom stares at the double doors at the back of the church—they waited

And in their waiting, they had hope

Hope that was fully pledged to a God they had not seen

To a God who had promised a King

A King who would reign over the enemy

Over Satan’s tyranny

They waited

Wow. People waited YEARS for Jesus. 400 years. And I get all upset about a cement truck and a year and a half without my friends. Despite all my wanting the best for people, I can still get upset about still being single while others are getting engagement rings and sonograms. Perspective shift, much after hearing this poem/spoken word? Yeah. Definitely. I can wait. And in the moments I can’t, I will learn. I will hope that despite the fact that things don’t work out exactly the way I planned that there still is a plan. And in that hope I can believe that the lyrics to the song I heard recently by Jesus Culture are true. “I have a plan for you/ It’s gonna be wild/It’s gonna be great/It’s gonna be full of Me.”

So because of this, this next year will be the year that I will learn to wait. Patience: my word for 2012.

Yes He’s My Ex, But He’s A Person First: Possession Issues

2 Jul

We label people. We do. And then we define what their relationship is to us. My “best” friend. My “ex-boyfriend.” We do it when we want to quickly explain how someone fits into our world and more importantly, how they “belong” to us. I don’t believe that anyone ever really belongs to us, though.  We can buy into the whole “Jerry Maguire” line of “you complete me” but I don’t believe that creates a healthy picture of what a relationship is supposed to look like. The moment we start thinking that we need someone to complete us, we get into trouble. The moment we start seeing someone we once shared a relationship with as “belonging to us,” we really become stuck. Then we begin to think we own them and their choices. We think they owe us something and we have, through our language of possession, created a tie that doesn’t need to be there.

I learned about this issue of possession the hard way. Several years back, I believed that one of the guys I dated could only be defined to me and my friends as just that: “my ex boyfriend.” In doing this, I made it known to all of my friends that they should not befriend him and could not “choose” him over me. If I’m honest, I hoped that they would want to forget about him all together.

While I understood that they had a friendship with him outside of me (because we were all part of the same community), I expected them to drop that as soon as he became “my ex-boyfriend” out of some kind of loyalty code that I had made up in my head to equal “friendship.”

The problem with that kind of thinking is that it isn’t fair. It is actually VERY selfish. I’m not proud of those years when I believed in this odd code of conduct and I even almost lost one of my friends over it. I thought her loyalty should be to me after the breakup because to me, my hurt was so heightened that I wanted him to hurt as much as I did. I tried to hurt him by attempting to claim all of our mutual friends for me.  By creating that unrealistic and unfair expectation, I forced my friends to choose. It put them in a completely awkward position. I was not wanting the best for the guy that I had dated or for my friends and in the end, I lost.

Luckily, I learned through this that we are not called to “possess” people with whom we are in a relationship.  Through controlling behaviors, unrealistic hopes that we can change a person, or through physical ties that connect us to a person too soon and too deeply, we can begin to believe that we can “lay claim” to a person and call them “ours.” But what if the relationship doesn’t work out? Then where are we?  Suddenly this person that I thought was “mine” was out of my life completely. The loss was devastating. I had over-shared and put too many expectations on a guy who was just a human and not capable of giving me everything I needed because I believed that he would complete me. (I’ve found the only one that can do that is God and so it became a situation of misplaced hope.)

In the end, we do not own someone who we dated and we cannot expect our friends to completely drop the person just because we are desperate for someone else to share in our pain. I am saddened and appalled that I ever believed that my friends were only real friends if they stopped talking with the guy that I dated in favor of me. When you break up, it’s not about sides. It’s about people who once shared something, hopefully learned a lot, and have decided that they are not the best for each other. It should be okay for people to part ways grieving but also wanting to want the best for the other.

In a call to maturity, I hope for a community where people can date, break up, and remain in that community cordially, while wanting the best for one another. I won’t allow myself to get stuck into a place where I have to “claim” people out of some belief that I own my friends. I won’t buy my friends’ loyalty to me in some power play intended to thwart the happiness of someone I once shared time, love, and hope with. That is not who I am or who I would want to be, especially as a follower of Christ. Surely my commitment to following Jesus, which informs all of my decisions and guides me even in my darkest of days will also inform me of how to love, even when it hurts and even when it is costly.  It is in that place of love that I learn that Jesus wants me to love my enemies, especially if in some way I’ve twisted it in my mind so that my “enemy” is now  someone I once loved…someone I somehow started believing was not a person with feelings and a soul but rather whom I too easily and selfishly labeled: “my ex boyfriend.” In the place where I can let go of labels and remember how to love my friends, the guys I’ve dated, and even myself, I find a new kind of freedom that I have never known.

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