twenty-second summer

22nd summer

I was talking a mile a minute about myself, about my passions and my beliefs and that girl who lives deep in my heart, when the words spilled from my mouth before I even realized that I had thought them:

Big life to be had.

And for a few hours, I was really proud of those words.  My conversation partner had noticed them too, writing them down to remember, looking at me with wide eyes and a slight smile.  She asked where I’d read that, and I said I didn’t think I’d read the particular phrase anywhere; I just said the words because they made sense, because I felt them, because it was in my heart.

It sounds very beautiful: I said the words that were in my heart.  That’s what makes me special, isn’t it?  That I have this way with language.  I spin letters like the fairy tales spoke of spinning straw into gold. 

But on my short drive home tonight, I mulled the words over in my head, and my pride slipped away a bit.  I believe those words – big life to be had – but maybe I don’t always live like it.  I have an anxious heart – a big, open, hopeful, loving, joyful, trembling, giggling heart, but an anxious one, too.  I know this about myself.  Last semester’s moments of panic and sleeplessness confirmed it.  The fact that it is difficult for me to get into cars with drivers who aren’t myself.  The fact that sometimes, I hurt the people I love most because I think I need to be in control.  It is indeed a big life to be had, but often my fear gets in the way, and I hate that.  Because I know in the deepest chamber of my heart that I was not created to be afraid. 

This summer has been one of rediscovery.  Finding again that girl in that heart chamber who runs barefoot through forests and cities and deserts.  I didn’t venture far: I stayed in my college town, lived with a lovely professor, and worked on campus.  I scaled no mountains, but I did road trip to the Pennsylvanian Appalachians.  I went to four weddings, visited my boyfriend’s family, went home a few times, watched my sister graduate high school, buried my grandfather’s ashes, saw the destruction of a tornado, ate dinners on the deck, read many books, watched many movies, took a yoga class, babysat tinies, went to Florida, flew alone for the first time, wore more dresses than I did shorts, stayed up very late, held hands, saw three shooting stars, went on countless nighttime walks, and felt like it all meant something.  My best friend lived minutes away and so we could celebrate our 8- and 9- and 10- and 11-month anniversaries together.  The depth of the fear I had felt the previous semester began to dry up, and though I slipped many times back into the leftover muck, I started to find myself again. 

And my goodness – my self is complicated.  All selves are, I am convinced.  I shift so easily from joy to self-pity.  My temper flares suddenly and dies out slowly.  Sometimes I can’t stop speaking.  Other times, I can barely stutter my way through a thought. 

And yet.

This summer, I remembered time and again the love that abounds for me.  Love from the Maker, yes, He who molded and bought me, He who wins me over no matter how often I drift.  This love drenches and soothes, and I have felt it so clearly at so many moments these past few months.  But love from others, as well.  From the family that does not try to hold me back or call me home, but instead lets me grow elsewhere, and always answers the phone.  From the friends with the front door that I do not have to knock on before entering.  From the yoga teacher who looked me in the eye and told me that my strength had nothing to do with my size, but instead everything to do with the love I poured into the earth and the people around me.  From the young man who keeps walking beside me.  From the children with eyes that light up when they see me.  From the small, noisy little dog who cries and licks and runs to me when I come home for a visit.  

Love.  It is all love.  Find it, again and again and again.  

So maybe the words I spoke were truer than even I realized.  Big life – big life full of love and road trips and going to the office.  Life with the people who make it big.  Stay in the small town when all the kids go home, and find again the community that surrounds those who remain. The secret, it seems, is not to find arrogant pride in the big life, nor is it to believe the lie that the fear defines you and steals the big life away. 

The secret, if it was ever a secret at all, is to find the life you have, over and over again, and see how big it must be to hold all the love poured in. 

It is a big life to be had, dear heart.

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A Disruption

This is what I’ve decided:

I am done believing the lie that all anger is sinful.  I am done being told that I am disagreeing with the Bible when I disagree with a preacher.  I am done sitting still in a pew while a person on a stage tells me to cheer for him, to make him feel great for “just preaching the Word.”

I will no longer encourage the worship of leaders and pastors.  I won’t cower in the back row while someone tells me, under a guise of loving redirection, that God has not called me to do certain things because I am a woman.  I won’t accept the notion of “equal, but different.”  That idea didn’t get us far the last time we tried to make it true.  So yes – I will continue to sit in my seat on the bus.

I will lean into this anger, because I love the Church and I love Jesus more.  And I can’t sit still and quiet when the ones I love are manipulated, deceived, or oppressed.  I will call for context, details, and interpretations from across the aisles.  I will praise God when truth is spoken, and no one else.  I will hold leaders accountable.  I will challenge those who have power, even if I am afraid.  I am so tired of being afraid.

I will unclench my fists, because while quick heat lights fires, only steady oxygen keeps them lit.  I will refuse to give in to bitterness.  I will refuse to let anger become me.  I will refuse to close my eyes and ears.  I will loosen my grip, too.

I will create a disruption.  I will overturn tables in the Temple.  I will read the Word aloud.  I will sit at the feet of Jesus and learn, a passionate rabbi-in-training, then I will go out and preach.  I will give people water, I will see them as people, not projects; I will relinquish my souls-saved tally, I will invite those who have been turned away, I will beg forgiveness for the sins of my people.  The Gospel does not offend because of who it leaves out.  It offends because of who it lets in.

I won’t close the gate.  I will push aside the guards and I will pry open the wrought iron bars, even if no one comes to help me.  Even if everyone does.

This is what I’ve decided.

God knows what God is doing.

This blog has been receiving epic amounts of love from me lately – a poem or post nearly every night this week. It was a crazy week for me, so the writing helped. But now that the week is coming to a close, I didn’t want to end my writing streak! Tonight, though, I want to share the words of others. Something I’ve noticed lately is that I’ve been resisting what the Lord had to say to me through my friends and chapel speakers. I suppose I’ve just been really good (read: poor) at trying to figure everything out on my own. But life isn’t like that; it isn’t some battle we charge into alone. I am so prideful when it comes to doing things on my own. But I need to listen. I need to believe what the people around me tell me. Which brings me to this short post. Every semester, I collect quotes from chapel and church in the back of my Bible. I’ve filled up about 15 blank pages in the past two years. Since this semester is coming quickly to a close (something I’ll write on soon), and since I need to hear truth these days, I wanted to share what I’ve collected in the past few months. I hope you hear the Lord in these words too.

“None of us need on-the-job training to put us on the throne of our own lives.” -Rob Turner, Apex church, 1-27-13

“We can’t love the world’s system because the world’s system is tragically imploding.” -RT, Apex, 1-27-13

“If your life is not built around adoring Christ, then you are doing something demonic.” -RT, Apex, 1-27-13 (A very tough one for me to swallow and to wrap my head around.)

“The strategy of the devil is not to make himself look so scary and ugly – it is to make himself look beautiful.” -RT, Apex, 1-27-13 (It was a good day, what can I say?)

“These embers must turn into flame.” -RT, 1-27-13

“We have a tendency to complain about things that aren’t, but we fail to recognize how blessed we are.” -Dr. Brown, chapel, 1-28-13

“God is not fooled by our words.” -Pastor Rohm, chapel, 2-4-13 (another hard one for me – because sometimes, I am fooled by my words.)

“You always have a voice in heaven. When you think no one will listen, take it over their heads.” -Pastor Craig Miller, chapel, 2-6-13

“Truth is always best when it is accompanied by wisdom.” -Pastor Craig Miller, 2-6-13

“No matter how confused you are about what God is doing, God knows what God is doing.” -Dr. Kneeland Brown, chapel, 2-19-13

“If you read Scripture, you know that God does not always speak in thunderclaps.” -Dr. Kneeland Brown, 2-19-13

“An afterlife is not the same thing as an everlasting life.” -Russell Moore, chapel, 2-21-13

“The hotel maid who trusts in the power of the Gospel will one day be a Queen of the universe and should be treated as such.” -Russell Moore, 2-21-13

“My life right now is an internship for the life I will have in the Kingdom.” -Russell Moore, 2-21-13

“You have no accidental college roommates, or accidental relationships, or accidental part-time jobs. Everything is for a purpose.” -Russell Moore, 2-21-13

“Stop thinking in terms of the next 60 years and start thinking in terms of the next trillion years.” -RM, 2-21-13

“If you belong to the kingdom of God, you have nothing to prove.” -RM, 2-21-13

“Why is it that these people – the prostitutes, the sinners, the tax collectors – clamored to be with Jesus but don’t want to be near us?” -Dr. Brown, chapel, 2-25-13

“Give God a chance to prove how real He is.” -Pastor Bill Church, my home pastor at Winona UMC, 3-10-13

“The Creator of the universe will give you His full attention for as long as you want it.” -Dr. Brown, chapel, 3-11-13

“The person who has nothing plus Jesus actually has everything.” -Dr. Someone From a Baptist Seminary (which is actually what I have written down… forgive me.), chapel, 3-13-13

“We cannot condemn without offering Jesus.” -Eric Metaxas, chapel, 3-14-13

“The more you love and trust the Lord, the stranger the path He will take you on, because He knows you won’t run away.” -Eric Metaxas, 3-14-13

“When something becomes everything to us, we are then worshiping it.” -Jason Wing, Apex church, 3-17-13

“On your greatest day, Christ still had to die for you.” -Rob Turner, Apex, 4-17-13 (Painfully humbling for me.)

“The humble, mysterious power of the Kingdom protects us from depending on the dramatic.” -RT, Apex, 4-21-13

“He’s just as strong in the whisper as He is in the fire.” -RT, 4-21-13

“We’re so prone to worship the gifts of God rather than the God who gives them.” -RT, 4-21-13

“We are slaves to a perfect master.” -Christian Figueredo, chapel, 4-23-13

Father,
I know I am very bad at trusting You. I know I’m very bad at believing Your good will for my life, even though I know there is nothing You want more for me than goodness and faithfulness. Please help me hear what You say, through whomever You say it. Help me accept Your wisdom and Your blessings.
In the only Name that matters – Amen.