Thoughts on safe spaces and how to survive the world.

I wake up early, turning my alarm off and scrolling to see that #HowToSurviveTwitter is trending. The irony of this isn’t lost on me: these social networks designed to bring us closer together are actually enabling seeds of bitterness and division to flourish. My heart feels so heavy lately that I wonder if any words will wander in at all, for fear that this weight in my chest will suck the life right out of them. And I don’t know if I can handle any more death. Some days, it feels like nothing is safe or sacred or beautiful anymore, and I know when I get these spirally feelings, the only sure solution is to unplug — to immerse myself in scripture and an extra hot bath.

 

The truth is, I’ve spent most of my life trying to save myself. Trying to measure up. Trying to prove to you that I am worthy of love and that I’m not too much trouble. I’ve been trying to preserve my own way of thinking and acting and I hold onto my own comfort so tightly that my hands burn and blister raw. I’ve looked for safety in all the wrong places.

Isn’t that all we want at the end of the day? Isn’t safety the driving force behind everything we do, from buying organic eggs to dropping bombs?

Our craving for safety leads us to lock our doors, and fear bullies us into locking our hearts. What we don’t realize when we throw away the key, though, is that we haven’t only insulated ourselves from brokenness — we’ve also actively refused the remedy for our anxieties.

He who wishes to save his life must lose it.

 

If there’s one thing I know for sure now, it is that the answers are rarely as simple as we want them to be. An old friend told me recently that we are all being thrown into shades of gray, and I tend to believe that’s true. So I’m trying not to be too prescriptive these days — except when it comes to love. I believe that we can choose to love because God loved us first, and he so loved our world.

 

Love begins with the willingness to see. And when we open our eyes, we will see the brokenness of the world — the differences that seem to refuse reconciliation. That same friend asked me the other day how we can choose to love each other in spite of these differences, and my only thought was that we simply hold onto each other, leaning into the tension together until all is reconciled. Because we know that the story ends at the table, with a family. We know that in the end, all will be made well. Fear has an expiration date. When we open up our eyes, we will see the beautiful parts of the world — the evidence of redemption. And sometimes, we will see that the line between ugly and beautiful gets blurry — like how the scorch of the forest fire makes the soil more fertile, or how a seed must be buried and break open in order for what’s inside to reach the surface.

And we can choose to be kind, because there isn’t one of us who isn’t feeling more than a little buried and broken, and sometimes it is hard to know which way is up.

 

We can go out on a limb and tell the truth when someone asks us how we’re doing. Sure, it might be shocking at first, but I’m learning that it is only when we lay down our own fig leaves of fine that other people will feel freed up to do the same. Instead of shouting our opinions from the rooftops of Facebook and Twitter, we can choose to boldly whisper our stories in the presence of friends. We can put down our devices long enough to learn the names of our neighbors and listen to the worries of our kids.

When we open our eyes and our ears and our hands, we begin to see that the issues we go on and on about affect real people on our own streets, and I’m convinced there’s something about looking into someone else’s eyes that shocks our own hearts into rhythm. When we crack open the doors to our own truths in the presence of others, we crack open the doors to healing. This is how we move from being spectators to the redemption story to being participants with Christ.

He looked us in the eyes wasn’t afraid of us sticking our hands in his wounds.

 

I know that living this way, broken wide open, will hurt, and I can’t tell you with any certainty that it will ever hurt less. That is the ugly-beautiful tension of it all: the surgeon’s cut is always the first step towards surviving and healing.

 

This isn’t meant to be a political statement. I just mean to say that I’m tired of being afraid. The days of injustice are numbered, but love lasts. And don’t we all want to be part of something that lasts? I’m learning how to be a safe space for the people I love. And I’m learning how to find safe spaces in them as well. The world needs safe spaces. Because I know that if we are going to survive, it will be together.

With each other and for each other. And that will be enough.

 

A love letter to the weary watchers this Advent.

Dear you, dear me, dear weary world, dear us standing together —

When I was growing up, I didn’t know anything about the Liturgical Year. We attended a small Pentecostal church with rusty red carpet and green pews and a hefty pastor and my parents were not well versed in the church calendar. I knew about Daniel and the lion’s den, Esther becoming queen, the prodigal son, and how one time Jesus made a cocktail of spit and dirt and rubbed it in the eyes of a blind man to give him back his sight.

I knew about the highlights. Christmas and Good Friday and Easter and that one Sunday every year when people got really wild and waved palm branches around (that especially embarrassed me). Lent was a time when some people decided to give up chocolate for 40 days, but in the end they just felt like losers, because who could really make it 40 days without chocolate? I knew nothing of Epiphany or Advent or the strings of ordinary time that held them together.

As an adult, I grow more appreciative of the intricacy of the Liturgical calendar with each passing year. This year, Advent, in particular, has opened me up to a kind of awe and wonder that I’ve scarcely ever felt. And it has broken me wide open to an unbridled longing.

 

Aleppo.

Orlando.

Bombs, bullets, all the bullets.

“The gunman was…”

Riots.

Planes falling out of the clear blue sky.

Attacks.

“I moved on her like a bitch…”

Townville, South Carolina — all of fifteen minutes away.

Haunted.

#BlackLivesMatter

Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes.

 

The earth is quaking and we can’t stand by any longer and pretend like the storms are happening somewhere out there. They’re inside of us.

Job loss.

Financial crisis.

Crumbling marriages.

Addiction.

Loneliness.

Disease.

Numb the pain.

Gossip.

Betrayal.

All this loss.

 

And buried somewhere underneath the rubble — the realization that this world is not our home. I knock unrelenting on heaven’s door, pleading.

Where are you? 

Have you left us? 

 

My soul yearns.

 

And then.

A thrill of hope. 

At just the right time.

Our King has come. 

Immanuel, God with us.

 

The greatest gift of all time in the most unexpected package.

At some point, I remember learning that the people with the palm branches in The Bible had the wrong idea about Jesus. They thought he would save them from Caesar, when really, he came to save them from their sin.

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother — and in his name, all oppression shall cease. 

He weeps for them. 

Perhaps there are a handful who know, somehow, somewhere in their souls that nothing would ever be the same again.

 

He didn’t come to make us comfortable. Rather, that in our brokenness, we could be comforted. A holy God saw brokenness as being such an integral part of the human experience that he could not go another moment without putting skin in the game. Jesus didn’t come so that we could climb some corporate ladder or hit it big or simply make ends meet or just do okay or feel high and mighty about our stance on gun control and who can use what bathroom. He didn’t come for us to experience the same old stuff on a different day. He didn’t give his life so that we could walk around with the prerecorded response of fine. 

He came to become a casualty, to be cast aside, to be spit upon and mocked and denied and sold out and it didn’t have to be this way. He took upon himself the punishment that we had coming to us — rescuing us from what we surely deserved.

He came to make Love great again.

We know. We know. 

 

And then he asked us to give our lives as evidence.

“Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Whoever is willing to live in this holy, painful tension — whoever is willing to take up his own cross, to let go of dreams and plans and security and bucket lists in order to be poured out alongside me. 

We are broken, and we are broken for each other. We are poured out, and we are poured out for each other. This is the way of the beloved, the way of being transformed to the image of Christ, whose body was broken and poured out for us.

 

We can be the Aaron’s and Hur’s, holding one another up. We can be a generation of Esther’s who are willing to risk it all to tear down the wall so that all might come in. We can be the peacemakers, the prayer warriors, the 2:00 AM answer on the other end of the phone, the lasagna bringers, the roof rippers, the everyday superheroes, the second mile journeyers, the quiet revolutionaries going about the Father’s business.

We can be poured out, because we know that he always gives more

We are the hearts preparing him room, the hearts who know that he doesn’t come in alone, but rather with a host of broken hearts. He touched the sick, broke bread with whores, and called cheats and liars and back stabbers his best friends. He says they’re with me. And when I begin to catch glimpses of my own heart in the folks he chose to spend his time with, it changes everything.

We’re with him when we stand up for the least and loneliest and the left out — we’re the ones who know that when we give the shirts off our backs, we’re giving to him.

We keep both eyes fixed, not in idle wait, but active watching for what we know is on the horizon.  And we must not grow weary. For at the proper time — at just the right time, harvest season will come. The weary world will rejoice and all will be made well. 

 

Jesus, keep us until that day comes.

So be it.

The new normal.

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I haven’t really written in a couple months. I’ve told the story to a few close friends, but I haven’t really known how to tell it here. I wish I could say that coming back felt like meeting an old and dear friend — the kind that you can just pick back up where you last left off and feel like no time has passed at all. But really, this doesn’t feel much like that. I’m not the same person I was before October happened. Truthfully, I’m still trying to process the fact that October happened. 

“I feel like I’ve gone through some strange metamorphosis.” I say it out loud to someone, almost without meaning to.

 

Most days, I want life with God to be more like a sprint and less like a marathon. I want to be holy now, want this whole purification thing to take no more time than instant macaroni or a Poptart. But being made well doesn’t happen overnight — at least not in my experience thus far. Love moves slow, because love understands worth.

 

“I try to remember,” I say to a friend as we sip our holiday coffee, “that I have an enemy — and it isn’t the people who hurt me.” Sure, it may seem that way in the heat of the moment, when feelings are fresh and the sting of grief leaves me stunned — when I watch as the trauma brings any semblance of normalcy to a screeching, burning halt. Lashing out and spewing every last ugly thought is what feels good and right, and I am tempted. Except I cannot escape this thought: when Jesus died, I died. Now, every hurt or triumph I encounter in this life must be viewed through a new lens: the lens of the cross.

“Not that that makes this any less painful,” I continue. “I’m not naive enough to think that any of what happened is okay.”

The pain demands to be felt.

“I’m just learning to trust that he is making me okay.”

When our hard won community withered, when I reached the end of my rope and the bottom fell out like a hidden trap door underneath me — grace caught me. He allowed the air to remain in me.

 

I look at the new chapter that is 2017, and my heart is deeply ready. 

Not that we know where we’re going or how we’re going to get there, because we don’t. But we trust that he goes before us.

“I go knowing that I am cherished and cared for and deeply beloved.”

I believe that now in a way that I hadn’t dared to believe it before. And believing it has changed me — rescued and ransomed pieces of my soul that I had rather let lay in the grave.

 

Nouwen writes that as Christ’s living body on earth, we are taken, blessed, broken, and given to the world — just as he was taken, blessed, broken, and given for us.

The past two months have broken me.

What offers me the most comfort these days is how Jesus looked at brokenness as being such an integral part of living that he was willing to forsake glory to experience it with us. He chose it for my sake. I’m grateful for the grace upon grace of it all. In awe of the abundance. 

 

But he gives more. 

 

I find myself wanting to live out of that more, to live as though Christ in me, the hope of glory, can never run out. To live like he is close, that he wants to be close, and that his love for me goes on and on.

To shut the door to a life of scarcity and being scared.

Because I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize that I was a grace and glory hoarder. When you catch a glimpse of the way of the beloved, you want everyone you know to come with you. Therein lies the secret of the givenness.

 

I’m not the same person I was a few months ago, I tell her. She is patient and kind and offers the kind of soul deep hospitality that my heart has been longing for.

I walk with a limp now, a soul war torn from these battles in the wilderness. But you don’t get to the abundance any other way. There are no shortcuts to holiness, no formula that makes sanctification more palatable or predictable.

But he makes the scars beautiful. He makes beautiful things from us.

A Sending Prayer

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{For K+K, who have been the very hands and feet of Jesus to
C and I since day one. We love you more than these words could express.}

I knew in the pit of my stomach when you told us you wanted to have dinner that you had something you needed to say, and I tried to shake off the feeling that the news was going to be bad. And when you announced you were leaving five minutes into pizza, my heart plummeted.

The truth is, I have never been good at sending, as it has always felt like more of a goodbye and less of a see you later. But then, I’ve always been a worst case scenario thinker, so that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. And believe me when I say that I am something of a champion at grieving in these situations. As soon as your car pulled away, I was reduced to a puddle, repeating that I knew it, I just knew it, and I don’t want you to go.

There is nothing I love more than what God has created here, among our friends — our brothers and sisters who have grown to feel like just that. And all at once, last night around our dinner table, there was a moment where everything seemed to just stop. And I thought back to the hilarious first meeting, the Tuesday night when we were all seated in a circle in the foyer talking about perseverance, the car ride across town when we invited people to come to church, the time you filled up our gas tank, finally getting baptized, the softball games, the worship. Your friendship has changed me, grown me, made me so much better.

And now, you’ve been called away, called to take Christ into uncharted hearts in a new place. While it hurts to see you leave, I know (what feels like) our loss is great gain for the people God has placed in your path. And in the midst of grief and tears, a promise was recalled to my mind: He who begins the work will be faithful to complete it. He knows the plans he has for us.

As you go, there will be a deluge of emotion — an overflow of the tears and excitement that we are already beginning to feel as we anticipate your absence. Know this: even though my heart hurts to see you go, it beats for the vision God has given you, and I could not be more excited to see how your future unfolds. So I offer this prayer, the simplest and yet the most effective means I have to bless you as we prepare to send you on your next leg of the race.

When there is uncertainty, may you be rooted in and reminded of the promises of a faithful God.

When you feel as though you lack direction, may you remember that He goes before you.

When there is need, may you not grow anxious, but trust that the Lord will provide.

When you feel inadequate, may you be strengthened by the knowledge that you are fully equipped.

When you feel restless, may your soul find rest in the Lord.

May you continue to let your light shine brightly, as an example for all believers and as ambassadors for Christ.

May joy and peace and hope be ever overflowing as you trust Him with all of your heart,

and may you always find His grace to be sufficient.

In the name of Jesus, so be it.

when you don’t think there’s room for you {and a request for prayer}.

 

I cried on three separate occasions in the car on Sunday afternoon. All of the feelings I had been cramming down in the trenches, the reserves of my mind and heart, came flooding towards the surface in an uncontrollable torrent. Days like that are few and far between now. We were on our way to lunch with friends after church when the tears came pouring and I learned that the mascara that claimed to be waterproof was anything but. I pulled down the visor mirror and gasped, quickly pressing tissues to my cheeks in hopes of minimizing the chance of anyone noticing the very obvious streaks that had appeared.

I wrote in my journal awhile back about being a highly sensitive person + introvert. I wrote about how hard it is to make friends as an adult, post college. As the hot salt rolled down my cheeks, daring to dive off my chin, I had assured myself — no, let the enemy assure me — that there was no place for me. My mind wandered to the girl who practically turns cartwheels to welcome people into our church, the girl who makes the color-coded spreadsheets and makes sure everyone knows where to go; the guy whose face exudes joy in spite of not enough hours at work, and he leads worship with such tangible passion; the girl who sings and has the perfect teeth everything, even my husband working in the tech booth each week.

I bang maniacally on these keys, pounding and smoothing out my thoughts like a blacksmith who can’t ever get it quite right, but for the life of him, can’t fathom giving up. I sew together a few syllables now and then that show up on a screen for the whole world wide web to see, but sometimes that doesn’t seem very meaningful. And I sit and hash this out, chewing my bottom lip, poring over all of this and realizing how it all sounds incredibly whiny. Its a vicious cycle that leaves me all the worse for the wear, until I remember sweet Bekah, who said she was in the same boat. She asked me to keep going, to keep being real about this season of my life.

Because at the end of the day, there’s more to this than not being picked for the kickball team.

The Word says that we are His masterpieces, but honestly, most of the time I feel more like my flower girl’s finger painting, still hanging on my fridge almost ten months after the wedding.

Masterpieces. 

Ephesians continues that the Lord has prepared something just for us: before the foundation of the world, He knew us; knit us together for a purpose.

Me — highly sensitive, introverted, deeply caring. Designed to house glory and promise. Divinely purposed. There’s no use in dressing it up, though. Not knowing what that purpose is can be incredibly deflating. It can be lonely, even for an introvert who draws energy from being alone. Its isolating, no matter the season of life.

I would venture to say that the first year after finishing college is one of the loneliest of a person’s life. Quarter life crisis time, we shrinky people like to call it. Faced with choices like whether or not to start a family or get my masters degree or keep working in social services or what in the world am I doing and what do I possibly have to offer to make the world better? 

Do I really believe that I am here in this right now for such a time as this? Do I believe that the Lord is in control, and that He really is unequivocally for me? Sometimes it seems as though the electrical line between my head and heart shorts out.

Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief. 

Will you pray with me, friend? The promise is that He will generously provide wisdom when we are in need. He will make the path straight. He will provide for our needs according to His riches and glory. He is able to do immeasurably more. Pray for vision and opportunities to minister, for open doors, divine appointments.

I’m saying yes and amen.

Please let me know how I can come alongside you in prayer, as well. I would love nothing more than to hear your story and how the Lord is working in your life. 

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in which i go through all five stages of grief.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. They blend like watercolor running down my face.

Sometimes, they come like a whirlwind, overwhelming my senses in a matter of minutes. Other times, they move sluggishly through my days and weeks. And even though it is scary and painful, I try, for the life of me, to feel them fully: to turn over each piece and carefully examine and learn from them. No one ever tells you that self-awareness, us-awareness,  is like a geological dig.

I shovel through the layers and discover.

This is not an easy task. It hurts so, because we are missing something way deep down in the marrow of our bones. 

And we try to fill the void: some with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, and some with rules and standards and expectations.

This is not an open letter, nor is it a passive aggressive response to someone in my past who has hurt me. 

Actually, its the opposite. This is a reminder that I need to hear the truth of the gospel every moment of every day. An etching on my heart that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. A reminder that I must examine my own heart before rushing to question the motives of others.

Sometimes, I wonder at our anxious need to dichotomize so fiercely, and then I remember what Tony Campolo said about movements: they can surely exist without a God, but never without a devil. 

There must be something to blame, to rage with all our might against.

So we turn to other people; perhaps those who interpret scripture differently, those who have different ideas about how the world works, those who love differently than we do. We make devils out of each other, and all the time the real enemy of our souls laughs and basks in the pleasure of our division.

Do we really even need him anymore?

Admittedly, it has been difficult to shake the anguish that ensued following World Vision’s announcement that they would allow people with same sex attraction to work alongside them in meeting the needs of the least of these, and then their reversal of that decision due to the loss of support by thousands of evangelicals. I scrolled through tagged social media posts until the weight of the hate became too much to bear. I have struggled to find words.

I am a sinner. 

Daily I find myself lying, cheating, acting out of spite, and willingly rejecting truth. I am quick to become anxious, quick to say harsh words to my husband, and slow to work my way to a position of humility. I get caught up in discord instead of living peacefully. I rush to point my finger at someone, anyone, else, before even considering admission of my own shortcomings.

A couple weeks back, I journaled that I am tired of being fallen.

I’m also tired of the idea that I am somehow allowed to withhold grace from someone who I find undeserving. I’m physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually wrought from the mentality that we have to hate those we disagree with. I don’t know how people live like that.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

When WV decided to offer an olive branch to its homosexual employees, Christian leaders everywhere called it a disaster. They said the gospel was at stake. Lifelong supporters revoked their sponsorship of needy kids, numbering up to ten thousand. Social networking was a riot about how WV had given up on not only a biblical view of marriage, but scripture as a whole.

Rarely, if ever, have I seen such a vile response from those who claim to represent Christ.

Christ, who was friend to the tax collector and prostitute. Christ, who turned the tables of the the merchants in the temple. Christ, who, with the last of his breath told the man dying next to him that he would see paradise. He would leave the ninety-nine for one and was always more concerned with those people residing in the fringes.

Christ, who lived and died and returned to redeem me from the grips of my sin.

I don’t write this to stick it to other Christians. Because the truth is, I get it. Somehow or another, I’ve run the gamut of trying to fill myself up. My pendulum swings the same as everyone else’s. When chasing the idea of freedom didn’t work, I turned to chase the idea of being able to control my life.

I don’t write this to downplay sin. Scripture is very clear that the consequences of sin is death. The death of dreams, the death of relationships, the death of a thousand tiny pieces of our souls before we ever even leave this world and face the ultimate consequences of our decisions. Its happening all the time, and it breaks me in two that we so often put a period where God has placed a comma. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. And why aren’t we better at offering the gift?

I don’t write this to get a radical response. Writing in the public eye can be incredibly unforgiving. For some people, this could be a deal breaker, and I get that. I also don’t expect anyone to rush to agree. I barely even expect anyone to read it. Then again, I could wake up tomorrow and this post be viral. But none of that is the point. I’ve given up writing to try to change your mind and am beginning to write in order to change mine.

Because I am responsible for changing culture, and I have to start with myself.

I am writing this, screaming it from the rooftop, to say this:the gospel is never at stake when I offer grace to someone I am at odds with. 

Because the heart of the gospel is that God offered grace to those who were at odds with Him.

He offered grace to me. 

May these words be hidden in my heart, lest I forget.

meditations on the symmetry of grace.

Jeff Goins says that social networking is much more than a conversation — it is an opportunity to build something new. I’m trying hard to learn. But last week, another ugly headline shows up in my feed, which more often than not serves as a constant reminder of depravity rather than inspiration. A little boy bullied, no more an hour from my hometown; told that he is no good because he favors this cartoon over that one. And my heart gets heavy, because I’ve seen how those stories play out.

I marvel when someone comments and grossly chalks it up to survival of the fittest, as if to say that the world would be better off without this boy and his perceived weakness. They say that at the end of the day, we’re fallen and we can’t change it. They say to try to blaze a new trail will inevitably lead to more hurt. I quietly tried to ease my acid stomach, fire and frustration rising in my gut. And I tried to shake off the feelings of responsibility, knowing that I contribute to and reinforce this kind of thinking every time the weird kid talks to me at Bible study.

Maybe I’m writing this because I’m tired of being fallen. Maybe I’m writing this to own up to all the excuses I’ve made.

As we traversed through the foggy darkness towards the comfort and warmth of home, my husband and I speak of redemption and light versus dark. Sunday morning, words of redemption and identity fill up a screen and flood through speakers. The soul inside whispered amen again and again.

Redemption: the act of purchasing something with the intention of setting it free. 

Frequently, I hearken back to the day when Professor Wanner shifted the cosmos of my life in fifty short minutes with his talk on redemption, and how, really, grace is symmetrical. 

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The whole of creation was redeemed through Christ’s death and resurrection. Scripture says that we were purchased at a high cost. But the freedom song does not end there. True freedom is to fully live out our purpose. 

When God said “let us make man in our image,” He lovingly bestowed on humanity the ability and responsibility to take part in creation. It gave Him pleasure to allow us to share in the shaping of culture by expanding the kingdom-garden. Sometimes we look at culture as an ugly green monster that we must fight to overcome, rather than what it truly is: the overflow of our own hearts. We spend all of our time talking about how dark it is instead of assuming our true identity and purpose, which is to say let there be light. 

Maybe I’m writing this because I’m tired of a life spent basking in the darkness. Maybe I miss life with Him in the garden.

Let there be light in my thinking, let there be light in the words that I speak and the words that leap across this page. Let there be light in the way that I treat my husband and our families and friends. Let there be light in the way that I treat the girl at Starbucks who makes my coffee in the morning. Let there be light in the way I prepare for and raise my someday babies, who will, in turn, go forth and shape culture. Let there be light.

I am responsible for changing culture, and I have to start with myself. And knowing who I am begins with knowing who He is. There is no mystery or trickery to it. Knowing Him is never a game of hide and seek. The torn veil gave me access. The plan is outlined in His Word: to draw us to Himself, for His glory to be unleashed upon the earth in and through our lives.

It begins with believing what He says about me: that I am redeemed and restored. No longer am I a slave to the darkness. I am the vessel that God, in His infinite grace and mercy, chooses to use to make His appeal — a minister of reconciliation.

It begins with remembering that the head of the snake has been crushed. The source of all my doubt, he slyly concocted a sweet recipe for my anxiety: can I really trust what God says? How great the lengths Christ went to in order to redeem that which had been lost. How unimaginable the depth of despair as He turned His face away so that one day we might see Him for who He is.

We cannot possibly understand who we are until we begin to grasp who He is.

He could have just as easily done without me and my weakness. But in His grace, He chose me. He ran after me, relentlessly declaring love. Never ceasing for a moment to say remember, my love, who I created you to be.

 

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— because its hard to put myself out there {sensitivity, introversion, and a little tough love}.

My subscription feed is seemingly growing by the minute tonight as I hunker down in bed with some milk and oreos. I just wandered over to Sarah’s space and found her words about being a highly sensitive person. So I went and took the test, which says that if you select fourteen or more of the twenty-seven statements as being true of yourself, you may be a highly sensitive person. I ended up selecting 24/27, which basically means too much stimuli, and I’m done for.

Its something I’ve been trying day in and day out since I was in college to put words to. They told me back then that I would likely never find that kind of community again in my lifetime, and I’ve found out in the nine months since I put on my cap and gown just how right they were. I have been incredibly lonely, and being an introvert and a highly sensitive person isn’t exactly a recipe for success in my mind when it comes to budding new relationships and meaningful opportunities to serve.

swhquoteNewsflash: I have always been an introvert. Of my INFJ personality traits, introversion has always been the highest percentage, hanging out between 75 and 85% depending on the day. I’ve come to the realization putting myself out there in college was much easier because there were people around me 24/7. I went to church with my school friends, did work study with them, played intramural sports with them, made short films with them for class assignments, had “family dinners” with them, put on summer camps with them, and got married with them. And now that college is over and we’ve all gone our separate ways, I realize I’ve forgotten how much effort it takes to forge new, deep relationships.

Its hard and scary, this feeling of starting from square one in “the real world.”

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to a volunteer’s conference for church. There was a big emphasis on having high energy and making guests feel like they are being welcomed home when they walk in the doors. Few things bring me more joy than meeting someone where they are and hearing their stories, but I have long struggled to master the enigmatic enthusiasm that most of the young adults in my church have. I have even wondered at times if my apparent lack of energy and enthusiasm equates to a lack of passion for the gospel.

It’s a big, hard thing to discover that God gave me less energy and more sensitivity than He did others. — Sarah Sandel

I recognize that my story is not everybody’s norm, and I have learned to be okay with who I am — but I still battle this part sometimes, because I feel like I have a lot to give at this point in my life. And I want to know and be known, but it can be scary to venture out of my comfort zone when personalities are so starkly different and I don’t know if I’ll be accepted as the introvert with low energy and high sensitivity. Its a conversation I frequently have with my husband on the drive home, and sometimes I get frustrated with him for so easily infiltrating whatever social situation is in front of him.

Confession: its easier to hide behind a computer and ignore the issue. Even typing these insecurities out is scary.

But hiding is not what I’ve been called to — not by a long shot.

The calling to meet people where they are requires movement on my part. It requires a stepping out from the coffee corner and being intentional about inviting her to do lunch or them to go out on a double date and talk about seasons of life and what God is doing. If Jesus gave up the comfort and the glory of heaven to get down in the trenches of humanity’s mess and build relationship, surely I can risk creeping out of the coffee corner.

I’m called to be authentic, and in the words of Brene Brown, “authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Sarah said it comes down to being a good steward, and I couldn’t agree more. Finding my freedom and identity in Christ means I don’t have to work to compensate for anything. He equipped me this specific set of personality traits in order to bring Him glory. He never asks me to be someone that I’m not. All He requires is that I show up.

walk

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