On Grieving and New Chapters.

Dearest Hannah, You have graduated from college, and are now in the in between. And let's be honest -- while you have accomplished much, the in between hurts like hell. It feels like all your limbs are being pulled in opposite directions, and you are young and the world is so very big.

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The idea of the quarter-life crisis would never have caught on without people like us. We feel every ounce of the weight of our decisions, and we are young, the world is big, and we can do literally anything we want, but we want to live our one life well.

Blessedly, I had a wedding a month after my college graduation. I emptied myself of energy in preparation, not even allowing my mind to consider what had just happened. It was a cushion for the shock that came in the days after I walked across the stage. A putting off of the inevitable.  After the honeymoon was over and the dust settled on what had become my life, I grieved and grieved hard. If you hear nothing else, hear this: it is okay to grieve.

I spent five months at home before I found a job. Those five months were some of the most difficult, because much of my time was spent alone. My husband had a full time job, and we were in a town where we didn't know anyone.

And then I met you. As much as two people can bump into each other via the internet nowadays, we did. I will always count our meeting among the gifts -- tangible proof that the Lord knew just what I needed.

I had the pleasure of watching you transition to your final year of college, a year that I know has left its mark. You decided, as if out of the clear blue sky, to change your major. Senior year of college, and I know you must have been feeling like your life had been hijacked.

When we're introduced to Abra(ha)m, scripture says "the LORD had said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you.'" I think God is still in the business of calling us out of our comfort zones, plucking us from all familiarity and planting us smack dab in the middle of the unknown. 

There's an old proverb that says the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I've learned that great leaps of faith are often disguised by these steps.

And I've learned that at the end of the day, God pulls us out of our comfort zones so we can experience the true meaning of comfort: that the Lord provides all things. I've learned that in the seasons of loneliness, His presence is near, and when we feel empty, He is only preparing to fill us.

I've learned that there are questions. Should I get married? Should I apply for a masters degree? Where should I live? Who am I? And I've learned that He holds the answers.

I've learned that He goes before us, and that everything is held together by His grace. When it seems like our comfort zone is so far out of sight, the Comforter is drawing us closer. When it seems like we're faced with all the questions and none of the answers, we have unadulterated access to the Giver of all wisdom.

We simply have to take the first step. And the real secret? God told Gideon to go in the strength that he had. There's no formula, no code, and blessedly, no scantron. We just move. We put one foot in front of the other, open our hands a little bit more, and a little bit more...

to grace.

 

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?

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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.

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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.