This week I had the opportunity to share some vulnerable things with my staff. We had a meeting with the head of our division and he shared something he had learned years ago: you can choose not to let people into your hard seasons, but then you also cut them out of experiencing the good that might come later — the miracle, the healing, the celebration. It was convicting to me, as I would like to hide the hard things and only talk about them once the solution has already come. But inviting people into our mess gives them a beautiful opportunity to hold hope for us.
A mentor recently shared this idea with me, as I shared what I was learning about frustrating things that people say to you when you’re grieving, particularly overly hopeful “you’ll get through it! God’s got this!” kinds of things. She said, “sometimes all you need is for people to hold hope for you silently.” If we don’t let people into our hard seasons though, they won’t really be able to do this for us.
My boss pointed out something beautiful about practicing vulnerability. While it can feel like you are handing someone a burden to hold, instead you are giving them the opportunity to hold hope for you. Hope that the hard season will come to an end, that the broken thing will be redeemed, that healing will come, that faith will return. We don’t always need to outwardly tell people we are hoping this for them, particularly when they might feel entirely hopeless. We need to let people be exactly where they are, and hold hope for them to come around to a certain outcome.
Change. She is unpredictable, sometimes coming in like a tornado, or one of those hippie sort of people that just glides in and suddenly the room feels different. But then sometimes she is subtle, whispering ideas and gently lighting candles, illuminating the way forward. She is unpredictable, and sometimes shows up uninvited. But she can be invited, and she will always come when you ask. She typically doesn’t knock, she knows where you keep your spare key under the flower pot and doesn’t hesitate to come right in no matter the time of day. She is loud but sometimes whispers, she comes with the seasons but also travels unexpectedly. “Why” isn’t a question that she will answer for you, and she might not really give you any time to process it. She likes to get moving and get on with it. I think she has our best in mind, but if I’m honest, sometimes in the moment it is hard to tell. She is an invitation, always.
Working in education, this past year was…challenging, to say the least. My department was asked to take on a lot of the additional work created by the reality of COVID. I learned through our awful fall semester that I do not adjust well to change. In reflection, I have done fine with change that I choose—like marriage, or college—but change that was not my choice? No thanks.
Turns out I can be pretty stubborn when I choose to be (and, apparently, that is kind of often). All these changes were happening and I didn’t like them; all this additional work was being asked of me and I had a terrible attitude about it.
In retrospect, I have described it as trying to stop a moving train by pulling on the back of it and digging in my heels. Anyone looking at that would see it is a hopeless cause. At some point, after months of exhausting myself, I let go and begrudgingly hopped on the train. But how much stress and exhaustion could I have saved myself by just getting on the train in the first place? One of the things that made it all so difficult was my attitude itself. Carrying that around made me even heavier. And granted, yes, we can all extend ourselves some grace; we were operating within the midst of a worldwide crisis after all. But I am trying to learn from it and not set myself up for the same kind of frustration again, and I think there are some helpful questions to reflect on as we move forward.
I am learning to depend on Jesus in a way I never have really experienced before. I described it to someone as, “I’m depending on the Lord in a whole new way. A, like, not cute way. More of a desperate way.” I told another friend this and we decided: nobody needs cute faith. Cute faith is fun for Instagram but will not hold you up when your world has been destroyed. Cute faith is good for the summer camp highs but will not offer you the strength and grace and courage to continue on when the storms of life hit.
You might read some sorrow in these words, and you’d be right. I have been walking through a really hard thing recently that I’m not really ready to share with the “world.” But I still think there are some things I am learning that can be shared, and I never want God’s grace to me to be in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1). So whatever you might be walking through, and whatever “level” of hard it might be, I hope this is a gift to you.
I have been living in Psalm 18, a beautiful story of God rescuing and caring for David in the midst of attack. The word picture of verse 16-17, “He drew me out of deep waters, He rescued me…” has resonated in moments where I felt like I was drowning in my grief and needed saving. In verse 19 it says, “He brought me out into a spacious place, He rescued me because He delighted in me.” Just like the Israelites, we are consistently experiencing God’s rescue and deliverance. We are often found in bondage, and He brings us into the wilderness to escape. And yet, this wilderness is not the promised land. That is a future destination. This is the in between. We spend much of our earthly lives in the wilderness, experiencing mere glimpses of the promised land that we will eventually enjoy. The wilderness is a powerful picture all throughout Scripture, for many different reasons. We see the Israelites there, Jesus spends time there, Paul too. It is often a place of great wrestling, of “doing business” with God. It is a place of enormous growth and equipping. The wilderness is where God meets us. It is often hard, heartbreaking, life-changing, and altogether transformative. We should not come out of the wilderness the same. It is not a place for cute faith, it is meant to cultivate desperate faith.
This year has been one for the history books, obviously. It has demanded much from us, taken much from us, and kicked us while we’re down. If I take a step back from it, I can see how it offered some invitations as well.
Mostly the past year has offered an invitation, a forceful one, to slow down. Life came to a screeching halt almost exactly a year ago; our social calendars were wiped clean and even our careers changed drastically. The busyness we had grown accustomed to was suddenly impossible to maintain and we had to come face to face with the reasons we fill our schedules. Anyone else? Anyone else learning that they don’t actually
like having all their evenings and weekends filled with plans? That having less social commitments is not only ok, but sort of enjoyable? Just me?
Don’t get me wrong, I will welcome back concerts and events and parties and weddings with the most open arms. But I am recognizing this invitation to really eliminate excess and focus on the essentials has been really, really good for me. In normal life, I am always exercising my “no” muscle and now I just don’t even have to as much.
I don’t know about you, but I have realized in this season my need for joy. It actually feels like desperation. It has been so easy to be stressed, worried, frustrated, anxious, you name it. Discouragement has been constantly within reach, considering the state of the world and how divided our nation has been. On […]
This summer as I connected with my team, I was anticipating so many feelings and potential frustrations at what this school year might look like. My sweet Assistant Resident Director is a senior this year, and before I spoke with her on the phone I told my husband, “I just wouldn’t even be surprised if she wants to quit and not come to school this year.” Not because we are doing anything more extreme than any other college, but just because in every way and every area of life, things are just not what they should be. We can all agree that a student’s experience this year is vastly different than what it has been and what we would all like it to be.
But then she surprised me by giving this simple response: “I’m just really curious what this year will look like!”
Immediately I was convicted, having expected disappointment and frustration — and being met with hope and expectation instead.
And just that simply, she offered a vision and a posture that I am trying to embody and to pass along to others for life right now. It inspired the question: What would it look like to practice curiosity this year?
At my best, I am thrilled about this option. At my worst, it feels like too much work.
Curiosity is the much more hopeful, eager cousin of doubt. Curiosity is humble, hopeful, and a much healthier avenue for hard conversations.
I have needed to read this over myself multiple times this week. I found even in the midst of writing it how easily I run to anxiety instead of to the caring, safe hands of the Father. Praying for each of you that is experiencing any level of fear during this time, and I hope this provides a moment of peace for you.
Forgive us Lord, for being consumed by fear.
Forgive us for running toward panic as an attempt at control.
When circumstances are blatantly unknown,
when loved ones are in danger,
when hope seems so far away,
forgive us for choosing panic.
Help us choose to trust You confidently, rather than running to other things we think might give us peace: information, numbing, scrolling, hiding.
During this season I have come right up against my productivity and what I have to “show” for myself. Maybe you can relate. What have I accomplished, how much am I doing, how impressive is my life? In a slow season where our lives have been simplified significantly, it seems like a beautiful opportunity to throw away any desire to be impressive. One less heavy thing to carry. Here is today’s liturgy to help us in this release.
When our social calendars are thrown away,
when our work looks entirely different,
when our trips are cancelled,
when our events are postponed,
when what we have depended on to feel worthy is stripped away,
show us a new way, Lord.
Circumstances have stolen our facades, the masks we hide behind to convince ourselves that we are doing enough.
Today is the beginning of a new little project I have started, called “Stay at Home Liturgies.” Essentially, I am writing them to practice praying with intentionality. Come back on the next few Mondays and Fridays if you would like to practice them with me. I would recommend reading them out loud and slowly, only after you have taken a deep breath and are sitting down somewhere comfortable. A liturgy isn’t something to check off the to-do list, but instead something to digest and be transformed by.
In our mandate to stay at home, many of us have come face to face with an experience we try pretty hard to avoid: silence. We fill our days with any kind of activity or distraction to maintain a life that doesn’t have to deal with silence and what it brings with it. But there is so much good to be found there, so here is a prayer for all of us who are needing to embrace it…
So I was sort of dark and twisty last week, and I am now reveling in the Colorado sunshine and the resolution of hard situations. I am looking with anticipation towards Easter and springtime and new life. We are going through a devotional currently about God’s goodness, and one day included reflecting on Psalm 145. I was so struck by the rich truths and wisdom within this passage, so inspired by what it has to teach us. (To balance out how holy I sound right now, I just need you to know that I am listening to the Jonas Brothers while I write this.)
If I was writing a Bible study, this is where I would make you go and read through this chapter and write out all the qualities this chapter attributes to God. (If you’re a student of mine, there is a good chance I will make you do this at some point.) Since you have landed here, I will do you the delight of just telling you the answer. This chapter speaks of God’s greatness, abundant goodness, righteousness, graciousness, and compassion (on all He has made!). It describes Him as being slow to anger, rich in love, good to all, and faithful. He has a glorious Kingdom, an enduring dominion, and upholds all who fall and lifts up those who are bowed down. He satisfies our desires, hears our cries, watches over us. Basically, if you need a description of who God is and what He does, this chapter is where to go.