A coworker this week brought us back to Mark 4, where the disciples are on the boat in the storm with Jesus while He is taking a nap. I felt myself so easily fall into this story, identifying with the disciples shaking Jesus awake, fear in their eyes, asking Him to just do something. The dialogue in this story felt so relevant to where I am now; the disciples wake Jesus and say, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (ESV) I have said a lot of things like that to Jesus in the past year or so. My main attitude towards Him could maybe be summed up by “do you not care…” followed by many specific or general areas in which He is, by my standards, failing me.
But then Jesus responds to them (and to me), in classic Jesus fashion, by handling the storm and then by saying to them: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
I’m not sure where you’re at, but for me this season has felt unending and lacking movement. I find myself asking not just, “What are you doing, Lord?” but also, “Why aren’t you doing anything?” A good friend has articulated recently feeling like God is about to do some big things, but nothing is yet clear and He still seems hidden.
Cue the Christmas story. We imagine it all beginning with Mary with the animals, giving birth to her baby on an itchy pile of hay. But it really begins so much earlier than this, and we learn for ourselves how to pay attention to what God might be doing by looking back at the years leading up to Jesus in the manger.
When we look at Scripture, we flip just one page to transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament, while in reality there are 400 years of silence and space in between the two. 400 years of seemingly nothing from God. No words, no direction, no clarity. And then, suddenly, a baby. This is not the plan that anyone would have imagined. This is not the way we would have pictured God coming out of 400 years of silence. Surely You are preparing something…epic? I’m beginning to realize that I’m believing that God is doing nothing in my life because I have a very specific idea and area of my life where I want and expect Him to be working.
We come before you, Lord, in the midst of a long season.
It seems unending, like we may never find our way out.
We don’t know what to do with the monotony, the rising stress, the same questions that we’ve been asking for what feels like forever.
We echo the Psalmist in his cry: How long, O Lord?
Caught in the same space, the same struggle, the same waiting—we wonder if You are paying attention or if You have forgotten us.
Help us rely on Your character, trusting in who we have seen You to be in our lives.
May we be people of steady faithfulness.
Help us demonstrate “long obedience in the same direction.”
We know from experience that no season lasts forever. Comfort us as we wait for the change, the turning of leaves and opening of doors.
We come before you, Lord, at the start of a new season.
So many unknowns are before us.
We have so many questions, hopes, and fears that remain unanswered. We entrust each one to Your hands.
It is tempting, God, to start imagining all the things that could go wrong prematurely. We grasp at control by ruminating on all the worst case scenarios.
Help us release our fear and uncertainty, and learn to trust You in each present moment.
There is so much to come; so many potential challenges:
Hardships that may rattle us.
Problems we won’t know how to solve.
Hopes dashed, hearts broken.
Friends we haven’t met yet.
Joy and excitement over learning and growing.
Hopes met, and love discovered.
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.
It is Friday! We have almost made it through another week of whatever this season has looked like for you – working from home, homeschooling, online class, still going to work…
I imagine soon, if it hasn’t happened already, the days will start to blend together and the weeks might feel slower and slower. Separated from our typical activities and relationships, the mundane might feel overwhelming in this season. The mess certainly feels overwhelming. And that leaves the miraculous – where do we find that in this season?
The miraculous right now for me is that I have almost never “needed” the Lord so desperately. The quotations are necessary because these circumstances have torn away the facade, the illusion, of our comfort and control. Of course, I have always needed the Lord just as desperately as right now. Of course, I have never had any real kind of control over life, I just feel it more right now. Our comforts have maybe never been threatened in this way — honestly it throws our privilege right in our faces.
I have been asking some big questions of the Lord recently. Mostly one: “Why don’t you do what you are capable of doing?” We can ask this question in regards to a lot of things. Like when someone is sick and in need of healing; “Jesus, you healed and healed and healed. God, you call yourself our healer. So why don’t you heal?” Or when something feels unfair; “God you say you are a righteous judge – why don’t you bring justice?” Recently I have been asking this question in regards to transformation. “God, you are more than capable of changing us. You are more than able to transform us into your likeness. Why, then, does it feel like you aren’t doing anything? Why does it feel like you let terrible people continue being terrible people? Why don’t you step in? Why don’t you DO ANYTHING. DO SOMETHING.”
Even as I write it I realize how much I sound like a two year old who doesn’t understand why they cannot drink their parent’s coffee. UGH YOU ARE SO MEAN. I KNOW BETTER THAN YOU.
In the end it is, like so many other things, a practice in trusting Him and His plan. A practice of believing that He does, in fact, know better than I do. But I am just so sure sometimes that I have better ideas! I know how it SHOULD go. Jesus, why don’t you listen and obey me?!
I chose discipline as my word for the year. I chose this because I have seen in myself quite a lack – in all areas of life. In the past year or so, I haven’t exercised hardly at all. I don’t eat well (see last week’s post), and I have not been as dedicated or regular in my pursuit of Christ recently as I wish I had been. Because I felt sick for so much of 2018, I really want to make some different choices this year. What I am learning is that it really comes down to caring for myself. I am allowed (and even responsible) to take care of me. My body has put up with my poor eating and exercise habits long enough, and she needs and deserves better.
So I have been thinking about this word discipline, how really it is in no way an attractive or sexy word to choose for my year. It is so much more fun to choose a word like “adventure” or “hope” or something like that (no judgment if you chose one of those words. You get me.). But I find myself more and more attracted to normal and less and less interested in extravagance or extraordinary when it comes to most things in life. Social media world makes us think our lives have to be this over the top, ultra-significant, world-rocking thing. That makes me feel…tired. Normal feels beautiful and lovely and – enough, I guess.
A few weeks ago I was on a mini road trip back from a wedding, and my friend asked, “what’s your favorite place and why?” What seems like a normal question actually launched me into some real processing of my past year. As we talked through places that have meant a lot to us, I realized how many memories I have that are defined by spaces. Specific spaces where I spent important moments in my life. I told them about the bench on a mountain in Canada where I sat with a high school friend for hours, and the Nile river in Uganda, where I symbolically (and actually) conquered a lot of fears. I thought about the fire pit in my parent’s backyard where many important conversations have taken place and how I always enjoy finding myself on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I told them how much I love bridges because they are a picture of connection.
This year, my first year as a resident director, taught me a lot of things. And I’m finally getting around to processing them (welcome to the next few weeks of the blog). The first thing is this very idea, the power of spaces. My job deals with very tangible, specific spaces. I oversee people’s living spaces for a whole school year. Their health — physical, mental, relational, spiritual — in many ways is dependent on the health of these spaces.
I woke up one morning and it suddenly felt like spring in my heart and soul. If you’ve been reading along this year, you’ll know it has felt like a hard, deep winter. The reality is that spring does always come, which is such a sweet promise. There is also the reality that after every winter new and different flowers may grow and bloom, and some that were there last spring may not be there this year.
And yet. The wildflower garden of life is full of beauty. Filled to the brim with the loveliest of people and experiences. As I wade through it slowly, palms stretched open, running my fingers through each petal, each branch, I experience the beauty through every sense. The sun hits it in that way that makes everything shine and as the wind blows through it shimmers and looks like the branches are doing the wave. I breathe in the scent and breathe out contentment. It is there that Jesus meets me, in my Mary Magdalene moment, where He reminds me that He is in fact so alive and He is the Creator and Author of all this beauty. And in the wildflower garden of life, space sometimes has to be made so new things can grow. And maybe this season one flower looks best paired with another type, different than what bloomed fragrant last year. There is so much grace and peace in the midst of the wildflowers.