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.
I have always struggled with that verse, and that line of the hymn, that God turned His face away in Jesus’ moment of greatest despair. That has never felt entirely fair or loving. It is finally landing with me, and giving me a new understanding of the Father’s heart.
In my job, and I know many others are in the same boat, I sometimes come face to face with the darkest of situations. We get the privilege often to step into people’s heaviest, hardest moments. That is a privilege, and a weighty one. Sometimes it means sitting across from someone who has wronged another person in any number of egregious ways. I have come to know my justice-driven heart much better through the last few years. I am protective and incredibly loyal to my people, and I am angered when someone, anyone, negatively influences the community of which I am in charge. I am consistently bringing to mind the Mr. Rogers phrase: “What do you do with the mad that you feel?” And if I am honest, I have not yet found the answer.
This week I came face to face with the heaviness of the broken reality of humanity — and that concept finally made sense. I wanted to turn my face away. It hurts to look right at it. I experienced a kindness in realizing that even God was unwilling to look at it straight on. His heart was so broken, and so mine can be too. And it is okay if I do not know what to do with that.
In my Advent devotional it had this phrase: “refuse the wrong of rushing.” I was tempted to write it on my arm so I would be reminded all day of this, that is how much I needed to hear that. On any day, but particularly a full work day, it feels practically impossible to not rush from thing to thing. It feels challenging not to speed through a conversation or already mentally be at the next thing. It came back to me many times throughout the day: refuse to rush. Refuse to let the anxiety or stress or over-scheduling dominate your mind and soul. Don’t forget to breath.
As we drove to the airport a few weeks ago, a friend reminded me of Brené Brown’s important theory that maybe, just maybe, people are doing the best they can. It came up in regards to road rage, but we talked about it in relation to working moms (Brené’s example), our students, and more. So often we believe that people could be doing better (and they probably could be), but the point is that in that moment, on that day, in the midst of their circumstances, they are truly doing the best they can.
In another conversation with a different friend, we talked about the idea of thinking generously about people. Similar concepts, both that stuck with me. For example, when I am not invited to something, I can assume that they did it maliciously or intentionally, or I can make a generous assumption and creatively come up with a different idea: maybe they assumed I was also busy, maybe I had communicated that I wasn’t available or interested, maybe it was a spontaneous situation that I was not there for. One of these choices creates jealousy and anger, one invites grace.
I recently did an activity with my team where we practiced giving ourselves permission. I shared that we are trained our whole lives to ask for permission for basically anything and everything. Nothing in life really teaches us that we can give ourselves permission. There is always someone else, an authority, that we look to for permission. But sometimes, you are the only person who can actually grant yourself permission for something you need. And choosing to give it can be an act of self-compassion. So I gave them sticky notes and told them to write down on them a few things they want to give themselves permission to do or be or experience.
I just recently turned the big 3-0. It doesn’t feel old, I don’t feel old, but it does feel significant. Maybe it is because I am still living on just-married cloud nine (see featured photo). Maybe it is because my sweet Mama has always spoken so kindly of her thirties; she often describes it as her favorite decade. This has helped me always have more of a positive view of turning 30. So I don’t feel like my life is over, like my best years are behind me; I never really want to approach life that way. So in order to continue being intentional and thoughtful in living, here are my commitments to my 30 year old self:
I have always been a semi-anxious person. I have memories as a young child being up late into the night, listening to thunderstorms outside my bedroom window, breathing in deep hoping I would calm down. I didn’t know at the time that I was anxious; it feels unfair that a ten year old’s brain could […]
It recently came to my fiancé’s attention that I was far, far, behind in watching the Marvel movies. I’d seen a Thor movie here and there, Captain America because he is good looking, and an Avengers movie maybe because my brothers had made me. So we have worked very hard for the past month or so getting me caught up – mostly for the purpose of seeing the boss of all bosses, Captain Marvel. The soundtrack alone will convince you that you actually are the hero of your story.
So one of the movies in the lineup was Spiderman Homecoming. There was a moment though that has stuck with me in an interaction between Tony Stark (or Iron Man) and Peter Parker (Spiderman).
Peter Parker/Spider-Man: But I’m nothing without this suit!
Tony Stark/Iron Man: If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.
Call me a nerd, it is fine. But I loved this line and it has come to mind in multiple conversations I have had recently. Working with college students I feel like I have this same interaction often. They are all asking: What am I if I am not an athlete? An A+ student? A leader? A well-known person?
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.