Monday, May 6, 2019

twenty-six



Twenty-six.

I never liked the number. Two evens, right in a row, joined by a hyphen. They even added to another even.

But maybe what I liked even less was what they represented.

I remember, back in sixth grade, the thought of being seventeen: the summit of coolness. Then, as a high school freshman, I remember thinking beyond: to college and the ripe-ancient graduation age of twenty-two. Anything out of the teens seemed incomprehensible, incomprehensibly old and hopefully incomprehensibly sophisticated. But, I’m pretty sure that to my high school freshman self, life ended after college. You pretty much were ready for the grave.

But one thought I did know: twenty-six. I remember sitting in the grey suede mini-van seats during the twenty-hour car ride to Florida. My cousin was with, and with her being older than me, we naturally discussed age, me championing my year-mark of eleven. I remember sincerely blurting it: “Twenty-six?! At that point, you’re over the hill!” Which is funny because I’m convinced I didn’t even know what over the hill meant. All I knew was it represented the point of no-return. By twenty-six? Past the tipping point of twenty-five and crashing into your late twenties. Golly, you’d lived and quite possibly were speeding towards the end of life.

But now, there’s four of them.

I’ve entered the post-college abyss but entered it two years earlier than most say I should have, cheating the system and pulling one on time.

And, I didn’t recognize it at first.

“Jab, cross, uppercut, lead hook, rear hook, roundhouse kick!” I could barely hear the pounding of her gloves on the heavy bag next to mine over the strong voice of the trainers and the dully loud Cardi B song. To me, she was a fellow boxer, fellow spontaneity-chaser, a fellow schedule-sinking-up-on-the-weekly-because-we-do-so-much-together-roommate. Twenty-six.

“Ooh yes let’s do that! I think the girls will really love it.” She sat across from me at the cool egg-white yet somewhere warm feeling table at the coffee shop where her tattoo-sleeved fresh-recent boyfriend had left us free tea. To me, she was an artsily kind, softly unexpected fellow leader of the high school girls at the church we both attended. Twenty-six.

“Let’s be sure we finalize our action steps for the use-case of the different paginations.” She stood by the grey-tall conference room table, laptop in hand and excel sheet still spread on the screen. To me, she was the diamond ring-fingered, sandal-wedge wearing, gel nailed, hair bobbed enneagram two, the detail whiz who had opened the gateway for me into this job and seemed to be standing in many gateways of her own, of where she hoped to take herself. Twenty-six.

“Can you watch him for me?” She’d gotten up from the deep-blue cushion to place her order, leaving me at 7:55am with our Bible study open and her little baby boy just opening his eyes besides me. To me, she was the deep-forest-brown haired matronly-in the best way-fount of wisdom pastor’s wife, leaving everything she touched a little more well-cared for. Twenty-six.

One single. One dating. One married. One with a mini-human. One switching jobs from small start-ups. One being recruited for a national broadcasting network. One aspiring to ascend the corporate ladder. One staying at home. One boss, one co-worker, one roommate, one mentor-friend.

When I’d left my little Infinity sedan and walked over the cold speckled stones to our doorway, it hit me. They, chasemed by their vast differences, were all that cold, looming number: twenty-six.

I’d actually mapped out to that age, a few months prior. I’d have finished my world travels, have completed my masters, mastered three languages, and really lived by then.

You see, age is the one question I perpetually avoid. I hate it. It’s one of my biggest insecurities because I’ve cheated time, you see: being older than I sometimes think I am but much younger than I so very often feel. I ferociously try to hide my age. When I was in my first post-college job interview, my now boss asked point blank how old I was, and I thought as I uttered the number that I’d uttered my closed-door-to-this-job sentence. When now friends talk about how much they’ve changed since “yeah, back when I was ___” I gulp and try to be invisible. Because, I’m there. As I walk into my future I’m living their past.

I hate my age. But, I’ve come to realize, that secretly, I love it. Because twenty-six feels like death, and I have years of life cushioning me from that number. There’s so much chance for me to do something great by then. To have finally figured it out. To have finally dug deep with something instead of flipping to the next thing. It’s a source of pride and an excuse. “You’ve done what and you’re only __?!” or “Hey, I’m only ___, what do you expect.” I can flip to either extreme. Feeling self-condemning for having done so very little or feeling apathetic stagnation because I’ve done so much.

I get lost in the expectations.

Sixth grade Deborah: by twenty-six, you’ll have traveled to every single country as a global speaker and quite possibly philanthropist/entrepreneur/persecuted church advocate.
Other people’s moms: by twenty-six, you’ll have three cars, two kids and one white picket fence.
Relatives: by twenty-six, you’ll be a pro soccer player heading to the Olympics while also being the first French Horn super-star.
Friends: by twenty-six, you’ll be the most intense lawyer known to humankind
School teachers: by twenty-six, you’ll be the lead chemist involved in ground-breaking technology while maintaining art as a side-hobby
Professors: by twenty-six, you’ll be a CEO (or at least, a millionaire)
Me to me: … Idk, maybe all of it?

But really, I'm scared.

Scared to reach twenty-six and not feel like I’ve made it: that I hadn’t lived up to not only people’s expectations of me but also those of myself and those I thought God had of me.
Scared to reach twenty-six and feel like I am still spinning my wheels, that I’d missed some great plan of God’s for my life, that some sin had kept me from where God wanted me to be.
Scared to reach twenty-six and still be searching, hungrily restless, unhappy.
Scared to reach twenty-six and, if I didn’t think I’d lived, be hit with a looming reality that maybe I would never live at all.

Because, having cheated time, I hoard time as my safety net. I still have more years to spend. I can still be happy, later. I can still chase my dreams, later. I can still be an obedient child of God, later. I’ve convinced myself that I have time without recognizing that time really has me.

I can’t manipulate it. Pull an upswing. Suddenly find more. It goes. What’s scared me the most lately is fearing to become numb to its force.

Because, you see, I think I’m beginning to see the lie.

Twenty-six doesn’t scare me.
The thought of dying without living does.

I’ve expected that twenty-six is a hard stop, but I’m hard stopping to realize that maybe I shouldn’t be propelled by chasing what I expect of myself but chase expectancy: expectancy of what God will do in each moment, or maybe more importantly, what God is already doing, now.

Here.

I actually told them, this week. The feeling like 6’6 basketball spanning, laugher-quick-coming friend and his blue-eyed engineering accomplice. They’d double taken, not realizing I was actually their age. I’d volunteered the information, and actually felt the twinge that I’d done well to do this.

Here.

I was sitting, here with them. Bare-aged and barely able to feel like I have hope of outrunning my fear: my fear that, if none of the expectations come true, it’s okay. That living so afraid, pent-up and restless will keep me from real rest. That living from anything except rest in Christ will leave me frantically convincing the clock, the days, the years that I’ve done it right. That the only real right is to live, live through Christ in the here. That the here is all we have, and that the biggest miss is to be so concerned about pleasing Him just right that we outright miss Him.

I’m still afraid of twenty-six, and hey, I know that I actually can’t fight that fear. I’m pretty powerless to my frantic, hamster ball running flesh. But I know the One who can and does fight it for me: Christ. And I know that living each day in the power of the Cross that doesn’t only save but also sanctifies me, is the way to go.

I’m not twenty-six yet, but one day I will be, and that’s okay. Because I know that what I have then, I have now: Christ. And that settles my restless soul.

(And guess what? Many of our clocks don’t end ticking on an even number. Twenty-seven comes after twenty-six. And that sounds a whole lot better.)

Friday, April 26, 2019

disturb



I keep my phone on do not disturb.

The first time I remember hearing about this life-changing feature was when my blonde-stranded, blue sweatshirt encased 5’5 sister made a side comment.

Deborah, make sure to text me before 9 PM. Cause then, especially before I have a clinical, I put my phone on do not disturb.

She showed me the little crescent that would ascend into my existence and keep my existence a little separated from that of others. It started more or less innocently. Between the emails, texts, GroupMe notifications, and FB messages, my phone would obnoxiously buzz against the linoleum-topped desk, seemingly incessantly. My advanced grammar professor, amazing as she was, wasn’t amazed when the buzz was the background music to her teaching method. So, I clicked the crescent.

But, clicking the crescent soon wasn’t the noteworthy event. It was unclicking the crescent that became more abnormal.

Fast forward a year, and I sent the calendar invite to a co-worker: “Make sure Deb clears her inbox.” The emails had a way of climbing during the week, so I wanted to ensure that I set aside the time needed to make sure that they didn’t climb into a terrible habit of never being answered. She looked at my phone, and I jokingly told her how having my message count under 30 on any given day was a win. A few days before, I’d accidentally admitted to a new friend that it takes me about 3-5 business days to respond to my texts. I would laugh, but it wasn’t a joke. Sadly, it’s chronically true.

I keep my phone on do not disturb.

I’d pulled out the brown leather folds that held paper that held my hopes, pains, and words. I wrote a new sentence in my journal, but one that’d been hinted at for months. Lord, I want to love, actually.

Love, actually.

Is love a feeling? I’d always been told that love was a choice, love was something that you did regardless of how you felt. And in this sense, I did. I did do this thing called love. Roommate crisis arriving, I stayed up much past when I needed to and just ate the cost. House really needing to be cleaned? I did the action. Encouragement needing to be given? I was very there for it. I loved, in what I did.

But what if love actually is also shown by what you didn’t do? The facetime calls not returned. The hugs barely reciprocated. The dependence, not there.

Love, actually.
We’d watched a movie: Beautiful Boy. And, for the second time in my life, I’d cried as a film’s scenes rolled. If we hadn’t just camped in 8 degree weather and now were lounging on a friend’s mentor’s couch with some people I had just met about two days ago, I would have been gone, hard. The boy hooked on crystal meth. The dad trying to step in to know how to help. The kids caught in the in between. The muddied waters of saying no and also saying go when love was fuel but pain seemed to be the car, the car heading towards crash.

I’d driven the five hours back from Virginia with her. We talked medical. About injections and endorphins, about depression and depressants. But we talked about not just flesh but also soul. We talked about costs and people. What it means to live a life that sacrifices. What it means to love. To love, actually.

I sat on the counter top, light grey post-boxing leggings stretching down to my March-adorned Christmas socks. I think I want to be a bartender someday. I stared at her, and she stared back. I’ve lived in this Christian bubble. I was a pastor’s kid. Yeah, it was an unusual church. Yeah, I don’t have the middle-class white privileged complex, but then I went to a Christian school. Now, I work at a Christian company. I’m drowning in this version of reality, really needing to know what reality is.

I say I love the gospel, but do I live the gospel? I say we have the key to the dark, but I am drowning in the light. I say I love till it hurts, but I don’t feel a pang when others have difficulty. I say people value the most, but I don’t put them first. I say I want to be selfless, but my thoughts are so often introspectively selfish, consumed with how they could be happier and how they should be and how this is of chief importance. I say I want to live a life on mission. I say I want to love, actually.

But, I keep my phone on do not disturb.

I keep the messages of “hey, how are you?” unanswered and unsent.
I keep the words of challenging and encouraging and care unspoken.
I keep the people just close enough to be friends but just far enough away to not be risky.

I keep my life on do not disturb, separating me from anything that gives me pain or gives others pain, even though I claim to walk palm in palm with the Healer.

And I begin to wonder if it should be my prayer.
Lord, disturb me.

Disturb the places inside of me where I think I am selfish but am not. Disturb the places I think I am selfless but I am really asleep. Disturb the twisted distance I put between myself and people. Disturb this Christianese reality enough so that the gospel is my heartbeat. Disturb me enough so that I know what it means to love. To love, actually.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

fight



The yellow-lit table just behind the dark wooded restaurant’s host stand now held our phones and keys. I’d come through the door – only with the help of the valet man who kindly showed me the way even with his curious look at my propensity to just ask where the door was instead of finding it myself – and now I was sitting beside two people I’d recently met, one who I’d approached with the same gumption I showed to the valet man. I liked her, and when I make up my mind that I’m going to be friends with someone, well, buckle up.

Fight.

I’d asked about her recent road-trip, and she’d been honest. There was a breakup that was shadowing over her, but she spoke the truth of the light she was seeing even as she was, in many ways, still in darkness. “I realize I need someone who will fight for me.”

Cliché? Maybe a little. What does it even mean? It’s up for interpretation. But, her honest words in the amber-lit taco haven struck me.

Fight.

A few days later, I’d walked away from small group down the street. Big TVs and too-full tables, we were still standing in the entry. The light from the phone screen still illuminating her eyes, her words tumbled out: “Amanda’s pregnant.” Instead of flashing happy-joy-goodness, anger flared. Immediately. A person who was supposed to be as close to me as a sister, who’d lived in my house through much of my growing up years (and hers), who shared blood with me, hadn’t even included me in the cousins’ group text where this announcement hit in. Coward. She served the news to my sister who could softly catch it and distribute versus me who’d give fire right back to her. Coward. Not living the life we dreamed of as girls, she was single and unreconciled, and I was mad at her, mad at me for being mad, mad at the dad, mad at brokenness in the world, mad that I couldn’t call her and celebrate.

I just wanted to punch something. To fight.

The space bar blinked up at me, an untyped email draft still drating. I blinked back. Emails and details. Then her chat popped in. She was mad. She’d overheard a conversation by a friend turned not-so-nice about something they both had worked to put together, with me. This friend had thrown my friend under the bus, in front of her. And it involved a handsome face masking an arrogant attitude to make her flip. I was livid. For my friend, for the situation that still was to happen, for my role in it all. This added to my emails and details and politics and frustrations and impatience sent my feet, to the stairs. I’d climbed 15 flights of them before to cool down; this time it was only 8.

I just wanted to punch something. To fight.

So, I did. The navy-blue car climbed the five levels of the parking ramp to the top. We slid into a spot, slipped down the stairs, and came into the boxing class. One trainer wrapping one of my hands in the black strands and another trainer on the other side, I was rushed through punches and landed next to a punching bag. Burpees, sit ups, planks, push-ups, I was jab cross jab right hooking my way to happiness. Sweat on my face, heart racing.

 I just wanted to punch something. To fight.

And this wasn’t anything new. I’d put my lunch box back in the blue tiny lockers and speed walk outside. I’d volunteer, to be the one racing to the rectangular bin that caged the soccer, basketball, and volleyballs from the rushing elementary schoolers. First come first serve. I lived for this. I’d hit the sidewalk, and my shoes would hit their rhythm of sprint. No one wanted to end up with the flat spheres, so I’d make sure I secured my friends’ a first pick, and I’d make it down the coned-off street and back to the end of the sidewalk before my friends even arrived. Because school meant classes where sometimes I just got bored, where the teachers played favorites, where the cute boys would pick me first for the sports teams and then taunt me with one-finger high-fives, where I’d sit back quiet, quiet hating how I seemed to not fit in.

I just wanted to punch something. To fight.

Because, deep down, I have always been restless. In this season of transition, I finally slowed down enough to feel and hear and watch the somersaulting of my own mind. And I’ve been scared at what’s actually there when I take the time to look.

I had written in my journal, about five months ago now. I was searching, wondering for where the Deborah I really knew had gone. I felt frustrated at the injustice, at the reality that she’d been forced to go even when no one had asked her to leave, even when she’d been under so much stress and pain and how now was supposed to be the time to thrive. I’d journaled, I want Deborah back.

I just wanted to punch something. To fight.

To fight to have her back. But in the meantime, I was balking. I saw the texts from friends pile up on my phone, feeling zapped of energy or desire to communicate with the world. Fighting this nagging inside that people care and isolation is self-incarceration. I heard the voices of laughter across the hall, and my feet flip-switched to head back the other direction. Fighting this nagging that I needed to actually risk talking to these too-cool-for-me strangers who really were actually just humans following Jesus that I was to prideful to risk being known and unwanted. I saw her sitting, alone, and I also saw a different friend who could intersect me before I got to her path. And I took the easy conversation, fighting this nagging inside that I was taking the cop-out, the place where I wouldn’t have to risk looking weak, looking answerless to ease her pain, having to feel helpless to make a difference.

I was fighting.

But I wasn’t fighting for people. I was fighting against them. I was fighting the people who wanted to pull me close even when I was the closest to the end of my rope as I’d ever been. I was fighting the people who wanted to lift some of the burden I buried myself under instead of seeking their understanding. I was missing opportunities to live beyond myself by risking discomfort to bring comfort to others. And I was fighting myself, fighting against fully embracing the pain and the sadness and the fear that were making my living feel like shadowing, making my full breaking morph into shallow breathlessness.

I just wanted to punch something, to fight.

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1).

I am a fighter.

I want to fight for people. I want to fight with them. I want to live a bold, daring, risky life that puts itself on the line for other people. But, I only have enough time and energy to fight one. I can fight the work that God is doing internally, or I can let Him give me the fight to war against my selfishness and anger through the Holy Spirit’s transformative power. I can fight the moments and conversations and days and places that the Lord is using, or I can re-channel that fight to push straight to thankfulness for anything in my life that brings me to a place where I fight to know more of Christ, to be more like Christ, to fight to know Him and make Him known.

I just want to punch something, to fight.

And I pray we learn to fight what does not matter so that we are freed to fully throw ourselves into the thrill of the chase of that which does. That we fight our small view of life and pursue the big dreams of God. That we fight our cradling of our own safety and pursue creating character for His kingdom.

That we fight, for each other.

Friday, April 19, 2019

stay



My thumb pressed open the cover of my granite gray computer. The screen lit up: $425 Chicago à London. The ticket, expectant.

My work cubicle now seemed like a transportation portal, and my co-worker pedaled her rolling black chair up the imaginary diagonal line connecting my cube to hers. She was going to Europe, too.

Stay.

Seeing my email count reach over sixty, I’d suddenly find myself gazing at airports and ticket prices. I’d even bookmarked WOW Air flights with almost too low low prices, an escape at my fingertips.

Stay.

As my mind and heart pulsed to go, my conscience wouldn’t let me. Deborah, you still have student loans. Deborah, quit dreaming. Deborah, it’s probably not your greatest idea to hop on a plan in seven days and spread your wings, traveling across an ocean completely alone and without a plan.

Stay.

You see, staying has never been my thing. The brown-bobbed, almond-eyed boss dichotomized friend paused. “Deborah, why wasn’t it so hard to transition when you moved before—when you changed states for college?” My gut response hadn’t taken long. “I had an end date.” Yes, I knew college was a mini-uprooting and re-planting, but I hadn’t let myself plant that hard. Nah, I knew I’d be at college for about four years, and then the future was wide open. Myself? Remained uncommitted.

Stay.

Then, here. A new city, but a city without a foreseeable end date. Possibilities nagged at me that I hadn’t pursued them.

Because staying scared me.

I sat down on one of the hardest days in November and manufactured it: an end date. No offense to my company, co-workers, or this city—I actually couldn’t think of them as I was planning because it made it harder—but I knew I needed to imagine I had one. I let my strategizing run crazy as I planned till October 2020. It was twenty-two months away. Once it came, I’d go, go to Europe. Something like 19 countries in 9 months. Then, I’d spend the next year in NYC, the next in Chicago, and the next three months in 9 Latin American countries before I’d come back and have my wedding then seven kids. In the meantime, I’d begin a rigorous course of mastering Spanish while starting Greek again, teaching myself French, and starting self-defense so that I’d be prepared on all fronts. Then, I added to my “hit 22 doc” a slew of more things I wanted to research, learn, and develop which only complemented my other new year resolutions docs and my writing and videography editorial calendars. Sound crazy? Yeah, it is.

Stay.

For years, I’ve noticed that I often get the strongest impulse to run in the very moments when I most need to stay.

I sat on my bedroom floor, back against the white paneled door with a magenta pillow. I described it like a building process. Right now, I’m in the stage of getting to create something, like a house. And it’s as if I’m being handed pieces. But, I don’t know what these pieces are for or what they’re ultimately building. I just get a piece and get told where to place it, but that’s it. I don’t have the blueprint. Just a piece.

And? I know what rooms I’d like to be in this house, this house I call my life. Rooms I really, really want. But, I have no idea if they’re in the blueprint or even if they’re in the plan for this decade. All I have is the next (and only the very next) construction piece and my lack of ability to ensure that the house is built just as I want.

Stay.

Staying scares me. Staying sounds like commitment. Staying sounds like saying a yes to something and actually meaning a yes without a way out. That’s what scared me as a fifteen-year-old learning to drive. There’s no margin. Mess up, hit a car, someone could die. I couldn’t deal with that. I wanted insurance that I could somehow still pull an upswing, somehow still make it work, somehow find a way out.

But life doesn’t work like that.

When life brings me things I don’t want to deal with, I want to run. I want to flee to somewhere new, to experience something different. I don’t want to stay in the growth of what the Lord’s doing, I don’t want to stay in all that is called now, called here.

Stay.

But that’s the thing. When you leave something, you leave the good and the bad. When I left my college, I left the insane stress of overcommittment. But I left the people that made overcommittment worth it. When I left my parents’ home, I left the stigma of a pastor’s kid. But, I left the easy availability of their wisdom. When I leave my heart boxed up and guarded from developing relationships in the here and now, I leave my heart out of experiencing what it means to have others carry my burdens and the joys of carrying theirs. When I leave my frustrations with the process and with the waiting central in my mind, I leave the joy of all that makes life so good and so sweet—right here, right now as I stay.

“Love anything and your hearth will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one… Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves).

Stay.

I’m scared to stay because I’m scared to love. I’m afraid to love and have torn away again.
I’m scared to stay because I’m scared to risk. I’m afraid to risk attaching and maybe losing it all.
I’m scared to stay because I’m scared to let go. I’m afraid that letting go means I’ll let go of my ability to make my life into the happiness that it could be.

I’m scared to stay because to me, staying means surrendering. It means staying in one place: in the place where I can’t guarantee what’s in my blueprint, where I don’t have the power to change the blueprint, where I must stay, day after day learning the hard lesson of how to open my heart and not be afraid to love, deeply, even when that means I risk having it torn away again.

Stay.

Because there’s one place I must stay more than all: in where it means to live fueled by the love of God that compels us. I must stay faithful, faithful to that. Because? Well, I know that my October 2020 and beyond plan is just that: a manufacturing of Deborah trying to bring herself to a place where she can stay because she’s tricked herself into thinking she’s leaving. It’s a plan that could happen, but it’s more a temporary coping mechanism to hide the fear that I might actually want to stay or might come to a place where God calls me to leave and I won’t want to and will have to deal with the ripping away again.

All I have is there here, and all I have is obedience. For now, I’m called, called to be as present as possible, to live with my heart and not just my head, to stay fully, deeply, risking pain and all—no matter for how long. I’m called:

to stay.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

can't



Hi, my name is Deborah Spooner, and I can’t not do this anymore.

I just can’t.

It was January 5th at approximately 11:30 PM. I’d hopped under the gold and burgundy comforter and put my head on the Sam’s Club, t-shirt pillow-cased cushion next to my sister’s. She was there, too, in the upstairs spare bedroom, in the city where we’d struggled to find what it means to be women during our high school years. The walls enclosing us now were not the ones we’d grown up in but those my parents moved into recently, a dim reflection of how this town was our hometown but still just wasn't our home anymore. I felt the well inside my chest. I couldn’t help it, this time. She was still next to me, but I felt like I was far from her, not wanting to disturb her almost-sleep with my cries. So, I slid out of bed and went to the adjacent bathroom.

I knew I needed to cry, so I let myself slide down the wall to sit on the floor as a tear slide down my sleep-deprived cheek. I’d found my bin of stuffed animals earlier that day, and to be embarrassingly honest, I held one, now. Bubbles, the fluffy white bear wearing the teal pajamas covered with rubber ducks and (yes) bubbles. I was, yet again, in pain.

And tired of it. I’d spent too many hours on the floor crying in the last ten months than I’m proud to admit.

This time, I was thinking of how the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas had been much harder than I'd realized. And now I had to go back to the new-home-state, and the thought of getting into my blue grey car and driving down the highways and walking into the grocery stores made me cringe because I felt the pain. I thought of the faces that I’d seen over break and how I’d had to say goodbye. I thought of the doubt I’d had about the choices I made and the rip of leaving those I loved. I sat on the floor, then I looked at my phone. It was 11:30. I had to drive nine hours in the morning. And I thought to myself. I can’t do this, not anymore.

Father, I can’t get myself free of the sadness and pain. I can’t get some of these thoughts off my mind. I want to be free. And I just can’t.

I’d had a conversation, earlier that month. My roommate had been on our deeper-than-jean-denim-blue couch, brown eyes staring into my blue. “And is weakness a bad thing?” I blinked, and hesitated. Weakness disgusted me. I ran from it as hard as possible. Anything but. But I stopped, to actually think deeper. Hesitated. “… no. Maybe weakness doesn’t actually mean… failure.”

I’d been so critical. Deborah, get it together. Deborah, learn how to adjust faster. Deborah, spend more time praying. Deborah, meet goals faster at work. Deborah, you’re disappointing everyone and not being faithful to live as fast and efficiently for God. Deborah, get it together.

Weak. I viewed myself as that. And, it disgusted me. Not even my own Christian living was good enough for me. I didn’t love God enough. Get it together, Deborah. I didn’t stay as faithful to doing the right thing as I should have. Get it together, Deborah. And it was all my fault, all in my power to change. Get it together, Deborah.

I sat, perched on the taller than bar-stool height silver metaled, black cushioned chairs at the island separating our kitchen from the living room. I pulled up my computer and pulled up Facebook messenger video. Soon, the large understanding brown eyes looked back at me. My college mentor and I were finally reconnecting, after months. I told. I told her of the weakness I felt. I told her of the pain of having to realize that I had so much spiritual growing to do, of the frustration with myself at doing the growth so inefficiently. I told her of the disgust, the disgust that I had to go through the process of development and never did it "enough" to satisfy myself. And I should already be past all this anyway, right?

“Deborah, isn’t it beautiful that our wretchedness makes Christ all the more glorious?”

For the past four months, I’d been working on a project with an incredibly gigantic goal. The project’s name literally had Gospel in the name, and it brought me face to faith with the reality that the Gospel is our foundation. It’s where we start and where we end. It’s what carries us through it all.

I was reading another bit for work. And, it talked about the Bible. Bringing me back to my Seminar in Theological Method class and Christian Smith’s work on biblicism, it put it more simply: the Bible isn’t a manual telling us how to live. It’s a beautiful tome showing us who God is. That? Is the core of how we, then, live. We’re wretched and weak, but He is glorious, so glorious.

“Yes, Deborah, I’ve been making it my prayer. Christ, you’re living in me, so please, live out of me.”

Christ in us, the hope of glory. Christ the enabler, empowering us. Christ. I was brushing my teeth later, hit hard. Do I really understand the work of Christ? Have I really let the Gospel transform my life?

I’m a pastor’s kid, working at a highly religious company. I’m a girl who has a bachelor’s degree in Biblical & Theological Studies. I was the champion of my Sunday skills sword drills who’d now given multiple presentations about religion at undergraduate theology conferences. A member of an academic religious honors society, I’ve presented about Koine Greek syntax traced through the epistle of 1 Peter and had collegiate deans and vice presidents come to hear my work. I’m currently reading What is Reformed Theology and The Institutes of Christian Religion just for fun. And now I stood, hair in a messy bun, sweatpants on, with my light-pink toothbrush in hand and weakness in my heart, humbled and being humbled. Do I really believe the Gospel, for me? For my own life?

The hum or the toothbrush contrasted this new hush in my heart. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

Because, I can’t.

I can’t live a Christian life.
I can’t even make it through a half an hour without having a self-referential thought, drenched in my preferences and annoyances, my own critical self-standards of how I don’t measure up to a life reflecting Christ-like character.

Because, I’m just not Christ. That’s why I need him, so deeply. To put on righteousness. To count myself dead to sin and alive to Christ. To count all else as loss except the sake of knowing Christ crucified, and knowing that only through His finished work on the cross can I ever hope to finish any growth inside of me.

Because when I am weak, I have not failed. It is then that I am strong. It’s when my weakness leads me to lay down my striving, my keeping score, my desire to live for Christ good enough that I can realize that He left us on this earth with the very best thing: himself, His Spirit.

I can’t bring transformation.
And who am I kidding. I don’t want that kind of pressure.

This one thing I want, this one thing I want to always want to single-mindedly seek: to each day realize how hidden I am in Christ alone, and how in Christ alone I can lose myself in the best sort of way.

I can’t.
I can’t love people like they deserve.
I can’t be as amazing as a human as my insecurity wants to prove that I am.
I can’t break these bad habits and this sinful desire for more and more and more to fill this void of dissatisfaction.
But I can’t deny that someone died.
Someone died to bring me to the freedom on the flipside of surrender.

Hi, my name is Deborah, and I can’t not do this anymore.

I can’t not realize that my weakness is my greatest strength, because God has used the incredible disruption of my life’s past ten months to disrupt these levels of unknowing selfishness and self-dependence that I revert to in my very worst—He’s used it to bring me to my knees, the very place I need.

I can’t. I can’t not see this anymore even as I fumble to still live it. But oh, how glad I am.

I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.

Friday, March 8, 2019

seven


I’m a coward.

My worn, white high-top vans cushioned my stance as I’d neglected the chair in the heat of the moment in the cool of Ugly Mugs café.

You know what, Deb? I’m starting to believe that maybe you are.

These words of hers actually were deeply kind and hit me with the best sort of pain. You see, less than seven months earlier, I’d moved into an empty room in her house and our conversations had moved through the house into me. There were the early days – when I said “mom’s mom” instead of grandma and she had an indicator of some distance and distrust, when we would discuss our ability to share so much without venturing into vulnerability.

Our deep-striking banter crystalized through the enneagram. I have a love hate relationship with personality tests, mainly that I love to hate how much I think they can become a crutch in our lives keeping us from conforming to Christ instead of a tool to help us do just that. But as an eight, she’d challenged me to dive deeper. At first, we thought I was an eight. A flame that burns too intensely. A force with trust troubles and angered strength. But the truth began: my not only fleeing but denial of pain, my constant hunger for new, my love of the laugh. I am a seven, painting hope over piercing pain because I’m afraid. Deeply, deeply afraid.

I’d recognized the tendencies.

Oh, I’m not going to tell him that. Even though I’m also the co-founder of this magazine, he’s older, more experienced. What do I have to offer? I’m sure he sees things more clearly. Yes, I have this idea for this digital marketing campaign, but I’m so new. What do I have to suggest to my college that they haven’t already thought about? Yeah, I’m the vice president of student government, but he knows better. I just probably am wrong. I don’t know what I don’t know, so how can I know that I actually have anything to give?

Insecurity masked as respectful deference.
Fear covered in a silent excuse that I’ll say more when I know more, have done more, have earned more years.

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid if I stand up, I’ll be told that I’m so wrong so shut up.
I’m afraid if I step up, all I’ll be is standing alone, having tried to contribute and failed.

I.

If I, then I. When I, then I. Till I, then I.

Me.

You see, I think it goes back farther than I’d even care to admit. I used to not have a filter. I used to have a much shorter circuit between what’s in my mind and heart to my mouth. I was fire. I’d ride home from the soccer games, words faster than my sprint after the soaring sphere. I’d watch what was happening at youth group, spewing opinion opinion opinion afterwards.

Then, I started going. Going to a new school as a fourth grader. Looking out at all the people and just wanting to have a place to fit. To understand why their parents drove Lexuses and they could buy their lunch in the hot lunch line instead of carrying a brown bag with the sandwiches like I did. To know why they could spend their time thinking about the next movie they were going to see on their cruise vacation while I was thinking about how that movie didn’t make me think about my Christ I told the wide-eyed, worn souled kids about on Wednesday nights.

When I tried to share my words, I saw. People didn’t think like I talked. So, I learned to talk like they think.

Say words that will make them like you.
Learn to understand their world that seems so different than yours.
Figure out this game of how to live their way.
Because their way is right, and you’re wrong.

I didn’t realize that when I learned to figure it all out, I was learning to keep others out.
I didn’t realize that when I learned to hide myself, I was learning how to carry the burdens of my unpursued dreams.
I didn’t realize that what started as a girl’s desire to securely know she was valuable and loved and could trust people enough to share her soul would turn into a woman’s exhausted habit of living with her head and not her heart.

Doubt would become the rule of my days. I’d trade rest for resentment. I would hide, masking her insecurity as a shield of logic.

For being known and rejected might be one of the biggest fears of all.

I am a coward.

I’m afraid that people won’t like me.
I’m afraid that maybe I’m actually not likeable in the first place.

And I’m so afraid of preserving whatever semblance of happy stability and competence I can give myself that I don’t emerge with my whole heart into the word, trapped by my self-deception that it’s better safer happier right inside me. That people aren’t worthy of trust. That people aren’t ready to hear truth because they might not like the truth giver. That no one understands and never will.

But truth.

“Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourself. Do what it says” (James 1:22).

Listen to my own circular thoughts. Deceive myself into believing that the world is a big scary place that is waiting to slaughter me and my dreams. Do nothing.

Maybe it’s as simple as one step after another.
One small courage in the face of fear.
One conversation more ruled by what I think not just how I think they talk.
One day of putting the needs of others in front of the insecurity I hold as my own.
One deep breath and realizing that the world just might need the uninhibited contribution of yes, even me.
One word closer to being from my heart and not just my head.

I am a coward.
And maybe it’s one day at a time of realizing that it’s not about me.

And I cannot even take a step.
I need transformation.
But I know the one who saves.

Courage, dear heart (c.s. lewis).
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...