Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Honest Confession

"Your weakness becomes a backdrop for the glory of Jesus Christ. Embrace your weakness as the ground of Christ's power and glory... This kind of weakness acknowledges our flesh and puts on humanity... Your weakness is the channel for God's strength. God chooses to use us in the place of our greatest dependency. Get rid of this perfectionism."

Dr. Laurie Norris mentioned it in chapel this morning. A counselor reassured me of it on Monday. Both Mrs. Kane and my resident supervisor challenged me with it on Tuesday. My boyfriend seems to console me with it every day.

The simple truth that I am human.

It may seem silly, but for most of my life I have had a hard time believing that I am human; or, at least, I have tried to be more than human because I believed that I had to be. Good? No, the best. Well done? No, perfectly done. My expectations of myself are often higher than those that others have of me. The standards I set for myself are often so high even God's grace can't meet me when I fail to meet them; or, at least, that's what I often live my life believing.

The truth is, there's something I've been hiding, covering up, concealing; or, at least, trying to. And that is the simple truth that I am human. I know I haven't actually been hiding this; I've just tried to, for almost all of my life. And that is why first of all, I need to confess... I am human. Second of all, I need to apologize... to each and every one of you who I have refused to be vulnerable with, who I have put walls up with, who I have acted composed and put together in front of when really, inside, I have always just been a big sinful mess. The truth is, I'm scared. I've always been scared that others will see my imperfections, my struggles, and my sins and see that I am human.

If there's something the Lord has been trying to pound into my head and drill into my heart this semester, it is the simple truth that I am human. It may seem silly, but for a perfectionist like me it is really one of the most profound and powerful truths He has taught me so far in this life. Apparently, I am a human who is capable of missing a class, missing a quiz, sleeping through a work shift, turning a paper in late, forgetting about a meeting, needing to postpone or cancel meetings, stuttering in class because I have nothing smart to say, saying hurtful things to those I love, being selfish and prideful, being fearful and anxious and down, crying, doubting, and committing the same sins over and over again.

Grace. I have never been more thankful for Grace than in this time of my life because His Grace has never been more real to me than now. Perhaps this is because I am only now realizing how much I desperately need it. The Grace of Jesus Christ, my Savior, who was wounded for me so that I could be made whole (Isaiah 53:5). The Grace of God my Father who continually forgives me (1 John 1:9), draws me near to Himself (James 4:8), and assures me that it is when I am weak that I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10) and that His Grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9). And I am thankful for the Grace that God gives me through those in my life - the girls on my floor, my boyfriend, my friends, my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister, my bosses, and my professors. Thank you to all of you who have shown me grace when I least deserve it; you may never quite know or understand how much this has meant, and continues to mean, to me.

I do not share these things for attention or for my own glory. No, I share my weaknesses because I am finally finding the freedom to admit that I am human. Because I am finally finding the freedom to be human. Because God has given me this freedom. Because through my weaknesses God's glory can most clearly be seen. Because "sufficient enough" is His Grace for me (2 Corinthians 12:9). Because, hopefully, you can be encouraged as well and therefore, God be glorified.

"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). I pray that I will reach this point. I pray that, with Paul, I will be able to allow myself to be so human that the Divine's power and glory can be clearly seen in me. When I pretend to be "perfect," I make it all about me and my own glory; when I allow myself to live in the freedom God has given me to be weak, to be frail and finite, I make it all about God and His glory and strength in me.

I am in no way justifying sin, because my sin is against my Father and is deserving of death (Romans 6:23). I am only confessing that I do sin and that I am simply human. To pretend that I am perfect when I am weak is to diminish the visibility of His Glory in my life. It is to replace the Glory that is rightfully His in order to bring glory to myself.

"When I am weak, then I am strong." Yes, Father. Make me weak so that Your strength and glory can be clearly seen in my life. Sufficient enough is Your Grace for me. Help me to live in this Truth.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Beauty From These Ashes

"To love and be loved is both a blessing and a tragedy. It both heals and wounds, salves and scars. Though I know in my heart it is, sometimes I wonder if it's worth it. I'm really scared to love, really scared to be loved."

"Molly, Mamaw is not going to be in the house when we go in this time." I had played on the floor by my grandma's deathbed and sat by my dad at her side for a few weeks prior to this and still I did not believe that she was actually gone.

"Yeah she is, Dad," I laughed playfully, sure that he was joking with me. My little four-year-old heart could not quite grasp the fact that my grandma wouldn't be there. I walked inside and saw the empty bed where I expected to see her lying as usual, and then I knew. I knew that my dad was right. I left her house that day and did not hear her voice calling out to me, "Watch your step!" as she had always lovingly warned me when I left her house and bounded down the porch steps carelessly.

Only a few months after I attended my grandma's funeral, I attended my grandpa's. Two years later, my teacher called all of us together to tell us that our school bus driver, an older man I had attached myself to, had died. A year after that it was an elderly woman I loved named Violet. A few years after that it was my great-grandma.

One afternoon, I sat in a corner of my bedroom and sobbed over the pain and loss my little heart was experiencing. My mom came over to me and with tears gently told me, "Molly, please don't let this loss keep you from getting close to anyone else." At the time, though, my little heart was a lover, and it continued to attach itself to other people. It attached itself to an elderly couple, Roy and Mary, who became like my grandparents after the death of my biological grandparents. Roy is the one who gave me a mint that caused me to lose my first tooth, the one who had me convinced that he drank coffee for dinner every night, the one I visited almost every day just so I could sit by his side on his front porch. Mary is the one who I read books to, who I flipped through the pictures of my baby book with, who I sat beside while I did my homework; she was my "grandma," I was her "little angel."

Then one day when I was twelve our phone rang and my mom called me to her side. I immediately knew what had happened. "It's Roy... I'm so sorry, Molly." My mom cried and tried to console me at the same time, but my heart was broken. A month ago, my phone rang again and I tried to fight back tears in vain while I was on the phone with Mary's grandson. Again, my heart was wrenched. This time, I was 11 hours away and I didn't even get to say goodbye.

Why am I sharing these things? It is not because I want pity, because I don't. It is not because I want attention, because I really don't want that either. I write because I have to, because God has given me a story that He has not intended I keep to myself. I write because I know that every person has a story that is filled with its share of loss and pain.

"To love and be loved is both a blessing and a tragedy. It both heals and wounds, salves and scars. Though I know in my heart it is, sometimes I wonder if it's worth it. I'm really scared to love, really scared to be loved."

These are honest words that I prayed to my Father last night. The truth is, I love deeply and I am deeply loved and it terrifies me. At any moment my phone could ring again. At any moment my heart could be wrenched, wounded, and broken again.

So, why?! Why continue to love and continue to open up my heart just to invite in more pain that I really cannot bear?

Because this is what Christ has done for me (Isaiah 53:5). Because this is what my Heavenly Father has called me to do (John 13:34). Because the gift of loving someone far, far outweighs the pain of losing them. Because in the Family of God, I have all eternity to continue loving them (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

And this is why I trust that God is in the works of turning my mourning into joy, my despair into praise, my ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:2-3). I trust that He is also in the works of doing the same for you. It's okay to wrestle with the Lord, to ask Him the hard questions, to wonder why He has allowed pain. It is okay to be heartbroken and angry that He has not allowed you to say goodbye. It is okay to pray honest prayers, to let your Heavenly Father hear your heart, to crawl on your knees to the Throne when everyone around you is telling you to run to it but you know you don't have the strength to even stand. He just wants you. The same God who has allowed the heart-wrenching, breath-taking pain is the same God who comforts and heals us of that very pain.

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4).

That's the beauty in these ashes, the hope in the midst of this pain. This life is not all there is. Praise God this pain is temporary, this "light momentary affliction... preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Father, thank You that even when I do not understand Your ways I can still trust You. Help me to trust You more, especially when my heart is deeply grieved. Thank You that this is not my home, that You are even now preparing a place for me where there will be no more death or crying or pain. Thank You that even when I cannot "thank You," that even when I am in a place of despair and hurt because You would allow me to hurt so much, that You still love me and want me and pursue me. Thank You for holding my heart in Your hands. Thank You that when I cannot stand, I can fall on You; that when I cannot understand, I can still rest in You. Oh, God, You are good. Thanks for loving me.