"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"What are you doing after you graduate?" said everyone.

"When you haven't yet had your heart really broken, the gospel isn't about death and rebirth. It's about life and more life. It's about hope and possibility and a brighter future. And it is, certainly, about these things. But when you've faced some kind of death---the loss of someone you loved dearly, the failure of a dream, the fracture of a relationship--that's when you start understanding that central metaphor. When your life is easy, a lot of the really crucial parts of Christian doctrine and life are nice theories, but you don't really need them. When, however, death of any kind is staring you in the face, all of a sudden rebirth and new life are very, very important to you."
Shauna Niequist,  Bittersweet

Admittedly, my life is easy. I cannot even begin to compare my life to the billions in poverty, the millions in slavery, or to the homeless in my own city. I can't compare my life to those of you who have suffered great losses. Thankfully, God doesn't compare our pain. Because of His intimate care for each of His children as individuals, I don't have to suck up my little, minuscule problems and soldier on alone. He cares. Comparison is a fallacy, a ploy to pit the sons and daughters of God against each other. 

In Matthew 5:4, Jesus says: "BLESSED are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." He doesn't say "blessed are those who have something to mourn about," or "blessed are those who are in pain." Mourn is an action verb. Mourning is a decision. If I suffer a loss, I have two choices: I can choose to ignore the pain I feel and not address the loss, or I can choose to mourn that which was lost. Jesus says we are blessed when we mourn. 

Again, my life is easy. Nothing dramatically painful has occurred in my life, I haven't recently lost someone that I love to death. But, for this season, I'm learning how to mourn.

As I'm looking past the next 115 days, I am coming to grips with the reality that I will not live in Waco after this May. Even if I did stay in Waco, my season of college life and the sweetest community I've ever walked in is coming to an end. Life is moving forward, and so must I. With friends moving and weddings being planned, this reality has been sinking in. With the end of this season comes the end of certain dreams.

In the past few weeks, I have realized that I must let go of the dreams that I have held on so tightly to during my time in Waco. In order to move forward with open hands for what God has for me, those dreams have to die. I cannot walk into the next season still holding on to bitterness from unfulfilled dreams from a season that is past and that will never return. Not allowing these to die will cause ME to die. A life marked with bitterness and clinging to the past is not a life I want. Because I trust the unwavering character of God more than I trust my ability to dream, I will place my dreams on the altar and allow my merciful God burn them. It truly is in His MERCY that He calls me to move forward with open hands, because there are much, much better things ahead. As CS Lewis says, "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." I know in my mind that God is faithful, infinitely wiser, and will give me even greater dreams.

Letting this sink into my heart is a different story. Like with any loss, great or small, healing must follow. It's not enough for me to know in my head that God is faithful and good, I have to allow Him to heal my heart. This is where mourning takes place. I have to be vulnerable with Jesus and admit that this loss has affected me. I hoped that something would happen, and it didn't. Honestly, it was really hard to open my heart and allow God to start the process of healing and moving forward. I didn't want to face the reality that I had failed in some way, or that I wasn't enough in some way. I didn't want to mourn, because I didn't want to admit that I had lost something. In this instance, I could have (and did at points) self-protect in two ways. One, I could have just refused to give up, and try to stay in the season that I'm in until it ended the way I wanted it to. This would have been futile and life-sucking. Second, (the more practical, more alluring option) I could have pretended that this dream wasn't "that big of a deal". It would have been pretty easy to say that it didn't affect me, that my heart was never really in it, that I hadn't put that much hope in it. Doing this would have been disastrous. Not the explosive, obvious kind of disastrous, but the slow, deadly, hope-killing kind. I know this because I've been there more often than I would like to admit. 

But this time, I will choose vulnerability with God and people. I will choose to mourn that which has been lost, because something has been lost. My pain may not be earth-shattering, but it is there. And God cares enough about it that He will tenderly take me through a process of healing and restoring and moving forward.

And He is FAITHFUL. History is full of His faithfulness to bring life from death. Like a warm spring after a bitterly cold winter, life springs forth. Do you not perceive it?

Already, He is birthing new dreams, new vision, new things that I wouldn't think possible had I still been holding onto the past. It is a NEW DAY. And regardless of my experience, I can keep dreaming because I ultimately trust Him with my dreams. Whether or not I ever see them fulfilled is ultimately irrelevant-- it is the process of walking with Him and trusting Him that creates life in me.

So, here comes the question: "What are you doing after you graduate?"

The answer? I'm not quite sure about the practicals yet (my job, my location... small details like that), but one thing is certain: I'll keep dreaming with Jesus.