Monday, December 17, 2007

Grace and Love

Some interesting questions came up when I was talking with some friends last weekend. The biggest of these questions was, "Why do people love each other?" While that's a good question, a better question was found in the thought that the big question sprang from: "I'm a terrible person . . . I have so many flaws, I fail so often . . . I'm just all-around inadequate. Knowing how horrid I actually am, why would anyone love me?"

It's a question we've probably all asked at one time or another . . . some of us with more frequency and a greater sense of self-doubt than others. It's a question that I've struggled with for years. I've done some pretty terrible things . . . heck, I DO some pretty terrible things on a fairly regular basis. There are days when I'm pretty convinced that if people had any idea how often and how far I fall, they would run as fast as they could in the opposite direction.

It's interesting how hearing someone else ask the question in your own heart can help you get a little bit closer to an answer.

Here's the thing . . . I don't know that love needs to make sense. In fact, if love made sense, it probably wouldn't be love, because love is such a reflection of God's character, and God's character is not something we can ever hope to fully grasp. I can't exactly explain why I love anyone; I just do. Love isn't dependent upon merit. Love acknowledges flaws and emphasizes strengths. Unless it's love for God, love isn't something that's ever really deserved. It's just given.

When it comes down to it, rejecting the love of another person because you think you don't deserve it really amounts to 1) accusing that person of being an idiot and 2) throwing something wonderful that they're offering freely back in their face. It ultimately comes down to a question of whether you believe that God knew what He was doing when He saved you. If He did, then you must have a great deal of worth, regardless of your ability to see it.

Granted, it's a lot easier to say that than it is to take it to heart. I know it, I believe it . . . but can I accept it?

I believe that one of Satan's strongest lies is that beating ourselves up over our failures will somehow make up for them. It's ingrained in us as human beings—all across time and culture, sacrifice of some sort has been the common answer to the problem of human failure. I actually did a project about the concept in my AP Psych class my senior year of high school, which culminated in what may be my best (and certainly my most morbid) artistic endeavors:

Here's the thing. Yes, we need to acknowledge when we've messed up. We need to realize that we're flawed individuals in need of a Savior. But continually beating ourselves up over past mistakes is wrong. That Savior that we so desperately need already came in the form of Jesus Christ. He's already paid the price for our failures. Clinging to those failures is the moral equivalent of slapping Christ in the face and saying His sacrifice wasn't good enough.

Last week in one of my psych classes we talked about forgiveness. My professor told us that there are three kinds of forgiveness, and that all three are important: forgiveness of others, forgiveness of circumstance, and forgiveness of self. Forgiveness isn't forgetting. Forgiveness isn't pretending that what happened was right. Forgiveness is realizing that dwelling on what happened isn't going to make it go away. Forgiveness of self is realizing that the fact that you fail doesn't make you a failure—it makes you human. It's looking at failure as an opportunity for improvement rather than a reason to develop a self-depreciating attitude.

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Romans 6:17-18

If we have accepted Christ's gift of salvation, that means that we're not slaves to sin anymore. It doesn't mean that we never fail anymore, but it means that our failures don't own us any longer! Christ died on the cross so that sinful people like us could be free, not so that we could keep going around beating up on ourselves for what we've done wrong. He made the ultimate sacrifice so that we don't have to. Too often we try to complicate God's gift of grace. We try to make it all about us, when really, it isn't dependent on us at all. By saving us, God brings glory to Himself. Because really, what could be greater evidence of His glory than the gift of eternal life that He offers to us freely?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The Greatest Thing You'll Ever Learn . . . "

Those of you who have seen the movie Moulin Rouge (and many of you who haven't) know how to finish the title.

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."

There's also Ewan McGregor's repeated rant about love:

"Love is like oxygen. Love is a many-splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love!"

Sappy, right? Especially within the context of the movie, where the focus is entirely about romantic love (and/or lust). But if we take those lines out of context and look at them in terms of life in general . . . there is so much truth in them!

I was talking with one of my roommates about Love last night. She was reading 1 Corinthians 13 before she went to bed. Just about everyone has heard this passage before:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

I've been learning a lot about what it means to love this semester. I have been so weary, so utterly at the end of myself, that I have started to see more clearly what it means to let God love others through me. I haven't had anything of my own to give until this last week, really; and yet, I found that I was able to help some people through hard times better than I would ever have been able to on my own power. God is just awesome like that.

I've also been learning how to be loved. I discovered several years ago that I'm not very good at accepting love. I want to be self-sufficient. I'm stubborn, I'm independent, and I'm too smart for my own good. I don't want help from anyone. This semester, though . . . I have been forced to seek out help for the first time in ages. I've needed to rely on one friend in particular more than I've ever really relied on anyone. She's been absolutely amazing, and the best part of all of it is that she's been able to rely on me, too.

Over the past three months, I have been completely broken. I have had panic attacks, I've bawled my eyes out, I've spent large amounts of time hiding in my car or going for walks by myself because I didn't know where else to go or what else to do with myself. I've struggled to focus in my classes. I've barely felt human.

Things are finally looking up. I found out why I was struggling so much, and now I'm working to make it right. But part of that is asking for help . . . and for grace. I'm finding myself going to my professors to figure out how I'll end up with decent grades at the end of the semester.

God has been so faithful in all of this. He's blessed me with the most amazing friends I could possibly have asked for. I totally don't deserve them. He's given me the strength that I've needed to get through everything. He's humbled me. He's been gracious and patient with me. He's never left me for a moment.

When you think about it, the description of Love in 1 Corinthians 13 is, in many ways, a description of God's character. Think about it.

God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. He is not rude, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, is always trustworthy, always gives us reason to hope, always gives us the strength to persevere. God never fails.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Plants are Addicting . . . in a Healthy Sort of Way

It's true, they are.

Rather early on in the summer my fish, Diego, passed away. I decided that I wanted to get a plant rather than another fish to come back to school with me in the fall. I looked at several options, did a bit of researching online, and came up with a great idea—a bonsai tree! I went to a couple of different stores that I knew would have plants for relatively low prices, and ended up finding a tree at Walmart.

This is Fezzik as he originally came to me. The rocks that you see were glued together on the top of the pot. He was obviously healthy, but I knew that without some love he'd die pretty fast (it's not easy to water a plant that has rocks glued to it!). I did a little research and determined that he was a ficus retusa, or ginseng ficus. I did a little more research and found a great website selling bonsai supplies. I bought him a new pot and some different soil, and then set to work prying away those silly rocks. When all was said and done, he looked much nicer.

I still have Fezzik. He has fewer leaves now (it's not exactly a growth season right now), but he's still relatively healthy.

Once I got to school, I decided I wanted another plant. I went to Byerly's and found Esperanza, my bromeliad.

Esperanza was a sort of temporary installment. The blooms on bromeliads only last for a couple of months, and then they don't grow back. Her bloom is fading fast now, so pretty soon we're going to have to lay her to rest.

I decided last week that I wanted to look for some new plants. I went to a couple of different places, but I didn't have much luck at first. Yesterday I finally went back to Byerly's with my roommate. We walked out with three new plants.

I found a new bonsai. I've decided this one is a "she," but haven't come up with a name for her yet. She was sitting on the shelf looking all pretty, and when I went over to check her out, I realized that there were rocks glued together over her soil, too. She also had a branch that was split. Other than that, however, she looked healthy. I decided I had to rescue her. From the little bit of poking around online I was able to do last night, I've decided that she's probably a "brush cherry" tree, but I'm not 100% sure of that. Whatever she is, she's quite pretty. I've once again ordered a different pot and some new soil for her that should get her in a week or so.

We also found a "house bamboo" plant . . . I think it's pretty cute.

The other plant is another that I may try to bonsai. I'm not sure yet. I'd tell you what it is, but I don't recall of the top of my head. This is what it looks like, though:

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Why on earth would I want to have so many plants to take care of? They're not like animals that move around—all they do is sit there and look pretty. Well, that's sort of the point. They look pretty. But there's more to it than that. They smell nice. They clean up the air in our room a bit (a big plus for someone like me who has allergies). They're like pets in a lot of ways, really. I haven't named the new ones yet, but I will.

Actually, one of the most interesting things about growing plants is the fact that they teach patience—LOTS of patience. I am not a naturally patient person, so it's good for me to do things that help breed that particular virtue. (That happens to be one of the reasons I like knitting so much.) Plants also reward patience. If you help them grow, give them enough care to thrive but not so much that you care them to death, they turn into something beautiful that can last for a long time. My mom has an ivy at our house that she's been growing for YEARS. It started out pretty small, but over the years it's grown into something quite impressive.

To make a long story short . . . you should go buy a plant. Now. I don't care if you don't have a green thumb. Start with something easy (do a Google search for low maintenance house plants), and go on from there. It can't hurt to try.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Warm Fuzzies

I've discovered a new, cheap way to make a bad day better.

I was rather crabby this morning. As is obvious from my last post, I was up very late last night, so I only got about 4 hours of sleep. On top of that . . . well, there's just a lot on my mind. So I was very crabby.

I decided after chapel this morning that I wanted to go back to my room for lunch, to get a little time alone. When I got to my dorm, I realized that I was seriously craving Leeann Chin, so I grabbed my keys, hopped in my car, and headed over to HarMar Mall, an old strip mall a couple of minutes from campus.

When I got to HarMar, I decided I wasn't quite hungry enough to eat yet, so I walked inside, intending to look around. I remembered that there's a little pet store in the mall, so I thought, "Hey, they have furry things . . . furry things always make bad days better!"

It was a great thought.

And it totally worked.

There were puppies in varying states of consciousness, from peaceful, snuggly sleep to wriggling and wrestling and just being goofy. There were little kittens, most of which were sleeping, snuggled together in a mound of warm fur. One particular kitten, a light orange tabby, was awake and meowing. I really wanted to take him home with me.

There's something incredibly comforting about furry things. When I'm at home and having a bad day, my dog is always there to help me feel better. She'll curl up in my lap and sleep while I read a book, or she'll bring me toys until I finally decide to get over myself and play with her. She's just a sweet little ball of smiles and unconditional love—a warm fuzzy.

So that's my new plan for bad days—if it's at all an option, I'm going to make a run to the pet store.

Maybe I should look into getting a weekend job there . . . ;)

The Pros and Cons of Loving People

I've come to the conclusion that I allow myself to become entirely too attached to people.

Don't get me wrong—I love loving people. It's just who I am. The problem is . . . well, sometimes, loving people is painful.

If there's one lesson I've learned in my brief 19 years of life, it's that goodbyes are inevitable. They also suck, especially when they involve someone you love. Even if they're only temporary goodbyes, they're still incredibly painful.

I've had to say a lot of goodbyes in my life. They never seem to get easier. I've never been good at them; in fact, I avoid them whenever I can. I hate having to let go of someone I care about, even if it's only for a little while.

There was a time in my life when I tried to stop myself from loving people too much. I was tired of having to say goodbye. It didn't last all that long—it's entirely against my nature not to love people—but in some ways, it was rather nice. If I didn't care about anyone else, I never had to worry about losing anyone. I never had to say goodbye.

I know that loving people is totally worth the pain it sometimes brings. The fact remains, however, that love is a painful thing at times. I don't particularly like pain.

(Ironically, Superchick's Beauty from Pain just came on . . . rather a fitting song to be listening to as I write this.)

This is more or less the vaguest and most angsty blog I've written in awhile. I apologize. In my defense, it is 3:30 in the morning. There's a reason I stopped writing late at night . . .

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thou Shalt Not Hurt My Friends (or "A Lesson in Forgiveness")

Last week I went to Dunn Bros. with my roommate. While we were sitting there enjoying our drinks, she realized that she had this game in her purse. It was a deck of cards with all sorts of questions and conversation starters. One of the questions she asked me was something along the lines of, "If you could write an Eleventh Commandment, what would it be?" Without missing a beat, I replied, "Thou shalt not hurt my roommate." After she laughed, I decided to expand my answer to the broader statement, "Thou shalt not hurt my friends."

I hate seeing my friends get hurt. I'm a fiercely loyal person, and with that trait comes a strong desire to defend those that I love. I constantly want to enforce my "Eleventh Commandment." One of my best friends asked me once if I ever got mad. I told her if someone ever hurt her, she'd find out.

I don't mind nearly so much if I get hurt. I might be upset for a awhile, I might even cry, but chances are I'll move on relatively quickly. I am sometimes reluctant to forgive those who wrong me, but with time (and a whole lot of help from God), I can usually let things go.

If someone hurts someone I love . . . well, that's a whole other story. I can hold onto grudges against those individuals for years . . . sometimes long after the friend who was hurt has moved on and forgiven the offending individual.

I realized at church on Sunday that my attitude in that area is just not ok. I've been in denial about it for a long time . . . but really, if I claim to want to follow Christ, there isn't much I can say in my defense against His words:

Luke 6:27-36
27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

If I'm going to identify myself as a disciple of Jesus Christ, an unforgiving heart is not an option. Righteous anger aroused when the people I love are unjustly wronged is fine — even Jesus got angry in some circumstances (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; John 2:13-17). But allowing that anger to fester and turn into bitterness . . . that's definitely not ok. Besides being incredibly unhealthy and unproductive, bitterness is sinful:

Ephesians 4:21-32
21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Forgiveness isn't optional. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, "Forgive others . . . if you feel like it." It simply says, "Forgive others."

Now if only that was as easy to live as it was to type . . .

Friday, October 12, 2007

Coffee > Jesus (or "My Priorities Need an Organizational Makeover")

I love coffee. I will readily admit that I am addicted to coffee. On a typical day I'll down anywhere from two to six cups . . . I think I average three or four. I am totally ok with being addicted to coffee—I know I can stop whenever I want to (provided I'm willing to deal with a couple of days of withdrawal headaches, of course . . . haha). Addiction aside, though, I honestly do enjoy coffee. I love the taste of black coffee; I love the smell of coffee; I love the feel of a warm mug of coffee in my hands while I read a good book. However, I realized this morning that I might be loving coffee just a little too much.

This morning when my alarm went off for the second time, I dragged myself out of bed, walked into the closet, grabbed my bag of whole-bean Costa Rican coffee, plugged in the coffee grinder, dumped the grounds into a filter, dropped the filter into Steve (my coffee maker), and started filling the coffee pot up with water . . . and then I stopped. Because I realized that all I had thought about since waking up was how much I wanted a little bit of caffeine. I had almost finished making my pot of coffee before it even occurred to me to do what I should be doing before I think about anything else: I hadn't bothered to talk to God yet. In fact, He hadn't even entered my thoughts up to that point.

I've definitely made the statement that I want God to be number one in my life. I know that there are times when other things take top priority. Usually they're pretty significant things, which isn't really an excuse, but which make some sense, as I am most definitely human and therefore prone to error. I don't think I've ever really thought about how often small things can take priority over God just as easily as the big things, though. I mean, seriously . . . coffee is wonderful, but it is DEFINITELY not more wonderful than my Lord!

Today was actually full of reminders of how easily I'm distracted from fixing my eyes on Him. There are so many things that can pull my gaze off His face and onto my own life. It's ridiculous, really. I know from experience that I'm really no good at all at running my own life. Unless I surrender everything to Christ, I'm pretty useless.

I think God's really been teaching me lately that I need to be a more genuine, consistent person of integrity. He's making me much more aware of the words that come out of my mouth. I'm starting to learn what it means to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5) I'm become more aware of how my actions affect other people. It's hard . . . at times it's downright painful. But it's so worth it . . . I just hope that I don't throw it all away when this particular lesson is over.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fatal Attraction

I find it fascinating how conclusions drawn from seemingly unrelated incidents can turn out to be very much connected. I have found my thoughts returning to the topic of self-esteem several times over the past couple of weeks. I have also been wondering why it is that we sometimes end up with "friends" who hurt us. In all of this thinking and wondering, I have come to yet another realization. I'm going to talk about this particular revelation in regards to being a woman, so guys, I apologize. Don't think that I don't realize many of you struggle with the same issues; I've just been seeing this a lot in my own life and in the lives of other ladies lately, so that's the way this blog is going to go. Girls, this one's for you.

I think as women we tend to struggle so much with comparing ourselves to each other. It's horribly cliché, but I think we really do end up feeling a lot of pressure from the world to look, dress, act, etc. in a certain way, and since the vast majority of us don't fit into that "perfect" mold, we end up believing all of these lies about ourselves: we're not pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, sexy enough, feminine enough . . . that we're not "enough" in general. The really sad part of it all is that we're so used to the lies that half the time we don't even realize that we believe them. Whether we realize that we believe them or not, those lies are often some of our most closely held beliefs about who we are.

Every girl desires to be loved. Most of us have caught ourselves wishing at some point or another that we'd find our Prince Charming or Knight-in-Shining-Armor who would make us feel like princesses. The problem is, many of us have also been ensnared in the lie that we don't deserve to be loved like that.

Most people are under the rather misguided impression that "opposites attract." While that's true in some respects (some difference is good—it's good to be able to play off each other's strengths and weaknesses in a relationship), people tend to be attracted to people with similar characteristics and beliefs.

This leaves us in a sort of strange place. We want to be loved, but we don't believe we deserve love . . . so we end up with friends (and, unfortunately, "significant others") who don't seem to believe that we deserve love either. They'll treat us just well enough that we'll rationalize and claim that they really are our friends or that they really do love us, even though just about anyone on the outside of the relationship is able to see that the relationship is hurting us more than it's helping us.

I really believe that's why so many women end up in abusive relationships that they can't get out of. I also believe it's one of the reasons that we struggle to let go of the lies we've come to believe about our worth: if someone I claim as a close friend confirms with his or her behavior toward me what I already believe about myself, it's going to take a lot more to change my mind than if I'm the only thing standing in my way of breaking free of that lie.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Hurting Can Be Helpful

Friendships are wonderful, beautiful things. Being able to love and to be loved are two of the greatest joys we can experience as humans.

Unfortunately, the people that we love are also the people who can hurt us the most.

A very dear friend of mine had to deal with this today. She truly desires to be the best friend she can be to people. Sadly, this sometimes means that she lets people walk all over her. I have a tendency to do the same thing, so I can understand how difficult it can be to stand up for oneself in relationships (meaning relationships of all sorts -- friendships, family relationships, etc.). Today, this friend of mine did what was quite possibly the bravest thing she's done in her entire life. She chose to very gently and lovingly point out to one of her friends that he had hurt her. She could not have been more sincere in her desire to make their friendship work out, and she actually stood up for herself so that he could learn to be aware of how his actions affect other people -- so that he could learn to be a better friend and a better person in general.

However, her friend chose to go on the defensive, twisting her words and interpreting them as an attack on his character. Rather than realizing the true purpose of her gentle criticism of his actions -- to help him -- he focused solely on his bruised ego, taking extreme offense to something that was intended for good.

Hurting someone to help them is a bit of a strange concept. It's so easy to take offense at the constructive criticism our loved ones offer -- rather than acknowledging that they're acting out of love, we wallow in self-pity, claiming they have no right to tell us how we ought to live our lives. At the same time, we can often so easily offer criticism (constructive or otherwise) about others. At some point last year, I decided that this particular principle can be summed up in one simple sentence:

It's easier to look through a window than into a mirror.

I know I tend to be far too sensitive to criticism. Rather than learn from the observations of others, I persist in acting like an idiot until it really gets me into trouble. Rather than acknowledging my sin when God convicts me of something, I push on in rebellion. I want to feel like I can run my own life and make my own mistakes without ever affecting another person.

But that's just not how life works. My decisions, my stupid mistakes do have an impact on others. My refusal to accept criticism can forge barriers in my relationships that, if not properly addressed, can end up causing those relationships permanent damage.

So, now I come back to the two basic principles of my last two blogs: I need to learn to surrender, and I need to be conscious of how my words and actions are affecting those around me.

Think God might be trying to tell me something?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Self-Esteem (or, "Do As I Say, Not As I Do")

I had an interesting revelation on Wednesday as I was talking with a couple of friends. One of them was frustrated because boys were being stupid (unfortunately, this seems to be a trend for many of my friends right now). At some point in the conversation, she began making derogatory comments about her looks. My other friends and I immediately assured her that she was, in fact, beautiful, that any boy who would ignore her must be an idiot, etc. Her response was simply, "Yeah, right . . . "

I have conversations like that one more often than I'd like to. It breaks my heart that so many girls struggle with self-esteem. I was profoundly bothered by this particular conversation . . . I honestly wanted to cry for my friend, because she truly is a beautiful person, inside and out.

My revelation came later, as the conversation continued: I hold a ridiculous double standard when it comes to the issue of self-esteem.

The same friend asked me a question later in the evening, calling me "Lovely." I told her I didn't know who she was talking to when she said that. She called me "beautiful," and I protested. I eventually admitted to my her that I don't think I'm hideous; I'm just simply not a drop-dead-gorgeous, boys falling at my feet sort of girl.

It's funny how I can be so caught up in wanting to make someone feel better that I can be completely blind to my own attitudes.

I actually realized the double standard that night. Unfortunately, while admitting that there is a problem may be the first step to solving the problem, it's not the only step. I did the same thing on Thursday night. I was going swing dancing with the girls in my hall, and I found myself making comments about how I was actually going to look beautiful that night, since I was going to wear a dress and put on makeup.

I hold a similar double-standard in several areas of my life, I've realized. I don't want to cry in front of people; when I do so, I feel it's a sign of weakness. However, I don't look down on others for crying more openly--when others do so, I can admit that it takes strength to let others see you when you're broken. I want to be able to bear my own burdens along with the burdens of everyone around me without help; I will tell anyone else who tries to do the same that it's not ok, because trying to carry so much simply wears you down to the point that you can't be of any help to anyone.

It's a troubling realization. I want to be a person of integrity, and yet, if I really examine my heart, I find that I'm a hypocrite. I have been much more conscious of the words that come out of my mouth over the past couple of days. I have been forced to admit that over-criticizing myself just makes it ok for other girls to be over-critical of themselves.

So, I have a goal for the next week (and hopefully beyond). Working on all of those double standards at once is an overwhelming thought, so I'm going to start small. No more making negative comments about myself, aside from healthy, productive criticism. That's just not the sort of person I want to be.

I have a feeling it's going to be an interesting week.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tough Questions

"Why did God bless me with such wonderful friends?"

"Why does growing up have to hurt so much?"

A dear friend of mine asked these questions last night as we sat together on my couch. I didn't have an answer. All I could do was hold her and find the same questions echoing back in my mind.

That first question has been on my mind a lot lately. I have the most amazing friends in the world. I totally don't deserve them. That's really struck home in the past couple of weeks. I hadn't been doing very well; I had found myself in a bit of a slump. It's a pretty normal thing for me, and I know I would be out of it soon enough. Usually when I'm in such a slump I can keep up a pretty convincing façade. My issue are my issues, and I'm used to dealing with them on my own. But last week . . . last week I couldn't keep up the act. In fact, by the time Friday rolled around, people I would never have expected to notice were asking what was wrong. Friends that were super busy went out of their way to ask how I was doing and give me hugs. It made the slump a lot more survivable.

Being in college makes me ask my friend's second question a lot more than I used to. Growing up is painful. I spent most of my childhood waiting for the day I could get my driver's license, and almost every day after my sixteenth birthday waiting for the day I could move out of my house. Going home on breaks, I still find myself waiting for the day when I can move out. But really . . . growing up is hard. It's terrifying. I still struggle to comprehend the fact that I'm a legal adult. I don't feel like I'm mature enough . . . or responsible enough . . . or strong enough.

That's been my biggest battle over the past month or so. No matter what I do; no matter how much I try to talk myself into thinking otherwise, I'm never quite strong enough. I see my friends struggling to get by . . . I watch my parents fight with my brother . . . and I realize that in the end, there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. I can't even keep my own life under control for more than a couple of hours, so how could I possibly help anyone else?

I've always wanted to be stronger than I am. I've always felt the pressure to be strong. My friends turn to me when life doesn't go the way they planned; my brother turns to me to defend him when I'm home; my parents turn to me when they can't figure out what to do with my brother . . . and I expect myself to be able to do it all. But I can't.

I can think of few issues I find more difficult in my relationship with God. I want to be self-sufficient. I want to be able to take care of myself and everyone around me. At the same time, I know the only way I'm ever going to get anywhere in life is by surrendering it all to God. Surrender . . . being a living sacrifice is hard. It's so much easier to jump off the altar and run away screaming. At least that's how it seems. When I think about it, though . . . I tend to make a royal mess of things when I'm trying to run my own life. God definitely does a much better job. I'm just too proud to let Him.