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*bright hope for tomorrow

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Hmm, it seems a while since I’ve posted, yet, it could have been yesterday all the same. Honestly I haven’t been up to much.. I’ve been working in a bookstore, laughing at my little sister’s jokes, hanging out with my buddy Taylor, and emailing my friend Susanna, and throwing party or two. I suppose it’s appropriate that I would post this around Easter, anyway. It is funny how time flows though, isn’t it? From one day dragging to the next, to a blink and a look back and a wave goodbye to several months all at once, it would seem. That’s how it’s been for me since I’ve arrived home. In truth, I had a very odd transition home, and not in the way you might assume. I felt this very heavy dissatisfaction – I had been feeling it for several months, consistently, but in Kenya I had enough to distractions to prevent me from attending it. Yes, if you didn’t know, this is my great downfall: total and complete aversion to any and every problem whatsoever. I can see ‘em coming from a mile away and I can dodge them all the way to the moon. Anyway, it wasn’t like I got home, and like many of my friends who travelled, immediately wanted to leave again. Honestly, I’m quite happy being home at the moment. I am contented. So it wasn’t a problem confined to Kenya, since it followed me home.. And it wasn’t because I came home, since it had begun months prior. 2 + 2 = me. I was the problem, and I knew it. I had known it.. for years. I had literally been dodging this one for that long.

I won’t bother with details, because they’re irrelevant at this present time. All you really need to know is that I, the good, the darling, the sweet little pastor’s child, strayed off the narrow road. In addition to this somewhat shameful and scandalous, yet highly unsurprising news, you should know that in typical form, I did not deal with it, and I did not forgive. I merely put on the face of “moving on” and pretended nothing had really happened. (Yes, this is indeed the trademark move I just explained to you. “Problem, what problem?”)

Maybe that would have worked, but what I had so actively ignored came back to bite me, inspiring painful sin that I could not uproot on my own, that slowly became bad habits, that slowly turned into doings I no longer had the desire to undo. For three years now, I’ve been trying to fight this battle of consistent discontentment in the face of a world that only ever shows its peak moments. Everyone else seemed so happy, and I was swept along in the current of high school and parties and highlights, that I too, began to glance over the moments in between. The times of silence just before falling asleep, of cancelled plans that left me alone, in my room, drowning in my own thoughts. A year ago (or so), I accepted this fate and resigned myself to this life. A life that felt filthy and unfulfilling. I became increasingly cynical and jaded, and I hated myself for it. And I continued on, just barely maintaining the facade that all was well.

When I left for Kenya, I knew my faith would be pushed. I knew it would maybe be time to confront all these issues, and I also knew I would finally have time to do so. I had managed to keep far too busy in the past to let anything catch up with me and convict me too strongly. I was right, I did have the time in Kenya, but still, I managed to evade it. I procrastinated confronting the beast inside me, because I knew exactly what it would take to tame it, and I knew I was absolutely unwilling to actually do something about it. I was unhappy, but I was also comfortable. My morals were lukewarm enough that I could manage the Christian “lifestyle” on the surface while, in fact, sacrificing very little.

I was unwilling to surrender. You know how Christians just chant the word “surrender?” It’s in songs and books and blog posts much like this one, and everyone seems to agree that it’s entirely necessary for the Christian walk to be authentic. Well here’s my reality: I don’t know that I’d ever truly surrendered. I think I did as a child, when I initially accepted my salvation.. But I know that as I grew into a teenager, and certainly in the last 5 years, I have not led a “surrendered” lifestyle. I have not surrendered to God’s will, I have fought it. I have not gone willingly in obedience, I have lived in reckless rebellion, born out of a deep-seated, simmering rage and stubborn certainty that I could do this on my own. I could figure this out. I didn’t need God. I didn’t need anybody. I was proud, and as we all know, “pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Let me tell you friends, the pride I have harboured has lined me up for a doozy.

And you know what’s funny? I actually did manage on my own, just fine. I had a few mishaps, and a multitude of not-the-best moments, but I had a great high school experience. I had amazing friends. I had books. I had jobs, meaning I had money, meaning I basically got to do what I wanted. I had no lack of opportunities. I was “happy.” Even though I knew, deep within me, that the way I lived was wrong, I also knew that I was faking it just fine.

Then Dee died. And then Caroline died. And I wasn’t confronted – I was slapped in the face with this reality – with how wonderful these young women were, and how the blessing of life had been robbed from them.. And how I was sitting here, all alive and well, and entirely unworthy of the life I was living. I wasn’t “living my life to the fullest,” or any of those other cliches.. I certainly wasn’t waiting with bated breath for the Spirit to manifest again and again in my life, I was hoping I could avoid Him, so that I could evade the guilt and conviction I felt in His wake. I was mediocre. I was lukewarm. I was meh. I was all the things I hate, and I had let myself trick me into believing that I was okay, that I was just fine. The dissatisfaction in my soul had finally blossomed. It had finally cracked through just enough for me to feel it in its entirety, and I didn’t like it. My heart felt physically heavy. I felt burdened. I was weary. And all this time, I’d known the truth. His yoke is light. His truth is life. “Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you life.” He has told me this, over and over, and I have refused to come. Out of pride and stubbornness and straight up sin, I have refused to surrender.

Where is this going, right? Well. I arrived home in the midst of the whirlwind we affectionately refer to as “Christmastime.” Christmas is kind of weird. You can try and romanticize it, but I work retail baby, and Christmas is weird. Christ is not weird, but Christmas is. “Christmas” being the oversold, overproduced, overworked version of Santa and a reindeer with some unfortunate condition that makes his nose glow, the expectation that the family MUST get along, and the turkey must be eaten, and we must have this, and give that and and and and… It’s just exhausting, is it not? Somewhere along the way I heard the hymn, “O Holy Night.” This is the song for me, my friends. Since childhood, I have loved this song. I’ve loved the peace and the anticipation it drums up in my spirit, just as I love the bold chorus and the hope that it fills me with. This Christmas though, the words resonated within me as they never had before: ‘Long lay the world, in sin and error pining / Til He appeared and the Soul felt its worth / A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices / For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.’ This was me, and I knew it, and finally, something in me broke. After months of God tugging at me and wooing me and calling me home, it took four lines in a song that’s over 150 years old to break me… And by “break” I mean I felt my whole soul collapse in on itself and shatter into the Spirit I had been so desperately hiding from. It was like seeing the golden sun overcome the horizon in the morning, tasting the sea on the wind, hearing laughter after years of silence, or feeling a fire’s warmth against the chill of winter. It was unlike anything I have known, it was what I had been listening to people explain for years.. It was the pleasure, the delight, the freedom, of yielding. Of surrendering. Of conceding defeat and claiming victory, in the salvation of our Saviour, in the grace of our God, in the power of our Holy Spirit. This is my one great truth, the part of my identity that I refuse to relinquish: although I am broken and selfish and prideful, I am surrendered unto and saved by the only living God, and I wholly intend to worship and follow and glorify Him for the rest of my days.

This weekend I hope you can truly appreciate the magnitude of the truth of the Gospel. I myself, am overwhelmed by the truth, the beauty, the unbelievable goodness that is the story of the Cross.

Be blessed, dear ones.

m

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