Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Days I Love the Most: when...

...I frequently and unexpectedly bump into people I love in random places.
...bands release long-awaited new albums (ahem, Whitley).
...professors give extensions before you even ask.
...the sun makes the orange leaves glow like flames against the coolest blue sky.
...my friends come to me for comfort and advice.
...I have a lot of things to journal about.
...I get to play soccer on a gorgeous green field.
...I sense God challenging me and equipping me at the same time.
...I am actually productive from 10pm to midnight.
...my most beloved sisters send me amusing messages.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Break and the Week Preceding It (or, I'll Never Marry a Philosopher)

Philosophy students are nuts. Full out, straight up, completely melodramatic and irrational. (Ironic?) We had "The Big" metaphysics test on Tuesday and it was a frenzy of philosophy majors in and out of the union carrying their caffeine pills in one hand, book in the other, and a box of Kleenex balanced on their heads. No one showered or slept or ate for days and the only time we tore our eyes from the page was to cry in each others' arms.

Fortunately, I tried my very best to avoid the panic that consumed most of those dear friends of mine. I was The Rock. No one ever died from a metaphysics test, I told myself. (And no one did from this one, either.) And through all the confusion about ontology, realism, presentism and other concepts of time, I did come to a very solid conclusion about the metaphysics of my life and future: I will and never could marry a philosophy major. When so many people who think in more-or-less the same way start talking about the nature of existence, everything just gets absurd. So that conclusion simplifies my life significantly. Good.

The weekend was Fall Break and a well needed break it was...though it didn't quite serve its purpose like I hoped. I had planned to read Dostoyevski, sleep, read "The Weight of Glory," sleep, and chill out with the chicas (and sleep). There ended up being more running around than I anticipated, but it was good nonetheless.

The best part of the weekend (besides a massage and napping in a heap with Libby, Rachel, and Kelsey) was watching a cross-country meet in downtown Grand Rapids. It was cold and wet and miserable outside and honestly, cross country is pretty darn boring to watch...until you get to the finish line. There, everything comes together in a thrilling climax of collapsing, convulsions, vomit, and utter exhaustion. I watched as guys ran their very hardest to finish five miles in under 25 minutes and as soon as they crossed the finish line, began to fall over, puke their guts out, and stumble into each others' arms.

It was a poignant image of Paul's words in Philippians 3:12-14, Hebrews 12:1 and elsewhere. The race of the Christian life is not a steady jog where we cross the finish line and catch our breath in a few seconds. The runners who came in towards the end of the race weren't half as exhausted, indicating that they hadn't run quite their hardest. No, we have to be like the ones who gave every last bit of energy and ended so gloriously. I want to collapse into heaven, knowing that I did everything for God's glory. Yes, I want to puke my guts out to the glory of God.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book Burning

The most satisfying thing I've done in the past week was when I destroyed my journal from last spring. (The title of this is misleading--it's only a notebook, and I didn't actually burn it, but still.)

Actually, I've been thinking a lot about this one. You have to realize that this journal was my LIFE last semester. I filled every single page of it, front and back. A lot of it was very incriminating, a lot of very temporal, self-indulgent thoughts about what I want from my future, my plans, my ambitions, my expectations. Most significant is that not too much of it was relevant past the end of last semester. There was a lot of sentimentality, a lot of hyper-emotionalism, a lot of reading into things.

Really, I wanted to destroy it last semester. The final page read, "But I must rid myself of all of these writings. What do I do with it all? Burn it? Destroy it. Bury it. I don't think I want it to resurface ever. OVER. Let it be so. [I'm so dramatic!] ...Then again, I won't destroy it all. Maybe I'll look back someday and laugh...or learn." So I kept it. I frequently read through my journals (that's the point, right? to read what you've written?) and I often laugh and learn from my own foolishness. But I continued to hold on to this journal mostly because I thought God was still teaching me things through it.

Here's the satisfying part: On Tuesday, I had a relapse. I was inclining towards all the foolishness I used to write in that blasted orange journal. I was praying, "God, I thought I was over this? I thought I learned this lesson? I thought you brought me past that immaturity?" And it was humbling. I realized that He will never finish teaching me some things and my will must constantly align itself with His own.

But in a moment of despair, I was praying and writing and thinking and He gave me the most overwhelming sense of trust in Him. And not only trust in Him, but confidence in myself and the woman He is making me to be. "True victory over self is the victory of God in the man, not of the man alone." And I did something I never really believed I would do--I went through my neon orange journal with that Thoreau quote over the front, and I started ripping out pages. I ripped out the old self that is slowly disappearing into Himself. I left intact the pages where I actually relied upon my God, the prayers where my focus was on Him and His glory.

It's a transformation and a breakdown that I see in my own life. Realize, though--it's none of my doing. I've learned that transformation comes not from seeking something new but by seeking Him more and more. MacDonald said something in Lilith that speaks to this in a round-about way: "You know nothing about whereness. The only way to come to know where you are is to begin to make yourself at home." You'll never be home until you realize that your Home isn't on the earth, is nowhere to be found...until you start looking right where you are, where He is working in you.

It's brilliant.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Let all creatures be silent before You; do You alone speak to me."

*Quote from Thomas a Kempis

Here's some word vomit for you:

There comes a point when the problem with praying is not that at the outset it is a struggle to begin, to focus, to have a certain mindset; but that once you finally receive the gift of His presence, you can't seem to want to STOP. When the truest pleasure comes from spending time alone with Him and everything else seems bland and mediocre in comparison, God has become more your crutch than ever.

There have been moments when I struggle to find some kind of motivation to even rouse myself from praying to eat or do what are normally enjoyable activities. Perhaps at this point, other people are confused or think you must be depressed (which may be the case at some times). But I find that in those moments God has shown me the greatest joy of eternity. "Amen" is your least favorite word. Bent knees and folded hands are hardly the beginning of it.

It's even ironic--we often come to God hoping He will fill up the discontentment of our earthly lives. Instead, when we find Him we only realize that the peace that comes in knowing Him only makes the earthly discontentment all the greater.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

The LOVE Chapter

I have a confession to make. See, I've been working my way through Corinthians these days. This morning I made my way to the prayer chapel at a still-dark 7am. After I prayed with Sarah and read a couple Psalms, I opened up to page 959 in my little green leather-bound ESV pocket Bible: the Love chapter, I Corinthians 13.

Okay, here's the confession part: I was tempted to skip over it. YES. Really. I very nearly skipped the whole chapter. I thought, "I've ready this SO many times, I memorized it when I was probably eight years old, and it's so generic and clich├ęd that I'm positive I won't get anything out of it." (Wow. I'm arrogant. What a bitch! *pardon my language*)

Fortunately, I stopped myself before that went any further. Love is one of the defining qualities of Christianity. If this passage is too overly read to make any difference for anyone, what can the rest of scripture possibly offer me?

So, at the risk of blasphemy, I rewrote this scripture so it would apply particularly to my life. This is what I came up with:

If I compete in Ethics Bowl and have all the right answers but have no Love, I am like a noisy alarm clock.
If the girls on my wing come to me for advice and I provide great insight but do so with pride and with no Love in my heart, I am nothing.
If I'm diligent and disciplined and all my professors adore me,
if I admit when I'm wrong and accept the consequence,
if I do all these things, but have no compassion or understanding, merely doing the deeds without doing them for other people or even for God, I have no Love in my heart and it counts for NOTHING.
With Love, God makes me patient, giving others the benefit of the doubt, sacrificing my own interests, respecting the needs of others first. The Love God gives me does not celebrate my deceitful victories but even when it is bad for me, embraces what is right in His sight. This God-gift of Love can endure all hardships, trusts in God's people, longs for the revelation of truth in and through God's people, and will suffer anything the world throws its way.
Love continues and persists and endures. It lives past rough times. All these things you do in Jesus' name will become history and meet their end. After all, it is only human effort (though God works in it.) But when God's perfection works through us to show and give and do this LOVE that He calls us to, it will last forever in His books of Life.
We were like infants, babbling nonsense that means nothing; but God makes us real men and women and transforms our babble into words, and words of Love. Our understanding of God is so imperfect...but He will fix that through His Love, and we will know Him so well that we can't even dream of it now.
See? These all are good - Faith, Hope, Love. But one will out-do the others in glorifying the Father. Maybe you wouldn't guess - it's Love.