Thursday, November 10, 2016

Emptiness & Grace.

I have struggled for what feels like months to find the right words. For writing, for friends, for blogging, for God, and for every other arena I am called to speak into and be present in. I'm still not sure I've found them, or if this will just be another instance of intense babbling that leaves the reader questioning whether or not anything of value was said, and couldn't it have been said in a significantly smaller amount of words? Probably. But that's not the way my brain works.

I have always taken immense pride in the ability to be the girl who stands up underneath everything. I have defined myself by my resilience, by my ability to take on the burdens and struggles of those around me and still stay strong beneath the weight. I have enjoyed being a bottomless dumping ground for my friends, a listening ear to process pain, excitement, anxiety, overanalyzation, and any other thought or feeling under the sun. My identity, for as long as I can remember, has been found in my ability to wake up each morning in the glow of the morning sunlight, and somehow still find good in the world despite the fact that things are horrendously awful. When my problems became overwhelming I focused my attention on my friends who were hurting, because if I couldn't fix me I was going to exhaust myself trying to fix them. It is a strange form of self-sufficiency, but it is sufficiency just the same.

This semester I have fought to drag myself out of bed. I have failed more often than I've won. I've spent a shocking amount of time in small, dark places because I couldn't convince myself that nothing bad was going to happen in the span of 24 hours. I've read what feels like every book on suffering, fear, control, and God's grace. I've found myself shaking in the middle of class. I've had anxiety attacks on bathroom floors. I've spent a whole day crying over ridiculous things like the fact that I couldn't reach the pen that rolled off my bed, then somehow not been able to shed a tear or display any emotion when my friend, weeping, tells me that they can't seem to find a reason to believe life truly worth living. I have run to God, run from God, decided to just be sad, decided to never be sad again, filled gratitude journals, googled the clinical diagnosis for every mood disorder under the sun, and finally exhausted myself to the point of admitting that no matter how far or how quickly I run, I cannot outrun something settled in my heart.

And I don't have answers. I have reached no conclusion about why I suddenly, mysteriously, seemingly irreversibly am no longer myself. Which makes it incredibly difficult to be any sort of help to the friends and family who ask me why they no longer feel like themselves. I have no answers, no conclusions, no helpful advice. I have been a fixer my entire life, and I cannot fix anything.

At some point, I looked around and realized that even though every heart friend I have seems to be hurting, aching, and searching, we are all crawling from the rubble together. We are covered in dirt, blood, sweat, tears, and every doubt and fear a human being can possibly carry. But we're moving. And we're doing it together. Occasionally we crawl over another body, dig them up, and drag them with us. When darkness seems all encompassing, one person points to light....and when no one can find that, we all reach for heaven. Somewhere along the way, I realized (through, I'll admit, a lot of ugly sobbing) that this is the church. This is the body of Christ. This is my family. I am surrounded by people that love me when I am absolutely awful, because Christ has loved them.I act out of my emptiness and desperation, and often hurt them because I am hurting, and yet they still love me. I am shown daily the grace of grateful hearts overflowing with mercy, even as they speak truth to me they don't believe themselves. They have never left me where I am, but they have never called me to be more than Christ has made me. To the best of their ability they demonstrate through their broken, fallen humanity who Christ has called them to be. And in their brokenness, I find my faith is strengthened. In the midst of the unconditional, grace-filled, authentic acceptance the very things I hate suffering enable me to love those around me better. It is pain that drives me to community, and it is community that drives me to joy. And when I cannot find joy, it is community that reminds me I am not alone.

We are called to love. Not based on performance, acceptance, agreement, tolerance, allowance, or desire, but because we have been loved, eternally and unconditionally. Our lives encounter others daily, and each interaction has the potential to hold eternal significance. No one is simple. No one is easy. But each has been created by the same God who, for completely unknown mind-boggling reasons, chose me to be His own. In loving others, in walking with them, I understand him. We are not defined by our beliefs, our political ideologies, whom we love, whom we don't, what we believe about the significance of life and death, or how we voted (I had to). And if we don't look past that, we will never, EVER be able to interact with or love one another well. At the end of the day, whether I agree with their choices or not, I am interacting with someone who bears the image of my suffering, glorified, enduring Savior, and one day I will be called to account for how I loved them, forgave them, and cared for them.

I'm not saying abandon truth, or stop urging one another towards holiness, righteousness, and integrity. I'm not saying stop having hard conversations, or to let the friends in your life barrel headfirst towards destruction because you're loving them well, and that's all that counts. What I AM saying, is that if the foundation of love, unconditionally given, is not present, then nothing you say will make a difference anyways. And if we continue to abuse, hate, and attack people based on things that are true about them but are not who they are, then we will be called to account for that as well. If I had been bombarded with truth this semester, and not told that I was loved despite where I was, what I believed, or what I could offer, I'm not sure I'd still be here. But here I am, by the grace of God and the unbelievable, life-giving love of my friends and family. It is love that makes the difference. Not argument, not fighting, not self-righteousness, not legalism, but love. Love shaped by truth, gospel, grace, and holiness, but love just the same.

Thanks you guys.

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