Dare to Hope

I’ve heard New Year’s described as the worst holiday. There are moments that I am inclined to agree. January first is heralded as a beacon of hope, a time to begin afresh.

But what if there is nothing new about this New Year?

I think, at some level, we are all afraid of this. We look back on the past year, or maybe many years, and we wince a little, because it hurt. And we’re scared that we’ll keep hurting.  Scared that the relationships, the finances, the fill-in-the-blank hard circumstance will stay the same. Scared, also, that we will stay the same, full of faults and fears and powerless to make a change. This fear can make cynicism feel safer than hope. We don’t want to be disappointed again, so we give up hope, and stop expecting that this year will be any different.

But friend, I dare you to hope!

Hard things never last forever. Failure is not final, pain is not permanent, and sin never has the last say. I’m sure there are things in your life at this very moment that you wish were different. I know, because there are things in my life that I wish were different. I have a list, and if I’m not careful, I get stuck there. But we are not stuck there! Rom. 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” I’m not saying the hard thing is good, and I can’t say when it will end, but I can promise you that it has a purpose and that purpose is good.

Maybe New Year’s will never be your favorite holiday, and that’s fine. Just remember that God’s mercies are new every day, and dare to hope in that.

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Telling Myself the Truth

I haven’t made a New Year’s resolution, and I don’t intend to. But if I did, it would be this.

Tell myself the truth.

I’ve worked hard in the past years on speaking the truth to my friends and family. Sometimes it’s as simple as turning a negative conversation towards something positive, or purposing to compliment others often. Other times it’s more direct, involving a Bible verse or a personal testimony. I’ve also tried to weave avenues for encouragement into my daily life. I know from personal experience how desperate for encouragement seemingly put together people can be. And yet, telling myself the truth can be difficult.

There are times when my inner dialogue can get really dark. Thoughts like I should have gotten up earlier, I am so awkward, or I am such a failure pop up frequently. Many of these thoughts, at their core, communicate a lack of trust in God. It’s all up to me; what I accomplish, the quality of my relationships, even my spiritual growth. Needless to say, stress and depression frequently follow these lies I allow myself to believe.

But what if this year, I rewrote my life script? What if I wove the truth I need to hear into my daily life? Would it make a difference in my mood, relationships with others, and my relationships with God? I know the answer is yes. The truth always makes a difference. Let’s tell it to ourselves, as well as to others.

Advent

When I was eighteen, my older sister spent six months overseas. We had some contact with her, but it was limited, and of course it’s not the same as having the person physically present with you. She returned home Christmas eve, and the anticipation of Christmas that year was definitely amplified. That year, I understood on a new level how the Israelites must have felt waiting for the Messiah.

But, in a sense, I’m still waiting.

Christ’s first coming has come and gone, and this is the time of year that we celebrate that event. But Christ’s first coming is only half of the story. The redemption of our souls is complete, but the restoration of the world? Well, we’re still waiting. And sometimes it is very hard to wait. When a family stands around an ICU bed, or a grave, especially at this time of year, my heart aches.

And yet, this this time of year gives me hope. If the prophecies of Christ first coming have been perfectly fulfilled, then the prophecies of a peace-filled world where even the lion and the lamb will lie down together will also be fulfilled. If God was faithful to accomplish our salvation, then he will be faithful until He recreates a perfect world. And if He sustained His people through all of the Old Testament, He can sustain me until He comes again.

When God Keeps Giving You Gifts That You Don’t Want

I’m sure we’ve all felt the disappointment. Christmas morning comes, and you tear into that alluring package, and instead of what you wanted and expected, there is something entirely different. Something out of the ordinary, and something that never would have made your Christmas list in a million years. Maybe you thought it, or maybe you said it out loud.

What am I supposed to do with this?

And then one day it’s not your great-aunt Susan’s gift that you’re unwrapping. It’s the gift from the King of Kings, the Creator of the stars, your truest and best Father. Surely it could be nothing less that absolutely glorious. And then the dim light falls on it. You bite your lip, biting back the words, but they echo in the silence anyway.

What am I supposed to do with this?

God’s given me a lot of gifts that I haven’t wanted over the past few years. The gift of living with someone struggling with depression, the gift of rejection from my closest friends, the gift of loneliness, the gift of a less than charismatic personality, and now, today, the gift of rejection from an opportunity I thought was perfect. Could I have the receipt with that? I’m probably going to want to return it. But there is no return policy, unless you want to run away from God’s will, which is even more scary than these gifts are painful.

And then I remember this other gift God gave me, about two thousand years ago, that didn’t really look like much. An impoverished mother giving birth to her son in a place borrowed from the animals. Not what I would have expected from the God who owns everything. But it turns out that it was the greatest gift a loving Father could have imagined.

So I’ll say thank you, though it kind of breaks my heart, for every one of these unwanted gifts, and I’ll trust that they’ll turn out to be better than they look at first.

People, Not Problems

To anyone who has ever been angry, I know you you feel.

You’re going about your day, and out of nowhere it hits you – some pain, some wrong. Someone hurts you, or maybe worse, someone you love. Your normal gets snatched. And you want to put your fist through a wall, because it’s so wrong, and it hurts so much.

So you find someone to blame. This is usually very easy, and honestly, it helps me feel like I’m back in control. If they are the problem, well, we can legislate problems. We can lock problems away in prison. We can cut problems out of our lives so we never get hurt again. But God didn’t make problems. He made people.

I have no easy answers tonight. Everything within me rebels at the thought of letting my scapegoat free. They were wrong, and I want to personally hold them accountable. But there is this inconvenient fact that I cannot deny – you cannot love well and hate well at the same time. If I choose to hate someone, then soon I will fail to love those closest to me as I ought. This motivates me to seek for a better solution, to let God be the bringer of justice, and to learn to dispense mercy.

Yeah, I still get angry. But I’m trying. Trying to see people, and not problems. 

Two Wishes

After spending the day hanging out with adults who have disabilities, there are two things that I desperately want.

First, I want everyone to love them. And I know this can be hard. If you had told me five years ago that I would be feeling some of the things I’m feeling, I wouldn’t have believed you. Even now, when I see a fifty-something man drooling, my first reaction is not exactly delight. But then you get to know them, and you get fist bumps, and hugs, and people staring at you like you’re an angel sent from heaven. I know it can be hard, but at the end of the day, people are just people. You have to get to know them, just like any other person. They have things they like, things they don’t like, things they want. They can’t help their disability any more than anyone can help the color of their skin, and it’s unfair to label them by it.

Second, I want everyone to be loved like they are. This might sound contradictory, but I feel like they love we gain for the disabled is love as it ought to be. It doesn’t demand repayment. It isn’t based on achievement. No, when you learn to love a person with disabilities, you learn to love a person. Just like sometimes people are labeled by their disability, I think fashion, education, and career can label us. Just like some people can’t get past the “problem”, others can’t get past the success. They can’t see past the grades or the promotion and love the individual. But you’re achievements are not who you are. People should be seen and loved no matter what they can or can’t do. That’s what I want for them. That’s what I want for all of us.

Believe in Grace

I wrote this poem when I was anxious about an upcoming mission trip. It still applies; I have to remind myself frequently to believe in grace.

You’ve called me on to greater things

than I feel I can do.

I’ve prayed and asked that I would fade,

and they’d see only you.

But in my heart I know the truth.

I’m still searching for the proof

that I’m enough.

Am I enough?

 

What if I fail?

What if I fall?

Do I believe that there are arms to catch me,

mercy to cover all?

What if I break?

Just fall apart?

Do I believe that God will stay beside me

and heal my wounded heart?

Do I really believe in grace?

 

I know that I’ve been given gifts

that I’m supposed to use.

But right now I am more concerned

with all that I could loose.

If I stay safe within these walls

then those who watch won’t see me fall

if I’m not enough.

Am I enough?

 

What if I fail?

What if I fall?

Do I believe that there are arms to catch me,

mercy to cover all?

What if I break?

Just fall apart?

Do I believe that God will stay beside me

and heal my wounded heart?

Do I really believe in grace?

 

If I step out on the edge

and risk it all just like you said,

will you want me when I’ve failed You?

Come find me when I’ve lost You?

When the rocks begin to fly

will You come hold me while I cry?

Are You a God who loves the broken?

Do I really believe in

 

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found,

was blind, but now I see.

Now I see

 

If I should fail,

If I should fall,

I do believe that there are arms to catch me,

mercy to cover all.

If I should break,

just fall apart,

I do believe that God will stay beside me,

and heal my wounded heart.

Yes, I really believe in grace.