Back to School One More Time

It’s that time of year again.

Of fresh new notebooks, Amazon textbooks, registrations, and new classes.

And it’s my senior year.

Of college. Let that sink in.

After 16 years of education, I am about to begin my last year.

I sit and stare at my ginormous 600 page textbooks, and wonder if I know how to be anything but a student. I’ve signed up for some hard things willingly in my life but this upcoming year promises to be the toughest yet.

I sit and stare at my bank account, and wonder if the choices of these past four years will return on investment financially.

I sit and stare at my Bible, and wonder where the path of missions and ministry will take me.  It won’t be to a cushy CEO’s office with my name on the door, that’s for sure.

I sit and stare at all the engagements and babies my friends are having. I’m truly happy for them. And know that the day of dealing with my tendency towards distrust and emotional distance is coming.

I sit and stare at my reflection of my choices, of my body, my heart, my character – and see all of my weaknesses and strengths, and know that there are many things that I still don’t understand or see.

There are decisions I am proud of and mistakes that still bring tears to my eyes.  There have been seasons of the purest happiness and dark moments that stole a piece of my heart that I’m still trying to find.

And I stare at who I am today through my physical eyes, He gently reminds me to look again. And through the divine mystery of grace, I look again, but this time through faith.

My giant textbooks still promise sleepless nights and hours of programming, but they also promise the ability to help people and the blessing of work worth doing.

My bank account and student loans still promise hours of hard work with no instant gratification but also promise to be the greatest opportunities for the Lord to provide.

Ministry and missions still promise a hard life, but also promise the kingdom of God spreading.

The day that the Lord will say “Say yes to this one” still promises deep feelings of inadequacy and even more years of patience but it also promises great blessing, great joy, and intimacy.

The next year still promises to be hard. Life promises to be hard. It’ll get to ‘too hard’ again too.

Good moments, dark moments, joy, deep sorrows, happy hellos, and gut wrenching goodbyes – they’re all coming.

But I have one promise in return.

I’m in Lord. Till the death.

Because I believe His promises. I trust Him.

He didn’t promise comfort or safety but He promise to be near and to be enough. He’s committed. He’s not leaving me.

So Lord for better, for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death finally brings us face to face – I’m in.

There’s a precious jewel I’ve discovered amidst the single student life that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. It is a growing trust in God and that whatever He gives me whenever is for my good. Especially the dark moments – the moments that most people would take to question God – have taught me to wait on Him, to look to Him, to see what He’s up to. Because I know His character, specifically as a Redeemer, I fully believe that all things work for good for those who trust in Him.

This gives an incredible peace. Peace in the light of uncertainty. Peace in the light of persecution. Peace in the light of crazy life decisions that are neither safe nor comfortable.

All I know for sure is that my life isn’t going to typical. My future biography (or at least the stories people will tell – you know, not to be presumptuous or anything) is going to be proof that life with God is the best, that He is worthy, and that He is faithful.

The rest? I trust Him.


The Flow of Grace

I can see the question sometimes in her eyes. “Lord, why couldn’t she be more normal?”  It’s the same thought that set up house in my brain at least ten years ago.

She likes a clean and quiet house that runs on her schedule.
I love a house overflowing with people, noise, music, and laughter.

She is extremely loyal.
I play the devil’s advocate for fun.

She has seen the world and now just wants to settle down.
I crave, seek, and create adventure all day, any day.

She watches Swiss Family Robinson and is thankful at the end that she has a warm house with heat, electricity, and running water. And that her neighbors aren’t pirates who are trying to kill her.

All the while, I am plotting on how to get on the next ship, jump off at the nearest unpopulated island, build a house in the trees and find myself a pet baby elephant.

She dresses in neutral colors with small prints and delicate seams.
I love bold, bright, and simple.

Where I am comfortable, she is completely out of her element.
Where she is at home, I am the house guest desperately trying to climb out the bathroom window.

Neither with clue of what to do when it comes to doing life together.
We begin feeling threatened.

We withdraw to protect ourselves.
And the competition starts.
With our strength we attack each other’s weaknesses.
Intimacy is snipped in the bud.
We become strangers once again.

Forgetting that the only thing that brought us to this day is grace.

Grace that forgave our sin.
Grace that forgot our past.
Grace that served without reward.
Grace that laid down its life.
Grace that stayed and did not run away.
Grace that chose the cross on that day.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. –Ephesians 2

Forgetting that the only thing that will make our relationships work is extending the same grace we’ve received to each other.

Grace that forgives each other’s sin.
Grace to not only forgive, but also forget sinful histories.
Grace to serve without seeking reward.
Grace to lay down our lives.
Grace to stay when we would run away.
Grace to choose the cross every day.

And grace to preach and live the Gospel without shame.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another….  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. – Galatians 6

Relationships will not work in your life the day that others conform to your understanding of what they should be.They will work when God’s grace comes into your life and changes you into what God says you should be.
And because sanctification is a lifelong process, because we are called to love each other – we extend that grace towards each other- humbled by grace so that none can walk with an arrogant swagger but also elevated and empowered by grace so that none shuffle with downcast hopelessness.

God knows what he’s asking. Vulnerability even when you see the knife coming. Openness even when you hear the gossip in dark corners. Forgiveness even when the next offence is coming. Love even when hatred is in the throes of blind fury.

Not just even when. Especially then.

You have the grace. Take it by faith. Wield it by faith. And trust God with the consequences.

You may be abandoned. He will never leave. You may be wounded. He is the great physician. You may suffer. He will bring you into the fellowship of his suffering where you will taste a communion so pure and so sweet, you will be ruined for any other pleasure, any other comfort, any other temporary joy.

He will meet you. And He will be more near then ever before.