Sunday, June 24, 2012

Loneliness and God's Glory

Who we are. The Glory of God. Jesus on earth. Our relationships with others.

Somehow, the service this morning encompassed so many things ranging through my head.

I've been lonely. Very lonely. This past year has been the first time since I was five that I wasn't living in Longview. Do you know what this means? I had friendships that spanned 13 years of my life. It has been a long time since I haven't had close friends immediately down the street, or just a phone call away.

Now I'm in a new place, with the knowledge that I'm leaving in just over a month. I'm making friends here--I'm not isolating myself.  But there is a difference between new and old friendships, and friendships you'll be around for and one's your about to say goodbye to.

I don't want to whine, or complain, but I just want it to be clear that this has been the consuming factor of my days. At work, at home, and around other people. This simple knowledge that I don't have the deep wells of friendships to draw from that I had grown so, so used to. This knowledge of being alone isn't something that I can shake easily.

That's simply a precursor to what I do want to talk about.

God.
And a phrase that has caused me to clench my jaw every time I heard it for the past five years at least. "For the glory of God's name" (or any variation of "for" and "God's glory")

Everything, for God's glory? Jesus' death, ultimately for God's glory? Our praise, solely for the glory of His name?

In my mind I envisioned it like this-- 
God, shinning in sky like the sun. Breaking through the clouds, in brilliant golds and painful white. The clouds only serving to make his light more obvious, more startling, more awe-some. 

Jesus, coming to earth, pointing us to look at this great light. His death, his resurrection, only for us to be able to see this light.

Us, running through the streets, shouting and exclaiming "Look! See that light! Isn't God's glory amazing?"


This idea, this scenario… it did not match up with any of my interactions with God. When I found myself most wanting to shout out praise to God--if wasn't because of some holy light I'd caught a glimpse of…. it was Him. My god, my savior, my Lord. I was most filled with awe, when He'd talk to me. When I'd, for a moment, understand how united Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father are--and that they wanted me to be united with them. When God would tell me something about myself, that I'd never thought of before, but made me become such a 'better' person as I grasped that tidbit of truth.

I always felt like Jesus came that we might know God, see who He is, have our bonds removed that we could love Him and be loved. 


I'm not sure this is all lining up right or making sense, but I'm gonna keep trying.


The sermon at church today was about John 17:22-25. Specifically this-- "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23  I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected [a]in unity, so that the world may [b]know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me."

Okay, listen to this… The glory God gave Jesus, Jesus has given to us. THAT we may be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one.  SO THAT the world may know… God's glory, because isn't that what Jesus just gave us? No. that the world may know that the Father sent Jesus, and loved us. Even as He loved His Son, Jesus.

His glory, to us, so we can be united… so others can know God sent Jesus, and that he loved us.

So what then does God's glory result in? A great shining light? Or unity and love and knowing God? (Why not both?)


Glory of God… the other passages that the pastor mentioned were these--
We have all fallen short of the glory of God.
Moses, being turned into a human glowstick by God's glory (paraphrase, of course. :P  Exodus 34:29-30,33)
This glory is the manifestation of the entire character of God through Jesus' life -- paraphrase of John 1:14



Here's how I processed it all in my notes…

God's glory. . .
          that we may be one.
         that others may know He sent Jesus.
        that they may know He loves.

God's glory. . . 
          Not far off.
                 Given to us. (by Jesus)
          Not pointless to "bring" (giving glory to God)
                 It's the manifestation of God's character.

God's glory.
          Glory to God's name.
          Praise be His name.
                              His character.
                    His unity.
                    His love.
                    He is Good.

Do you see? God's glory isn't some far off thing to magnify--it's all you are captivated by and WANT to praise Him for.

God's glory.


How does this connect with being lonely?
Very, very strongly. 
If God has given me His glory, if He has come to dwell in me… and He desires unity and love. Tell me, what does that mean for me? First, that I have God to be with. "The riches of Your love, will always be enough. Nothing compares to Your embrace" (and I'm not talking about that picture of the bible hugging somebody… that still creeps me out) And second… His glory, that I might be united with believers, for the world to see.   Because, Jesus says "that they may be one". They. Plural. So God's plan involves having this same unity with others. And that is something to hope for, to hang on to. Knowing that I have a close, close friend with me now, and that He desires for me to have more.

This really, really excites me. God is here for the loneliness now, and He has plans for me that involve other people. He isn't the kind of God that works alone--after all, He works is a plural that acts as a singular. Three, acting in perfect unity, showing us what unity truly looks like. 

I hope this all makes sense, I wanted to share it because it excites me so much. Maybe it'll mean something to some of you too :)  















Saturday, March 3, 2012

Quarry

I'm traveling right now.

I've stayed in five different host homes. Met one, five, two, two, and three people at each of those places.
I've gone to four schools--interacted with a total of 11 classes/chapels.
I've been to two youth groups, one sunday morning church service, one Wednesday night church service, one evening of games, one afternoon of walking around downtown Chicago and turning away a man raising money for the homeless, (still frustrated with myself for that...) met friends of a friend, and seen countless people in stores and streets and everywhere I've gone.

Point is--There's been a lot of people. I've talked with a lot of people. I've seen a lot of people. I've smiled at a lot of people. And I've turned my eyes away from a lot of people.

A speaker during my DTS* pointed something out to me one evening-- "You seek relationships that are a mile deep and an inch wide. Some people seek mile wide and an inch deep friendships. Learn to be okay with that difference."

Guess what I've done? Yup, looked for a balance, a combination, between the two. A way to make two contradictory things fit together.

See, I'm beginning to think something's taking place that's gonna tear me apart if I can't stand it. Mile deep relationships, each an inch wide, covering a full mile.

A mile wide of mile deep relationships? Surely that's not possible.

But everything I feel like God is pulling my heart towards would require two things--many, many relationships, and each relationship to be a deep friendship.


Back to this traveling stuff.
The reason the idea of a mile wide of mile deep relationships scares me stiff is very, very simple--I hate leaving people.

In the past week and a half I've seen so many people. Most of them I didn't let myself get close to. Most of them I didn't have the chance to even begin to know. But a few of them I got close to. A few of them, I even took the shovel and started on a relationship that could grow to be a mile deep. I broke the ground. There should have been a ceremony.

Except then I had to leave.

And that hurts.

That's sad.

It's hard.

Because when I begin that first dig, I commit my heart.


So how many times can I commit my heart? How many broken people can I look in the eyes, speak God's love to, and then encourage them to step back into life...and say goodbye?


I don't have an answer to that question. I know what my response is though--to make a deep quarry. One of friendships. But the thing about quarries is that what gets dug always gets carted away. So I will dig a quarry of friendships, of connections to people that will never be broken, and watch the threads of my heart stretched across the world and pray that God can use me somehow to produce something useful.






*DTS--Discipleship Training School with Youth With A Mission. Look it up or ask me for more information if you don't know what that is.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reality

Reality. This is a question that plagues me so often.

By reality, I’m referring to what is physical, what is real, what is measurable. Yet “reality” to me often feels so flimsy. Sometimes I think if I just close my eyes at just the right moment, then when I open them I’ll find that everything around me has changed.

Of course, I know this isn’t the case. As kids we learn things like “object permanence”, simply that an object doesn’t cease existing once we no longer see it. I know that. I know that I can’t just ignore reality—pretty soon my body will start telling me I’m hungry, or someone will walk through the door and demand my attention. I can zone out pretty well when I want to, but not that well.

I guess that’s not exactly what I’m talking about. I’m more talking about the nagging feeling that what I see isn’t really as solid as I think it is. The feeling that maybe this time when I jump, the ground won’t be there when I come back down. The feeling that everything “real” is just a superficial surface to something much more real.

Distance feels like it shouldn't exist. “You mean I have to walk for five minutes before I get to that building I see over there?” No, I’m not really lazy, but sometimes I look and wonder why there is such a thing as distance.

Time, what is that anyway? Moments pass me by, and I can’t ever fully make out their shape. Sure, time exists. But I haven’t found any good definition for it. We all learn what time is, but who’s to say it may not pause as a thousand thoughts run through my head?

Basically, everything that science measures (and I loved physics, and am loving Biology, btw, so it’s not like I’m just a mystical, science-hater person. Whatever that is.) feels unreal to me. I feel like that’s a bit convoluted. Science determines reality, right? You prove it with science, and then you can believe it. But I can never shake the feeling that everything visible is somehow fake.

Then I came across this verse in Hebrews. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3, ESV)

So hang on a second, what I see was made by what I can’t see? You mean everything visible, is much less real that the invisible? What is solid is not what I can measure, but what I can’t measure?

This is amazing to me. Even though I’ve thought and known all of this for a year or so, including that verse, I am still just in a slight stunned state every time I think about it. I love that God’s word is the foundation to everything I see. I love that what we think is “solid” is just the decorations on the building, not what’s really there.

Like usual, I have no clue if this made much sense to anyone but me, but I’ve been meaning to share this for a long time. Just never sat down and wrote it out.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Happy to Ignore

So, I’ve never been able to put out a blog post about masks. I’ve tried. Masks/walls are something that I have thought about a lot. Probably the most of any one topic.

This morning I was thinking about it, and realized something. I’m not afraid of people, I’m afraid of change.

The baseline of letting people in for me is simple. If I truly let them in, then they’re going to end up knowing me well enough for me to not have to tell them for them to have an idea what’s up when I’m not doing well. If they know what’s been running through my head recently, they’re much more likely to catch, and comment on, moods and actions relating to those. How does this involve change? Because it means I’m accountable to someone. It means that I know they’ll see when something’s wrong. And when someone else sees it too, then I know I need to change. Normally when something’s wrong I know what I need to do, it just takes a while for me to do it. And in the meantime I spend days, weeks, or months slowly pulling farther away from God. If someone knows my mask and can get past it, I’m much more likely to stop being stubborn and change.

It’s like when I scraped my knee right before going on our Spring Break mission trip. I wore jeans all week, not many people could see the scrape. All the girls who were near my bed (well, shared air-mattress) saw it though, because I had to roll my jeans up and tend to it at night and in the morning. There were times in the day when I would have to do stuff that just made it worse, but the people around me didn’t know about it. I could just ignore it and push through. But by the end of the week, I jumped out of the van and the friend I was with sent me a look and told me I shouldn’t have done that because it hurt my knee. She knew it hurt my knee because she’d seen it enough to 1) know what it was like and what would hurt it and 2) she’d seen it and my reactions to it enough to recognize my facial expressions even when she couldn’t see what exactly I’d just done to my knee. I realized I couldn’t get away with anything pertaining to that scrape, because she knew it was there even when I had it covered again.

The same applied to emotional and spiritual wounds. Over that week she saw enough of mine while it was just the two of us talking, that when there was a crowd of people and one of them started bothering me, she’d catch my eye and I’d know that she knew why I’d withdrawn. I found that when I’d told her things I’d been willing to face them, but around crowds I wanted to ignore them; since she’d seen them when we talked, I couldn’t deny them when I wanted to. Take the last line of the above paragraph, and change “scrape” to emotional/spiritual wound/struggle. “I realized I couldn’t get away with anything pertaining to that wound or struggle, because she knew it was there even when I had it covered again.” I couldn’t get away with ignoring them, and I had to seriously consider change. Dealing with them.

I know that some people fear what others will do once knowing their weaknesses. I’ve known that fear too, but right now I mainly just wanted to focus on the fear of change aspect. Because that’s what’s more relevant to me right now.

I’m not too afraid of people hurting me. That’s only happened deeply once. I’m not as gun-shy about trust as some people are. I just wonder if I really want to give someone the chance to push me and make me face things I wanted to “happily” ignore.

For all that, I’m still trying to discover what’s a mask and what isn’t. Still trying to figure out who’s me and who I want others to see. For the past couple months I’ve been trying to eliminate as much of the mask as I can, and I’ve found that to do that…I have to be willing to change. I have to be willing to go to God with problems I find. Because if I don’t, I can’t be comfortable without the mask. If I have anything to hide, I’ll keep trying to hide it. If I’m hiding from God in some area, there’s no way I’ll let my actions admit it when I’m around a group. If I’m working with God on something, then I can be okay with others seeing it. Not telling everyone about it and letting them know my innermost thoughts, but just being honest in my body language even. Being willing to let it show when I’m tired, or a little upset, or something similar.

When I’m either already trying to change, or willing to let someone push me, then why hide? If they hurt me, God’s got my back--I can cry to him. (Admittedly, that doesn’t make it easy when it happens)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Valuable Presence

I've been thinking lately about something I think we all underestimate. At least, most people I know do :P

At church last Sunday, there were at least five people who I looked for and when I found them I was glad. There's one person who I haven't seen the past couple weeks, and I've missed her. That's not too unusual, we all have friends we seek out, right? Right, but these people I'm talking about are ones who I almost never talk with. I see them, and I'm simply glad because they're there. Not because I'm glad they're at church, but because I'm glad to be around them. Even if we have no communication whatsoever. Most of these people I've talked with once, maybe twice.

Why is it important to me to see them? I don't know. Why do I smile when I see them? I don't know. But for some reason, some association I have with them is one that makes me happy, and I enjoy their presence. When they aren't there, I miss them. One of them I don't even know her name. I see her on campus but we never make eye contact, we're always a distance away from each other.

Yet just knowing that they're alive is important to me.


Now, I can't say that it's like this with everyone, but I have found that often times if I want to know what something means to other people, I just have to think about what it means for me. I've mentioned this to one friend, and after thinking about it she said that she can think of people who she doesn't really know, but who she's glad whenever she sees them.

So it stands to reason (loosely) that there are people who I don't know, don't talk with, who are glad to see me. Who for some reason, my presence is valuable to them.

I'd encourage myself, and any one who happens to read this, to not underestimate what you being somewhere might mean to another person. There are many, many people who probably think that they mean nothing to me, but in actuality my life would be much less bright if they weren't there.

And, btw, all of you who I talk to--you all light up my life a ton too. *hugs you all*

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wasted Minute?

A year and a half ago I took a five week long trip to Hong Kong that I almost never really think about anymore.

Sure, it crosses my mind now and then, but I think about how tired I was; not about the late nights chatting on the balcony. I'll think about the ferry ride, not about the performance we did near the star ferry right before it rained on us. (It rained during the last song, I think) I'll think about a song we sang there, not about the feeling of God moving among us as we worshiped. I'll think about the times I doubted, not about the times in prayer when God whispered to my heart.

Do you see what I'm saying? I think about the trip, but only when something reminds me about it, and I don't take the time to remember the most important parts.

I'll think about the fire God placed in my heart, and wonder when it died.

Incomplete, failed... those two words often taunt me. I have a tendency to not finish things. So a lot of the time when I try to think of the good from the trip, instead I think of the hopes and dreams I had upon coming home, and I think of the past year and a half, and think how I'm not in any form of outreach, I'm not learning more about the japanese culture, and I haven't been on fire for God.

So I lost everything I learned during the trip, didn't I? I failed to carry out my end, right?

Maybe, but I've been starting to see a greater arch in this story than I once thought. I don't really know what happened to first few months after I got back. I know there were good times, and I know there were bad. Mostly I know how March through November went, know that I didn't look to God much during that time.

Yes, that sounds like I just listed that I can label Hong Kong's work in my heart, and then the months I mentioned, as being more incomplete days, as being failures. If I only stepped back, then what's the purpose?

The point is I still lived those days, I still have those experiences, and even though I fell I kept standing back up.

I may not think about Hong Kong much, but the lessons I learned still stick with me. I still make myself pause when I find I'm comparing myself to others again. I still remember that I have to be careful how independent I am, that it's okay to ask for help. I still remember that there are groups I can feel at home with, and people who can stick together through thick and thin. And I still remember the pure joy of worshiping God with the rain pouring down around us.

Hong Kong did leave its mark on me, just not the one I'd expected. I thought I'd catapult into action, instead I had to wait.

The past while taught me things too. It taught me that dawn creeps in slowly, often unnoticed. It taught me that action isn't everything. It taught me the breath is precious. It taught me to hold on to God and any glimmer I see of him with all that I am. It taught me that Love doesn't care what condition we think we're in, it sees more than we ever will.

I think this is all pretty incoherent, but I guess it's simply this. I don't think about Hong Kong very often, and I'm often tempted to think that I've lost anything I learned from then. I haven't. I look back at the last year and feel like I've gone nowhere. I haven't. I may not see everything, but I can see enough to know that no second ends up completely wasted.


The shadow proves the sunlight... but the sun is most brilliant when mixed with clouds.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beauty and Love

Every move I make is generally criticized by Daniel or Camila, or both. I tend to have to steel myself constantly to withstand the barrage that is always forthcoming. There are times when I get to just hang out and have fun with them, but there's always this underlying jealousy. I exist, and therefore I threaten their security. Nothing I do can change how they always watch for me to do something they can get mad about.

So lying awake at night, (because this is when I start letting myself "un"steel) I often times want to be around someone who I know won't do that. A knowledge that would soothe the pain. My pretty much constant wish is to be around people who don't look at me in search of my flaws.

Recently one of my friends mentioned struggling with appearance, with wanting to look how she would consider beautiful, with needing to fit that image.

That launched me into this thought train.

How can someone be secure in who they are and how they look? We're told that our value is in God; We're told that He made us and He sees us as His most wonderful creation; We're told that our value should not come from man.

I've heard doubts expressed about how God could see someone who's "under par" as beautiful. And then doubts about how that could make any difference in wanting approval from others.

My thought to that first one is simply that in order to comprehend a lot of attributes of God we have to comprehend that he loves us.

That one simple factor seems to change so many things.

The conclusion I came to while lying awake at night, like I mentioned above, is that in wanting someone who wouldn't look at my flaws, I wanted someone who loved me. Love transforms how people view things.

I'm not sure how to explain it... I guess that when I get to know a friend, when I come to love them, I don't see their flaws. I may be aware of them, but they're not what I look at. Characteristics that they view as ugly or as an annoying habit, I find I come to cherish. It's a part of them, and because of that I like that characteristic. Often it's our quirks that distinguish us from everything else, and those are the things our friends come to love us for.

When I think of God, and how he views us, I have to remember that he's aware we're imperfect, but he sees us through eyes of Love. He sees the way you think, the way you look, the way you act, and it makes him smile because it's you. He sees the way I think, the way I look, the way I act, and it makes him smile because it's me. Each physical feature, he sees as a mark that screams your name. We're one big fingerprint ;)

As for how we find our value in God and not others, I'm still working on that. One way I deal with that is simply to find people who place value in more for the way that God places value in me. That way they're not sending me a different message than God is, but reminding me of how He sees me. In the end though, we do need to be willing to accept how God sees us and not need our peers to corroborate that. I've felt that now and then, and the best I can tell, it comes from spending time around Him and reading His word. In knowing Him and finding a place in his arms, knowing he loves. I think the security of not needing the value of others comes when Jesus is our life, when nothing else does matter.