Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merciful gentleness

If you could describe this world in one word, what would it be?

For me, it would be "broken."

This world is broken and in much need of repair. It struck me today as I was driving, through the dark, that we aren't nearly as all that as we think we are. For some reason we are quite content to scurry around in our messed up world, thinking that we're fine and living a fantastic life. I think though, that one of my favorite singers says it best: "If a life is a comedy, then why all the tragedy?" This is a sad world, people dying all around us, war tearing up places we've never really heard about, families being torn apart by divorce, friends backstabbing each other, people being lonely and taking their lives because of it during the holidays, and I could go on and on. I'm pretty certain that each one of us can say that we've been touched to some extent by this miserable place.

Now, why have I gone on this sad and depressing tangent? (and why am I asking so many questions?)

This is because of something amazing that has happened. Into this sad and dark world, with all its miserableness, something changed. There were angels broadcasting this news to a scared group of shepherds some 2000+ years ago. Very slowly it, not the idea of it, but it, itself, began to take over people, the way they lived, the way they breathed, the way they moved, talked, interacted with other people. This change was life. Not life as we know it, which is merely surviving, but life, life worth living. To many it's a breath of fresh air, to others, a sad number who feel they are comfortable in their own little holes of despair, it's a threat. The reason it's a threat is because part of this new inexhaustible life is living differently than you did when you were in misery and despair. To those who are habit oriented, or convinced they are right, this can be a threat, but to those who truly know that they are in desperate need of life, an amazing intoxicating life, changing how you live is a small price to pay.

2000+ years ago, God, the creator of the universe, the one who spoke and created everything from the tiniest organism and molecule that we have yet to find, to the largest galaxy that is the furthest thing away that we can find in our most powerful telescopes, the one who set time in motion, the one who lives outside time, the one who is, and has been, and has yet to come, and yet is unchanging; God broke into our miserable time and space, the time and space He had once created good, and stepped into our world.

If He had created our world good to begin with, and we had messed it up, how do you think God should have stepped into our world? If it had been me, or any of the human-created gods, such as Zeus and Buddha, I would have blasted the awful humans off the face of the earth the minute they messed up my plan. I wouldn't have waited for several thousand years to watch them mess things up. I wouldn't have bided my time, another plan up my sleeve. Instead of allowing humans and their free will to destroy His will and His plan, He wove our mess-up into His plan, creating a plan that would bring Him more glory than His original plan.

(I'm speaking as if we changed the course of God's glory, though this is not true in the least. For some reason He already had this plan in place, and He was not surprised by our mess-up, even though He created us good to begin with. This is a mystery that the most brilliant minds haven't been able to crack, the mystery of human free-will and God's sovereignty, but I don't have time or knowledge to go into it.)

Instead of stepping into our time and space as a vengeful, wrathful God, wreaking havoc on the subjects who disobeyed him and created a prison of misery for themselves, God quietly broke into our disorder, and came as a baby. A baby. A squalling, messy, time-consuming, needy baby. God in flesh did not come as a conquerer, but instead in the most helpless form a human can assume: a baby.

Why? Why? Why would God chose to interact with us on this level? Why a baby?

Maybe it's because we wouldn't listen as well if it were a conquerer speaking to us His subjects, maybe it's because it would be taking our free-will away and He would rather have us love Him on our own than Him forcing us to. CS Lewis says in his Screwtape letters, the eighth letter, "But the obedience which the Enemy [God] demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself--creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We [the devils] want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons."

Whatever the reason, because God stepped gently into our world, because He stepped in at all, we now have hope. Anything we see that is in despair, we have hope that that will be touched with the life that comes from knowing Christ. It took more than just a birth as a baby, it took Christ living as a human, in a rugged class of people, a people under the thumb of Rome, teaching and pouring Himself out to the people around Him for three years, and then at the end being unjustly accused by the people He loved of being a criminal and rabble-rouser and then being crucified by them, which is a horrific way to die. It took Christ not only dying for the sake of (and by) the people he loved, but also dying in their place because of the mess they had made (because messing up God's plan and turning your back on Him is actually punishable by death).

If the story ended there, at the Light of the world, the only chance of Life being snuffed out because of us, I would have every right to the miserable things I wrote about at the beginning of this post, but it doesn't end there. God, in His matchless sovereignty saw fit to bring Christ back. He wasn't dead for good. Misery couldn't hold Him in the grave. The darkness that chains the world down couldn't hold the Light back. Just the same as turning on a light in a darkened room banishes the dark, Jesus the Light of the world began the start of banishing dark from every corner of the world by coming back from the dead.

This why the despair we see in the world around us is only temporary. The God-man has broken death's hold. This is why we can say with certainty, "O grave, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The death that encompasses most of this world has no hold on it any longer. The fingers of death have been shattered. What is left are the cobwebs that need clearing away, so to speak.

To think that life wouldn't be the same if this hadn't happened so long ago. To think: this is why we celebrate Christmas. Praise God for His matchless and infinite, intoxicating, inescapable wisdom, mercy, grace and love. I don't deserve any of it, and yet He has chose to bless me with life. Let me know if I can show you were to find some for yourself.


Tears are falling, hearts are breaking,
How we need to hear from God,
You've been promised, we've been waiting,
Welcome Holy Child, welcome Holy Child.

Hope that you don't mind our manger,
How I wish we would have known,
But long-awaited, Holy stranger,
Make yourself at home,
Please make yourself at home.

Bring your peace into our violence,
Bid our hungry souls be filled,
Word now breaking Heaven's silence,
Welcome to our world, welcome to our world.

Fragile finger sent to heal us,
Tender brow prepared for thorn,
Tiny heart whose blood will save us,
Unto us is born, unto us is born.

So wrap our injured flesh around you,
Breathe our air and walk our sod,
Rob our sin and make us holy,
Perfect son of God, perfect son of God.
Welcome to our world.

Welcome to Our World, by Chris Rice

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I have a habit that I've had since I was a baby, and my mom says I'm going to lose all my eyelashes to it. For some reason, when I'm stressed, emotionally crazed, tired, reading something (mainly a book), uncertain about something, or at an extreme almost negative emotion that doesn't involve doing much (like crying or screaming) but involves sitting and staring somewhere, I play with my eyelashes. It used to be that I'd play with one eye normally. We have pictures of me as a three year old, sucking my thumb and playing with the eyelashes on my right eye (the top row of lashes) with my pinky, hands stretched across the right side of my face. It's basically a comfort blanket (seeing as the "blankie" was retired when I was 5ish) and you can tell I've got nothing to do, or am feeling emotionally bad when I start playing with my eyelashes.

Since I was three, my range of eyelash playing has moved from just the right eye to both the right and the left eye. Sometimes I use my pinky, other times I use other parts of my fingers (back of a knuckle, first finger, back of hand), other times I throw my arm across my face (right before I go to sleep) and I'll flutter my eyelashes across the sensitive skin of my upper arm. It's all a comfort thing. I don't understand it, but I do it. Mom says I'll end up with no eyelashes some day because I do this, or I'll end up with lashes that have been broken in half, but I keep doing it. Normally I can tell how engaging a book is by looking in the mirror after reading it and checking my eyelashes. If I haven't worn mascara for a while, it's hard to put mascara on and keep my eyelashes straight if I've been playing with them heavily because they're mutilated and twisted around each other. I probably also lose WAY more eyelashes than anyone else I know because of this habit. If you were ever to run into me on a day I was wearing mascara and look closely at my lashes, you'd be able to tell which ones were broken and where I've destroyed others. My lashes are also not nearly as thick as they could be if I didn't do this.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I'm home from college, getting ready to face student teaching starting in January. I'm looking at a semester with none of my college friends, my close friends, nearby. Both my sister and Michael will be at least three hours away with these friends (as they make up part of the group of friends). My campus ministry will also be three hours away. The family I've created for myself (that God has created for me as a support system at college) will be three hours away. And I'm on an emotional roller-coaster.

I cried at least once for the first five days of being home (and I've only been home 6 days), sometimes it wasn't much, sometimes it was a lot, but part of me doesn't even want to be home. I don't want to lose sight of God's goodness, but sometimes everything overwhelms me. I know in my head that God has planned everything down to when a hair on my head falls off, but at the same time, not knowing what's ahead doesn't help my nerves, or the fact that I'm lonely.

So why did I start this post of with a confession about my silly, slightly stupid, all-telling habit of playing with my eyelashes?

Because my eyelashes are more mutilated right now than they have been in a while. What does that tell you?

If you could pray for me that God would be my strength and that I would seek God's glory in all of this, I would appreciate it. Also, if you could pray that my eyelashes don't die before this is all done. Going into student teaching with no eyelashes would be very ... interesting.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Freak out

So, I just realized that I'm freaking out. Maybe not on the outside, but definitely on the inside. (In the last two sentences, I had to back space multiple times because I couldn't spell correctly, which is how big this revelation is.)

Why am I freaking out, you ask? I'm closing in on my last set of exams for my last semester on campus, before moving home to student teach at a public high school. After I make it through student teaching (because I haven't even let myself dwell on the fact that I might be a total failure with it), I will graduate and move out into the real world. Yay real world.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm excited about graduation and attempting to start my own violin/viola studio, but I'm terrified about getting there. I'm freaking out inside because I absolutely don't know what's going to happen. I hate not knowing what's going to happen. It's a trust thing because I don't have any control over anything at all.

It's not something I can do by myself. I know that. But it hurts to acknowledge that. Right now, prayers would be appreciated as I move through this transition phase of my life. Transitions are always a little bit scary, even if they are longed for and hoped for. God is my Rock and my Refuge. Pray that I run to Him, every time I desire to freak out for the next two months.