Sometimes I get really confused by those of us fortunate enough to be in our 20s. All the time I feel like I find myself encountering situations where someone I feel like I know pretty well does something that doesn’t at all seem consistent with who they are or what they’re about. And I get it, we’re trying to find out where we belong and what we’re good at, and if others are like me, we’re afraid of settling into wherever we happen to be right now just in case it’s wrong. …Ok, so maybe now I’m projecting onto the rest of my people, but I feel like I can’t possibly be the only one who feels that.
Gettin’ all cultured up in here, folks. Assuming you, like myself, don’t read Hebrew, I owe you an explanation. “Hesed” apparently means “loyal love” and it’s the characteristic that describes the girl Ruth in the Bible. Recently I went home for a quick weekend trip to celebrate birthdays and babies and best friends and such. That Sunday at church, the pastor was talking about Ruth, and I really enjoyed his study. For the most part.
Now the part I “don’t like” has nothing to do with him, or what he did or didn’t say, or what the Bible does or doesn’t say. It’s more a qualm I have with our Christian culture today, in general. (Surprise, Surprise! Are you surprised? No? didn’t think so) So the whole thing about Ruth being a woman of loyal love and how counter-cultural that is today is amazing. I love that. I want to cultivate that character trait in myself. But then, you throw a boy up in the mix and suddenly things aren’t as balanced anymore.
Apparently, when Ruth went to this new land where she was completely out of place and unknown, Boaz, this perfect, awesome, Godly, protector noticed her. And he apparently noticed her immediately. And not only all that, but he also heard about her character before he ever had the chance to notice her.
Awwww how sweet.
For Boaz and Ruth.
It drives me absolutely bananas when things like this get peddled as absolute truth. Did that happen? Sure. Are all the things that its happening showed/show us about God and his character still true? Yes. Is this how it will happen for the rest of us? Maybe. If I act like Ruth, will someone else acting like Boaz suddenly become part of my story? Doubtful. Because I’m not Ruth. And No one else is Boaz. They’re people just like we’re people, and for the same reason you acting like me won’t yield for you my results, me acting like Ruth won’t yield to me her results.
You see, it’s easy for me to pursue something by myself, to better myself by seeking objective truth, but I have absolutely no control and nothing to do with who notices. No. Control. And honestly, that’s really hard for me. I hate it. I want control. It’s in my blood. But there is absolutely nothing I can do to make someone else notice anything. And more than that, there is nothing I can do to make anyone else be what I need.
I just need us to stop giving Ruth and Boaz all the credit. God brought them together. Because he knew all about each of them, deeply, entirely. He provided for each of them exactly what each of them needed, how they needed it, when they needed it. And I think it had a lot less to do with what they were doing to get there, and a lot more to do with God’s ultimate plan and sovereignty. I can’t live under the pressure of, well maybe you’re not pursuing hard enough, or giving all enough, or maybe you’re loving more passionately instead of loyally.
Sometimes we are loving as hard as we can. And we are serving God because we want to, and we don’t want anything from it, and we are daily being transformed from the inside out. And no one notices.
That’s okay for/with me.
And I think we need to learn how to be okay with it on behalf of others too.
Yeah, yeah selfies are the worst. Whatever. (Is it still a selfie if your camera takes the picture by itself) No matter. Recently one of my best friends moved to Nashville and now we live together and it’s wonderful. She decided to document this year with a picture of us every week so that we can see how we change over the next year, and I think it’s fabulous. In the spirit of this commitment we have a shared photo stream full of pictures of us. It’s outrageous. And it’s a picture of redemption for me.
You see a few years ago I tried to use the “A Picture a Day” app where you take one picture every day and the app chronicled your life for you. Unfortunately I only did it for about a month, and then deleted it because of its utter pointlessness. At the time I was living in forced community with a very unkind and un-accepting group of girls. At first there were some pictures of laughing and silliness, then there were a lot of pictures of inanimate objects, and before long there were weeks of skipped photos. Because I didn’t care. There wasn’t anything I wanted to take a picture of. I didn’t want to remember what every single day of my life felt like. I had nothing.
But now I regularly delete photos from my phone because there are so many. I don’t regret that period of my life because there were a lot of character building moments, but I’m in a place now where I want to immortalize moments all the time. I’m surrounded by love and genuineness, and although a picture is worth a thousand words, all of mine these days can be summed up with just a few. Love. Genuineness. Redemption. Grace.
And seriousness aside, here is just a taste of the ridiculousness locked away on my phone.
And that’s that.
Once a priest gave Mother Teresa this advice (as she was trying to discern whether something was truly God’s will or just her own), and if it was good enough for her, it’s good enough for me. Take courage, dear hearts.
“joy should be the compass with which we make our life’s decisions. If the thought of doing something brings us great joy and a deep sense of peace, then that is what God is calling us to do. If, on the other hand, the thought of doing something brings us anxiety and sadness or fills our soul with fear and hesitation, then most likely that is not what God is calling us to do.”
amen and amen.
Last week during small groups, we discussed faithfulness. We also watched a few videos and one of them just really resonated with me and the things I’m doing and learning right now, so I wanted to share. You can watch the video here if you’d like (and I highly recommend that you do).
Basically in the briefest of summaries, he says, it shouldn’t be a surprise that most of our lives are an invitation to be faithful in the most basic, regular things. He’s talking about what it looks like to be faithful in the mundane, to love and live and glorify even if all we do is live life…normally.
Now I’ve shared what I’m learning about what it looks like to love God where you are, to not always look for the “big” thing that brings the “most” glory, and yes, it is a hard lesson to walk through. Even in the last week I had to make a decision about joining an awesome team that’s going to be doing great outreach things in a new area with a new/different population or staying with an awesome team that’s reaching people where they are and doing great things in teaching what it looks like to keep going and dig deep. I caught myself in the midst of that hard decision thinking, “but where will God get the most glory”? And that’s a slippery slope, because here’s the thing, he doesn’t need me, all the glory is already his, and my part is done when I’m where I’m supposed to be, not because I align myself to something that I’ve rationalized will logically get more glory than some other thing. It’s not fair to analyze glory getting and giving, you know?
All of that to say, I’m still in that cyclical motion of failing to remember/teaching myself/remembering that it is OK to be faithful where you are. And it is beautiful to be faithful in the mundane things of life. I don’t want to be the person who’s remembered for doing huge awesome, catalyst starting things, I want to be the person who shows up when they’re supposed to, picks up trash just because I saw it, and smiles because I can. I want to be remembered for my integrity and consistency, and how else can you even begin to do that than by investing in the mundane details, day in, and day out?
I’d argue that you can’t.
My favorite part of small group last week was that when we talked about which video resonated most with what we were learning at this stage of our journeys, 3/4 of a diverse group chose this video. And we were able to relate this basic concept of beauty and fulfillment to multiple situations/stages of life. I’ll leave you with this quote, because this is the invitation I think we all want to say yes to.
“Our lives are unimpressive, basically uninteresting. Most of the things that all of us do are undramatic. And if we can’t live beautifully into that, then the opportunities we have for the very exciting things are wasted on us. I think there’s a beautiful invitation in the undramatic, also the contemplative.”
I would like to begin by lamenting over the word “kiddo”. I hate that word; I hate when people call children kiddos; I hate it as a term of endearment; I hate it. Another thing I hate? Being wrong. Constructive criticism, fine. Redirection, fine. Starting from square one, fine. Being wrong, NO. I know it happens a lot, but being wrong really is the absolute worst to me.
Children on the other hand, ALWAYS THINK THEY’RE RIGHT. And since I do the nanny thing fairly consistently as well as work in an elementary school*, I am fairly consistently being told I’m wrong. It drives me insane. “If you push that button, the volume will go up.” “No it won’t.” “Yes, you just have to point it that way.” “No it won’t.” “Let me show you.” “No! It can’t do that.” …whatever kid! Enjoy not listening to your show about dumb cartoon people that don’t even understand object permanence; NOT! ’cause you can’t hear it.
That’s where it comes from I guess. As a kid, you don’t want to hear “no” so you just tell everyone else “no” and then do what you want, operating under the assumption that everything you are is right anyways. Then you grow up. And struggle with having little kid feelings in a big grown-up world. And eventually decide writing a book about all the ways kids have so injudiciously condemned your opinions might be a lucrative endeavor.
If you were sitting beside me right now, this would be the part where I unexpectedly belt out The Circle of Life Lion King style.
*Sometimes I forget that I write drafts. Then I find them. Then I post them, irrelevant information and all.
Whelp. (Because that is the only appropriate semi-real word I can think to interject here.) I have a new job. Lots of new things actually. And to really do the picture justice, we should probably start with the new thing that came to my attention this summer. APPARENTLY (read that with all the teenage drama queen you can muster) I have a new spiritual gift. I feel like I need to preface this revelation with the strong assertion that I am NOT making this up; I actually took the test again per the request of RHCC; this is real life, otherwise those of you who know me in real life will doubt that I’m being a truth-teller. Two of my top three are unmoved and unshaken, but the third has gone rogue. ROGUE. I’m telling you, you age like 2 years, pay your own rent and ALL OF A SUDDEN you’re just SOOO gifted in administration, or as it’s known on the streets, “the boring gift”.
I say all of this tongue in cheek, however, because I kind of love that it’s now a “gift” I get to claim. And also, if I take inventory of recent seasons and events, I totally see its legitimacy. So, piggy-backing off that comes the newest, new thing (or the original, afore-mentioned new thing), my job. I’m now the front office manager at the Advanced Institute for Oral Health, and with only one afternoon of training under my belt, AM LOoooVING IT (sing that like Jim Carey, as any character he ever played). Details, and self-propelled tasks, and smiling all day long. Besides the mere fact that I just love my teeth so much more than the average person would ever dream of doing, this job fits.
It’s not really exactly like anything I’ve done before (neither was the thing before it or the thing before that), but I just really already see Providence at work. It never ceases to amaze me just how well I am provided for, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, it’s so amazing. It’s a small office, with people who truly care about each other and about being happy. People who understand that if your job doesn’t stress you out, you’re ahead of the curve.
It took a while, but I think I’m getting to a place now where not only am I ok with not thinking linearly, but I’m also coming to an understanding where I can see that you’re not just exclusively allowed to/supposed to/should be encouraged to work somewhere doing what you’re most passionate about. I’m starting to think that’s just the most unfair lie us millennials have been fed. Culture has created so much misplaced pressure on not having any pressure at all that an entire generation is floundering in new ways the generation before them seemed to navigate fine.
I think it’s presumptuous to think you have to identify your passions, search out the perfect, socially conscious, politically correct, job that encapsulates them, and commit your everything to being successful there. I started feeling presumptuous just searching for that job. All I’m saying is, people in that position, great! Power to you, congrats, but people who aren’t shouldn’t feel any…less. I was reading once, and of course found an article that perfectly worded these things I’m attempting to share now, but I took a picture of this one paragraph (click for article):
That’s it, friends. It’s ok to be somewhere that isn’t fighting for social justice moment-by-moment or floundering to pay bills because all their pennies are going to buy food for homeless people. It’s ok if you’re somewhere where you just stamp papers all day. Because at the end of the day, if what you’re Most Passionate about is God’s glory, then you’ll be living that satisfied, fulfilled life no matter what you’re doing. And magically (if you will let me use that word) (and you have to, because, obviously.) you’ll start to see that you have more energy and gumption with which to engage in your passions.
That’s where I am, and I can’t wait to serve faithfully where He’s placed me as well as faithfully where I’ve chosen.
I’ve been called several things in my day, some that I particularly appreciate being, hippie, gypsy (not in the derogatory way, I’ve worked with refugees in Macedonia, get out of my face), and wanderer. All of those I suppose carry with them one or two unsavory descriptors, but for the most part, I don’t mind the implications people are making by attributing them to me. The part I particularly appreciate? The connotation in each of these of a care-free spirit, or just freedom in general. I like thinking that I appreciate and enjoy the unknown, that I am inclined to “live in the sunshine” and “drink the wild air”.
But, recently something strange happened. This unknown became a lot more prominent in my life. And I’ve found that when I’m truly free, truly unbound and wild and care-free, I’m uncomfortable. With so much space and time to be wild, I’m tame; with boundless limits, I’m actually pigeon-holing myself. All this time spent being satisfied with the idea of being a free spirit and it seems I’m close to incapable of actually achieving any sort of mental freedom from myself.
So then, I must obviously ask myself (or if you’re a reader who’s worth anything, you must ask me), why? What exactly is it that makes me feel so uncomfortable and unaccepting of this potential greatness I’ve stumbled into? Of course I want to blame society, this culture that’s created a need for perfectly packaged linear plans, things that are explainable, and stability on its terms. But is that fair? They can create a system, sure, but must I operate within it? I’m not sure that the answer is “yes”. However, I’m not sure that it isn’t either.
All I’m really saying is nothing. And by “nothing” of course I mean I’m saying that I don’t actually know anything. I’m yet again, only making observations without any conclusions or answers while living perplexed by this realization that I don’t have near the propensity for freedom that I have tricked myself into thinking I did.
I think I want it though. The Romantic within me still thinks it would be just charming, to live freely, unaffected by the whims of people around you, to find joy in sunshine and wild air. So now, I suppose I begin to discipline myself, until I have practiced the discomfort and trust from my linear, first-world, middle class brain.
I’ll let you know what survives.