Sorry for the radio silence. I’ve started about five different blog posts over the past two months and finished exactly zero of them. Life has been busy. But it’s not just that–honestly, I haven’t really wanted to write lately.
Because even though hitting “Publish” and hearing from people about my blog gives me a rush, the actual writing part can be emotionally exhausting. Especially when there’s so much going on in your mind and your heart, and you’ve avoided talking to God about it because it hurts and it’s scary, and sometimes you just really don’t see how it all fits together, what God’s trying to say to you to help you heal and get better.
See, I only like people to see my writing when it feels cohesive. When it makes sense. When it feels finished. When it shows people exactly who I want them to see.
I don’t like showing people all the stuff that I’m bad at. (Which is almost what I called this post. “Stuff I’m bad at.” I decided to give myself some grace there.) I don’t like people seeing me, as my therapist would say, “in process.”
But I’m tired of hiding. And writers gotta write.
So, here are some things I’ve been learning. Note the -ing. I have a really, really long way to go, and I’ll definitely be writing more about these things in the future because none of these ideas are as developed as I’d like them to be. For today I only have little pieces, and that has to be good enough for now.
Okay, here we go:
I am learning to be real.
What if [people] are designed as sensitive antennas, receptors to receive love, a longing [they] often mistake as a need to be impressive?…[W]hat if the whole time they’re seeking applause they are missing out on true intimacy because they’ve never learned how to receive it?”
–Donald Miller, Scary Close
I used to want to act for a living. And even though that dream died long ago, the habit of performing–of looking for others’ applause–didn’t. In many of my relationships these past few months, I’ve been discovering how damaging putting on a show can be for my relationships with God and with the people I care about most–the ones who love me and want more than anyone for me to just be who I am. So, if you’re one of those people–and you know who you are–I’m sorry. And I’m gonna say sorry to myself too. I’ve been depriving myself. Because putting on a happy, spiritual, thriving performance might impress people, but being impressive is not the same thing as being loved. And you can only know love when you’re being real.
So, there have been many moments these past few months where I have needed to remind myself, quietly: “It’s okay. You’re not on a stage. You don’t need a mask anymore.” I’m trying to do less performing and more being me, even when that “me” is full of flaws and hurting and unimpressive and messy. Even when I suck at it.
After all, how am I supposed to experience grace if I’m trying so hard to pretend I don’t need it?
I am learning to let go.
In an open and humble palm, released and surrendered to receive, light dances, flickers happy. The moment the hand is clenched tight, fingers all pointing towards self, and rights and demands, joy is snuffed out.”
–Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
My beloved best friends and roommates, Ashley and Tricia, made up a nickname for me a few weeks ago: Thoroughbred. For those of you who don’t know your horse breeds, Thoroughbreds are racehorses famous for their strong personalities; they’re bold, spirited, take-charge types who love to win. Basically me in a nutshell (minus the natural athleticism).
Sometimes, though, my desire to take charge is so strong that in forging ahead, I end up running over other people, ignoring God, and making everything worse. I’m so quick to believe the lie that the only way to avoid getting hurt in life is to clench my fists and do it my way, because I don’t trust anyone else to care about me and I’m too impatient to let them try loving me on their own. I take charge of situations and people in order to avoid the possibility of feeling disappointed by them. I offer unsolicited advice in order to avoid the possibility of feeling utterly inept. I over-communicate in order to avoid the possibility of feeling ignored. I people-please in order to avoid the possibility of feeling unloved or rejected.
But somehow I still end up feeling all of those things. When I try to take control, things fall apart, and my anxiety rears its ugly head. So I need to let go. I need to have an open hand with every single thing that I hold dear–my relationships, my image, my circumstances, my plans, my spiritual growth–or all these things will only end up crushed and destroyed in my clenched, shaking little fists.
When will this concept stop being so terrifying and start being life-giving? I don’t know. I need prayer. And hugs. And Jesus.
I am learning to love others.
[L]ove is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.”
–Bob Goff, Love Does
Pretty much all of my (our?) deepest hurts, hardest lessons, and treasured moments in life involve another person, so I guess it’s not surprising to me that my human relationships with other people have been the primary way that God’s communicated to me since becoming a Christian over four years ago. He’s used many different people–my family. My roommates. My pastors. My friends, both Christian and non-Christian. My college discipler, Kara. My current discipler/wife-and-mother extraordinaire, Tammy. My therapist. And most recently, my boyfriend, Jack.
So, as clichéd and tired as it may sound, since college ended, I’ve been learning that relationships, if they’re healthy–no matter what form–take work. They’re about sacrifice. And for a long time, I thought I was ready for sacrifice. Certainly, I was ready to sacrifice my free time. I like spending time with people. I was ready to sacrifice money–I’m working full time now and I enjoy treating the people I care about. Those sacrifices felt easy. But other things were harder to do. I wasn’t ready for was giving up my need to be right when talking to my mother about finding an apartment. I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my impossible expectations, my need to avoid conflict, my need to be comfortable, or my constant (and I really mean constant) needs for time, affirmation, and attention from my boyfriend. I wasn’t ready to love my sisters or my roommates the way they need to be loved–by accepting instead of judging, by listening instead of thoughtlessly speaking.
I’m learning that real love means unconditionally, joyfully giving of yourself to another person, even when it’s difficult. With action, not just with feeling. With cost, not convenience. And honestly, most of the time, I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it.
But somehow, thankfully, all these amazing, wonderful people manage to love me, anyway. Most of all, God. He is a willing teacher, and patient. He’ll never walk away from me, when I doubt him, when I’m apathetic, when I mess up. He’ll remind me, over and over again, this is how you love. This is how you love.
I’m counting on the fact that one day, it will come easier, because hopefully by then I’ll be more like Jesus.
So, that’s me, in process.
Whew. That was a lot. I’m super tired, and I’m not feeling very eloquent anymore.
So I guess I’ll end by saying thank you. Thanks for reading, thanks for being alive, and thanks for sticking with me in the wandering.
But before I go, in an effort to be real/give up control/actually practice what I’m preaching, I would really appreciate it if you guys would pray for me:
- Pray that my relationship with God (and with others) would become more intimate, more real. That I would know Him more fully and experience His joy and His presence every day, even when I’m tempted to avoid Him and His Word. Pray that He would help me get better at being myself.
- Pray that I would learn to surrender each part of my life to God–my future, my plans, my job, my relationships, my money, my time, my gifts, my desires, my thoughts, my pain, my sin…all of it. Pray that I would do this without fear, that He would grant me peace in place of anxiety or restlessness. Pray that I would have a better understanding of God’s sovereignty.
- Pray that I would love other people better. That I’d be more self-sacrificial and more like Jesus every day. That God would love me and show me how to love others. That I could be someone who gives grace and love and mercy and forgiveness and encouragement abundantly and without restraint.
Okay. Thank you. I’m done now.
P.S. If you love me, you will listen to this song. Please. It’s been my anthem.