It’s weird how quickly a year passed by, and how I’m now in the midst of the putting-together of my cousin’s graduation party.
We left the house at about 3:30pm yesterday afternoon. Gracie, Jimmy, and I began the eight-hour drive with a game of Deprived Child and talking about our days as well as what crazy things we saw on the road.
For the majority of our journey we all got along and had a good time 🙂 As we drove, I ended up putting my headphones in and reading North and South by the fading sunlight. At one point, I looked out the window and was greeted by the most beautiful sunset, so I put my book down and admired God’s creation.
Margaret Hale, the female protagonist of North and South, is from Helstone, a land in the south of England. She is forced to move from her beautiful wilderness, her house in the forest, to Milton, an industrial city that it the polar opposite of her beloved Helstone. Within the pages, when she describes Helstone, I can relate to her in the way that it seems like every other place dulls in comparison to the beauty and organic character of her home.
As the car ride went on, I talked to God about everything, from my family to my future, from what I was struggling with to what I knew I needed to let go. After a while, though my mind was still very full and my heart was still heavy, my thoughts seemed to quiet down, and it was easier to just listen, listen for the silence of God’s Holy Spirit and listen for the silence of the peace that only He can bring.
We arrived at my cousins’ house around 11:15pm. My Grandma Castle (on my mother’s side) was there, along with lots of other family members. They were gathered in the kitchen, which is characteristic because we’re a family of chefs and food-lovers and Southern hospitality. Some people were pulling pork. Others were chopping vegetables. Everybody was talking about all sorts of everything. After my family lugged their things in, I changed and helped pull the rest of the pork. The night ended with me and my cousins Russell and Peter and their cousin Devin (a girl) staying up until early in the morning, listening to a podcast called Welcome to Nightvale. The best way for me to describe this experience is that the podcast started with “the citizens of Nightvale were complaining that the sunset was too noisy.”
I talked to Russell about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and I studied my Bible until finally falling asleep.
I woke up to the smell of bacon and the older people of the household discussing my future as a camp counselor. I lay there for a while, just listening to them, eventually opening my Bible to the book of Habakkuk.
This book is a conversation between the prophet Habakkuk and God. Habakkuk is frustrated with God, confused as to why the wicked are prospering and the just are faltering, being crushed beneath the power of injustice. He’s like, “God, what are You doing?”
God responds with this:
“Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if I told.” (1:5 ESV)
Throughout the book, Habakkuk voices his frustration with the situation, his anger at seeing sin going unpunished and a lack of justice, and his despair about God failing to answer his prayers, but God always responds with an indication that, even though Habakkuk can’t see it, He’s already answering them.
“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” (2:3, ESV)
God very patiently comforts him with an explanation and a layout of justice to come. Habakkuk realizes that even though everything is falling apart and enemies are victorious where they should be failing, God is still faithful and just and good.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the food and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in The Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (3:17,18, ESV)
I like this book, I like Habakkuk, because I feel like I’m constantly in his position. I’m such an impatient person, I really am. It’s pretty ridiculous. I feel like the bad times go on and on and that there’s no way to change them and no hope for respite when I’m in their midst. But God is always saying “just wait.”
After writing in my journal for a while and grabbing breakfast, I went for a walk with Grandma Castle. We had a good conversation and laughed and were able to encourage each other. The sun was out and it was almost 80 degrees outside. After the walk I grabbed a shower and began to help with the preparations for the graduation party at four.
We all spent the day cooking and cleaning and decorating. At one point, I was talking to Mom and Grandma about God and Devin jumped and asked if I was religious. We began to talk and I was able to understand her better as a person. Later we drove to the recycling plant to drop off recycling for my Aunt Susan, and we had a great conversation about faith and about where she was coming from as far as her background is concerned. I think I might’ve made a new friend 🙂
The day went on and I talked to God throughout. People began showing up around three and me and a bunch of Russell’s friends (including Devin and Peter) began a very entertaining game of volleyball. After taking a break for food, we played badminton…which was also very entertaining :p
The volleyball game reminded me of when I first met Hannah. We had been pen pals for some time before then, and it was at her graduation I finally met her face to face. At her party, the day after her graduation, a bunch of us played volleyball….with a soccer ball. Our arms and thumbs were black and blue and sore the next day, but we’d had a great time 🙂
We head back home tomorrow, bright and early, and I’m not sure how I feel about the whole trip just yet…I suppose I’ll wait until we get back home. This has been a great lesson in being myself. Sometimes when we’re around family, it’s easy to be ourselves but not always the selves we want to be, if that makes any sort of sense. When I’m at my cousins’ like I am now, it’s intimidating to know that talking about God and personal faith isn’t a popular or acceptable topic. But that’s who I am. Last night I’d been tempted to not even take out my Bible for fear of appearing religious…but then I felt like a stooge-face for even thinking that way. So I studied my Bible, and I was myself. I talked about God with a huge smile on my face, because He’s just so worth talking about 🙂 and while I wasn’t preaching, just talking, Devin, somebody I didn’t know before last night, talked to me about her faith, and Grandma Castle and I were able to have a wonderful conversation.
Ironically enough, before reading Habakkuk, I read about Paul in Athens. He didn’t just show up and preach, but he established common ground where the people he was talking to felt comfortable and ready, though it required little commitment from them. In Acts 17, Paul passes through Athens and took time to notice that the city was full of idols.
“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are religious (could be taken positively (pious) or negatively (superstitious)—ESV Commentary). For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the Unknown God’.” (17:22,23, ESV)
And guess who the Unknown God is? 🙂 The God who’s the only real God, who stands over idols in fire and ice but also in love and grace and power. So, he didn’t just up and start preaching at the Areopagus, but laid attention and used common ground to capture their attention and make them feel at ease, undefensive, prepared.
The best part about today was it had nothing to do with me. I love days when I just step out of the way and let God step over my pride and my confusion and my ridiculousness to use me for Himself. I’m just so relieved that He still uses me. I’m so relieved He hasn’t just reached down and smote me by now, because it’s certainly what I deserve. I’ve spat in His face enough times, refused His leading, deliberately disobeyed Him, ignored Him, and run away from His open arms on plenty of occasions for Him to have every reason to just destroy me. I mean, I was conceived in sin, so my very existence is sinful….
But He doesn’t do this. Why not? Why does He still love me the way He does? Why is He still here, changing me, challenging me, loving me and giving me life? Why is He still standing over me with His right hand stretched out in fierce protection of my heart and soul and mind?
Though I don’t know why, and though I will probably never understand or be able to comprehend the answer to the ‘whys’, I’m grateful He hasn’t, and I’m so impossibly undeserving of everything He’s given me, of the future He has for me, and of the Spirit He’s sealed me with.
But oh, am I glad He has.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:37-39, ESV