So, this is what happened.
Yesterday was wonderful.
I woke up, tired, but ready for the day to begin. I’d realized over the weekend that taking the internship, adding extra classes, and on top of all that trying to do a million other things had been a very irresponsible and not-so-smart decision on my part. So after talking with my mom and praying about it, I decided I’d talk to my boss about my coming into the office only one day a week instead of two, and I continued to think of ways to free up my schedule to spend more time with God and grow in flexibility instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Yesterday morning I kept asking God why I couldn’t handle everything—school, the internship, a social life, health, and all the while staying strong in my relationship with Him. I realized, above all, that my relationship with Christ was suffering, not because He’d moved, but because my priorities had shifted to look at something less worthwhile.
I headed out after spending time with God, carrying grocery bags full of ingredients to bake things at Jenny’s later that night. I got to the train station only to find out that the G train wasn’t running to Church Ave. Therefore, I went back out of the train station and searched for a bus stop. Eventually, I found the right one and the bus came to a stop just as I discovered it.
The ride took longer than I thought and I sat there being impatient, until God reminded me that the situation was completely out of my control and there was nothing I could do to make the ride go faster. So I sat, patiently waiting and enjoying the fact that I was above ground instead of below.
I finally arrived at Jenny’s to drop off the ingredients. She was home, which was a pleasant surprise because I was running dreadfully late. I came in and set down the ingredients and then helped Jenny begin carrying the food she’d made for Missions Sunday, which is where all the families in the church bring in a dish or two from their native countries to share with everyone else.
Turns out we didn’t have to walk the food all the way to church, because one of the gentlemen and his family were willing to give us a ride there. It was quite a blessing 🙂 And so we arrived, and spent the morning listening to missionaries from India and from South America. One of them was southern and started his sermon off with “I hope y’all speak southern because that’s ’bout what I speak; southern.”
He reminded me of Mrs. C, my high school English teacher and pastor’s wife. I miss her. We used to joke about her being southern and then teaching students how to speak English 🙂 but she was always good-humored and gave our sass right back to us, all the while talking of God’s goodness 🙂
This preacher also exercised absolutely no degree of political correctness, and nobody in the congregation seemed bothered by it at all. It was actually refreshing, that he was so open like that, because he was celebrating our racial and ethnic differences instead of treating us all as the same. We were all able to be individually unique, and with him celebrate the wonderful way in which God made each of us one hundred percent different.
After morning service, everyone exited out onto the front lawn to do the food thang 😀 I helped serve and laughed and talked to different people. I ate so much rice it’s not even funny…but oh, it was so good! It came time to clean up and stack things and put away tables and I really enjoyed the whole thing 🙂 It was also freezing and windy, a sure sign that autumn was here to stay.
Between services, I sat next to Samuel and read North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Yes. I’m still reading it. But it is truly a wonderful book 🙂 It’s difficult to read books written by great authors like Elizabeth Gaskell and Jane Austen and not compare modern-day writers, or even the writings of my classmates, to their wonderful class and genuine wit, exhibited by their characters and communicated through their plot lines. And yet they include conflict, truly horrifying conflict in their stories without being vulgar or explicit, at least in today’s terms. This is a skill, almost a skill of having a talented pen and a healthy amount of shame, that I fear has been lost throughout the centuries. But I still hope 🙂
Afternoon service began, and that’s when the morning message and the afternoon message merged together.
In the morning message, the preacher brought us to Hebrews chapter 12. Often throughout the day, I’ll think “Lord, this is difficult, but at least my life isn’t physically being threatened and I can still be set apart without worrying about being imprisoned.” But I don’t think it hit me just how far God plans for me to go as His daughter, as His disciple, until I saw it in His word.
“Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” —Hebrews 12:4
I feel like this is the equivalent of Paul saying, “You have no idea yet what it means to follow Christ, no clue as to how dangerous and battle-oriented it is, and you can’t even begin to comprehend the pain He suffered.” And he’s right.
The Amplified Bible says this: “You have not yet struggled and fought agonizingly against sin, nor have you yet resisted and withstood to the point of pouring out your [own] blood.”
Now, I want to clarify. Though this might seem a bit masochistic and uncomfortable, it’s certainly uncomfortable, but definitely not masochistic. This is in no way a command for Christians to purposefully injure themselves physically. That is NOT what that’s saying. I can say this because nowhere in the Bible, other than when people are sacrificing things to idols, which are a big “no” to begin with, does it mention God’s people purposefully cutting or injuring themselves to please Him. Also, this would go against His desire for Christians to treat their bodies as a “temple of the Holy Spirit within you,” and to “glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19). No. There will be none of that.
The resistance of sin, of the sin nature, and of its power is the cause of injury and outpouring of blood, portraying sin as an enemy commanding opposition from another side…God’s side. This goes back to the “weapons of our warfare” and the “wrestling against” that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 10 and Ephesians 6. Here the author is saying that though things are difficult, the letter-receiving Christians have not yet begun to really face adversity.
So…what does that mean for me? What does that mean for modern-day Christians?
Well, it means now exactly what it did then. Though things seem difficult to us, whether it’s being amidst a culture who views Christians as intolerant, incompetent, etc., and do persecute them to a degree, they haven’t begun to see what real resistance is. There are Christians all over the world being thrown into prison for preaching the gospel. One preacher from India told us of how a certain government has taken over India and is imprisoning Christians and burning down churches and Christian homes. And that’s only one place.
“But why resist if it’s going to injure you?”
So, I’ve seen many protests on the streets, many walks for different causes from climate to education to education, many news reports showing people standing up for what they believe in, whether it’s morally appropriate or not. What would you do if you were fighting for something that wasn’t just something you believed in, something you were passionate about? What if what you had was the Truth, absolute Truth, the only thing that can save the world from it’s present state? Wouldn’t you fight, resist, press against everything that told you to run in the other direction?
Do not mistake me: this doesn’t mean God is calling Christians to be violent. He’s simply asking us to remember who the enemy really is, and to stand firm and confident in Christ as the enemy pushes against everything we say, do, think, and feel; He’s calling us to push against the enemy, and not be content with succumbing to the enemy’s demands or deceit or attacks.
And as the preacher, in the afternoon service, continued to speak, I began to wonder what things would look like, if I would allow myself to be weak enough so Christ could be strong through me, should I be in a situation where government forces burst in through the church door and put every member of the congregation at gun point. And how far off is this from becoming a reality?
After the service ended, Maria drove Jenny and I back to Jenny’s house, dropping us off with Abby and Julie; they were staying with us for the evening. We made dinner for Abby and Julie and began to bake. Jenny baked gingerbread loaves and muffins while I baked pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and brownies, munching on cold pizza and talking about God and how He views us and marriage and men. I genuinely enjoy our conversations and I’m so thankful that God has blessed me with Jenny 🙂
We finished baking, packed up the care package, and I tried not to look at the clock. It was late. I left around ten and made the trek to the subway station, only to be reminded that the G wasn’t running. So I sat and waited for the F to come, hoping I could make a transfer to the A at Jay St. and then get to Hoyt-Schermerhorn and walk from there. I waited for nearly half an hour, watching several F trains cross on the opposite platform, going in the opposite direction. I decided then to leave the station and catch a bus…again. But when I arrived at the appropriate bus stop, I realized I’d missed the last bus, thus being stuck where I was.
So, of course, after calling everyone in my contacts list and getting no response, since it was almost eleven o’clock on a Sunday night, I did what any mature, responsible adult would do.
I called my mommy.
And of course I cried, in panic mode, though I knew in my heart everything would work out, I was still giving into exhaustion and hunger and all sorts of nonsense.
I headed back to Jenny’s house, on the phone with my mom, and knocked on the door as loud as I could, feeling absolutely horrible for forcing hospitality on a friend. The worst part was that I felt like I should’ve planned better, shouldn’t have been in such a position, and shouldn’t be so upset. And yet, there I was, and God was quietly reminding me that I needed to let this happen, I needed to be vulnerable and without a way to stand on my own, even if it was something as simple as not having a way to get home. He whispered to my heart that things would be just fine, that I needed to trust Him to do what He thought was best, even though I was in a position that was far less than ideal. He’d done this earlier in the day through Maria, and He’d quieted my heart then as well, helping me just to be vulnerable and respond in earnest, even though it was extremely difficult for me to do.
And I was okay.
Jenny answered the door and she was wonderfully gracious in letting me stay the night. I slept in my clothes without brushing my teeth or my hair or washing my face. And this morning, when I woke up to leave, I felt awful. My shoulders and hips were stiff and the top of my head was doing this weird achy thing and that same ache took over my temples and my nose. I was getting sick.
I headed home, on the G train, because it was running now, and the moment I walked in the dorm room I was tempted to climb into bed but instead grabbed my Bible and my devotion and sat down with God. Now, I’m not telling you this because I’m a super, ultra, perfect Christian. The only reason I was able to talk to God first before I did anything else was because I knew that without Him the day would be positively miserable. I already knew, based on the night before, that it was going to be difficult, but it would be less so and easier to handle with God. And this morning was the morning I learned that it’s okay to pray to God, unable to muster up optimism, and say “Lord, I just need You to help me get through this day.”
After talking to God, I went right to sleep, though when I woke up ten minutes later, hot and cold at the same time and my entire body aching all over, I began to realize going to class wasn’t an option today. I emailed my professor, and when Bree woke up I told her as well.
Thus I slept. Though when I woke up again, I felt no better. I’d spread myself too thin, and now I was suffering the consequences. And all I could think was “gaining wisdom and experience is a lifelong process,” in other words, “in order to be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid.”
I took a shower, hoping I’d wake up, grabbed an apple (Jenny sent me home with some), taped up Jacob’s care package and walked outside to mail it. The moment I got outside, I realized what a horrible mistake it was to think I would be healthy enough to do anything. My nose felt like it was being pushed into my face.
I continued, after mailing the package, to ask God to just give me the energy to at least get to the internship. Well, I hopped on the subway headed towards the West Village, and already I was regretting the decision. But I got to the internship, talked to my boss (he was totally understanding), stayed for a few hours, mailing things and editing things and printing things, and then I headed back home. Bree, before I left, texted me and asked if I needed anything. She willingly, after I asked, consented to get me some orange juice. I talked to Hannah and, though we only talked for a moment or two, it was encouraging.
When I arrived back at the dorm, I went right to sleep the moment I walked in the door. Later on, when I woke up (I feel like this has been one long day where I sort of just fall asleep and then wake up and then fall asleep and then wake up again), my mom texted me and we talked for a while. I drank orange juice and ate beef and barley soup from Hale & Hearty, deciding to be disciplined and just rest and chill and let myself recover.
I forgot how hard it is to relax.
Needless to say, absolutely nothing went according to plan in the last couple of days, and yet, though I’m still exhausted and I still feel the threats of oncoming sickness, I learned a lot, and I was pushed even further out of my comfort zone as far as being vulnerable with others is concerned and allowing people to help me. I also learned a lesson or two in communication, which God knows I need help with as well. Even though things over the past 24 hours have been less than glamorous, God is still good, and I still love Him, and He helped me through the day, helped me strive to glorify Him through my weakness.
Yes. God is good 🙂
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of the Lord that will stand.” —Proverbs 19:20-21, ESV