When I walked outside today and smelled the air of spring time, I couldn’t believe that we’d passed through winter already, that so many months had already gone by. Sophomore year is almost over.
And even though there are still many weeks left, as I sat outside doing my homework today, I couldn’t help but sit before God and thank Him for helping me survive. But at the same time, here I am, stuck, worn down by how blatantly God’s sovereignty and the absoluteness of who He is and His word are denied, ready to go home.
Last weekend, Jenny and I went to Philadelphia. Yep. Just because. Well, we actually went to visit her sister while she was in the area for a missions conference, but it still felt like “hey, let’s go to Philadelphia!” “Okay!”
Friday night, the day before we left, I babysat for Sam and Maria after a long week of all sorts of craziness. Bible Study with my classmates has been going well, difficultly, because I often wonder if I’m really “qualified” to discuss God’s word with my classmates, if I really have the authority, the knowledge, and the understanding to study it and then ask them what they think. It’s a bit complicated, of course, both because some of my classmates are guys and I don’t really feel comfortable with “teaching” it to them, and also because most of my classmates are unsaved, so I can’t expect them to apply anything they learn, or really consider anything I say, but at the same time, what else do I do? Not talk about God’s word? Not talk about God? Not show my classmates the truth?
Anyway, I drove the kids from church to Maria’s house. Yes, I drove through Brooklyn. And it was cake 🙂 I had at first been nervous, but even in this situation, though it was small, God calmed my heart and talking to Him put my mind where it needed to be so I would be ready for whatever the night might’ve held.
Samuel cried the entire time, and Abby and Julie had a bit of a rough time obeying. And yet I didn’t freak out. Yes, I had to be firm, maybe in order to perfect, as Maria would say, the “mommy look,” but overall, choosing to lean on God in the moments when it would’ve made sense to freak out made me find further security in trusting Him. My actions and reactions are the only ones I can control, so I might as well let God, the One who created me, who knows me best, help me control them.
When the girls went to bed, and Samuel sat up crying, I went to sit on the couch to try and get him to relax. Yet each time I sat down, he went cardboard baby on me and became even angrier. Abby had mentioned earlier that I might have to rock him to sleep. Praying, I walked into Sam and Maria’s room, sat in the rocking chair, and started rocking. As I rocked, I was reminded of how many times I’d sat in the living room at the Brock’s house, rocking back and forth with Douglas sitting on my lap, watching Hannah and Beth sign to one another and then speak out loud to Nathan or to Grace or to Leah, listening to Uncle Doug and Aunt Lori as they talked to each other in their wonderful way.
And then I realized that Samuel was relaxed. He’d completely melted in my arms, his head turned into the nape of my neck, legs like jello, arms like spaghetti noodles. His eyes were still open, so I sang to him. As I sang, I prayed, and worshiped, and asked God if this is what my future looked like, if I might be a mother someday, cradling my own child, and if I’d want to even let him go when he’d fallen asleep, finally. And I kept singing until Samuel closed his eyes.
The rest of the night involved my singing the girls back to sleep as well, having to rock Samuel back to sleep one more time, praying later as he woke up crying once or twice for him to go back to sleep on his own, and he did. I cleaned, and scrubbed, and swept, and put the house back in order.
Around 11:30, when Sam and Maria came home, my arms and back and legs were already feeling the wear and tear of picking up a baby, putting him down, carrying him through the house, and everything else I’d done during the day. I didn’t realize it would be such a work out! And yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything 🙂
Maria drove me to Jenny’s and we sat outside her house (it’s much less creepy than it sounds, I promise) and talked for a good hour, about everything, about what I was struggling with, about how God was/is growing me, about what new kind of stubborn pride I was pushing out of the way by the power of His word, about what I’m afraid of.
After a while I went into Jenny’s house. At this point, it was nearly one in the morning. Jenny and I had to wake up at 3:40 to catch a 5:30 bus to Philadelphia. Yeah, I’m not really sure what we were thinking either.
We each got about an hour and a half of sleep before waking up, getting ready, and walking out into the darkness of the morning. We caught the late G train to Hoyt-Schermerhorn, crossed the platform (I’d assured Jenny we didn’t have to go to the other side), and waited for about thirty minutes. We were running late.
While waiting for the G, the temptation for me to complain or be impatient had arisen, from how cold it was or how slow the train might’ve been, so I asked Jenny what verses she knew that had to do with being patient. And we took our time in that. Waiting for the A train at Hoyt was no different. I talked to her about what I’d been reading in God’s word, suddenly feeling the weight of the fact that I hadn’t had time with God that morning, and wondering if I’d have the energy or the focus to spend time with Him on the way to Philadelphia. But it was already wearing on me.
Finally, the A train came. We hopped on, and were met with heavy construction on the railways two stops down. We’d already missed the bus to Philadelphia, but Jenny told me we could still catch a later one, so the missing of our planned ride really wasn’t all that devastating. Jenny suddenly wondered if we were even out of Brooklyn yet. As I thought of what stops went from Brooklyn to Manhattan, I pulled out my phone and looked at a transit map, facepalming.
“Jenny, we’re going in the wrong direction.”
We then jumped off the train, went over to the opposite platform, hopped onto the correct train, and headed in the right direction, finally, no construction. I began to think, considering what else had happened during the week, that it wasn’t so bad if I felt incompetent every once in a while, and I’m beginning to appreciate the moments in which I mess up, make a mistake, seem silly or ditzy to other people, because these times remind me that my worth isn’t placed in my eloquence or my intelligence or how other people may or may not perceive me, regardless of my intentions, but rather in God, His desire for my life, what He’s done for me, and how He sees me.
We arrived at the bus stop after grabbing Dunkin Donuts coffee (it was really, really cold, and I’d finally lost all feeling in my toes), discovering that the next bus would be coming at 8:40am. It was 6:30am.
The Skylight Diner is a modernized fifties-style place with Shelly-blue tiles, hanging UFO lights, granite-colored plastic-covered booths and chairs, and a menu decked out in omelets and cheeseburgers, fresh-brewed coffee and creamers served in steel.
Jenny and I sat in a booth, her digging into a pile of pancakes and my munching on toast and filling up with a hot omelet. I kept feeling the need to spend time with God, and I kept praying to Him during our time, but I needed to sit down with Him and spend time in His word, and my mind was slowly succumbing to heaviness. While I realize this might seem overdramatic, it’s totally true. Without spending time with God first thing in the morning, before I deal with anything else, even breakfast, the rest of my day is like running into a battle with no weapons, no protection, and no plan. Granted, I have scripture to re-focus, but the combined soreness from babysitting, exceptional lack of sleep, and this, resulted in a heavy weight. I am to hang on God’s every word, and His word is to be satisfying, refreshing, encouraging, strengthening, and empowering for all of the work and all of the everything that He asks me to do, the things He plans on growing me through, and the situations that He uses to sift out the things in me that He knows are both weighing me down and crippling me.
Jenny and I caught the 8:40 bus. It was a double decker, which I’ve never ridden in before. We rode on the top 😀 and slept for the majority of the ride. Once in Philadelphia, I couldn’t believe we were there. We walked to the train station and grabbed tourist things (maps and such) and headed to the subway. Apparently, they use tokens in the subway station there instead of metrocards, which I thought was absolutely amazing 😀
We made our way to Sonny’s, a restaurant on Market Street in the Old City, and had Philly cheesesteaks, of course, with Jenny’s sister, Joy, and her husband and two children. It was loads of fun 🙂
Our adventures from that point on involved meandering over to Christ Church, where I walked over graves dug in the isle floor leading up to the pulpit, and talked to a guy who was interested in biblical history and was a practicing Catholic. It involved a trip to the house of Betsy Ross, where I witnessed a girl acting as a young Betsy Ross, reminding me very much of Hannah. It involved going to the New Hall Military Museum, where I learned about Martha Washington and Kitty Greene. We trekked to Carpenter’s Hall, with it’s aging white walls, magnificent fireplaces, and golden floors on which America’s founding fathers walked while discussing what to do about King George III. This was the first Continental Congress. We stood before the great height of Independence Hall, and I was brought down to size before the Liberty Bell.
After seeing the Bell, Jenny and I sprinted to catch the bus home around 4:00pm. Once on the bus, my throat ached from sprinting, the cold air having traveled through me too quickly. The next morning, after we’d gotten home safely and had gone out to dinner at the Terrace Coffee Shop, I would wake up sick with a head cold, sore throat, and achy body, unable to focus or function like a normal human being.
But, looking back on the weekend, even though I’m still sick, it was totally worth it 🙂
These past couple of days, I’ve been trying to do things at my normal speed with my normal energy, and my cold won’t let me, which is exceptionally frustrating, but it’s put me in a position, again, where I’m low enough to have no choice but to depend on God to give me the energy to do what He needs me to do, from spending time with Him to still having Bible Study with my classmates, and from focusing on fighting with scripture temptation and sin and whatever else my own self and Satan and the world tries to throw at me to resting in Him throughout the day, even though it’s all muddled by the hazy feeling that comes with a head cold.
Last night, I sat up, frustrated and annoyed and tired and sick. I sat in the basement laundry room of my dorm, writing out how unsure I was of everything, how the unbelief and even the mannerisms and lifestyles of my classmates were wearing on me, how I wasn’t sure what to do, where to go, what to say, or even how to pray to Him. Assignments were due. Plans had to be made. People wanted to talk. Letters needed to be written. Orange juice needed to be consumed. The Bible needed to be studied. Stories needed to be born.
And I sat in the laundry room, overwhelmed, uncertain, sick, tired, worn out, and in desperate need of a hug.
This morning however, after I’d talked to God for so long the night before, and I talked to Him again today, I was reminded of the fact that when everything else seems confusing and uncertain, and everything is up in the air, or I don’t know if I said the right thing, did the right thing, asked the right question, fulfilled the assignment correctly, or whatever, God’s word doesn’t change. He doesn’t change. He is real. He does come through. He is good. He does hear. He does listen. He is love. He is justice. He is God. It helps, also, that I stopped (again, I know) trying to deal with my struggles on my own and laid them all out before Him, when I finally let go of being frustrated for struggling in the first place. I’m not saying that everything is perfect now, or that I no longer feel tired or sick or worn, but my Foundation hasn’t moved, and my feet are planted.
As I went through the day, I noticed that it seems like Christianity has been brought up and opposed or laughed at a lot as of late. In the stories of my classmates. In the literature in my classes. Even in the vocabulary we’re learning in French. For Creating Character, we were asked to read a play about a transvestite living in Berlin during World War II. Of course, this man went through terrible things and was abused and treated horribly because of his dressing up and acting like a woman. And by my professor, my classmates, and probably the rest of the world, the man who dressed as a woman was revered and adored and admired for his story…and yet I can’t say that I agree with any of it. I’m not saying that what happened to him was right, or that violence is the appropriate answer for anything, but I am saying that, biblically, he was created as a man, therefore, he is a man. God doesn’t make mistakes.
Anyway, during class, my professor made a parallel between what the playwright had his main character say before murdering his Nazi father and what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, specifically verses 11 and 12, where he talks about giving up childish ways as he became a man. She asked me if I knew the exact quotation and if I thought it was an accurate parallel. I quoted the verses, but also took out my Bible and looked it up, wanting to quote it correctly with context, and after I’d read 8-13, she went on to say that Paul was talking about how God’s love expands and is more greatly understood as one comes into adulthood, and that with this boy murdering his father, he was experiencing a right of passage, becoming a man, kind of like Paul was talking about.
But she was taking the verse out of context, which was God’s love, its absoluteness, its constant nature, Paul bringing up knowing in part vs. knowing fully, drawing on the discussion of spiritual gifts in the preceding chapter. When I said that Paul was talking about something much bigger than just becoming a man, when I brought in the absolute nature of God’s love and how it doesn’t change or pass away, she corrected me and said “Well, yes, that’s one interpretation. The great thing about the Bible, just like all of the other sacred texts, is that not everyone has to look at it the same way. It’s not in black and white.”
And it hurt. It hurt that she grouped the Bible, God’s word, in with all of the other “sacred” texts of the world. It hurt that she acted like God’s word was nothing but a literary masterpiece, when it’s so much more than that. It hurt that she didn’t understand. It hurt that she was trying to use it to say what she wanted to say, even if she was doing it with all good intentions.
I said that, if someone looks at the Bible, especially certain parts of the Bible, through shades of gray instead of black and white, then they’re missing out. She said that that’s one opinion, and restated her idea of interpretation. She then, with great excitement, made the parallel between Jesus and Buddha and how similar they were and what they did, because most of their teachings were the same.
And it hurt, and my heart ached.
It was after this class that I sat outside in the warmth of the sun, wondering what I could’ve done better, what arguments I could’ve formed, feeling frustrated, like I’d failed, like this whole endeavor of going to Pratt and being on campus was pointless and hopeless and I was completely incapable of whatever God needed or wanted me to do.
This is not just like any other religion. The Bible is not just any other religious text. God is not just a relative deity, and His word is not a nice little book of cute self-help mantras you can plaster on your wall to try and make yourself a better person. Jesus was not just a man, and He’s not just a man even now. Jesus, regardless of how “alike” their teachings were, is so beyond Buddha it’s not even funny. Jesus is the Son of the One true God, and He is the greatest most powerful thing that has happened and will ever happen to humanity.
There is a God, and His very word is the Bible. He’s true to His word and His word is true to Him. His son is Jesus Christ, and this Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life in loving service of His Father, bringing up men to follow Him, love Him, love others, and bring those same others to a loving knowledge of Him, changed forever by His ministry and by His identity and by His power. This Jesus was crucified, bloody and naked, hung from a tree while I, among the scoffers, spat at Him and denied who He was, who He is, and He died, and was buried in a tomb. He rose three days later, like He promised, and this broke open the sealed fate of every member of humanity.
And that was enough to save me. And I sit, and wonder, how on earth, someone can take the God of the Bible and Christ and just say that they’re just like any other religion. Why? Why would people do that? Why does apathy and agnosticism and lukewarmness have to be the order of the day? Why does political correctness have to be a heavy chain that keeps people from hurting each other’s feelings and having really important, uncomfortable conversations that might be offensive? I don’t understand how the world can work this way and still be moving…but I have to believe, with everything I have, that everything, is going to be okay.