So, the balancing of basketball pre-season (I’ll explain), ministry (meeting up with girls, growing in them, going to church, Bible study), man (Jacob), family (family), and school (yeah), I find myself running smack dab into a wall of overwhelming uncertainty. And yet I can sit and know that God’s got it covered.
In this, there’s an enigma, a puzzle that for the past two years at school I have not been able to crack, and it’s how to write hope in an environment where everyone is reflecting emptiness, or want, and nothing to fulfill it. Why can’t I just write a story about a character who finds Christ and things get better? Maybe not circumstances, but they’re more able to face the circumstances, knowing that He’s in control. Why is that so unrelatable? And that’s what it comes down to: being relatable. I can’t use Christian jargon in my stories, and I can’t spurt out Bible verses and apply them and have people really understand what I’m saying. But God didn’t give me His Word or His creativity for nothing. He has a plan.
Meanwhile, I have a short story due tomorrow and I have absolutely no idea what I’m submitting. Not that I haven’t been working on things, sure…several things, one in particular. But it’s not communicating Christ, not really, not starkly, not clearly. It’s a “feel good” story, it’s safe, it’s not challenging, and I don’t like that.
“Writer’s block is when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.”
Basketball. Last week on Friday I was one of about thirteen girls who came to a team meeting to be introduced to our new coach…well, several new coaches. I’d met the head coach before and he reminds me a lot of my dad….they of course look absolutely nothing alike, but their desire for intensity and their steadiness in what they see for the team is extremely similar. This puts me back in a wrestling season mindset.
While all of us were sitting at the table in the back conference room, our coaches standing off to the side, I looked around at all of the girls and tried to memorize their names and faces.
Me: Lord, is this season going to be about being competitive and intense and winning or is it going to be about You?
There’s a thing: when sports are intense, I tend to want to meet and beat the intensity into submission by my own hard work. Which isn’t a bad thing! But it becomes blinding to what Christ has asked me to do. I can’t reach out to the girls on my team in tenderness and love when all I’m doing is being competitive and focusing on the game and practices.
And yet, even during wrestling season, God brought me to Him and helped me trust Him to get me through the physical and emotional difficulties of the sport. I could not have gotten through it without Him. He provided time for me and Him to be together, gave me room and energy to get all of my school work done, and even attend Bible studies with my Mom and go to church with plenty of focus and strength to do it all. This is no different.
We sat at the table and Coach Williams (head coach) started talking about practices, lots and lots and lots of practices, work out programs, scrimmaging, everything. I sat there, and became discouraged when he said there would be Sunday morning practices from 9-10am.
My first reaction was: “I’ll work something out, I don’t have to tell him right now in front of everyone.” But that was too easy. No, I could tell him now.
“Coach, what about those of us who go to church on Sunday mornings?” I asked. He smiled and said we could talk afterwards.
“Coach Isaiah goes to church too, we got you,” he said, gesturing to the very tall black man behind him. Coach Isaiah smiled at me.
“Oh! You go to church? That’s so sweet,” one of the girls, Summer, said. I smiled, not quite sure how to respond.
After we’d all talked and settled on different things (pre-season practicing and working out together), the majority of the girls left and I stayed behind to talk to the coaches about church. I discovered while talking to them that one other coach, who’s actually our coordinator, if you will, goes to the same church as Coach Isaiah.
It was really cool 🙂
Last night, I went and worked out with one of the players, Sabrina. We played basketball for a while, and the whole time I was trying to figure out how to talk to her. I’ve never had that much trouble just talking to people. Eventually we were talking about our families, and she asked me what mine was like after describing hers.
“Well,” I started. “My parents are together, and I have two brothers and one sister…”
“And where do you fall?”
“Oh, I’m the oldest.”
“Wow! That’s a lot of responsibility isn’t it?”
“Yeah…” I almost didn’t go into how Christ had shown me how to communicate with my siblings, the entire summer I’d spent with them, and how He’d been challenging me to listen to and relate to them. The hesitation scared me.
I did talk to her about Christ, about what He’s doing in me in relation to my siblings. She didn’t respond, but that’s okay. At that point it wasn’t for her anyway; it was for me. I don’t like talking about Christ primarily to get other people’s responses….I like talking about Christ because He loves me, because I’m His, and He’s mine. It’s kind of like talking about Jacob. I love him, and it excites and blesses me that we’re together and that God brought him into my life. But I don’t talk about him to other people for their responses or reactions. I do it because I’m overflowing with joy about the whole thing. And it’s the same, though obviously a tad bit deeper, with Christ. While there are definitely times when I’m talking about Him and asking questions about Him with other people, purposefully reaching out to them, most times I talk about Him because I love Him, and I’ve noticed lately that it’s become less about Him and more about the responses and reactions of the people around me, which is a problem. I’m seeing a running issue with balance as people, myself included, help others grow and challenge them in their walks with Christ, which sometimes result in losing or neglecting their own.
Random subject change. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to know how to speak in class. Not actually how to speak, but how to speak up against the lies of the world with the truth of Christ. This has always been hard, because I don’t want to put the professor in an awkward position, and arguments are not my goal: I’m not looking for a fight. But it’s hard for me to sit at my desk and have my Creative Nonfiction professor tell me that I am an animal who has emotions and responds to sensory details because of evolution when that’s not true and I don’t believe that.
My internal response is “How dare you claim this when there’s a personal God who died for you, when that God gave you your emotions as a reflection of His own, who gave you your creativity and ability to write?” Of course, I can’t say that out loud because that would be bad, and wouldn’t take the conversation anywhere or challenge anyone.
Creative Nonfiction is a particularly difficult class. I don’t know why. There’s no visible reason other than the one I mentioned above, but I experience that in pretty much every class. Why is this one so much harder? I don’t know. All I know is that I keep walking into the classroom without taking Christ with me.
What do I mean? I mean that I am depending on my own wit (I have none) and my own intelligence (Mm) and my own sufficiency (here we go) to stir conversation and change hearts and so and so forth. But I can’t do this. God knows my professor’s heart and the hearts of my classmates far better than I do, and I’ve been trying to think my way through it instead of just letting Him have it. Yes, Pratt is a mission field, a battle ground, a wilderness. But I have to trust God to do what He does best, and get out of His way.
I have that class in about an hour from now, and I’m still wondering what He’ll do. I have to give Him the class, and I have to trust Him to show me how to speak up and then again trust Him with the outcome.
Yesterday I had lunch with Laura. Have I mentioned that Laura is just a breath of fresh air to me? Talking to her feels a lot like talking to Beth or Hannah, though those two are completely irreplaceable 🙂 With that, it’s such an insane blessing to have here, at Pratt. While we were talking, she mentioned that she’d contacted Kat to see if she’d like to get together for lunch. Her focus, as I understood it, is to challenge and encourage Kat and study God’s Word with her, just like I do with Taylor.
There’s this thing Jacob did while he was in Korea. He drew a generational map, and it was basically a diagram of him, the guys he was discipling, and the guys they were discipling. Three generations of Christians, or, more accurately, disciples and disciple-makers. I’ve never seen this worked out before, and seeing it go forward for him through prayer and obedience and faith and depending on God’s Word, made me wonder if it could go forward for me. And it has. The girls in Bible Study are taking it upon themselves to reach out to other girls and to each other as they grow.
In this I have to avoid my tendency to be a perfectionist, to be so caught up in how I feel they should be doing it, and instead focus on God’s ability to use their efforts and their desires to accomplish His will, which is to bring them and those they’re reaching out to closer to Him. He’s got it. He planned for this. He’s ready, and I can trust that in Him.
So this is me, kind of freaked out about this new world I’ve entered into, a world of deeper growth, greater miracles, and stronger prayers, a world of brittle but intimidating enemies, brave victors, valiant knights and powerful warriors, and a God who has already won. The crazy thing is that everything is just getting started…and I get to see it 🙂