“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is. So I say “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” Remember my afflictions and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall. My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:17-23)
So, my parents are separated, and this happened while I was here in the City, is happening while I am here. My brother, Stephen, who has Asperger’s syndrome, tried to run away on Sunday and nearly destroyed his future. I’m living on a campus where everything is constantly pushing against everything I believe in, my very identity, and all of the principles on which I base my life. Professors say that Jesus is simply a psychological defense mechanism. The gender roles in the Bible are considered discriminatory, and people should be able to decide to be whatever they want to be, despite how they’re born; conditions are limiting and narrow-minded; parameters are patriarchal and oppressive and whatever else. Oh yes, because without those roles, society has become so much better and more progressive and fruitful…um, no, it hasn’t. It’s falling apart and viciously contradicting and attacking itself from the inside, which can only result in chaos. No conversation is purposeless. No interaction is meaningless. No piece of media is without influence. No choice is without spiritual consequences. There is student debt to think of. There are finances to work out and consider. There are people and relationships involved. There is the future, dark and unknown, full of impossibilities and uncertainties…
And I imagine, after taking the opportunity today to be completely alone, to just be overwhelmed by my own feelings and have time to break, I imagine some place beyond here that’s kind, that’s easy, that’s refreshing, that’s joyful, a place without confrontation, without hopelessness, peaceful and gentle, accepting and understanding.
And yet, as I imagine this place, I still remember the summer before my freshman year here, when I got sick at the Brock’s, and I wanted familiar things, to be home, in my room, with my mom there with me, and God whispered to my heart that He would be my home. He was going to take me from what was familiar, and He was getting me ready for it. So now, in moments like this, when I so desperately crave a safe place, a place where I don’t have to fight or guard or think, I remember that God is that place. Christ is the safe place, the refuge, the guard, the strong tower, the comfort, the joy, and the kind and gentle touch that I need.
Taylor and I have bonded a bit it seems over feeling mutually helpless; things are happening back home for both of us, and we know we can’t necessarily fix things, but often times we’ve found that at least being there is help in itself. We are wild cards for God, for our families when they’re trying to put themselves back together, or even giving up. So when we’re in a position where we feel like we can’t help at all, distress becomes our default state. I grow here, though, in dependence on the power of prayer.
Monday morning I woke up later than I wanted, and because of a night terror. Not a nightmare, a night terror. I couldn’t get out of my dorm room fast enough. When I got to the Pie Shop, my hands shook as I drank some orange juice and ate breakfast.
“You probably shouldn’t even go to class today. There’s too much to be done, and you’re not emotionally or spiritually okay to handle it. You should just walk away from Pratt; you’re fighting a losing battle, a war you can’t win. You’re not happy here anyway. You should be where you’re happiest.”
I pulled out my Bible and my journal and put them on the table in front of me.
“Why are you going to spend time with God? He’s abandoned you. He’s let you down. You are crying out to Him, and have been for so long, and He hasn’t answered you. Where is He now, when you most need Him? Look around; you’re surrounded, with no one to help you.”
I opened my journal.
“There’s nothing in that Bible that you haven’t already heard. He doesn’t care; you’ve witnessed that. If He cared, your mom and dad would be back together and following Him. If He cared, you wouldn’t feel so attacked. If He cared, you wouldn’t feel alone. If He cared, Stephen’s situation would be completely resolved for him, not just patched up. If He cared…”
I picked up my pen, resting my fist on the blank page. No, my circumstances, save the basic needs of having clothing, food, and shelter, which are still important, did not seem to obviously reflect what I’d come to know the character of God to be. Nothing seemed to be going right. If something could go wrong, it was going wrong.
“But there’s a reason,” I thought, “that I keep coming back to Jesus. There’s a reason I do this every day, and a reason I’ve done it for so long.”
And so I spent my time with God. The time started out with my thanking Him for what I could see and feel, like the sunshine, food in my stomach, clothes on my back. I thanked Him for His timing; my iPod hadn’t been connecting to the wifi anywhere on campus, not even in my dorm; but when Stephen’s episode happened, I was able to Facetime with Mom and the connection never went out or faltered, and our prayer time went uninterrupted. I thanked Him for anything I could think of. And then I talked. My emotions seemed nonsensical in light of who God is, what Christ has done and is doing, and who I am in Him, but I told Him about them anyway. And it ended with prayers for Jacob, for Taylor, for my parents, for my whole family, because I didn’t know what else to do.
And by the time I was done, my head was settled, and my emotions were reset. Things were not perfect, and a lingering desire to give up laced the fringes of my thoughts, but I was going to class, and I was praying for my man, for my girls, for my family, and I was not backing down.
Today was a battle of a different sort. A battle with anger.
My time with God proved to be important, and was similar to yesterday’s. I thanked God for everything I could think of, opened up about my struggles, about my pain and my fear, the tangled thoughts cluttered up my mind, and ended with praying for Kat, for Taylor, for Jacob, for my family, for Bree and Laura, for Pratt.
Yesterday was the desire to give up, fall into complacency and hopelessness. Now it was the desire to blow up at everyone, to be bitter (again), to be resentful, to give into hatred and cynicism. Things that normally wouldn’t bother me became huge stumbling blocks, and emotions became the horses whose reins had slipped from my fingers. Once Studio ended, my only class for the day, I spent some time with my writing people, grabbed some food and then went back to my dorm, holding back tears. Neither Laura nor Taylor could go to Bible Study at church tonight, and I decided to stay back and just be alone in the dorm, rest and talk to God, regroup, yes, break and be broken.
I don’t know why things are happening the way they are, or what the future holds…I don’t understand why the difficulties in my life and in the lives of others seem to exist in vicious cycles, why people won’t just change. But I do know that they can’t even hope for real change without Christ. I do know that God hasn’t given up and won’t give up. And I do know that He’s seeing everything, that He knew I’d be here, now. I know that He hasn’t just set me up so I could fall and not be caught. I just can’t imagine having to go through any of this without Christ…”this” being school, home, future, everything. I can’t imagine what that would be like. And yet I’m not going through it without Him, but with Him, forever and always, and it’s okay that some people think it’s unrealistic; it’s okay that He’s got me.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” —Romans 5:1-5