Sunday, September 26, 2010

Doubt & Testimony

Why am I a Christian? A follower of Jesus? A believer? Someone who identifies herself with the church?

Rebecca at work asked me if I was taught religion, if my parents were super devout and if I had grown up with it my whole life. And those things are true of me. Nothing is more precious to my parents than their faith, and our home revolves around it. Would I be a Christian without them? I don’t know.

I wonder if I was predisposed to Christianity. INFPs tend to be religious, finding a higher meaning and purpose in the idealism of the gospel. Sanctification as a coping mechanism. Compounded with my innate tendency to want to please my parents, did I take the leap because I knew it would make them happy? (If they parented my faith, is it really my own?)

Does Christianity work? (Would I even dare to lean on pragmatism?)

Why am I a Christian? I've never bothered to ask that before. So now I'm asking. Is it because of the opportunities to serve the community and pursue social justice? Because of the friends and social outlet and encouragement? Because it sets me apart and makes me different? Because it gives me hope for self-improvement? (What are truly my motives?)

Sometimes when I struggle to find insight in my devotions, or when I sing the praise songs so hollowly, or when the sermon’s words sound trite, it becomes easy to wonder, why am I doing this? I see my sin and my faithlessness and wonder, where is the victory?

What if somewhere along the way I deceived myself?

I tell myself my feelings of dryness and confusion don’t matter, because I’m not going to throw away the Truth for something transient like emotion. But that doesn’t change the fact that doubt makes it difficult to “run the race with endurance.”

And yet, the one thing I could never throw away, is the knowledge that my distinction as a Christian is not a religious affiliation, but a commitment to a real person, a God-man who has changed and is changing my life. On this label of “believer” I could never turn my back, because I love Jesus. Because He first loved me.

I know it’s all real because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I know the peace, the conviction, the love. You cannot see the power of Jesus and just walk away from it. I’ve seen the power of Jesus. And it has changed my life. Jesus saved me from myself, I am a living, breathing, moving testimony. (“In HIM we live and move and have our being.”) I have tasted and seen, and I can never go back. To God be the glory! Amen.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A relationship I'll never stop piecing together

Today my dad took me to the bank to sort out some of the financial woes I've been stressing over these past two weeks, and on the way there he was explaining the channels he'd navigated earlier that day during his lunch break to try and get my problem squared away. And as he spoke I considered what else he'd done for me this week: filled up my gas tank, helped me with my car troubles.

And I said quietly, "I really appreciate your doing all this for me."

And he goes, "Hayley, you're my daughter."

And in a moment I'm remembering my car ride home from Kingston the night before, as I bit my lip and watched the smoke pour out from under the hood, trying to count all the ways God had protected and blessed me this past week. And also trying not cry--definitely not advisable while driving--as the question "WHY?" followed every praise. And I was incredulous when I pulled into my driveway, for the second week in a row, safe and sound.

And I said tearfully, "Why God, why would You do that for me?"

And He goes, "Hayley, you're my daughter."

Who is this King of glory? So powerful, so full of right-ness. How is it that I belong to Him, that He gives me teaching and protection and discipline and care? So undeserved. Who is this King of glory?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Contextual time capsule

On the car ride back from Kingston on Friday I found myself empathizing with Linda, as I kept snatching glances at my gasoline gauge, even as I resigned myself to trust God to get me home. [To give credit where credit is due, I didn't even get down to the gas light. Sovereignty.] Oh, I so desperately wanted to go home. It's not that my first full week of college was particularly difficult, but I found myself severely missing my family.

Living with the Bankstons is surreal, because their family reminds me so much of my own family, their dynamics and habits and philosophies towards living. Even in Bevin I see so much of Caleb, it makes me miss him that much more during the week. It was a seamless transition for me, though I still feel a bit like an intruder on their life, they have done everything to graft me into their home.

Studying in the library is my favorite thing about college. Classes are inevitably a snore, so accustomed am I to learning out of a book, but in the deafening silence of the third floor, scribbling up flash cards, I feel so collegiate and studious. And it is the one place that assures me there are actually students on campus that care about their education. The broken beer bottles on the quad do give me doubts . . .

Classes aren't so bad, though. The material is all very interesting, and when my professors aren't feeling excessively jaded by student apathy, they're enthusiastic enough to keep my despair at bay. I even talked in my COM100 class the other day. Though, I'm trying not to betray my speech and debate background. Gotta keep expectations low. Yup. Definitely a college kid. Strangely, my workload has been rather light, and I keep waiting pessimistically for the other shoe to drop.

Work might be my favorite part of this college thing, though. The people at RAM Computers are so nice it could break my heart. I love Filemaker, the cash register, making phone calls, filing papers, installing drivers, imaging hard drives, diagnostic sessions, running random errands, learning the ropes. I love it all. I love that no matter how silent and isolated I feel throughout the day, at work I will have a chance to laugh and talk and engage.

There's too much to get involved in, it makes me dizzy, and I guard my spare time rather jealously. I'm sure next year or even next semester I'll scorn myself for being so antisocial. But I've jumped right in with Intervarsity, for better or for worse. They seem to be an awkward crowd, but they are not unkind, and there is such rest and relief in a group with whom I have Jesus in common. Nevertheless, I have been lonely, if it is indeed loneliness, a feeling that so often deceives me. I miss you.

So that's been the past two weeks of my life. I beg of you, update me on yours? [I'm so sorry . . .]

Friday, September 17, 2010

Two kinds of separation

Is this honest loneliness
Or a conflict in vanity
That leads me to a more tolerable isolation
In the newness of the unchartered?

The failure to love weighs
So heavily on a misdirected heart
It seems too late to try
To reach out to a phantom feeling.

I still find it hard to look in the face of all I've been missing, because to do so is to face the guilt in my negligence.


There is a girl, on the first observation deck of the Rockefeller Center, her palms pressed against the glass, her eyes hard and bright and blue as she watches the traffic far below her, her elbows locked as she keeps the edge far away. The murmuring of the people around her float around her head, and the tiles push up from under her feet, and the wind keeps wrapping her hair around her face, but all the while she feels suspended, pinned to a point in time and space.

She watches the sun set too quickly, and open-mouthed the only word she knows anymore is "--WAIT."

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Everybody's changing and I don't feel the same"

I can't handle it, okay?

I made a tricky voyage to Newport with one of my friends recently, and I was telling my mom how every time I merge I feel like the hand of God is ordaining traffic flow, because an ordinarily stressful and dangerous activity is made magically effortless. She laughed at me and said, "God never gives us more than we can handle!"

From this I conclude God must think I'm a wuss who can't drive.

So when I started work last week I had one long and somewhat trying second day which involved much getting lost and many aching muscles, and around 10pm when even the GPS couldn't deliver me to a recognizable route, I pulled into a shopping plaza and resolved to have a pity party. Until I realized that I was overreacting. This wasn't too hard for me. Clearly God thought I could handle it. So I wasn't going to indulge any wimp-like behavior.

And that kick in the pants attitude got me through a week of the unknown, and carried me through the first three days of classes. As I prepare to move half of my life to South Kingston, and evaluate how college has the potential to reroute my whole future, I'm weirded out by how fluidly all these changes are coming: not just in what I do each day, but in my relationships and in the way I think and in what's required of me. The changes are sneaking up on me and convincing me things have always been this way, and nine times out of ten I find myself unprepared.

I can't handle it, okay?

Except that, clearly God thinks I can. My life has been so easy to this point, and I mean, heart-breakingly, couch potato-y easy. I fussed over what this meant about my faith: is it really so small and weak and unstable that God is saving me from the storms to keep me close to Him? On one hand this thought hurts my ego, and on another hand, it freaks me out. But here it comes, all these changes, still nothing big of course, but enough for me to handle. I am not a pansy. He has blessed me with an opportunity to learn it: greater is He that is in me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"It's all coming down"

I watched Defiance last week, finally, and it was awesome.

I've written before about my obsession with the fall of civilization [here and here] and this movie dredged more of this conviction to the surface. During the start of their forest society, a man is helping build a roof and smacks his fingers with a hammer. When the other laugh at him and asked him what he did before the war, he smiles sheepishly and says that he was an intellectual, more handy with books than with tools.

And this is the root of my fear. That when society falls apart I will have no useful skills to help rebuild it.

In My Side of the Mountain, Sam figured out how to train a hawk to hunt for him. In Hatchet, Paul was a Boy Scout. In LOST, they just happened to have a surgeon, a wilderness expert, and a techie on the island with them. In Alas, Babylon they had an artesian well handy in the backyard and at least a small heads up on the whole debacle. In Defiance society hadn't really collapsed, they just stole from the people who still had a footing in it.

Liberal arts kind of people are so supremely useless. Which is not to say community and culture are unimportant, only that, society cannot subsist on these things alone.

What kind of resources do I have handy? Our family has a pantry that we still slip into calling the Y2K closet. In terms of my skill set though, I don't really know how to do anything useful. I know nothing about herbal remedies, I lack a green thumb, I have no command of the basics of construction or agriculture or mechanics, I pale at the description of medical ailments.

I can shoot a gun, which is good. I'm reasonably healthy, which is also an asset. I can read, so whatever books survive this societal collapse, I'll at least be able to teach myself to be useful, theoretically. Still, I struggle with being a well-rounded individual. Though my passions lie with more intellectual pursuits, I don't want to get wrapped up in a world that will become irrelevant. I want to be a whole person, who understands the importance of both the ability to do as well as the ability to think.

In other news, spending the week in a computer store has made me super paranoid about the health of my own computing machine, ergo prompting me to image and format the thing. Just because, it's already three years old, and it needs to last me as long as possible. So I've been backing up some things online, and it makes me feel like a major dork. I hate Google. But I need it. So.

What I mean to say is, when technology is crippled at the fall of civilization, I won't be very sad.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Expectations - Caedmon's Call

That boy had the highest of expectations
And he heard that Jesus would fill him up
Maybe something got lost in the language
If this was full, then why bother?

You know that we all try to blame someone
But our dreams won’t rise up from their sleep
And the reaching of the steeple felt like one more
Expensive ad for something cheap

This was not the way it looked on the billboard
Smiling family beaming down on the interstate

Dressed up nice for the congregation
Scared somebody’s gonna find him out
Through the din and the clatter of the hallelujahs
A stained glass Jesus sings


At this bizarre, wonderful, God-send of a mostly likely almost over job, church keeps coming up. When I had to leave early for a church-planting slash campus group meeting, they asked why. When they wondered about the "My Grade's Fatter than Yours" shirt, I explained it was from youth group. I forgot about the cross dangling around my neck all week. It's much easier to be up front about my faith than I thought it would be.

But I do wonder a little what they think of me. They don't seem to treat me differently, they don't seem to care when I talk about church. Which is not to say church a believer makes, but I can't imagine that they're all ambivalent towards religion. Regardless, knowing that they know I'm a "church person" is a pressing motivation, to work harder, to be more upright and honest, to smile more. I'm not trying to pursue righteousness just for God anymore, but now also to be a testimony.

Which is sobering and scary. It means leaning on grace because I just can't be good enough. When we were on our "Boston" missions trip, one outreach we did was to write "JESUS" on whiteboards and walk around the neighborhood asking people to write the first thing that came into their heads when they read it. At one point I got to hold the whiteboard, and suddenly I felt painfully conspicuous, walking around with the name JESUS across my chest, people saw me coming from blocks away.

And I remember thinking, "Is this a little bit what it means to be an image bearer?" I was talking with Danielle about it in the car ride afterwards, as she has a similar revelation. We felt the judgment, of people watching our presumption. We had no anonymity, we were defined by that name, Jesus. And to think that this is how I'm supposed to be walking around every day, as though I had the name JESUS in big block letters covering my body, and how will my actions match up?

We fall so short of expectations. Fortunately reminding us that the work is God's.