Saturday, January 24, 2015

Take your medicine

High school is full of pivotal moments that you will remember for the rest of your life. One such moment I have been reflecting on some eight years later, was a frank judgment made my a classmate regarding picky eaters. She said: "Who cares if you like it? It's food, you eat it." This was revolutionary to me. This thought, so basic, had never crossed my mind. I remember my dad trying to tell me that I would grow to like Swiss cheese like he did (and sure enough, I did), and I was so incredulous. How could I grow to like something I had no plans of eating? How could I like something that tasted bad? Eating is really wrapped up with pleasure for me. I hate eating things that don't taste good. And eating things that DO taste good is one of my favorite things! I have cried over a lovely meal before. And, oh shame, I have written angry Yelp reviews in response to icky dinners. So from this perspective, it just didn't make sense that you could force yourself to consume something that didn't make you happy. This very idea seemed to defile the soul. But when my classmate put it that way I felt like I was seeing the world anew. Of course! Food is for living! Enjoyment is not the point, living is the point!

And maybe that's where I am right now. There are all these things I don't want to do. But, I do want to do them because I want to be well. I want to be whole. I want to be near to my Jesus. But, doing them is just difficult and unpleasant, and it seems to violate the soul to do something I just don't really want to do. (Maybe it smacks of hypocrisy, as well.) It doesn't seem right to seek wellness this way. But I think of the paralyzed man near the healing fountain and what Jesus asks him: do you want to be healed? I want to sleep like a log but I don't want to swallow the Nyquil. I'm standing over the sink with the dosage in my hand and a palate cleanser on stand-by, but I can't throw the medicine back. But I need to take my medicine. Not tasting bitter, yucky things is not the point! Medicine is for living, and living is the point! 

But I worry also that I want wholeness, wellness for the wrong reason. I'm afraid that on some level I'm just chasing happiness. It's like that moment when my parents told me that dinosaurs and people lived on the earth at the same time, but then I watched Land Before Time and just kind of forgot about D is for Dinosaur. What I mean to say is, you can know something is true, but also forget about it while simultaneously believing that the opposite is true. And that's how I've felt about happiness. I've believed that the point of life is not happiness, and yet I've lived my life to make myself happy, not questioning the validity of my endgame.


So if I really believe the point of life is not happiness, that the point of life is Jesus, then I need to live that way. And I've been having a crisis about this, not just the past few months, but also pretty much my whole life, because I want to magnify Jesus with my life, but at the same time, it's hard.

If I'm honest, I want it to be easy. It's not easy.

But at the same time, it's not the big deal I've built it up to be in my head. How many times has my dad rolled his eyes at me pinching my nose with the Nyqiuil in my hand and entreated me, "Just take your medicine!" It's not a big deal. Obedience is simple and silent. It is without war. It just is. There is no hemming and hawing about what should and should not be done, there is no straining against the conscience. This is the gift of the law, that our task is clear. And even better, He equips us for it. It can certainly be difficult and unpleasant and that's why I don't want to do it, haven't been able to do it. But food is food, you need it to live. Obedience is obedience, I need it to live. I am not my own. I am His.

It's not Scripture, but I saw this video today:


And what strikes me about this is that the acts of the unsung hero are not difficult or amazing. He moved a plant over three feet. He gave an old lady some bananas. He didn't even talk to her! If that were me I feel like I'd have to ring her bell and have tea with her and learn about her life's story and her family and then give her something she really needs, not just hang a bunch of bananas on her door every evening, I mean, come on! But that's what keeps me from doing what I'm supposed to do. I draft a mental calculus of excuses and obstacles before I step out. The unsung hero just obeys. And conventional wisdom shakes its head. But obedience alone doesn't make the plant grow. The hand of the Creator gives our actions purpose.

I need to take my medicine. I need to stop anticipating how bitter it'll taste going down and instead step into the freedom of wellness and wholeness in obedience to Jesus. To do His will is to truly live.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Riding the train

Back and forth goes the train. Back and forth. 

South Station, Back Bay, Ruggles, Hyde Park, Route 128, Canton Junction, Sharon, Mansfield, Attleboro, South Attleboro, Providence. 

Back home. Away from the loneliness. Away from binge-watching TV and binge-eating M&Ms. Away from the classmates and the roommates I bring myself to connect with, away from the church I half-heartedly attend. Away from the lifestyle I can't really afford and the change I'm coping poorly with. Headed back home.

Providence, South Attleboro, Attleboro, Mansfield, Sharon, Canton Junction, Route 128, Hyde Park, Ruggles, Back Bay, South Station.

Back home. Away from the dirty bathroom. Away from the heart-achy conflict between people I love. Away from the church in transition. Away from the boy who dumped me. Away from the binge-watching TV and binge-eating Nutella. Headed back home. 

I spend a lot of time feeling miserable on the train. 

On the train I caught the breaking news about Ferguson, read about human rights abuses in North Korea, watched footage of Boko Haram aftermath. On the train I blew chunks, my breakfast in the train toilet in the darkened car, nervous about my new job and how I would fare. On the train I breathed deep, willing my stomach to stop twisting on the way to meet a boy for coffee. On the train I wiped tears away, sing-whispering to myself, "So pull me a little closer, take me a little deeper, I wanna know Your heart."

I step off the train and the world grows so much wider. Here international students are consulting a map, there roommates are reuniting with a hug. There's a young family doing a head-count, and a couple tightening their shoelaces and adjusting their backpack straps. The state house looms majestic on the grassy hill, or else the smell of the ocean blows in across the traffic. Tall buildings and clogged walkways remind me how small I am. I feel like my life's a catastrophe, but as they say, feelings are not facts. 

I'm going to ride the train sometimes. And sometimes I'll be escaping from what I don't like about my life in Boston, and sometimes I'll be avoiding what I don't like about my life back home, and sometimes that train ride will make me cry for the weakness of my heart, because I'm a little bit stuck with who I am. But at the end of the train ride is always perspective. The problems are small but His love is great. My God meets me in the mire. My God fights for me. My God lifts my chin to carry me through another week. His is a wide, wide world and His love fills the whole horizon. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Year in Review a.k.a. I need a less public coping mechanism

It's been a pretty eventful year for me. This time last year I was living in a foreign country, and now that I'm back stateside, I've moved to a new city, started a new job, and completed my first semester of professional school.

Uh, gah!

I get frustrated sometimes, because I feel like so little has changed. My parents still pay for my food when we go out. My stuff is still in boxes in their basement. I still sleep some weekends in a room with my sisters and our three matching bedspreads. I am still roughly the same person in roughly the same place. I keep waiting for the atomic life event that will level my life to the ground floor, refinement through the fire. I went all the way to Kazakhstan for that, and it was a drop in the bucket.

I'm getting the feeling that, like Bono crooned, "Oh, a change of heart comes slow . . .

When I look back at the events of the past year, I feel the need to emphasize that my life is not as great as it looks on Facebook. Actually, I am a mess. I really need people to know that. I have never felt more weak and dysfunctional in my life. It's like I have some tic or compulsion, that I have to attach an asterisk to everything. I think this is why I don't feel like I've grown, because every step forward is qualified. Those qualifications are me trying to be accurate and honest, me trying to explain that if I am growing at all, I am growing ever so slowly and clumsily and messily. 

I smile and then sigh. First job after college, but not really. First apartment, but not really. First relationship, but not really. A slew of messy, unfamiliar things that have brought the mess in me closer to the surface. I thought I was supposed to become more sanctified, not more dysfunctional.

But I forget that life is qualified, and all of these asterisks I want to attach to all of these things do not negate the fact that these things happened, and that they were new and difficult and growth-motivating. I'm trying to give myself permission to celebrate these creeping little mile-markers. I want growth to happen all at once when I'm allowed to be contented with faithfulness. It's okay that the going is slow, like, maybe that's even how it's supposed to be. 

The swift cycle of life changes does not mean an equally speedy change of heart. I have been feeling like that's a bum deal.

But maybe it isn't.