Monday, November 17, 2008

Peaks & Valleys

We have all had them. Mountain-top moments. Times and seasons in your spiritual journey that are drunk with the presence of God. The Word is alive, beating, breathing, and bleeding the power, love, and truth of the gospel over your soul. Your life’s meaning becomes crystal clear.

Colors are brighter; fragrances more potent and alluring, nature is suddenly singing “Holy! Holy! Holy!” Fellowship is sweet, encouraging, and fruitful. Relationships bloom with the beauty of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Everything; all aspects of your life are completely and utterly in perfect unity.

Then, out of nowhere, and for some unexplainable and unapparent reason… it all ends. Abrupt. Unwarranted.

Suddenly, sunrises are no longer welcomed. Silence is preferred over singing. Being alone is more comfortable than being in the company of friends. Joy seems a distant memory. And despite all your efforts; you can’t reason your way out of it.

At least, that is the way it happened to me.

Senior year of college is somewhat of a blur, for multiple reasons. For starters, it went by much too quickly. The fact that it is over is baffling to me. Secondly, fall semester and spring semester were spiritually polar-opposites.

Fall semester was the mountain-top experience I described earlier. Everyday was bright whether the sun was out or not. Every time I opened my Bible it was as if God transcended the heavens to come and sit next to me, translating every word into a language that spoke with passion and purity to my heart. The semester flew by, easily and with little or no stress. Only bliss. Only happiness. Only fun.

Then something happened over Christmas break. I literally woke up one morning and realized… I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Worse still, I didn’t know who I was. I had an identity crisis.

The entire spring semester, right up until graduation day, was a long, fierce battle for my sanity. I felt my faith deteriorate at the speed of light. Questions that I had never asked before suddenly drowned me. People I had criticized in the past for their lack of understanding, I suddenly identified with.

To say that I “struggled” merely scratches the surface. I was overwhelmed to a point of confusion and sorrow that I had only heard about. I was distraught and anguish burned within me… I felt completely alone. Deserted. Forgotten.

How could what I had and who I thought I was disappear? Had I tricked myself into believing I was someone that I had never been? How could I have grown so disillusioned with reality? How could I become so desensitized to my spiritual state of being?

Looking back at what, thus far, has been one of the most stretching experiences of my faith walk yet, I can not help but smile. Perspective will do that; because I can see now what I could not then.

The lessons I learned I don’t plan on forgetting.

Lesson One: Turning to others will not get you anywhere.
I am a highly relational person. Being able to confide in and identify with someone, on some level, it critical to me. It should not be a surprise to you then that during this season, I felt as if I could not talk to anyone. How could I? I didn’t know what was wrong; I couldn’t explain my own feelings because they seemed to have no source. Who in their right mind could relate?

Lesson Two: Sometimes God doesn’t speak.
This was the hardest lesson by far. I came to find that there are some things that He is able to teach us that don’t need words. This too went against all my natural inclinations. How was I able to stay close to a God that wasn’t responding to my prayers? How could I follow after a God that wouldn’t allow me to hear His voice?

Lesson Three: He is faithful.
Such a simple statement. It seems to say so little, but it encompasses so much. In the midst of every emotion; at the end of every question…there He was. Steady. Stable. Sovereign.

When I finally felt myself give up; when I finally decided to accept that this Walk was not going to be easy and conceded failure, I suddenly felt completely enveloped in grace and cloaked in comfort. I felt life breathed into me again.

I had to learn to walk again. I had to learn to let go and trust that when I lost my balance, He would catch me. So, with every new step, He spoke to me what each struggle was, why He allowed it, and how He would use it for my good and His glory. Everything I felt and fought was purposed. Go figure.

I was never lost. I was never alone.

So bring on the peaks. I like to climb.

Bring on the valleys. I’ve learned to crawl.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Look at the clouds! They’re so beautiful!

This is not just a statement. The above title is actually an excerpt from a song I wrote when I was… ready? Three years old.

The following lines went something like this:
You can see Shamoo! And all the dolphins!

Prodigy child… I know.

Despite my severe lack of musical gifting, that song came to mind the other day while I was driving to work at sunrise. I have seen sunrises all over the world, quite literally. I have been blessed with ample opportunities to travel extensively, but I have yet to find a place that has the consistency of breathtaking sunrises as much as Colorado.

Something dawned on me (yes I know, cheesy, but that’s how I role) when I was watching the sun explode over the horizon and light up Pike’s Peak like the fourth of July.

One of the (big) reasons that sunrises, and sunsets for that matter, are so spectacular is because of the clouds that are often in the way. I don’t know the exact science behind the chemical and biological makeup of clouds; how they are formed; what makes them disintegrate; what makes them big and bubbly or what makes them think and wispy.

All I know is that were it not for their apparent obscurity, we may give little or no notice to the power and majesty of the sun. We may not recognize the radiance and brilliance of the sun’s luminosity if it did not have something to shine on or shine through.

Consider with me if you will: as 6th graders we are told numerous times, “Don’t look directly at the sun.” Why? It’s more than our human eyes can behold. If we were to stare at the sun, our retinas would all be but singed. Our sight would be compromised. Our vision would become blurred and distorted. It is simply too much for us to absorb.

But, through lenses of clouds, that which is damaging about the sun is filtered and what remains is that which is intoxicating. Colors that can not be replicated. Patterns that can not be imitated. Scenes of seemingly endless expanses of skies that intoxicate the soul, romance the mind, and whisper to the heart of an artist that has been inspired by his passion and desire for his love. He creates such scenes as a way of describing the splendor and beauty of her; his bride. Words scarcely do her justice and no picture could capture all that lies within her heart that has hypnotized him.

I am a hopeless romantic…. Hopeless.

There is another way of looking at the same sky. This is way is a little less whimsical but to me, just as radiant and lovely.

As I stated earlier, clouds are obscurities. They are molecular occurrences that detract from a blemish free blue vastness. It is for this reason that many people complain when they appear. “It is cloudy out,” It is overcast today.”

I wonder if clouds are not more than just puffy pillows that float aimlessly. I wonder if perhaps, clouds are meant to reveal, literally and metaphorically, mysteries about the nature, character, and love of God. Could it be that we dismiss them too quickly as being purposeless accidents of high and low pressure systems?

What if, instead of being instigators of shade vs. sunshine, they were in fact the providers of promise? Stick with me…

A verse that has become as real to me as my slightly burnt tongue (thanks to my tea) is found in Romans 8:28 which says “He works all things together for good to those who love Him.”

What if clouds are those things in our lives that for a time obstruct our view of God? What if they are those things that seem to block out the sun altogether? What if they are those things that bring more shade than sunshine?

Ok, one more step before we reach the top…

If that’s the case, look back at where we have come from. Clouds were those things that we first stated are instruments used to glorify God, radiate His splendor, and magnify His power. So, if that is the case, wouldn’t the clouds in our lives result in the same beauty once the sun comes out? Will they not also become illuminated with the same essence? They too will glow in hughes that defy description.

So perhaps the next time you see sunrise or sunset, think of that thing in your life that seems to be eclipsing the sun and remember that, in God’s sovereignty, when the time is right, He will shed His light through it and good will flow fourth.

I wonder if this made any sense to anyone?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Poet Poser

The gentles breeze ruffles my hair
The fragrance of nature is subtle
Rays of light slip in and out of clouds
Warming my cheek like a kiss
Lying on a blanket of cool grass
I float between dreams and reality
Eyes closed, the melody of singing birds
Stills my soul
I feel you close, by my side
But I awake and am alone
For that brief, sweet moment
My rest was complete
Discontented yet again
I rise to start the journey over
I’m learning that those stops
However frequent or short
May be meant to teach and change me
But the sting? The open wound?
Will there be a time when, at the stop, on the mountain top
I will have a companion for the journey down?
Perhaps, but if not
I will simply walk faster
If I be alone, I’ll run with total abandon.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hard Heart No More

I rediscovered something about myself recently that I already knew। In fact, I have known for a while.
It’s one of those things that I won’t deny। I can’t. It’s too obvious.
I’m guarded.

Not guarded as in shy or reserved. In fact, most people would say I’m the opposite of shy; loud (unintentionally), outgoing, and boisterous at times.

But, like the shy person, I have developed ways in which to hide my insecurities. I guess everyone has.

My lovely mother pointed this out to me yesterday. On the one hand, I appreciate the fact that she spoke truth into me. Of course, I was immediately defensive and offended. “I have my reasons,” I thought to myself.

On the other hand, who likes to have their flaws pointed out? Who wants to deal with their baggage?

Then I heard the Lord ask “Why do you want to carry your baggage around?”

My deeply intelligent and oh-so-holy response: Because I’m comfortable with it; I can control it. And I can use it an excuse; a defense mechanism of sorts to ward off potential threats of… *fill in the blank*.

Picture with me if you will someone unknowingly digging themselves into a deep hole. That’s me. Moving on.

A girl from college once told me “Meredith, be careful you don’t guard your heart so much that you make it hard.”

I think I’m closer than I ever meant to get. And I’m not sure how I got there. So, instead of trying to pick apart my past, I’ve decided that I want to move forward with my future.

So I’m starting with prayer. A lot of prayer. Asking the Lord to soften my heart. That in and of itself is a harder prayer than I though it would be.

The one thing that I have noticed about being guarded is how scared I am. And I am tired of being scared. Because once I get over one thing, something else comes up.

Change, vulnerability, and the like are persistent things and I have run out of places to hide.

So, with fear still intact but with the decision to ignore it, I’m going to go out on a limb and do new things, trust more people, and try not to live out of my planner.