back to the basics

i feel like life is mostly just relearning the same lessons again and again. like God’s got a few things i NEED to understand and He’s just gonna keep driving them home until i get it (which we all know i only will for about sixteen seconds, hence, the review courses). and the funniest part is i always think i’ve learned it at last: “AHA. i get it! people are complicated!” or “we live in a broken world, duh.” these glorious, overarching, life-altering lessons are put into embroider-able segments or 140 characters: summed up in some simple sentences that are more over used than my favorite pair of pajamas.

i knew He was doing a review lesson when anecdotes i’ve quickly said to hurting friends while rubbing small circles on their backs started to haunt me and taunt me. silly me to think i had rescued dear souls with these quick fixes: i know full well it’s usually the most basic things that dumbfound us most, no matter how many times we’ve learned the lesson.

He’s been reteaching me the basic aspects of leading an existence that’s out of my control. phrases i always thought were common knowledge and lessons i thought couldn’t be easier to execute have become His lesson plans this month, and those easy words hold a new kind of weight now. because in the past few weeks i have been seen to crumble under false assumptions, operate out of unhealthy mindsets, and desire things that are impossible feats. and we all do some weeks. but rather than continuing in those mindsets and fighting for things that just exhaust me and prove fruitless, God’s been answering my prayers for clarity in some pretty mundane and insane ways.

lesson #1: people are complex creatures. humans are this huge mix of fears and passions, of dark spots and kind smiles. i would be sorely mistaken to think of myself as the only one without any faulty wiring, but that’s usually where i start to misunderstand the happenings around me. when i refuse to acknowledge my own areas of weakness, i choose my role as the victim and the complexity of human interaction turns into utter chaos. but on the other hand: when i refuse to see my own brightness, i can choose my role as the villain, beating myself to a pulp over wise choices made out of love because i don’t believe myself to be capable of kindness when i just showed it.

& I’m realizing i cant do either of those.

i want to see myself and others as fully functioning humans with beating hearts, crippled at times by fears and vices, but nonetheless alive with passion and joy. i don’t want to simplify the world into black and white, because there are too many beautiful colors that get destroyed in that process.

lesson #2: this world is broken. as much as it pains my sensitive heart, the truth of the matter is i will be hurt again. rad, right? oh, and no matter how i tiptoe around and try to handle things with kindness: i will hurt those i love regardless of my intentions. it’s just peachy. no amount of compassion can shield those i love, because without meaning to my choices might scar them. this world is messy, and feelings are fragile, and life is complex. it’s beautiful, this living, but it’s scary because it’s multifaceted. things never have been simple and they never will be. i can either be paralyzed by this news, or i can keep moving, keep choosing, and keep praying in the midst of the complexity. because i can’t count on having any semblance of control over my measly life: as soon as i think i have something figured out, it falls apart. or something else comes up and making a choice that seemed so easy yesterday now has baggage and it’s heavy. pain is part of the game, we can’t avoid it as hard as we try. and believe me, I’ve been known to try.

in my trying, I picked up a good amount of hefty baggage to carry (we all know I’m a chronic over-packer). there were suitcases full of the times i had wounded the ones i cared about. there were packages stuffed with instances i was let down by people i let in. i kept missing trains, missing new opportunities to care for people because i was so weighed down by the fear i would cause another mess or get my heart trampled on yet again. i tried to board a few trains but anyone thats travelled knows it’s only easy when you pack light. and my over-packer tendencies and my need to hold onto mistakes was getting me no-where.

a few weeks ago my mentor spoke some words over me that have freed me from that horrible habit of overpacking (well just the fear baggage, not for vacations. one day i’ll only pack a carry-on, you watch). as i spilled my heart out to her on the metal mesh table we sat at, the words rushed out frantically, looking for a place to reside. the fear and panic tumbled over each other, slipping through the cracks on the table and landing back on my lap. i felt re-paralyzed by things i thought i had under control that were never really in my power. i thought that by saying all my fears aloud they would dissolve, that i would be able to laugh them off. nope, here they were, real and ugly and absorbing back into my skin. but before they could sink in, she looked me dead in the eye and said: “you will be hurt again. & you will hurt other people. as much as that hurts to hear, you can’t avoid living and breathing and stepping forward because of the fear someone might get hurt.”

my skin can’t soak up that fear anymore. today I’m not paralyzed by the fact that i can hurt people and they can hurt me. today I’m remembering that i can’t take care of everyone. and i know that tomorrow will come and the fears will return and i’ll have to remind myself that this life is something like a dance, where i’m gonna hurt you and you’re gonna hurt me because life is delicate and things aren’t in our control: but that doesn’t take away our ability to care in the midst of the stumbled waltz.

lesson #3: my words can’t fix everything. regardless how eloquent, regardless how true, regardless how compassionate: they will fail. that doesn’t diminish their boldness or their clearness, but no amount of care or clarity can bind up broken hearts with a snap of a finger. i should know from experience that healing wounds need a few weeks and some fresh air, yet i rush in like an inexperienced doctor, trying to put bandaids on flesh wounds. that’s what my words can be like in the midst of wreckage, stifling the fresh air that would swoop in if i stayed quiet. and many times thats whats needed: sitting in silence, remembering my words aren’t some magic balm, that just saying some sensible sentences doesn’t right the nonsensical aches of our hearts.

but yet there are so many times i want to fix the fears around me with some words of bravery, or make my syllables into a shield to protect the battle weary soldier sobbing beside me. but I’m relearning that most times a prayer does much more. staying quiet and letting God do the talking usually works best, and reminds me that contrary to popular belief: i don’t always have the right answers, and i am not in charge (thank Jesus for that, am i right?)

God’s been teaching me a lot recently in waiting in the tension and trusting Him when my words fall short. He’s been asking me to lean on Him, to let Him be enough, to be content when my words aren’t enough to fix everything and everyone. I’ve been learning i can sit in the understanding that He will work through me as well as despite me, that the ruckus i’ve caused or the tension i’m sitting in doesn’t affect His healing powers. sometimes the tension is just what He needs to pull us closer to Him.

i’m someone who is enamored by the idea of reconciliation. i think anyone that subscribes to the gospel should crave redemption, but for me its become this love affair of sorts. i get swept off my feet, wooed and mesmerized by the faintest suggestion of wholeness and forgiveness, conveniently forgetting that attempting to fix things doesn’t always make things better. i ignore the fact that redemption doesn’t come in my timing: because sometimes things are broken and i’m incapable of fixing them. sometimes i need to sit in the muck of this shattered world and weep for it. sometimes that friendship won’t be mended today or that child won’t be saved tomorrow. sometimes His timing makes no sense and aggravates me, my Savior of grace keeping me from my idea of reconciliation in my timing. that need for redemption becomes my saving grace in those moments, and that need can destroy.

i’m not saying grace isn’t His ultimate goal, because it is. but there is tension in the timing. we think it should be now, He knows it should be later. it can be absolutely aggravating if you want a situation to be redeemed on your terms more than you want His saving grace, but it can be freeing if you know He will bring glorious restoration in His perfect timing.

i’ve been realizing that compassion isn’t always the best course of action. sometimes i need to be lured off my ledge of “i can fix it all and NO ONE CAN STOP ME.” because fighting the tension is futile. things will be tenser than tightropes, and I’ve been realizing that in some cases need to be. in these tense things, we only have His hand to hold through the nights we realize that one person we want to fix we aren’t capable of mending. in the tension, we learn patience and gain peace and come to understanding and remember His goodness.

so sit in it. sit in it until its redeemed. because we can’t give up on redemption,  and we can’t let it lure us away from the real Saving Grace.

lesson #4: time is on your side. we live in a world that tells us that we needed to know yesterday what we want tomorrow. a world that demands answers, demands results, demands assurance & reassurance. but we are fumbling souls, overwhelmed at the slightest decision and unable to simply choose, because there’s so much pressure to know it all, to commit to all and to NEVER falter on it. we think time is out to get us. we force ourselves into corners in wide open fields. we feel claustrophobic in the great outdoors.

but time should make us feel free: because the truth of the matter is we don’t have to know it all today, or tomorrow even. that’s another thing my sweet angel mentor spoke over me: “time is your friend.” I don’t think i ever really knew that before she said it. i live in this world of deadlines and due dates, of hurrying and of ending. and there is good in that, in pushing myself and making decisions and being assertive. i am all for being bold and knowing where i stand and staying there. but maybe that’s not where i’m at today. maybe I’m feeling shaky and uncertain and terrified. maybe the world’s all too much and making a choice in the fog seems foolish (hi because IT IS.) so I’m letting myself slow down. I’m letting myself have a second or so to figure it out and to get my footing. I’m giving myself some room to breathe and some time to settle. because, although the little planner in me is not too pleased, i don’t have a plan. things are as uncertain as they have always been, and i think i’m finally okay with that.

“you ain’t got nothin but time, and it ain’t got nothin on you.”

these review lessons have begun to do a work on my worrisome heart. things still don’t make total sense, and i know i will have to study them again tomorrow, but God’s reminding me i’m worth reteaching, even if its minute by minute.

i should make some flashcards.


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