“There’s no point in thinking through it, because there’s no way to know the answer to that question.”
Or is there a point?
I love to think, even about questions that don’t have answers. Or rather, questions that we won’t know the answer to while we live on this earth.
They don’t frustrate me. Because in asking the unanswerable questions, I’m increasing my wonder and amazement. I’m putting my heart and mind in a position that makes me remember
that I am human and God is not;
that my knowledge is limited and God is all-knowing;
that I have a pea brain and God thought up everything in existence.
Framed the right way, all those topsy turvy thoughts and mind-boggling questions about life can end in wonder, not frustration. What better place to be?
I can think through impossible questions for the sake of thinking about them.
I don’t have to be frustrated because I don’t understand. Instead, I can be amazed that He does.
“Daniel replied, ‘No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.’”
- Daniel 2:27-28
While we were still in lockdown, I walked alone to the grocery store. I passed a park with a grassy area — uncharacteristically sloppy, unkempt, and overgrown, making the deserted streets look even more like a ghost town. Looking up, I saw Spanish flags with small, black bows in memory of the ones the virus has taken.
Last week as I was buying groceries, the entire store fell into a hushed stillness as we paused for 60 seconds to remember those no longer here.
A few days ago I spent time with a friend who told me she still feels a bit “messed up” from the seven weeks we spent in our apartments without leaving. No doubt many of us are, in various ways.
With more freedom to move around and gather, funerals are finally being held for the ones that were buried in a hurry. Tens of thousands of people are grieving right now, even as Spain’s street cafes and bars begin to pulse back to life.
While we return to shop and spend and do business and see friends, to return to “normal” after all of this would not be right or healthy. To move along as if nothing happened would be a mistake.
To skip the step of processing and mourning would be a mistake. Although of course we rightly delight in moving around and seeing loved ones and enjoying life, hurriedly returning to superficial happiness and comfort is not the priority here.
Landing in peace and joy after wading through grief, hard conversations, and a good bit of self-examination is more important right now.
I want myself and all of us to meaning out of all of this. This strange virus is not a random biological event. There is meaning and much to learn and we have to mine for it, sift it out, and be okay if that process involves sitting in some discomfort and awkwardness.
I hope we take a uncomfortable moment to think about life and death.
I hope we treat each other more kindly and tenderly than we used to.
I hope we cherish relationships and look into each other’s eyes.
I hope we stop to ask friends how they’re really doing right now, then listen to the answer.
I hope we learn how to be more human and less like our own gods.
I hope we remember for a long time to come that we can’t count on our perfectly-laid plans for the future.
I hope we reflect on how we want to change and ways that this has shaped us.
I hope we cry with those who are crying and rejoice with those who are rejoicing.
I hope we feel our spirit yearning for life and listen to the One who created it.
Today I cried. My heart is heavy, thumping inside of me.
Yesterday I put my boots on and took them walking to try and process everything: Spain’s lockdown that now seems like a dream (a bit of a bad dream), thousands of Spanish families grieving simultaneously, my friends in the US arguing about coronavirus, a man who was killed and the other man who had a hand in it, protests that highlight the hurt, people who riot, and my own selfish heart that I see more clearly every day.
All of these things (and so much more) wrapped into this moment of our existence. I am heartbroken and bothered by all of it.
Silly me! As if all of that can be predictably processed with a pen and paper in one afternoon. As if I could arrive at some sort of clarity after pounding out several miles.
I’ve felt so heavy and so confused the past few days thinking about George Floyd. I’ve prayed formless prayers with long silences. I’m having a hard time sorting through my own thoughts and certainly haven’t had words to say. I don’t know how to be or what to do.
This morning, I woke up to hear that one of the cities I‘ve come to care for was trashed last night. I caught up on news and have watched the riots with disbelief and the protests with my heart in my throat and tears in my eyes.
Finally, I cried.
When talking and words seem like too much and not enough all at the same time, it seems like the only thing to do is grieve along with everyone who is grieving — most of all the Lord who is, no doubt, more brokenhearted than any of us as He looks at what we have done with this world and His images. “I’m sorry” is appropriate, because I know I have disrespected the humans in my circle who He loves dearly.
I must take a long, awkward look into my own heart and ask God to “search me and see if there is any hurtful way in me” (Psalm 139:23).
I do that knowing that I am not perfect,
knowing that there are “hurtful ways” in me,
knowing that I need to see what needs to be fixed,
knowing that Christ will clean me and change my heart as I also work to change.
And finally, I have the ability to look inside the dark places of my heart without despairing because I know I am loved by Him in the middle of the whole process.
May I follow Jesus and sacrifice myself, my comfort, and my pride for the good of every person around me.
I rolled out of bed with a headache this morning. Things are starting to catch up to all of us at this point.
The world continues to reel and we are dizzy with the spin of it. I ache for my affected friends and pray and continue to sit in my home.
My back is rebelling against all that time sitting combined with the unusual living room workouts I’ve been doing. Can’t sit and can’t stand and “I can’t wait until I can go for a walk to work out the kinks,” I thought to myself. Instead, I got creative with a standing desk for today and mentally braced myself for a few more weeks of this.
It is easy to feel as though this life we are living right now, this daily movement confined to a few hundred square feet, is a sort of half-life. Like life is on hold until things return back to “normal.”
But it’s not on hold! This very day is my life. This is no half-life! This is the real deal — today.
Henri Nouwen wisely said, “While optimism makes us live as if someday soon things will get better for us, hope frees us from the need to predict the future and allows us to live in the present, with deep trust that God will never leave us alone.”
And so while I long for future wholeness, I live in the present. Maybe a heart full of hope means not thinking about tomorrow much at all — not worrying about the hardships that are sure to come, nor pining with flimsy optimism for the good days we want.
Instead, I should live firmly planted in the present day, the life I’ve been given. I will ground my feet to the earth (or in my case, the floor) that’s beneath them and live this day as I’ve lived all the other ones of my life: with the grace and strength I’m given.
C.S. Lewis gives a great reminder for our overactive minds: ”Remember, one is given the strength to bear what happens, but not the 101 different things that might happen.”
I have strength for this very day and I’ll live it as if it were the realest day of my life! And it is. I was, quite literally, born for this day.
I’ll live this day in the same way and out of the same identity as I’ve lived all my other days. There is strength and mercy for this present day. Tomorrow morning I’ll get more.
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)
2019 was good! And it was weird. Very unusual. I’m having trouble coming up with another word for it.
And here I am, almost two weeks into 2020, and having the marker of an old year and a new year does seem appropriate as I figure out how to categorize 2019 and how to be in 2020.
I’m ending 2019 and counting it as the past. I move on from the unsure choices I made (even if I’m still unsure about them). I move on from the decisions that were made for me and the ones I didn’t want to make. I move on from the confusion and all questions I asked. I learned so much.
I leave those things behind, having grieved what needed to be grieved, knowing that I brought decisions to the Lord for guidance, trusting that I made the best choices I could, and rejoicing that I have been shaped in tangible ways by the things that happened to me.
Still open to learning from all that 2019 held, on a practical level, I leave it behind and focus on and look forward to the things to come. I don’t know what they are, but I know they’ll be good. Why?
John Steinbeck said this in a letter to his son: “Nothing good gets away.” I don’t think he was thinking along the same lines as me when he wrote it, but I can get behind it. (If you’ve never read this lovely letter, read it here.)
Because for me, a daughter of God, secure in Christ, nothing good gets away! I strive toward goodness, holiness, and choices that honor Christ. I see God working in me and I actively receive the gifts I see the Lord giving me. And in the end, no matter what a given year holds, I can live freely and with great hope because none of my “good” gets away.
The best things in my life — my identity in Christ, the joy, hope, and love I have in God — are secure. I have them forever and always. There is no losing from here on out as I walk with Jesus. My future is bright. So, I process the past as I need to, then move forward to more learning, growing, and serving the Lord and those around me.
In 1 Samuel 16:1, the Lord says to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul…? Be on your way.”
Be on your way! Process it, mourn it, grieve what you need to, and then be on your way. Upward and onward to a good unknown.
I move forward unsure of myself, but sure of God. I move forward with a spirit of adventure, trusting as I live this story.
Someone, flustered by disorganization and their scattered thoughts, told me “I’ll get my life together soon.” I just said “We never do. That’s a myth.”
Getting our lives together is a myth. When I was newly out of college (and still sometimes now!) I would get home and just say to myself “you’re doing it, Rebecca! You’re doing this adult thing.” I say that to myself because I realize I’m trying and failing sometimes. I’m playing the game. I’m in the ring. That means I’m doing this thing called life and, dare I say, doing it successfully.
“Adulting” successfully is not doing things perfectly, but rather giving it a go every morning. I’m convinced that sometimes it’s the attempt that matters. That is adulting, this is life, and no one ever actually “gets it together” or figures it out because, among other reasons, life is constantly changing.
In fact, if someone has it so “together” that they never seem to fail.. then I’m afraid they’re not really living life at all, they’re managing and controlling and doing what they can but not what they could.
Assured success: that’s my comfort zone. I want perfection and successful execution of whatever I set out to do, so I tend to pick things that I know I can do. Bad place to camp out.
Can good habits be cultivated? Can success and excellence be pursued. Yes, and they should be and that’s what I strive toward. But the first step is often an attempt and maybe a fail, and lots of grace and kindness for yourself in the trying-failing-success process.
If you’re engaged and open and feeling and dreaming and trying and failing and crying, you’re doing it. Be brave enough to be vulnerable enough to try and fail.
“Learn a foreign language,” they say. “It’ll be great,” they say.
What they don’t tell you is that it’s all well and cool until your foreign language becomes a bully and starts doing a number on your native tongue. What they don’t tell you is that you’ll question your sanity and your intelligence when you start forgetting words in your native language. Or that in acquiring a new language you’ll feel like you’re un-acquiring the only language you actually know (knew?) how to speak with 100% fluency.
Can’t put together a coherent sentence thanks to the lio of languages in your head? You’re not alone. There are at least two of us. And then there are the other super-humans who have mastered another language (or multiple!!) and somehow still manage to speak well.
But not to worry, learning a language really is worth the pena and if all else fails, there are always gestures.