Tuesday, September 23

letting go and grabbing hold.

[Philippians 3:12-14]

"I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to posses that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." (NLT)

"Not that I have already obtained this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (ESV)

"I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward--to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back." (The Message)

"It's not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers and sisters, I myself don't think I've reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God's upward call in Christ Jesus." (CEB)

I had a really good meeting with Ron today, the first of many weekly check-ins, support sessions, and questions to be answered. It's such a blessing to have him so accessible, honest, and genuinely caring and wanting to pour into each student on campus.

I am beginning the process of letting go of a lot of things.
Here are some of them: 
  • I'm letting go of my standard of unattainable perfection.
  • I'm letting go of defining myself by my circumstances.
  • I'm letting go of projecting my standards onto other people.
  • I'm letting go of my pocket-sized God.
  • I'm letting go of the walls I've built up to protect myself from judgement.
  • I'm letting go of my standard of "good enough." 
  • I'm letting go of my tendency to internalize my emotions.
  • I'm letting go of doing things carelessly or out of routine.
  • I'm letting go of my self-determined inability to be happy.
  • I'm letting go of my fear of being content.
  • I'm letting go of the assumption that something bad is always about to happen.
  • I'm letting go of defining myself by my past.
  • I'm letting go of projecting a certain personality dependent on who I'm with.
  • I'm letting go of my compartmentalized life.
  • I'm letting go of ... a lot of things. A lot of junk. A lot of pain. A lot of bad. 
These are things that I am learning how to leave behind. They're some of the things that I held so tightly that they destroyed my ability to do anything else.
I'm not to a point of setting them alongside the road while I journey on without them yet,
but I am learning how to hold them loosely, to let God use and change them, as he uses and changes me
and there is something so...
so healthy about that.

All of this is well and good. It's necessary. It's important. Heck, it's essential. It's what life is about, Christian or not. You have to learn to leave things you no longer need in the past instead of carrying it if you're going to get anywhere.

It's like monkey bars, you've got to let go of things 
and trust that your grabbing, needy hand will be 
met with something more concrete than air, something 
better able to support you and launch you towards 
where you're going, instead of where you've been.

But that's the thing...
for every thing that you let go of, you're left with a void.
For every habit, assumption, coping mechanism, and way of doing life that I'm learning to hold more loosely, there has to be things that I'm drawing closer to.

I have to be grabbing hold of things.

This is what's important, because this is what I forget.
I very quickly define my progress in life as the things I'm leaving behind.
I think that's what our culture is defining as progress. It's how we evaluate ourselves.
"I don't do this anymore. I don't do that anymore. I'm not clinging to this old way of life."

...but what am I doing?
What am I throwing myself into?
What am I progressing in?
What am I grabbing hold of?

This list is harder. This list is counter-intuitive to the way I've envisioned my progress so far.
But this list is just as important, if not more so.
  • I'm grabbing hold of being an SLA and loving on my girls.
  • I'm grabbing hold of typewriters and the 'doodle ministry.' 
  • I'm grabbing hold of being the best student that I can be, in every area.
  • I'm grabbing hold of seeking a deeper understanding of who I am.
  • I'm grabbing hold of new knowledge.
  • I'm grabbing hold of my future through working on my education;
    • I'm grabbing hold of social ethics to apply to my practice someday.
    • I'm grabbing hold of my dreams for my career.
    • I'm grabbing hold of my ability to dream again.
  • I'm grabbing hold of the study of scripture.
  • I'm grabbing hold of the understanding I am gaining every day.
  • I'm grabbing hold of the community in which I'm living.
  • I'm grabbing hold of Christ's promises for me, scattered throughout His word and my life.
  • I'm grabbing hold of the things that move my heart: 
    • I'm grabbing hold of stories and case studies of broken people.
    • I'm grabbing hold of the ways God seems to be steering me towards working with adolescents.
    • I'm grabbing hold of relationships with professors and classmates as they present themselves.
  • I am grabbing hold of CASE and other opportunities to volunteer.
  • I am grabbing hold of ... progressing towards the woman of faith I was intended to be.

Grabbing hold, in many ways, can be harder than letting go.
It's one thing to let your fingers slip from the old bar, the old standard, the old coping... it's another to swing yourself forward using that momentum, to wrap your fingers around the next bar, the new standard, the new way of doing life.

But here's the thing.

If I don't grab hold of a new bar, if I don't take forward momentum, I get stuck.
Think of the monkey bar analogy again... I can not hang still by one hand for very long without falling off the band wagon entirely.
And I have done that before.
I have done that... a lot.
I've tried to go backwards, I've tried to regress, tried to return to the firm footing of the 'start'. 
And I have fallen down.

And again, here's the thing.

I don't hit the ground battered and bruised.
Sure, my hands are a little sore from the slip and my pride has taken a hit, but God sees to it that I get caught.
Usually He uses someone else's metaphorical hands in this.
He sees to it that I get scooped up into a hug, that I'm given a moment to put the breath back in my lungs. Sometimes my hands need bandaids, sometimes it's just my confidence in myself that needs to be restored.

And then I get put back on the monkey bars.
I don't get the firm footing of the ground when I fall. I don't go back to the beginning with the firm footing to step off from.
I never really get to collect my bearings before I get boosted to the same bar I was at before...
I don't have to rework all of the progress I've made since the beginning of the monkey-bar escapade called life, but I sure don't get to skip steps.
Sometimes I have to get put on the same bar multiple times,
Sometimes I have to get put on a bar right before in order to build up momentum again...
but I have to learn all of the lessons.
I have to let go time and time again of the same things in order to grab hold of better things.

Letting go is scary, and there is always a risk of falling down in the in-between times.
But there's also a risk of falling when both hands are clinging to bars...
but there is no journey in that.
There is no hope of anything better when we are unable to let go.

The hands of the Father are waiting,
let's all agree to try.

Thursday, September 18

settling in.

I’ve found myself back on campus,
and I have never really felt more like home.
Classes are getting into full swing,
I’m busier than I think I’ve ever been with school,
and yet I’m content.
I know that I’m where I’m supposed to be,
living where I’m supposed to live,
studying what I’m supposed to be studying,
…all of that good stuff.

Being an SLA is…
it’s a little bit stressful,
a lot bit crazy,
a smidgen of rewarding,
and mountains of “right.”
I know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to with this,
it lets me take my story and my life experience
and pay it forward,
put it into action with my girls.
(Mind you, there are 28 girls on my floor,
22 of them being first-time freshmen.)

ohhh, the journey of 18 credits at once.
A full time semester is 12 to 15 credits,
but I’m taking a 3 credit class
--“Tolkien’s Religious Imagination”—
that rounds me out to total chaos.
This class, however, is my favorite.
It hurts my head and blows my mind
because of all of the knowledge going around.
It fires up my heart
because of all of the religious parallels and connections
and it makes me feel like I can take on anything.
I can listen to Dr. C for hours,
which is good because it’s a 3 hour night lecture.
It’s just…
It’s a really good fit.

Aside from that, I’m taking
-Substance Abuse and Society (an online class)
-Honors Introduction to Philosophy
-Introduction to Social Work
-Human Behavior in a Social Environment
-American National Government

Everyone at home,
just rest assured that I know where I’m supposed to be.
It’s freeing, comforting, empowering…

It’s home.

Monday, September 1

Return to the Arbor

This blog sat idle for most of the summer because, well, there wasn't much to tell.
I worked full time on first shift at a factory in Hudsonville called Royal Technologies.
Honestly, there's about 85% of my summer stories.

But on Friday I returned to my second home; moving two hours from 616 to 517: Spring Arbor.
My family knows that it's nothing against them at all, but I've been ready for this day for months.

Now that I'm here, though, I'm realizing a lot of things... one of them:

I'm responsible to help ease the transition into and foster the spiritual growth of 22 freshmen girls.
Can anyone just take a minute to sit with me and think about the weight of that?!
I've told each of them today that as their "Spiritual Life Adviser," it's not my job to preach Jesus at them. It's not like I have all of the answers to life's deepest questions and, as one dad (albeit it sarcastically) asked me today, I can not recite the entire bible.
I can, however, have an open door, open ears, open arms, and an open heart.
After a few very long days this weekend of SLA training, talks with my wonderful RA-Becca, some serious self-examination of my heart, many many prayers, more than a few cups of hot caffeine, and my finally starting to get settled in with my roommate, Corina, today...I'm feeling more and more confident that this is what I need to be doing.
One of the important things that was stressed at training was that we should never feel completely prepared. Total preparedness means that our dreams are within reach by means of our own strength. We were really encouraged to make goals that would require us to rely on God more fully. This is something that's hard for me: I want to pick a reasonable goal, take logical steps, and make plans to carry it out. Unfortunately this really isn't going to be a thing that will get me through this year.

I can already tell that this year is going to be an amazing one, but doubtless, there will be bumps.
From the few short hours that I've known them, I can tell we've got so many different personalities, family lifestyles, personal habits, relational approaches, and life perspectives.
Yes, I am excited.
But I'm also anxious.
Because I know that I, in my own strength, am not enough.
But in Christ, I am fully enough.
I have everything that I need.

It would mean so much to me to know that this ministry would be lifted up in prayer by those of you back home. (Lord knows I'm going to need extra measures of almost everything!)