On Psalm 16 and the Dream That Has To Die

 

 

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Kristyn, am I still good?

The question echoes between my heart and mind.

I know the right cognitive answer: “Of course you’re good.”
But my heart pushes back: “This doesn’t feel good.”
But my mind knows that I’m not supposed to base my theology on how I feel.
But my heart has been begging me to let it feel for far too long.

Maybe it’s not an either-or. Maybe this can ache in raw and weighty ways and God can still be good.

There’s been a constant assumption about my calling throughout my life story thus far. It’s shaped me: shaped my goals, my ambitions, those deep heart desires that drive the waking up every morning. Shaped my pursuits, my relationships, my expectations. Every young-heart hope, every high school ten-year forecast, every college course and resume-builder framed with it in mind. I honestly find it deeply challenging to conceptualize my image of myself without it. It’s familiar. Safe. Good. Expected.

So what happens when obedience looks like walking an entirely unexpected way?

When the trust Jesus calls me to means it’s messy? When the implications of when he asks me to be faithful are agonizing to the point of anxiety-driven physical pain? When the core of who I’ve always believed myself to be is questioned with the simple

Will it always be “Jesus + _____” or will simply “Jesus” be enough?

I wrestle and start to understand in the wrestling that even the good thing doesn’t belong in the place in my heart to which I’ve elevated it.

The realization begins to set in that this dream has to die.

This dream has to die.

And oh, I don’t want to give it up. Nothing about this makes sense. Every stubborn bone in my being fights back and heart-breakingly sincere questions flare to the surface:

Why would you place this desire in my heart if you have no intention of ever letting me experience the fulfillment of it?

How am I supposed to even know who I am without this?

Do you realize what good-hearted, well-intentioned people will say and how much their words will hurt?

Where do I go from here?

What am I supposed to do with all this fear?

Friends, can we be real for a minute and acknowledge that the answers don’t always come in a neatly packaged revelation from heaven, and that sometimes the Spirit lets us be painfully uncomfortable in the questions so that we have to dig a little further, peel back a few more layers, struggle with the tension with a deeper desperation to truly, actually know the heart of God?

Sometimes that looks like a tear-soaked journal at 5am, with me, half-awake, scrawling out the Scripture prompt to start my morning, and only slightly comprehending the words I’m writing through the blur. But one phrase sticks with me as I go about my day. One phrase that keeps making an appearance in my mind, and it sure doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s not “relevant”. It doesn’t “speak to my situation”. And to be honest, I’m a little annoyed.

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places”.

Uh…nope. No, they have not, thanks.

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places”.

But, this boundary doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense. If you adjusted the line just a little bit…

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places”.

Ok, but why does everyone else’s boundary line include their dreams coming true, and my dreams have to be murdered? Not fair. Not fair at all.

Kristyn, am I still good?

The question echoes between my heart and mind.

So I dig, I peel back the layers, I struggle, desperately, with the tension.

Psalm 16:6 “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

“Boundary lines”, in Hebrew, hă·ḇā·lîm from chebel (phonetic spelling: kheh’-bel), translated as any of the following: the lines, territory, sorrows, pangs, pain (as in childbirth), measured portion.

“Pleasant places”, in Hebrew, ban·nə·‘î·mîm, translated as pleasant, sweet, or delightful.

How can it be that the sorrows, the pain, the territorial lines in my story that mark “this far and no further” — in such blatant contrast to an identity held so closely — are sweet? How can this portion that is measured so starkly out of reach of my heart’s most familiar longing be pleasant?  I keep struggling, and back up a verse.

Psalm 16:5 “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;  you make my lot secure.”

This portion is different. Manah: food (nourishment), choice portion/best available.

In reference to relationship with God, the portion isn’t measured — it’s abundant. It’s nourishing. It’s an invitation to life. Maybe the boundary lines, not negating all their sorrow and pain, can be sweet because the portion that is the Lord is the only portion that I need.

It doesn’t have to be “Jesus + _____” because simply “Jesus” is more than enough. 

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,  and in Christ you have been brought to fullness” (Colossians 2:9-10).

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

And the rest of Psalm 16, in the face of the honest questions and the raw ache and the very real fears, becomes a heart cry that I cling to and linger in:

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night, my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence,  with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:7-11).

Maybe obedience looks like letting my heart feel the hurt, but finally whispering aloud through the tension of grief that this dream can die.

You are still faithful.

You. Are. Still. Good. 

 

 

To the One in Search of Love that Drives Out Fear

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Hey Friend,

I see you standing there with your contagious laugh and your big heart, unknowingly spelling confidence with the way that you hold your head high, but your hands aren’t afraid to get dirty.

I see you as you smile, encourage, and genuinely care; how you serve faithfully, give generously, and support strongly, and don’t measure your success by how much credit you get for it.

You willingly go to the hard places and speak into the messy places and pour into the graceless places, because you understand that the Gospel that fuels you doesn’t stay where it’s safe.

You love well. That doesn’t go unnoticed. You are a gift.

Yet sometimes, when you walk out to your car, or up to your room, you sit for a minute and the weight of it all sits too. The brokenness you see and touch breaks your heart. Choosing joy doesn’t come easy.  Giving grace is hard.

And for some reason it feels selfish to think it, but if you pull back the layers enough, some of that weight comes down to something that’s not easy to acknowledge:

Fear.

With that fear comes walls. Walls you don’t actually want. Walls you are skilled at gently breaking down in others. Walls that you put up for protection but only feed the secret ache of wondering. Wondering who will dig a little deeper, stay a little longer, love a little harder for you. Wondering who will stick around long enough to carefully scale that barrier around your heart and want to stay when they know you for real.

But that scares you.

Maybe that comes from the very poignant reality that you have felt rejection in hard, deep ways.

Maybe that comes from a knowledge of how imperfect you are.

Maybe that comes from a place in your story where you aren’t quite ready to claim you have healed.

But when someone tries, you laugh, and say “God is good, life is full and I’m making it!”, promptly ask them about their hobbies, and inadvertently push them away.

Friend, let people love you too.

You care well for the hearts of others, let them care well for you.

Take the step of faith and share some of who you are. Let yourself trust, even just a little.

In all your giving, learn to receive.

In all your fear of being truly known, remember the One who knows you fully and loves you deeply.

You are known by a God who desires to take you into his confidence (Proverbs 3:34).

You are known by a God who takes great delight in you (Zephaniah 3:17).

You are known by a God who is near to you (Psalm 145:18)

You are known by a God who loves perfectly, and perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).

While raw insecurity hides deep in your heart, you are held in the everlasting arms of a Savior who will never let you go, who will always hold you fast, who always has been and always will be faithful.

I see how well you go to the hard places. It’s okay to let Jesus into the hard places in you.

Continue to love well, friend. And know that as deeply as you love, His love reaches deeper still.

 

Friend, Your Story is Not Wasted

Sweet friend, your story is not wasted.

Your story, with its twists and bumps and overwhelming, faith-testing hurts — your story, with its lens of sadness or tints of joy — your story, ordinary though it may be — your story….

It’s not wasted.

And right now, in the thick of it, when your emotions are so tangled you don’t even know what you feel, and tears slide silently down one cheek with every hidden, unnoticed sob, and bitterness threatens to dictate your next words, and you look at yourself and wonder how it all got here…

Know that your story is not a never-ending, exhausting cycle of how you feel, but a recipient of persistent, constant, faithful grace.

It’s all grace.

All. Grace.

Your story is not wasted. Not because someday you’ll pick yourself back up, or because we’re all a mess and it’s okay to be a mess together. Not because you manage to find the silver lining on the cloudiest days, or because eventually you’ll look back and see the lesson you were supposed to learn…

No.

Your story is not wasted because the grace of Jesus goes deeper than you could ever imagine, and while your pain-filled, trust-broken, bitterness-ridden, broken-hearted mess rages,

He cleanses. 

He comforts.

He convicts.

He does not waste a thing. Where sin runs deep, his grace is more. In the middle of your mess, he redeems you from it.

Sweet friend, your story is not wasted, not because of you, but because of Jesus.

This is the gospel. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Not because we were worthy, but for the glory of the Father, whose extravagant love saw fit to include us in his covenant grace story.

Your story is his, and his story is never a waste. Rest in the freedom of knowing, believing, clinging to the truth that your life, your hurts, your story…. belong fully to Jesus.

It’s all grace.

All. Grace.

 

 

When the Words Don’t Come

 

journal-and-pen-2I wouldn’t call myself a writer (yet), but I write.

When I write, I heal. I learn. I grow. I pour out.

God’s grace overflows when I write, and it’s tangible.

Written words are a way that I worship. They are a way I invest in people I love, that I deposit pent-up frustrations, that I reconcile confusion within my spirit.  They are a way in which I touch and see the presence of God.

Truly, my heart is in what is placed in my soul to translate onto paper.  And truly, it is a terrifying, beautiful thing when I sense the release of the Spirit to share those words to a broader audience than the pages of my journal. There is a heart-soaring, agonizing moment of wonder before I click “publish” that simultaneously doubts the necessity of sharing the burden in my spirit and also trusts that, having been faithful to write it, it will witness to Christ.

Sometimes, in my humanity, my words get it wrong and I am called to humility.

Sometimes, in my humanity, my words get it all too right and my pride feeds off the praise.

Yet, true to who Jesus is, He giveth more grace. Time after time, grace upon grace, and I marvel at the gentle,  mighty wonder that is our Savior.

But what about when the words don’t come? 

Because sometimes, they don’t.

It has been a season of stagnant words. Words that start, and tumble helplessly.  Sentences that have partially formed, yet still hang open-ended. Journal entries that are blank after the inscription of the date, and drafts in the admin portion of this site that continue to just sit.

It has been a season of overwhelming, conflicting emotion. Of confusion, joy, grief, and trust. Of loneliness, beauty, questions, comparison, contentment, surrender, and growth.

And I pick up the pen, one more time, place it to the paper, one more time….

and I wait.

Jesus, where are the words? Jesus, why this heaviness? Jesus, why can’t I write? Jesus, this circumstance, this death, the mourning, I don’t understand. Jesus, my time, it’s too full, I can’t do it. Jesus, why won’t the words come? Jesus, this ache, this longing for friendship, for being included, why does it hurt so much? Jesus, this long run, I’m scared and it’s dumb and I laugh but I’m terrified. Jesus, my writing, I need it, can I have it back? Jesus, why can’t I write? 

And I wait.

And the layers begin to peel back as the words don’t come and I linger in wondering why.

Because God is still God in the silence.

And maybe, when I get caught up in striving, my writing becomes my controlling and even though I protest with the core of my being, the silence is really an invitation to trust and rest.

Maybe, right now, I am being invited into a new thing.

And maybe I don’t need to desperately cling to what I know in order to truly know the beauty of Jesus.

Grace upon grace, He is teaching me to be expectant in the midst of when the words won’t come. And I marvel at the gentle, mighty wonder that is our Savior.

I Don’t Have Time {to Worship}

16-To-Do-List-Managers-as-Open-source-Web-AppsIt’s Saturday night, and I have an inordinate amount of homework to wade through.

It’s Saturday night, thus closing a week of intense spiritual warfare, where I’ve felt like the one losing.

It’s Saturday night, and all I can think about is the other thing I forgot to put on my list, and the pizza box I forgot to put in the recycling, and that one certain thing I like to think I’ve forgiven, yet from which I still struggle to heal.

I should charge my way through that towering stack of papers, worksheets, required listening, and midterm reviews, with the determination to see that “A” lighting up the top of each returned assignment and the satisfaction of a job well done.

I should know that the oh-so-real invisible war has already been won.

I should chip away at that to-do list one mini-goal at a time, refuse to let dumb little mistakes monopolize my thoughts, and surrender the healing process to the hands of the Great Physician.

It’s Saturday night, and my heart feels just as messy as my room. And trust me, that is a mess.

I should really clean my room.

I should really do a lot of things.

But this Saturday night, I am going to worship.

I’m going to clear off the piano bench, and sort through the lead sheets, and break the silence in this empty house at the top of my lungs, and not care that the neighbors will be able to hear every second of it. worship

I’m going to speak out loud the promises of God which have transcended through the centuries, yet still manage to pour vibrant life into my soul.

I’m going to belt out “Great is Thy Faithfulness” as a direct declaration that the entangling lies of the enemy have met their match in the character of my unchanging, omnipotent Savior.

I’m going to pour out my heart in the presence of my Resurrected Lord, because there is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  (2 Cor 3:17)

I’m going to declare, as the thousands upon thousands of angels and elders will declare:

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

 

As well as praise, as all creatures in heaven and on earth will praise:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

 

Not because of who I am, or how I feel, or for my own benefit, but because of who He is and because He is incomparably  and entirely worthy to be praised.

This Saturday night, I have a multitude of responsibilities and commitments and doubts and fears…and a whole lot of brokenness.

I don’t have time to worship. Which is precisely why, in response to the grace of Jesus, I will do exactly that.

            “We must never rest until everything inside us worships God.”  ~ Tozer

     “You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come, Lord,  stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”  ~ Augustine

 

Grief and Dancing: Vivian

Thursday night, I sat in the third row of a packed sanctuary, surrounded by the heavy sadness, lingering shock, and deep sobs of an all-too-soon funeral.

Friday night, I dressed up, went out with my friends, laughed, and danced away the night at my college Christmas banquet.

It almost felt wrong. This sorrow lasted longer than a night.

Thursday, I listened to an agonizingly beautiful lullaby, played and sung by heartbroken parents over their precious 17-year-old daughter, now still, and felt the unspeakable weight deep in the core of my being.

Friday, as energy pumped through the hall and excitement ran high, that music felt dreadfully empty.

The permanence of death didn’t sit well. Isn’t joy supposed to come in the morning? 

Thursday night, the ears of my heart listened in agreement as we talked of hidden pain, and depression, and the value of each voice speaking up and speaking out, breaking the silence in which the devil likes to do his dirty work.

Friday night, my mind wandered amid the motion as I couldn’t help but wonder why my secret battle ended after a few short months while hers ended her earthly life; and why a similar struggle had different outcomes, and why I don’t understand, and how it’s all just not fair.

Grieving is exhausting.

Thursday night, we talked about love. Fierce love. The fierce love of a mother relentlessly interceding for her daughter, and standing watch as she slipped away – escorting her from the arms of her earthly parents to the arms of her heavenly father with grace, and with the gut-wrenching acknowledgement that “This. Doesn’t. Feel. Well.”, but with the confidence of eternity in the presence of Christ.

And of the fierce love of the Spiritwho intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Thursday night, I sat directly behind a woman who played a huge role in my faith journey as a child – also a mother who has experienced the death of a child to different tragic circumstances.  As we mourned, in our separate seats but as a corporate body, I watched her raise her hands as we proclaimed “from life’s first cry to final breathe, Jesus commands our destiny” and knew she really, truly believed that. And as we listened to words of the unconditional love of God, I watched Vivian’s mama stand to her feet as if to acknowledge that any ounce of strength still pulsing through her system was a result of that deep overflow of love.

Because we do not grieve as those without hope. 

Friday night, I did laugh. I did dance. Not in flippancy, or in ignorance, or even in happiness. But because in the shadow of the cross, there is deep hope. There are deep promises. There is deep faithfulness. There is deep truth. And in the midst of our deep sorrow, there is a God whose character runs deeper still. That does not undermine our heartache. That does not diminish our bereavement. But in the words of our pastor, “grace runs downhill”, and in that flowing grace is deep victory over death.

As we deeply grieve, Vivian is dancing in that victory.