It’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.
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
I know I’m not around much. I know I keep saying we should go on another sibling date and don’t follow through. I know that I don’t do the dishes my fair share, and I don’t show up for all your events, and I’m not home for late-night chats and silly face competitions much any more. I know it feels like I brush you aside sometimes. I know my college life is almost as challenging to keep up with for you as it is for me. I know I don’t say it enough (as in…ever), but I miss you. And as I watch you grow up, albeit from more of a distance now, there are a few things I want you to know. Things I wish I would have known. Things people probably told me, but I didn’t listen to because those people were adults who were supposed to say stuff like that. But right now, I’m only sort of an adult. So, from the heart of your big sister who really does love you a whole lot, here goes.
1. I like you. I really actually do think you two are great human beings. I mean, you’re hilarious. Both of you. And smart. Like, ridiculously, unfairly intelligent and smart. You’re thinkers and doers. You’re not ashamed of what you believe. You are friendly, likable, entertaining, and witty. I have fun with you. Very few people can make me laugh as much as you two. You’re both different, and that’s a good thing. J, you help me understand how guys think (or, at least I try to understand), and B, you teach me how to be truly thankful for girls whose disposition is the exact opposite of mine. Both of you inspire me with your unique faith journeys, and the different ways you express who Jesus is to you and who you want him to be in your life as you learn to know him more. J, I like your style. B, I like your stories. I like your personalities. I like your hearts. I like you.
2. I’m not perfect.
Lets read that again: I am not perfect. That statement could not be more true. Maybe you don’t see it, maybe you’re sick of living in the shadow of your older sister who always does everything right, maybe I imply that I am by telling you how to do things all the time – but I’m not. I make mistakes. Sometimes I make intentional choices that are wrong. I hurt people, I’m not always compassionate, I don’t live out love very well, and I’m an incredibly self-centered person. Maybe from what you see, looking up to me, I have it all together. But I don’t. And here’s a secret…no one does. Not a single person. We’re all broken, and that includes me. I need grace desperately, and anything “good” that I do is by grace alone. Strong brother and sweet sister, I love you dearly, but don’t make me the standard by which you live your life. Look to Jesus. You don’t have to compare your actions to mine – instead, follow the example of Christ. He is the only truly perfect older brother you will ever have.
3. You have awesome parents.
Stop rolling your eyes, no one bribed me to say that. But you really do. Mom and Dad take their calling to invest in your lives seriously, and they probably know you better than anyone else. Know that while sometimes they make mistakes and can be frustrating and confusing…they walk by grace too. Be willing to offer them a little. They have life experience that you can’t even come close to claiming. They know Jesus, and in discipling you they are fulfilling a responsibility given them by God. You can trust them. You can share things with them. They are truly wise, they desire to see you walking in the truth, and they are willing to get their hands dirty in training you how to do that. They want to have a good relationship with you, but that has to go two ways, and for you to experience that blessing you have to be willing to put your effort in as well. Believe me, having a good relationship with Mom and Dad when you head off into the big crazy world is invaluable – and the time to build into that is now. Don’t miss out.
4. You don’t need to rush.
Yeah, that whole relationships thing. It’s a pretty big topic to tackle, and quite frankly, I don’t want to. But here’s what I have for you: it’s okay to slow down. What’s the hurry? You have your whole life ahead of you, and high school has enough drama of it’s own without the whole dating dynamic. Take it from someone who’s run the gamut of perspectives – I know the difficulty of having to be the one to end a relationship, and the hurt of being the one rejected; I understand a little of the ache of wanting there to be someone when there simply isn’t, and the peace of being confident in the decision to not “put myself out there”. Contrary to popular opinion, the fact that I didn’t date in high school was not because mom and dad had ridiculous rules (although boundaries they did have), it was because I intentionally chose that I didn’t want to deal with that scene at that point in my life. And looking back, I truly treasure that time. Honestly, sometimes a little part of me wants to go back to when it was simple and easy and relationships weren’t difficult to navigate because I didn’t have any self-imposed pressure to “find someone”. J, some girls are gonna throw themselves at you. Treat them with respect, dignity, and gentleness, but set your standards high and be strong in those standards. Constantly be in Scripture and learn to be open to the word “wait”. It’s not a race. There’s time. Let yourself mature as a man of God before involving the sacred emotions of another heart in your decisions. B, fall in love with Jesus before you let your heart focus on anyone else. You don’t have to be constantly wishing for what’s next, but instead enjoy every moment as it is given to you – these days are precious! You do you, girl, but choose to set your sights on things of eternal value. Honor your brothers in the faith. Surrender your relationship fears to Jesus. It’s not a race. There’s time. Grow into the woman God has called you to be and exuberantly serve him in whatever capacity he places you. And both of you are welcome to sit me down anytime and we can talk and pray through this whole crazy trust adventure together. I mean that.
5. People will fail you, Jesus will not.
Mom and Dad will fail you. I will fail you. You will fail each other. Your friends, employers, coworkers, professors, advisers, and mentors will fail you. Basically, people can be pretty stupid. Love them anyway. But don’t live your life for the purpose of impressing fallible people. Don’t compare yourself to the individuals surrounding you, because someone will always come up short. Don’t wrap your identity in the acceptance that you receive from other people, because it will never satisfy, it will never be enough. You are called by God and equipped with his Spirit to make his Name known and be a blessing to the nations – seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Pursue holiness. Walk in truth. Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. Seek the approval of Christ and walk in accordance with his Word. He is always faithful. He will never fail.
I love you, brother mine and sister dear. I really do.
Oh, and today I washed all the dishes, just for you.
All through high school I thought I had the four years after graduation figured out. I knew I was generally expected to dive right in to college and I was determined to follow through. I knew what I wanted to study and knew the general location of where I wanted that to be. I knew I wanted to attend school loan-free and complete it debt-free. I knew I would be paying for my own education and that I would graduate at a younger age than the average student. I knew there would be challenges, but I was confident to face them. I was familiar with the idea of a gap year and at moments would entertain the possibility, but for the most part, I decided against it. I knew a year out of school would mess everything up. Yep…I had it all figured out.
Senior year brought a flurry of activity, and with it came that multitude of college applications, essays, forms, visits, and scholarship and financial aid paperwork (as well as the vast overabundance of mail and phone calls.) It also brought a growing level of uncertainty. After every meeting with an admissions counselor and every conversation with a prof, I would picture myself in that particular academic setting and point out all the things I admired and appreciated – yet my heart would be uneasy. I wasn’t nervous. Neither was I excited. Deep down, I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Not “there” as in a specific school…”there” as in college itself. And I really did not want to accept that realization at all.
I had everything figured out, remember? It was all lined up. I wanted the challenge, the adventure. I wanted to share post high school experiences with my friends. I thought I wanted to live up to the cultural expectation of “college after high school because that’s just what you do.” It all made sense. Still, I had no peace. I was pursuing my plans instead of pursuing God’s will. That, my friends, is a dangerous place to be. In the words of Corrie ten Boom, “There are no ifs in God’s world, and no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety. Let us pray that we may always know it!” So gently, firmly, and with oh-so-much love in His voice, God began to impress these words upon my heart:
“Stop. Stop the pursuit. Stop forging forward. Rest in me. I have so much more I want to share with you. So many ways to reveal myself to you. I want your full attention. I want you to know me closely, personally, intimately. Stop.”
Every protest and excuse and struggle that I spewed forward fell flat (of course) and the deposit day came and went without a place for the next semester reserved in my name. My files were put aside for potential future reference. My years of careful planning were completely gone within a couple of months. I was left with two things: absolutely no idea what I was doing in the fall, and a whole lot of peace. When the Lord of the Universe calls you by name and desires a deeper relationship with you, cultural expectations pale significantly in comparison.
What is it that I believe? What do I stand for? How do I live it? In what ways can I serve? Most importantly, who is the reason I’m seeking answers to these questions, and how do I know Him? Really know Him? This is the ultimate purpose of my gap year. To make use of the space, take time to listen, step back and learn who my Jesus really is.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith inChrist—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11
The time when many of my friends set out to begin or continue their college adventure and I, well, don’t.
Trust me when I say that it’s been a journey of reliance and surrender for me to accept that college is not where I am supposed to be right now. And that the month of August is especially hard because it seems like all anyone ever talks about (minor generalization) are class schedules, move-in day, and last-minute important details ~ conversations in which I cannot fully participate.
However, before you get the idea that I plan on sitting around moping all year, waiting to figure out what to do with myself for the rest of my life, let it be known that while some uncertainty still remains, I am greatly excited for what The Father has in store for me this year! It has been so much fun coming up with ideas and making list after list of ways to fill my time, and it has been wonderful seeing certain details fall into their pre-ordained place. I’ve begun to envision my main goals for this year and I am quite literally thrilled to begin experiencing them! So without further ado…five ways to thrive when your friends leave for college.
1. Engage in community.
Simply because you aren’t in a situation where you are “forced” to meet new people and make new friends, doesn’t mean you have to sit around hopelessly longing for the good times with all the people who are away at school. It just means you have to take a little more initiative! Having a community of peers and mentors who will uplift and encourage you in your walk with Christ is oh-so-very needed as you grow. Take a step out of your comfort zone and attend your church’s young adult ministry, get involved in a Bible study in your area, organize get-togethers with co-workers, start corresponding with out-of-state acquaintances, go out for coffee with an older woman you respect, really take time to get to know your siblings, you fill in the blank. Sure, it may take a little extra effort on your part, but the relationships and experiences gained will be well worth the process!
Take this opportunity to look outside of yourself. How can you meet the needs of other people? What is the best way you can serve this year? In what ways can you exemplify the love of Christ to the people in your everyday life? And how can you use the gifts God has given you to uplift the body of believers and show grace to those who need it most? Look around, and be willing to involve yourself and get your hands dirty for the kingdom of God.
3. Tackle your bucket list.
Maybe you won’t be able to tour Europe or find the cure for cancer, but I’m sure some smaller “yes-this-needs-to-happen” moments can easily be accomplished with both a little strategic planning and a healthy sense of spontaneity! After all, who doesn’t want to pay a strangers tab at a restaurant or bake in the middle of the night for no reason at some point in their life?
4. Linger in God’s presence.
Has your heart felt anything like mine recently? Pressured, stressed, overwhelmed and pulled in twenty-seven different directions at once? Are you craving peace? Do you have deep desires that can only be fulfilled by the Lover of your soul? Make time to learn, listen, and sit under the teachings of God himself this year. Develop a desire to be with him, digging deeper, allowing him to draw your heart ever closer to his. Take time to stay in his presence. He will satisfy.
5. Keep learning.
School and learning aren’t synonymous, believe it or not, and you can continue broadening your horizons without a full-time class schedule. Finally pick up guitar! Get started on that stack of books you’ve wanted to read or spend hours giggling with children! Develop a hobby, intensely research something completely random, or adventure outdoors! Intern or job shadow in your fields of interest, work on your DIY projects, and ask lots and lots of questions! Even if you aren’t any closer to those fancy letters behind your name, you’ll have succeeded in doing a whole lot of living. And hopefully had your share of fun doing it as well!