Life’s been pretty brutal

Life’s been pretty brutal the last couple weeks–emotionally, relationally, vocationally. But I will ever trust in God.

Hear my cry, O Lord, out of the depths of my soul!
Let your ears be attentive to me, attentive to me:

My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning.

Put your hope in the Lord, for with him is unending love;
he will redeem us from all of our sins, from all of our sins.

My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning.

(Lifesize, “Watchmen,” based on Psalm 130)

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The day God broke my heart and changed my life (again)

Original post: March 19, 2008; update: January 26, 2010. March 19 was the day I think God really spoke to me about the direction of my life; this was the day that God really broke my heart for justice; this was the day I found my calling.

Part of the fun (I use that term ironically) of letting God do what he wants is that he may (read: often, at least in my experience) do some breaking, so that we don’t carry all of our preconceptions and pride and baggage with us. So in tandem with the excitement of the last week, God’s also been breaking me. Seriously.

Shattering.

And it hasn’t been comfortable, even though I know it’s good for me.

The following is a mosaic of words from songs and books (Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution, U2’s When I Look at the World, Broken by Lifehouse, and Jars of Clay’s God Will Lift Up Your Head; oh, and the Bible) that I’ve been reading and listening to lately. God is messing me up.

I’m falling apart, I’m barely breathing; with a broken heart that’s still beating. In the pain, there is healing; in your name, I find meaning. So I’m holding on, I’m barely holding on to you …

Thus says the Lord: maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance will be revealed.

We are called not to be successful but to be faithful.

Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

When you look at the world, what is it that you see?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see them naked, to cover them?

When there’s all kinds of chaos and everyone is walking lame.

Love your neighbor as yourself. We are the body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus to the world. Christ is living inside of you and me, walking the earth.

So I try to be like you, try to feel it like you do. But without you it’s no use; I can’t see what you see when I look at the world.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly. … Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am.”

We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. … We can adore his cross without taking up ours.

And I am here still waiting, though I still have my doubts; I’m hanging on another day just to see what you will throw my way. And I’m hanging on to the words you say; you said that I will be okay.

I can’t wait any longer, I can’t wait till I’m stronger. I can’t wait any longer to see what you see when I look at the world …

Give to the wind your fear; hope and be undismayed. God hears your sighs and counts your tears; God will lift up your head!

Leave to His sovereign sway to choose and to command …

Through waves and clouds and storms, He gently clears the way. Wait coz in His time, so shall this night soon end in joy. Soon end in joy.

Suffering

I read these books a few years ago, but they still speak truth–perhaps even more so in light of the earthquake in Haiti and our current economic climate.

… it’s only when you hit bottom and are desperate enough that things start to get better. (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, 105)

… we are learning how to suffer well. Not to avoid it but to feel the full force of it. It is important that churches acknowledge suffering and engage it—never, ever presenting the picture that if you follow Jesus, your problems will go away. Following Jesus may bring on problems you never imagined.

Suffering is a place where clichés don’t work and words often fail. … And it is in our suffering together that we find out we are not alone. We find out who really loves us. We find out that with these people around us, we can make it through anything. And that gives us something to celebrate.

Ultimately our gift to the world around us is hope. Not blind hope that pretends everything is fine and refuses to acknowledge how things are. But the kind of hope that comes from staring pain and suffering right in the eyes and refusing to believe that this is all there is. It is what we all need—hope that comes not from going around suffering but from going through it. (Bell, Elvis, 170)

La vie est dure. Life is hard. It is hard to be a Christian, but it is too dull to be anything else. (Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus, 43)

The scars we bear

Original post: August 8, 2007. Update: January 17, 2010.

“Scar tissue that I wish you saw …” (Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘Scar Tissue’)

Just below my left knee is a scar from slicing my leg open roller-skating when I was about 12. When I was 14, I managed to explode a small (fortunately almost-empty) canister of gas while throwing a tantrum; as a result, I have a faint scar on my nose that shows how close I came to being blinded. When I was 21, a kid fractured my fibula with a bad tackle while playing soccer; it still aches now and again, and still affects my ankle a little when I run. When I was 24, I jammed my right ring finger playing sports; now, whenever I uncurl my fingers, it clicks. When I was 26, I split my leg open to the bone (and had to get 18 stitches) trying to impress a girl.

I’ve picked up a few scars over the years; we all do. Some of them are physical; some are emotional; some psychological; some spiritual. Living in a fallen world, there’s no way to not get hurt in some way or another. Some of the wounds that we suffer hurt like hell. And sometimes, it can feel as though these wounds will never heal.

Humans are paradoxes: we are both fragile and resilient, made of stuff both frail and indomitable. We do heal, though sometimes it can take a long, long time. Yet though we may heal, we often still bear the scars from these wounds–from the experiences, relationships, events, that cause us to hurt.

Looking forward, I wonder if we’ll bear these scars—these healed-over wounds—on our new bodies, our bodies fitted for eternity. Each scar carries a memory, an association, good and bad: for instance, when my leg got broken playing soccer, Ally looked after me the entire weekend, driving me around and basically nursing me through my grumpy times; when I split my leg open, my new friend Kelly came to the clinic with me and watched the doctor scrub the dirt out of my leg; when Amanda broke my heart, my friends–Matt, Adam, Benjie, and Tim–came around me to help me back on my feet.

Upon noting that Jesus still bore the scars of the nails in his hands and feet after the resurrection, one of my friends posited this hypothesis: maybe we’ll bear the scars that we bore for the sake of the kingdom; and they will be scars that we can be proud of.

Now I’m not glorifying pain, or making light of (by philosophizing about) deep wounds (especially emotional) that we suffer. But I found this definition helpful:

Scar:

  1. a mark left by a healed wound—an area of fibrous tissue that replaces normal skin (or other tissue) after injury. A scar results from the biologic process of wound repair in the skin and other tissues of the body. Thus, scarring is a natural part of the healing process.
  2. a lasting aftereffect of trouble, trauma or suffering.

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Rom. 5:3-5, Message)

A word for the hurting

You’re trying to hold on, you’re trying to be strong;
but you don’t know if you can wait that long
coz sometimes it just seems too far away
when you don’t know if you can last another day.

But don’t lose heart, coz you’ll lose everything;
show your soul, baby, though you don’t feel anything …

Touch the sky
And though the pain, it seems too much to bear,
it means that you’re alive, it means that you still care.
Touch the sky
To forgive and forget but you can’t, oh, not yet
But that’s alright.

Don’t lock yourself in a cage of your own choosing;
don’t shut yourself off from the risk of losing
everything once again, but maybe this time
You’ll find all you were looking for, somewhere down the line.

Taste and see, breathe and be
Take a second just to scream
Let the tears come, let the colors run
There will be a day when you’re never undone.

“Touch the Sky”, Justin Fung, 2006.