So many things have happened since I blogged last that I scarcely know where to begin! Summertime came a close far more quickly than I would have liked. I became an official home renter, experienced my last sorority recruitment (note above pic), walked to class on my last first day of school (undergrad, at least), caught a few mice, read a few books, made some new besties, started a new job, and so much more. It has been a crazy past couple of weeks, but so many reasons to PTL because I'm alive and so far -- to the best of my knowledge -- no mice have crawled in my bed while I'm asleep. Knock on wood. Seriously though, if you're one of my mouse prayer warriors -- keep up the good work. God cares about every detail of our lives, and He loves all His creatures -- great and small. My guess is that's why we haven't had too many more mice recently -- if they come in the house, their fate is set -- in mouse traps. Sorry 'boutcha GusGus. Maybs we'll see you in heaven one day.
If you've chatted with me recently, I've probably recommended a series of books to you, one of which was most likely A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. I read it earlier this summer, but the underlying theme of the book is one that I believe so strongly in, I can't stop thinking about it. Basically it is a book about stories. As an individual who can never resist a good story, I grew fond of the premise almost immediately. When he gets down to it, Miller suggests that the point of any great story is character transformation. Furthermore, he believes, as do I, that we were created to live great stories. That being said, as human lives parallel that of a character in a story, he suggests that the point of our lives is to thus...
be transformed. He describes it like this...
"If I get any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He's a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn't change, the story hasn't happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just a condensed version of life, then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another."
I've done a lot of thinking recently about the so-called purpose of our lives, what since within the first week of school, I've experienced countless conversations that look a little something like this...
"Now what year are you again?"
"Oh, I'm a senior this year."
"So you'll be graduating in May?"
"That's the plan!"
"Oh excellent. So what are your plans for after graduation?"
(smile) "That is a great question..."
Then my face turns bright red, and I get really awkward because my flesh is liiiike, "Cait -- girl -- you gotsta make up your mind. You're never gonna to get anywhere in life being this indecisive." And my spirit is liiiike, "Chillaxxxx, homegirl. You're gonna be fiiiine. Trust me." (Yes, it's true. I'm sometimes convinced my "conscience" is Whoopi Goldberg as seen in Sister Act... That mixed in with a wannabe hipster and a maybs a five year-old child pretending to be Cinderella... I'm a rare breed.)
It's fine. I'm twenty-one years old and have no idea what I'm doing with my life. And honestly, when I listen to the Spirit, I'm pretty okay with it.
Admittedly, there are moments when I feel the overwhelming sentiments of anxiety begin to creep into my mind. Although I think sometimes I almost make myself feel anxious because it seems like that is how everyone else feels, so maybe I should feel that way too? But being completely honest, I'm really not all that worried. I am confident that wherever life takes me, the purpose of my life transcends my occupation, where I'm living, what other people think of me, etc. In fact, those things are all pretty insignificant when I really think about the purpose/point of life. Because at the end of the day, I'm quite confident it doesn't necessarily matter so much where I end up, so long as I'm allowing the Lord to refine me and make me holy along the way -- easier said than done, I might add. Refining hurts. But as far as I'm learning, God's will for our lives is much more simple than we make it out to be. "For this is God's will for you -- your sanctification ..." -1 Thessalonians 4:3
Once again, easier said than done. Sanctification isn't all that simple.
Although Miller refers to the process of "refining" or "sanctification" in a much simpler term -- conflict.
"Characters have to face their greatest fears with courage. That's what makes a story good. If you think about the stories you like most, they probably have lots of conflict. There is probably death at stake, inner death or actual death, you know. [...] Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master story teller."
Perhaps we can all agree that more often than not, the things that shape us in life are the conflicts we face. I'm pretty sure conflict shapes us because it strips away our flesh. Conflict forces us to admit that we're weak, weary individuals -- so desperately in need of a Savior. Conflict humbles us and urges us to put situations into perspective and to look toward the Light even when our circumstances seem to reveal none.
Recently, I've found myself in a few situations/circumstances that seem void of any and all light. In fact, the other night I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by darkness. So I decided it was time for Jesus and me to have a little heart-to-heart. Granted, the first 45 minutes of the heart-to-heart consisted of me pouring out my heart. But when I finally stopped moving my mouth and letting my thoughts run a mile a minute and simply listened, I heard something extraordinary.
"I'm not going anywhere."
It's a truth many of us have heard before -- "I will never leave you or forsake you." But in that moment, I began to realize so much more about the depth of that truth. We serve a God who knows our every thought, hears our every word, sees our every move. We serve a God who dries our every tear and feels our pain. He knows when we feel hopeless and weary and exhausted. He is a God -- the God -- who cannot help but smile every time He thinks of us because we are His precious children.
And I'm convinced that nobody loves us like our daddy does.
May we REST in the truth that He isn't going anywhere -- that even when we walk through the VALLEY of the shadow of death, He will be with us. He wants what is best for us. And even when we spend hours, days, weeks, months, and years in prayer ... and see no fruit or no light at the end of the tunnel, we have to believe, we have to CLING to the truth that HE IS FAITHFUL, that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
One of the difficult realities of life is that because we live in a fallen world, many days we simply won't see any light or hope in our worldly situations and circumstances. But we were never told that circumstances would produce light. For we claim our light -- our hope -- comes from Jesus -- He who created the world. He who spoke everything into creation, He who has the power to do anything and everything, HE IS OUR LIGHT.
The One who didn't have to take us back but did -- without reservation or hesitation. And He did it because of His unfathomable, unconditional love for us -- because He loves us so much that it literally killed Him to think about spending eternity apart from us.
Sitting in that moment, I was reminded of so many things. But most importantly that in life, we're going to see a lot of hurting people aka everyone. We are going to hurt a lot ourselves. The world we live in is going to be dark, and suffering is inevitable. But it is through the hurt and pain and suffering and conflict that we are being transformed, that our hearts are being prepared -- for the next stage of our lives... for the conversations we're going to have tomorrow... for our jobs... for our marriages... for parenthood... and ultimately for heaven.
I'm a heart person -- not in the sense that I like to watch romantic comedies and hold hands, though admittedly, I do enjoy both of those things (probably more so than your average individual). But I'm a heart person in the sense that I deeply care about people's hearts. I want everyone to know that no matter how dark your circumstances may look, no matter how deep in the pit you are, no matter how broken or weary you feel, there is hope. As much as I believe it and want to tell the world, I forgot it for a little while.
One of my favorite parts in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is when Miller alludes to the idea of Jesus as the bridegroom and the church as his bride. I am obsessed with the idea that the love of a husband and wife ought to be representative of the love Christ has for the church (aka us). "For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God's word. He did this to present her to himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead she will be holy and without fault..." Ephesians 5:25-27 How stinkin' beautiful is that??!
Anyway, Miller talks about how at the end of time, when the church (bride) is finally united with Jesus (bridegroom) in heaven, there is going to be a HUGE FREAKIN' WEDDING. It's going to be the best party ever -- my guess is, it may never stop. Because FINALLY we will be united and joined in the only union that will ever fully satisfy. We will FINALLY be united with the source of all our light, all our hope, all our love. We're going to be united with the CREATOR of unconditional love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, peace, joy, the list goes on and on and on. Heck, I am so excited to get married one day, but realistically I'm going to have to wait what -- like 20 more years at the most. (Please, Lord, let it come sooner than that... haha) But Jesus has been waiting for this wedding for over 2,000 years. Can you even imagine what a celebration it's going to be?!!! I wonder what he's going to put on the playlist...
It is my prayer for all of us -- myself included -- that in the midst of conflict and suffering and refining circumstances, we would remember that our light is found in the GOSPEL. Our light, our hope, is found in Jesus, whose promises are TRUE. Our joy is rooted in His truth that nothing will separate us from His love. He will be with us ALWAYS. And ALL THINGS work together for the good of those who love him. He is the ultimate man of His word. He is ALWAYS faithful. And He never goes back on a promise.
"So let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is FAITHFUL." -Hebrews 10:23