I am guest posting over at the Hoboken Grace Blog this week about how to pray in the midst of pain. We’re currently in a series called “In the Meantime: What do you do when there’s nothing you can do?” which, in (too) many ways, perfectly describes my life right now. I am sure many of you can relate to the idea of figuring out how to make it through a waiting season. If you are a person who prays, I hope this encourages you!
Sometimes I find it hard to trust God. I have experienced His love and grace in such richness throughout my life, so I know He will prove faithful yet again. However during difficult seasons, my heart can easily seize up, unable to believe that He will truly meet me in the midst of my pain. My prayers become desperate with each passing day they remain unanswered: God, please fix this. Please heal this person, please show up in this situation, please restore, please show mercy. Please. Please.
So what happens when our prayers go unanswered? It can seem easier to give up on communicating with God altogether, enacting a kind of silent treatment against our Creator. We barely open the Bible because we don’t believe God will use it to speak to our particular situation. Surrounded by pain and questions, we allow ourselves to be ruled by anxiety, often adding to an already difficult circumstance.
Yesterday was my last day in my twenties. As strange as it seems to let go of this decade (already?!), I am looking forward to my thirties and what the future holds.
This has been a wonderful, frustrating, identity shaping, and tear-jerker of a decade. As I approach thirty, I’m choosing to believe the best is yet to come. Looking back, here are some of the most important lessons I learned in my twenties.
1. You have issues. Start dealing with them. We all have wounds from childhood and past relationships. The sooner you admit this and start working towards healing and wholeness, the more you will have to offer the world.
2. City life as a 20-something is a blast. I finished college in Philly, lived five minutes outside of downtown Knoxville while working my first real job out of school, and spent the last five years living in Hoboken. With endless opportunities for entertainment, food, and culture right outside my door, it would have been had to imagine living this decade of my life anywhere else.
3. God is listening and speaks to us. For years I threw my prayers in God’s direction, and walked away hoping God would later hunt me down and give me an answer. Over the last decade I’ve learned that there is greater value in being silent before God than talking God’s ear off.
4. Heartbreak is inevitable, but can be worth it. It’s pretty much a guarantee that if you fall in love in your 20’s, you’re also likely to have your heart shattered. Still, taking a big leap for love to find out if its worth it (even if its not) can lead to learning your most important lessons.
5. You probably won’t land your dream job. Most of us in our twenties think we will have “arrived” in our careers by now… even though we’ve been working for less than a decade. There are a lucky few of us who have, but the good news is the majority are still figuring out what’s next.
Separating the attributes of Jesus from those of Santa this time of year can be tricky.
Growing up as an American kid in a Christian household, I was told that “Jesus was the reason for the season” but that big ol’ jolly guy in the red suit was definitely a reason, too. Always the inquisitive one, I had figured out by about age five or six that Santa Claus was just a legend and commercialized character, but that did not stop me from wanting all the perks on Christmas morning that came along with believing. And yet there was still a magic about the whole Christmas experience – although I don’t think it came from a heart filled with wonder over the birth of the savior of the world. Sometimes it surprises me that although I knew from a very young age that Santa Claus was not real, the idea of Jesus as a man who once walked this earth and now lived in Heaven remained very real to me. Now as a twenty-something adult, I am going through the process of stripping away the pop culture and Americanized version of who I believe Jesus is, and trying to figure out who he truly is.
I am learning that in order to truly follow Christ, I actually have to be in intimate relationship with him. I have to come to him with every aspect of my life and being asking him, “How do you want to use this?” I expect him not only to listen, but to answer. I do not believe Jesus wants me to jump into his lap, list off the things I want, and then be on my merry way. He is eager to give me good gifts, but he wants me to understand why he is giving them in the first place. He wants me to know that he values me, that he is proud of me, and that because I am loved by him, that love should overflow into my life and how I love others.
Whether I am naughty or nice, I God will not move me from one column to another. There is nothing I can do that will make him end his pursuit of me. Grace does not mean that I have the license to run around and make foolish decisions while expecting a pat on the back, but whenever I screw up (which is often), he is still there waiting as to ask for his forgiveness and then keep moving forward. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more, or want to give me more presents. His view of me always has been and always will be the same: I am his creation, and because he made me just as I am, he loves me just as I am.
I have discovered that there IS a wonder, magic, and mystery to this man Jesus of Nazareth. I do not have to wait anxiously for him to come around once a year, and wait with bated breath to see what side of the list I landed on this year. I can meet with him daily, and ask with confidence what good gifts he has in store for me. A real, interactive relationship with the living Christ is worth far more than any material thing I could have ever asked for from Santa Claus.
Do you struggle with the idea of a God who rewards you if you are “naughty” or “nice?” How does your view of God play into the Christmas season?
[This post was originally published elsewhere as a guest post in 2009]