Running towards rest – let me tell you.

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“You cannot run if you cannot rest.”

Rebekah Lyons

Since my first summer home during college, running has rapidly become a sort of refuge.  I like it because it gives me a focus point for leftover scraps of emotional energy that have built up throughout the day, an excuse to turn my music up loud and leave the rest of the world behind. It can relieve the tension and introduce other aches and pains to focus on.  It may even give me the steadiness I need to sort out my thoughts.

But the thing about running is that it isn’t real.

Running takes my energy, my time, my focus; but it doesn’t actually take me anywhere. Eventually, I come to the end of my loop around the neighborhood and find myself back home.

Sometimes my house slams into view before I’ve even registered I’m ready for it, and it takes me by surprise.  But whether I was thinking of it or not, halfway through my circuit around the neighborhood, I stop running away and start running towards something.  It’s an unconscious change of pace, but it still matters.

I think this is true when life sends us running from certain circumstances as well.  Even if you know what you’re trying to leave behind when you take off, do you know what you’re running towards?

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Hebrews 11:1

We live in a day and age where plenty of people (like me) run for the heck of it, run to get their minds off of things, run for the sake of exercise.  But since I’ve been a runner (in the absolute loosest sense of the word), I’ve learned that the best way to really commit yourself to the discipline is to set a goal.

Usually, that goal is a race.

In a race, there’s a clear goal that you’re running toward.  You may be striving for your best time, you may contented with completion (hey, friend! Join my boat?) – but we are all running for that finish line.

And when we run for the finish line, we are no longer running to escape something, we are all running to take hold of something greater.

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Hebrews 12:1-2

There’s a reason Paul compares the Christian walk to running a race, and there’s a reason he places Jesus as our point of focus on the finish line.  When we take up our cross and follow Jesus, we know what we’re running towards.  But what does that race look like during our time on earth?  Because eternity is not the only thing we should be striving for.

It’s not perfection, it’s not completion, and it’s not even to find our calling.  These are things that are beyond us; they are the work that Christ has already done to equip us for the race itself.  No, the finish line we are running towards is to be ever made more like Christ.

“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
Hebrews 10:14

The goal of our lives is not to be the best version of ourselves, because God has more for us than our definition of best.  The goal of our lives is not to do it all right all the time, because the expectation of the Law was overturned by His work on the cross.

The goal of our lives is to be made holyconformed to the image of the Son, in every situation and circumstance.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
Romans 8:29

It’s tricky to see because the world has ingrained everything we do with such a drastically different purpose.  But running doesn’t necessarily produce real change unless you make it real.

And the only way to run towards that goal, to run with purpose, to run a race that’s real, is to run towards a deeper knowledge of the One plotting our course and strengthening our stride.

And the only way to know Him deeply, is to rest.

Rebekah Lyons is one of my FAVORITE authors & speakers.  Check out her Rhythm of Grace study here for more on running & rest.

Don’t forget to check out the new blog! Can’t wait to see you there.

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When I think of Scotland – let me tell you.

STOP RIGHT THERE!!!

Yes, you! Before you read any further, I’ve got big news for you.

(Yep, I disguised it in the form of telling you about my trip to Scotland. Sorry!)

I’m moving!!!

Yes, to grad school come August – but also, right now, today to a new site for my blog!

I’ve decided that this space means too much to me to take any less seriously than I’m capable of, and I was fortunate enough to find hosting on Squarespace that meets my needs perfectly for this little corner of the Internet right now!

So before you scroll down, click HERE to check out this same post the new site!

I’ll be posting on both for a little while before I completely switch over, just because I want to make sure I don’t miss any of y’all – it means a lot to me that you hang out over here to begin with, and I want you to come along for the next part of the ride!

Without further ado . . . let me tell you about Scotland.

When I think of Scotland, I want to remember dancing delirious in my seat, staring out the window as the hills and the green spread out below us when our plane broke through the clouds, “Wonder” by Hillsong United ringing on repeat in my ears.

 

The following day, after something like thirty-two hours of being awake, eleven of those on a plane and five or six of them in an airport, and about ten hours of sleep to make up for it, I’m not positive real life is actually happening by the time we reach lunch and our introduction to the Eric Liddell Centre, situated in a renovated church at Holy Corner in Edinburgh.  After we eat, we’re taken on a tour of the Centre’s stained glass windows.  I’m always more fascinated by the history of the art than what the art is supposed to be saying, but stained glass is something different: you can’t separate its story from the one that it’s telling.  That’s when the guide points out two distinctly different styles, situated right next to one another.  One is more original, with bright colors and bold lines; one is highly stylized with muted hues, more commercial.  She’s telling us why the former are her favorites, when she points to the latter and says, “People love them because it’s what they expect.”

Her words echo in my mind for the rest of the day, maybe the rest of the trip.  How often do I look to what I expect first when I go to love the world around me?  How often do I miss the beauty of the unexpected because I’m too busy building up my assumptions and presumptions?

How often do I ignore the reality that things have value the way they happened simply because they happened?  Not because I expected them to go a certain way

 

Because there are days that I stride into invincible, certain to the core that Someone greater than I is writing a story I couldn’t dream up if I’d tried.  There is no misstep, no mistake to make; there are no expectations or assumptions.  There’s just the being to be done, and that’s beautiful.

Then there are days where plans go awry and I panic quicker than I pace myself, smothering myself in shame for stressing myself and the others around me – a catastrophic combination.

I think that if you somehow manage to travel, on your own or with others, and don’t experience some of both, then we all need to take lessons on how to approach life from you.  Clue us all in in the comments.  Because in my experience at least, that kind of crazy combination of circumstances is just sort of just how life goes, and it’s messy and funny and wonderful all at the same time.

The trick is learning how to see it for what it is, not what you think it should be.

 

 

It took me a long time to write this blog post because there are a lot of emotions that are hard for me to turn into words on a screen, because they just were.  It’s challenging to describe the feeling of fierce joy that flashed through me like fire when I stood by the Scott Monument and could sweep my gaze from one end to the other of the Edinburgh Old Town, from the castle where it rises on my right to Arthur’s Seat, flecked with yellow flowers.  Licking an ice cream cone and listening to the ebb and flow of energy all around me while trying to memorize the view of hundreds more years of history than my head knows what to do with. Stepping onto the bus and watching unfamiliar streets fly by me out the window, remembering what I loved about Buenos Aires, that part of me that comes alive and alert when watching so many strangers crisscrossing paths all over the city.  Sprawling out on the worn red cushions of the couch in a corner booth at a local pub, making friends with a waitress who makes the best recommendations and is never not smiling, watching steam curl off the plates as we dig in, laughing for hours at jokes that only family could give and get.  Winding through the streets of a small town, stepping through the doors of the past and hearing tale after tale of what built the present from the people that breathe it in every day.  An old friendship with a new twist, spending a perfect day trading stories and laughing like I haven’t laughed in ages under a clear blue sky in the shadow of a castle, grateful to the bone for every second.  Listening and learning more in every moment about what I want out of the world.

 

I want to watch it all happen.  I want to write it all down.  I want to dive deep into how the past built our present, what connections caught together to get us standing right where we are today.  I want to breathe it all in, because miracles you never would have expected six months ago are everywhere if you know how to look for them.  I want to keep looking for them and never stop, and share stories of what I find.

And that is why I’m here.  That’s what this space is all about – chasing light around corners and inviting you along for the ride.

I was reminded midway through the week, as I listened to our guides for the day explode with excitement when they showed us the things of their home that they loved, of a conversation I had with a professor in Buenos Aires, when I told her my problem was that I loved too many things.  Her eyes flashed as she looked straight into mine and told me urgently, with care – That is not a problem.

I was reminded midway through the flight home, as I turned the days back over in my mind and picked apart the pieces that I wanted to pull together in writing, about how, in the middle of the mess that the end of my final semester felt like, my dad said something that stuck with me – I think you are learning the discipline of holding things.

 

When I think of Scotland, I will think of learning how to hold things and take it one step further – learning the discipline of how to look at them.  How to see their value, no matter what happens next, simply because they happened, because I was there, because it was real.  They told me something about myself; who I’ve been made to be and where I’m going.  It all has merit as a part of my story, not because of anything I do, but because of the One who is writing it.

When I think of Scotland, I’m going to think of everything I never knew I needed.  I’m going to think of history and hills and abbeys and castles.  I’m going to think of all the beauty I never knew to ask for, and I am always going to be grateful.

Don’t forget – you can check this post out on my new site, www.wearenewromantics.com, by clicking right HERE. Can’t wait to hear what you think! Grateful for you.

Let me tell you about graduation.

I sit on my mentor’s couch, curled up with my legs tucked under a mountain of pillows, turning my pen around in my hands to have something to do, finally daring to meet her eyes as she sits across from me in the high-backed, floral chair.  The words come pouring out of me before I can stop them, a combination of frustration and exhaustion that I haven’t known what to do with for weeks, words I didn’t even know badly needed a home outside my own head until they had one. She nods slowly and tilts her head, interrupts me with a question here and there, driving me to explain what I mean by this or that, gently but firmly reminding me to take ownership over my own emotions and interpretations.  I feel scared, but I also feel seen; broken, but believed.  She has one piece of wisdom in response.

“The only thing we can know for sure is that nothing make sense.”

She couldn’t be more right.

It doesn’t make sense that I got to spend four years at Vanderbilt University.  Me, five foot four and on the small side, with a laugh too loud and two left feet – from a high school in small town Indiana, a reader who became a writer, who loved flying but let fear control the cockpit.  It doesn’t make sense that I got to go here, got to walk this campus day after day, got to learn and live and love with these people in this place.  Sure, I worked hard, but so do a lot of people.  Why me, why here; how did I get this lucky?  Nothing makes sense.

Another mentor, one of my closest friends, sits across the table from me at Starbucks.  She has seen me through all four years at Vanderbilt, since I walked into NavsNight without a clue what I was doing and she became my Bible study leader, to this year, with a teaching job of her own and a sweet little house where, as always, we curled up and talked truth, Bibles open on her bed.  We pull out our notebooks and she asks me to think all the way back to that first fall, and together we trace a timeline of the work God’s done, the people He’s pulled in and out of my path, the paths I never expected to set foot on that got me to where I am today.  When we wind down, we have a page full of words declaring faithfulness, fullness and fruit that I never could have seen coming.

It doesn’t make sense that so much could happen in four years, so many people and places, so many twists and turns.  Every class I loved and hated, every stranger I sat next to who became a friend writing papers on my floor, my internship and study abroad and student teaching, my sorority and study and discipleship and devos.  Why me, why them; how did I get this lucky?  Nothing makes sense.

Scripture tells us that He has a plan; sometimes that feels like cavalier Christianity at this point, thrown about in every hymn and construed in every crafty canvas.  It’s not that it’s not true, it’s just something I think at times we know too well.  It’s one thing to believe there’s a plan, but what in the world do you do when the plan makes no sense?

With both of my mentors, we talk through the logic and the lack thereof.   We pore over Hebrews at Starbucks, remind ourselves that the purpose to this plan is never perfection, never success, never what we may believe it to be – the purpose is to be ever making us more like Christ.  We pick apart the knots of our misunderstanding, plumped up on pillows – I am reminded that while we may never understand the what; our time is better spent walking with the Who, because His character is something we can trust the what to the better we get to know Him.

“It’s scary,” I say at one point.  “I’m not used to it yet, and it feels almost like I’m doing it wrong.  But I think things can not make sense, and I can be okay with that.”

My mentor is the right balance of sassy and serious, and she shoots me a aha! look and laughs.  “It’s almost like you’re growing! What?!”

She couldn’t be more right.

Growth doesn’t make sense, doesn’t always feel good.  It doesn’t always fit our definition of what we should have, but it is always what we need.  And the more I get to know God for God – not for what He expects or asks of me, but for who and how He is – the more I understand about how He’s making me.  And the more I get to know God for God, the more I know that the purpose of His plans is to pull us into love, to lavish love on us to the point where circumstances and challenges cannot change the way we turn that love over onto others.

Graduation is about growth.  Everyone wants to know how where you’ve been got you to where you’re going now.

How do I tell this story?

It’s a Sunday night in April and I’m positive something dear to me is coming to an end, I’m exhausted by the prospect of Monday morning, I’m overwhelmed by the idea of approaching any or all of it, I toss and turn and try and fail to breathe deeply until it’s 12am and I crawl out of bed, dial my mother’s number, and cry until I can’t catch my breath.  It’s dark and the world feels far away as she promises that I only have to make it through the next day, my roommate finds me on the floor in a panic and holds my hand while my mom prays over me in the dark from four states away.  I feel broken, but I also feel beloved; shaken, but seen.  I realize that this is not what I envisioned, that the perfect plan I had falling into place for myself is precisely what’s pulling me back from being the person God’s created me to be.  I do make it through the next day, I do my best and I do it well.  I go to an interview on my lunch break and successfully speak Spanish with a department chair and the principal and despite running on an odd combination of fear, faith and four hours of sleep, I’m offered a teaching position.  I get the job, and there’s no reason not to take it.

It’s two weeks later and as soon as my plane touches back down in Nashville from a visit home, the air begins to change.  My patience with my own plan is wearing thin and that’s a good thing, because God’s about to call me to step into faith in about eighteen different ways. Tuesday the sky looks like my spirit and I’m late to class and nothing is going my way.  It’s all sad songs on the radio, but I drive half an hour through the pouring rain to my favorite Starbucks in Nashville and I write until I have no more words and far more freedom.  The rest of the week is hard but my people show up in more ways than I could have asked for or imagined.  (I love them, I don’t know what I did to deserve them, it doesn’t make sense.)  They fill my time with unicorn frappuccinos, surprise picnics at the park, watching the sun go down hand in hand, late night laughter and sparkly pink greeting cards.  Then that Friday, in the middle of the school day, I get a phone call.

It’s my mom.  There’s a box on the porch.  It’s from a fellowship office, for an award I applied for with zero hope I’d ever win.  But I have, I’ve been offered an opportunity to study the Constitution for a summer at Georgetown plus the finances for two years of graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in history.  My dream for so long before other dreams crept over it and hid it under not-right-nows.

We keep it a secret from my extended family, that I’ll be spending two years at the family alma mater, and we surprise them with the news in person that Friday night, after I’ve walked the stage and shaken the Chancellor’s hand.  It’s one of my favorite memories because I still can’t believe this is real, that I’m going to graduate school to do what I love, to live in a place that has my heart, as a Fellow for a program I dreamed wildly of being in and never imagined I would actually achieve.  It doesn’t make any sense.

But then again, neither does love.

And the biggest way I have grown in these four years is in learning to see everything that doesn’t make sense through the lens of love.  Because I know there is One who makes sense of it all when I cannot.  And when it comes to His character, there will always be more to know, but it will always start with knowing love.

“But love doesn’t make sense! You can’t logic your way in or out of it. Love is totally nonsensical. But we have to keep doing it, or else we’re lost, and humanity should just pack it in. Because love is the best thing we do. And that doesn’t have to make sense… to make sense.” – Ted Mosby, How I Met Your Mother

Let me tell you about beauty.

This summer, I’m babysitting – in the loosest sense of the word – fifteen-year-old twins, a girl and a boy. Today I got to chauffeur the girl around town to get ready for her big 8th grade dance. She came home from school in a panicked tizzy, throwing on makeup and clothes and throwing careless shrieks at her brother when he tried to help and got in her way. He was embarrassed I heard, I think, but I was fine. I’ve screamed at my brother that way before, probably getting ready for my own eighth grade dance, and I’m positive I yelled at my mom getting ready for prom (sorry again, Mama). It’s one of those panic-inducing things for us girls, getting ready for something big and something beautiful when we look in the mirror and just see ourselves. 

On our way to her hair appointment, she mumbled “I’m sorry” from the backseat and hesitantly met my eyes in the rearview mirror, and I smiled. It’s okay, I was fifteen once, too. I’ve been there. 

This girl in my backseat, she reminds me of me, not just on one of these high-stress, big-and-beautiful days, but when I’m running late and I snap at my roommate, when I’m stressed so I stand up a friend when she needs me. When I don’t feel enough, and I take it as truth and out on the world around me. Sometimes when people compliment me, encourage me, I smile and shake my head and think of those moments I’m alone and overwhelmed and the mistakes that I make in those moments, the words that I shriek in the name of stress that I can’t get back. And as grateful as I am for their kindness, i sometimes wonder if I’ve just gotten good at wearing the mask when it comes to more than just a couple of select people, and what that really says about me. Some measure of control is worthwhile; hiding behind togetherness and tenacity rather than working through my anxiety or working on my heart is no solution at all. 

I had this epiphany driving home from Brentwood to band practice, back in the fall. It was homecoming weekend, I was getting a million texts a minute and a lot could go wrong. I started to change the music to something with a beat, with an edge, a harsh kind of confidence, when I stopped. Because I realized that I wasn’t just changing the music, I was starting to put pn my mask – you know the one – the capable-over-compassionate, controller-of-the-chaos mask. It felt like it fell to me to handle all the catastrophes, to work for the calm. Until I realized – that it wasn’t actually true at all. God had this weekend already planned out for me – every freshman who forgot their socks, every note I hit and field goal the football team didn’t. I could step into the power of calm, the power of prepared, without having to try to do anything at all other than be myself, in every moment, and watch them all unfold as they would. It’s a subtle change, but it gives you choice – and when you take ownership over your circumstances not in the pursuit of control, but rather in assuredness of His control, their power over you is radically diminished. You can breathe again. 

I think this all through as I watch this girl close her eyes and take a deep breath in the salon mirror, open them and peer at the progress through pieces of half-curled hair. She faces the opposite direction for awhile while the stylist braids and twists, then I happen to catch the moment she swivels forward to reveal her reflection in the mirror. Her jaw drops and her face lights up, and my heart is happy for her. 

Because these are the moments we live for, but what I wish I could tell her is that the moments are best when you breathe them in, and you can’t do that when you never stop running so hard and fast that you’re gasping for air. We sing along to Taylor in the car ride home, she’s thrilled with her curls and asks me every few minutes if they’ve gone flat any (they haven’t). She tells me about her friends and meeting for pictures, I tell her a couple of prom stories, we smile. The trick is learning how to lean into every moment, to breathe deeply when you most want to run, to take it one step at the time. That is true beauty. 

Let me tell you about belief. 

Have you ever watched the sky after a storm? The wind has yet to die down, and it carries pale clouds against a midnight sky, lit from within by flashes of lightening. The air is both still and still a little electric; there is tension between the chaos that ensued and the calm that’s replaced it. Everything is hazy, droplets cling to the field of vision before you, to your skin and your eyelashes. The trees are still talking. Can you hear them? 

There is stillness after a storm, a place to be and to breathe in the night air, clean and calm. But the stillness is only on the surface, there is a cacophony underneath that only those who bore witness to the storm as it buffeted the trees and blew their branches to the ground can begin to understand. Being lashed by the wind and soaked by the rain does no permanent damage, but it takes a little while for your skin and your soul to dry out, for your legs to stand steady again after straining against the wall of wind to carry you home. 

I’m reminded again of the night that Peter jumped out of the boat. He only began to feel the wind and the rain, and to fear the pain they might leave him with, when he took his eyes off of the One who called him out upon the waves, the One who later stills a storm with a Word. The sermon today at Midtown – our last Sunday at Midtown – was about the fruits of unbelief. Unbelief, Randy said, drives us to urgency, and when unbelief is married with urgency, it does damage to our souls. That is when the cold sets into our bones, sleeping in from rain-soaked skin, and when our limbs begin to tremble, weary of the weight of the wind. By living out of unbelief, we are taking our belief from God and anchoring it in our own plan, which cannot stand against the storms. 

Anchoring our belief in Christ allows us to hear the call and step out of the boat, no heed to the wind and the waves, the sky or the storm. Anchoring our belief in Christ allows us to be battered, shaken, stormed upon, without ever losing hope in the goodness of His plan. 

April has been a stormy month in my world. My dad told me last week that he believes I am learning the discipline of holding things. I loved that. I believe so, too. I am learning to hold, and not hold on. Clinging to control in the middle of the storm is the epitome of unbelief. Holding the storm in the palm of an upraised hand and saying God, this does not feel good, and it does not make sense to me, but it is Your plan and You are good – is belief. 

It is choosing to see the sky beyond the storm. 

All the thoughts in my head spin around like a hurricane, and life leaves me so confused

When I trip and I fall I collapse like a tidal wave, so I’m crying out to You

When I’m hit like a hook to the jaw in a title fight, I’m down and I’m knocked out cold

With my heart broke apart like a wreck in a shallow tide, I’ve never felt this low

You reached down out of nowhere, and picked my heart up off the floor

You put my life back together and I’m not broken anymore

You’re my only wish for a dream come true

When it goes like this, will You come to my rescue? 

You’re the only hope that I’m clinging to

And I hope You know, I can’t live without You

– “Can’t Live Without You” by Owl City 

Cost & the cross – let me tell you.

I no longer believe that love, like candy in a parade, is wasted if it falls through the cracks.  Service doesn’t require a willing recipient.

Love doesn’t either, not really.

But it does require great power.

And we have been given it.

“Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8)

I am reading Erin Loechner’s book, “Chasing Slow,” and it is unraveling me.

(Though let’s be honest, I was never particularly raveled to begin with.)

There is a quote I love from a Tana French novel – “Someone else may have dealt the hand, but I picked it up off the table, I played every card, and I had my reasons.”  This was my mantra for a long time; recognizing that I couldn’t do much about my circumstances, but what I could control, I did. There’s nothing wrong with control, inherently.  Until it becomes your identity, your security, your pride.  As it was mine.

I’ve always believed there is a price to be paid when you say yes, when you choose vulnerability over security, when you ask for forgiveness and when you offer it, when you enter into disagreement.  I was proud of myself for willingly paying the price, especially as the price is often pain; before I realized that’s not willingness at all, but a resentful, bitter kind of love.  An oxymoron.

What it’s taken me time to learn in life is that there is also a cost to every flip side of the coin: to saying no, to ignoring conflict for the sake of security, to walking away from something hard to something safer.  Sometimes that’s what risk or right looks like.  There’s pain there, too.

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I keep flipping the coin like I’ll be able to make sense of which side is heads and which is tails and what in the world does that mean for me, anyway?

And also, which is more important: the cost, or whether you can pay it?

If you can’t answer the second without the answer to the first, here are two things I know for sure – together they answer both.  They are the only answer I have.

We are free to give love without fear.

Because God covers the cost.

It’s not that the price no longer exists.  Life will still wreck your head and break your heart.  Not on purpose; that’s just the way life is.  We live in a broken world, and sometimes we are broken, too.  The decisions we make and the things that happen around us will ask something of us.

But heads or tails, if you are walking with God, steeped in grace and seeking truth, God covers the cost.  We were never meant to bear the weight of every circumstance, every choice alone.  He has forever promised to enter in and carry what we cannot, and that is why Christ bore the cross.

And because Love has already borne the cross, I can walk into and out of any situation knowing that I love out of a place of power.  It’s still a risk, and it still might have a price, and yes, there’s a decent chance that the price is painful.  But it’s not a pain or price that’s permanent.

A mentor once showed me a diagram with two cylinders.  The cylinders are you.  They are also me; they are each of us.  There are two of them: there is the lie; and then there is reality.  Let me tell you.

The lie is that your cylinder has a hole in the bottom.  It can’t fill fast enough to stay full, because life is always dripping out, wasting away.  And if you could just be full – if you could just meet the difference between the top of your cylinder and the contents of your heart as life leaks out – you would be happy.  You would be free.

The reality – and oh, how you have to hear this – the reality is the opposite of the lie.  The antonym to “lie” is “truth,” and this is steeped in truth – but more importantly, it is what is actually real around you, if you would choose to see it and believe it.  The reality is that your cylinder is whole.  And what is pouring into you, filling you to overflowing, is the love and grace of God.  You lack nothing.  There is no distance between your fulfillment and the top of your cylinder; in fact, your cylinder is filled so full that it begins to spill over the sides.  This is when you begin to learn to love the world around you out of the same love that fills you every day.

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The story of the cylinders is challenging.  It asks us to step out of the lie, to choose to believe in what we cannot always see until we begin to see it.  I do not always feel full.  I do not always feel whole.  But when I call the lie for what it is, I begin to recognize reality.  And I learn what it is to feel full of a grace and love that’s beyond me because I am empty of myself; to feel whole because the pieces have been mended by the gentle hand of God.  He sits with us in our pain, He bandages our brokenness and weeps over old wounds on our hearts.  Then he calls us to step out of our lies and into His glory, because the ultimate price has already been paid.  And because I am ever learning this, I am learning I can care deeply without fear of the cost, and everything I get is so much better, richer, deeper than anything I might lose.

This is reality.  You are already full to overflowing.  You are whole.  The price has been paid, the cost covered.  You are free from fear. You are free to love.

By the way. Do you know who is having the most fun at the parades?  Do you know who is granted the biggest smile?

It is she who is throwing the candy, of course.

Erin Loechner, “Chasing Slow”

Get out of the boat – let me tell you.

John 21 is about another time that Peter jumped into the water, this time not in the middle of a storm, but in the middle of an unknown, which is almost scarier sometimes.  I do really well with planning ahead.  It freaks me out on a semiregular basis right now that my planner is a clean slate past June.  The latest date that’s set in stone in my life is my 22nd birthday.  After that, who knows? And that’s a little scary.

When Peter jumps into the lake, all he knows is that it’s Jesus on the shore.  Not how Jesus got there or why.  Peter doesn’t stop to ask questions – he just jumps in and starts swimming.  This is the same guy who started to sink in the middle of the storm, with Jesus strolling right towards him on the waves.  You can almost HEAR John rolling his eyes as he writes “For they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.” That Peter!

There are a lot of thoughts I have about this passage and the ways in which Jesus meets the disciples, and us, right where we’re all at.  But I keep coming back to Peter.  I like that the first time Peter encounters Jesus, Jesus renames him from Simon to “Rock.”  Actually, before he even renames him, Jesus first names him.  “You are Simon, son of John.”  He identifies the name he’s known by, and who his family is: two of the primary things that defined an individual in Jewish society, and in our world today.  Jesus always tells us who we are first.  Sometimes that’s hard to hear, because the names the world call us come with expectations and labels and responsibilities to live up to.  Sometimes the names the world identify us by bring out the sin and stresses, the fears and failures that sting and smart in old wounds.  In this case, it was just Peter’s name and his dad, but we don’t know what that brought to mind for him.  Jesus wants us to know who we are and where we started before He tells us who and how He’s making us to be, which is why he proceeds to name Simon, “Rock” with little explanation as to why.

I like the care with which John traces Peter’s transformation from Simon to Rock throughout his gospel.  It’s never the focus, but it’s consistent, a little side narrative.  It’s even the note John’s gospel ends on in chapter 21.  I appreciate that because I think John knew a lot of us would see ourselves in Peter.  When I was little, if my family could have renamed me, I’m pretty confident it would have been “bossy.”  Somehow as I grew up that lent itself to skills like teaching and babysitting and having sixteen cousins, and I slowly but surely learned to temper that spirit when it came to what came out of my mouth.  I grew to see these traits as “independent,” but if I were to identify those same traits for you today, I would call myself stubborn.

I’m a huge fan of discussion and disagreement and debate when it comes to the issues of life we differ on, so long as it’s positive.  And you can probably sway my opinion of anyone or anything with enough time and a solid argument.  But my interpretation of truth and my expectations for myself are two things you will not touch.

One of these is positive.  I took a survey last semester that told me one of my top spiritual gifts was wisdom.  I don’t really understand spiritual gifts yet so in the humblest of ways – because what I do understand is that it’s much more a gift to me from God and not something I intend on showering on the world without solicitation – I think that’s true.  I think that God makes certain pieces of truth very clear to me at particular times and other times He brings me back to the Word and the counsel of others.  But either way, I am very stubborn in keeping my interpretations of truth and my conversations with the Lord my own, because I believe that is absolutely what defines the relationship between Him and me as a relationship – something living and active – instead of a code or a creed that I follow.  Because life in Christ is a bit of both, but one is more important than the other.  The relationship is the context in which the rest unfolds.

Every now and then, or maybe every other day, I forget that while my interpretations of truth are my own and God’s, they are only His to orderI love control, friends.  Like a lot.  We’ve already discussed this with the planner issue.  The point is, I become very stubborn in my own head when I encounter some truths, or maybe most of them, that it is my responsibility to live up to them.  Wisdom falls somewhere to the wayside in these moments, I’m afraid, and I take it upon myself to paint truth across my skies.  The nice way to say this is that I am solutions-oriented; the honest way to say this is that I’m stubborn.

Let’s take teaching for example.  Some things about student teaching are just true.  There’s an established order for the classrooms I find myself in and there are certain requirements and expectations I’m obligated to meet.  There’s nothing wrong with these statements.  It’s when I start taking them as an ultimatum that I create a twisted truth and live by it.  And then I do the same thing in my relationships, and in my faith.  What’s more, these ultimatums start to cost something that’s worth more than the expectation, and I willingly sacrifice it.  I give up being genuine for the sake of appearing strong.  I give up who I am for a version of what’s expected of me.  Eventually, I give up what I need for the sake of what I should be.  A part of me knows that there is more to that truth than what I’m letting myself believe, but figuring it out feels hard and finishing the job feels easier.

The only way to not do this is to stop trying to paint my own skies with truth and start looking for the truth He’s already painted.  The only way to not do this is to weigh truth in my heart and not my head.  The only way to not do this is to speak the word “grace” over myself until I start to see it all around me.  Because when I feel like a failure from all the weighty expectations and obligations I’ve willingly tied myself to, it comes from this: I want so badly to believe truth that I being to work for it.

In this way I see a lot of myself in Peter, or maybe a lot of Peter in me.  He doesn’t crop up again by name in the book of John until 6:68, when he is the first disciple to call Jesus who He is.  The Holy One of God with the words of eternal life.  That’s truth.  That’s reaching out and claiming it, calling it true and speaking it out loud before God and others.

But goodness, is God funny!  We keep reading along and lo and behold, at the last supper, what does Peter do?  He pitches a fit when Jesus goes to wash his feet.  Yep, he’s up on this Holy One of God thing alright – that must be why he thinks he knows better than Jesus what’s good for him.  (Is the sarcasm coming through here?  *taps mic* Is this thing on?)  I can hear him now because I’ve thought it myself before.  He watches Jesus wash the feet of a few of the disciples, and thinks “No way. I can do this one on my own.  Jesus is going to be so proud of how dedicated I am to Him, that I won’t even let Him near this mess of mine.”  It’s literally contradictory as I write it, and still I have said it before.

To his surprise as well as mine, Jesus tells him, straightforward but not unkind: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Translation: unless you are steeped in grace, the work you work so hard to do is not mine for you, because I am not in it with you.  The more you try to take care of your mess on your own, the more messy you will feel, apart from me.

Peter’s response is wholehearted, and mine is, too.  “Wash my hands and my head as well!” Fix it all at once, Lord!  Make me whole.  Quicken the process.  My cry is always focused on the immediate solution, never the ways the process solves the problem in a far deeper way.

Jesus’ response is a little weird, but reassuring.  Just your feet, he says, you’ve already had a bath.

Then why do I still feel like a wreck, smudged and spotted, head to toe?  I can feel Jesus want to laugh and console me at the same time, moved by my magnificent misunderstanding.  Remember Peter’s earlier recognition of truth, when he calls Jesus the Holy One of God?  You know the truth, Christ responds, and I have named you as my own, and you are clean.  But this is still a road we’re walking, you and I, and you have to learn to let me wash your feet.  You must be firmly steeped in grace for you to see yourself the way I have made you.  And that looks like letting Jesus in, in the most simple, mundane, and grimy of ways.  Like my roughed-up, ragged feet that have wandered down all the wrong paths.

The storms and the simple: it’s where he finds us best, or maybe where we find Him.  But what’s the why?

“Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.”

In John 13:31-38, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial.  But before that, he clarifies something for the good of the group.  All of this, this pain, this suffering – it’s for God to be glorified.

All for the glory of God.  We get to be vehicles of God’s glory, even when we’re more stubborn than the dumbest rock, like I am some days (most days?).  We get to be where the world sees Him act.  Steeped in grace.  Stepping out in storms.  That’s what gets me out of the boat, following Jesus to the shore.