Dandelions

 

One can either see them as hideous, nuisance weeds or one can choose to see them as flowers the color of sun and hope. Either they are pepper shakers of seeds that will cause more problems in future years or they are vessels for a thousand wishes to be carried off in the wind.

During my couple weeks off between semesters, I was able to spend much time in prayer and reflection on the previous months. And either they can be viewed as a series of hard days or they can be viewed as the means God used to bring me to this very place. I will not say that I’ve always seen the past months and years as a blessing—far from it on many days. But through it all, I deeply believe that Jesus does all things well (Mark 7:37). Even the things that hurt. And sometimes especially the things that hurt.

My heart and soul are at peace that my time simply ran out. I have no other way to describe it except to say that the sand in the glass finished falling, the track ran out of blacktop, and ashes were all that remained of the fire. In some ways I burned out, in other ways God called me out. In both ways, he was speaking to me. Both were a gift even if they didn’t both look that way at the time.

Though I may not be done with the after effects of the past, it is with deep gratitude that I look back and see that Jesus has led me all this way, even when I couldn’t see him, feel him, or hear him. He is my salvation, and it is with joy that I draw from that well—the one with living water that will never run out (Isaiah 12:2; 55:1, John 7:37).

God was very kind and brought some precious people into my life to walk this journey with me. I have not gone alone. Their prayers, care, grace, and encouragement were the sweet gifts of a compassionate God. Because of these people, I know more of grace now than I ever did before this year. And to these people who embodied this grace of Jesus in ways I neither expected nor deserved—I am forever grateful.

Along with gratitude for the faithfulness of God in this past season, I look forward to this next year with joy. Joy does not erase all sorrows or heal all hurts, but there is a deeper joy in Jesus that goes far below the past and present circumstances of life (Psalm 16:11).

There is much joy at returning to school. Joy in learning more about Jesus to love him more. Joy in the rejoicing of being with family and friends. Joy in delighting in the little things—bugs dancing on the water, lilacs outside the window, owls crying in the trees at night. Joy in both old and new relationships. Joy in a church that feels like coming home every week. Joy in the full, precious, beautiful gospel. Joy in the majesty, grace, and sovereignty of our Savior King. So much joy.

In this next year of life, I long to more fully see the past grace that brought me to this place in the same light as the dandelions in the field behind my apartment. Beautiful. Immensely so.

Found in Him

As the days and weeks continue to flow by like a steady stream, I am realizing two things. All of life goes on. And Jesus’ love for me is not based on who I am or what I do.

The past few months, my classmates and I have been studying the book of Philippians. That book was always a favorite of mine, but these months of intense study in this book have opened my heart to see that there are riches and depths to this book that I never fully saw or appreciated.

I have cried so many times at the way God has used this book to speak to the depths of my soul during this particularly challenging, changing season. I am humbled at the goodness of God—he never shows up too early or too late to our life situations. He is always on time. In my timeframe, I would have thought he showed up two years too late. But his thoughts are way above mine and his plans are beyond mine (Is. 55:8). He can be trusted.

Nearly all of us want to be found in something—career, relationships, school, ministry, and the like. We want to find that spot that was made exactly for us, while also craving significance and meaning in our lives. We wander, try and fail, and attempt something else in our search for meaning. We compare ourselves and come up short. We hang onto something too tightly and it gets choked or breaks in our grasp, leaving us—frantically—scrambling for the next anything to grab onto.

All of these things are fragile, frail, fleeting attempts to hang onto something that was never meant to support the weight we try to hang on it. And for a long, long time I have struggled with this—this searching for significance in what I do or who I am. But what I have finally come to realize is that there is nothing and no one to be fully found in but in Jesus and his righteousness (Phil. 3:9).

It is counting all else as rubbish and worthless compared to being found in and known by him. The truest significance is being in Jesus. It is not found in making a name for myself or being known for something I do. Rather, it is in the losing of myself that I am truly found. He must become greater and I must become less (John 3:30).

As I transition out of the life I have known for several years now, how desperately I have needed to know that God loves me, not in spite of me or for what he can get out of me, but because of who he is. And because he is unchanging (Mal. 3:6, Heb. 13:8), I do not have to fear that one day I won’t be enough in my frail self for him to keep loving.

But not only have I been consistently reminded that God’s everlasting love for me is not grounded in my love for or service to him, he has also brought people into my life at this time who have given me the very grace of Christ. There is nothing I can give them in return for all they have given me. I am a grateful debtor to the gracious kindness of Jesus overflowing in them.

Christ is my hope. Christ is my life. My life is hidden in him (Col. 3:3) and my citizenship is with him in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Who he created me to be is secure in him. Before the foundation of the world, he called me by name and knew who I would be (Is. 43:1, Eph. 1:4).

Life goes on. And so does Jesus’ love.

Dear ones, I hope you feel the enormous freedom in not being found in what you do or in who you are. I also hope you feel the immense relief that your piece of life is not sustained by you. And I pray you deeply know that you are loved and treasured—not because of who you are or aren’t—but because of who Jesus is.

All is Grace

Tonight’s post is a little different from my usual posts. This is not a post I wanted to write but the topic is near to my heart and something I feel passionately about. It is also something I have both struggled with and something I understand. Finally, it is something that Jesus died for. And in the end, all is grace.

Suicide. The word is scary and painful. We don’t know what to make of it or how to feel it. It is deeply bitter and ties our stomachs in knots. It is my guess that most of us know something about it—far more about it than we wish we did.

Tonight, I want to remember the life of a young man I did ministry with. I first met him one glistening winter day, and he had beautiful blue eyes and a sparkling smile to match. Though it was such a short season that our paths crossed, I was blessed by his presence on Sundays. He loved Jesus and his excitement and joy in him was so evident. We had many good conversations, as I frequently got to be the team leader for my nursery room, so did check-in, while he ran the check-in kiosk for all the nursery rooms.

We had similar faith stories and congruent purposes in life. Though neither one of us had outgoing personalities, something resonated with us and we talked like we’d known each other long before meeting at church. The half-hour or so of time we had on Sundays always went far too fast and before we knew it, I went into the nursery room and he went back upstairs. The weeks we did check-in together were some of my best, as I both loved the joy that poured from his heart and face in all his conversations and interactions and his deep commitment to following Christ.

But I have regrets with our friendship. I didn’t get to know him beyond church and didn’t keep in touch with him after we went our separate ways that spring. With situations like this, one always wonders, “should I have noticed something?” or “what if I’d played a more active role in his life?” or “what if life had gone differently for him? What then?”

Only God really knows. Only God fully knows the excruciating pain that drives us to desperate extremes. Only God.

I have no answers for this, but I fully trust in the sovereignty and goodness of God in these terrible circumstances. All I know is that Jesus died for everything. His death nailed depression, worthlessness, and suicide to the cross. There is freedom from death in the death and life of Jesus; but not everyone experiences that freedom in this life.

We take our eyes off Jesus and get consumed with the horribleness of this life. When life is a tragedy, nothing looks or feels right anymore. And just like Peter, we sink. We cannot walk on water without Jesus. And we can’t row our own boats in the storms without Him. Nor can we fight the deep, dark waves of depression and death by ourselves. We were made to do life with Him. We were made for Him.

I know nothing, but in the end, all is grace. Jesus is grace. And that is enough.