Bittersweet: Write to Live

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bittersweet. Over three years ago, I wrote a post with that title. At that time, I was in the middle of a transition like nothing else I had ever experienced before. New job, new church, new ministry opportunities, new home (actually, I had to move in with my dad for two months, as I was in between apartments—thanks, Dad), no longer using the degree I was paying off…generally everything I counted comfortable and certain from the previous few years had been turned upside down.

During those months, Father God loved me in a way I hadn’t fully experienced before. I was confident in his call on my life, but was as uncertain as the wind on just about everything else. For my birthday that fall, my older sister gifted me with a book that spoke to and held my heart in that season. She gave me Shauna Niequist’s book, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way.

At the same time that I was reading Bittersweet, I was also seeing my counselor who not only helped me walk through the transitions but faithfully pointed me to Jesus in the process. I remember this one cloudy Thursday morning in particular. In between our chairs was a globe of the world and outside the rain-streaked window were lots of car lights. People going places. I felt stuck on something.

My counselor was reading my journal entries from the previous week, when he just stopped, looked up at me and asked a question I have hung onto ever since, “Rach, who are you when it’s just you and Jesus?”

That was something I thought about for a very long time—and something I still think about. Weeks later, I was able to tell him that my truest self is who I am on the pages of my journals. The prayers, the stories, the thoughts, the memories on those pages are the realest reflection of my relationship with Jesus.

In response to my answer to his question, he simply told me, “Write. Rachel, write often and much. Put it all down on these pages and pour out your heart to God.”

Over the years, I have continued to pour out the depths of my soul in tight, black letters of ink and smudgy tear spots. And over the years, I have also come to the realization that in some sense, my very life depends on writing. I write to feel, to understand, to live. I write because the deepest places of my heart need Jesus the most. And when the prayers and cries of my heart find their way onto paper, their verbal counterparts seem to be pulled from my lips in audible words to Jesus.

Sometimes, I get too busy, too tired, or too sad to write. Sometimes, I have no energy to give words to the dark, deep places of my soul. But in this bittersweet season of change, I have been compelled to once again take my counselor’s advice from several years ago and simply write.

Write to live. Or rather, write because I desperately need Jesus, because Jesus is life itself.

In, With, and Because of Jesus

Tonight, as I am working on some theology lessons, I am listening to Hillsong Worship’s newest album, and this one song in particular has completely captured my heart and soul. “As it Is (In Heaven)”—my goodness, this song holds such beautiful, solid promises!

In Jesus, the darkness can’t find me

Sometimes, the darkness of life is as close as skin stretched tight. Sometimes this darkness seems to be the only thing before us, behind us, and all around us. It is a thick fog, a heavy snow, a cloud-covered night. Sheer darkness. Tangible dark. Deep dark.

But there is one place that the dark can’t find us. And that is hidden in Christ. No darkness is as thick as the death-darkness he crushed on the cross. No darkness is as painful as the dark separation the God-forsaken Son of God experienced as he died alone. All darkness is swallowed up, choked to death, and smashed into the dust by the feet of the Savior King.

This God is very light himself. This God is brighter than the light of a thousand suns on a snow-covered January. And this God is closer than the air in our lungs. This God is all around us, before us, behind us, and in us. He is Immanuel: God with us.

His light is unstoppable. Unquenchable. Uncontainable. Unending.

With Jesus, while I’m waiting, I know I’m not waiting

Just this week, I was telling God that I don’t want to sit back and wait for the next big thing. I want to know what it is right now. Nor am I easily content with simply waiting for him to quietly speak. I want him to shout it from the rooftops. I crave certainty, straight paths, and definition. But more than constantly doing the next thing, serving in the next ministry, and going to the next place is the simple whisper to be. Be with Jesus not do for Jesus. It is in the waiting at his feet that the waiting isn’t waiting. It is in the resting in his peace and joy, that the rest becomes life-giving, soul-satisfying, Christ-exalting.

Because of Jesus, I’ve got everything I need to sing

Christ is enough. Nothing more. Nothing less. Jesus—only Jesus. He has always been enough. But sometimes I forget that he truly is enough. Everything that I think will satisfy, bring joy and hope and meaning is infinitesimal compared to all that is Jesus. In him, I lack nothing, miss out on nothing, need nothing. The song in my soul can burst forth because he is I AM.

In Jesus, the darkness can’t find me. With Jesus, the waiting isn’t really waiting. And because of Jesus, I have absolutely everything I need to sing.