The other day, a friend of mine asked what I’ve been learning lately. My mind prepared itself to tell her about Victorian poetry and the developmental psychology of adolescents. But, this wasn’t what she meant. “Not what you’re learning in school, what you’re learning in life. What are you learning right now?”
I’ve been mulling that question over for a while, and have been unpacking it little by little. I’m about to finish up my freshman year of college, and in some ways I am a completely different person than I was this time last year. And, in many ways, I’m exactly the same.
I’ve learned lots of lessons, and I’m in the process of learning many more…
I’m learning that I don’t have to know.
One of the most fun things I did this year (heh) was change my major twice in the course of three weeks. I’m still not sure if I made the “right” decision, but that’s another thing… I’m learning that sometimes there isn’t a right answer. I didn’t get much input from God on this particular decision. I prayed about and, yes, cried about it, but… nothin’. I do truly believe He cares about this decision and aspect of my life… (If you care about it, God cares about it. Guaranteed. That’s our inheritance as a citizen of Heaven.) But, I also believe that He will partner with me in whatever major or vocation I choose. There’s not a wrong path… He uses every bit of it for good. I’m learning that nothing is wasted. And even a “misstep” is valuable. I’ve had to remind myself over and over again through this process that God is NOT saying “Okay, well THAT career path over there was my Plan A for you, but… I guess we can go with this Plan B… If you really want to…” Nope. He’s not manipulating, and He’s not disappointed. It’s all Plan A. He will use whatever we give Him. That’s the beauty of free will. I don’t think we realize how free we actually are. God’s not sitting back in Heaven wishing you made different choices as a teenager, as a college student, as an adult… He’s standing, positioned and ready to take any choice you’ve made, anything that’s happened to you, and turn it into goodness. I absolutely believe we sometimes make His heart break open with our harmful decisions, and He most certainly cries with us in the midst of our pain and grief, but He’s not going to let that be the end of the story. My friend Beverly says that He is the One who makes sense of our brokenness. We can trust Him with it. I believe He’s jumping up and down with joy and love because He simply cannot wait for us to hand it over to Him… our pain, our joy, our choices, our careers, our relationships, our hearts. All of it.
I’m learning to be interruptible.
A few months ago, my friend, Richard Beck, mentioned that he believes being interruptible is the true personification of one’s faith in Jesus Christ. I haven’t been able to shake that one out of my head ever since. Jesus was interruptible. I hate being interrupted. Jesus stopped in the middle of the huge crowd for the one bleeding woman. I raise my voice at increasing decibels at the dinner table if someone tries to talk while I’m talking. I’m learning, though. I want to be like Jesus more than I want to be heard. I want to be like Jesus more than I want to seem important. I want to be like Jesus more than I want to be right. I’m learning how to be interruptible. In recent months, it’s looked like talking less and listening more, it’s looked like changing plans even when it’s inconvenient, it’s looked like helping an older woman at United get her groceries when I could be eating my Sharky’s burrito, it’s looked like getting it wrong one thousand more times than I’ve gotten it right. But, I’m learning. Being a follower of Jesus is hardly ever convenient, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth it.
I’m learning to feel my feelings.
I don’t know if we really understand this as a society, I’m not sure I did until recently, but it’s okay to feel your feelings. We are not made to live in anxiety, anger, loneliness, sadness, or pain, but we are meant to feel it. I think, If we don’t feel these feelings, then we’re numbing them. And numbing never works in the long run. Ask any person who struggles with an addiction. Numbing isn’t the easy way out that it appears. I feel everything very deeply– high highs and low lows, and I’m learning that’s okay. That’s me. More recently, I feel alone sometimes, and I’m learning that’s okay too. When I feel alone, I just sit in that for a little while and ask myself why I feel that way. I allow my heart some time to just be still for a moment before I try to remedy the problem or the emotion. I’ve learned this is how I get to the root. I used to pull weeds with my mom in our flower bed and she would always tell me to grab the base of the plant, hold tightly, and pull firmly so I could pull the root up with the weed. My little 7-year-old hands failed a lot more times than they succeeded, but I kept trying, and I loved it when I was able to pull up the whole root along with the rough green leaves. If I don’t grab my emotion from the source, I’m just whacking weeds hoping they won’t pop back up. But they always do. You have to get to the root. I’m learning more about myself this way; instead of just trying to slap a bandaid on whatever is wrong, I’m listening to heart and working on some roots.
I’m learning more and more everyday that vulnerability is valuable.
I’m thankful for the relationships in my life that are tried and true, where there are no masks and no hiding. I’m thankful for a best friend I can share anything and everything with. I’m thankful for trust. I think life is an ongoing process of learning how to earn and keep trust. I’m thankful for a handful of women in my life who know almost everything about me, and love me still. I’m thankful for the way they have adopted me into their families and their hearts. I’m thankful for relationships I’ve had to work at, and those that have clicked from day one. I’m thankful for my sweet friend Malaya, who is four years younger but understands me like none other. It’s such a gift to have someone understand both teeny tiny and great big things about you that you’ve never even had to say aloud. My mom and Malaya’s mom died on the same day in February, four years apart. I asked her if I could share this screenshot of text messages from two months ago on our mamas’ Heaven Day.
This is Kingdom friendship. And just one example of how God brings good out of the worst situations. I wish I could look each one of you in the eye over some chips and queso and ask how He’s restoring your life, too. Friends, when we trust in our vulnerability and loss, God brings amazing life and joy out of death and pain. It’s true, it’s true. He is so good. I see it every single day of my life.
I’m learning to breathe.
I really, really love to look like I have it all together and can do All The Things, all the time. But, I can’t. And I’m learning that’s okay. I’m learning how to say “no” to great opportunities and great people, because… I am not capable of doing All The Things. I’m learning to be gentle with myself (thanks, KG). I do not obtain my worth from my GPA, the number of people who like me, or how right I am. And my value is not measured in the number of things I do. I’m learning how to make time for myself, and time for breathing. That’s right, I’m learning how to make time for breathing. It’s my word for 2015, and it’s been just what I need. I could write a whole post about breathing, and may need to soon. My friend, Micha Boyett, says it perfectly: ” I’m learning to recognize the antidote to my addiction to franticness: when I purposefully slow myself, slow my movements, slow my words, the fog lifts from my anxious mind. When I slow myself, I breathe. And when I breathe, I pray.”
May we slow ourselves. May we breathe. May we pray.