(Day 22) Jenson Jones (and Joel Thomas)
“If Jesus is the lamb of God and Mary is Jesus’ mother, did Mary have a little lamb?”
Is love something that we are born knowing how to do? Is love really a choice?
I learned late in life that writing is a lot about learning how to edit, and this is exactly what I’m doing to do in this post. It started as a post about learning how to love, period. But now it is a post about learning how to love oneself because this is something I feel a lot of people fail to do.
I grew up most of my life believing love was something natural, something we were born conditioned to do. And I believed even more strongly that the ability to love was not a choice. I didn’t love my family because I choose to love, I loved them because I just couldn’t feel anything other than love for them. Now that I’ve grown up, somewhat, I’ve come to some sort of conclusion. Loving someone isn’t simply a choice or not a choice. I know this because sometimes I force myself to show love to people, this is me making a choice. But there have been times when I’ve been so hurt that all I’ve wanted to do is hate someone, but still I found myself loving them.
There are times when loving people feels so hard. My mom will say or do something that upsets me and the idea of showing love in that situation seems impossible. There are times when I find it really hard to love myself. It doesn’t make sense but sometimes the most hurtful things are not said by strangers, they are thought by ourselves. We fail to recognize the power and authority held in words, even when these words are said to ourselves. The bible tests to this fact as well.
Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
In the above verse we are taught that life and death are in the power of our tongue! This doesn’t just apply to what we say to people we love, this is found in the words that we tell ourselves. The devil is a liar. To anyone who has ever thought that they were meaningless, that their lives were meaningless or that they are alone- do not believe that lie. Your body is the temple of God!
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
This is how precious we are! And we are never truly alone in this world, never at all. The amazing thing about God is that even if everyone we ever love leaves us, we always have him. This is something we can put our hope and trust in regardless of circumstance.
I mentioned this in passing earlier but love can also not feel like a choice. I find myself unwilling to let go of some friendships because regardless of pain I may have felt, I still love that person. With the same token, sometimes it make feel like we don’t have a choice in how we feel. Although I believe this is somewhat true- we always have a choice. We may not be able to dictate the way we feel, but we can choose the way we act on these feelings. This is even more true in regards to how we respect ourselves. Please, love yourself enough to respect yourself. If you are feeling hurt by someone or something, remove yourself from that situation. And if you are hurting yourself, please learn the value held in your life.
The saddest thing for me to think about is the fact that so many people fail to see how amazing they are. Those people who can be told time and time again that they are beautiful but fail to see it! If you are someone like that, please just take a second look. Give yourself a second chance. Because you are valuable and you are loved. I can guarantee it.
It feels odd to write down, but it’s so true. Everyone feels sad sometimes. I don’t know why I imagine that I am the only person who feels the way I do when I go through rough patches in life. Sometimes that sadness can seem engulfing and the scariest thing in the world to do is to address what I’m feeling. The bible says that there is a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing. But all I want to do is rejoice!
I’m sure that there are lots of people who feel the same way that I do. I don’t want whatever situation I’m going through to burden others. I don’t want other people to know that I’m experiencing pain. And I imagine that everyone really is exactly the way they appear to be on the surface. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
Absolutely everyone we meet in life is facing his or her own battle. And this is all the more reason to love and to love like never before.
My mother was the first person to make me realize this. She told me to be kindest to the people who seemed the meanest. Because when you stopped and took time to get to know them, it’s like peeling an onion! There are layers and layers underneath and everyone has a reason for being the way that they are.
In particular she told me there was a woman who she saw daily who seemed to hate her. It’s so hard to love those who hate us. The bible can vouch for this fact. But she told me that when she learned of the pain this woman experienced in her life, she suddenly understood the bitterness. She understood it instantly. And her love for this woman was not in vain, now they’re actually really great friends!
The perfect biblical model for this kind of compassion is embodied in the life of Jesus. He looked at the defects and the outcasts of the world and somehow he chose to love them. I guess he saw us in a way that we cannot even see ourselves. It’s funny because sometimes it’s not even people who are putting these labels and ideas on us. We do it to ourselves.
If there is anyone like me, who is reading this, please know that you’re not alone. Sometimes I feel so sad tears feel like tiny needles shooting from my eyeballs. Or so angry that my veins will burst! Or even so happy and loved that I imagine my happiness is contagious. We are not our emotions or our temporary feelings. Feelings change. And we are never ever really alone, never at all.
People are born inherently selfish. At the end of the day, all that matters is me, myself and I. It’s a sad but necessary truth to come to terms with. I see it in my everyday life; I see this in myself. As much as I want to believe otherwise the truth is so clear. Think about it.
In our friendships we care about how we feel. Would we really continue a friendship with someone who really needed us if being friends with them made us feel bad? I sincerely doubt it. I don’t even blame myself for feeling this way. There have been so many times when I’ve known a friend has needed me, but I have thought about myself instead. I think about how I feel and whether or not I am being benefitted. I think about whether or not I will be hurt. It takes every ounce of love in me not to be this person who I so desperately want to be.
This has been my life’s story. I feel like so much of my life has been spent struggling with understanding the person I want to be and the person that God wants me to be. I never wanted to be the Christian girl. It was a stigma I had avoided as early as possible. But that is what I am and I am now proud of it. So much of my time is spent struggling with anger, jealously and pettiness. This is the person that I want to be in the moment. This person who feels her blood boil in rage because of whatever reason. The type of person who only cares about myself at the end of the day, as sad as that may be. The type of person who I want to be, in the moment. The person I desperately try not to be.
I sometimes don’t want to be around people. I do not want to love. Love is a choice. I know it because sometimes I choose to love. But despite everything that I have said, God still sees me and he loves me. He knows that I am imperfect, petty, angry and sometimes just mean. God knows this but somehow he loves me so much.
God is selfless. So selfless that he gave his very own son to die on the cross for our sins. He chooses to love us knowing our every downfall.
That is why I have hope. I hope in a world filled with misery and shame. So much pain and violence and hurt- yet I still have hope. I have hurt so many people and I have felt so hurt but the only thing I know I can cling to, is my hope.
I remember hearing a song once that said just this. “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteous”
Where is your hope built?
The History Channel aired their first episode of a new series called, “The Bible” today. My Sunday School Class planned on showing us the episodes but a week behind schedule. I couldn’t help but succumb to temptation and watch it as it aired with my Mom just half an hour ago. I was pleasantly surprised by how accurate the depiction of the bible was, minus a tad bit of over dramatization.
Then there were the Christian matrimony commercials that seemed to air every other commercial break, or maybe every commercial break.
Despite these few setbacks, the first episode of, “Beginnings” made me think.
The first part of the episode focused on Abraham and Issac, while the second half focused more Moses in Egypt. For the purpose of this post I want to focus on the relationship between Abraham and Issac.
Watching Abraham painfully reach to sacrifice his child was heartbreaking. I know that this parallels Jesus dying for our sins but hearing Issac cry out begging broke my heart. This story is always told from the point of view of Abraham- but what about Issac? How would we feel as Issacs? Can we humble ourselves so much that we can accept being laid as an offering.
Surprisingly enough, I think the biggest things Christians today need to deal with is pride. Lots and lots of pride that shadows over everything that we do. I struggle with this everyday of my life. I forget that sometimes, it’s not about me. Some of us are called to be Abrahams, but some of us are called to be Issacs. I respect Issac, but I don’t know if I posses enough grace to be okay with my life being put in jeopardy. I pray that one day I can though.
I’m looking forward to the continuation of this series. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend you tune in!
Discipline. This is one of the hardest things in the world to attain. The above picture is a shout out to one of my closest friends Christine. She’s studying in a very intensive six year program and I know she reads my blog, every post even. Keep going love because at the end of the day you work for what you really want.
Something that I’ve been struggling with especially over these last couple of months has been my lack of discipline. I sincerely have no idea what has been going through my mind lately! Even those of you who read my blog regularly may have noticed it. In many ways I’ve kind of just dropped off of the face of the earth.
I was worried about my spiritual growth. I was worried about what would happen when I started taking classes that demanded more of my time. I’ve learned that at the end of the day, everything comes down to discipline. It’s so easy to fall prey to procrastination and wasted time but I urge you not to do so.
There are 14 weeks in a semester, that’s not a lot of time. If you want to pursue a deeper relationship with God, learn more in your classes and work towards finding your true purpose- you need to put in the time.
Even with something like developing a relationship with God, discipline is the only way to get to know our father. Pursue him, spend time with him. Make it a conscious effort and part of your everyday to make God your priority. I’m going to try to do this and hopefully there will be a visible difference. No, there will be a visible difference in me.
One thing that really pushes my competitive side was a quote that said something along the lines of, “one day while you slept and did nothing, someone else was working and when you meet that person- they will beat you.” In terms of our relationship with God, it’s not a competition. But God deserves our time for no other reason than the fact that he is God. You become like the things you worship. And you worship the things you give priority and time to in your life.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Quiet Time, oh how I had hated quiet time so very much when I first started doing it. For those of you who are unfamiliar as to what quiet time is, it’s basically time you spend alone with God. As an extrovert the idea of spending an entire hour of my day alone praying and reading the bible felt like complete torture.
I love being a part of group discussions, being around people and sharing ideas- but being alone? No, thank you. Because being alone means spending time with me and God. Just the two of us together with nothing else to really distract me from his presence. All of a sudden those early mornings I would dedicate to God would be interrupted because my bed looked extra comfy.
It wasn’t until I listened to a Francis Chan Sermon earlier a few days ago that it dawned on me why I hated quiet time so very much. Quiet time requires me to spend time with God alone and God sees right through me. I can very well fool everyone I come in contact with on a daily basis; I can even fool myself. But the one person who sees right through me is God.
That’s so intimidating! The entire creator of the universe wants to spend time with us! He knows our innermost thoughts and can see right through every word that we speak. I remember a friend of mine asked me when was the last time I spent just immersed in God’s presence; I had no good answer to give. The problem lies in the fact that at the end of the day I didn’t want to spend time in God’s presence. I wasn’t hungering after him in a way that made me want to spend time with him.
I remember back when I was younger I would spend time in church and our pastor would tell us how important it was to read the bible daily. My parents sounded like a broken rec was ridiculous. I lacked a personal relationship with God and the extent of my relationship to my father lasted for 3 hours on Sunday mornings.
It was because I didn’t really want to know God that I failed to realize the importance in pursuing him and spending time with him. The thing is that when we start really developing meaningful relationships with people- we want to spend time with them. It’s not a chore and it shouldn’t feel like work. When you like being around someone, you will make time for him or her. Why can’t the same go for our relationship with God?
When I think about quiet time the first bible character that comes to mind is Daniel. For those of you who may not know why Daniel was, he was a bad a$$! When he was in the king’s presence and expected to eat the King’s food- he didn’t. He only ate things that were pleasing to God and he was actually healthier and plumper than everyone else around him. It’s kind of funny that being “plump” was seen as such a positive back then!
But back on topic, I want to specifically look at Daniel in the lion’s den though. A decree was published saying that no one would be allowed to pray to anyone other than the king. But, how did Daniel, someone so passionate and in love with God respond to this?
In Daniel 6:10 it reads, “…when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
He didn’t stop praying to God just because other people told him that he was not allowed to. In fact he prayed with his window opened, because he was unashamed of his beliefs. He knew his relationship with God and he knew that God was much more powerful than the King who told him not to pray. What I find so funny and even a little bit sad is the fact that if this had happened to me today, I probably wouldn’t have even notice the decree at first. Sometimes I don’t pray when I am encouraged, how I can pray knowing that I will be persecuted for doing so?
We need to become the Daniels of our generation. We need to be so passionate and in love with God that we are confident of him and what we believe in. And the only way we can achieve this is by making time daily for God in our lives.
For those of you who have never heard of “Big Event” its basically a yearly InterVarsity retreat in which college students have the opportunity to register for different tracks to learn about God with people from different colleges in small groups. Small groups are normally…small groups of people, I know who would have thought that’s what it meant? Please bear with me as I write this post, I realize that for those of you who have never heard of Big Event everything I’m saying will sound really odd to you.
Well this was my second year in InterVarsity and because I got involved from the get go, it was my second time at Big Event. The previous year I had the opportunity to go to both Big Event and Basielia (InterVarsity’s second retreat which is longer and holds less schools). Before going I remember everyone telling me I would love it so much that I would have so much fun and that it would change everything. In all honesty leaving both Big Event and Basielia my freshman year I definitely did change a lot but those retreats felt bland for me. I was watching everyone else doing all these amazing things and even though I did benefit, I wasn’t enjoying things on the same level as other people. In fact there were times during Baseila that I just felt sad and confused because I wasn’t sure why I was feeling the way I felt. I never shared this with anyone in my chapter because I didn’t want to be the person to bring other people down. So I plastered a smile on my face and focused on everything that was actually good that was going in during the retreat.
My mentality was so off for those two retreats. I literally walked into Big Event knowing everything everyone had said about it in the past and felt entitled to an amazing experience because I payed money. I wasn’t excited and I expected other people to make me excited. It was because I knew something was wrong that I refused to approach Big Event this year the same way I approached Big Event all other times in the past.
Before registering for Big Event I was asked along with some other people in my chapter to register for the leadership track. That was something I really didn’t want to do, I wish I could explain just how much I didn’t want to do it. In fact I guess I can explain it to you right now. Registering for that track scared me and intimidated me because I didn’t feel as though I was good enough for it. So I told my exec team I would register for it and purposely waited until the track was closed to beg my mom for permission to register for Big Event. I had technically asked her back when leadership was open but because I didn’t want to go for that track I asked in a way that I knew she wouldn’t be happy or say yes. It was only when I really needed to register that she said yes. And by then I looked at the mess I made for myself and was actually kind of sad but at the same time incredibly happy. Happy because I made a promise in my mind that I would get the most out of my track this year. The track I registered for was Transformation or Foundations and mistakenly registering for it may have been the best decision I ever made for so many reasons.
Growing up in church I felt as though I knew God because I gave him my 3 hours once a week. I had my idea in my head of what God was to me and I was satisfied putting him into a box. For so long I felt as though I was trying to build a roof to this house while my foundations were crumbling beneath me. I needed to be sure that I knew exactly who the God I was serving actually was. Being honest with you again, I had it all so wrong.
During my retreat I realized that I wasn’t the only person who felt the same way about retreats in the past. I wasn’t the only person who felt like I was really missing something important. But somehow it took me going to Baseilia and feeling so sad to know that I couldn’t keep going on my walk with God the same way I had always done so. I really needed to change the way I approached God in my life and I needed to learn to put him first. I realized that if I had opened up earlier I would have saved so much heartache and even sympathized and grown with someone else who was going through what I was going through. We eventually did get to sympathize with one another but only at this year’s Big Event! Funny how things work out right?
I was also struggling with vulnerability. Most of the time I feel like people are afraid to open up and that this is why they cannot grow. My problem was that I felt as though I was being too vulnerable with too many people. I grew up in a house where my mom would sit down with me everyday and ask me to open up to her about my feelings, that was the way I was raised to act. And I felt like there was something wrong with me because it seemed like no one else felt the same way about opening up as me. What I realized for myself this was past weekend was that I needed to be vulnerable. I really needed to be open and honest about my feelings with the people in my life. Because I’d rather have a bunch of people know this mangled, messed up and growing mess of a person that I am that is not perfect than to have a bunch of people know me on such a superficial level that they don’t actually know who I am. But that’s just me. Maybe I’ll change my mind about this 10 years from now but if I ever did I would need to stop blogging. I would need to stop blogging because my soul is kind of sprawled out on all of these posts that literally anyone could pick up and read. I’m okay with that though. Because I know I am not the only person who feels the way that I feel.
Big Event this year was amazing. It was absolutely amazing and so much more than I thought it would be. But it also wasn’t easy. I left Big Event feeling great but also knowing that the real work starts now with my relationship with God and even my relationships with people. I realized somehow that I didn’t understand what it meant to love people the way God loves us, or even how to love God the way he loves me. I know that I am so flawed and I know that I have so much to learn but now I am ready to learn more about God than ever before.
I grew up in a Christian family, in a Christian household being taught how to be a good Christian. The thing is the majority of my life was spent looking through this pin hole thinking I was seeing everything, but in reality I only saw this tiny distorted section of the whole picture. I saw my family and their devotion to God. I saw my church friends give everything and dedicating their lives to God. I was baptized with people I’ve known my entire life. And when I accepted God for the first time my closest friends and family were with me the entire time.
I outreached on campus because I was told to do it. I spoke about God when someone asked me about God. I was too busy living my life looking through this tiny hole where everyone I loved would be fine. And those who didn’t accept God were put to the back of my mind. I stuffed them there not wanting to imagine eternity without them.
Today I visited a Hindu temple for an anthropology project, I wanted to learn about an aspect of my culture I never experienced. Growing up as christian as well as Indian the majority of people I met in passing assumed I was Hindu, unaware that I knew little to nothing about Hinduism. What happened instead was this tiny hole through which I saw everything was broken open and my heart literally ached. I left the temple and I sobbed. Because if everything I was ever taught and believed was true then I would not meet everyone from that temple again one day in heaven. I just wouldn’t.
I wasn’t used to thinking like that.
My entire life my purpose was to be a good student, to be a supportive friend, to be a decent person. But as I continued to live my life looking through this tiny hole I was blinded to everything outside of my view.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to learn about an organization called, “The Price of Life” through”One cry”, it was there that I learned the first way I was blind. Today I learned the second way. First I was blind to the suffering of people who were sold into prostitution. I was blind to the suffering of people around me in my life imaging pain was entity of my own. That only I went through hardships. I was blinded by my selfishness. Conceding to myself that everyone else had it figured out and that everyone looked at all times as they appeared on the surface.
No one has it figured it. But everyone is so keen and so used to hiding that a mirage of perfection is easy to portray.
I realized today that I had it all wrong because yesterday I prayed that God would break my heart for those who didn’t know him. But as he did this very thing I wanted to beg him to stop. My idea of Christianity was asking things from God hoping he would not hear me. That was how things worked looking through this tiny hole. The hole was narrow and binding and… even inaccurate but this hole was comfortable. Everything I saw through it fit into what I wanted Christianity to really be, not what it actually is.
I’m writing this post right now because I feel like there most be other people out there like me. People who have been living their entire lives looking through this tiny hole thinking they have it all figured it. The thing is we don’t have it figured out, not even a little bit. God doesn’t call us to live our lives blindly. He is the light that shines in our darkness, he calls us to be free from all bondage.
We are called to love, to serve and to be uncomfortable. Today was the day I realized what this actually meant for the very first time.