Disclaimer: I wrote this during the month of February and was going to use it to lead a devotion… but I didn’t… and then I forgot to post it… but I still think it’s important and a part of me, so here goes nothing.
I’ve realized over time that my favorite books and movies include threatened characters. It didn’t quite hit me exactly why this is so until I was watching [for the 3rd or 4th time] The Fault in Our Stars last week. I realized that I love these stories, because these characters know how to live – that when everything is about to be lost then nothing is taken for granted. For example, characters fighting cancer – they live life very similar to characters without cancer – there are relationship celebrations and struggles, they have to tackle daily life, try to be healthy and interact with others. The difference is characters that aren’t threatened worry about and focus on matters that aren’t even in the realm of thought for threatened characters like getting rich, finding love, and making life as easy as possible.
Threatened characters teach us that it’s okay to be weak, to doubt, and simply be imperfect. When the world is pushing back at full force it’s impossible not to. And as Christians, we learn that is where God steps up – When we are weak, He is strong. The one set of the footprints was where He carried us.
It’s amazing as Christians we follow a man who lost His life so we could live. Too often I find myself forgetting this. Christ was the ultimate threatened character. He was born to die for us. He knew what He had to do. He even pleaded with God to have it happen any other way, and even so He was shamed and brutally killed on a cross. Most importantly He overcame death, not for Himself, but for everyone else. A true hero. Christ needed God, His Father to overcome death, just as we need the Holy Trinity to overcome all that threatens us. We need our redemption through Jesus, the Holy Spirit to work in us challenging our hearts and minds to focus on God, our Father who leads and carries us through.
Matthew 10:39 writes, “ Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Similarly Matthew 16: 24-17 writes, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”
I’ve always try to put myself in the shoes of the threatened characters. What really is important in my life? What would I do if I couldn’t do something I love anymore? Who would I be if I was diagnosed with cancer? What if I was taken hostage – in the moment when it matters, would I be able to stand up for Christ?
I started running because of this “threatened life” perspective. One day I thought, If something happened and I found out I couldn’t run, let alone walk, I would wish that I could. It’s true, maybe because I don’t like to hear that I can’t do something, but I still use it as motivation on days that I’m not running as well as I’d hope. I picture myself injured and how I would still want to run my races, because I would be overcoming said injury.
Disclaimer: About a week ago…
Running actually is one of the few activities that I’ve actually committed myself to. There’s a scene in The Fault in Our Stars where Hazel Grace is in Amsterdam and at the Anne Frank House. A voice is narrating Anne Frank as Hazel climbs the steps and ladders of the museum even though she is out of breath and carrying her oxygen machine. She takes her time, but she continues on. I think this is one of the most powerful, extraordinary, ordinary life movie scenes.
I was so tempted to run a half marathon a week ago Sunday, even though that Friday I was struck with the stomach flu. I hated, HATED that I had to miss it, because I was too weak. But even as I run my races, such as my 10-miler this week, there are moments when I’m out of breathe and tired and want to give up, but I CAN’T, because I know that there is a flock of people, strangers mostly, that will be cheering me on. Life is tough, but I gotta keep moving, keep trying, keep running onwards.
Life isn’t easy and it’s exhausting, and I don’t know about you, but I want to live life as if life is something that can be lost.
This song rings in my mind through it all, and it has a pretty epic story:
From Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan:
“When the great Chicago fire consumed the Windy City in 1871. Horatio G. Spafford, an attorney heavily invested in real estate, lost a fortune. About that time, his only son, age 4, succumbed to scarlet fever. Horatio drowned his grief in work, pouring himself into rebuilding the city and assisting the 100,000 who have been left homeless.
In November of 18.73, he decided to take his wife and daughters to Europe. Horatio was close to D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey, and he wanted to visit their evangelistic meetings in England, then enjoy a vacation.
When an urgent matter detained Horatio in New York, he decided to send his wife, Anna, and their four daughters, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie, on ahead. As he saw them settled into a cabin aboard the luxurious French liner Ville du Havre, an unease filled his mind, and he moved them to a room closer to the bow of the ship. Then he said good-bye, promising to join them soon.
During the small hours of November 22, 1873, as the Ville du Havre glided over smooth seas, the passengers were jolted from their bunks. The ship had collided with an iron sailing vessel, and the water poured in like Niagara. The Ville du Havre tilted dangerously. Screams, prayers, and oaths merged into a nightmare of unmeasured terror. Passengers clung to posts, tumbled through darkness, and were swept away by powerful currents of icy ocean. Loved ones fell from each other’s grasp and disappeared into foaming blackness. Within two hours, the mighty ship vanished beneath the waters. The 226 fatalities included Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie. Mrs. Spafford was found nearly unconscious, clinging to a piece of the wreckage. When the 47 survivors landed in Cardiff, Wales, she cabled her husband: “Saved Alone.”
Horatio immediately booked passage to join his wife. En route, on a cold December night, the captain called him aside and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where the Ville du Havre went down.” Spafford went to his cabin but found it hard to sleep. He said to himself, “It is well; the will of God be done.”
He later wrote his famous hymn based on those words.
The melody for “It is Well,” titled VILLE DU HAVRE, was written by Philip Bliss who was himself soon to perish, along with his wife, in a terrible train wreck in Ohio.”
Disclaimer: Present day
I learned a lot about honesty this past week, and how the truth really does set us free. You see, I’ve been building some pretty strong [or so I thought] walls around myself for the past couple months. I’ve been struggling with my so-called dream. It turns out I don’t like it as much as I thought I would. I have yet to find a passion for it. ::Gasp:: But seriously.
So I am by no means fighting cancer, or losing everyone I care about [though that still happens], but I’m not joyful and exuberant about life either. I have another mouse in my cabin and I think a squirrel in my attic [it sounds a lot larger than a mouse]. Today I was stung by a wasp on my big toe. I live alone in the woods, and work alone for my majority of my job. And the kicker, I simply don’t have a passion for this ministry. Which it has taken me a long time to be okay with.
Through opening up and telling people involved in my life and in this ministry that it’s wonderful indeed, but not for me, I have opened up myself to accept who I am. I’ve learned that:
- Just because I know this isn’t my forever place in this world, doesn’t mean I can’t still make a difference while God has me here. Just because I’m not super passionate about it, doesn’t mean that I can’t serve here longer.
- Even though I mostly feel inadequate, it doesn’t mean God isn’t using me. Because he is. I’ve been complimented by guests on my communication skills and cooking abilities. I’ve been told more people can stay at the retreat center because I’m here to clean the cabins. Soups cool.
- God has given me this opportunity to expand my capacity to love. I’m learning more about what it’s like to support-raise for a living and how important it is to support missionaries when I’m financially able or when God says it’s alright to give [His money, not mine]. I’m learning about what it’s like to be a pastor or a pastor’s wife – the struggles, the blessings, and that they are humans who need care just like the rest of us.
- I’m also learning how to truly take care of myself. How it’s okay to be me, and be passionate about the things I care about. Which doesn’t have to be EVERYTHING. There are a crazy ton of awesome ministries out there that need people of all different talents and passions. Though they are all necessary, I don’t have to be passionate about all of them.
- This much I know: I love Appalachia. I loved my time serving with CAP. I love the elderly population. I love dogs and horses. I love my family. I like photography. I love cooking for groups. I like working with kids. I love my friends and making new ones! I miss community. I like to write and sketch. I love Kentucky. I miss McCarthy Beach. I like Northern Minnesota. I love books and movies about characters with cancer. I want my life to make a difference in this world for at least one other life. I want to bring glory to God.
I realized this week that there are jobs out there doing the things I’m passionate about that would love to have me work for them. They aren’t meant for me quite yet. I have a few more things to overcome while serving at this retreat center ministry.
On Tuesday, I travelled to the northern burbs of Indy to interview for a couple jobs, and check-in with a few I’ve applied for. While trying to find an assisted living organization that I was starting to believe didn’t exist, I found myself in a humorous predicament. Tired and frusterated, I stopped for lunch at Max & Ermas [and ate one of their DELICIOUS COOKIES – warm chocolate chip cookies really do make everything better]. I decided to walk to try to find where I was supposed to drive to find this place on my Google maps printout [I don’t have smart technology] that didn’t seem to exist. I was walking through a hotel parking lot when a Canadian goose started to hiss at me and chase after me.
Now I can only imagine what onlookers saw as I dashed away from the goose… in a hotel parking lot… in a city… that I was in on my day off… 4.5 hours away from where I lived… to interview for a job at a pet resort [yes, it is as awesome as it sounds!] It’s crazy how this saying is true: “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Because the moment I seriously considered moving away from Kentucky was when I re-realized how much I love it here: Berea, Lexington, Bardstown, and Appalachia – the scenery, horses, bourbon, wineries, microbrews, half-marathons and the people of course!
I tell ya, my life hasn’t been easy this past year or so, but it hasn’t been terrible. There’s been moments of hilarity and craze, when for a moment I feel happy that this crazy life is mine. They are the moments that make it worthwhile. However, there have been many moments when I’ve been much too lonely and therefore quite depressed, but even in the moments when I don’t feel like all is well, I KNOW that IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL. And that’s all that really matters.
“At such moments, I can’t think about the misery, but about the beauty that still remains. Try to recapture the happiness with itself. Think of all the beauty in everything around you, and be happy!” -Anne Frank’s diary