Square 1

Previously on Underground voices, we saw that, once again, I was freaking out about making a decision. Do I leave home (sort of) and live at university, risking my very life and relationship with my family? Dun Dun Dun

Well, turns out that the decision wasn’t really mine after all. I didn’t push too hard. I told tell her that I didn’t want to do it if she wasn’t going to give me her blessing. And this was probably a good approach. I mean, what if something did go wrong? I would never hear the end of it.

“Apparently, now’s not the right time.”

“$10,000 for room and board!”

“This might make you happy- it can’t be right.”

“It’s true that you can’t love your family more than God- but if you can’t even help the other members of your household, what makes you think you’ll have any luck in the world at large?”

So here we are, back at square one. The show is over and the status quo is restored.

Why am I not thrilled about this? I was perfectly happy before I got the call. Everything is the same, but why do I feel so disappointed?

I know that I’ve got to stop martyring myself, but I don’t want to. You see, I don’t think I really want to accept and embrace the situation. I don’t even think I want things to get better this year. I just want them to see me bravely suffering, and I want them to feel kind of bad about it. Isn’t that messed up? Oh, sure, I won’t cry all the time, but why not sigh every once in a while? Why not let them see the subtle sadness in my eyes?

I know this is stupid, especially when they think they are doing what’s best for me. They really believe they are. And maybe this is what’s best for me. You can’t really argue with God’s decisions. Or, I guess you can, but why even bother in this case? Why can’t I just be flexible and patient? Just a sliver of good attitude would go a long way.

I know that my “dream” couldn’t have been that great in real life. It’s doubtful that I would have found everything that I was looking for there. At the other end of that tunnel is probably just loneliness and confusion, albeit in a different setting.

I really shouldn’t complain. I mean, what would I really complaining about? “Oh, noooo, I have a nice home and my family loves me, and by the way, I am getting a college education and I have a few friends, and the Lord of all creation sent HIs son to die for me so that I could become His daughter and have eternal life, despite all the pathetic failures and horrible, unspeakable  sins tallied against me that will all be wiped away as if they never existed.”

Yeah, doesn’t get that much worse than that.

Hehe

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Change- So We Finally Meet

Hello change,

You were right, you always stalk on by when I least expect it. Still deciding how I feel about you.

Sincerely…

I was just merrily writing along, happy as a clam. It had been a good day, despite the fact that I felt a little under the weather. It was nice outside, so I hobbled around and looked at the flowers to get some exercise. I watched some TV, and sat down to do a bit of writing. The house was quiet- what I”d been dreaming of- and I had time to spare. Not to mention, my friend writer’s block has been out of town, so there are really no complaints. I only wish I had a little more drive and willpower to really push through.

But anyway, enough about that. I was writing, and I got this phone call. I thought it might be the hospital. For a split second, I probably thought I was dying. But no- it was good news! At university, there were a couple super last-minute openings for on campus housing.

Yes, I did consider that good news. Good news that I hadn’t been expecting at all, especially after the email that I got, twice, which basically said, “Yeah, better luck next time, there’s way too much demand so find some other option.” So, of course, I made peace with it. What choice did I have? Another year of commuting- I was okay with that. Wasn’t I? I was happy!

So, there it was, there was the opportunity that I’d been dreaming of for so long- leaving home. But was it there to just taunt me? I imagined telling my mom about this. I expected an immediate and emphatic “no.” Why disturb the delicate balance?

I waited for what seemed like a long time. When we finally sat around the table with our sandwiches, I spit it out. To my surprise, she did not say “no.” She asked questions, made conditions, and expressed some concerns, but very calmly and cheerfully. I couldn’t believe she was being so reasonable. But it wasn’t a definite yes either.

I couldn’t curb all the youthful excitement. I could see a glimpse of it, of everything that I had ever dreamed of. Not spending two hours a school day in the car, having friends, people to talk to, going to events, meetings, making a difference in the community, being part of people’s lives…

Long story short, I asked my mom for an answer. She went back and forth many times. I cried a little. She obviously doesn’t really want me to go, but she could kind of understand my position. And I could understand her concerns too. Okay, that’s not really true, but I am truing to understand her position.

The reality of the thing hit me. And the price- almost $10,000. I knew it wasn’t going to be the dream I thought it would be, but reality always seems to hit me much harder than I imagined it would.

Now, where we stand is that I am allowed to go. She won’t hold me back, but she won’t support me either.

I am excited, frustrated, and yes, very apprehensive. I don’t want to ruin my relationship with my family over this. I don’t want to be selfish.

I just want something to change I guess!

Is this what God wants? Would it be best for everyone in the long run?

I’ll sleep on it, I guess. Maybe by tomorrow, the opportunity will be gone, someone would have already taken it. I’m kind of hoping that’s the case so I don’t have to make a decision.

But I don’t really want that to be the case!

Agh- a house divided cannot stand.

I Once Had a Christian Professor

I really think so. On the last day of class, he gave us an inspirational speech on how we shouldn’t be afraid to enter the real world and pursue a career in accounting. It truly was stirring. In the midst of the applause, he showed us the last slide on his slideshow, this verse, or one very similar:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind”
2 Timothy 1:7

I stared at this slide for a moment as everyone else shuffled out. What bravery, what feeling from my dry professor! I looked at it with that serene, but somehow guarded approval that Christians occasionally bestow upon one another.

Later that night, I was reflecting on these words on the long drive home in the dark. Suddenly, there seemed like so much to fear, but I couldn’t put my finger on any of it. I needed the remembrance of those words to prevent myself from having a panic attack.

These words have special significance to me as a person with anxiety. Fear seems to be the driver of my existence. Power? Love? Soundness of mind? Those all seem like strangers, and I confess that at times I feel so overtaken by darkness that those words seem to have no real meaning.

Why all this despair? You may ask. That is a question that I can’t easily answer. But what I can say is that it springs from a lack of faith. A lack of faith in absolutely everything. Lack of faith in God, lack of faith in good, lack of faith in people. My mind, which hates to take things at face value, questions everything, including the merit of goodness itself. Isn’t that awful?

It seems that the day will come when I’ll run out of energy to fight this. And indeed, I already have. So I crawl at the Lord’s feet and beg for the will to go on, to live, and help others live. And then, feeling just a little recharged, I go out and try to fight Satan’s whole army once again, only to be taken as a prisoner of war, at this point sympathetic to his cause. And then the Lord has to ransom me back all over again.

“Stop going out there by yourself so glaringly unarmed,” he tells me. But do I listen? Do I obey like the good sheep?

No!

I keep waiting for the day that he runs out of patience, love, and forgiveness. I suspect he already has. But how can He? He is God.

The Mystery of God… Still Very Much a Mystery (But That’s Okay)

Is God’s will simply what is before us? Or must we carve it out with His guidance?

This question is central to the turmoil that I have been experiencing all day. Turmoil because I felt that I made a decision contrary to God’s pleasure, and that I will surely be punished for it.

The decision was to continue summer school. Doesn’t that seem like the most trivial thing in the world? Isn’t worrying the real sin? And yet I couldn’t feel good about my decision, even though economy and reason were on its side. I figured that this decision could surely benefit God. I can glorify Him in all circumstances, and these seem favorable circumstances, I thought. And yet peace did not descend. The alternative to my decision is what I perceive as God’s will because it is the less attractive one. Does that make sense at all?

Nonetheless, I seem somewhat trapped in this situation. If I do drop, my family will be upset, and why upset them needlessly? Where is this all leading? Surely, God, you could bring good out of that because you can bring good out of anything… But is it the better decision?

And so, I have been entirely unable to find peace. On top of this absurdity. Satan has been at attacking with a vengeance in different ways. He’s really quite relentless. He makes me question everything- including the reason that I choose to follow God. He asks me if I’m really good enough for God, if I’m really good at all. He asked me to join him.

I found myself going along with this way too much. I found myself only distantly admiring God, if at all. Like the tragic old cynic with a face weathered by brushes with demons, who can only exhort her descendants to turn out differently.

But what’s the use in that hopelessness? Why not seek out God and make things right? I knew that I needed Him, more than ever, so I opened His word. I knew that without Him I would be worse than nothing, so I accepted His help. Once again, He was there with open arms.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭4-7‬ NKJV)

Philippians 4 is awesome, please read the whole thing if you get the chance. I believe this. Yes, Lord, I believe You and I know You are good! It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, You are still the same, You are always the same wonderful God! You are peace, You are joy, You are the antidote to this toxic existence! Oh, please give me the strength to love You! Give me the strength to care! Give me the strength that I don’t have to keep on going! Lord, for some reason I still don’t feel right about my decision; but let me at least stop focusing so much on my own salvation and start focusing on the salvation of others who deserve it so much more than I do. You, in Your gentle way, Lord, win their hearts!

He Provides

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Back-to-school is an exciting time for me, my favorite time of the year actually. While others dread it, I’ve always enjoyed new pencils, a fresh schedule, and another second chance to have a good year.

It’s a bit different now that I’m in college, but it’s really not that different. I still need things like paper, and this morning I realized that I’d neglected to buy looseleaf paper. Things like this stress me out a little since I live a little out of the way. Should I make a special trip? Pay the exorbitant price at the university store? And then, just when I started looking, I found the pages that I have attached above. There were two of them with writing and the rest were blank (just what I needed!). They had been rubber-banded into something of a makeshift prayer journal by me a few years ago.

While this may seem silly to an outsider, it is precious to me. Not only did I find the paper, but I found encouragement from an unlikely source- my own journey with God. Maybe I wasn’t quite as good of a writer a few years ago, but in a funny kind of way, maybe I was wiser back then. In any case, it’s good to look back on what God has done for me over the years and what I have learned. 

I wonder why I doubt and wander so much, when clearly, He’s had my back all along and He gives me just what I need to keep going. 

Trying to be Optimistic, For Once

Compared to yesterday, today I observed a boost in mental health. What more can I ask for from God? Every driplet of sanity has become precious to me.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Don’t even ask me about six months from now.

They say that the life is about the journey, not the destination. I have a hard time believing them sometimes. It seems like I have reason to crave the destination and despise the journey after all. My journeys often seem mundane and anticlimactic. What are my journeys? The first thing that comes to mind are my tri-weekly journeys to school. As a commuter, I’ve gotten way too familiar with one stretch of highway. I don’t really travel otherwise. So the journey motif isn’t working so hot.

On an emotional/social/personal level, the story is similar. Exciting things don’t happen to me often. Which is good and bad. Few friends and little drama. No love and no heartbreak. But the common theme is stagnancy.

BUT let me turn the tables on this whole whine fest and explain why I have reason to be happy.

The fact is that I’m in a good place in general. I’m busy and I’m on the way to something. And that is exciting. I have a novel to write, people to meet, a future ahead of me (God willing). I am just beginning to awaken spiritually. And I’m in college (except I’m on summer break) which I don’t enjoy all the time because I feel like I’m just watching everyone else have a fun and/or fulfilling time but you know what, my education is an amazing opportunity that I shouldn’t waste being miserable. People say that these are the best years of my life. I don’t really believe them, but maybe it would behoove me to. After all, it could be worse. It could be much, much worse.

Lord, the journey is enough for me. Lord, You are enough for me.

Alone Again, Naturally

A little over a year ago, when I was just on the cusp of finishing high school… that was one of the most hopeful times of my life. I thought that in only a few months my life was going to radically change for the better. I wouldn’t be alone anymore. I wouldn’t be unsure of myself anymore. I was going to blossom into some kind of normal, productive citizen. I was going to become the ideal Christian, someone whom people would think of as a “good person,” whatever that means. Yes sir, the next time my classmates would see me at our reunion, they would hardly recognize me. I would be a completely calm and functional human being. Hopefully a little stylish and charming too. 

My, was I off the mark. I am no where near that goal, and thank God for that. 

I had foolish and vain dreams of a better life back then. I still have those dreams. 

I was lonely at the time. And I am still lonely, but in a slightly different way. 

I was worried, and I am still worried.

I was a horrible sinner, and I still am. 

Then what’s different? It’s hard to say, really. The good news is that I don’t have to measure my worth with some kind of instrument. God would rather me focus on the here and now, what I can do at this moment, rather than what I was and what I have been and what I “am.” It’s the enemy who forces me to constantly look within myself for guidance.

I may still be lonely, but I have no right to be mad at God about it. I know that it’s good for me, He knows that it’s good for me, and we both know why. God gives me all that I need and more.

You want to know something? I’m not okay. Not okay. I won’t tell people that, but it’s true. And I can’t be the only one. 

But God is more than okay. God is the glory. God is the light. He is my rock and He is my Doctor. 

So it’s okay that I’m not okay. Let my dreams die, what does it matter? Let me ask the question, for once in my life, “What do you want, God?”