My View From the Tunnel

The most common criticism of Christians is that we are hypocrites. We say things that we do not believe ourselves. We think that we are all that and the rest of the world is filled with misguided sinners who are on their way to Hell.

Well, I don’t really have anything to say to that right now, not because it’s so absurd that it doesn’t deserve an answer, but because I am not blameless in propagating the image I’ve just described above. So today, I will not attempt to preach. I will not tell you how to live your life. What right do I have to do that anyway? Surely with my track record I must be the least of his followers. And what good does it do to tell people what to do anyway? There’s only One who can touch hearts.

But I will continue to praise the God whom I owe everything to and who deserves everything I have. The God that exists not because I want Him to, but because He is.

I will praise God today, in this moment. I’ve always had a difficult time living in the moment because I am so nostalgic and introspective. It seems like I’m always somewhere else. I constantly rehash old memories, mostly good memories from childhood. Old vacations and daytrips. I used to daydream about the future too, every night. But I haven’t done that as much lately. In part because the future is so uncertain, and in part because I’m beginning to realize that the charming, refined woman of the world will never be me. And rightly so.

So being nostalgic and overly ambitious is a weakness of mine. There are so many other weaknesses, more than strengths it seems, that I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose many of them can be summarized into one weakness- my tendency to obsess. The way that my brain fixates on things and won’t let go. The way that it spins out of control like a stationary wheel. Going nowhere, moving nothing, only tiring itself out and dizzying beholders.

Satan uses this for his advantage. Instead of overthinking about God, I just overthink about everything else imaginable. He just shoves things on the wheel and sits back for the show. He piles on sorrows. He piles on worries/pointless anxieties. He piles on pleasures. Anything, everything. People, food, TV, ideas, places, memories…

It’s too much to handle at times. I could easily be addicted to things in my relentless quest to fill the void. I could easily get a heart attack in my old age. I could easily commit some unspeakable crime simply because my mind is such a mess and Satan is good at what he does. I could kill myself even easier.

I could punish myself for these weaknesses. Lord, you know how many of your children have gone that route. Frankly, I do believe that I deserve punishment. I hardly deserve all the opportunities that God has given me.

I don’t punish myself only because I don’t have to. The Lord Jesus punished Himself so that I could live forever in Him. And I don’t need to feel completely hopeless about all my weaknesses. Because the Lord cares for the weak. He is strong no matter how weak we are, and sometimes our weakness makes us stronger because we learn to be less self-absorbed and self-reliant.

So, while I may seem so wretched that I don’t deserve to live, I just have a hard time believing that that will always be true. I just have a hard time believing that God won’t use this for good. Not that I should atone for my sins, because that is impossible, but that I should become the real me, the better me. And I thank God that there is really no alternative- that I must continue stumbling after Him in my own pathetic way, or simply die. Others seem to have a third option, but I thank God that I don’t. On one hand, I wish that others would be like me so they could believe and be saved more easily. On the other hand, I don’t know if I would wish my weaknesses on anyone else because they are a burden.

And so, here I am in this moment that surely won’t last. I would like to say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I really can’t. Yet I still believe in it. And I believe that when I finally see it, it’ll be so bright my eyes will burn because they won’t be able to process the glory and beauty and wonderfulness that is the Lord.

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Being Baptized

Since I’m going to be officially baptized next week, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my faith has evolved, for lack of a better word, over the years. Even though I feel like I just became a Christian, it’s really been about seven years since the seed was first planted. When did I really start taking it seriously? I can’t put a date on that, of course. 

In many ways, it seems like I haven’t made progress at all. Old demons still haunt me. I still screw things up and get stressed and angry. I still don’t know how to communicate through my Spirit. I still shake in my boots at the very thought of sharing my faith, although I do make more of an effort in that way (not that effort is really the right concept). 

At the same time, I do feel something changing deep inside of me. I have this inner peace that somehow coexists with the constant turmoil in my soul. Satan seems to be pulling out all the stops, but instead of feeling utterly hopeless, I feel that God is pulling for me even harder. 

I know at least that a new dawn is approaching. The hopelessness of my pre-Christian days is over. I know now that it doesn’t matter how bad my “old man” was, because I am getting a new being just the same. I know now that this world is just a cosmic pitstop. I know that my life is not going to be perfect or “normal,” ever, but that’s okay. It’s not like Jesus lived what we would consider a normal life either. He didn’t have two kids and a mortgage and a job in the city. He had 12 disciples and many unsavory characters as his friends, all the rejects of society. Oh yeah, and then the Jews crucified him. That’s not normal. So why should strive for a normal life?

Not that you can’t be a Christian if you have two kids and a mortgage and a job in the city. Please don’t be offended! I’m talking more about the inward conformity that our society expects from us than the outward life. I think you know what I mean.

Well, I’d best go and study for finals! Thanks for reading! 

 

 

My Testimonial For God

I won’t say that my story is exceptionally well-written. I won’t say that you will completely relate to it. I won’t say that you’ll like it. But I will make my every effort to put meaning into the events that have made me into who I am today.

Everyone has a life story. A life story well-told is often made up or made into a movie. It often takes the form of a good book. Not everyone’s life story becomes a literary masterpiece- but God knows them all by heart. Everyone’s life story is different, though they have the same themes intertwined in them. A testimony is also a story, a life story with a Christian spin on it. I suppose I haven’t really shared my testimony before. I suppose now is as good a time as any. 

If you read my blog avidly (I don’t think anyone falls into that category), then you would know that I am pretty nostalgic. I miss my early childhood. I may even carelessly refer to those years as “the best of my life.” I came into this world floating on a pleasant, idyllic cloud of bliss. Everything seemed so beautiful back then. Everything was so magical. Just remembering now almost brings tears to my eyes. 

I don’t think I could be more nostalgic.

I had loving parents and a stable home. I lived in a safe neighborhood. I went to school and did nothing but play. My teachers believed in learning through play. They were hippies.

I had lots of friends. I had my imagination. I had lots of good times. But God was not in the picture.

Then, something changed. I was eight years old at the time. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who can understand this part. If I tell people, they think I’m just crazy, if not worse. And they’re right.

I lost my innocence. I don’t know exactly how it happened. No one beat me. No one raped me. No one humiliated me on Facebook. No one stuffed me in a trashcan. No one told me where babies came from. No one offered me a drink or a hit of a joint. Do you get the picture? Nothing major happened. Except this- my family moved to a new state.

That’s all. It was hard to make friends. It was a  different culture. I missed my birth-state, California. And somehow, I learned that the world was something very different from what I’d always thought it was. It became harder to see the beauty in every little thing. I became depressed, borderline suicidal, and confused in every possible way. But I didn’t go to a shrink, I just held on. 

A year later, I moved back to California. Slowly, I started to feel better. And then I started going to a Christian school. They told me that Jesus forgave my sins. And I believed them. But what the next step was, I couldn’t imagine.

Middle school was a roller coaster for me. Once again, it was hard to make friends. And I was having some troubles at home too. No, no one beat me. But I’m pretty sure that there was one week of my life that everyone hated me. Or at least, it really, really seemed that way. But suicide was out of the question. I’d learned in Bible class that suicide was a sin. I learned many other things too. Slowly, gradually, I accepted Christ into my heart. Things were never quite the same after that. From then on, I knew I had a purpose. I knew that I wasn’t a mistake of evolution. I knew that I had to keep going. 

But, as you can imagine, it’s not like things got way better for me. It’s not like I was really a much better person. I remember doing and saying some pretty awful and mean things. I probably stopped doing this a little by junior year, when I finally realized that I was supposed to be loving my neighbor, as well as my enemies.

There were good times. There were moments that I felt like I fit in. But a lot of what I remember is pain, pain that I largely inflicted on myself. 

“Look at everyone else. Everyone else is having fun. Everyone else has friends. No one is awkward like you. There’s something wrong with you. No one likes you. No- that’s not true. People like you. But in spite of the fact that you’re strange and awkward. That’s right, you’re awkward. And you’re strange. You might as well be from another planet. Just look at you. But look, you can change. You need to get a life, go out, stop being so pathetic. You’ve got to have your time in the sun.”

That’s how I thought. I’m not proud of it, but that’s how I thought. I think jealousy is a terrible, ugly thing. I don’t know why I expend energy indulging in it. I should have been thinking more along these lines:

“Good for everyone else! But what’s there to complain about? I have everything I need. If God thought I really needed a social life now, he would have given it to me. I guess He is building my character. You can’t have it all, anyway. And I have some pretty important things to be doing, like writing. So I just don’t have much time.”

And to be honest, I had some good thoughts like that, even though I forced them on myself. And yet the negative ones kept reappearing.

And that’s not all. I wanted a car too. I thought a car would lead to a social life. I remember when getting my license seemed like the most important and coveted thing in the world. Man, it seems so stupid now. By the end of senior year, I was cruising along in one. It got me from point A to point B just fine. But it didn’t get me to cloud 9. I can’t believe I had such high expectations anyway.

Senior year especially, I started to get serious about my faith. I realized by then that I needed to really dedicate my life to Christ. But at the same time, as you can see, my “heart was not pure.” I was chasing after worldly pursuits, and I was trying to follow God too. I was trying to achieve the impossible. To be honest, I wanted it all. I wanted the status symbols, I wanted the friends, the grades, the writing career, another career. I think I even wanted to be an actor at one time. I wanted these things, at least in part, just for my own glorification. Can you imagine that? And I also wanted to be one of those Christians who would renounce all their possessions. I wanted to be fired up for Christ, not indifferent, not merely a kid from a Christian school who follows the crowd. I wanted to be different. I wanted to deny myself. But another part of me wanted to indulge myself. So I was- and still am- being pulled in all these different directions.

Then college came around. I thought my life was really going to get better. I thought a fresh start was just what I needed. I thought I would stop doing and saying stupid things.

I didn’t make tons of friends like everyone assured me I would. I am still feeling out of place. At times, the secular spin does make me question my faith. 

I wish that I have a tidy ending to put here. I wish I could say, “And I lived happily ever after. I was never discontent or unfaithful ever again.”

Or, better yet, “Even though my priorities were straight, and I really just wanted to just love on others and make disciples rather than party-buddies and a place for myself in society, God blessed me with a tight-knit group of friends anyway who continually encourage me to stand up for my faith. Oh, and by the way, I have a fantastic boyfriend too. I know, I never thought it would happen to me! Well, I couldn’t be happier. Thank you Jesus, for all the incredible blessings you have bestowed me. I will do all I can to use them according to Your will and do everything you have preordained for me. Well, see you in heaven, until then, everything is just dandy!”

But even though my journey is still in progress, even though I constantly fall back into sin, even though I still crave things that are not good for me, even though I still have bad thoughts and sin constantly… I have hope. I have hope for an abundant life. I have hope that one day, I will seize my opportunity to serve Christ wholeheartedly and never look back. I have hope that, if not on earth, at least in heaven I will be given a new body and new mind, cleared of all mental illness/anxiety. I have hope that someday I will connect with someone. Maybe I’ll never even be someone’s bridesmaid, let alone get married myself- but I pray that one day I will lead a fellow human being to Christ. And that would be the greatest honor of all. I have hope that someday I will help someone, make a difference in their life. I have hope that maybe I will write something worth reading and believing. If it is in God’s will. The all-important caveat to most of what I just said.

So maybe my life story will never be turned into a movie. It would be foolish and prideful to imagine myself being famous (although, embarrassing as it is to admit, I do it all the time because it makes me feel better about present circumstances). But the good news is that I am alive right now, and that Christ is willing to live in me. He is willing to retake the soul that I defiled and purify it, filling it with good and helpful things. He is willing to dwell in me. He is willing to dwell in you. And I think that is a beautiful thought. I think that was missing from my childhood.

So the journey continues. Thanks God, it’s been an interesting ride. I guess I wouldn’t change a thing.

Well, maybe I could have done without some of that sin.

But we can’t go back in time anyway, can we?

We only have today.