|Thistles in Fall, Upper Lake Mary, Flagstaff, AZ|
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I love CS Lewis. I love how approachable he is and how well he explains the most complicated things in the most beautifully simple metaphors. I love reading his books- it almost feels like I’m sitting down with him for a cup of coffee and discussing the mysteries of life and faith and it’s just wonderful. So for the next while I plan to work my way through A Grief Observed, the latest book of his that I'm reading, and share what I find. This quote particularly got me thinking. And I guess I like it because it’s the same struggle I have. I really struggle quite often to believe that God is good. And it’s somewhat comforting to know that I am not the only one who wrestles with this question. I can’t wait to see if he comes to a conclusion later in the book. In the meantime, I’ll struggle with it myself and see if I come up with anything that rings true for me.
“If God’s goodness is inconsistent with hurting us, then either God is not good or there is no God: for in the only life we know He hurts us beyond out worst fears and beyond all we can imagine.” (44)
Monday, November 28, 2011
|Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia, Photo taken by Kara Haberstock, July 2011|
For those of you that don’t know, I lived in Russia for six weeks this summer, studying Russian at St. Petersburg State University. I’ve spent a lot of summers in foreign countries and learned one thing: whenever you go to a foreign country, God tends to turn your life upside. I suppose being out of your comfort zone makes it easier to get things done or something, but either way, my life got turned upside down as usual. And I’m just now beginning to make sense of it all.
Not too long ago, I had lunch with a friend who spent her summer on a mission trip abroad, and we talked a lot about how lives get turned upside down and things change. We talked about her struggle with bearing the world’s brokenness and my struggles with it following trips to Haiti and Kazakhstan and so many broken places. We talked about the balance between grieving and living, between allowing this brokenness to break us, to see God’s heart for the world that is just aching for things to be set right, and giving up this burden to Jesus because it is too much for us to bear. We cannot grieve for the world. There is a balance to be had: to see what is wrong in our world, the injustice, the pain, and pray for the day it is all set right while allowing this brokenness to break us, but to live in hope for the day when it is set right and embrace the joy set before us and see the good, the redemption that is happening all around us. And it was good to talk about these things: I love these sorts of conversations. I wish more people saw this, felt this burden of brokenness. I study ethnic conflict. I sit in brokenness everyday, and I grieve. If the day comes where I don’t grieve, then something is very very wrong. But God has also taught me to live in hope, in joy, in knowing that he is good and he is a God of justice and mercy and that he will redeem and restore and make beautiful.
We also talked a little bit about my summer, about how life has changed, about what parts of trips you tell to people and the parts you neglect to mention, and how even your memory of what happened changes. It was good to process, for one thing. But I also began to even realize how much I have not yet processed, how silent I have been, and how much this summer has turned my life upside down. My friend said quite plainly, “I left, I came back, and now I am a different person.” I didn’t see it so well at first, but the same is true for me. I am a different person. And the struggle now is how to relate that to those closest to me. Because they often do not understand, even though they want to, and some sort of rift is born.
Russia was fun. It was crazy. It was an adventure. I loved it. That’s the part I tell most people, and it’s true. But it was also incredibly hard. It was dry: I struggled to hear God’s voice, I felt isolated and alone, I was the only person on my program who was a Christian, I had no community. I was homesick: I missed tacos, I missed my friends, I missed Tucson (which never happens when I’m abroad). I came to the realization that I have become attached to people. And while that’s healthy (I’ve had major attachment issues for most of my life), it also means that I have changed, quite dramatically. I’ve always planned on running around the world, most likely solo. I wanted to do research abroad, to run around war zones, to be able to go wherever I want whenever I want without being particularly tied down to anything. I felt that it was my calling: my attachment issues only made it easier- there was nothing to hold me back. But then God began to chip away at my defenses. He called me to truly love people and let them love me, to form true friendships, true community. And then I left, like I do most summers, and I missed it so much more than I ever expected to. And suddenly, while I still want to run around the world, I’m not so sure I want to do it alone anymore.
While this was all happening, other changes were also occurring. My pastor here in Tucson preached a series on Ruth that talked a lot about male-female friendships and also relationships. And through this (I listened in Russia, and my friends went to church here at home), and other processes, some of which I probably don’t know about, one of my closest friendships changed. I’m now dating one of my best friends, and I love it. It’s awesome. But it means that there’s been a crazy change. Neither of us would be doing this if we weren’t thinking about the “m”-word, and this is definitely not where I saw myself, even as recently as three months ago.
So when my friend asked me point blank today, “Do you think the two of you will get married?” my answer was, “Most likely, yes.” We talked about dating and such and how she thinks she’ll be single for awhile because her prospects keep getting narrower (that’s what I always thought too). But it’s still so strange to me to say these sorts of things out loud. She and I used to be in the same camp, the “we’re not going to get married till we have out lives figured out when we’re 26 or something” camp. But now I’m in the “most likely married after graduation” camp and it’s just so different. And I fear it’s hard for those around me to understand. I’m not who I was. This relationship is the product of my life getting flipped upside down this summer. I went to Russia and realized that I don’t want to run around the world by myself anymore. It’s lonely and isolating and not as much fun as I though it was going to be. I still want to run around the world, but I want someone to come home to or someone to go with. I’m not unattached. I do need people, and I want to need people. I want those deep friendships. And I really like where I’m at right now. But it’s hard to explain that to those who knew me before. They can’t figure out what happened to the girl who wanted to run around the world solo and was ready to uproot her life at a moment’s notice. I think they fear that I’ve given up on my dreams, or that I’m getting pressured into something I don’t want, or that it’s just the hormones and emotions talking.
I don’t want to give up on my dreams of traveling and studying ethnic conflict. I still have a heart for the world, especially for the North Caucasus. But I have new dreams now and I want them both. It almost seems like there’s a rift now, that I’m still trying to put together. Someone told me that one of the reasons people don’t go to the mission field is due to relationships. I wasn’t dead-set on going into missions in the first place, but it’s definitely been on my radar, and it still is. I’m just trying right now to put the pieces together. I know how God has been calling me and burdening my heart, but I also know that this relationship didn’t just happen. There was a lot of prayer on both our parts and even resistance. This is terrifying for me at times; part of me still cries out, “What are you doing?! This wasn’t part of the plan.” But I know that this is good. I just don’t know how it fits.
I suppose my greatest fear is that these pieces actually don’t fit together, and that someday I’ll have to choose. I fear that God will call us to different places and that I’ll lose this relationship that I’m already beginning to love so much. It terrifies me, especially after coming to the realization that I can’t go halfway with this. I must go all-in. And thus there’s the question in the back of my mind: “What if you must give this up?” And I know that it would be devastating. But I also know that if called, I must turn to Him. I will go where I’m called. I just can’t help but pray that He doesn’t ask me to turn from this that he has given me.
So that’s where I am. Still processing. I don’t have many answers yet. Maybe someday I will. I have a feeling that by that point there will be lots of new questions to process. I suppose this is where another part of the conversation between my friend and I becomes relevant. We talked about how the Christian life is not easy, not at all. If anything, it’s harder. The burden is greater, the sorrow is deeper, there’s a grief that was never there before. To love like God loves is to suffer deeply. But we have hope in this: that the life we have now is not easier than the one we had before, but it is better. It’s harder, with greater suffering, more pain, more sorrow, but the joy is greater, the hope is stronger, and we know that Jesus came to give us the best possible life. And this is what we’re living, life in Christ. Abundant life, overflowing life, true life. And we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
I must admit that this is not a blog that anyone is particularly meant to read. I'm an external processor, which means I like to talk about things whether anyone is listening to me or not. So, this blog works out well for everyone: I get to process and none of my dear friends or family have to put up with my rambling monologues. That being said, I tend to treat this as my own personal spot to muse, to share favorite music and videos, and to make note of significant ideas and happenings. So, wander at your own will and enjoy yourself.
All the best,
All the best,