I used to think…

I used to think I had it all figured out. I knew exactly what it meant to have faith and believe. Everything was in a pretty, wrapped up box and made total sense. We were meant to be happy all the time and go on with our lives accepting the sadness, but quickly flipping the coin over to joy.

I used to think I needed to keep Jesus in a box too. I knew this whole Christianity thing was supposed to be about following Jesus and being a disciple of him…that it means so much more than a label or a checklist or rules of right or wrong, but I spent so much time trying to be good, trying to make sure I was doing it right, and saying and believing the right things. I was missing out on the person of Jesus and who He was and how He is.

I used to bristle at being called a Christian…too much hurt, too much misuse, too much baggage is associated with that word. It was something I was not proud to be labeled as and the day I realized that a little part of me unraveled. What was wrong with me that I recoiled at this label? And even while I took a step back from the beliefs and traditions I’ve always known and confronted these doubts and questions, I never could shake Jesus. I never could shake that name, that person, that relationship and the more and more I stepped back from my pretty, wrapped up boxes and black and white definitions, I felt like I took a step closer and closer to Jesus.

I started to really think about who he was, what he stood for and if I’m going to say I follow him, what does that mean? I used to think it meant I had all the answers, I was on the “good” path, I should be able to fix everything and make sure it all works out for good. I should be happy all the time, but that’s not how this works, at least it hasn’t for me. My pretty wrapped up boxes have been destroyed, my world has faded from black and white to all kinds of shades of gray and I embrace the wonder, the messiness and the times it just doesn’t make sense because I don’t have it all figured out.

When you’re sitting in a funeral for a student who had been shot and killed, there is no way to fix that. When you watch his mother and brother and family cry out when that casket lid shuts, there is no pretty, wrapped up box for that to fit in. When the pain and the grief was choking me and all I wanted to do was make it better for them, all I could say was Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. That name over and over again. Because what else can you do? This doesn’t make sense, how does my faith explain this? I don’t know, but Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…

When I’ve been in my darkest place, feeling like the despair, the confusion and the loneliness may just overtake me, there was no pretty, wrapped up box for that to fit in. When I felt like the world swirled around me like a tornado and all I could do was hang on for dear life, I didn’t know how this fit in my black and white categories or my understanding of my faith. It didn’t make sense to me, but Jesus did and I said that name, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Sarah Bessey says, “In your heart of hearts, in your raw place of grief and suffering, in your rich center of love and redemption, who do you say God is?” God is with us. That’s who God is to me. God is with us and he is love, he is comfort, he is peace and he hates what is evil. It is not his will for a teenager to be killed or for us to suffocate in the darkness, but Jesus is on the side of those who suffer and rather than looking down on our pain, sits with us in the brokenness, in the grief and in the sadness.

I used to think we were doing it wrong if we were sad and didn’t have a quick answer or reassurance for when that terrible thing happens, but now I know that we are going to be sad, we have to feel those feelings and there are no quick answers. We have lost the practice of lament and how true healing comes from walking through the grief.

I used to think I was damned for not loving being called a Christian, but now I think I am not alone in that and now I know that a label is not who I am. I never could shake Jesus and that’s who I want to be known by. I want to be known for all Jesus stands for…for love, justice, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, goodness, life, comfort and peace.

I used to think Jesus was present in my life and was the person I pointed to when asked who I believed in, but now I think He is so much more than that. He is there with me always, holding my hand to keep me grounded when the world is in chaos around me, sitting with me in the grief, walking with me in the wilderness and celebrating my joys. Always reminding me that He is there, he is love, he is comfort, he is constant, thank you Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

{This is part of the Out of Sorts Synchroblog with Sarah Bessey answering I used to think_____ but now I think _____ …head on over here to read more!}

They held his hands up.

My aunt passed away suddenly a week ago. She had been sick, but it wasn’t expected and was a shock. She had just moved back to Michigan after living in Australia for the past 35 years and her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter moved here too. So to get the call that she was gone was hard, it was too soon and it sucked. She wasn’t supposed to leave us yet.

There’s a story in Exodus about when the Israelites are fighting and when Moses held up his hands, Israel was winning, when he let them down, the other people were winning. Well…obviously, his hands got tired and when they did his friends brought a stone for him to sit on and then they did what I think is really cool…his friends held his hands up—“one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”

These two guys didn’t have to do that. They could have left Moses and let him grow tired and take on that responsibility on his own, but they didn’t. They held his hands up. I am no Bible scholar so I don’t even know the context, but what I do know is that Moses’ two friends shared in this responsibility and offered support to him.

The past few weeks have been kinda crazy, overwhelming and hectic for me. I told my mom the night before I got the news about my aunt that I didn’t have the energy to deal with one more emotional thing. And honestly, I didn’t. My hands were tired, so you could say, but this is the really cool thing…people held my hands up.

Nothing about this last week has been easy for me or my family. My cousin lost her mom. My mom lost her sister. And it sucks. But I have been surprised and overwhelmed by how people have shown up. They have held our hands up.

They brought dinner to feed our entire family plus some.

They cleaned my cousin’s house from top to bottom.

They send a “praying for you” or “is there anything I can do for you?” text.

They call you to keep you occupied during your drive home.

They think for you at work when you can’t find the energy to do it yourself.

They come help you finish your yard work.

They send you gas money.

And, really, the list could go on. Yes, nothing about this has been easy for my family, but it for sure has been a testament to how people show up and how they have held our hands up.