Posts tagged faith
Posts tagged faith
Yesterday, I was going to The Hobbit with my boyfriend as one of our last dates together before we went our separate ways for the holidays. Before we left, though, we heard about the shootings in Connecticut. I felt incredibly sick to my stomach, not just because these were innocent lives lost, but they were children—the definition of innocence. Also, I want to be a teacher. The reality sunk in that teaching actually has risks, not just for myself but for the students that I love deeply.
Sitting in the movie, I found myself to be angry. I found myself questioning God and having that typical, angry debate with Him after instances like this.
“Why? Why God? Why children?”
“He was awful. He was evil.”
Still, of course, no answer.
“His evil spilled into the lives of others. They took the punishment he deserved. The blood of the innocent should never be spilled to correct the sins of the wretched.”
It was that moment that I caught myself. It was that moment that I think I had my answer. The blood of The Innocent had been spilled to cover all of the evils of the world, and it was the blood of God Himself—God, who humbled Himself, and came as a beautiful, innocent child.
I found myself guilty of the very thing that the disciples of Jesus were guilty of: they wanted a powerful, militant Messiah who would come in and crush opposition and forcibly put everything right. In fact, that’s what they thought they had, even after spending all of this time with Jesus and hearing sermons on “turning the other cheek” and “loving their enemies,” they went to buy swords during his last week on Earth. They were ready for a military insurrection until Jesus had to gently tell them to put their weapons away. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword. The point is that Jesus had a different kind of salvation in mind, and He was thinking of a different kind of battle—a spiritual one of the heart armed with swords of truth and love.
You see, you don’t fight fire with fire, you have to douse it in water and choke the flames out. Then, you have to begin repairing the damage of the fire by planting seeds, tending them, watering them, and working with patience and care. The results of such a process aren’t seen for months or maybe even years, but it is the only way to truly reverse the destruction of the flames. God knew that He could come and force His reign. He could come on clouds with terrible lightning and swift justice, but who’s to say we would have actually liked that kind of salvation any way? The human heart is so dissatisfied that we might have decided we didn’t want to worship a God who would force His rule. No, the only way to root out the evils of the human heart is to patiently and meticulously plant humility and love.
This is the Christmas season. My heart is broken for the families in Connecticut; for little children who will not get to open their Christmas gifts; for families with hearts filled with grief at the empty spots around their tables. In that movie last night, there was one part that stood out to me. Galadriel asks Gandalf why he chose to bring the hobbit Bilbo on their journey, and he said, in so many words, that evil is never vanquished with great strength and force, but with small acts of kindness and a mysterious love and courage against the odds.
Remember that this Christmas season. Remember that God chose a young virgin, He chose to come as a child, He chose things that were unexpected and completely against our ideas of salvation. I’m not saying to not be upset about the awful things that have happened. By all means, be upset. I don’t pretend to understand everything that happens in this world. I don’t pretend to be okay with these kinds of terrible acts. Yes, I believe that God has purpose and plan, but none of those things are comforting at all in the face of immense pain. Truly grieving is comforting, and I think that’s okay. Jesus, God Himself, wept deeply. Tell God you’re upset. Be honest about how you feel. But know that the King of the Universe has humbled Himself to a manger and subjected Himself to the darkness of the world so that He could overcome it. Know that He weeps, too.
In fact, that may be the only comfort in such terrible situations. Jesus has felt it, whatever it may be, He’s felt it. The good, the bad, the terrible, the happy, the joyful, the sting of betrayal, the thrill of life and the chill of death—He’s felt it all. God is Emmanuel; He is with us.
Merry Christmas, friends.
He must increase.
I must decrease.
In my American Literature class, we are reading “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. My colleagues were commenting on Plath’s humor in the book, which came as a shock to me considering she is talking about a character who is breaking down mentally and eventually attempts suicide. The main character, Esther, jokes about trying to hang herself, but she gave up because it was too hard to tie a knot and her ceilings in her house were much too low. Jokes like this actually run throughout the book.
My peers admitted ashamedly that they laughed often while reading the novel, but they didn’t know how to take the humor considering she was discussing something as grim as death. Perhaps I am the weird one, but I never once found the book funny, just simply heart breaking. Esther uses humor to cover up the fact that she is very deeply hurt. Humor is often a defense mechanism to cover up insecurity or fear or one’s true thoughts. Her jokes only made the situation even more painful and dark to me, because she was showing that she and her author Plath, who based Esther off of herself, were very broken. That dark monster of depression still existed inside, but if Esther could only make the reader or herself laugh, perhaps everyone would forget it or overlook it. Perhaps if we all smiled, we wouldn’t have to look at or address the gaping wound. I just wanted to cry for her more.
It seems so painfully obvious to say that appearances are not everything, yet we tend to let ourselves be consistently caught off guard by real life Esthers and Sylvia Plaths. Depression was something that I grew up with and struggled with immensely. I remember admitting my depression and suicidal thoughts at a church retreat in high school and everyone was shocked. They said, “I would have never known. You just always seemed so happy and funny.”
I would really love to encourage you guys to do two things:
1.) Get to know people truly and deeply. That is, look beyond their image. Ask them intentional questions about their lives, their interests, their beliefs, their fears, their insecurities, their joys… Notice things about them! Notice when they don’t show up for class or church or when they are being a little more quiet than usual, etc… Be observant and be considerate. Don’t be intrusive, that is, don’t push it or try too hard if someone has put a wall up. But do not merely accept that wall or those smiling faces as all that is to a person.
2.) Love people for exactly who they are and where they are in life. This is seems so overused and cliche at this point, but it is truly the only way to get to know someone and to establish trust with them. You really never know who you can reach if you treat each person just like they are precious, valuable, and irreplaceable.
How do I know this? When I was struggling with depression and when I wanted to commit suicide, I had one friend who sent me an email from Asia who told me randomly how she didn’t want to lose me and she loved me. It was funny, because of all the friends and family I had here, she was the only one who could see my brokenness and she was on the other side of the world. She also shared the gospel with me, and though I had heard it one million times, that time was so different, because I actually saw the love of Christ in action through her.
What difference did she make? I didn’t kill myself that night.
And I accepted Christ for the first time. She saved my life, but more importantly, she pointed me to the One Who saved my soul. That’s all the difference in the world.
Many of my friends who do not believe in Christianity have shared with me their frustrations with Christianity’s exclusivity. I guess for me this is an ambiguous term, so I have to break down exactly what they mean by exclusive. Truthfully, most things are exclusive. My University, like most I am sure you know, is exclusive to those who have the certain requirements and prerequisites necessary for admission. Taking that idea a step further, being a full-time student is exclusive to those who take 12 or more hours each semester and pay their tuition. Clubs and organizations are always exclusive. You probably won’t have much luck joining the high school band if you can’t tell a tuba apart from a trumpet. Sports teams are exclusive to those who follow the rules of the game. In other words, you cannot go into a soccer game and start using your hands and tackling people like in American football to get the ball into the goal. That is outside the confines of the rules of the game. Exclusivity surrounds us in everyday activities, organizations, and groups, so I am pretty certain this is not exactly what bothers people about the “exclusivity” of Christianity.
I think what bothers people most is not the exclusivity of Christianity, but of Christians. Christians, like myself, often make harsh dividing lines between what makes someone a believer and what does not. We like to draw the lines between which sins are acceptable as believers and which are not. Sometimes the statements get even more ridiculous, saying things like “Christians should vote for a specific party or candidate” or “can’t have that beer with the guys” or you fill in the blank. If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard one of these statements, I would be able to pay off my college tuition no problem.
Let me be clear with you: Christianity has a set of doctrines and beliefs that should be accepted in order to call yourself a Christian—namely, the belief that Christ is God who died for the forgiveness of every wrong thing we’ve ever done just so He could have a relationship with us again. Of course there are more, but I can’t touch on all of those in one post. Christianity is, in fact, exclusive in this way as anything else is in life. If we could just define Christianity by whatever terms we deemed necessary or right for us, there would not be a Christianity. It would be some vague, nonsensical belief with no real basis.
This being said, the belief of Christianity is not exclusive to one kind of person, which is the point that Christians often confuse. The Gospel of Christ is not for one kind of people group or culture. Jesus said this to His disciples during His last few moments on earth: “You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (From Acts 1:8). This says something very profound about the heart of God: He wants to be available to all people everywhere. Christ Himself was very inclusive in the people He hung out with. I don’t know many people, Christian or not, who hang out with a lot of prostitutes, homeless people, lepers, tax collectors, and drunks. But Jesus hung out with all of these guys. If that’s not acceptance, then I don’t know what is.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: The Gospel is for sinners and saints. It’s for the thief on the cross and the widow praying at the temple. It’s for those who have had abortions and those who are in the pews on Sunday. It’s for the liars, the losers, the lame, and the lost. It’s for those who cuss and those who have tattoos and drink whiskey. It’s for the addict. It’s for the girl who sings in the choir. It’s for the person struggling with their sexuality. It’s for the student who stays up late every night studying. It’s for the families who are broken and for the couples who are crazy in love. It’s for prostitutes and Pharisees. It’s for the hypocrites who say they love Christ, but they don’t know a thing about what it means to love Him at all. It’s for those who hear about Jesus every day and those who could care less. It’s for those who are passionately devoted to God and for those who have given up. The Gospel is for me, but I also want to tell you that it is for you. This list is by no means exhaustive because the Gospel is for everyone. It’s for every tribe, every tongue, and every nation. It’s for the world because God wants every single human being to know how greatly and enormously they are loved.
There is nothing exclusive about that.
When you stop sinning, you don’t suddenly become righteous. You become stagnant. When you stop moving backwards you aren’t moving forwards suddenly, you’re just standing still. Righteousness is taking that next step and moving forwards. It’s fighting the temptation to turn around and go back downhill. It’s being brave and ignoring the fear of the unknown ahead instead of staying in your comfortable position sitting in the grass.
I think that’s where most Christians get stuck in their faith. We think that if we stop doing the “bad” things we’re okay and we’re closer in our walk with God. The truth is that we’re not necessarily closer, we’re just still. We’re not running away from Him anymore, but we aren’t progressing either. If you want a life-changing faith, you’re going to have to take the next step forward and run toward Him.
janejiyoungo asked: Kelsey, thank you for your inspiring posts and your answers to questions.. I was wondering.. could you shed some light on forgiveness? I’m the type of person that “lives in the past” and it’s hard for me to truly forgive someone. I say I forgive them and I honestly at the moment feel I do, but when another mistake is made by the other person, I bring back past issues and frustrate the person for doing so. So what can I do? Does forgiving someone mean never bringing past mistakes up? Thanks
Kelsey-isms answered: Thank you for your encouraging words and your question! You’re so awesome. Forgiveness is so difficult, but keep your head up. We’ll get through this stuff together.
The first thing I will say about forgiveness is that it comes at the end of a process called grieving. When someone hurts you, you don’t have to slap on that smile right away and say that it’s okay while you mask all of those awful feelings. Sometimes, you need to allow yourself some time to really cry it out and acknowledge that pain, and then you can begin to confront it at the end.
The second thing I will say is that forgiveness in itself is another process. After you go through all of this grieving, you start a new journey called forgiving. You’ll start to let go of one thing that hurt you and then sometimes that person will do something else to hurt you that just reopens old wounds. I think you mentioned something along these lines when you said, “at the moment” it feels like you have forgiven them. Maybe, in that moment, you have begun to forgive, but it takes a long time to truly let things go. So here are just a couple of things to keep in mind while you are on this journey:
1.) Every person, no matter what they have done, is someone that God has called forgiven. He even wrote this forgiveness in His own blood and death on the cross. If we keep this in mind, it makes it just a bit easier to let go of the wrongs a person has done to us knowing that they are someone worth forgiving in God’s eyes. Oh, and by the way, we’ve been forgiven by God too, and because of this we don’t have any reason to deny others their forgiveness.
2.) I am very careful with the saying, “Forgive and Forget.” I think there is a certain bit of wisdom that comes from events in our past. We should learn from our circumstances. So, I don’t think we should always necessarily forget the situation, because often we can learn from these things and become more discerning. However, if we’re still holding these things over someone’s head, I think that may be a sign that we still have a grudge or that we haven’t really let go of the issue entirely. On that note, though, if someone asks for forgiveness but they continue to do the exact same things to you that they did before, that’s when you should probably move on. There is a HUGE difference between someone who truly repents and wants forgiveness because they love and care about you and someone who just wants to get off the hook.
3.) Lastly, time truly goes hand in hand with forgiveness, and it is a beautiful, painful, and slow process that cannot be rushed. I think the best analogy I can use is that of cultivating a garden. Once the grief is over, you can finally plant that seed of forgiveness in the barren soil, but it will take a lot of time, love, care, and nurturing to get that seed to grow into any kind of flower. Be patient and talk about these struggles with mentors and friends if you can. You never have to do this alone.
And I will be praying for you on this journey! Don’t give up. You’re not alone.
I prayed for a heart like Yours, God, but I had no idea what that would look like. I could not have imagined the enormity of such a love.
It was a love that chased desperately after the wife of Hosea. It was a love that gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. It reached out to the tax collectors, but scorned injustice with a fiery passion. It was not just a love that touched, but a love that transformed. It healed the lepers’ spots and the even deeper stains of the sinner’s heart—of my heart. It was a love that never cast the first stone, even though it was perfectly entitled to do so, but one that instead said, “You are forgiven.” It was a love that wept bitterly, bled, and died.
When I prayed for a heart like God’s, I never imagined what a terrifying thing it would be if such a prayer was answered. I never imagined the cost. Love is not marked with roses and rainbows… It is one that is marked with strain, passion, blood, a death, and a cross. To have a heart like God’s is to have a heart that is utterly broken for the world. To have a love like His is to stop at nothing for the sake of His children. It would go at any length and suffer any extreme just to touch the Beloved.
I still do not have a heart like God’s, but He continues to show me His heart every day. He continues to tell me that there is no turning back when you have made a commitment to Him and to real love like His own.
Yes, God. I understand the cost now and I don’t care. I will follow You. Please, give me Your heart. Show me how to love like You love, even if that love comes with great suffering. I know Your love is marked with a cross, but it was a love that ultimately conquered the grave. I will follow Your heart, no matter what the cost, because only Your love has the hope of a resurrection.
My friend has been reading Johnathan Edwards for class and she was quite concerned by the Hellfire and Brimstone message that he preaches. She said that she thought God was a God of love and mercy rather than this “angry God” that Edwards writes about. I didn’t really know how to respond…Thoughts?
Wow great question… I will never be able to scratch the surface of this entire dialogue, but I think there are just a couple of points that need to be made here… So, keep in mind, I am simplifying a complicated answer to a complicated question. There are two things I’d love to say about this:
1.) God is most certainly Just. Let’s be clear about one thing: He hates sin. He hates sin because it is the opposite of who He is and it separates Him from His creation which He deeply loves. God eradicates sin. He erases it. He cannot stand for injustice because He is Justice Himself. We must ask ourselves this question, though. What is more frightening? A God who is apathetic and complacent towards something as horrible as sin? Or a God who is broken-hearted by sin, and who will rectify the wrongs of this world? Honestly, I would be worried more if God didn’t hate sin…
2.) God is also, most certainly, loving. He lavishes us with grace. Paul writes in 1 Timothy that God pours out this grace abundantly (1:14)! The entire gospel is a story of God’s incredible love for man as He stepped into the world as a human being (We all know the famous John 3:16). He wanted to experience everything man experienced. He wanted to touch them physically, heal them, and eat with them. He even humbled Himself to washing the feet of His disciples. This was servant’s work in that time. Is this a contradiction? Did God “change His mind” between the Old and New Testaments?
No. God is the same God then as He is now and He will be tomorrow. I think we often forget that the most crazy, radical display of His love and forgiveness was also, technically, an act of “punishment” and “wrath”. In fact, you could almost say that this moment is God’s greatest display of anger because the man who paid the price of sin was an innocent man… It was God Himself. The cross is this amazing place where grace and justice meet. Justice demanded that the wrongs of the world needed to be set “right.” God is Justice, and it would be against His very nature to leave sin unaccounted for, but God is also Love Himself and it would be against His very nature to be anything other than forgiving and merciful towards His beloved creation. Of course, I am the chief among sinners. It should have been my cross… but He took it, because He loves me.
And He loves you too, so, so much. I wish I could tell you just how much God loved you, but words will never be able to express that.
And thank God that He eradicates sin! We forget so often that His justice in abolishing sin is exactly what allows us to be able to come to Him. We can boldly approach His throne with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) because His grace has made a way for us. Now that is a hopeful, beautiful picture of love.