teach me it doesn’t matter, what they say or think or don’t think about me. teach me it doesn’t. I struggle to believe it. teach me it doesn’t matter who considers me friend, who considers me foe. teach me to love you more! please teach me, my heart not to wander, it is prone to sway other ways. teach me you’re better! teach me. teach me it doesn’t matter what I look like, teach me it doesn’t matter what’s devalued, teach me to place my worth in you or else my worth will crumble and change and cry tears perpetually I’m that weak. teach me you love weakness and smallness and that you’ve turned the world upside down, that I don’t need one thing or another, that I’ve gained your approval, your trust, your spirit, your crown. a crown of thorns! teach me to love that. teach me surrender. teach me sweet surrender. teach me to bleed and to bless those who bruise me. teach me I can’t take care of myself but that you promised you always will. teach me the truth! I can’t find it in the hashtags and the mottos and life sayings of yesterday or today. teach me your wisdom, the one that won’t fade! yes, it sounds foolish, and looks foolish-er still, what with you on a tree, being spat at and scorned, singing softly that you love the least of these. but teach me what it means to be less. teach me not to trample on others for my own gain, even if it feels so good! teach me to love others before myself. teach me not to save face. teach me to be a fool, teach me radical love, tenderness, compassion– teach me how to die so that I might live.
- went hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire
- took a biology course (albeit for non-majors)
- learned how to film + edit, and created two 5-min films
- shared about my faith with a professor
- auditioned for/joined an a capella group
- tried beignets at the Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans (among other things)
- painted two homes
- initiated more conversations, smiled at more strangers
- rode on the metro at NYC (also lost $10 after swiping multiple times)
- read Infinite Jest (well, most of it)
- lived with two different roommates
- visited Chinatown in Boston
- shared my writing with close friends, which I find harder than sharing with strangers
- biked in the rain until I was soaked to the bone, and wrote a poem about it
- visited a friend I hadn’t seen since high school
- went to a football game at our #1 rival college
- said goodbye to college graduates, hello to first-years, cried/laughed/prayed with new and old friends (firsts and lasts because I and they will never be who we were in that moment at that time, for better or for worse)
Beginning this year I’d yearned to live into the freedom I believed God had promised for me (Galatians 5:1, John 8:32, 36). Going into college I’d had to confront a multitude of insecurities and fears I hadn’t even realized had bound me. I internalized everything, felt paralyzed, and beat myself up over seemingly insignificant scars that ran dangerously deep.
Praying and pleading, I made small promises to do that which I didn’t feel ready to do. To put words and feelings into actions. To take small steps of faith. And even as I wince to admit it, these go entirely against my timid, unsure self.
2017 began with a trip to the White Mountains in NH, a trip I embarked on never having climbed an icy hill, let alone a mountain, a trip I took up with eight older, more experienced strangers. More than the foreboding email that described a 4500 ft elevation gain over 9 miles of hiking and “temperatures below -20 F and wind over 60 mph common at the summits,” I feared meeting new people (read: insecure). Unfortunate, yes, but true. Still, in the confines of a dusty room, close to one year ago, I signed up to go.
It was breathtaking.
Hard, too, as expected. I clobbered into multiple peers, slipped, sweat, and probably passed some gas… and I didn’t make it to the summit. But a year later, I’m still so thankful for the experience. It was a specific moment I chose to do rather than dream, and though I’d do a whole lot more dreaming for the rest of the year, I also felt encouraged to get more uncomfortable, more often.
And despite (perhaps because of) much discomfort, darkness, and dryness, 2017 has been an answer to prayer. I experienced more freedom and fullness of joy than ever before and fought to be more myself, more who God created me to be, in various contexts, in various spaces. I got to visit new cities, meet new people, taste new foods, cry new tears, gain new skills, and ask lots (lots!) of new questions. I am so thankful.
Even writing this now, I’m in awe of the ways in which God moves mountains and teaches me to climb them.
Needless to say (maybe), I still have many insecurities, many fears, and many ways in which to grow. Being home for the holidays is a reminder of that. I’m humbled by my own inability to love my own blood brothers and sisters, my irritability and impatience, my inclination to disobey. My flesh is wretched and I writhe in it. And it’s easier to self-condemn than it is to look to Jesus, to ask for forgiveness and help, even knowing that is what he readily and most lovingly gives. This is why I need him. Today as I sat and reflected, he reminded me again that whenever my heart condemns me, he is greater than my heart, and he knows everything (1 John 3:20). The truth really does set me free. Free from the cages I construct for myself, free from a performance/perfectionist mentality. Free from sin and the shame that follows it. Free from myself.
I remember certain quotes from Infinite Jest, and one comes to mind now: “life’s endless war against the self you cannot live without.”
This life is a war, but I know who has already won it. In 2018 I wish to lose myself and find myself in Him. It is He who has created me, who knows me better than I know myself, who has written out my life for me and loved me when no one else did, when I was alone in that dusty room, making promises I felt afraid to keep. When I, riddled with guilt and self-hatred, and hatred about my self-hatred, fell at Jesus’ feet, he knelt beside me and washed my feet, knowing full well I should be the one washing his, if even considered worthy to untie the straps of his sandals.
So aside from sharing new experiences and looking forward to a new year, I know one thing that will remain the same–the newness of God’s mercies for me every morning. With that in mind, I entrust 2018 to the lover of my soul, unready for the coming mountain highs and valley lows, but also again promising to do things I’m a little not ready to do. “I think that is how you grow.”
is it really impossible to tell another all that I am thinking/feeling/wishing for?
yes, you’re right. we move from one silence to another. they taste different.
also I’m an idealist. my Myers-Briggs personality test results say so.
weren’t we created for greater intimacy? or am I erring.
yes, you’re right, it’s impossible.
impossible, the un-mailed letters;
they’re all written in my head.
it snowed today last year.
You remember that and wrote my memory, too.
that makes me sing along the dry roads, sing
about being remembered and known by You,
known like a man knows his beloved.
for all your talking, you haven’t got much to show.
why do you make me feel ashamed of weakness? why the silence that meets my tears?
why turn your head in embarrassment? when I am okay bleeding?
in my mind I sit across from you, the plastic table hard, the seats too cushioned and tall– claustrophobe. I stare at you, your hair, how the sunlight falls on it and makes it golden, even more so, and your eyes dazing in and out, what are you thinking about? I sit across from you, make small talk, look out the window occasionally and exclaim about the sky, how blue it is, the clouds, how they move, and inside I am dying to ask you who I am to you, if anyone, if anything at all. “recognize” has latin roots meaning “to think again.” I sit across from you, I call you dear friend, and I mean it, I hope. but a small insecure part of me also holds onto the ends of those words, the ends of love
and thank you. soft-spoken. sincere.
holding onto those ends, why do I do that? I’m still afraid to love in freedom. love-do more than lovespeak. still afraid of not getting at least a little bit back. am I wrong to fear? I sit across from you and wonder, I slurp my chickpea soup, it’s lukewarm.
the sweet surrender of it, first the toes sparkling and then the pavement, the whole world glistening. rain falling, and leaves, too, the shhhhh of wet speed, everything silent and silver and alive.
wanting to share it with someone, the color.
wanting it alone.
flowers pressed against the floor, bright orange, thin as paper. the relentless wet, like spit, quick, hitting the face, slow… sliding down the slope of nose, the scented lips.
the rain it rustles, if you listen closely, has a rhythm to it.
someday maybe i will share this with someone,
the vision of glass falling and muddy waves,
the giddy gliding,
clothes wet and hanging off like second skin, free–
we’re washing wet outside, the world
a tub, and time,
mine to give–
biking in the rain, the sweet surrender of it.