Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Loving the alone and sick

If I had to describe my thoughts and musings from my fall tour with CFC in one song, The Lost Get Found by Britt Nicole would be it.

Don't let your lights go down
Don't let your fire burn out
'Cause somewhere, somebody needs a reason to believe
Why don't you rise up now?
Don't be afraid to stand out
That's how the lost get found
The lost get found

For as long as I can remember, loving others has featured as one of my main life goals. Tour took that desire to love others to a whole new level. I didn’t just want to be kind to the people I was with; I want to help them, save them.

Each year, CFC has a theme for all of the workshops and presentations that they do. Our theme was “Lead the Escape.” Every week on tour, the team and I did an hour-long presentation one evening about our theme. We discussed many reasons for and types of bondage: physical, spiritual, emotional… poverty, insecurity, lies, apathy, and hatred. In the end, we encouraged the audience to step beyond themselves and go out and help people who are trapped.

Even though I helped to present the program every week, it affected me a great deal. I got so tired and frustrated with telling people to lead the escape and doing nothing about the people around me who I knew were hurting.

So, I began having long chat conversations with people and praying for them regularly, always feeling like I wasn't doing anything to really help them break free.

One day on tour, I was talking with Michael about how I could help lead the escape for others.

Michael: So, what's been on your mind?
me: a lot
mostly, how do i love others?
and how can i help people who are broken?
Michael: so "how can I help people?"
;)
me: yeah
why the winky smile?
Michael: because.
everyone is broken.
so "how can I help people who are broken" might as well be "how can I help people"
me: i guess so

I really didn’t know what to do with Michael had said. In my mind, I was the person who was “okay,” who knew that joy exists and believed that God saves. As a Christian, it was my job to pull everybody else out into the light. I was “whole;” they were broken and lost. And, I needed to help them escape from that. It was always one-way love. It was always about me reaching down into a pit of lies and sin and showing people the sky and world above.

This sometimes made my conversations with people slightly awkward and every time I knew I had to say something, otherwise they might never hear the truth. (Don’t be afraid to stand out. That’s how the lost get found, right?)

-----

Right before the CO conference, almost the whole entire team came down with swine flu, me included. I was asleep almost all day on Sunday and was dizzy and headachy for maybe four days afterward. Some of the team got sick a day or two before me and some a few days after. Josh and I were both sick at pretty much the same time. I remember commiserating with him and hugging him a lot since we couldn’t make each other any worse. Another thing I remember is telling people who weren’t sick not to hug me because I would get them sick too. Tim didn’t listen and hugged me anyway.

I often tell myself I need to love like Tim did when the team had swine flu. I need to love unconditionally, no matter what the cost. I imagine myself as the one who is well helping out the one who sick.

But maybe…

I am sick too.

Maybe it isn’t my role to find people to save them as much as I should be a friend to those around me.

Learning about my own brokenness has somehow changed the way I seek to love others. Now, I want to sympathize with them, understand them, simply be with them.

During and after tour, my life’s motto was “Love must be sincere.” I thought about that phrase all the time and tried to live by it. Of course, I failed. As I learned more about sincere love, I saw places that my love was insincere. I couldn’t love my family and I hated myself for it. I came back to see the team over New Years and found I couldn’t love the team any better.

It was my failure at loving others that drove me to push God’s love for me away.

Through the course of Masters prep, God showed me that my love cannot be sincere unless He is the source of that love. God is the definition of sincere love and in order to love sincerely, I have to look to Him.

Learning that, along with finally admitting my own brokenness, opened my eyes to what it really means to love others. Now, I am at the same level as the rest of humanity. I can’t save people. I’m not any better than them. Sometimes, all I can do is be there for them and be there with them.

During Masters prep, I learned that God loved me enough to save me. I didn’t particularly appreciate being saved, seeing as I didn’t deserve it, but that was the truth and I couldn’t argue with it.

God’s love didn’t truly break through to me until the middle of Masters. When I found that he was on my side, willing to be with me through everything, caring about every detail in life, suddenly I could see that He loved me. That whole week, I had been dreading the end of tour. I simply did not think I could survive leaving the team. They were people I could trust, people who I knew loved me. On the day this all clicked in my mind, I was crying on the floor, telling God that I was lame for having such an emotional response. He said He didn’t care. Even though I was being stupid and not trusting Him, it didn’t matter to Him. He told me He would always be there for me, even during my small, lame problems.

It didn’t matter to me that God was better than me and willing to give me joy if I let him lead my escape. It was the promise to always be with me that made all of the difference.

I can’t ever love the “alone and sick” the same now. I’m done with being right and I'm ready to be there.

It does annoy me that I don’t think about loving others half as much as I used to, but now that I’ve experienced God’s love, I know I just have to keep abiding and let Him do the rest. After all... We love because he first loved us.

I am so thankful for what God has done in my life. This is never what I expected when I went on tour. There is no going back to before; I am changed forever. Now the task at hand: living like a changed person. Maybe one day soon, I will write about college and all of that. Or, maybe not. But at least now you know some of what the team, tour, Masters, and mostly just God did for me. Thanks for listening.

I am full now, not empty. I am in Love and out of it I will not go.
-The Great Divorce, CS Lewis

Monday, March 15, 2010

alone and sick

At one conference during the course of tour, I had a cough and so I stayed in a room all by myself at a host home. I remembered being really lonely, sad, and crying myself to sleep on several of the nights. A lot of other things were going on then too (like my computer screen cracking…) so at the time I told myself that I was stressed and that I would be okay in the morning.

I hate being alone. Now. I used to be okay with it.

During the course of tour, I was reminded all the time that I wasn’t perfect. I couldn’t do it all. I wasn’t competent enough. I wasn’t a good enough friend or Christian. I was too prone to failing at life… I was broken. So, I shut myself in a box all by myself. I didn’t want to burden others with my problems or embarrass myself by letting others see inside me.

I remember being lonely often on tour. I spent a great deal of time outdoors where ever I was, so I wouldn’t have to deal with people. Sometimes, I avoided asking people how they were because then they would ask me how I was too.

I barely knew the people on tour, so I told myself that I was an introverted feeler and that it would be okay once I got to know them better.

In reality, I isolated myself. It’s not like I had deep, dark secrets. It was more that I never told any one about what was going on in my life, heart, and mind. I reasoned that I shouldn’t have to open up to others because all I needed was God. I tried to love others without letting others love me.

It was my own fault that I was alone. It was so much easier that trusting somebody else: I wouldn’t run the risk of them hurting me or of me relying on them. It allowed me to avoid working through my own insecurities: I could just keep them all inside at the bottom of myself.

If you hide yourself deep inside, deep inside
In time you’ve got nothing left to hide
It’s all dead inside.

So, throughout tour, I continued to keep to myself. I think the team didn’t know what to do with me. A few of them told me later me later on that couldn’t connect with me at all. A few of them saw that I wasn’t completely okay and reached out to me, but I wouldn’t open up.

I refused to be loved.

Eventually, my refusal to be loved by others developed into a refusal to be loved by God. I could see so clearly that I wasn’t worthy of love and so I told God that he shouldn’t be loving me either. I wanted to pay for my sin. I wanted to be hated. I wanted to be alone, because that is what I deserved.

God didn’t leave me like that though.

Choice is the only thing we’re given
For one will live, another dies
One road says hello the other says goodbye
And the roads that you don’t choose begin to die

During MASTERS prep, I decided to believe that God loves me even though I don’t deserve it. It was the truth and I had no other choice. I stopped arguing about whether or not he should love me and began to see that God didn’t want me to be alone.

God loved me and there was nothing I could do about it. But it wasn’t until the middle of MASTERS that I became thankful for that love. I found out that there were things I simply could not do without God and, only then, was I glad of the love that I could not understand, that would not let go or leave me alone. Ever.

Since MASTERS, I have become ridiculously dependent on God. Not always in a sane, confident way, but many times in a completely needy way. I am terrified of being alone and without God. God is still teaching me to be strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ.

I will always be a sick and broken human being. But God demonstrates his own love for me in this: While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.

I don't have to be perfect to receive love and I am done being alone. Nothing I can do will ever change God's love for me. Now I believe it and live by it.

Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
-Ps 66:20
{and hope does not put us to shame}