Learning to Shut Up

We ran to the walk-in closet, hiding from her little sister. The giggles were absorbed in part by the leather shoes and fancy dresses, but they reverberated on the mirrored doors.

Still laughing I said, “Ssshhhh! We need to shut up!”

Her eyes froze at me, blinking wide. The clothes around us hung heavy, concealing us in. As a first grader, what I had just said counted as a bad word, at least in her family. She proceeded to tell me not to say the “s-word” again, especially not in front of her mom. I deflated, feeling awful, and spent the rest of the play date wondering if my friend still thought I was a nice person.

My family wasn’t the type to swear either, and shut up wasn’t necessarily something I picked up from them. But I had never been told it was a bad word, and it didn’t carry any negative connotation in my innocent brain.

I know now that we tell kids not to say this phrase because it is often used with a tone of animosity, and it isn’t a healthy expression of frustration at a young age.

But as an adult, saying “shut up” is a nonchalant occurrence. It means little harm, but it has also transformed in its meaning.

“Shut up” is a firm direction. It could be used harshly, but it can also be the strength of a loving command, made out of good intentions. As much as I try to be forgiving and kind to myself (see this post), there are also days when I need to be firm and tell myself to shut up.

I first noticed my tendency to talk too much when I began giving tours for the admissions office in college. To be fair, it was my job to talk a lot. But there is a delicate balance between blabbering out of pride and offering knowledge while still listening to the other.

Gradually, I learned how to focus on asking the prospective students questions and also allow enough silence for them to bring up the questions they really wanted to hear about. I cultivated a posture of listening first and speaking second.

This was lost when I moved to Seattle and didn’t have as many friends around to talk to. I joined a women’s young adult bible study, and quickly found myself blabbering every week, gushing with the excitement of a child who learned something new and wants to tell everyone with in earshot about it.

It was exciting to feel like I knew something they didn’t, simply because they hadn’t heard the campus pastor preach about this already like all of my college friends. I had unique knowledge, and I wanted to share it.

The voice inside me began to nudge, pointing out my habit of talking too much and listening too little. I noticed that I was thinking of my response instead of actually listening, interrupting others, and dominating the conversation. It was humbling to step back and realize I needed to shut up.

Thankfully this group of young women are all patient and kind, still accepting of me and my pompous mouth. As I began to shut up and listen more, I was able to recognize the wisdom that they each had to share. We were all recently graduated, newly employed, and altogether trying to figure out adult life. But even with these similarities, we all have unique backgrounds and histories that add valuable input to the conversation.

Once I had opened myself up to really hearing someone else, I was humbled to find I still had a lot to learn.

This is equally important in our relationship with God. Oswald Chambers wrote that “We have to get rid of the idea that we understand ourselves,” because “Jesus cannot teach us anything until we quiet all our intellectual questions and get alone with him.”

By over-talking and over-thinking, I create the false illusion that I know everything and I can figure everything out on my own. By shutting up, I am reminded of my foolishness in comparison to the great wisdom of God.

The truth is, I can’t ever fully know or solve my problems on my own. I need the wisdom of patient friends with different experiences. I need the wisdom of a God who understands the bigger picture. I need to shut up and be still.

The firmness of the words themselves usher me back to a hushed closet, a place of reverence and awareness. Shutting up doesn’t have to be negative, it can be about firmly redirecting one’s attention to what matters. The posture of listening is never permanent, we must fall on our knees again and again to relearn how to hear with our whole hearts.

Blogging every day for the last month is the opposite of shutting up, and that is ok because there is also a time when we need to speak out. However, I am grateful as this month comes to an end that I can return to a place of listening.

Writing requires me to have one ear to the world, one ear to God, and a heart that is willing to pour itself out on the page. Each one is important, but they need to work in conjunction, not in competition.

 Do you ever tell yourself to shut up?
How do you practice talking less and listening more?

How Decisions Do and Don’t Define You

Anyone who has access to the internet is probably aware of a major decision that happened in the United States today. As the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to prevent gay marriage, people across the country either celebrated or scoffed at the announcement.

Regardless of your position, there are some critical things to remember:
  1. This is still a free country. Just because other people get to do something you may not approve of, that does not directly infringe on your freedom.
  2. Jesus always, again ALWAYS, took a stance of loving others. That should be our first priority as Christians.
  3. This decision was not taken lightly. And it does not define you.
That last point is what I want to focus on today. Making decisions is hard, whether it effects a whole country or just you. But regardless of the decisions other people make, you always have control over your ability to decide who you are and what you believe in.

You may have noticed that I did not post anything on the blog yesterday. Even though I challenged myself to post everyday for 30 days, I am not perfect. A storm of everything going wrong spun through my day yesterday, leaving me disheveled in body and mind. By the time I had the chance to try and write something, I only had an hour before I was supposed to be at a book club. So I could either eat dinner and not post, then go to book club. Or I could eat dinner and then write a post, and not go to book club. Or I could skip dinner, write a post, and go to book club. And most likely break down afterwards.

Faced with this monumental decision, heavy with serious consequences (sarcasm font please), I sat down and cried. Anyone with anxiety knows that one of the greatest sources of stress is having to make decisions. It doesn’t matter how important they are, even the smallest option can send you into a tailspin.

After blubbering on the phone to my patient fiance, I resolved I needed to eat. There was decision one. Then, when faced with the decision between writing a blog post that would probably end up cranky and whiny, or going to be social and feel comforted by wonderful friends, I decided on the second one. And I don’t feel at all guilty about choosing people over my pride.

This may seem minor to you, but the way we make decisions, and the way we live with them, is important. 

Sheena Iyengar in her TED talk “The Art of Choosing” points out the many assumptions we hold about the importance of choices, and how her research on choice, both in the U.S. and in other cultures, suggests that having endless choices isn’t always a good thing. She says, “A number of my studies have shown that when you give people 10 or more options when they’re making a choice, they make poorer decisions, whether it be health care, investment, other critical areas. Yet still, many of us believe that we should make all our own choices and seek out even more of them.”

Iyengar points out that “the American standard of choice requires that everyone treat choice as a private and self-defining act.” So when the Supreme Court makes a choice that someone may not agree with, this feels like an imposition on his or her own identity and ability to privately define such things.
“For modern Americans who are exposed to more options and more ads associated with options than anyone else in the world, choice is just as much about who they are as it is about what the product is,” Iyengar says.

Following this logic, a nationwide choice made by someone else may feel like a direct affront to who you are.

I’m here to tell you it’s not.

Whether you are deciding between writing a blog post or going to book club, supporting gay marriage or speaking out against it, these decisions are part of the free will that God gave us all. Let me repeat that, God gave us ALL free will.  God did not only give free will to the Christians and then say they could mandate everyone else’s decisions. Whether you agree with the SCOTUS decision or not, free will enables us to make our own choices, as long as they don’t directly hurt anyone else.

We need to trust that the Supreme Court took this decision seriously, that they consulted and debated with everyone’s best interest in mind. This is democracy in action, and it applies to all of us. A decision has been made, and how we live with that decision will define us and the God we represent. 

Let us be people of love rather than people of hurt. Let our decisions be driven by fellowship, rather than fear. Let others make their own decisions, and know that it doesn’t change who you are.

Iyengar finishes her TED talk with this wisdom–“No single narrative serves the needs of everyone everywhere. Moreover, Americans themselves could benefit from incorporating new perspectives into their own narrative, which has been driving their choices for so long.” The American narrative of choice is still important, and your ability to make decisions isn’t going anywhere. However, we need to remember that our narrative may be different from our neighbors, and that is ok.

Some decisions may be minor, but other decisions are a complicated bundle of pride, fear, anxiety, hope, and faith. The only way to trust in the decisions you make is to be confident in who you are. God loves you deeply, and the decisions we make don’t change God’s sovereignty or love. The decisions others make won’t change that either. 

How do you feel about the decisions other people make?
How do your decisions define you?


The Importance of Asking

The phone rang. Don’t pick up, don’t pick up, don’t pick up.

“Hi there!”

My voice jumped up an octave. I smiled, though they couldn’t tell. I started by inquiring how they are doing, and laughed at any joke. This went on. I asked about how business was, what audience they were trying to reach, and how they have done that so far. Then it was time. Hey batter batter. Have I got a deal for you!

Then came the avoidance, the shifty tone of voice, the excuses, and eventually a flat no. I would hang up the phone and feel completely defeated. I never wanted to do that again.

Few people actually enjoy asking other people for things. I already felt that way, but after my job in sales I was even more averse to the practice of asking. Thankfully I got out of that job and found something I actually care about.

And then I realized I still had to ask people for things.

Every job involves asking something from others. As a teacher, you must ask your students to participate in learning. As a doctor, you must ask patients what their needs are and ask nurses or support staff to assist you. As an accountant, you need to ask people to trust you with their finances and about their goals for their money.

Outside of work, we also have to ask for things. We have to ask for help from friends when we are moving or need a ride to the airport. We have to ask for money from parents or loans from banks. We have to ask for dressing on the side or an extra plate. From the superficial to the serious—the things we ask for matter to us, which is why we must bother to ask at all.

My experience in a sales job was especially difficult because I didn’t believe in the product I was selling. But I already had a foundational fear of asking. I don’t want to be pushy. I don’t want to be a bother. I don’t want to be demanding. These are all excuses and lies about what it means to ask for something.

In the United States we glorify independence and self-sufficiency. Asking someone for something you want, instead of throwing all the tea in the harbor and declaring treason, seems weak. We should be pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, and if someone else gives us a hand then our success is somehow diminished.

Again, this is a lie. Being self-sufficient is a good thing, but no one can really survive on their own forever. Everyone who is successful got to where they are because they knew how to ask other people for the things they wanted. The trick is doing this without being labeled pushy or needy.

So how can we transform the negative stigma associated with asking and move beyond the boundaries? The key is in asking well, and being well-intentioned.

It helps me to remember that the Bible encourages us to ask boldly of God and others.

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

“…in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” – Philippians 4:6

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” – John 15:7

We aren’t always given what we want, but we are usually given what we need. And asking in the right way means being conscious of want versus need, as well as being open to hearing no.

Boldness is different than pushiness. One is done with consideration, the other is done selfishly. One is inspired by a greater purpose, the other is seemingly unimportant. 

We never know what is going on in someone else’s lives. We should never make assumptions and let that deter us from asking. Perhaps they will surprise us and say yes. Or if they say no, having a gracious and understanding response will preserve the relationship. People will always welcome you in when you show sensitivity to their time and space.

If you don’t ask, you won’t get. But if you ask poorly, you also won’t get anything.

The recent disagreement between Taylor Swift and Apple exemplifies how to ask well. Apple said it was going to stream music on it’s new service for three months free without paying royalties to the artists. Taylor Swift posted an open letter on her Tumblr calmly explaining why she would withhold her newest album from the service because of this. And Apple promptly announced a plan to change their policy.

Why did this work? It is not just because she is Taylor Swift. It is because she asked well.

Allison Vesterfelt, on the Storyline blog, summed up the reasons perfectly. Taylor Swift got what she wanted for three reasons:
  • “She focused on the problem at hand, not Apple’s identity.”
  • “She shared her thoughts and feelings but didn’t make it about her.”
  • “She acknowledges their desired outcome and offers a new suggestion.”

We all have to ask things from other people. Whether it be for work, in our friendships, or with God, asking well is an important skill to develop and not shy away from. To ask well, you should consider the other party’s position and show consideration for where they are at. Don’t only think about your needs or be possessive about what you want. Be open to a different outcome, but also take responsibility for your own position.

Ultimately we can’t control what other people do, or whether they say yes when we ask for something. But we can control the way we ask, and our response. Don’t let fear stop you from boldly asking, especially when it is something you believe in. You may just be the Taylor Swift in this case.

Half Way There, Already Good

Yesterday marked the half way mark for my month-long challenge to write every day. So, of course, I didn’t feel like writing today.

I was tired, grumpy after a long weekend of travel, and altogether uninspired. The words I wrote about motivation two days ago had slipped away and seemed irrelevant. Why was I doing this again?

So I took some time to look through the journal I’m using for my year-long challenge to write more days than less. At least once each month there is an entry where I blubber about my lack of success and dissatisfaction with my progress.

Here is one from March 30:
“Once again I was not successful in writing more days than less this month. I can think of plenty of excuses, but the only judge listening is myself—and I don’t think I’m a fair judge.”

This is especially funny when I’m looking at a journal that already contains more entries than my journal from last year. I am definitely not an impartial judge, I am far too close to the subject.

After scanning through pages of self-criticism, I realized how it is possible to be over-concerned with self-improvement. I am never content with myself where I am, and I have a constant list of things I would like to work on. I want to do more sewing projects, cook more creative meals, exercise more often, spend more time outside, try to learn another language, read the giant pile of books next to my bed, and then read the ones I have on a separate list on my phone. More more more. This is the American Dream. And it is exhausting.

Some people don’t ever self-evaluate and actually need to, but I over-evaluate and need to cut back. This mindset causes other common problems like desperation for affirmation, deep fear of rejection, and perfectionism. If I’m being kind to myself I will admit that I’m less of a perfectionist than I was five years ago, because my confidence grew and my need to prove myself declined.

For those of you who can relate—we shouldn’t blindly accept perfectionism as part of our personalities. Being a perfectionist is not who I am, and that is a radical realization of God’s presence in my life. Perfectionism is a learned quality, not innate or natural.

I believe God loves us as we are, Christ died on the cross for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), and we are freely given grace and forgiveness (Ephesians 1:3-14). Those things inspire us to pursue a life that is a better reflection of Christ, but they do not require us to prove that we deserve Christ’s love.

Nature's imperfections

Nature always reminds me of the beauty in imperfection

While reading through my journal entries, I also found days where I managed to defend myself and accept this kind of radical grace. I found this bit of inspiration from an entry in February:

“I can’t do everything I would like. The attempt is noble, and we should never give up on growth. However, there is a difference between seeking success as a necessity and seeking growth in opportunities. It is a balance between trying to prove or improve oneself. One is done out of pressure-filled expectation, the other is forgiving and accepting of any result.”

I have to be careful with all these challenges I give myself, remembering they are not efforts to prove myself or chores that I must do begrudgingly. Growth is important and necessary in our lives, but it shouldn’t be surrounded by a fear of failure or pressure to measure up. I love God, and I want to commit to pursuing a life that is a reflection of God’s grace. I love writing, and I want to commit to give it my best even when I don’t feel like it. The effort of trying counts more than the results. We can never be perfect, and we don’t have to be.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

Perfectionism and over-concern with self-improvement are aspects of this world. God gives us the opportunity to redefine our efforts and renew our mindset to one of grace. Only in that way do we realize that God is the only kind of good, acceptable, perfection we need.

Do you struggle with constantly wanting to improve?
How do you handle it?

When Defeat Meets Gratitude

It seems I dropped off the map again this month. After moving to a new city I rotated through days like playing cards during the game of War. Each day was slapped down in hopes for a high card, a winner. Although they say there is an equal amount of every number card in the deck, it is easy to forget facts and feel as if every day was a 2 or 3 draw instead of an Ace. The low card days involved endless job applications, rejection letters, and a lot of Netflix.

Most post-grads and twenty-somethings can relate to this feeling because we have all lingered in the limbo zone between college and real life. We watch our friends get jobs and secretly resent them, we wonder what we are doing wrong, and we like to blame anything else while still feeling as if it is entirely our fault that life doesn’t come together perfectly. It reminds me of riding Autotopia at Disneyland – technically the track is guiding my car but I still have to steer and it ends up as a bumpy, lurching ride where I leave feeling like a bad driver (and forget that this ride was created fifty years ago).

If I am honest with myself this last month included just as many high card days. I explored beautiful parks full of leafy pathways and ocean views. I met new people with interesting stories. Now at the end of the month, I technically have three jobs: two are seasonal retail positions I picked up to get me through until I could find something more permanent, but as of last week my third offer is a real-life adult position with normal hours and salary pay.

But even as I rounded the bend of a more positive outlook, the skies darkened with bad news from the world outside. I sat in my empty apartment Monday evening refreshing the news pages until finally the result came out: not indicted. This was lower than a low card, it was like throwing a joker on the deck. The worst part was that I wasn’t surprised.  Another defeat, another night of violence, and the war rumbles on.

There has been a lot of conversation regarding this issue, and in a moment like this I do believe that God gave us the feeling of anger to allow the pangs of injustice to seep into our hearts. It is more than ok to grieve and be angry – it is necessary.

But what we do with that anger is another story. I think the distinction comes from gratitude – because there is ungrateful anger, that disrespects other people’s safety and property in rage, and there is grateful anger, that understands grace enough to remember the ways we have been forgiven and use the pain to make a positive change.

Isaiah 53: 3-6 reminds me of several important points in moments of grief and suffering:

     He was despised and rejected by men,

          a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

     Like one from whom men hide their faces

          he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

     Surely he took up our infirmities

          and carried out our sorrows,

          yet we considered him stricken by God,

          smitten by him, and afflicted.

     But he was pierced for our transgressions,

          he was crushed for our inequities;

          the punishment that brought us peace was

               upon him,

          and by his wounds we are healed.

     We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

          each of us has turned to his own way;

          and the Lord has laid on him

          the iniquity of us all.”

What a comfort to know that Jesus has felt every degree of injustice, he knows personally the experiences of those who are ostracized, and that through his sorrows he gave us the gift of undeserved peace. This is the message I need to remind myself of when it feels like the world might never be fair, when I wonder what has happened to the noble cause of equality for all people, when it feels like history is repeating itself in the bleeding lashes of racial misunderstanding.

Although it may seem impossible to be grateful during a time like this, it is actually more fitting that we should celebrate Thanksgiving in the midst of pain so that we can remember the core of what we really have to be thankful for. Even if I didn’t have a job yet, or if our justice system continues to be faulted, there are fundamental parts of life to be thankful for that I tend to forget.

More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving should be the one to remind us about other moments of injustice and racism that occurred in our history, as well as how we can transform that pain (without forgetting it) into a beautiful thing. Despite the inaccurate and misrepresented history behind the day itself, what it represents now is what makes it great. Even our holidays deserve forgiveness for their past mistakes–as Christians we can acknowledge that the history behind Thanksgiving was actually horrible, but Jesus calls us to move beyond bad history into a future of redemption. The pilgrims slaughtered the Indians, and Paul persecuted Christians. One went on to write a portion of the Bible and found the church, so maybe the others can move past their history as well. Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving the same way we live as Christians, not dwelling on the sins of our past but on a future of reconciliation and hope. We can grieve and learn from our mistakes to change systems of injustice into opportunities for redemption.

On every side of the story in Ferguson there is pain. Beyond Ferguson there is also pain, despite every rejection letter or the months without jobs or any moment of defeat, there are still things to be thankful for. We all have our own grievances, our own guilt, and our own low-card days that we must work hard to recover from. But the good news of Jesus comes with gratitude–no matter how heavy the injustice or the pain we should remember “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.” Jesus knows that pain, and he will sit with us in our grief. But he can also provide us with a peace that passes all understanding, and being thankful for every moment is what allows us to move forward into a world that does amazing things in spite of pain.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Dwelling in the Planned and Unplanned

In the last two weeks I traveled my way through 7 states, 5 beds, 4 time zones, 4 cars, and 1 airplane. Oddly enough, my travels are only beginning.

New Mexico trickled out a goodbye rain, Arizona was smoldering, San Diego’s temperate rays remained constant, Chicago was heavy with damp air, Michigan emptied the dampness into a summer storm, and now Ohio’s warmth escalates until an approaching precipitation.

The nomad life is invigorating for some people, the thrill of adventure beckons them into wandering from place to place, with as little luggage as possible, and savoring every moment of unplanned happenstance. I wish I was one of those people. Although I love traveling and seeing different parts of the world, I have typically been a creature of consistency. I prefer a morning routine to a morning flight, a steady work schedule to a steady travel schedule, and the same bed every night to a new one every week.

However for many of my friends, we spent the last four years of college consistently moving at least twice a year. Home for the summer, back to school in the fall, back for winter break, back in the spring, until the cycle begins again. Each year was a new dorm room, or a new apartment, with new roommates and new classes. Some of us even threw in a study abroad or a summer job away from home. So my illusion of consistency was temporal at best.

The best consolation I found during these times was the idea of the Israelites wandering in the desert. Psalm 90 is labeled as “A prayer of Moses, man of God.” It begins by saying –
     “Lord you have been our dwelling place
     throughout all the generations,
     before the mountains were born
     or you brought forth the earth and the world,
     from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

From here Moses goes on asking God to give them rest from their years of wandering in the desert. For those of us who are familiar with this story, we know that Moses was the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt — but sadly he never got to see them make it all the way to the promised land.

I can only imagine how hard this must have been for him. The Bible describes him as a “man of God,” and he certainly was one of the greatest leaders for the Israelites, yet he had to spend years traveling without any sort of home and without any clear end in sight. So it makes sense that he begins this prayer by calling on God as his dwelling place, because the only consistent part of their travels through the desert was that God always went with them in a cloud of smoke–when the cloud lifted from the tent the Israelites set out to move again, and wherever the cloud settled is where they camped.

What does it mean to dwell in God though?

In Deuteronomy 8, Moses reminds his people about the purpose of their wandering by saying to them:
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Here we can see that Moses recognized the importance of following God, because it is out of God’s great love that he leads us through the desert places to humble us and remind us to rely on him. For Moses and the Israelites, dwelling in God meant relying on Him completely–trusting that He had their best interest at heart and that He would provide the food they needed to make it on the journey.

Whether you are without a job, continuing school, preparing to move, or have been settled for many years and still feel restless at heart–dwelling in God enables you to have a consistency that is inaccessible in our world of rapid change. We are all nomads in one way or another. It is evident in those moments of itchiness, the prickle of daydreams, fidgeting hands and the unease deep within that leaves us questioning even the simplest things.

The challenging part of dwelling with God, at least for me, is accepting that the journey might look different than what I plan or expect. Moses probably didn’t expect that those years of wandering in the desert would include manna from heaven, or water coming out of a rock, or an abundance of quail driven in from the sea. He certainly questioned God plenty of times – asking why they had to suffer in certain ways, or why he had to bear many heavy burdens.

Change is inevitable no matter where you are at. The Israelites may have wandered for 40 years in the desert, but they were never in same place physically or spiritually. They grew along the way, made mistakes, and eventually they did make it to the promised land.

The good news is that we can find certainty and a sense of home in God.

Isaiah 42 says:
     “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
     along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
     I will turn the darkness into light before them
     and make the rough places smooth.
     These are the things I will do;
     I will not forsake them.”

Dwelling with God doesn’t mean knowing the plan. Even if we learn to treat God as our home, our center of security, we have to know that He is still the one in control. I know that I have encountered a lot of frustrating uncertainty along my journeys, and I am not ashamed to admit that I have questioned God at every odd turn or roadblock along the way. But being at home with God means embracing the fact that things aren’t going to look exactly like we expect or plan for.

The best we can do is rely on Him, dwelling in the certainty of trusting that he will provide for us, that he will outlast even the tallest mountains, and that he will guide us on unfamiliar paths, making the rough places smooth, from everlasting to everlasting without ever forsaking us.
Sunset in Ohio (State #7 of the last two weeks)

Sunset in Ohio (State #7 of the last two weeks)

On Sunday I leave for a month long trip to Norway and Sweden. The simple explanation of what I’m doing there is that I received the Humanities Grant from the Swedish Council of America and I will be attending a conference before visiting two universities in Sweden. The complicated part is that it involves six different plane flights, at least five bus rides, some train travel, reservations for places to stay in four different cities, and some time staying with family friends who live in Norway. I am hoping to post updates about all these adventures on the blog here, but I can’t make any promises with a schedule that packed.

I also previously mentioned on the blog my grand plans to do a series of posts on all the books I’ve been reading this year, but because of my travel plans I’ve decided to postpone it for when I return. In the meantime I am attempting to dwell in God’s consistency rather than my own, knowing that he will provide along the way.

Are there times when you’ve felt lost or nomadic?

How did you deal with it?

The Truth About Rejection

At first, it sucks. After an hour, it still sucks. Some time later, it gets better. Supposedly.

The sky swells as the sun abandons this side of the world, clouds block out the hope of stars. The cracked desert wonders why the rain never actually materializes. Even the moon seems hazy on the whys and why nots. You ponder the planets, the depth of the universe, and you feel a deeper sympathy for poor rejected Pluto. Rejection happens in space too, you say. Maybe you hide under the covers, letting the air grow heavy with your exhales. Sleep seems like the best solution, but your heavy eyelids aren’t enough to keep the gremlins of negativity from threading through your mind.

The initial thoughts spiral something like this: oh well, so that’s that, they didn’t like me, what do I care, I guess I do care, I could’ve done better, why did I say those things, maybe they are threatened by success, who am I kidding I’m not a success, what is success anyways, why does it matter, why can’t I stop thinking about this, why why why. Ice cream.

I’ve never experienced a tornado in real life, but I think my brain can relate to it after being rejected. It swirls through vortexes, around space and time until the wind dies down and everything I had previously settled has been disrupted.

Rejection is the disruption of what you thought you knew was good.
The good part is it means you can redefine what good is. 

As a recent college graduate, rejection is something very common for myself and many of my peers. We spend hours upon hours looking and applying for jobs we aren’t even sure we want. But when we are told we can’t have that job, we believe we wanted it more. My most recent application took me through a month long process of a 15 page proofreading test, an initial interview, and a second two hour phone interview.

Needless to say, rejection hurts more when it has a longer build up.

Rejection is also a close relative to shame, that feeling of worthlessness keeping you from admitting the incident to others.

Personally, it helps me to analyze those feelings more, letting the logic mix with emotion into a dose of truth. Why is it hard to admit when someone rejects me? Probably because I don’t want to reveal that someone didn’t want me, as if giving life to my fears of worthlessness. This circles back to a problem I discussed in my last post though: letting others define my worth.

Would rejection be scary if I truly believed I was wanted and loved no matter what? Would it be hard to admit my rejection to others if I wasn’t afraid of others believing I was unworthy, which is a lie?

Somewhere in time we decided that rejection was always and only a bad thing. We also forgot that Christ came to redefine how we view rejection. His death and resurrection returned us to a perpetual state of un-rejection where we are accepted and loved by God.

With these things in mind, I can redefine rejection. If I believe the truth that I am loved and accepted by God, then what is being rejected is not my worth, but my false conceptions. I built an idea up in my mind as good, and the rejection of that idea simply means I need to redefine what I thought was good. Perhaps there is something even better out there for me, this good was not good enough.

Oh the possibilities! Rejection stops hurting when we look at it as a new opportunity, a chance to seek a greater good than what we previously hoped for. Redefine rejection by rejecting what you thought was good.

I don’t usually use The Message translation, but I love the way it clarifies the meaning of this verse:
“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13)

It’s ok to hide under the covers for a little while, it humbles us into remembering we are human and gives us compassion for people and Pluto. But God’s mercies are new every morning – the sun didn’t really abandon you, it was just giving you time before it came back with it’s warm reminder of a new day.

When have you felt rejected?

How did it work out for good?