I’m currently sitting in a Panera Bread buzzing with the excitement of the influx of Saturday lunch customers. As I’ve been sitting here with my Bible in one hand, and an overpriced vanilla latte warming the other, I have finally had a little time to reflect on the last year of my life.
All the way from saying goodbyes to the people I had spent every day of the last four years of my life with, to unexpectedly encountering the searing pain of severed relationships, to vomiting in a concrete bathroom with gunshots outside the window, to sitting in mud huts with people I’ve only known for a few weeks (yet somehow feel like I’ve known forever), to plunging into the life of a whiny sleep deprived college student in a small Bible college (yes, whiny and Bible college student should be oxymorons), to meeting new friends (who I similarly feel like I have known much longer than two meager months), to being stretched by the Lord in ways I simply didn’t know that I could be stretched.
Pardon the run-on sentences — I’m not an English major.
And…. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve learned more this year than almost all of my prior years combined. It has been a painful, wonderful, and meaningful sequence of events; I’ve learned I truly cannot question the Lord for His ways, because I have begun to see that prior experiences have prepared me immensely for things I never could have seen coming.
I’ve learned a lot about myself too.
I’ve learned that I love the mountains and the crisp dry air of my home much more than I ever thanked God for. I’ve learned that I’m a lot more sensitive than my protective sarcastic barrier usually lets people see; hence why I cry at poetry I don’t totally understand, comments from people whose sarcastic barriers clash with mine, and memories that have more than likely vanished from the minds of others. I’ve learned I don’t know near as much about God as I would like to pretend, and the deeper into His Word I go, the more minuscule my mind seems to be in comparison with the eternal truths that God’s Word possesses. I’ve learned I really don’t like loud music, and I would rather spend one-on-one time with someone than anything else. I’m not a fan of being constantly busy, and I don’t like doing stuff after 11 PM because I’m basically a zombie. At school, I’ve adopted “Grandma” as a term of endearment from my wonderful hall mates (no sarcasm intended there…. they genuinely are amazing and I probably thank God for them more than anything else). Similarly, I’ve learned I don’t pray enough, and that a lot of the kind things I do for others are really for myself and the appreciation I can get from those around me. I’ve learned I’m really good at initiating friendships, but I’m not always that great at the day-in day-out maintaining and cultivating of them. I’ve also learned I’m very good at judging people for being “superficial” and “greedy” by readily pulling out the starving-African-child reel I play in my head consistently (but not when I buy an overpriced bagel and latte at Panera or get a $300 speeding ticket… only others).
But I’ve also learned that no matter where I am on planet earth, whether it be the middle-of-nowehere North Carolina, a village in Honduras, amidst an obscure tribe in Tanzania, or surrounded by Bible college students in urban South Carolina, I am secure. I literally have everything I need to combat all of my inadequacies, because Christ’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness. I can boast in my weaknesses, not because it is anything to be proud of — as my inadequacy has been the source of pain for many others apart from myself — but because my weakness is a testament to the fact that nothing is beyond the reach of the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. Paul alludes to the fact that though we are sown in weakness, through Him, we will be raised in power. Though we are sown in corruption, we will be raised in incorruption. Though we are sown in dishonor, we will be raised in glory.
The word grace has a lot of potential to become trite at a Christian school. I’ve probably heard it 300,000 times by now. But it is humbling every time I hear it because it is a reminder that I am the kind of person who needs grace — who needs undeserved favor. I am the kind of person who cannot comfort others until I myself have first been comforted in my insufficiency. I am the kind of person who needs others — especially the body of Christ. The people I feel like I have known forever are those who have been the recipients of this same grace… perhaps it is because God knew me before the foundation of the world as well as them, so maybe we are eternally connected in a way. Yet, I am still in the process of learning how to respond to God’s grace by giving it to the people I love the most, let alone those who I have to work at loving. Despite the fact that I have received an disproportional amount of grace to the amount I deserve, I still struggle like the hypocritical servant in Jesus’ parable who had received so much yet quickly turned on the one who owed him very little.
Yet.. despite all this, Christ’s power is made perfect in my weakness. And I rest in this.
As I have written this, an entirely new crowd has cycled into Panera around me and a storm has blown over and soaked the parking lot outside the window; thus, I am reminded that there are cycles and stages of life. But, as Emmanuel, Cardinal Suhard once wisely said, we must “live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.” My life right now does not make sense if God does not exist. I am not deserving of the blessing of being where I am now, going to school at a Christian college learning the truth of God’s eternal words in my language, in a way that contextually makes sense to me, surrounded by people who want to live for Jesus. I often feel guilty for the blessings I have received, and wonder why, as Ben Rector so eloquently puts it, “You get dealt a good hand and you get celebrated.” I was undeserving to even wake up this morning, let alone to be a recipient of God’s grace. But, the Lord has been reminding me that I am where I am right now so I can pour out what He is giving me on the altar before Him, to share the blessings He is giving me with those who really deserve to be here instead of me. To the little boy on the street in South Africa who was the only Christian in his slum, or to the struggling pastors across the globe, or to those who couldn’t afford college — to Jesus Himself.
I am weak, and I am sincerely undeserving.
But His grace is made perfect in our weakness.
And it is enough.
I pray I will rest in it as He continually brings me through the process of forming me into what He would have me to be, and I hope you’ll join me in this glorious struggle.