Cross-shaped

Last week was hard. The series of events broke me. And it was only at the end of it all that I realized that God was there during all of it, leading me slowly back to Him.

I’m trying to process this completely, because I don’t want to lose it. So please bare with me as I struggle to tell my story. It may be disjointed and disorienting, but hopefully I may come to a conclusion that will change my life. I don’t want to go through this again. I want my life to change now.

Last Sunday was the fourth anniversary of my father’s  death. The day was hard enough in itself,  but at the same time it was a peaceful day, a wonderful time of rest. I didn’t do any work that day as I remembered my dad, and thanked God for his life, and restored my understanding in the goodness that God has showed me and my family ever sine.

On Monday morning, a friend of mine at Harvard University committed suicide. I was in shock for most of the day, not really having the chance to cry until later that evening. I asked for extensions, and slept without doing much work.

On Tuesday, I sat through the writing class I raged about before, and underestimated the effect it would have on me. I didn’t do any work until late that evening, when my friends and I crowded in my room to finish the pset. I slept at around 2AM.

On Wednesday, I woke up at 6:30 – a miracle. Every day before then, and after, I had such a struggle to wake up. But Wednesday, I was productive. I got work done, finished all the little things, and felt as though I was okay. I only remembered on Thursday that I had completely forgotten to attend lab that day.

On Thursday,  I learned that I wasn’t okay. I was up early to help pre-frosh feel welcome on campus, I went to a meeting with my thesis supervisor, I went to go talk to Amelia, the intern at Mental Health that I’ve been talking with since February. After that meeting, I felt lost. Instead of being able to work, my grasp on productivity and time and place slowly slipped through my fingers. I remembered Andy, I remembered my dad, I remembered the shock, and I could not get up from that. I went to go see a musical instead of helping out with pre-frosh, and I went to sleep instead of doing work.

On Friday, it was a hard start again. I had promised a friend that I would help her drive to her interview, but we couldn’t find the zipcar I had rented. We enjoyed ourselves and the adventure, but when I came home, I had a social to run for the ASA, of which I am now president. That evening was Andy’s memorial service. I rushed over to Harvard for the beginning of the service, went back to MIT to help lead worship, and then rushed back at the end, bringing a few friends with me that time. I sat in one of the chairs alone for a while, and asked God why He would bring me here. It seemed pointless to return, but it was then that I met others with a heart to do something, to pray, to fast, to plead for deliverance. It was also there that I found joy in the hearts of those who knew Andy much better than I did. So I returned home and went to sleep, thinking to wake up early on Saturday to do work.

On Saturday, I struggled to climb out of bed. Despite the number of things I needed to do, I stayed in bed until 11, only leaving for breakfast at 11:30 to deal with all the things that I had to do. That  resulted in a lot of running about, and no work done. Thankfully, my dance group’s performances went very well. I met up with a pre-frosh, the son of one of my dad’s friends, and talked with him for a while before going back home. I went to the chapel first, hoping to receive… something. Hope, strength, joy… and received a call from an angel that I met at one of the conferences I went to at the beginning of February. I hadn’t heard from her in over a month, and she spoke words of life to me and prayed over me, and gave me the advice I needed to push forward. But I did not head her words. I went back to my room, and after sending a few emails, went to sleep, thinking I would wake up at 3 to do what she told me to. I woke up at 2:30, but did not do work. I woke up again at 3, then 4, then it was 7:30. It was Sunday, and I hadn’t yet done anything.

In my mind I was a failure. God answered my prayers and I let His blessings, the very blessings I asked for, go to waste. There was no way God could use me if I couldn’t follow him. There was no way I could trust myself anymore, or expect that I could do well in the exam I have tomorrow. My extension has long since past, and I have too much to do today to expect that I can do everything. I simply have to except my limitations and the consequences of my actions. There was no reason to hope.

This morning, I was late to church. It was, and still is, raining slightly. I thought it ironic that the weather would perfectly fit my mood and the despair that I felt within myself. I asked God what it meant to rely on Him, because I know I cannot do it myself. By myself, I was so overcome with grief and failure and everything else wrong within my small world (from a lack of academic success to a lack of relationships), that I could not do what I needed to do, the work that God had for me to do. And as I sat outside of the church service, eating my now stale bagel and strawberry cream cheese, He showed me a revelation:

Q: What does it mean to receive God’s strength? To not lean on your own understanding?

A: It means to step by faith, only realizing as you do the things you believe God has called you to do, that you have more strength and understanding to complete that task that you know you didn’t have at the beginning. You will not necessarily feel better, and there is no equation to receive it. The strength of God is the result of a step of faith, one done in the joy of the hope of His promises.

The service at church was about the cross – the irony and the tragedy that led from Palm Sunday to Good Friday, and the meaning behind it all. Or at least, behind some of it. There is no number of sermons that will be able to fully comprehend and describe for us the depth of the love and sacrifice that happened at Golgotha, but it was enough of  a picture to remind me what my hope, and my confidence, is in Jesus Christ.

Grace: a gift that can never be earned. Love: a sacrifice for those who may never know Him, love Him, and who may even despite Him, all for the chance that we may have the ability to return to Him. The Cross: a place of unspeakable torment, and a place of unimaginable triumph; the reason why I am not defined by the failures of the past, but rather by the victory that is to come, the victory that was won and given freely by Jesus Christ.

The beautiful piece is that none of my pain is wasted, and none of my mourning is discounted. Instead, it is validated in the knowledge that Jesus himself suffered similar pain, and even more. And it is made conquerable by the example and redemption in the blood of Jesus and removed my sins from me on the cross. I can either go through what I deserve, or take hold of the gift that Jesus has given, taking the death that he paid for me, that I may not have to die.

I want to walk a cross-shaped path, and live a cross-shaped life. One that is marked by Jesus’ sacrifice, and dedicated to the revelation of His love for us. But what does this look like?

Listening to Him, taking steps of faith, and taking hold of the hope He made possible for me. Choosing to not despair in what I see, but to lean on the knowledge of the glory of God and on His promises.

I have decided to follow Jesus… no turning back, no turning back…

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