Tag Archives: hope

As laughter and tears collide

Our hearts are as heavy as they are light,* and it feels contradictory–a great paradox. But who hasn’t laughed through tears or felt their highs mix in with their lows?

This weekend I cried tears of sadness intermingled with tears of joy. Laughs were indistinguishable from the few sobs that escaped my pursed lips. Memories brought on floods of emotions from opposing sides and met in a wave that threatened to knock me over. And it’s hard to reconcile the highest of highs existing simultaneously with the lowest of lows. It feels like the existence of one should diminish the substance of the other–like the smiles mean I don’t feel the grief, or the tears mean I don’t cherish the memories.

But what if the existence of both further substantiates the other? What is joy, if we have no sadness to contrast it with; and what is redemption, if we see no brokenness from which we yearn to be redeemed?

I’ve felt grief and laughter that falls hollowed out and empty. I’ve seen death. I’ve seen the grave. And through it all, I’ve seen a hope that’s stronger.

It’s a hope that does not trivialize my grief, but a hope that is substantiated by its existence. It’s a hope that creates in me a deeper longing than ever before, because…

I now know for what it is I hope.
I hope for no more crippling pain, no more tears, no more despair, and no more death.
I hope for redemption of our broken bodies and our sinful pasts.

And it’s not a trivial wish–a “that would be nice”–but a deep longing for a Savior and a heavy realization that I am in a world that needs to be saved.

It’s looking into the grave of a man I love and clinging to the hope that this is not the end. It’s seeing cancer and sickness and pain and looking expectantly to a day when our weakness will be no more.

My father spoke this Saturday at my grandfather’s memorial service and declared that this is not a “hope that” or a “hope so,” but a confident expectation. This hope is faith–true faith, grounded faith–the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.

It’s a hope founded on promises that have been fulfilled and lives that have been changed. It’s founded on glimpses of redemption, reconciliation and transformation–in my own life and the lives of those I love.

So this hope is not trivial. It’s not a fairy tale or a shallow illusion. If despair, depression and death are real, I hold that hope is real even more.

I looked into the grave of a man I loved this weekend, but I have the confidence that I will see him again. Because while I know the pain of death and suffering, I know the joy and the promises of the One who overcame the grave. I know that in this world, he promised tribulation. But I also know that he told me to take heart, for He has overcome the world.

I know that nothing can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus–not death nor life nor things present nor things to come, nor anything in all of creation.

And I know that one day my hope will find its confident expectation fulfilled, because:
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Though tears will fall, though grief is real, my voice cries hallelujah for the hope of heaven and the day when all will be made new.

—-

See you soon, grandpa.

Image

Image

Image

 

////////

 

*Heavy and light is an idea I heard first from To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) at their recent Heavy and Light show. It was an amazing show by an organization I admire.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

A Longing Unfulfilled

Some moments are so beautiful that you almost find yourself dreading their passing before they’ve even ended.

You sit and soak it all in, because you know this is all you have. You can’t bottle it up. A picture can never convey the way you feel in this moment—complete, content, satisfied.

If you told me to think of one of these moments, I could flash back to several in my mind. Moments I tried to capture, but couldn’t—not fully.

I remember one Christmas season in particular. I was home on winter break from college. It was Christmas Eve and we were all opening presents, as is tradition in my family. I remember hearing the Christmas music, noticing the glow of the Christmas lights, and watching all my brothers and sisters open their gifts.  Sitting there on my fold out bed in the middle of the living room, I just remember feeling so content, so full. But I also felt a strange pang of sadness, because I knew that moment had to end—that life would not always feel that way.

christmas tree 3

Because, sometimes life is made up of other moments—moments of longing. Times when you look back on those moments of contentment, trying to grasp them—to make them materialize into something real and concrete. If you can grow them, just maybe, they will fill you. Maybe… you will be satisfied.

I know this feeling all too well. When things get hard or stressful, I live in those moments. Today, I spent a good ten minutes or so just looking through my dad’s pictures, wanting to be home and missing my family. I’m a trained expert in nostalgia, flashing back through my Rolodex of photographic memories at every whim. In a moment, I’m back.

But back where? I’m inside a memory, and a false one at that, painted over with a golden hue and infused with the emotion I’ve given it every time I’ve recalled it.

Our memories are not bad. We should remember Christmases with our families, the good parts of a relationship, and the beautiful parts of a growing friendship. There is beauty in those moments, but the beauty doesn’t come because those moments last.

Polaroid at the Beach
The beauty comes because those moments are fleeting. They are for a second and you will never get them back; but for that glorious second, you can catch a glimpse of glory. In that moment, you can catch what it feels like to belong, to be loved, to be full and complete, filled and overflowing in every way.

And those glimpses are beautiful because they point to a time when we will be complete.

Our families on earth are not perfect, but we know what it’s like to long for that. We know what it’s like to cling to the moments that are good and block out the memories that hurt. We know what it’s like to want to belong and what it’s like to long for home.

We know what it’s like to long for a relationship or a friendship. We want to know someone and be known. We want to know that, at the core of who we are, we are truly loved and accepted.

Our longings are strong. Sometimes we choose to feel them, sometimes we choose to deny them, and sometimes we run to fill them with something that can’t hold the weight of our heart.

When I feel these longings—the cries of my heart to be accepted, to be loved—I remember the one place where I have been truly loved and recklessly pursued. I remember that Jesus chose to give Himself for me while I was deliberately and intentionally hurting him.

I remember that he adopted me and calls me daughter.

I remember that he gave me grace and freedom from the things that enslaved me.

I remember that he pursued me with a reckless abandon.

I remember that He created me and knows me more fully than any human ever could.

He knows me, the real me, the worst parts of me…

and yet…

… He still loves me.

He calls me home and that is where I belong. Every desire I have that is unfulfilled, every pang of loneliness I feel will be met in Him one day. He has given me friends and family, joy and beauty, in this life; but it doesn’t end here.

I rejoice in my unfulfilled longings, because they point me to a day when I will finally exclaim, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”*

—–

“I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy. The most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

*From ‘The Last Battle’ by C.S. Lewis, his seventh book in the Chronicles of Narnia series

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

When God Doesn’t Want My Alabaster Jar

“I’m giving this to God,” I told her. “I’m giving up control. He can do whatever He wants with it.”

I really meant it–I really thought I meant it.

I had thought long and hard about my alabaster jar filled with all I held dear. I had held it tightly for so long and it was starting to burn me. So, I decided I would give it to God, fully. I didn’t want the control, the worrying, the manipulation that came with protecting that jar.

I was so glad I had decided to give it to God. He would take care of it much better than I would.I was free.

But I didn’t feel free.

I felt bitter. I was in a power struggle with God–like a little kid who buys their friend a birthday gift and wants to keep it. And I realized I hadn’t truly given it to God. I had just said, “Hey God, can you hold this for a little while?”

I gave my desires to God for safekeeping. One day, He would give it back to me–when I was ready. Surely, He saw that this was a real step of maturity for me. But you know what he told me?

He said, “I don’t want it. I want you. I want your trust and your devotion. I don’t want this perfume. I want you to trust that I am ALL you need and that all I am will satisfy you more than your precious jar ever could.”

And I believe Him.
I believe His promises.
I believe that He will withhold no good thing.
That He is working all things together for good for those who love Him.
That if I commit my way to Him, He will act.

He will bring forth my righteousness as the light and my justice as the noonday. He has always been faithful; and though my treasures may fail me, He will never leave me nor forsake me.

To be honest, I’m still in a power struggle with God.

But this time, I’m not trying to take my jar back. I’m asking Him to help me as I struggle to pour out this alabaster jar–drop by drop. I’m watching the perfume mingle with my tears as I pour it on his feet.

It’s still a daily struggle, but this perfume has never smelled sweeter.

“And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.”
– Luke 7 : 37-38

Tagged , , , ,

Dust Off Your Highest Hopes

lakers barbieWhen you’re little, no one has to tell you to dream big. You’re born with big dreams and high hopes. I wanted to be a WNBA star like my special Lakers Barbie who could shoot baskets. It seemed quite realistic to me.

However, as we grow older, the realities of life start to hit us (I’m 5’2” and pretty uncoordinated. I don’t think I’ll be joining the ranks of Lisa Leslie any time soon). Pretty soon, our dreams get a little smaller. And as they start shrinking, they don’t stop. We’re no longer hindered by the realities of life but by our own mentality. We start shrinking our own dreams.

My little sister always sets herself up for disappointment when she asks a question. “Dad, well, I already know you’re going to say no… but could we… maybe… have a story before bed?” It’s funny when she does it so obviously, but don’t we all do this?

I really want to be ____ some day, but I don’t know… I’m not very smart and well, that seems really hard, so it probably won’t happen. I want to be friends with that girl, but she wouldn’t like me. That guy or girl is really great, but it probably wouldn’t work out and I’ll probably just get hurt.

We set ourselves up for the worst possible outcome, because we don’t want to get hurt. We say we’re “guarding our hearts” like everyone keeps telling us to do. But if we never hope, where’s the excitement in that? Where’s the joy?

I’m a big USC football fan, and well, if you follow college football, you know this was a pretty disappointing season for us. We all started losing morale. However, I have one friend who is always hopeful. When we’re losing terribly at half time, he says, “We’ve got this. We’re gonna’ win.” Now it’s fourth quarter and the score is worse. “We’ve still got it,” he says as he starts crafting out different scenarios where we could turn the tide of the game.  “Just an onside kick, a touchdown, and then an interception and another touchdown and we can tie it and win in overtime.”

We lost the majority of those games despite his hopeful commentary. But you know what? It was so much more fun when I gave in to those glimmers of hope. When our quarterback was injured in an awful loss to our rival school, the outcome of the Notre Dame game looked bleak. I was a total defeatist leading up to the game, but right before I started to hope. Maybe… maybe we’ll upset their season, maybe we’ll win, maybe this will be one of those legendary games that makes us forget a disappointing season.

Well, we didn’t win and Notre Dame will be playing in the national championship on Jan. 7… But watching that game was so much fun! And yes, the loss hurt; but if I had gone into it resigning to a loss, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the game at all. And if we had won, I would’ve wasted half of the game being depressed. The enjoyment came from the hoping.

I know there are bigger dreams and higher hopes in life than a college football game, and the losses in those are going to hurt a lot more than losing to a cross-town rival. So, how can we guard our hearts and still enjoy our high hopes?

Guard my heart from what?

Christians use this term a lot, especially when it comes to relationships. It comes from Proverbs 4:23 that says, “Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life.” We throw the term around loosely. When someone is involved in a new relationship, “Make sure to guard your heart,” people say. And that’s where the advice usually ends. Guard your heart… ok, but what does that mean???

I think we often are guarding our hearts from the wrong things. W\hen we think of guarding our hearts, we think of guarding ourselves from getting hurt. But let me tell you right now, at some point in your life, you are going to get hurt. Every relationship is a risk.

We risk something every time we tell a friend how much they mean to us. Maybe they don’t feel the same way. We put time and effort into friendships and relationships, and I think all of us can attest to the fact that sometimes you get burned. Every job interview is a risk. A lot of us know the feeling—you get excited about a new possibility and think the interview went great! Then, you get a rejection letter or just never get a call.

Moving forward in life requires risk, and risk means we’re going to end up hurt sometimes.

What we need to guard our hearts from is what we put in them. Hope is good, but we need to make sure we’re hoping for the right things. Proverbs 4 is all about following God’s wisdom and “guarding” his instructions (Prov. 4:13). It says “Listen carefully to my words… let them penetrate deep into your heart.” If we’re filling our lives with wisdom and the word of God, then he’s going to give us our hopes and dreams—our desires will be the things he desires.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” –Psalm 37:4

How to guard your heart

You can guard your heart from unhealthy influences and wrong thinking, which is what it’s talking about in Proverbs 4. However, when it comes to guarding your heart from hurt and disappointment, here’s the secret: you can’t.

Only God can guard your heart, and this is how. Philippians 4:6-8 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

C.S. Lewis said, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” Guarding your heart means, you know where your true happiness lies. It means that no outcome in this life, no high or low, will destroy you.

We guard our hearts by submitting our desires to him and delighting in Him. Every dream that we are anxious about, we can bring to God. And we can do it with thanksgiving, knowing that he wants the best for us. We can thank him for what he’s done already and what he’s going to do.

And we can hope, because we know our happiness doesn’t depend on it. We know we already have all we ever need in Jesus Christ.

So dream big. Take a risk. Tell your friends what they mean to you. Love with everything you have. Let yourself be happy. Let yourself be hopeful!

Let’s start 2013 off right—with hearts full of hope.

What do you think? Do you have any more advice on how to guard your heart? Anything you’re hoping for in the new year?

Tagged , , , , ,