Tag Archives: jesus

Agency

The line between being forgiving and being too forgiving is such a hard one for me to define.

I feel like I have fairly high expectations of people. I do my part, and I expect others to do theirs. I take care of people, and I expect them to take care of me.

Yet, I see myself accepting treatment that is not as good as what I deserve, not as good as the treatment I give others. And I often see myself brushing this off, not demanding better, cutting slack where I should be calling out, settling for less than I should, allowing myself to be walked on and taken for granted. Of course, this clarity generally only comes in hindsight; in the moment, I don’t realize I’m being treated badly, and I let it slide, convince myself it’s okay, acceptable. I rarely demand better.

There are instances in which I do get frustrated, do feel angry that I’m not being appreciated or cared for — but those times don’t last long. I end up feeling guilty for not being forgiving enough, for holding people to high standards, for expecting too much. And it continues.

And then, there’s the problem of focusing on the people with whom I’m frustrated, while not acknowledging or appreciating the people who do care for me, love me, look after me — despite the fact that the latter far outnumber the former.

It comes from a lack of agency on my part, to demand to be treated well and to recognize and appreciate when it happens. Perhaps it’s because on some level, I feel that I don’t really deserve it. I feel awkward when someone’s attention is focused on me. I don’t want to inconvenience someone by telling them I need them, their help, their love. Or I’m afraid that if I do receive that attention, it will only be fleeting and I’ll be left feeling hurt.

I want to see better the line between forgiveness and agency. I want to have more confidence in knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. I want to stand up for myself when I need to stand up, and be able to be cared for when I need to be cared for. I want to appreciate more the incredible people I am blessed to have in my life and dwell less on the ones who don’t meet my expectations. I want to freely offer and freely accept the love, patience, and grace that comes from God.

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“Oh, I do believe in all the things you say; what comes is better than what came before.” -Lou Reed

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Patience

One thing that keeps popping into my head lately is, “Oh, so this is how it’s supposed to be.” In a lot of aspects of my life right now, I feel like things are as they should be. Of course, not everything is perfect; there are still moments of frustration, areas for growth, things that could be better. But on the whole, I feel like my life is balanced and good — in terms of my job, my living situation, my social landscape, my connections with people, my connection with God. I feel happy and whole, and it feels real, not like something I have to convince myself of or talk myself into out of desperation, not a happiness that I’m settling for or that I’m compromising something else for.

I have always struggled with being patient, with enjoying the moment I’m in instead of rushing on to the next thing that’s lined up. I couldn’t wait to be done with my small-town life and go off to college in the city; I graduated from college early because I wanted to start my “real life” as soon as possible; it only took two weeks in San Francisco before I had moved into an apartment and started a job; I ended one relationship only to emotionally plunge into a new one. I don’t necessarily regret any of these things, but looking back, I can see that not all of these decisions were to my advantage.

But over the past few months, I feel like I have settled into a place that’s good, and I’m realizing that being settled, to some degree, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve always been afraid of becoming too comfortable, worried that it would make me lose my drive to be more and do more. But a reasonable degree of security doesn’t have to be detrimental. Because now, I feel like I’m in a place, literally and figuratively, where I think I’d like to stay for a while, a place where I can be still, and patient, and listen, and see what really is next — instead of forcing what I want to be next.

A few months ago, I was ready to drop everything and embark on something new — anything new. I hadn’t thought it through, I didn’t have any vision; I just wanted to do something that felt like it mattered. I was unhappy with many aspects of my life, and I felt like I needed to pour myself into something larger than me.

But then, one by one, things started shifting. I started to feel more capable and in control at work. I moved out of my apartment into a place with two fun, friendly, and caring roommates. I started dating a guy who encourages and inspires and energizes me. And suddenly I had these new things to pour myself into, these relationships to be a part of. And I felt good. Not complacent good, or things-should-stay-like-this-forever good, but good in the sense that I didn’t feel empty or lonely or sad. Good in the sense that I felt like my life was headed in a positive direction, I direction in which I wanted to keep going. Good in the sense that I realized that I didn’t have to be doing something seemingly insane in order to be doing what God wants me to do right now. Good in the sense that when it is time for something big to happen, to change, I will know.

Of course, I still have moments where I get desperate for what’s next, for things to be planned and purposeful and perfect. But I am trying to enjoy where I am now and be open to the possibilities of what will come next, without imposing my plans or selfish desires upon those possibilities. I am trying to see, to seek, to be patient. Sometimes it feels like a cop out, but I really believe that for this moment, I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing, with the people I’m supposed to be with. And I’m thankful.

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“I am healthy, I am whole; but I have poor impulse control. And I want to go home, but I am home. We are strong, we are faithful; we are guardians of a rare thing. We pay close, careful attention to the news the morning air brings. We show great loyalty to the hard times we’ve been through.” -Mountain Goats

Graciousness

I have a hard time accepting compliments. This always becomes more apparent when I go home, where I invariably end up feeling a bit like a celebrity — even if it’s to no one but my grandparents, always ones to offer praise and adulation. People I know from Canfield have a certain conception of me — overachieving, level-headed, practical, goal-oriented, studious, successful. And despite a few (fairly public) bumps along the way, I largely lived up to that during the years I lived there. Even when I come home now, six years after moving away, my spiel about what and where and how I’m doing lives up to that, too. I have lots to be thankful for and proud of.

So why do I have such a hard time being gracious when someone pays me a compliment? Whether it’s superficial or more thoughtful, whether it’s about my appearance or personality or actions or achievements, I feel uncomfortable and usually end up brushing it off, likely seeming rude and stuck up and incredibly ungrateful — which is the exact opposite of how I feel. It’s like the situations in which I can’t give praise or am too afraid to embrace friendships because I feel awkward, so I end up putting people off and pushing them away.

Like so much else for me, it probably comes down to confidence. I don’t have the confidence to tell myself positive things and believe them, so hearing them from other people — especially friends, members of the communities I’m part of, people whom I value — just makes me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps I’m worried that it’s too good to be true, that I have to be guarded and cautious in accepting compliments because if I allow people’s opinions of me to matter and take to heart what they say, I’m opening myself up to being hurt by those people, should they choose to do so. Which is true, sure; but it’s pretty stupid.

Perhaps I’m also paranoid about becoming too wrapped up in praise — so much that I react too extremely in the other direction. I feel, though, that there’s a place for sincere praise as a way for God to build us up, through each other. And if that praise is given and received in earnest, it can be reflectant of him, not a something that makes us prideful or separates us from God.

I fear that if I don’t learn to be better at being gracious about receiving these words, I’ll run the risk of closing doors, of driving off people I care about because I can’t accept their affection and offer it in return, of missing out on ways that God wants to speak to me.

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“And I’m halfway to you, but I’m taking a break where I walk with a limp and I sleep with the stakes, and I blow up my lungs with the air that I need, and my dreams I’m on my knees, and I’m washing your feet with my hair.” -Page France

Remembrance


Every morning for the past few weeks, I’ve been reading and meditating on the PC(USA)’s Sunday lectionary for the upcoming week. I find it centering to focus on the same set of verses every day for the whole week; tying things together further is that we are following the series at MBCC, so one of the week’s passages is also the basis for the sermon on Sunday.

One of this week’s passages is Isaiah 49:15-16:

I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

It seems simple; but really, can you imagine that? Every time God looks at his hands, he sees us there — that is how often he thinks of us. We are engraved there, in his hands — that is how close we are to him. I can’t quite get my head around it.

What is engraved on the palms of my hands? What do I think of as often as I look at them? What is so close to me, so important to me, that it exists there? What should be engraved on the palms of my hands?

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“You were born to glow majestically and love until your hands bleed.” – Page France

Confidence

This has always been a struggle for me. For a long time it was physical, feeling awkward and gangly and clumsy. As I’ve grown comfortable in my own skin, I’ve grown out of that, for the most part. But confidence in general, in who I am, in terms of self-worth and all the ways that plays out in relationships and decisions and life, is always volatile.

It’s so temperamental, so easily influenced. When people treat me well, I feel good about myself. When I’m in relationships that are positive and I feel like people care about me, I feel positive and care about myself. But when someone is upset with me or dissatisfied with me or not valuing me, I have a hard time fighting feeling that way myself; I take it too much to heart; I let it have too much influence. And the cycle continues — I put up with being treated worse than I should because I believe, even if it’s subconsciously, that I don’t deserve to be treated better.

But then when I am treated better, it’s like a whole different world; I remember that I am worth listening to, worth investing in, worth opening doors for, worth walking five miles with out to the beach and back. When someone whom I value is valuing in me in return, it changes the way I see things — really, everything.

And that’s good, of course; but I do wish I were more able to pull myself out of it, or to rely on God to pull me out of it, instead of having it be tied up in other people. I suppose, in a sense, God is pulling me out of it by providing people to help build me up. But I wish I could take more confidence, God’s confidence, in who I am, what I believe in, what I’m working toward, why I am valuable. I wish it didn’t feel so changeable, so often.

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“I’m bound by these choices so hard to make; I’m bound by the feeling so easy to fake. None of this is real enough to take me from you.” – Wilco

Connection

This week has been crazy. Despite my best attempts, I’ve managed to be busy every night, with barely five minutes to do dishes or put away clothes or clean the cat box. Tonight I stayed home and caught up on chores and Snaut and The Office. . .it’s basically too hot to move, anyway.

But despite all the running around, I feel like the time I’ve spent with people this week has been really great. I’ve had some good, meaningful connections — reconnecting with some older friends I’d fallen out of touch with and beginning to forge stronger relationships with newer friends.

I need to feel connected, but I need to remember that is a multi-faceted thing. I need to take time to connect with my friends and family, with myself, and with God. There has to be a balance among all of those; if one outweighs the others, I lose perspective, insecurities and doubts creep in, and a cycle of disconnection begins.

I can feel the pendulum swinging back toward the center, though. Slowly but surely, I’m finding that balance between investing in the people who are important to me, spending enough time alone to think and reflect and be intentional about what I’m doing, and seeking God in the midst of it all.

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“So throw me a rope to hold me in place; show me a clock for counting my days down. Cause everything’s easier when you’re beside me, come back and find me. . .” – KT Tunstall

Unwavering

How do you make everyone happy? How do you tell everyone what they want to hear?

You don’t. You can’t. You can’t stand for anything if you do. You never will.

But I do. But I somehow can. But yeah, I’m not standing for anything.

I need guns, and I need to stick to them. There is so much more than hedging your bets; life is not worth living if that’s how you live it. We all need certain things, and we need to be firm about needing them. We need to demand them — of others, and more importantly, of ourselves.

In all honesty, I don’t know where I stand. But if I would listen to my own advice, I’d realize that I just need to pick a place and be there — wherever it is. Be there, unwaveringly.

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“I want to walk worthy, my calling to fulfill. Please order my steps, Lord, and I’ll do your blessed will. The world is ever changing, but you are still the same. If you order my steps, I’ll praise your name.”