We’re not fine.

“I’m fine.”
“You’ll be fine.”
“Everything’s fine.”
“Fine, then!”

Fine. A word that almost always implies the exact opposite of its definition.

Most of us come from cultures where if you are not ‘fine,’ you keep it to yourself.  Actually being healthy is far less important than appearing healthy.  And if not healthy, then ‘fine.’ “Soldier on” and “Pull yourself together” are often the most empathetic pieces of advice we’re offered. We’re trained to believe that ‘fine’ is our default setting, and if we’re not fine, then we need to muster our courage and/or self-delusion in order to restore our fineness.

But the truth is, the default of humanity is not physical, mental, and emotional health. The default of humanity is not even ‘fine’; the true default setting of humanity is depression, anger, and volatility. It is the propensity to hurt others, both accidentally and intentionally, and to act from our own festering wounds.

The default setting of humanity is depravity.

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a five-point, T.U.L.I.P.-picking Calvinist, but I’m on board with Total Depravity. I see it daily in the news, in my fellow seminary students, in my friends and my family, and especially myself. I see it in the in the kindest, most selfless people I know who sometimes bristle defensively and act maliciously.

The reality of total depravity has been weighing on me a lot lately. Between all of the geopolitical calamity of this summer and the “typical” heartache that comes with being human, I’ve been overwhelmed. Yet in the last week God has been reminding me of something that injects hope into my faltering spirit. He’s been reminding me that although the default setting of the human heart is depravity, the default setting of his heart is redemption.

I am not fine; neither are you, and neither is our world. We are egregiously far from fine. But we are not beyond our Father’s reach.  He is, was, and always will be a redeemer, and nothing – not ISIS, not Boko Haram, not Hamas or the IDF, and certainly not my own depravity – can change that.

Homesickness

I remember with perfect clarity the first time I felt totally content. I was fifteen, and it was my fourth year of summer camp in the Absaroka Mountains. Ever the introvert, I had sneaked away from a camp worship meeting and climbed to a clearing overlooking the chapel. Enfolded in familiar forest sounds, sweet, blissful peace washed over me. I was loved, I was accepted, I was safe. I was home.

Retreat HouseFast-forward nine years and I am sitting in a sweltering, turn-of-the-century mansion on Massachusetts’ North Shore. Content, more or less. Loved and safe, surely; and yet I wonder when I will go “home” again. Campus housing, no matter how picturesque, certainly isn’t it.

I have lived in many different places, and none of them are truly home. The rust-orange Boise-Cascade my parents moved into last winter houses all of my possessions—save what I could shove inside two suitcases—but it’s not really home to me.

If home is where the heart is, then I am in trouble. My heart is scattered, bits of it permenantly lodged in Anacostia, in Masiphumelele, in my late grandparents’ house, in Missoula, and in that clearing above the Boulder river where I first began to grasp God’s love for me.

I say this because I know countless people who feel the same way. We Millennials are taking our sweet time about settling down. We’re afraid of putting down roots for fear of being stuck in the wrong job or relationship or whatever; yet, unconsciously, we’ve been planting roots – loving and being loved – all along.

My heart is in a dozen different places, and as the adventure of living footloose and fancy-free subsides, I find myself wishing I could go home.

Someday, whether in five years or fifty, I will go home again. And in the meantime, I am deeply, profoundly grateful for the parade of beautiful and loving people who have touched my heart and have made me at home in their lives. I hope to pay it forward one day.

“…that he shall put them safe off his hand on the shore, in his Father’s known bounds, our native home ground.” – Samuel Rutherford

“to long for the endless immensity of the sea”

There’s an anchor for my soul
A mighty weight that holds me fast
Strong and steady against the swells
With billowed sails and splintered mast

Creaking, breaking, tearing, splitting
Havoc wreaked by storm-tossed seas
This rope and iron weigh me down
Yet waters stay beneath my feet

There’s an anchor for my soul
A mighty weight that holds me fast
Keeps me afloat although assailed
By flaming arrows and cannon’s blast

I’ve searched for harbors countless times
Sought refuge in the warmth of shallows
Lulled by sirens’ songs of safety:
Trade freedom for relief most hollow

Yet there’s an anchor for my soul
Almighty weight that holds me fast
By hope secure I am held
Free indeed on oceans vast

The Ultimate Purpose of Revelation

IMG_1411

(Notes from Systematic Theology I with Dr. Jack Davis)

Revelation: the disclosure by a personal agent of otherwise unknown information (attitudes, emotions, thoughts, plans)

Revelation is both personal and propositional. The ultimate purpose of revelation is relationship.

I’ve been repeating these things to myself a lot lately, and not just because they were on the notes I was memorizing for my final last week.

I came to seminary to find sound answers to two foundational questions: Is God truly good? And if so, is he good enough?

See, I spent a good part of 2013 watching people I love ache, mourn, and cry out to God for deliverance. I saw pain plumb the depths of the human soul, and in those depths propositional knowledge – logical truths and facts about God – came up short. So did emotions from personal encounters with the Holy Spirit.

Is God good? Is he enough to satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts, to restore the most shattered spirit?

The ultimate purpose of revelation is relationship.

God wants to be known.

An eternal, holy, perfectly wise God is bound to have more to reveal than I could fully understand in a thousand lifetimes. His revelation is perfect and sufficient; my comprehension is not.

Still, with every new piece of revelation – propositional and personal – I am compelled to love him, trust him, and worship him more.

As I’ve grown (in the last four months, especially), my field of vision has widened, making my infinite God seem greater – more expansive and all-pervasive, yet somehow more set apart. And surprisingly, the more of his vast nature I come to know, the simpler my faith becomes. The better I know him, propositionally and personally, the more readily I trust him. I trust him because although my knowledge is not sufficient, he is. My experiences will not satisfy; he does.

Is God good? He is not just good; he is better than our best propositional definitions of goodness.

Is God good enough? The lion’s share of my experience tells me that he is, and that no one is likely to reach the limit of his “good enough-ness” anytime soon.

 

“Aslan,” said Anne, “you’re bigger”.
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

-Prince Caspian (liberties taken)

Confessions of a Seminary Student

Some [mostly] light-hearted reflections from the last few months:

Since moving to Mass, I’ve begun to take an inordinate amount of pride in the fact that I’m from Montana.  I roll my eyes like a hearty, unshaven, mountain woman anytime someone complains about the cold, and sometimes I mention the recent avalanche in Missoula for good measure.

I will question a person’s fitness for ministry if he or she doesn’t like dark beer.

After hanging out with a few of the seminary wives, who laugh when their sons get bumps and bruises, and whose apartments are perpetually sticky and draped in partially-folded laundry, and who accidentally drop the F-bomb when their children refuse to get in the stroller, I think to myself, Hey, I can do all of those things, too!  Maybe I have what it takes to be a parent after all.

On a related note, thank God that the future leaders of women’s ministries in this country are façade-free.

It has been roughly one month since I’ve had a good night of sleep.

I feel guilty for not being stressed about school.  Everyone else is; am I missing something?  Am I not taking my studies seriously enough?  I ask myself these things at least twenty times a day.

Along those lines, I have never wished more fervently that I were a type-A, planner personality.

It has recently been brought to my attention that when I’m behind the wheel of my super cool Toyota, I become a bit of a Masshole.  So beware, pedestrians:  I’m not in Missoula anymore, which means I don’t have bow down before you at every crosswalk just because your carbon footprint is smaller than mine.

Seminary: One Hell of a Good Time

(Thanks to my friend Dan Crary for supplying the irreverent title of this post)

But in all seriousness, I cannot believe how fantastic the last three weeks have been, and I’m continually overwhelmed by the unexpected ways that God is blessing me.  To begin with, I met several YWAMers practically upon arrival; there are 15-20 of us, including several faculty, and I feel like I’ve stumbled upon extended family I never knew I had.  The women in my house (which is also pretty amazing; think Downton Abbey on a smaller scale) are smart, kind, fun, and love God wholeheartedly, and getting to know them has been an absolute joy.

And then there are classes.  I’m in class three hours a day, Monday–Thursday, and while I enjoy each of them, the standout favorite is Systematic Theology I.  God is absolutely incredible, and every Thursday I leave that class with my mind and heart full to capacity, feeling like I need to just sit and take an hour to worship.

There are certainly things I miss about home: no sales tax, exceptional food at Monday night dinners and the people that accompany it, my ZooTown family, and Black Coffee (I would graciously consent to accepting care packages containing Black & Tan roast), but all told I’m thrilled to be in Massachusetts.  And New England does have a few things that Montana lacks, namely a thick accent that sometimes needs subtitles for non-natives to decipher, fresh seafood, and snow days. You’d be surprised how quickly graduate students regress to grade school behavior when there are sleds and snowmen involved.

 Image

(View of the snow day shenanigans from my room)

24 Things I’ve Learned By 24, part 3

Part 3 of 3–are you ready for me to pull out the big guns?

This last year has marked tremendous growth in my life.  I haven’t learned much in quantity, but I’ve sifted and weighed nearly everything I believe about God.  And while this process is by no means over, I can declare with true humility that my faith is more deep and honest than ever before.  Certainly not because of myself, but because Jesus is determined that I would know him for who he truly is, no matter the cost.  So read on, if you dare.

On spirituality:

19.  If I cannot be authentic and vulnerable with God, it will be impossible for me to be authentic and vulnerable with people.  God has been saying this to me over and over for the last two months, and I could probably write a whole blog about it, but I’ll save the sermonizing for another time.  Suffice to say, my sometimes chaotic emotions and irrational insecurities don’t intimidate him or change what he thinks of me, and raw authenticity makes God’s love more visible in me and tangible for others.

20.  Gratitude increases faith.  Few things stir my faith like recounting the amazing things God has done in my life, especially out loud and to others when possible.

21.  I need to stop beating my head against the glass ceiling that exists for women in the Church (not my church, specifically, but the Church as a whole) and ask God to teleport me to the other side.  But maybe I’m just being lazy.  You can be sure I’ll expound on this later.

22.  Sometimes God’s most beautiful expressions of love and grace are delivered through our sin.  Pause to think about this for thirty seconds.  It’s an astounding reality.

23.  I will probably never stop being amazed by how patient and faithful and fiercely tenacious Jesus is.  I am far from being his most obedient follower, but that does not stop him from coming after me and remaking me–scars, sins, and all–into the woman he’s made me to be.

24. There is something sacred and powerful about music.  Every single breakthrough I’ve experienced in my relationship with God has happened during worship.  I can only remember a handful of sermons that have impacted me, which is a bit odd for me to confess since I’m more of a thinker than a feeler.  But those incredible moments when the perfect melody awakens my soul to the reality that I am standing face to face with the God who breathed the stars into existence…well, those moments have the power to transform like none other.

Thanks for reading.  Cheers to being 24 and to my mid-twenties!