What Beauty Is in Sight?

Again this week, I’m writing for the Faith Jam on Friday instead of Thursday. ¬†This week, instead of being busy yesterday, I was just horribly sick! ūüė¶ And although I still don’t feel great today, I at least feel a little bit better to where I’m able to sit up for long enough to pound out some reflective thinking.

So here goes:

At 30 years old and still single, my life is hardly what I had pictured. ¬†At the very least I assumed I’d be married by now, and perhaps with a kid–though whether I had one or not, at least I’d have that option.

I didn’t think this because of some feminine ideal, that this is what it means to be a woman. ¬†I genuinely want to be a wife and a mother, and I still have hopes that this will happen.

In some sense I realize that 30 is still very young. ¬†But in another sense, I feel old as you hear people say that it’s better to have kids before you’re 35–40 at the latest.

And I’d like to have time with just my husband before we have kids, so with no prospects as I swiftly approach 31 (yuck!), life is not what I had planned.

And that seems scary to me. ¬†And confusing. ¬†Like, “Where are you, God? ¬†Aren’t you the one who made me relational, who gave me this desire to be married? ¬†Why aren’t you fulfilling it? ¬†Are you holding my husband back for some reason?”

These are the questions I’ve been asking recently. ¬†Not asking–profoundly wrestling with. ¬†Tackling God over. ¬†Begging. ¬†Pleading. ¬†Seeking in those deep places of my heart.

So, as a theologian, I’ve had to really examine my theology on these things. ¬†There are so many things I could never dream of knowing about God, but here are a couple things I cling to in these dark moments:

1. ¬†I don’t believe God is cruel. ¬†I don’t know why he hasn’t either taken away my desire to be married or given me a husband, but I don’t think his reasoning involves being cruel and just making me suffer.
2. ¬†I don’t believe God ordains everything. ¬†While I do think God is in charge in some larger sense, I don’t think that means he controls every aspect of our lives. ¬†Perhaps the reason I’m not married yet is simply that we live in a fallen, disconnected world where the crappiness of circumstances hasn’t allowed me to meet anyone I connect with in this way. (I also don’t believe there’s just one “one” for everyone, but that just means I haven’t met any of them yet! :P)
3. ¬†I don’t believe God rewards goodness and punishes badness. ¬†This was a myth that grew among the Israelites in the Old Testament, but Jesus quickly dispelled it when he came on the scene (see¬†John 9:1-3). ¬†So I don’t think I’m still single because I did something wrong or sinful. ¬†I also, incidentally, don’t think you only get married when you’re “ready”–plenty of people aren’t ready and get married, and plenty are way past ready and are still waiting!

So, in the midst of the hardness of my situation, the question arises: What beauty is in sight? ¬†How can I even believe there’s beauty when so many things around me don’t make any sense?

First, there’s beauty in the fact that this struggle has driven me to the Lord. ¬†Just the fact that I can affirm the above theological statements is beautiful. ¬†Yes, a lot of days this just sucks, but I also am discovering the ways that it’s forcing me to rely on God and really figure out what I believe about him.

Second, there is¬†so much beauty in the amazing relationships I have, particularly those I’ve developed over the past 6 years. ¬†I experience every day a depth in my friendships that I think most people never even experience with their spouse. ¬†I don’t say this to brag; I just really believe it’s true. ¬†Most people are terrified to be vulnerable and really share their heart with someone–I have a core of 5-10 people I can do this with any time (assuming our schedules allow!). ¬†I could not be more thankful for the¬†incredible friendships I have. ¬†You know who you are, and you’ve blessed me immensely time and time again!

Finally, there’s beauty in where my life is right now. ¬†True, I don’t love every aspect of my circumstances, but I’m not sure that I’d be in this place if I were married. ¬†I¬†love living in Santa Barbara,¬†I¬†love getting to work with my church, and I¬†love¬†having time to develop the friendships I have here. ¬†I’m not sure if all these things would have lined up just so if I’d been married.

Finding beauty in these thorny circumstances has been my desire lately. ¬†But I don’t always know how to do that. ¬†However, I know that I don’t think finding the beauty means¬†always being happy about how things are. ¬†Sometimes the beauty comes in a really good cry or in a really good, hard, honest discussion with a friend about the pain of my life in this moment.

My prayer these days comes from two sources: somewhere in¬†The Chronicles of Narnia Aslan tells Lucy that it’s not for us to know the “what if”‘s. ¬†I realize that my life might be very different if I were already married at this point, but it’s not for me to know what that path might have looked like. ¬†The fact is that this is my life. ¬†And I want to embrace that.

In a similar vein, I think often about this quote:


I don’t know what life is waiting for me, but I know that I want to find out. ¬†And I don’t want to find out passively because I have no other option–I want to be excited about the journey I’m on, ready to embrace whatever twists and turns may come my way.

In the midst of all of this, God is still good. ¬†He is still meeting me in those lowly places–when I’m unsure where to go and why things are just so difficult.

He hasn’t abandoned me.

He hasn’t abandoned you either.

Perhaps life’s difficulties seem too hard to handle. ¬†We are not alone in them. ¬†We have God, but we also have each other.

Let’s walk in these rough places together–not pretending that things are fine when they clearly aren’t. ¬†I believe Jesus is present when we meet one another in those vulnerable places, when we decide to¬†incarnate into one another’s pain.

After all, isn’t that what the Incarnation is all about? ¬†Jesus, perfect God, taking on the imperfect form of a human (though he remained sinless) in order to walk among us and experience our pain.

Let’s be¬†Jesus¬†to one another in these difficult places–whether we can relate to the other’s pain or not. ¬†Let’s be the warm arms of Christ as we embrace each other, trusting that the Holy Spirit is moving our arms to surround one another. ¬†Let’s never forget that life will be hard–more often than we’d like–but we are not alone! ¬†And then, let’s be God’s tangible representatives to one another–little Jesuses in the flesh–as we walk together through the pain, seeking whatever beauty we may find among the thorns.


“I’m Wide Awake”

After I wrote my post last night, the line “I’m wide awake” from Katy Perry’s song¬†“Wide Awake” was ringing through my head as a description of what it felt like to have this fog lifting from my eyes.¬† But before adding something about that into the blog, I decided to read the lyrics to the song.¬† Perry is talking about a relationship that went sour, that she believed this guy’s lie but now she is “wide awake” to who he really is.¬† But there’s a line in the song where she says that she wouldn’t have gone into the relationship if she’d known the truth about him.¬† This struck me because, while I understand the sentiment, I’m learning that I don’t have to live in a place of regret. ¬† When we really embrace life, we can take the highs and the lows, the good and the bad.¬† Obviously moving forward we can learn and grow and hopefully make better decisions, for example about the next relationship we choose, but we can take each circumstance as something that is valuable, that teaches us a lesson and shapes us in some fundamental way.¬† So I don’t agree with what Perry is saying here.¬† Yes, of course, we all can see times looking back when we made a poor decision, but even those decisions shape us in a key way and make us who we are today as a result.¬† We don’t have to live with regret about the past, not because it was perfect, but because we can trace how each decision we’ve made or wrong that we’ve suffered has (hopefully) strengthened us into who we are now.

Also after writing my post last night, I had a really vivid dream (this is a pretty common occurrence for me), but the content is what struck me.¬† I was speaking to a group of young people, maybe high school or young college age.¬† This was clearly a setting where I was teaching them something out of the wisdom I’ve gained in my old age (as I like to joke!).¬† And so I explained to them that life can be really really REALLY hard sometimes.¬† As I shared this I had tears in my eyes remembering the pain I’ve gone through in my own life.¬† But then I ended my talk by telling them that it was so worth it.¬† It’s totally worth the pain and agony and struggle because life is full of really great, incredible, profoundly beautiful moments as well.¬† It’s worth it because we have to have one in order to have the other.¬† We must embrace the fullness of life; we can never just take the good and leave the bad behind.¬† I was encouraging them not to back down or try to skip out on life just because it doesn’t go exactly the way they want it to.¬† [Another connection point: Adam Sandler’s character learns this the hard way in the movie “Click” when he continually skips through the hard or boring parts of life only to find out that the remote them automatically skips much of the good stuff as well.¬† Not the best quality movie, but thought-provoking and it had a pretty good moral too.¬† I’ve also heard the more recent film¬†“About Time” covers some of these same themes.]

Obviously none of us signs up for pain.¬† None of us asks to be hurt.¬† And maybe if we could go back and make some different choices we would.¬† But I never want to be someone who shies away from pain, who is unwilling to take a risk in the first place because it might turn out badly.¬† Maybe it will turn out badly; maybe I will get my heart broken; maybe things won’t go the way that I’d planned them or hoped.¬† But I have to live life in this moment.¬† I have to embrace what’s ahead of me.¬† I have to continue walking and living–in the present, not in the past or the future.¬† I can’t be depressed about what’s happened in the past; I can’t be anxious about what might or might not happen in the future.¬† I have to live today and embrace the fullness of whatever feelings come my way.¬† This is one of the core truths I’ve come to believe about life and something that I wrestle to embrace every day.¬† Please, let’s wrestle together.¬† Together, let’s learn to embrace what today may bring–good or bad–trusting that we will come through on the other side (at least) whole, and most likely stronger for the journey.¬† Then, we can use that strength to inform the next decision we make.¬† Living this way–with our hearts wide open to whatever may come–is truly what it means to live life “wide awake.”