if i’ve learned anything over the last year, its that life will always surprise you. never in a million years could i have seen what the last two years would hold; never in a million years could i have predicted that i would be this version of me. but never in a million years would i have guessed that God loved me so much that he’d go to such great lengths to prove it.
i was sitting in counseling about a month ago, talking about cutting my hair as a symbol for myself that ‘i was back’. sounds strange, i know … but somewhere along the line last year i decided that i was going to grow my hair out. i’ve had short hair (shorter than my shoulders) since i was 8 years old, and i wanted to a) prove to myself that i could exercise the self control to not cut it; b) have a visible, physical thing that mirrored the changes on the inside. so i permed it, and with the exception of a single trim last august, didn’t cut it FOR A WHOLE YEAR. this is a big deal, people. but i’ve started to feel more like myself the last couple months- like maybe there was going to be a lull in the storm that has been my life for the last 18 months. there was the anniversary of my resignation from LC, sarah’s homecoming and move to raleigh, celebrating a year since i started attending and serving at the summit church, and i was finally getting opportunities to teach and disciple again. i was in the interview process for a job that i really wanted … it seemed like things were finally falling into place, and that i might be able to make some sense of the ‘why’ i’d been asking. so i cut my hair.
i didn’t get the job.
i’m not proud of my reaction to that. but nothing will shatter your false confidence like hope deferred. i cried. i asked God ‘why’, i resorted to ‘default mode’ (which in sam-speak is emotional hibernation), i shut people out, and i got mad. mad at God, who obviously was playing games with me; who was a tease and a liar and mean. mad at people who told me that ‘God must have something better in mind for you’. mad at myself for allowing hope to take root and start to grow again. after all, what you don’t hope for doesn’t break you, right?
my counselor had asked me a few weeks before if there was anything that i had learned over the last year. i came up with a few things, and looking at them now, i’ve got to laugh. because they are exactly the things that i should have reminded myself of when disappointment came calling again. (God does have a sense of humor.)
i learned that ‘no’ is a GOOD gift. there were days, weeks, months even, when that phrase was my mantra. when i repeated it to myself over and over as i watched everything that i had placed my hope in be removed from my life. matthew 7:8-11 and james 1:17 both tell us that God only gives good gifts, and that it is HIS definition of good that counts. he may give me what looks like a rock, but because he is only good and gives only good, i know that it is bread. i’d still like a ‘yes’ or a ‘this way’ instead of a ‘no’ and a closed door, but ‘no’ is a good gift, too.
i learned that joy is a fight, and worth fighting for. i go back and read the couple of entries i wrote last spring, and i scare myself. depression is no joke, people. happiness came in small doses; joy in even smaller ones. but it did come- God used visits from friends, emails from my sister, long talks with my mom, serving opportunities at church, and many many many podcasted sermons to breathe and speak life over me. part of fighting for joy is choosing to remind myself that ‘no’ IS a good gift, and choosing to listen to sermons that would preach the gospel to me when i couldn’t preach it to myself.
i also learned that faith is a choice. much like fighting for joy, choosing faith is choosing to believe the podcasted words i heard, and choosing to allow for the fact that my scope and vision of my life is miniscule when compared to God’s scope and vision for my life. but the faith to believe that he has loving purposes for me doesn’t always comes easy. the faith to believe that he loves me, and has designs for me beyond salvation (as if that wasn’t enough!), is difficult to find when people hurt you and your plans fail and your dreams die one by one. but isn’t that the point of faith? if it was easy, it wouldn’t be faith.
it might seem counterintuitive, but the truth of the matter is that it is not a lack of love of God’s part that is displayed in the events of the last year. it is actually a veritable parade of lavish grace! what seems like a series of stones, snakes, and closed doors is really loaf upon loaf of bread and an undeniable invitation for me to draw nearer to him. God does only give good gifts to us, but the best he gives us is himself. and it takes moving other gifts out of our line of sight to show us what he offers when he gives us himself, then he will do it. the giver of the gift is better than any gift he could give me.
so the whole ‘cutting my hair to show that i’m back’ thing is actually true. its deliciously ironic to me that it took two visits and nearly 6 hours to cut my hair. the sweet little cosmetology student who cut my hair gave me this absurd looking triangular wedge and had to SOMEHOW redeem that and turn it into the cute, curly ‘do that is now framing my face. there is something poetic about trying to symbolize that “i’m ok” with a botched haircut. but she did fix it, and it has reminded me that i might think that God has botched my life … but he’s in the business of redeeming broken things.