It was a bad day. One of those days that we all have sometime that’s just crap from moment one. Not because anything bad happens, per se, but because something within us is well and truly done. I have been overwhelmed by a rather steep learning curve this term, as I am taking four courses, each expecting me to learn between one and four new coding languages, plus I’m trying to nail down exactly what my thesis project is going to look like, looking for a new place to live, and trying to figure out the tiny matter of what to do with my life. Exhaustion coupled with making frustratingly little progress toward any of this yesterday (usually Wednesdays are my catch up days) made me cranky today, and I spent all day trying to decide whether I wanted more to burst into tears or punch everyone, EVERYONE, in the face.
I managed to make it through the day without violence and, after arriving home from a Bible study this evening, chose to go with tears. Lots of them. We’re reading through Luke at the moment. Just literally reading the whole book out loud. It’s been difficult. (Except for a hilarious moment today where I realized Jesus literally said, “Go tell that fox [Herod] that I’m too busy to die for the next couple of days, but he can get me on the third day. It wouldn’t do for a prophet to die outside of Jerusalem anyway.” Luke 13:32, 33. Look it up. I laughed out loud. Inappropriately.) It is, in fact, part of a series called “difficult discipleship” because Jesus keeps saying things like,
Luke 14: 26 (ESV)
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 13: 22 – 27 (ESV)
22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’
Frankly, I felt unwelcome. I certainly don’t belong to the poor or sick or outcast category. I have a comfortable life, yet I walk past need all the time. I am not naturally compassionate, and have to struggle daily to be kind and not selfish. I’m always walking past opportunities to speak up or help out, forgetting to pray for people when I say I will, failing to reach the goals I set for myself. Surely, I am the one these passages are directed toward. I realized this feeling has been with me for a long time, and it’s been affecting things. I’ve gotten tired of praying. I’m doing it to assuage a sense of guilt when I don’t, and it feels like a chore. Same with witnessing and “showing people the love of God.” I’ve become convinced that I’m not the kind of person Jesus really liked. But then, tenderly, the still, small voice: You used to believe me when I told you I love you.
Somehow He always knows exactly what to say to stop me in my tracks. Because He hasn’t stop telling me how much He loves me. But for a while I’ve been rolling my eyes whenever the thought rolls through my mind, convincing myself that’s just me “saying what I want to hear.” So He got a little more tangible with me: just in this past week I got a major prayer answered AND got to be an answer to prayer. (I’m gonna share the testimonies, because they’re amazing. Last Thursday, I was well into week four of being ill. No fever, so I was trying to live my life the best I could. But I still had a strep-level sore throat. Like difficulty swallowing. Had gone to the doctor twice and they wouldn’t even test me for strep: told me it was “probably viral” and to take painkillers and eat ice cream to keep the swelling down. I was fed up. I went to Bible study mostly because they were going to feed me dinner, and on the way was thinking maybe I could get some prayer but honestly was tired of asking for it. I decided I wouldn’t, but kind of jokingly told God if He wanted to tell someone to pray for me, that would be nice. I walked in and the first thing one of the guys said was, “We need to pray for Allison tonight.” And I was like…”Well ok. Thanks God!” So they prayed, and I was healed. Then a couple days later I texted one of the leaders to see if I could organize meals for a couple in the church who’s having a baby, because it’s something we used to do back in Hawaii. Turns out they had literally prayed a few days before that someone would volunteer to take that on because none of them could swing it at the moment!) Does He love me, or what? But He was right. I didn’t believe Him anymore. I read things like the above passages from Luke and thought, “I’m doing it wrong.”
So He reminded me of all those passages about grace. And I thought, but “from the one to whom much has been given, much will be expected.” So He reminded me about all those passages about love. And I thought, they’re nice, but you can’t just ignore the difficult ones. And He reminded me that a Lord who told his disciples to “forgive seventy times seven times” isn’t going to do any less. Yes, there are difficult passages, but if you read them in the light of love and grace, you realize that Jesus is trying to reveal people’s hearts to them. To adjust their focus. And you realize that he’s not pronouncing eternal judgement, he’s giving them a chance to change. And if they ever did, they would immediately be forgiven and accepted. Look at Paul. I’m allowed to struggle, He told me. I’m allowed to question and misunderstand and wonder and be confused, but I’m not allowed to forget in the midst of all of this how loved I am. I’m not allowed to lose sight of the fact that I am a VERY beloved daughter of the most High and nothing, NOTHING I do or don’t do will ever change that.
It’s after midnight now, so my bad day is over, and the new day is certainly looking brighter.