This week. Wow. It’s been a whirlwind.
24-hour prayer vigil, quizzes on quizzes on quizzes, papers on papers on papers, and books on books on books. And the most spectacular photography lesson I’ve ever had (well…the only one really). Mary Claire. This girl’s a gem. So many lessons I’ve had the privilege of learning from her (in photography & in life). “Photography is like painting with light.” She went on about the beauty of capturing moments & how photography makes you realize those moments even more and become more present. She looks at everything in light & sees the world in such a beautiful way.
I’m not sure coffee has ever tasted this good before. You know when you put your lips to a huge mug and just take it all in and think, wow, this coffee really is of the Lord? That’s me this morning. Without a doubt.
Last night at 6, we had our kick-off for the 24-hour prayer vigil. This is one of the first events I really had a hand on in planning with some more of our ministry coordinators in the office. I didn’t know exactly what to expect going into it because I had never done one of these, and if you would have asked me about a 24-hour prayer vigil a year or two ago, I probably would’ve thought you were crazy. However, after sitting in Barnwell from 3 AM to 5 AM, I wouldn’t call you crazy anymore. Talk about some restful, raw, honest prayer. In all honesty, it started off extremely frustrating. I was distracted by everything else I had to complete and get done for next week. I sat in Barnwell for a good 4 hours after we kicked off. Around 10 though, I called it quits. I knew I was coming back at 3, so I was ready to get some rest. The thoughts I had were consuming. Doubtful. Shameful. Awful.
This week was crippling. It felt like things were hurled at me, and I imagine this much like china plates being hurled into a wall. Shattering and loud and shaking. My heart hurt for a dear friend. My anxiety and stress levels through the roof. This might’ve been the hardest week of college thus far. There were so many tears. So many. Stress tears. Sad tears. Refreshing tears. Many times I wanted to crawl into my bed, wrap myself up in blankets, and not get up for at least 48 hours. However, each day I found myself waking up and going and going and going. Usually until midnight, if I was lucky.
I will say though, I wouldn’t trade this week for anything. God speaks in the small things. God knows I get overwhelmed and caught up in such a superficial, earthly life. I found myself back in Barnwell at 3 AM, and I just kind of threw up my hands. Take it, God. What in the world do you want from me? What am I supposed to do now? In those two hours, I was so honest with what I said to God. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. I went around to different stations we had set up for prayer in the little chapel. A station where you would wash your hands of your sin in a wooden bowl, a symbolic way of saying, “These don’t define me anymore, Lord. Take this away.” Then a mirror station where you would pray and write down in expo marker what the Lord sees you as. Free. Covered in His grace. Then a burlap cross covered in clothespins, and you would write down the things you need to surrender and repent from on a sticky note and pin them to the cross. That might’ve been one of the most powerful things for me.
Then I came back to the pews and sat and read and wrote. I needed this. Now, going back through my journal and reading what I wrote last night, I realize how hopeless I must have sounded. How consumed by earthly things I’ve been. Then I stumbled across this verse:
“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive & tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, o you of little faith.” // Matthew 6:30
Sometimes you want to wallow in self-pity, but then sometimes your friends come screaming at the top of their lungs down the sidewalk and force you to drink one of the best chai tea lattes you’ve ever had. These are the friends that God has blessed me with. 10:30 at night and they say, “No, come to our room. We’ll play with your hair and let you drink our lattes.” It was a beautiful night. I had been so crippled by these thoughts all week long, and then the worship at Campus Outreach just tore me apart. I think it was different letting someone take care of me because that hasn’t happened since I lived at home. I think giving in and letting people take care of you is actually a sign of strength, not weakness. Finally saying, “Yes. I need someone to lean on right now.” I think that’s why God puts people like Clair and Lia into our lives. These are the people who worship with every bit of their being, in every part of their life. These girls’ hearts are on fire for the Lord. It’s insane.
I’m so grateful for the relationships I’ve formed. However, I know my shortcomings come from clinging to these relationships and not to God. I keep grasping at straws, while God sits in the background and says, “Cling to me. I am always here. I might not be able to make you chai tea lattes or play with your hair, but I can offer you eternal joy. I can grant you mercy and grace far beyond your understanding. I can love you, if you allow me to. Let me into that dark and consuming heart of yours, Jenna. Do you know how much you’re worth in my eyes? Stop living by the world. This is all temporary. All of it. I am not. I am everlasting. I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have renewed you. I have chosen you. You are my beloved.”
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” // Hosea 2:14-20
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned this week, that finally sank in: people are facing more battles than you think or care to be aware of. Spiritual battles. Mental battles. Emotional battles. You never know what people are going through because masks are such a common thing in our lives now. Surrender is seen as a sign of weakness. We spend our days comparing God’s love to earthly love when we should be comparing earthly love to God’s love. We see ourselves as unworthy and unlovable because of the way we’ve been conditioned by society. The ways in which we’ve been conditioned to think are pointing out all of our wrongs, not our rights. This is all so backwards. No wonder people suffer from depression and self-doubt and frustration and anger and anxiety on a daily basis. No wonder these become the normal motions we go through in life.
I always love to look at pictures of table settings. I’m not sure why, but I think it may be because I have fallen in love with community. But then I’ve also started imagine it this way: God has given me a seat at His table. He has given you a seat at His table. Turning down God’s will for our lives or doing what we think is better than His ways is like telling Him that we’d rather not sit at the table, but maybe we’ll just sit on the floor and eat the scraps. Thanks, but no thanks. I’m good with these bones and scraps. He has asked you to dine with Him. He has offered you immeasurably more than you could ever ask for or even dream of. Dine with Him! Glorify Him! Sit at the table with Him. Have a conversation with Him. These moments will be the most beautiful moments of your life, these moments of realization. Pull out that chair and sit down. Cling to Him, friends. Cling onto Him with everything you have in you.
“When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him,“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” // Luke 14:15-24