This morning, I woke up and I hurt. However, I can honestly say that there is peace and closure and all the joy even in physical hurt. The world didn’t stop spinning like I’d imagined it would, and I got out of bed, put on real clothes, and pushed on. I continued with a morning routine, swapped coffee for tea, and thumbed through Job. Now, I started Job a few weeks ago, working through a year-long-whole-Bible-reading plan, and I wondered why God would have it in His plans to have me read a book where someone was having literally everything taken away from them but I was so happy. And I came across these verses that I scribbled in my journal a few days ago:
“If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.” // JOB 11:13-18 ESV
I’m learning that loving well is actually actions and not just a habitual string of words we use to make each other feel better. Loving well is spoken prayers when it seems there isn’t enough time and caring for someone and wanting the best for someone even when they say things that hurt you. Loving well is forgiveness. Loving well is “I’m sorry”s that they may not even be receiving. Loving well is genuinely caring for a person and their well-being. Loving well is being honest even when it hurts. Loving well is being kind, not nice.
We used to do this thing in my high school ceramics classes where we would be given these slabs of clay and had to cut them into tiles that we would use to carve into and make these patterns or images in the clay, but it was such a process of carving and piercing through the clay and fixing the holes and smoothing it out, but it was my favorite project to date. I made a ton of tiles because those were the projects that made sense to me, and I don’t remember all of the artsy terms or the tools we used, but when all of this is happening in my life and I say I can’t find God in everything that’s happening, I think about refining and what I would be like if I were the clay. And then I realize, I am. God is molding and shaping me into something that I don’t have a sketch or blueprint for. I have no idea what the end result will be, and today I’m learning to be okay with that. I had a friend pray that I would be secure in God in the unknown, so that’s the biggest prayer prayed lately. Not to be comfortable in the unknown, but to remember my dependence on God.
Last night I sat illegally parked in a handicapped spot for the second time in the past week and I pleaded with God and asked Him to help me find Him in all of this because I don’t see Him. I was sitting in the passenger seat in this handicapped spot letting a friend pray over me (because my friends are the freaking best people in the entire world, thank you if you’re reading this), and I looked up to see the top of the chapel on campus, it was covered by a bunch of other buildings and a mess of tree branches and I could barely see it, but it was there. I’d like to think that God gives us imagery when we need it, at least that’s how it is for me because I’m a super visual person and He knows that. I also find comfort in knowing that He knows the hurt, not just the hurt I describe to Him in long, drawn out prayers, but He feels it all and knows it all in the moments it’s happening and before it ever happens and in the coping and the grief that comes afterward. I am completely known and still loved, whatever the hell that word still means. He’s working in the waiting, and I’m sure of that. I have no idea what He is doing, but I’m trying desperately to trust. There are little spaces in all of this that I could harvest bitterness and a hardness to even the word “love,” but I’m pleading with God and asking Him to prevent that.
I was sitting having coffee with a friend this morning and she’s one of the greatest listeners I have ever met and usually that’s enough to keep my head on straight and know that God is still good, but on the way back to campus, she turned to me and said, “You need to remember that he’s a super broken and sinful person, and so are you.” And in that moment he wasn’t the enemy anymore and I felt like I’d never have another enemy again if I could remember that very simple saying. We are all super broken and sinful people. And our brokenness and sinful nature will always hurt people, it’s inevitable. We will hurt until the day we’re sitting in the presence of God. Vices don’t fix hurt. Marriage doesn’t fix hurt. Friends don’t fix hurt. I’m learning that even praying the hardest I’ve ever prayed before doesn’t fix hurt. God is in the business of healing, I just have to trust that He will. And tonight, I anticipate that day when I get to sit in His presence for the rest of eternity. There will be a day with no more hurt, and that is where I place my hope, in a God who is in the business of healing and restoring what is hurt and broken. Every single day, one day at a time.
And on a note of not totally heartbreaking things going on in the Jenna realm, Saturday was the first day I stood behind my camera and thought, “I’m good at what I do.” And my friends, there is no greater feeling. Saturday was the stuff of dreams and books and movies. I shot an engagement shoot for a friend and her fiancé and it was just the best thing. I watched Pride and Prejudice for the first time ever. Swooned. Determined I was Elizabeth Bennett. Fell in love with Mr. Darcy. Okay, actually watched half of Pride and Prejudice and didn’t feel good so I fell asleep, but I intend on finishing it, so don’t you worry.
Sunday was spent in Chattanooga trying out a new church with my office fam jam. It was the greatest thing. People generally frown upon distractions, but I finally had a friend pull me from that last year and tell me that sometimes they are so necessary and she is so right. We tried out this awesome Anglican church in a coffee shop and it was so good, and that was followed by Jason’s Deli and a long trip to McKay’s (which still didn’t feel long enough). And it ended with me buying a book called If You Have to Cry, Go Outside, and it is so good. I’m only a couple chapters in, but I might actually finish a book for the first time in forever.
Here’s to learning to relinquish control every single morning before my feet hit the ground. I can’t fix this. I can’t put my hurt in my backpack and carry it around with me every day, but I can continue in the pursuit of loving people well despite pain. And I think right in the middle of that, I’ll look up and realize God’s been here all along. I’ll finish with a quote from Tim Keller because I listened to a sermon of his on plans (and he blew my mind, so check it out):
“Nobody ever learned God loved them by being told. They have to be shown. You wouldn’t live the way you do if you believed that. You know what you need in order to really know? You have to be shown over and over and over as life goes on. You have to be in positions where you’re absolutely sure that God has abandoned you and then find out later on that you were wrong.” – TIM KELLER
Here’s to figuring out what it means to be loved by God, looking for the answers and needing to know who He is in order to love because of who is He and what He has done. I know He loves and I know He is good, but I think it’s going to take a reminder of what that really looks like. We say it all the time. “God loves you. God is good. God loves you. God is good.” But what do those phrases even mean? We toss them around like trivial answers for people who are hurting when we’re actually the ones who need to understand His love and His goodness.
I could write a ton more, and I have absolutely no doubt that there will be more, but this is where I’ll leave it: I challenge you to remember what God’s love looks like and how we are called to love other people the way He loves us. I’m relearning and I feel a long journey, but I haven’t been this excited to learn in a long time. Here’s to being still and letting God fight the fight that’s already been won. Here’s to resting in His victory and peace. Here’s to trusting that He has plans far greater than anything I could ever even hope to dream about.