Sunday, March 18, 2012

Social "Graces" and Real Grace

"We shall flow a river forth to thee, and teeming with souls shall it ever be." - The Boondock Saints

"Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent. For I have heard the sound of the trumpet; I have heard the battle cry." Jeremiah 4:19

Your blood swells under your skin. Heat ascends from your core, saturating your cheeks, palms, and neck. You feel every cell in your chest tense tightly, and your heartbeat rises from inaudible to a muted bumping sound punctuating every word you hear.

We have all felt the intolerable sting of injustice. It burns into our eyes, flares in our skulls, hitches in our breath. As in The Boondock Saints, many of us strongly desire some sort of tangible retribution for those who commit atrocities against us, be them subtle or outrageous. We have all also suffered an overt sense of self-righteousness that many a time causes such mistakes we would never have made had we not felt entitled to certain rights. Most of the time, these things that anger us go against basics human instinct, inflicting major harm upon others. What about the times when these injustices exist only for us?

Recently, I have been feeling perturbed by many aspects of society. Gender rules, the dating game, the way "uncool" people are treated and the rules for what establishes someone as socially acceptable... It's all bull. To me, people should be seen as people. Nothing more, nothing less. Does it really define a woman as marriage material if, upon first sight, she happens to be dolled up and dressed to impress? What about the girl in jeans and a t-shirt? Must a guy be six feet tall, muscular and bossy to be husband material? What about the guy in the corner booth of the library, with glasses and skinny arms? I am so angry with all of the expectations we hold for each other in this society! By no means am I excluding myself - growing up in this world, it is difficult not to succumb to such social "graces." Over this past quarter, however, I have realized just how much of myself I have lost to such stereotypically pleasing standards. Some change, of course, is good - if I had not changed at all in college, I would be less of a person than I am now. Too much change, however, is not. Certain aspects of my personality have been squashed in attempts to make me more "pleasing" to what others expect, and I have no one but myself to blame. Why do I do such things? Why do I feel so tightly chained to the expectations of American society that I only allow myself to run to the end of the leash and bark?

The only opinion of me I should be letting affect my person is God's opinion. Every little change I make to please others is completely dependent on which type of person I want to please, whereas with God, the changes He asks of me are the ones that make me a better person. The changes God demands are the ones that serve Him, and by serving Him, I am serving others. If I simply aim to please social eyes, however, I will not be pleasing God at all. As cliche as it may be, my King has called me to be exactly how He made me, flaws and quirks included. He has built me as a house, and I am not about to turn it away because of a leaky faucet. From this day forward, I aim to please first and foremost my Lord, who created me to be as I am and change as He sees fit. I am done pretending.

"We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." 1 Thessalonians 2:4

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mourning Dew

"Take this sorrow to thy heart, and make it a part of thee, and it shall nourish thee til thou art strong again." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions." Ecclesiastes 7:10

Sorrow, the evasive dew that weighs down the spry leaves growing in our souls, is nearly impossible to eliminate. Like the dew that collects on the outer foliage of the earth, sorrow is too vast to press a cloth to each leaf and wipe away the sadness; one must wait until the dawning of the airy sun for all the mist to evaporate. 'Tis not ultimately unbearable, for one to await the gradual dawning of their own sun, for most know the moment will come when their sorrows will dissipate. Holding the sorrow of another, however, is less like dew - it is heaver and thicker, sticking to the soul relentlessly. It is like a wounded tree spilling its dense sap onto the leaves of the ground. Both suffer the weight of one's injury.

It is much easier to await the light of God's arrival on my own dampened spirit than it is to await His arrival to another. When I am unable to assist relieving another's tragic sorrow, and unsure if they are aware the light will dawn, I am the leaves of the ground catching the sap from the adjacent tree. I yearn to provide an artificial sun, one that will dawn and dry up the original sorrow on the other's soul, so they may heal and sap will no longer be spilled. Despite this desperate longing, I am unable to conjure such a sun, and am left frantic, fearful that the weight bending my stem will be too much to bear.

The one part I am forgetting, however, is the part that matters most. Sap does not evaporate like the delicate dews of the morning - it sticks and rolls, leaving hindering traces of its substance behind. To truly rid myself of such sap, someone else would need to come cleanse my leaves with hands untouched; said person would also cleanse the wounded tree, stifling the flow of sap and healing the original injury. This person is the Savior of the world, the Lamb of God. I cannot control the injuries of others (or myself), and cannot bear the burden on my own. I need Jesus to come rescue me from the weight of sorrow and replenish the sun in my soul. He is the dawning light I need to evaporate my sorrow, and the hand I must await to wipe away the sap upon me. No artificial sun could ever replace the love and power of my God, Jesus Christ, the protector of all and the eternal King.

"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about his future." Ecclesiastes 7:14

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

Monday, March 5, 2012

Indelible Joy

"Laughter is the best medicine." - Unknown

"Sarah said, 'God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.'" Genesis 21:6

Of the greatest joys in the world, almost none are comparable to the pure sensation of laughter. An empty expectancy spontaneously explodes into carbonated bubbles and rapidly ascends through the core of the body, hastily tickling the heart and bursting open at the lips, releasing discordant waves of the most beautifully out of tune voices. The uncontrolled, buoyant expression of glee tickles tension out of the torso and touches the soul with a dash of freedom, gently persuading it to relinquish uneasiness, letting it drift from the body and soar out into the air, swirling toward the sun.

I most love the moments when such laughter is a direct result from our Lord. Truthfully, all joy is the gift of God, but often it is easy to miss His presence in the fun of each giggle. When I remember His love in the midst of laughter, however, my reality is tinged with a richness that saturates every atom of my being, expanding its radiance to the world surrounding me. I can laugh at everything from the twitch of an eye to a playful grin to a bad joke to an eccentric slip to an accurate satire to nothing but the bubbles in my core, spreading through my blood and filling me with the lightness of air I can only attribute to the Spirit.

I especially love the delicate fizz in my heart as the bubbles lightly pop and fade, resting with the laughter as it sinks into a steady smile.

"I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High." Psalm 9:1-2