Thursday, March 21, 2013

Poem by an even more sleep-deprived student

This poem isn't a Spanish paper, same as the previously posted poem wasn't a history paper. And right after I wrote this, I decided that my brain had apparently preceded me to bed, so I might as well follow it. Just so you know the circumstances under which this was written. ;)

"The Selfless"

Fall to my knees,
Scream out the pain,
Aching and aching,
Trying to live.
Giving it all,
Squeezing it dry,
Finding the dregs,
Scraping them out.
Sure that until
Death is decreed
I will be filled
To empty again.
Choosing to live
Only for Him,
Choosing to drown
In what must be done.
Lay it all down,
Give it all up,
Breathe it all out,
Till nothing is left.
And if tears will fall,
Then let them fall down.
They will not stop
What I have resolved.
When my heart asks,
“Is this for me?”
I will say, “No,
But I am for this.”

Half-baked poetry of a sleep-deprived student

This is not a history paper. It ought to be, because that's what I was supposed to be writing when I wrote this instead. Ahem. And by the way, I'm not entirely sure what this poem is talking about, so if you don't either, please feel no shock.

"Dark Days"

I cry.
I find there is no light.
I fall out from this flight.
And all that’s left of me
Is what you could not see.
Can’t let the broken souls
Come rushing through your eyes.
Can’t let the brokenness
Come take away your life.
There’s pain in all that’s best.
There’s war for all that’s right.
Don’t let it slip away.
Don’t fall into the night.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sorrow for the heart of man.

My English class this semester is chock full of tragedies. Murders, suicides, people who mess everything up and never take responsibility or understand that they're looking for the wrong things in the wrong places. The gamut of sorrowful happenings and tragic people.

In class this morning, someone said that they had felt rather detached from a certain character's death because this character had brought her trouble upon herself. It was her fault. She was to blame. And her death, which was her own doing, was so gruesome that my classmate felt distanced from her.

I almost laughed out loud at that. The night before, I had been cringing and feeling sick at that very character's death. I felt for that woman. After I finished the book, I was so cut up about it that a friend noticed and gave me a hug to comfort me. I needed it.

Different reactions much?

So I started asking around. It seems to be the general consensus that one is more to be pitied if one's pain is not one's own doing. That those who create their own suffering thereby lose the right to sympathy, in a sense.

I stared at all my friends when they explained this. I cocked my head at them. No comprendo.

Maybe there is a certain sort of sympathy, a sort of brotherly compassion that springs up from a knowledge that someone isn't to blame for what they're suffering. Maybe there is also a general grief at a world that could be so unjust. I get that. But quite frankly, I can't dig up as much sorrow for a situation like that. No matter how much pain someone is in, if they handle it nobly, I will be glad.

I focus on motives a lot. Obviously. And perhaps there are times when I go overboard. Times when I lack sympathy because, ultimately, I know someone's heart is in the right place. No matter their earthly circumstances, I know that such a person's soul is not being harmed, but rather strengthened by their pain. What's to grieve over in that? "For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps." I Peter 2:19-21.

The real sorrow hits me when someone is wrong, and when someone is hurting his/her own soul. When people are blind, and when they dig themselves into holes and then feel the consequences they should have foreseen from the start, that is when I'm sorry. That's what hits me hardest. The ones who are to blame. The ones who run and run in the wrong direction until finally they find themselves in a place they never wanted. They are the ones who merit my pity. Because after all, pity is earned not by the merit of goodness, but by the merit of being in a hard place. The ones who are wrong are in a much harder place than the ones who are right. "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28.

The noble sufferers may hit me in a different way, an admiring, "how beautiful" way, but they don't deserve any pity from me. They're doing just fine. They've earned my respect instead of my grief. The true tragedy is found in the ones who are completely lost, the broken, despicable ones who ruin their own lives. When they suffer for it, they deserve it, and the fact that they would deserve such terrible things is what makes me so sad.

If I hear that a friend has been in a car accident, I want to know if it was their fault, and if it is, I will feel far worse about it than if it were someone else's. I'm far more grieved at suicide than at murder. I'd rather hear a friend had died than that a friend had ruined his/her life. I'm understanding more and more that I'm weird in this. Perhaps this view needs a bit of tweaking. But I don't believe it's wrong. God loved us when we were yet sinners. He came to save not the righteous, but the sinners. His compassion seems to have been strongest for those who had dug themselves the deepest graves. He wept over Jerusalem, not because she didn't deserve the pain that was coming to her, but because salvation had been offered to her, and she had refused it.

So what am I saying? I'm not sure. I suppose I'm asking for opinions. I'm asking if I'm right. And if I am right, then I'm calling for a greater compassion for those who break themselves. After all, we're no better than they are. Not because of who we are, but because of who God is, we've received mercy and grace. Can we not extend the same to them? Of course they deserve what they're getting. We deserve hell, and we're mighty glad to have a God who doesn't give us what we deserve.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Confessions of an introvert.

Hi. I'm an introvert, and I'm confused. By people. By me. By life.

Please note that this post has little to do with being introverted. It's just that I'm an introvert, and I'm confessing. So it's confessions of an introvert. Cool? Okay, good. Moving on.

I don't let my feelings show. I'll tell you what I think, of course: Long talks about philosophy? Sure! Discussions of the moral values of movies? Of course! Theology? Definitely! Emotio--NO. NONONO! NEVAH!

Did you notice how violent that was? Needlessly so? Yes. Yes, so did I.

This time, the epiphany came at 3:30 a.m. in the laundry room, while I was filling my water bottle after watching two movies (Princess Bride and Jumper -- such fun on both counts). It was yet another case of "Dude, that was an awesome day! So... what's wrong? Because something's definitely wrong."

And it occurred to me, as I drank my water in the middle of the night, that people don't know me. Lots of people know who I am. Most people probably know some things about me better than I do. They know how I come across. They know my demeanor, while I don't really. But they don't know me. They don't know what things mean the most to me, or why. They don't understand how I think or how I feel. And how would they? I won't let them in. If I don't tell people things, they don't know. (Life is surprisingly logical at times.)

I am loved. I don't know why, but there are so, so many people who care about me, who reach out to me, who check up on me and help me and encourage me and bear with me and just give me superfluous love because they're awesome like that. It's not like I'm lacking there. But sometimes, I wish they understood me. I wish they saw through me. I wish they could read me even when I'm trying to be unreadable, like my friend back home who once called me up to ask what was bothering me after a rushed, ten-second conversation conducted in public during which I was trying to act as normal as possible.

What is wrong with me? I fight myself so hard. Here again, I'm wanting to not get what I want. I work hard concealing my emotions, and it saddens me when it works. I shut people out, put on an "I'm fine" exterior, and feel both triumph and pain when it proves convincing.

Maybe I lock people out of my feelings because I want to know if anyone will go to the effort of trying to get past that, trying to see through my words. But surprise, surprise! They believe me! If I say I'm fine, they take me at my word! What are they used to? Honesty or something?

There are enough barriers between people anyway. It isn't as if I need to go around setting up more by being so reserved, throwing up hurdles to see if my friends will jump them. And no, that's not what I think I'm doing. I think I'm protecting them by holding them at arm's reach. I think I'm putting myself in a position to give and give and get nothing in return. But what's really happening is that I'm laying another burden on them, making myself a harder friend rather than an easier one, because no matter how strong I want to be, I'm weak, and I get tired, and I want friends who know me. And then I'm frustrated, because there are none, and it's my fault. I can't put that burden on them, even if it never bothers them because they don't know I'm doing it. I can't expect them to put all their effort into breaking down my walls.

But that's not the only reason. I'm proud, you know, and I operate on quite the double-standard. In addition to setting up barriers to test people's willingness to break through them, I also want to be stronger than everyone else. I want to be the one who's always there for everyone else, but who never actually needs anyone. Who would be fine on her own, while everyone else would fall apart without her. The one who lives for others because she doesn't need to live for herself. I will never trust people the way I want them to trust me. I will never allow them to be for me what I want to be for them. Because I want to be needed, but I don't want to need them back.

Yep. There's something off in my thinking there.

The pride must go. All of it. Whether I decide I ought to admit it or not, I need to be willing to admit, "No, I'm not fine. Yes, I do have pain. Yes, that pain hurts. Yes, I'm human. Yes, I mess up. Yes, I'm needy. No, I'm not strong. No, I'm not chill. I'm freaking out inside. And sometimes I want to cry. I just don't. And no, I can't tell you why I'm freaking out, why I want to cry. I can't tell you because I hardly know myself."

I don't want to throw out the determination that I will be there for people who may never be there for me, that I will give and give regardless of whether I get anything in return, that I will be poured out as a drink offering, running myself dry for others... only not dry, because God's grace is sufficient. Very sufficient. This mindset I keep. But the motivation has to be for God and for others, not for pride, and I have to remember that my strength isn't coming from myself or from my friends.

And if I'm not fine, if I am freaking out inside, being reserved about it while expecting someone to notice isn't going to do anyone any good. Maybe there are times when I ought to let someone share my burdens. But in any case, I can't expect people to understand me like that. The God-shaped hole in my heart cannot be filled by people. Granted, there are beautiful times when people show off some aspect of God, times when they are the hands and feet of Christ to me. But the obvious reaction to that should be to go to the source, not to the mirror. To turn to Christ, with a thankful heart for my friends, and with a greater understanding of how He is all I need.

So it's okay. Whether anyone understands me or not, it'll be okay. Because God knows me, God understands me like I can never know or understand myself. He sees through me. He jumps every hurdle I throw up. He breaks every barrier I set. He can read me better than I can read myself. His is the love that pursues, the love that is relentless, the love that will not let me go, the most beautiful love. And that, my friends, is more than enough. It will always be more than enough. I don't need to be understood. I don't need to be known. And when I am filled with that, when I walk into a room full of people, not hoping that somehow they can fill the need I feel, but knowing that I have all I need, then I can be a vessel, a conduit for the love that never fails.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Inconvenient Things

Our culture has a lot of issues, really. A whole lot. But I think a surprising number of them might be traced to a single lie: anything inconvenient is necessarily bad and should not be tolerated.

We're Americans, and we like to get things done, and done quickly. We make millions selling and spend millions buying "conveniences" that make our lives a little quicker, a little easier (well, supposedly). And somehow in the midst of it all, we've come to see anything inconvenient as something that needs to be gotten rid of, now, by any means available.

But why? Why is inconvenience such an evil? Of course it isn't ideal. Of course we'd rather everything fit right into place and didn't bother our schedules and disrupt our lives. And I'm not saying we shouldn't try to reduce inconveniences. But friends, they are not all bad. They are not all worthy of defenestration just by merit of their inconvenience. I don't think inconveniences are evils. I think they are opportunities to exercise selflessness and be reminded that no, we aren't in control, and yes, that is okay.

Those wonderful, edifying conversations that spring up and are then interrupted? Sure, it's frustrating, but what's the point of an edifying friend-group if it turns into a clique? The task that took way longer than you thought it would? Does that make it less of a good thing, just because it didn't meet your expectations or fit your schedule?

We are a hypocritical nation. We talk about going out of one's way to help people as if it's a good thing, and then we turn right around and say that babies can be killed in the womb simply because they are inconvenient. Very, very inconvenient, perhaps, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a life you're dealing with. It's as if we don't even recognize what we're looking at, as if there are things we see as impossible simply because we don't want them right then and there; as if we think we have the right to do anything if we can just explain how much it messes up what we had planned.

And Christians. Of all people, we have the least right to fall into this lie. We believe that God made a world, and put people in it, and that everything was very good and glorifying to Him. The people praised Him, and He gave them all sorts of good things and good lives, and He only gave them one rule. Which, of course, they promptly broke. They messed up everything, and for no good reason, and then He had to deal with it. But He didn't wipe us off the face of the earth and start over. No, He saved us. And that took the incarnation, life, brutal death and punishment, and resurrection of God's own Son. And He planned it all out that way.

We, my friends, are very, very inconvenient children. But it made for the most beautiful story ever. The way He deals with us shows off His goodness like nothing else I've ever seen. Friends, let's try to show off His glory in our own lives, reflecting His sacrificial love by the way we deal with inconvenient things, big and small. Let's be ready to sacrifice our time, our money, our fun, our comfort, our reputations even, for any good cause which presents itself. We're supposed to rejoice in our sufferings. We're supposed to be ready to be poured out as a drink offering. A fear of inconvenience is not something that should stand in our way. Friends, let us learn to hold any good thing as precious, and to fight for it through thick and thin.