From the Basement

November 23, 2010

Loving the Process

Filed under: Faith,Grad School — jeannablue @ 3:12 am
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I had the great pleasure of talking on the phone today with a dear friend who is overseas, and our almost-two-hour-long conversation was the sort that is just totally blessed by God, where everything we say to each other seems to be exactly what the other needs to hear.

The reason for the conversation was my grad school applications – this friend is in a Master’s program in English, and she gave me feedback on my statement of purpose, but she gave so much more.

She relayed something her father told her recently: “You need to learn to love the process.”

This friend and I are very alike in that when it comes to academics, we are just as driven as we are insecure in our intellectual accomplishments. And today was such an affirmation from the Lord that he gave us these particular gifts for a reason. At one point, I started typing what she was saying on the computer because it was so true.

We freak out and we pull our hair out and we question ourselves…. And why are we going to get ourselves in that trap [of anxiety]? There’s no reason – it’s so silly what we put ourselves through. How easy it is to forget about the bigger picture and why I’m doing this, or to just appreciate it [what the Lord has allowed us to do]!

And why is it a bad thing if my work is being critiqued? Does a critical review that I write define anything about my life? Does your application define you? Absolutely not! Does it define who you are? Of course not. Does it define even your interest in literature? No. Does it define what you’re going to do with your life? No. Does it define if you’re going to be successful with your life? No. You have everything you need and we should be so grateful in that. We should be filled with so much confidence because everything in our life has shown us that we can do it, that we can always do it.

My friend asked, “Why are we so results driven for education? God does not want us to berate ourselves over our grade. He wants us to acknowledge that He is in this moment and let that be enough.” How true. What a challenge it is to let this time be enough, to let everything be in this moment, to know that in this moment, I’m going to let it all go and give it to God, and I’m going to accept what he gives me with an open mind and an open heart.

Even my last post on “Little Drummer Boy” has a hint of something that I don’t like – the idea that he wants us to say “Lord, this will give you glory.” It’s not necessarily about us seeking his glory to somehow exalt our pursuits… it’s more nuanced than that. It’s including him in the moment. It’s saying, Lord, please be with me right now. It’s asking him a question right then and there. It’s acknowledging his presence. This pleases him, and it does give him glory. It is good to seek things that honor God, but above seeking his glory, we should seek pleasure in his presence – scripture is chock-a-block full of injunctions to rejoice and take delight in him.

And I know – my Abba has affirmed – that he is with me in this season. Right now, when I’m letting go of a school that I really wanted to apply to… when I am avoiding The Grad Café because it does nothing but cause unnecessary anxiety… when I am worried about having time to work on my paper this week since I’ll be spending it with my fiancé and his family… He is providing. He is allowing me new revelations with my paper. The paper isn’t being written, but the thought process is so intense and the developments are promising. And blessed. Of that, I am sure.

I sent the paper – in its desultory form – to one of my advisors. He was infinitely encouraging, and told me this: “Big ideas don’t come out of nowhere. Only after wrestling with the contradictions in ideas for a while do critics find a great idea. Keep encouraged.”

I once likened studying literature and theory to faith – it’s a crucible. There’s pressure. You don’t think you’ll come out alive on the other side. You think you’ll fail. And then… there’s gold.

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October 21, 2010

“Love One Another”: On Jealousy in Friendships

Today, I want to talk about jealousy. This is an issue that I’ve felt called to write about because it’s an issue I have struggled with for many, many years. Thing is, it’s the sort of sin that usually keeps itself quiet, only occasionally rearing its ugly head in all its grotesque splendor… it was a thought here and there, a desire, a strong emotion, usually distilled by the passing of time and distance from those involved.

I have never had a female “best friend” – the quintessential best friend, the dynamic duo, the person you go to for everything. However, God has always given me an eclectic, dynamic group of close female friends. From the time I was in middle school, I have been surrounded by wonderful women, by one or two handfuls of close friends to go to for various issues, whether spiritual, emotional, familial, romantic, academic… you get the idea. I was never a “loner,” but because I didn’t have that BFF, I thought I was somehow less. Insecurity is a bee-yatch, you guys.

Because of this – the always having several close friends but never one BFF – jealousy has been a struggle, especially – exclusively? – with close friends who themselves are a “pair” of best friends – always together, roommates, you get the idea. Many times, though, it wasn’t a “struggle” because I gave into it immediately, letting it fester and poison several friendships, for which I am sincerely sorry.

It’s one of those deep, dark corners of the heart that you keep locked away, an issue that’s never talked about. But the problem with those sins is that though they seem dormant (or so it seems), they are really taking root, twining themselves around your heart, and the longer the sin goes unconfessed, the longer it’s not dealt with, the worse it gets.

Today was a big step: I confessed this jealousy to one of my closest friends – the friend I’ve asked to be my Maid of Honor. She has a BFF who is also a friend of mine, and telling her about this feeling of jealousy was a huge step for me. She immediately forgave me, and in turn asked forgiveness for any slights on her part, and oh, does it feel like a weight to have it in the open, freely confessed and forgiven.

Ironically enough, it was selecting my bridal party that brought this issue to a head. I had only ever planned on having my sister, which saved me from the inevitable drama of picking other people (and being reminded of how many of my close friends have a “bestie”). However, I’m getting married significantly earlier than I ever thought, which means my sister is too young to be my Maid of Honor. Also, my affianced is having four groomsmen, and as cool as I am with having uneven numbers of attendants, 1-4 is a rather awkward ratio.

So, I was tasked with selecting other attendants, and suffice to say, I ended up with 6 attendants total. 3 are the sisters – my sister and his sisters, who I love dearly. The other 3 are close friends – there’s my MoH, who was one of my closest friends all through college, and then two of my oldest friends.

It was here where the sin in my heart really became noticeable. Of the three friends in my bridal party, all have a “bestie,” and most have been bridesmaids in other friends’ weddings. The issue of jealousy was ugly, ugly, ugly. I was afraid that they didn’t reciprocate the friendship, didn’t treasure our friendship as I did. There was the knowledge that I may not be included in their bridal party, and thus there was the fear of rejection, of having a bridal party full of friends who I care about but who are “meh” about me. Fears of rejection – fear of what others think – insecurity – desperation for acceptance… all ugly emotions existing in me.

I’m only starting to deal with this sin, and turning to scripture is a must. But it’s not enough to go to scripture that condemns envy and chronicles its ill effects, nor is it enough to turn to famous verses on friendship. First, we must start with love – with God’s love. Bathing ourselves in the light that is the love of God is a direct attack on the sin in our lives – in the face of His awesome love, nothing can stand.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Matthew 22:36-40: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

John 13:35: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 15:12-15: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (italics mine)

1 Corinthians 13: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails…. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 John 4:8: Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Galatians 5:22-26: But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

The greatest gift anyone on this earth will ever know is the all-powerful, all-consuming, incredible, passionate, unceasing love of God. And when we come to know this love, embodied in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, by which we are enabled to love our neighbor as ourselves. Christ tells us that the world will know we are his disciples by this: that we love one another.

Envy is the enemy of love. It is, by definition, self-serving and self-seeking: “A feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another.” It is insecure. It is not satisfied, and it is easily spun into idolatry as we seek full satisfaction in something that is not God. It does not rejoice in the good gifts of the Father but whines and pines for more. There is a reason that “Thou shalt not covet” is one of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:17).

Envy of relationships is a particularly insidious sort, because not only does it give way to idolatry (hence poisoning your love for God by seeking satisfaction in something other than him), but it also poisons love for your neighbor. When you are jealous of someone else’s friendship, or relationship, or marriage, or children, how can you love them? How does Christ’s love thrive and edify? Answer: it doesn’t.

Scripture chronicles the consequences of envy:

Proverbs 14:30: A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Ecclesiastes 4:4: And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

James 3:14-16: If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (italics mine)

Lord, I confess the sin of envy in my life and I beg your forgiveness and your mercy on the friendships it has affected. I want this sin uprooted, and that is only possible through the infusion of your perfect love into my life, the perfect love that casts out fear of rejection and unworthiness. You notice me. You love me. And that is enough; may that ever be enough. You have been so gracious in the relationships you have given me – family, friends, my fiancé – and I pray your blessing on them, that they may be fruitful and give glory to you.

I pray for a passionate, Christ-like love for my friends – all of my friends. Praise God that we are given a diversity of relationships! I am confident that he has brought these varied and wonderful friendships into my life for a reason. When I envy their friendships with other people, when I am concerned about whether my love for them is reciprocated, when I am worried about being accepted or valued, when I am insecure in my own value – these feelings have no place in friendships allowed by his love, and they are attitudes that have no place in the heart of a daughter of the King. He is my God, my Abba Father, and I will praise him:

“Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord? What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign Lord. For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant. How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.” 2 Samuel 7:18-22

May 2, 2010

Acts of Service/Love

Today’s post is in honor of my friend Jenelle, who today will be driving 6+ hours to come visit me in the northwoods of Wisconsin. After spending time with both of my respective parents, we’ll then head back down to the tiny town that is home to my Alma Mater. I’ll be spending 8 days there, joyous days with friends; I’ll also be preparing for a big interview. But, today, I’m grateful to have a friend willing to come up to Wisconsin to get me.

It’s an act of service – an act of love.

I hope that you all have people in your lives who love you. I’ve talked about the love languages before, and let me tell you, acts of service is not one of mine. Just this morning, my mom said that there was a chore she wanted me to do before I went to bed last night. I looked at her blankly and she said, “Well, I just wanted you to feel inspired to do it.” I’m getting better at anticipating her needs, but that sort of inspiration does not come naturally!

I have developed relationships with so many awesome people over the last four years. And a lot of them give through acts of service. There’s the boyfriend, who gives foot rubs whenever he’s asked. Anna, who always gives me a neck/shoulder/head rub if I have a migraine (the first time, she just showed up in my room with lotion, said she’d heard I was sick, and told me to lay down – okay!). Laura and Kayla, who graciously leant me their cars almost every Sunday so I could go to the church where I felt most connected. Emily, Brittany, Mikelle, Annie, Em, Audrey, Chris – and a myriad of other friends who have offered services with or without prompting.

So here’s to the people in our lives who have loved us and been there to do things we didn’t even know we needed. I’m so grateful to God for placing each of those friends in my life, whether or not this is their primary love language, and I can only hope that I love them back as much as they’ve loved me.

Matthew 22:36-40: 36″Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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