Thursday, November 4, 2010

optimism or hope?

Thanks to my Masters courses and recent personal experiences, I've been reflecting a lot lately on the idea of hardship and suffering. I think that when you have some pretty tough stuff thrown at you, it's natural to start to think about the why's and how's and what-if's a lot more often than you do when everything is smooth sailing. Throughout the past few weeks, I've finally been able to admit how hard it is for me to let myself experience my brokenness. There's this little voice inside me that says I should have it all together, especially now that I'm in this position of learning how to professionally counsel hurting people. That if I expect to be a strong force in this world, an advocate for the broken, a ray of light in a dark room, I should have my shit together. (Translation: be perfect.) Right? No, not right. Not right at all. When I listen to that voice, all it does for me is remind of how much I'm failing to attain this impossible standard, fuels the pressure to somehow live up to it, and denies the rawness of my experience. And I think I'm finally at the end of my quickly fraying rope trying to do that.

My gut tells me that when it really comes down to it, all I want is wholeness. This isn't crazy or unrealistic or some fantastic pipe dream. This is actually what God intended for us when He made us in His perfect image, and obviously we're not living in that place. We're broken, we're affected by the hurtful actions of others, and heck, we're trying our best to make do and even rise above it all. But it doesn't somehow make us immune to pain. We're broken people in a beautiful world held hostage by sin. I'm really drawn to the story of Job these days -- especially the part when Job loses everything good in his life and rather than hiding his feelings about it, shouts out to God and tells him just what he thinks about this bunk. I love even more the part when God listens and loves him and gives everything back -- and more. God knows He's God. He has no reason to be insecure when we question or doubt Him, and I absolutely love that He's OK with our honesty. In fact, I think He loves it.

And the funny thing is, when I've opened myself up to honesty, both to God and to myself, I feel this wave of hope come over me. Because I've freed myself from trying to be optimistic and "spiritual" and only half-truthful with myself, and instead chosen to see the promise of God alive in my story. So I'm going to let myself wade around in this for a while, giving myself permission to be human and recognizing that to feel the mess is to live. But I'm also going to remember to hope. Because Jesus has already bought my freedom and victory. And while I may not see it in its fullness this side of heaven, I will see it one day. That's hope.

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