Jan 16, 2013

being vulnerable (& other things i'm not good at)

In true late-bloomer fashion, I successfully avoided being honest and vulnerable until my junior year of college. Then, after reading Frederick Buechner's Telling Secrets, it hit me: how can I expect my friends and family to love me if they don't even know who I am? I had created a version of myself that I deemed to be acceptable of love: a girl who rarely had bad days, never got angry, and had only once snuck into a rated-R movie (Sweeney Todd, age 16).

Getting older, I grew frustrated with people around me for failing to understanding who I was. But how could they know if I didn't tell them, right? I set them up for failure, but grew angry with them for failing. It's twisted, but a lot of us do it. Much of my anti-vulnerability stemmed from believing that if people really knew who I was and what I had done, they wouldn't love me any more. Or, even if they continued to love me, they would certainly look at me in a different way. 

Last year, I got honest and vulnerable and super emotional about my life. At first, I told my two best friends a bunch of stuff I kept inside for years and years. And guess what? They didn't throw me onto Nolensville Pike to stone me. We ate the rest of our burritos, laughed, cried, and moved along. Then, this year, I told my family a bunch of stuff I kept inside for years and years. And guess what? They didn't excommunicate me. We laughed, cried, and moved along. 

Being vulnerable is being free. It's to open up your life to others and say, 'Here I am at my best and worst and everything between.' There's no better feeling I've experienced than to know my friends & family* know the absolute worst about me. It's strange to think there's so much freedom in recognizing and confessing your own sinfulness. In fact, we think the key to freedom is hiding our sin from everyone else (except God, maybe) and to act like everything's okay all the time. But when you're fully exposed, you're fully at the mercy of Jesus Christ... you're fully dependent on the saving power of the cross rather than your own goodness.

And listen.. I'm not sure who I'm writing this for. Your closet might be skeleton-free because sneaking into Sweeney Todd is actually the worst thing you've ever done. But I have a strange feeling that someone needs to hear this: everyone has a track record, and yours isn't beyond forgiveness.

It's like we've limited God's grace to lying and cheating and occasional idolatry. Or even worse, we've limited his grace to past sins, not things we're struggling with today. But the truth is, Jesus' death and resurrection paid for it all: past, present, and future sins. It's all covered by the blood of Christ.

It's time to take off the mask and and turn on the lights.
Bank on the mercies of Jesus, not on your your ability to successfully hide sin.

...as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103

*and a number of other people I've felt compelled to share my story with, ranging from teenagers in England to strangers in Starbucks.

Jan 10, 2013

new year's resolutions?

Much to nobody's surprise, I'm not one for making resolutions, and I'm definitely not one for keeping them. This stems from a promise I made my freshman year of college to fast for seven days. After like, thirty-six hours, I was shoving food in my mouth because I couldn't concentrate on anything other than the fact that I was hungry. I thought to myself, "God doesn't care if I make a promise to him and break it. Grace, y'all."

After scarfing down a Natchez panini from Jackson's, I went home and did the whole 'flip a page and put my finger down in the Bible' trick. NO LIE, I landed on this passage: "When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it" (Ecclesiastes 5:5-6).

Lord as my witness, that is a true story. I cried for hours.*

I didn't fast again until the beginning of last year, when I lasted for a full seven days, completely fulfilling my vow (praises). Ever since then, I've made a point to not promise much of anything, especially not to God, unless I'm sure to follow through. That being said, I decided to make a few resolutions this year. I landed on four and I think that's an achievable number so I'm sticking with it.

1. Be discipled by someone that isn't my mom or best friend.

This is sort of in my control, but not really. I'm just hoping that 'discipling Savannah Ellis' is some cool woman's resolution. Plausible, right?

2. Disciple more people.**

Once again, this is sort of in my control but sort of isn't.

3. Learn to pray. Really pray.

Not the talking-to-God-throughout-my-day kind of praying. I want to learn how to more intimately be in God's presence, how to be more sensitive to his voice. And I don't know if this takes practice or more faith or tragedy or studying. But I currently have the attention span of a mouse and would like for that to change. 

4. Be present.

Since my friends are graduating in May and I'm graduating (Lord willing) in December, my natural inclination is to look at the next step. What am I going to do in January? Where does God want me to go? Grad School? England? North Korea (!!!)?

I'm fighting that, though, and attempting to let tomorrow worry about itself. Instead of freaking out, crying to my parents, literally shaking worrying the next ten months away, I want to be present. Present to my friends, my church, my school. I want to trust that God will let me know what to do when I need to do it, and maybe not a moment sooner. Until then, my only job is to be present.

Now that these are publicized, I feel a sense of responsibility. 
Fingers crossed, guys! Talk to you in 12 months.

*Not that this comes as a surprise to anyone, either.
**Don't worry, Ali. You'll always be my first!