Today is Ash Wednesday. I've never observed Lent, but I'd like to this year. I just don't know what to practice or give up. A lot of people do health-related things, like stopping eating sweets or carbs, and even more people fast from social media, like Facebook and Twitter. I can't do either of those. Not because I can't live a day without chocolate or Facebook, but because they have selfish undertones (we're only talking about me here; everyone who is giving up these things, you rock). My mind just isn't that pure in intentions. Giving up sweets is accompanied by a tiny thought that says "Oo, I'd probably lose a few pounds and I bet my skin would clear up." Not the right mindset. Not the right focus. Giving up Facebook would be a cop-out. "Well, I don't know what else to do and everyone gives up Facebook, so I might as well. It wouldn't be a bad thing." Again, not exactly where I want my thoughts to be. I want to do something that truly puts the focus on Jesus, because I haven't been focusing on Him at all. I'm a person who needs some kind of structure, but not something so formulated that I get stuck in routine. I feel a bit stuck. Last year I wanted to stop spending extra money (coffee, fro-yo, that cute shirt at Target that's only $9.99), but I didn't commit to it. I also didn't share the information with anyone, so there was zero accountability. Maybe that's my thing. Maybe I'll try it again. I'm already broke as a joke, but when I'm alone in my apartment for an entire day, nothing sounds better than going to Peet's and getting a coffee so I can at least be around people. It adds up. I'll have a list when I grocery shop, but there is always something in the cart I don't actually need. This Lent season would include those items. Foregoing everything extra and scaling back the necessary purchases. This will be hard for me. When I'm not working, I don't have much else to do. I can only sit around for so long before I start going crazy. This usually results, like I said, in escaping to a coffee shop. If I'm gonna sit around, I might as well sit around with other people! But everyone knows you can't take up precious seating without buying something. I normally get a black coffee—a mere $1.80 subtraction to my bank account—but again: it adds up. This is where the "focusing on Jesus" part will be genuine. I'm feeling lonely? Unproductive? Lazy? Then instead of filling my time by wasting money (and gas for that matter), I'll be on my knees praying. I'll be taking someone else out for coffee and enjoying their company and thanking Jesus for relationships. I'll be investing in learning how to love Jesus better, and consequently how to love others better too. I think generosity will be a huge part of this, because if I'm simply not spending money on myself, there is still a small benefit for me— I'm saving money whooo! But I don't want that. The money I would normally spend on things for me will be spent treating other people. There is so much ridding of myself that I need to do. On a personal level, the second month of graduate-life is much different than the first. But I will spare you all those emotional details. Happy Lent, everyone. What will you guys be doing?
Because sometimes, you just feel like writing even if you aren't sure what to say. Today I am grateful. I am grateful for adventures that involve amazing music, laughs, and challenging conversations. I am grateful for a new job that reminds me how much I love the little things in life. I am grateful for perspective. I am grateful for falling leaves and bowls of soup and shoes on my feet and a roof over my head. But more than anything, and especially this Christmas season, and especially today, I am grateful for a Savior named Jesus. Someone who wasn't just a man that lived a good life and talked about love but GAVE life and DEFINED love as the Son of God. Someone that came from a perfect, heavenly seat of glory into a disgusting, broken world. Because if the news didn't make it clear this weekend, we live in an unbelievably and tragically broken world. Jesus came to give rest to the weary and hope for the hopeless. He came to save us from the despair, pain, and complete destitution of a world messed up by sin. Sin with a capital "S" that isn't about "breaking a rule" or "not following a set of standards" but about the very real state of humanity as a whole. It's a world where a classroom of kindergarteners are shot to death for absolutely no reason at all. A world where a church states that it happened because God is punishing them for legalizing gay marriage. A world where men buy little girls and teenage girls and girls my age for the sole purpose of sex. A world where addiction and abuse govern lives in more areas than one. A world where airplanes are hijacked and flown into Twin Towers. A world where money and greed and power rule. When I am asked the question, "But why? Why do you need saving? What do you need to be saved from?," I am usually slow to answer. No one wants to hear a Christianese answer and I don't want to be the one to give it. Growing up in church didn't exactly force me to understand that question. It was merely accompanied by a very short answer, one that was memorized and repeated countless times: "Because I'm a sinner." But this weekend has made the depth to that answer painfully clear: I need saving because I am human, and I live in a world where being human has caused more damage than words can describe. I need a Savior because without One, this world is all I have. This is the best it's gonna get. This world right here. The world I just described. I need a Savior because even if I have a pretty awesome life, and I don't see myself as a "bad" person, and I take advantage of every moment and mind my business, it doesn't matter because existence is not about me. I can't believe that I am living 'just because.' That all the crap that happens in this world happens'just because.'And even on the opposite spectrum, that all the beautiful and lovely and miraculous events in life happen 'just because.' Maybe people don't think they need saving. But I just can't settle for that. I am not existing and breathing and living just so that I can do what I want in life. To gratify myself. To gain attention for myself. To have to go through trials and suffer and watch tragedies and know pain without a cause for it. I may not be a murderer or a rapist or a terrorist or anything else, but I am a human who is just as tangled in the web of sin's effect. And without Christ, that's all I'll ever be; a human who is endlessly trying to be fulfilled but never getting satisfied. Sure I'll be satisfied momentarily, or even for entire seasons of life, but it won't be forever. It isn't permanent. Its roots are weak. But with Him, I am more. I am saved by grace and made new and able to strive towards a life lived with Jesus Himself. And I won't have to, I will want to. When things get hard I will have an everlasting hope to cling to and yell at and cry with. When I mess up there will be grace upon grace met with a hand that aims to teach and help and grow. It is truly astounding to me. The moments of peace or love or compassion or grace that I experience in this world are so wonderful and calming and amazing because they represent something and Someone who is 100% NOT of this world. They represent Jesus, the Son of God, who came into our disease-stricken lives to SERVE us, LOVE us, GUIDE us, CHALLENGE us, and ultimately DIE for us. God knows pain. God knows pain more than we know pain. He watched His Son get murdered on a Cross to pay a price that we never could have paid but should have paid. And He did that why? Why would he do that? Because He loves us. Because God freaking loves us. For the first time, I have really been understanding that. Life will be rough even after knowing Jesus, because that's the world, that's the penalty and power of sin, but there is so much rest knowing that Jesus went through it all. And there is wonder in recognizing that the beautiful moments on earth are just a taste of what's to come. I am comforted by His love and His grace. His grace that is not about law but about mercy. Sometimes you just need to write. I needed to write so badly. I needed to try and process the weight and heaviness of my heart. I know that everyone responds differently to tragedy and everyone responds differently to beliefs, but I had to share what I believe. I had to try and verbalize, for once, why I place my hope in Jesus. He is the only Light at the end of the world's tunnel, and I am going to run as hard and as fast as I can to make sure my sin and my yuck never put that Light out. It'll be dimmed when my sin and my yuck get in the way, but praise God for His never-ending grace in those moments. I love you Lord, I love you so much.