Sunday thoughts (8)

I read somewhere recently: 

“Christ didn’t die for your dreams, he died for your sins.”

And it’s so true. Let’s precede this with saying that of course God has a calling for your life, and of course he has amazing things he wants to lead you into, and dreams he has put into your heart. But he did not die for you to finally be able to get on that airplane and live that lifestyle you’ve always wanted to. He did not die for you to finally have that new job opportunity, savings account or success. Christ died for your sins. He died for you to be a new creation, pure and blameless, whether you’re in a minimum wage job or have an office with a skyline view. The main thing he died to bring you into is himself. Away from damnation and into eternity. That’s what we have waiting for us, that’s the life we have, changed and free, at a fancy restaurant patio or out on the streets. 

Continuation of prev. post (and Sunday thoughts (7))

And here’s the thing, I stood close to it, leaning on the window pane. But I wanted to sit down. If I turned around there was the square of light, reflected on the sloped ceiling next to our kitchen table. And so I straightened up, and the sun was not on me anymore, and it was dark. But then I went and sat down on a kitchen chair and there it was again, bright and golden, filling up my whole field of vision even when I closed my eyes. And it was so stupid, I thought, to think that the sun would be less bright here. Maybe the sun is so bright in itself that it will still be quite bright, even if you move ten meters further away. And I think I do that all the time with God, feel like I’m moving further away, but truth is that I just need to sit down in the light and it won’t matter that much whether I’m ten meters further away or closer. Maybe I just need to stop worrying about the darkness and come to the light in the first place.

Following nature

Through one of our apartment windows fell a square of golden light. There were rain drops on the window, and a dark grey sky overhead, but at the edge of the horizon there was a sliver of bright sky, and in the midst of it the sun shone brightly into the hooded windows of our loft. I had to take the trash out, so I did, but halfway down the stairs the sun didn’t shine in through the windows anymore, having already dipped too close to the horizon and our neighbouring building hid it, and so I was scared that I would not be able to see it again and stand there and look at it while it set like I’d planned. And so I think that’s what it’s like with nature, you can’t see a beautiful evening sky and think that you’re gonna paint it later, you have to drop everything you’re holding and do it right now. There is no procrastination in nature, only time for different things. Right now the grey has lifted, and even though the sun has set the sky is still bright blue, and the lines of clouds golden.

(Also I did make it, when I walked upstairs again the sun waited for me on the fourth floor, and on our fifth it still shone through the kitchen window.)

There’s no rush Except for the urgency and necessity to sink into the present moment

I have a decision page in my notebook. It’s so that when the contradicting emotions come rolling I will remember that I already decided something and that it’s what I’ll do regardless of what doubts I have. Otherwise decisions aren’t worth anything.

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Also, reminder:
You place such high demands on your choices. What you choose now will not necessarily fix all your insecurities, your self control or procrastination. But it can help with something. You can choose something that is good for your art. Or brings you closer to nature. Or happier in only some sense. Choose one criteria and don’t close your eyes to everything else, but you don’t have to worry about it either. Let yourself make a choice that solves one of your problems.

Some notes the internalized belief that we are not worthy.

My doubts about what I’m doing with my life are unhealthily dealt with by me creating a persona that I feel is allowed to do what it is that I want.

Because here’s the thing, maybe I would myself only support someone in my situation if they were far enough removed from me. If they were a fun artsy character that I could be amused by and get inspiration from. If they were “normal”, maybe from my village, a completely ordinary person, I would instead be slightly annoyed and feel that they shouldn’t be allowed to do that. My own internalized fear that I’m not allowed, fundamentally: jealousy. If they’re a character however, someone far enough removed from us, we don’t have to feel guilty about us not doing what we want with our lives.

We turn ourselves into the charicature of a role in order to gain some heavenly allowance to walk a certain path. Or other people’s allowance. Or our own allowance, since it’s our own belief about our insufficiency that we subconsciously push onto other people. And maybe I went the crazy artist route instead of the normal missionary one because it’s easier. Because my charicature of the slightly crazy, flighty artist is simple compared to my idolized charicature of missionary, a holy mix of some old school mother Theresa and present day social ball of sunshine, spotless and unattainable.

But the truth is: you’re allowed to remain an ordinary person while pursuing an extraordinary life. In fact, I think it’s absolutely essential.

John 5

On the morning of my friends wedding all the other bridesmaids were sitting reading their bibles. I felt slightly bad, but I also did not want to – you know, get up – from the very comfy chair I was sitting in. So I thought instead about John 5 – that I’d been reading the previous day – and I started reiterating it to myself, closing my eyes and reading in my own head.

The story in the beginning of John 5 follows a man that I don’t think gets enough credit. Or at least is used far too often as a warning example instead of a pointer to something relatable and inexplicably human within ourselves. The man in question had been an invalid for 38 years and was laying on the ground close to a pool of water, where every know and then the water was said to be stirred by angels and heal whoever bathed in it. I was going through the lines of the story in my head, and when I said to myself, as the man did to Jesus: “I have no one to help me get to the water,” it hit me square in the chest. (To be honest I looked it up, and that’s not exactly how he says it in any translation, in the NIV for example it says: “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.”) But as I said those words out loud – in my head (so not really out loud), I found myself saying it as if it was me, talking to Jesus out of my own current circumstances. Which leads me to my first point:

  1. We have no one to lead us to the water. Now, the critique I’ve heard against this verse is that the guy had like 38 years to get to the water. Sure, he couldn’t move much, but even if he would have moved just one inch a day, I’m fairly certain that in 13 879 days he would have gotten there. I heard a preaching about this once – about just moving a little bit every day. You don’t want to find yourself 20 years into the future with the same problem you’re carrying today. It was by all means a great preaching, but here’s the thing: I have no one to help me to the water. That is how I feel, in the midst of my sin and worry. Sure, maybe I’m constantly growing and moving, but in the end, when it all comes down to it, I am that man waiting for someone to help me to the place of healing I am incapable of reaching myself.
  2. Now here’s what complicates this: Was he actually incapable of reaching it? As said in the previous point: he could have reached it himself. He could have moved. So why shouldn’t we? My previous point doesn’t seem valid, because how can we ask God for help with something we should just be able to do ourselves? But this, I think, is what strengthens this example, rather than weakening it, and is a better than many other example of a broken world. Because there’s no one directly stopping you from doing what is right. There’s influence, but there’s no one standing there forcing your hand to choose what’s bad. No human except for Jesus has ever been able to live life without choosing sin, but each and every one had the free will to do so. Each and every one was able to live only being good, but also no one was able to. We can’t make our way to the water, not because we technically can’t, but because we don’t. This is the great mystery of our inability to not sin: The fact that we technically can not sin. I know, I don’t get it either. But if the man in the story had all the excuses, was completely bound to the ground, could never have fought for freedom himself, this would not be as good of an example for us. We find ourselves where the man is, broken, on the ground. Capable of moving, but never quite capable of reaching.
  3. This weakness is the key. Our inability to get there. I have heard people point out (once again, in very great preachings), that the man never answered the question Jesus asked. Jesus asks him: “Do you want to be healed?” and that’s when he just answers that he can’t get to the water. But honestly, that’s the most natural response. For him, the water is the place where the healing takes place. And this is actually the real point, scratch everything that’s been said until now. Scratch your failed attempts at reaching whatever source or path you think will take you to healing, will take you to a place of redemption; Jesus was standing right next to him. He was looking at the water, and Jesus was looking at him. And we stand, like this, next to the saviour of the universe, and we ask him how we can climb a mountain he has come down from to meet us. It is okay that you can’t. It is okay that you can not climb the mountain of God (every culture has tried), that you can’t reach the place of healing and purity and perfection, because he has come to meet you now, and to your inability to get to the water he answers a simple: Get up. Grab your bed and walk. Not towards healing, but in the healing you have already received.

Motivation

I’ve always been more motivated by what I don’t want than by what I do want.

This fear has served me well. It has sent me out of the ordinary, out of where I don’t want to be. I think about the Twenty pilots song Leave the city that admits to not knowing where you’ll end up, or Brené Browns book Braving the wilderness, about leaving our clearly pronounced structures and stern belief systems.

And it reminds me of what a lot of people seem to be going through at the moment, or have been going through for a while. Churches, ministries, or just people. We know we’re not exactly where we should be, and so we lay things down, move out, take the first step in trust even if we don’t know where we’ll end up. The wilderness, or trench, as Twenty One Pilots call it, is scary, because it’s where we don’t have all the answers. And now we’re out here, not knowing the answers. 

It’s made me to think about my competitiveness. If you’ll stay with me for a moment:
I’m extremely competitive. Always have been. But it’s much more important to me to not lose, than it is to win. It’s bad, I think. People motivated by winning and succeeding will do anything for it, they’re fighters and victors. But for me: if there’s a chance I’ll lose I might not even want to try in the first place.

This is obvious in other parts of my life as well. I’m very motivated by what I don’t want. What kind of life I don’t want, what I don’t want to do, who I don’t want to be. The most motivating sentence to me has always been: “But what if I’m not?” in response to “What if I’m too scared to do all the things I’ve ever wanted.” My point: I am fully aware of what I’m moving away from.

Too aware.

Truth is, anyone can be a rebel. And our courage has served us well. So has our eagerness to obey God, to move out into uncertainty. But I’ve been out in the wilderness for a while now, and the problem with it not being a place for answers is that there still seems to be no answers. And so what I’ve decided is this: There comes a moment, out in the dust – with that city looming in the background – when we have to stop looking back at what we left and turn our heads to where we want to go. 

It is time to stop being motivated by what we don’t want and start being motivated by what we do want. If it hasn’t yet, the looking back, the awareness of what you don’t want, will make you desperate. What takes actual maturity is to look forward. To make a choice and move towards it. To be brave enough for what you want, even if you think you don’t know (Which, you do, you actually do, otherwise you wouldn’t have left that other place behind. It might just not be in the shape you think a dream should be.) Grow up, look forward. Maybe it’s a mirage, that city you see in the distance, I can’t promise that it’s not. There’s no way to see from this distance.

But I know you’ll never know if you don’t start moving towards it. 

Direction

Yesterday I was walking home through the sunset and I was thinking about how in philosophy, both everything is movement and movement cannot logically exist. That everything is movement makes sense, all atoms are vibrating and spinning and twisting, otherwise we’d fall apart. It’s a solar system in miniature, it couldn’t stand still. But the thought that there’s no such thing as movement, that makes sense as well. The classic example that some old greek dude whose name I’ve forgotten spoke about is of an arrow flying through the air. If you would observe that arrow at any point in time it would be still in the middle of the air. Another moment, it would be still at some other point in its path. But if at any given point it is not moving, how then can it be moving at all?

I’ve been thinking about that because I’m curious about how it’s supposed to work in our own life. Are we supposed to run or stand still? Is everything movement and direction, or do we live better by being empty somehow, content.

There’s argument to be made for both. But I do know that we’re not good at being directionless (and direction must be a form of movement, or at least an indicator of it). You feel it when you have too much time, walking in slight circles, don’t know what to do when you put your phone down. Your direction is off, you’re not exactly sure what you’re pointing towards. That’s dangerous, makes you feel lost.

So about arrows and philosophy or whatever, I side with movement rather being everything. We can not live if we’re not aimed at something, can’t breathe if we don’t have a moment to move into. But then I think it can also be paired with stillness. Actually, what it is maybe – I think I’ve got it now – is this: Movement is a necessity for stillness.

The cure to restlessness is sitting still and letting your mind flow towards something. And it’s not what my prayers sometimes become, an oops-I-thought-about-that-instead, need-to-think-about-God, but it’s the freedom of believing that our hearts are created and redeemed to be aimed at Him. Sometimes you need to control your mind, but sometimes you need to let go of the reigns and believe that when you allow silence, your spirit will know direction.

The problem with christian media

The problem with Christian media is that it so often misses to be missional. The well made stuff, created by the modern, the aware, reaches, at best, up to something the world does and then does it like, almost as well. Not like quite, but you know, it’s really up there. It’s some really good stuff. Some gold vlogs, some good Instagram.

I refuse to believe that with the power of the holy spirit withing us (God living in us, the creator of creation, holy of holy, he who can not step into a room without us falling dead down, struck down by beauty, lifted to heaven by as much as looking at Him), I can’t believe this would be the extent of art in his kingdom, the extent of media, the extent of communication. There are bigger boxes to step into. There’s more partnership with the Spirit to explore.

I’m complaining without knowing a solution, except for this: Be a little bit crazier.

(Meeting people)

On the 14th of December I flew to New York. And to get there, I needed to get to the Orlando airport, which is like: 3 buses away from Sarasota. On the first one a guy was smoking weed right next to me. Greyhound. America is very weird when you come from a country that knows what public transport is. Then I needed to walk from the Orlando greyhound station to the next bus stop, and I ended up in quite an unsafe area.

The whole vibe was weird. Someone shouted something at me but I just kept going. I was wearing my favourite jacket with a big hood, because it makes me look scary rather than like a victim. Also when people can’t see your face the don’t really know how to approach you. Though then I actually did get stopped like twice, but just good people asking if I was fine. I was moving very slowly with my three suitcases that I kicked at every now and then, so I guess that makes sense.  Someone told me they were working at the scrapyard right there, so if something happened I could just scream. Great.

So, anyway, I made it to my next bus stop and met this guy who was also waiting for the bus. He passed my “not-creepy” test which means he didn’t try to fill all the silences. If you can both go back to looking at your phones a few times without the other person asking stupid questions it makes me feel better, because it makes me feel like I can leave the conversation if I want to.

This guy was also leaving the area to get somewhere safer. He was young, pretty put together. He said he was a drifter, but that he didn’t quite know what he was doing anymore. After one of the silences he hesitated and shook his head at himself, but finally said that he sometimes just wanted to give up. The kind of person who used to want so much, and knows there is so much, but doesn’t know exactly what that is or means. And all of a sudden it’s slipped through your fingers.

We took the bus together. Met a random man from England who was very chatty and I just nodded, pretending to understand the heavy accent. We started talking to the random girl next to us as well. We talked about what a random meeting it was, just four strangers in a bus. Then we made it to the main station and went our separate ways.

I took the final bus to the airport where I slept overnight and flew to New York the next day.

This story doesn’t really have a point. Or maybe this: How can you save people? I just want to be better at helping, I wanted to say exactly what that guy at the bus stop needed to hear, but I felt like I just got too chatty with my advice. I should have let him talk more. If nothing else because I’m curious now. And also this: I like the people you meet while moving, but I love in some sad way the people who are also moving. And it’s nice meeting them on multicoloured streets under black nights. I wish I could do something for them and us. What if you had a place where the travellers could just come and stay for a bit, for free somehow or to really connect and put their stuff down for a while. Something.
And lastly this: I just hope he finds the right people, good people, to surround himself with. I think he’s looking for streets to sleep on and it could end so badly or it could end well. I wish home upon all of us. In all of us: safety.