To Be Transparent

Yesterday, a word stuck out at me: transparent. I was reading unChristian by David McKinnon and Gabe Lyons.

That word has followed me throughout this year — each time I meet up with it, pounding at my heart’s doors to get me to submit to it’s meaning.

Transparency; to be seen right through your skin. That’s how I see it.

Letting your guard down. Flinging your arms out and not caring what other people see. Allowing others into your lives and letting them see your heart. Not hiding anything, not staying back. So easy to describe, yet so very hard to actually do.

I often live in a world of masks and make-up. I like to hide behind a thousand layers and pretend that is me. I forge relationships and I try to hide when people walk by, hoping they won’t see my soul, yet praying that they will.

It is strange, the way this works — this transparency business. I hate to let go yet I love the feeling when I finally do. I loathe to be transparent, but I’m so unsatisfied in this daily grind of pretending, lying, and losing.

 

I remember a conversation I had with a professor back in February. We were talking about acting; I wasn’t sure why it had suddenly become so hard, dissatisfying, and just not enjoyable.

She pointed out that maybe getting on stage and baring my soul, standing naked, was what I didn’t like. Because acting isn’t pretending to be someone else or hiding behind a character. In theatre, we must use our self, from the very depths of our soul, without holding anything back.

I think she was right. I didn’t want to do that. Or I was scared to. And that was keeping me from what I loved.

But I don’t want to be kept back any longer. I want to let go, to be free, to be transparent.

I did it a few times. For audiences even. For my professors on the night I decided that I wanted theatre and there was nothing else and that I was going to give everything I had to get what I loved. And though transparency was harder than anything, it felt better than every pretense I’ve tried.

 

Transparency is Biblical, too, I think. In that book I was talking about — unChristian — the authors talk about being transparent in our Christian lives. All too often, as Christians, we hide our sins with good works and pray that even God won’t see our short-comings. It’s a crazy double standard yet we do it. It’s hypocrisy and it doesn’t help anyone, including our selves.  And Jesus wants our hearts. He wants our whole hearts — not just half or a quarter. I think, after all,  that Jesus calls for transparency, too.

So let us be transparent. And let us start today.

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When The Ground Falls Beneath You

We spend our lives building ourselves. Subconsciously, we add a thousand pieces of life to our identity. Who we are is rooted in countless places and people.

The family we’re from or the friends that we have.The straight A’s in school. A boyfriend or a girlfriend. A hair style, a skinny body, or a tall figure. Designer clothes, achievement in sports, or the lead role in every play. The church that we go to, the Bible verses we know or even our entire faith.

And one day, all of that can fall apart and everything is gone. The ground falls beneath you and you’re the only one left. You. Just you. You’re naked, hunted down, ravished, alone.

I say this because it has happened to me. Maybe to you, too.

Until this week, I never knew how much I put my identity in things that would fade away. Relationships, who I was in high school, even dreams that I had that I knew would never come true, school, theatre, and my faith. I built them all up. I allowed them to fulfill me in ways they never could. But recently, as the weeks have gone by, one by one, each precious jewel has been taken from me. Torn. Ripped from my soul. Until now, in which I feel as though there is nothing left but me. Naked, empty, struggling, searching me. Alone and undone without all of those things that I thought made me who I was.

I used to think that faith was a good thing to root yourself in. Turns out that I was wrong.

I used to say, ”most of all, build your identity on your faith because you can’t trust anything or anyone else completely.”

I used to know that everything would be alright as long as I just had faith.

That is, until it all fell. Until I heard things I’d never heard before from someone I didn’t think would tell me these things in a place I never expected to hear them. Until I started to question, doubt, wonder things I’d never questioned, doubted, or wondered. Until everything around me was falling but I knew that I’d be fine and safe with my faith but then that went, too. Until it was all, all gone.

When the ground fell beneath me and I wound up in the pit. Naked, empty, alone. Identity-less.

I lost everything superficial about who I was. No, those things weren’t ”bad” particularly, but I’d let them define me and that was wrong. And of course, at one point they got the better of me and fell. Even my faith.

So now I’m building again. Crawling out of the hole and back up onto my faith. Building a new identity, a new faith. Trying to leave all of those old ideas of who I was behind. Trying not to do the same thing again.

This time, I’m putting my identity in God. Not faith.

Immersed In The Spirit

Recently, I found one of my many, old journals. Like most of my notebooks, it was unfinished with plenty of pages left for more words and ideas. Oh yes, I love to write, but the problem is, I often start things that I don’t finish. A lack of inspiration, I guess you could call it. Anyway, this notebook had verses in it. I think I was trying to memorize them at some point. I tore the filled pages out so that I could use the journal for something else, but they got me to thinking about my life and things I’ve done or tried to do. And all the sudden I thought to myself, remember when you used to read the Bible, Elizabeth?

So, a year of Christian education and I don’t read my Bible anymore? Is that it? No, not exactly. I do read my Bible. But to be honest, I’m not as religious about it as I used to be. The notebook I found was from a by-gone era of memory verses, Bible reading binges, and notebooks about how to be a good Christian woman. From a time when I was just a girl trying to be the best follower of Jesus that I could be. Honestly, I wasn’t immersed in the Spirit much at all. Oh yes, I tried to be. But that way of doing it just didn’t work too well.

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One of my new memory verses — in Spanish.

After about fifteen years of being a Christian, I’ve tried lots of things, swinging from rebel to saint, conservative to liberal as I’ve done so. The funny truth is that I never really find my place in either direction. I think I find it for a little while, but I never really do. And then I’m just stuck again, drifting back and forth. I feel like I’m constantly at a place where being a Christian just doesn’t make sense except for the fact that I’ve been one my whole life.

Changing directions this year (as in, going to school) has honestly changed my life. I’ve been forced to think about myself, the world, other people, my life, and God differently. I’ve learned to re-evaluate good and evil, faith and religion, life and love, and countless other things. But at the end of the day, I’m still asking the same question. What does it mean to live a life immersed in the Spirit of the living God?

Let’s be honest — even as the great Christians that we are, we don’t always “feel” God in us and through us or even in the distance somewhere kind of looking out for us. Yeah, He’s there, but sometimes He does feel pretty far away. How are we supposed to be immersed in that?

I don’t have the answers — I just have my experiences and the knowledge that I can gain from that. Praying is important. And I know that from not praying because I forgot and then from praying again and realizing how much I needed it. And I also know that from having people pray for me and from friends telling me that they were praying for me–even when I didn’t ask them, too. Reading is good, too. I’ve been reading little bits at a time — when I remember and when I feel the urge. I don’t like to say, “I know I should do this everyday” anymore because honestly, that takes the joy out of it. Letting the Holy Spirit live through and in you is very, very good. And I’ve learned that can come in a thousand different ways–they key is inviting Him in.

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I’m reading two Bibles now — in Spanish and in English!

I don’t know it all yet and I’m not there the whole way. But these are my observations and my beginning for living a Spirit immersed life.

You Can’t Buy Grace

The other day, my acting prof broke into this mini-sermon on grace. He was talking about our scenes which are due next week and how to give and receive proper criticsm. But it was much more than that for me.

Cross & Clouds

Cross & Clouds (Photo credit: John H Wright Photo)

He talked about grace and how it is free to us through the blood of Jesus. And how we should live our lives with grace, as Jesus did. But how we so often don’t. And even though grace is free, we always forget about it. Because we’re steeped in the law instead of overwhelmed with grace. We don’t take the gift that is offered so generously by Jesus.

On Friday, I left chapel early. Some things that were said in my previous class, Spanish grammar that I’m just not getting, and guilt were flowing around in my mind. I couldn’t sing anymore. When I walked out into the fresh air, alone at last, it was the guilt which haunted me the most. I could brush off every other worry, but it was my guilt that I could not handle.

“God, I made a mistake,” I whispered as I walked along. I’m probably known for “talking to myself” around campus anyway, being a Theatre major with lines to memorize. “I wish I hadn’t made it, but now I have. How do I fix it?”

But I didn’t hear anything at all. No answers. No comfort.

My mistake wasn’t “big” in the eyes of others. It was simply a thought I had that I knew I shouldn’t have had. Perhaps I sound extreme, but at that moment the guilt from it was enough to ruin my morning.

“How are you?” my friend asked after joining me in the cafeteria, a few minutes later.

“I’m okay. How are you?”

Of course, I shouldn’t have said that. I ended up telling him that I felt guilty about something. A thought I’d had.

Or maybe I should have said that, because then he reiterated what our Acting prof had said the other day. There is grace. Always grace. You’re nothing without it, but never unworthy with it. You can’t buy it, but you just have to take it. Because God loves me and God loves you so very, very much.

I chose to take grace that day. And as we left the cafeteria later on, bound for our next class, I felt a weight lifted off of me. It was an indescribable feeling, but a feeling it was. The heavyness went away and I felt light. The exhaustion which had not allowed me to sing previously disappeared as a new energy revived me. I saw the sun outside and the flowers in the gardens and the smiles on the faces of other students. I saw my next three hour class as a time to smile and be with my friends and the homework I have as “something to get through.” But most of all, I saw grace for all of my transgressions.

Becoming

The journey we call life is an interesting one indeed.

First we are formed by God, grow in our mother’s womb, and are born, screaming our way into the world. I don’t remember being a baby, but I remember when my cousin was born. She was tiny and delicate beyond belief. I loved to hold her, but she was so little I worried that even one touch would ruin her. It’s hard to believe that she’s become a rambunctious, imaginative almost-six-year-old, school going child.

And I remember being her age myself. As my friends say, I have an “insane memory for everything.”

I remember dancing in the kitchen at two-years-old.

I recall the tears I shed over not going to pre-school when all my friends were going. It might not seem like much, but it crashed my little world.

I can still hear the voices of the neighbour kids who used to ask if my sister and I could come out and play. I remember the chalk houses, tree forts, and singing to musicals. Being mad, glad, really mad, and glad at each other all in one day.

I remember birthdays. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. Each year seemed so new and exciting. Each year was looked forward to because then I would be “older and bigger.”

I’ll never forget becoming a teenager. The pretty paradot ring my mom gave me to remind me that she had confidence that I would make the right decisions in my teenage years. At thirteen, I never comprehended what all that would come to mean.

Then there was 14, 15, 16, and 17. Each new, different, and hard in their own ways. Schoolwork. New places and people. Death. Heartbreak. Sorrow. Joy. Becoming older and different and changing from little girl to young woman.

Today I am eighteen. I no longer dance in the kitchen, but I still wear the ring I got at thirteen. Some things change, others remain the same, and others grow with us as we become.

But as I’ve been thinking on this whole matter of “becoming,” something has struck me. It’s not really about “me becoming the best Elizabeth” or more like myself. The journey of life should be about becoming more like Christ. I know I’ve failed at that time and time again. But there is always grace and the chance to try to become like Christ again.

PS The point of including these crazy pictures of me was to show that despite being “ancient” as some may say, I’m still quite a kid at heart. 😉

Faith Like A Child

Oh, you of little faith.

This phrase could and should be said to me about ten hundred times everyday. I’m a worrier. A constant worrier. Yet I proudly declare to be a Christian with a faith that is unshakable. But some days, that faith is pretty hard to find.

Today was one of those days. Actually, almost every day in the last little while has been “one of those days.” For some reason, faith and me haven’t been going as well as they used to.

Feeling discouraged and restless, I decided to go for a walk. I needed a diversion and a chance to sort my feelings out.

I left my house and started onto the road. I haven’t done this in a while, I thought.

I went past houses I knew and others I didn’t. I walked swiftly, trying to get rid of the pain in my heart.

I turned corners and pondered my week and all the things I did or didn’t do. I have so much on my shoulders right now, I moaned inside.

I quickened my pace more than once, as if the faster I walked, the better I’d feel.

Somehow, I ended up at the park. It wasn’t a mistake or intentional — it just happened. I ran to the swings and sat down. The seat felt small at first. I guess I’m not a child anymore, I thought. Eventually, I eased into the swing and pushed back and forth like I did in those days of cherry picking and side walk chalk.

I leaned back and closed my eyes. The dogs barking and their child owners playing nearby reminded me of days of old. Days when worry went as deep as cleaning my room so I could go to my friend’s house or getting the doll that I wanted for Christmas. Days when I could laugh freely and wipe away my tears quickly. Days when trips like this to the park were frequent and a good friend lived across the street and life was a gentle, summer song. Days when I prayed tirelessly each night for every unsaved family member, sick person, and simple want by name and believed that God would deliver. Days when I had faith like a child.

Suddenly, I remembered my old self. I felt her again. I let go of the worries, stress, and sorrow. For ten or fifteen minutes I was free. Free of anxiety and hurt. Free of exhaustion, confusion, and strong emotions. Free of everything bad, distracting, and annoying. Free to live, love, and laugh. Free to believe and have the faith that I need.

Unfortunately, that moment didn’t last forever. My legs got tired of pumping and I walked home. My spirits soon faded again and my faith was lost. I closed my lips through the songs at church and tried not to cry. I even left before the last song was through. My faith left me as quickly as it had come.

Now I’m sitting at home after a long, useless day. I remember the faith that I had once before. I want it back. The faith that loved life and God and did not worry about anything. The faith that believed and persisted and trusted. The faith of a child.

But I Still Need You

God, I’m sorry. Really sorry.

You know just what my words are going to be, but I’ll say them anyway. It’s embarrassing, yet I need to share it now. Just like the pastor said, “the first step to making God your first love is confession.” So, confession time has come and I am on my knees.

Sometimes, I think that I don’t need you. I don’t say it like that. No, I’m much too subtle. But they say that actions speak louder than words and my actions are definitely like that. I say it in the way that I read part of my alloted scriptures in the morning, arrive half-awake to church one morning, and fall asleep before I pray at night. It’s clear in how I worry and stress over little things and try to fix them on my own. I reject you in the way that I treat others and the idols that I make in my life. I’ve disowned you. I’ve let you fall from the center. And I am so, so sorry, God.

It’s funny how I can go through life, days and weeks at a time, and try to do it on my own and feel like everything is going so well. But there is always some trouble along the way. I always seem to prick my finger or scab my knee. No matter how hard I try or how much I seem to succeed by myself, at the end of the day, I still need You.

In the dark of night, it comes back to me, whether I try to make it or not. When I forget to pray and think of other things instead, I feel a need for someone or something. And there, lying in bed, almost asleep, dreaming away, I realize that it is You that I need. It is You that I desire. I call for you to rescue my heart once more and I fall asleep in your arms. Oh, how I still need You.

But I need you in the morning and throughout the day and in everything as well. I need you in the good times and the bad. I need you at Spanish class and youth group and in my Biology test. No matter who I meet or what I do, I’ll always need your arms to shelter me.

So once more, I’m back at square one. I’m trying faith and love again. Take my life, take my pride, and have my heart. I’m going to try and I’m going to fail, but at least I know that I still need you.

I’ve Been Awarded!

I have been given the Kreativ Blogger award. Thank you, Godzgirlz1! You are so sweet to think of me. 🙂

And, in answer to your questions…

1) Name your favorite song:
Small by Amanda Falk. It is such a beautiful song!!!

2) Name your favorite dessert:

Hmm…tough one, but probably chocolate cake. 🙂

3) What makes you angry:
Just injustice of any kind, really.

4) When you’re upset:

I usually cry, if I’m really upset about something. I annoy the people with me and say silly, over-dramatic things.

 5) What’s your favorite pet?
My dog. Yes, he is awesome. 😉

 6) Black or white?
I love black! One of my favourite outfits is a plain, black shirt paired with jeans, a scarf, and bow head band/flower. Black cardigans are also awesome and black dresses just look stunning to me!

 7) Biggest fear?

Hmm….right now, I’d have to say the future because there are so many decisions that I have to make about it. But I am learning to rely on God, not make too many plans, and just sit back and enjoy the ride, knowing that He knows best.

8) Everyday attitude? 

Generally, I am joyful. At least, I try to be although I often get pretty stressed out too.

  9) What is perfection?

I’m going to have to stick with Godzgirlz answer of Jesus. 🙂

10) Guilty pleasure?
Chatting to friends on skype…and blogging. 🙂

And the seven random things…

1. I have a red bible. 2. I have built a house. 3. My favourite colour is purple. 4. I have slipped on a wet floor and slid into some people sitting at a table in a restaurant. 5. I write about everything. 6. I like to wear skirts with belts, blouses, and thrift store boots. 7. Sometimes I am super shy and just observe people, while other times I cannot stop talking!

Thanks, Godzgirlz! You are awesome!

I’d like to pass the award on to anyone on my links page who would like to do it. 🙂