This is The Worst Blog Post I’ve Ever Written

tiired.jpg

Earlier today on Facebook, I posted a “preview” of an encouragingly epic blog post that I had not yet written. I just spent three hours staring at my computer, failing to write anything encouragingly epic.

Instead of posting my confusing array of disordered thoughts, I’m just going to leave these questions here, because maybe sometimes asking uncomfortable questions is better than providing half-baked answers.

  • What if Frodo refused to let Sam carry him those last agonizing steps to destroy the ring?
  • What if Harry Potter decided that staying with the Dursleys was safer than becoming a wizard?
  • What if Belle refused to see anything good in the Beast?
  • What if Elsa could never accept herself and lived in fear forever?
  • What if Katniss decided it would be better and easier for everyone if she just died as quickly as possible in the Hunger Games?

An Advent Wrestling Match

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.'”

C.S. Lewis

I have a hard enough time following God when I agree that His ways are best for me. My pride is at war with humility; my love is at odds with my fear. Though I agree love and humility are good things, I am human and I struggle. But it is an entirely different sort of “hard” when I feel that God is being unfair towards me, when I feel He is withholding or doesn’t truly have my best interests at heart. It is different when I don’t understand in any particular instance why my will and His cannot coincide. The confusion stirs up anger and bitterness. Why do I have such strong desires for more if He is all that I need? I’m discovering that . . .

it is much easier to follow God when we suppress the parts of ourselves that disagree with Him.

But God calls us to the hard task of bringing Him our hurting hearts with real God-given human longings and surrendering our past, present, and future to His goodness. Can I just say that I hate that? Well, I just did.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was smack dab in the middle of the garden. God certainly didn’t make it easy for Adam and Eve to ignore! He said, “Nope. Your choice to follow me must be deliberate. The tantalizing alternative must be in full view.” You know what? I bet the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil tasted damn good. I bet it was the best-tasting fruit they had ever eaten (a mango, perhaps). And that’s where the feeling of unfairness hits, isn’t it? It seems as if God sets us up for failure.

The truth is, God does withhold good things from us, but only so that we can taste the best things, with full appreciation.

I am very angry at the sentence I just wrote. I don’t want the so-called “best” things. Best by whose standard? I know what I want and I want to be able to want the things that I want! So there!

None of us have always waited for the best. In our own unique, personal ways, we have eaten the fruit that God commanded us not to eat. But God doesn’t give up on us. Though we ruined our ability to fully appreciate His best, He redeemed it, and redeems it again and again, every day, every minute if necessary, imparting to us the righteous sacrifice of His Son.

Maybe God knew that only by tasting the forbidden lesser good and allowing His redemptive purposes to work could we truly appreciate the best good. Maybe He knew that wrestling was the only way to find rest. Maybe He knew that sacrificing Himself would be the only way to give abundant, eternal life.

Man . . . advent sucks.

Advent is humanity forced to stare at the good, and choosing to wait for the best. Advent is humanity biting into mangos, wanting so desperately to taste our will being done on earth (as it may or may not be done in heaven) because we know it will taste so good and right. Advent is humanity naked and ashamed. Advent is Christ, the eternal paradox.

On that note, here is a song I wrote.

“The Ones Who Wrestle”
Lindsey Snyder

You say you are enough

But I want more than you

I’ve wrestled for your blessing and

Been given bitter tears of truth

You show me glimpses of the end

But the road is so daunting and hard

What is the point of this winding path

That I keep stumbling on?

Will I have this limp

the rest of my days?

Why is suffering so long?

If you are the one that satisfies

Than why am I

still empty inside?

The name you gave me from the start:

“Hope” feels a cruel joke on this earth

I do what I don’t want

I want what I can’t have

Have what I need and yet I feel

All the lack

And maybe I’m a spoiled child

But please tell me that my pain is real

Who can save me from me

digging my own grave?

Only the one who suffered the whole world, to heal

Will I have this limp

the rest of my days?

Why is suffering so sure?

If you are the one that satisfies

Than why am I

still empty inside?

What good am I to you

If I cannot love the way you want me to

What good am I to you

If I cannot, I cannot love you?

What good am I to you

If I cannot love the way you want me to

What good am I to you

If I cannot, I cannot love you?

But that’s who you choose

The ones who wrestle you

Holy Collages

 

IMG_3621.JPGToday, a few friends of mine hosted an event called “Vision Quest”. Transport yourself back to middle school, arm yourself with dozens of magazines, scissors, cardboard and glue, add a delightful assortment of breakfast food (and a random serving of magical sweet potato fries), and surround yourself with godly young women who have beautiful hopes and dreams. That was the real-life collage happening as we all cut and pasted, spoke and were silent. Some of us wept and rejoiced in our individual hearts as we saw our longings piecing together into something that echoed of deeper realities.

I have the great sense that today, for four (or more) hours, we were all on holy ground.

These eternal beings that I have come to love as my sisters in Christ, who I am honored to share life with at least for a time in this life and also on the other side of eternity, expressed their hearts imperfectly and IMG_3622.JPGhonestly. We were all wrapped up in visually expressing our own individual stories, but the physical togetherness provided a palpable sense of each of us contributing hope to each others’ lives in meaningful ways.

Though I felt as if I was in soul-therapy heaven, I found myself unable to verbalize even a little of what my own collage meant to me. Ironically, I have the words “a story worth telling” quite prominent on the cardboard representation of my hopes.

Do you believe your story is worth telling?

Do you believe your hopes and longings and pain and joy are all worth pasting into the collage of an insane but beautiful world? I pray you’ll believe it, because:

I want to be touched by your present story and your future dreams, by your brokenness, your strength, and your honesty.

Lately, I’ve made important steps in telling a part of my own story to myself and to a few friends. For a long time, I hid an entire underlying story theme from my own heart because it was far too scary. Bringing it into light is I believe, in some mysterious way, is breaking my heart in order to re-make it into something more whole.

A heart crushed and made whole in a life full of tension and danger. . . what a (painful, exciting, frustrating) adventure! And so, my collage is largely a representation of what I long for my chaotic internal world and slightly less crazy external journey to reflect. They are the things I preach to myself when no one else is around to preach them to me. They are the truths with which I want to embrace God and humanity.

There is much more I could say about the images I chose, but I will leave that for times and places which are more appropriate and helpful and good. For now, I rest in the reality of the shared experience of a humanity who longs for meaning in the madness, and who creates beauty in the midst of an uncertain future.

Somebody to Love?

Today, I suddenly remembered a song I wrote a couple years ago. I added and changed a few things to the lyrics today. Those who have known me for a long time and have heard many of my songs know that primarily my songs are about the collision of God and the circumstances life has brought to me or to people in my life.

Rarely have I written songs primarily about human love, even more rarely about any sort of romantic love, but this is what I’m singing about here. Parts of it are meant to be humorous, because sometimes I can laugh at marriage, sex, etc. that our culture is so wrapped up in. But underneath all that is a deep longing to love and be loved–and this is a common human experience. Not everyone wants to be married, but nearly everyone I know wants to love and be intimately loved by another human being.

Feel free to comment, but first two things to keep in mind:

  1. This is a song primarily for people who are single, to empathize with your (my) struggles and longings and to remind you that you (I) are (am) loved, not alone, and singleness has purpose.
  2. I am not asking for pity, so please do not tell me that “I will find someone to marry some day” or “Just keep waiting, God has someone great in mind for you.” That may or may not be true, but the fact is that God is still there regardless. Just listen and, hopefully, be encouraged.

Lyrics:
Love is pulling in the harbor
Eyes are filled with endless wonder
Am I invisible, pulled under the forgotten undertow?
Guess I’ll always be a watcher
As the line of loves grow longer
Could this get any harder?
I’m like lichen on a boat

But loneliness is not my own
There’s no earthly fix for a broken soul
So I won’t wait to live my life with someone else in tow
I’ve got my yes’s and my be there’s and my go

Here I’m sitting in the aisle
As the flower girl she smiles
And I’ll count the falling petals
Will it be love me, love me not?
I don’t know if I’ll say I do
But here’s another bride who will do
And oh what am I supposed to do
What have I possibly got?

But loneliness is not my own
There’s no earthly fix for a broken soul
So I won’t wait to live my life with someone else in tow
I’ve got my yes’s and my be there’s and my go

I will climb to the highest places
I will reach for the things above
And though I may feel grounded
May I always be pointing up
Yes, I will climb to the highest places
I will reach for the things above
Though my heart is seeking somebody to hold
There will be no greater love
Yes, there will be no greater love

And loneliness is not my home
though pain may be long and longing may grow
and there are barriers so tall it seems alone I will grow old
I’ve got my yes’s and my be there’s and my go

Loved

In this 24th year of my life, I’ve decided to go on a journey. Long have I taken up the banner of loving God and others well. Long have I been overwhelmed by a pharisaical burden of doing the right thing, always. Long have I felt (and enjoyed!) my self-worth being bolstered by spending every part of me to give others just a little bit of hope. Long have I lived in agony at the breaking of my self-inflicted impossibly high standards for my own character and actions.

This year, I’m setting the “love God, love others” banner down and exchanging it for one that says, simply, “loved”. Daily, I will try to choose to shift my focus. It’s going to be difficult. I will fall into patterns of legalism. I will fall into traps of temptation. I will forget why I’ve shifted my focus. I will allow myself to fail. I will fall into God’s grace.

Quotefancy-319505-3840x2160You see, I have skipped a very important step in trying so hard to love God and others well. I’ve forgotten (have I ever really known?) how much God adores and delights in me. If my pride knew no bounds and every single thing I did was purely for selfish gain, God’s love for me would be unending. If I was paralyzed and unable to communicate or take care of myself let alone others, God’s love for me would not diminish. If I threw all caution to the winds and indulged in self-destructive desires, God’s love for me would not change. If I cursed Him and made it my mission in life to destroy all belief in Him and I became a tyrannical dictator and killed everyone who stood against me, His love for me would remain unequivocally strong.

This kind of love is CRAZY. I can’t imagine it!

I’ve always known that God has loved me. But, that has never been the focus of my study, my emotions, my life. Imagine everything you do, everything you think about yourself and others, flowing out of the unshakeable trust that you are unconditionally loved by God as you are, were, and will be.

Jesus said that the equally important commandment to loving God is to love others as you love yourself. In an especially honest conversation, a friend reminded me that if I can’t love myself, if I can’t internalize how deeply loved I am by God, there’s no way I can love others well. How do I love myself? By delving deep into the riches of the love that chose me before the universe was born, the love who sticks with me in all my wandering and denying and destroying, the love who gives His life for me and will one day bring me into everlasting joy.

Sidenote: If you’re interested in going on this journey of discovering (or re-discovering) God’s love for you, here’s a great place to start: Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging.

Run to Beauty!

i.

IMG_2986run! run to beauty!

 

ii.

 

IMG_2990a silhouette couple

stares into the distance

phones up – in sync –

an instagrammable moment.

phones down – together again –

perfectly petrified pixels,

but not at all like the real thing.

 

they can’t turn away

and neither can i

the orange and pink

keep reaching, reaching towards infinity

and i almost reach back . . .

 

instead, i too reach for my phone

a 3×5 disgrace of a copy and—

i turn and run for home.

 

iii.

IMG_2989my rebel t3i high-definition could capture this but the futility becomes apparent when i realize my camera was left at work undeterred i bound up stairs past sister and friend in a frenzy ask where my sister’s camera is but she doesn’t know so i shout i must capture beauty my friend replies you can’t capture beauty but i barely hear and the camera is found and i grasp it in victory turn it on the battery is dead.

at this point i just need to see it again so i run down sidewalks i’ve walked a hundred times the colors retreating from pleading eyes, darkening behind Nashville’s own Giant’s Causeway at Dragon Park and my heart sinks as i

r          e          a          c          h

as blazing sky-fingers

turn back into sun’s palm

yet from the horizon, a lingering song:

iv.

IMG_2993run! run to beauty!

the fleeting makes it fair

old age, cancer, shootings, fear

the fleeting you can bear

stop running, mind, towards what you hate

start running, heart, towards greater grace

oh fragile feelings, fleeting too,

beauty one day will stay with you

I Need You

I don’t know if I ever have loved writing purely for its own sake. I love writing because of the gifts it gives me or others: satisfaction, comfort, companionship, courage, hope, clarity, energy . . . If “writing” was a person, my relationship with it would be all take and no give. How terrible! Even so, the primary reason I love writing will likely forever be because there is some sense of me needing it in order to survive and/or thrive.

The sort of love I have for writing is not unlike how I love God.

C.S. Lewis, modern master of Christian thought, writes in his book The Four Loves,

Every Christian would agree that a man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God. But man’s love for God, from the very nature of the case, must always be very largely, and must often be entirely, a Need-love. This is obvious when we implore forgiveness for our sins or support in our tribulations. But in the long run it is perhaps even more apparent in our growing-for it ought to be growing-awareness that our whole being by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for HIm who can untie things that are now knotted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose. [This] Need-love, the greatest of all, either coincides with or at least makes a main ingredient in man’s highest, healthiest, and most realistic spritiual condition.

I’ve always thought that loving someone out of one’s need for that person to be very unlike love. In fact, I’d see it as an offense to what real love is. Love is patient, love is kind, love is not self-seeking… however, by default, there is some degree of this need-love in every relationship. In reality, lack of community is just as deadly as dehydration. Starvation of human friendship simply provides a slower, subtler death over physical starvation. We need each other and that’s okay. Lewis references, and I repeat Genesis 2:18 – “It is not good for man to be alone.”

Acknowledging that loving someone partially out of need is not always a bad thing is not an awe-inspiring concept for me.In human-to-human relationships, need is part of what love is, but hopefully not all or even most of it.

What is enlightening is the idea that I can best love God not by:
1. doing good things for Him
2. trying harder
3. feeling a connection with Him
4. spending more time alone with Him
5. trying to love His character more than His gifts

The best way I can love God is to acknowledge how very much I need Him. All the other things, frankly, may or may not follow in this life, and if they do, it will be more of a sporadic, faltering process than I would like (as it has thus far been in almost-24 years). For a person who feels weak and needy the majority of the time, this thought is overwhelming in its magnitude.

Jesus, Bread of life, Living Water, I love You the only way I know how at this point . . . and perhaps it is not as inferior of a love as I have always imagined . . .

I need you.

Surrender!

“I have read the entire Koran and can find in it no guidance on how Muslims should live as a minority in a society. I have read the entire New Testament and can find in it no guidance on how Christians should live as a majority.”

While browsing news articles about the horrendous state of the world (not recommended), I came across a Christian opinion article by Philip Yancey entitled “Paris and Beyond.” As I skimmed through the article, which is about how Christians should respond to ISIS, etc. the profound quote from a Muslim scholar that you see above really stood out to me.

The fact is, I am a Christian living in the majority-Christian (well… at least culturally-Christian) South. So often, I have struggled with how my faith shows I am any different from the people around me who do not believe in Jesus.

Jesus says in Matthew 19:24, “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

I do not believe the parable in Matthew 19 is primarily about how materially rich people have a harder time getting to heaven than materially poor people do.

In context, it seems to me that the difference between the “rich” and “poor” lies in a willingness to surrender. 

In the majority-Christian South (and actually, the entire U.S. is still considered majority-Christian) we have no concept of surrender. We who are never willing to lay down our arms are shooting ourselves in the feet.

In Syria, in China, in places where Christianity is persecuted or condemned, there is a stark difference between people who follow Christ and people who do not. Christians in such countries are not merely nominal. They are living New Testament truths on a day-by-day basis as a minority group. They are surrendering everything–their very lives–for the sake of the Gospel.

We don’t have many opportunities to surrender in the United States of America. Ingrained in the American psyche is the assumption that surrendering is always a cop-out, always weak and shameful. Jesus, who likes to turn all assumptions on their heads, spin them around, and show us just how wrong we are, tells us that surrendering is our primary calling!

In Luke 9:23, He says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

The very first step in discipleship is denying self: denying self-rights, self-freedom, self-obsession, self-condemnation, self-self-me-me-mine. 

What the heck does that mean for Christians like me, living in the majority-Christian South? How do I glean from Scripture how to live in a world where lines are blurred? Where atheists say they’re Christians and Christians act like God doesn’t exist?

I wish I had a clear-cut answer. I hate admitting it, but I’m still learning, folks, and I expect I’ll be learning it my whole life.

We can start by taking a moment–or many moments–to ask God to align our will to His will, which is good, pleasing and perfect.

Start with Romans 12.

A Living Sacrifice

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Humble Service in the Body of Christ

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love in Action

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love.Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Twenty-three

I stand today in the middle of two starkly different life celebrations. Yesterday, a friend of mine, Samuel, went to be with Jesus. Tomorrow, I turn twenty-three. The one, a celebration of a race well-run, a fight well-fought. The other, a celebration of a race still-running, a fight still-fighting.

IMG_1411Year twenty-two of life on this blue-green dot called earth has been difficult. It has been about embracing the season I am in and not being afraid of my feelings. It has been about moving forward through tides of transition and keeping my eyes above the waves. This year has also brought countless fond memories and new experiences, and has sprouted some already-precious friendships.

Reflecting on the past year reminds me of just a few days ago. I was walking around my neighborhood in eighty-seven degree weather when I came across a tree dropping leaves like tears. It was beautiful. It was strange. It was autumn in what seemed like the thick of summer. I stopped and took a picture. Why?

Because in the middle of the expected came something unexpected.

Out of the not yet came the coming soon.

From routine came a reminder that life is always in transit.

10498702_333133480168788_168923442074773305_o

Samuel photobombing in the background 🙂

I won’t ask why the tree was shedding leaves so early. There could be a thousand reasons. When I saw the tree, I felt at once sad of summer’s parting, happy of fall’s entrance, wary of winter’s long reach and faintly hopeful for the renewal of spring. I stopped. I noticed.

Today, I will stop and notice. I will accept the unpredictable nature of grief and the constancy of God’s presence. I will stop trying to direct my feelings and instead fill my mind with the will and Word of God. Hope carried my friend Samuel to glory, and hope will carry me into year twenty-three.