Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yes, No, Wait?: A Shocking Expose of Jessi's Thoughts on Boston, Prayer, and Life

Written Wednesday, October 21 as a Facebook Note

I'm sitting on a bench in the picturesque Boston Common, just a few minutes' walk from Emerson. The weather is beautiful--60 degrees or so with the sun setting behind the burnt orange and vivid red trees. I'm writing in a notebook with the intention of typing up this "blog post" later, and I'm listening to Coldplay (among others) on my iPod while the 200-year-old bells of Park Street Church chime in the background. At moments like these, my new life in the city seems idyllic.

As I sit here in this urban park, I can't help but think that my choice to come to Boston was one of those moments that set you on a path of becoming who you were meant to be. Only a few weeks ago, I was constantly on the verge of having a breakdown due to 2 big problems and a bunch of little ones. When those problems first arose, I was pretty proud of myself for not freaking out too much and for trusting that God was going to work out something good from these very unsettling situations. I'm by no means a Calvinist and I even see a lot of validity in Greg Boyd's "God of the possible" theology. But I still think that God is holding the threads of the universe and that we can trust him to work in our lives and in our mundane situations. If I didn't believe that, I would feel like I'm following the watchmaker God of the Deists. (Sorry, I just felt a need to clarify briefly what I meant by God working out all things for good.)

So before that deviation into theology, we left our protagonist (i.e., myself) feeling prideful about trusting God instead of freaking out. I kept praying that one or the other (or both!) of the big problems would be solved. Things kept happening that got my hopes up and I would start to imagine my life taking a significant turn for the better. But invariably these solutions were ripped from me and I started to get really angry and even more anxious than I had been before. Traditionally, we who went to Sunday school as kids were told that God answers prayers with Yes, No, or Wait. I got so angry that God kept saying No and/or Wait. Why would he keep stringing me along like this? I felt like the Wait answer was the worst because it just seemed so senseless. Why should I have to wait in this misery if God was going to fix it eventually? Why couldn't something work out now?

Then I realized that maybe the Yes/No/Wait model isn't entirely accurate. One of my friends from high school and I started emailing again in the last month or so. She sent me the "thorn in the flesh" verse, saying that it had encouraged her in the past. I've read the verse so many times before but this time, it completely changed my mindset. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [the thorn in the flesh] away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"

God responds to Paul's impassioned plea, not with a semi-mocking, "Just wait." Rather he says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." This is so different from the Yes/No/Wait model because it has nothing to do with circumstances. Instead of telling myself, "Someday God might deign to make my life the Platonic ideal I want it to be," I started holding onto the promise that he is enough regardless of my circumstances. No matter what happens (and far, far worse things could be happening right now), I will somehow have what I need.

Because of this gradual change of heart and mind, I can tell you (with thankfulness and hopefully not with pride) that I'm really okay, even though neither of those big problems have been resolved.

This may not sound incredibly insightful, but believe me, internalizing it and really coming to believe it was a huge deal for me.

Anyways, this post was actually going to be various thoughts on my life in Boston (I had some pretty funny material too!), but I guess that will have to wait until a later date.

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