Friday, September 13, 2013

Why I Can Say Hard Things

I have spent the day - or at least 9 solid hours of it - buried in scientific journals, hovering over crumpled loose-leaf graph paper with scribbles of bubble-diagrams and rhetorical questions about cell signaling pathways. I think I've dreamed about cells, usually in those waking hours between hearing my alarm and responding to it. (Lately "science" somehow justifies why I can't wake up for another 5 minutes...I mean 2 hours.)

I love my work. In the stack of papers lately, I miss actually donning my nitrile-gloved second skin and conducting experiments. But it's all part of the growing process as I learn to think, breathe, articulate, and defend scientific thought. And how young I still am in that process.

This is a rare moment for this semester. I've told many of my dear loved ones that this is just a season where I need to be utterly focused on my job. Nights, weekends, mornings, all the time. Hardly any time is exempt. It's not that I don't love my friends, it's not that I don't dearly want to hang out and drink coffee and have heart to heart conversations, or write juicy heart-spilling-over entries. It's that my career demands a level of excellence and commitment that, for this season, I must give it. I strive and hope and pray to be excellent at my work.

That said, and fully meant, this has also been a time of revival in my heart. I am convinced that God loves and cares for us, not just in the overarching churchy sense, but in the personal, day-to-day needs, thoughts, hopes, and desires. I feel that love so deeply. Before I understood this love, I used to try and overextend myself to fit into being worthy of it. Worthy of grace! I was so busy trying to get the cart moving in front of the horse that I didn't realize how deep, how rich, how all-encompassing God's love is for me without my ever being "worthy" or "good-enough" or "holy-enough" to receive it. He just loves. There's no reason. There doesn't have to be. He just does.

It occurred to me though that without knowing this love, so many of the words that I say sound awfully hard. Or rather, it sounds like I have been harsh towards myself, or towards others. But the reason I say hard things - the reason I can face and talk about (and like talking about) taboo words like sin, for instance, is because the love of God means those things are not shameful. Because Jesus took every ounce of God's anger in my place, all that's left is God's love. And God's love is without shame.

Being freed from shame is being freed for change.

I've got news, I am a person. And people do dumb, hurtful, and otherwise unwise things to themselves and to one another. People use people. People talk poorly of other people. People have bad attitudes. People can be cranky. But I can own up to those things and still say with all confidence that God loves me. Does that make me a hypocrite? No, it makes me honest. And the greater I am confident of God's love, the more deeply honest I can delve, and the more I can drag those ugly hidden things into the light so that they have less hold in my life. So through the love of God and the ownership of sin, I become less of a cranky, hurtful gossip.

It's a process friends, but I hope you see that sin and death and heavy heavy words can only be coupled with words like grace, and hope and love - because without the latter we would be crushed. Grace and love free us from shame, from doubt, from our very stubborn human selves to become something more hopeful, more trusting, more joyful than we are.

A very good night, and a happy new year to my Jewish friends!