The Paradox of Peace and Power

“The Paradox of Peace and Power” – compiled by Peg Syverson

My little brother, six inches taller than me with biceps the size of my quads, ordered our family a copy of this book of articles written by his rhetoric class. His article – “Jesus Christ, Peaceful Power, and Us” – was a poor choice of pre-bedtime reading because it is a beautifully-written and evocative window of revelation. It sent my mind in a whirlwind of thought (and my body on a lengthy quest for sleep). He wrote on Matthew 5: 38-44 where Jesus exhorts us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, ultimately arguing for non-violent resistance against evil.

As I finished his article, I was reminded of Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

The thing is – we all have a master. We are all a slave to something. As Tim’s article illustrates – we can be slaves to retaliation, slaves to instinctive reactions of anger and vengeance. Titus 3:3 tells us that “we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”

We cannot serve two masters – we can only serve one. So many friends, philosophers, family members are turned off to the idea of Christianity and submitting to a “set of rules.” Alas – this could not be more false. Even if we don’t recognize it, we have all submitted to something. We have submitted to our own passions and whims.

When I was in the thick of disordered eating, I felt a slave to food. My mind dwelled on little else – it motivated everything I did. I lived in literal fear of when my mind would flip and not rest until I drowned the sensation in food, knowing that as soon as I stopped eating I would feel the pain and discomfort and guilt that would persist long after.

We are slaves to comfort, slaves to lust, slaves to instant gratification, slaves to substance abuse, slaves to approval. Not some of us – all of us. That is why Galatians 5:1 tells us that “for freedom Christ has set us free: stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Christ died for us that we might be free of this slavery to the passions of the flesh – slavery to sin.

“But thanks to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:17-18. Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light – because slavery to Him is slavery to freedom.

Slavery to freedom? It’s a beautiful paradox. For we are all slaves to something, but what if we were eternally tethered to the God of love? Letting His goodness, like a fetter, bind our wandering hearts to Him? He sent His son to die for us so that we can be set free of the sin that rules our lives, our thoughts, our hearts, and become bondservants to the light and lovely burden of freedom in Christ.

As I wrap up my revelation of the paradox of freedom and slavery, I’m remembering a theme from the Tolkein books. Yesterday, as my family saw the third and final “Hobbit” (sidenote: Mom managed to fall asleep and was caught snoring during an epic battle scene) the ring vividly illustrated sin nature. Every time we put on sin, we indulge our thoughts and our actions, we become increasingly drawn to sin – the way Smeagol, Bilbo, eventually Frodo would become completely engrossed by the ring. It governed their thoughts and actions – slowly drawing their bodies into the depravity that Gollum depicts. We tune our hearts to sing the instant gratification of sin, which seems harmless and even beneficial at the time. Satan is sly and sneaky – the great deceiver. But Jesus is good – He is the true and better master.

I Signed Up to Die

It was the middle of week nine as a senior counselor on my Camp in the City team. Tuesday night, topic night, where all 32 of us go hang out and have fun. We’re in Savannah, Georgia, surrounded by Southern hospitality and water, so we were headed to the beach as a team.
Plot twist. One of our girls had lingering vision problems from a concussion a couple weeks earlier. My sweet boss needed someone to go with him to take her to the urgent care and I volunteered in a heartbeat. I jumped in before I realized I would spend the evening in the E.R. waiting room while all my friends were having fun on the beach without me. Shoot.
I crawled into the truck with a smile plastered over the tears that threatened to burst forth at any moment. Deep down, I wanted everyone to recognize my sacrifice. I wanted to be with her and walk with her through the night, but I also wanted my friends on the beach to miss me and esteem my selflessness. But a couple days later as I drove the minivan – nicknamed the intentiavan – to the church, my people-pleasing, affirmation-seeking mentality got an attitude check.
I signed up to die. Thi’sl’s song had played for weeks in the intentiavan and I always admired the courage and faith of the martyrs in the lyrics. The thing is – I already signed up to die – die to myself. The summer after my senior year of high school, when I lay sobbing on a bunk at Pine Cove Towers, I signed up to die when I decided to follow Christ as the Lord of my life. God has consistently reminded me this summer that His number one priority is His own glory, not my happiness. And praise the Lord for that. A life catered to my satisfaction is a life devoid of the unfathomable richness of fully knowing Christ. If He said yes to all my prayers, I’d be a mess and a half.
As this concept hit me like a wake-up call driving to the church at the crack of dawn, I immediately remembered my attitude driving to the urgent care Tuesday night. I signed up to die to myself, not make decisions to accrue admiration or manage perceptions.
I was reading Thursday morning, after hearing that song, in 1 Samuel 1 about Hannah’s heartache over her inability to conceive. The Lord dropped one of those sweet revelation bombs on my quiet time as I realized that I am in no way shape or form qualified to determine what is good and what is not. I felt for Hannah, unable to fulfill a woman’s dream of having a child, then wrote this in the margin of my bible: “WAIT! The Lord’s actions aren’t categorized as good or bad by us – they are good because He is good.” By the end of the chapter, Hannah had a son, Samuel, whom she would dedicate to the Lord. What to me seemed like a crushing blow to Hannah’s womanhood was the Lord’s way of bringing forth a son dedicated to His purpose.
I signed up to die – to die to myself and my own interpretations of what is and isn’t good. By God’s grace, He sent His son so that I could be a part of a sweet death that brings about new life. The Valley of Vision, a book of beautiful Puritan prayers, read this morning “Let thy Spirit help my infirmities, for I know not what to pray for as I ought. Let him produce in me wise desires by which I may ask right things, then I shall know thou hearest me.” By laying down my idols and submitting to His yolk, which is light, I get to let Him sanctify this broken heart of mine. I get to let him purge me of empty desires and replace them with a yearning for Himself.
As I’m finishing piecing together the puzzle of what the Lord’s shown me this week, I remember the Spanish moss we drove by on the way to the hospital. It’s so beautiful, but is a parasite, killing its host slowly. This is like sin. The idol of pleasing people and winning their approval is so appealing, but it’s robbing me of life and the joy of the Lord. It’s so alluring, yet so detrimental. I signed up to die, dad gummit, not to live a life chasing the wind of idols.
So here I go, dying to myself every single day. Will I succeed? Heck to the no. I have to reteach my heart and mind to operate in tune with His statues, not my own habits. But my sweet heavenly Daddy is here for that – in His word, His children, His presence. He’s given me everything I need for life and Godliness through His scriptures. I signed up to die – now it’s time to live that out.

Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Praise

Tune my heart to sing thy praise.

When you tune a guitar, you tweak each string, compelling it to adhere to the pitch for which it was intended. Coaxing the instrument into harmony. The strings are prone to wander – prone to slip from the perfect G4 of the top string to a flat F#4. The result? Discord. The sound is so wrong and without continual upkeep, the chords slip from harmonious cooperation to that ear-twinging , not cohesive mess.

We are instruments of praise for our father. But our hearts are continually out of tune. In order to play the sweet melody Jesus has in store, we must keep our pitch in line with His, our rhythm to His beat. In this sweet hymn that speaks to me through this line every time, I realize that “tune my heart” is a plea. We can’t tune our own hearts! He has to and He can because His son died the death we deserved to welcome us in to His courts of mercy.

Imagine a string on a guitar. Tuning is a gentle process of stretching the string until its pitch is just right – not a comfortable experience. As He refines us and stretches us to play the sound He has in store, it hurts. So many facets of our character desperately need refining and just when we think we’ve arrived, He reminds us that there are other strings, other pieces of us, that don’t reflect Him! We are constantly changing, stretching, striving to better sing His praise.

Even as the strings undergo the tedious process of tuning, they need a standard – a guitar tuner – to which to adhere. Second string from the top – the D4. It needs an example of the D4 so it can adjust itself to fit. Christ is our tuner, our example. As we are refined and stretched, we are altered to sound more like our father. “Lord I look to you – where does my help come from?” – another line from an Austin Stone worship song. Lord I look to you (Psalm 121:1). You are my help, my example, my standard of excellence. No, not excellence – perfection. For we are to be holy just as our father in heaven is holy.

It’s easy to let my fingers gush the romantic ideal of attuning our hearts to the standard of Christ in order to play the sweet harmony, the endless melody of the life of a believer. It’s much harder to live this out.

It’s easy to let my heart slip in to its traditional discord. When I am overwhelmed, it’s easy to shut down, to cry, to complain. When I am heart broken, it’s easy to cry, to respond in anger, to doubt my own value. When I have failed, it’s easy to cry, to give up, to convince myself that failing is a part of my identity. Tears are God’s sweet gift to humanity to let our body release this well spring of emotion that bubbles and bursts at any moment. But nothing compares to the gift of Him to let our heart release this endless vat of sin that robs us of life, livelihood, relationship with our daddy.

In the many moments when I am overwhelmed, I beg the Lord that He lead me to the rock that is higher than I(Psalm 61:2). I can’t get there on my own and the longer I let my heart strings slip from tune, the more painful their return to reflecting the sound of the Father.

So every day I have to choose. I have to choose to tune my heart. To start my day in the word of God. To lift up my heart aches and failures to my perfect father who cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). I have to choose to take thoughts captive that don’t reflect the Lord, to wad up these thoughts and throw them out of my heart, my head, my life (2 Corinthians 10:5). When the Lord rescued me from sin, He planted the sweet sound of perfect harmony in my heart through the spirit, and in my hands through the word of God. He has given me the tools to tune my heart to sing His praise and He will finish His work (Philippians 1:6).

It’s a daily choice, though. A daily choice to die to myself. A daily choice to put to death the mood swings that plague me, the obsessive thoughts that pester my mind like gnats, the lies that Satan plants in my life that I water when I ruminate on them. Sometimes Satan just needs a good punch in the face – and scripture is the perfect vehicle for that. The sweet sound of harmony in the Father is the sound of Satan’s defeat – which he hates. But scripture is the perfectly-tuned truth that sounds the victory of Christ.

It’s not going to be easy – to get in the fight. A tuned guitar on the wall is naught but decoration until it’s played. Until its strings are picked over, squashed by fingers and capos. This is what happens when we get off the bench and in to the game – when our hearts are tuned we have to sing His praise – get to sing His praise. Speak truth – to ourselves, to others. Serve well – selflessly, patiently. Rest wisely – refreshing, renewing. Live radiantly – reflecting His righteousness. Beat the tar out of injustice, complacency, and lies.

I’m choosing, in this moment, to tune my heart to sing His praise. To write of His victory and mercy instead of wallowing in self-pity or dwelling on Satan’s ploys to steal my heart from my betrothed, from Jesus. The day I realized He had my hand and was never letting go, He sealed me with His blood and I can’t be lost from His kingdom. I can, however, stumble. But with continued time in His presence, His word, His mission, I train myself in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). I tune my heart to sing His praise. 

Father Daughter Dance

Sometimes I can’t sleep. Jesus tugs and tugs at my heart to get up and write until I’m so restless I obey. Tonight is one of those nights. My night ended with a sweet conversation with a beautiful woman of faith walking through the same battle as I am. And I finished a book that’s about to change my life. In its final chapter, I found little analogies I’ve been using for years, planted in the text by a God who sends me little lanterns every day to show me He loves me. The image of my infant hand holding on to God’s, while the real strength is in God’s powerful arm grasping mine. The truth that He disciplines me because He loves me. Even the idea of faith as a marathon, a goal that drove my months of training until injury kept me from running the race, but reminded me to listen to those who love me and don’t want me to sabotage my poor legs.
I literally lay in bed, staring at the eerily beautiful image of the UT tower out my window. I am theoretically waking up in five hours to go embarrass myself with two of my dearest friends at CrossFit.
God – will you just let me go to sleep? Fine – if you give me a title for this blog I’ll write it.
Callie – “Father Daughter Dance.” Now get writing.
It’s the end of February and disordered eating has actually gotten worse since I started treatment in August. And it’s slowly been dawning on me that I’ve never really had to work for anything in my life. I studied a bit and grades came easily – or I didn’t study at all and abused the gift of a brain He gave me. I practiced a bit and sight-read my way to piano success. I was either naturally good at a sport or I didn’t play (or I did play and casually warmed the bench – love ya, softball). I wanted God to take away this disorder overnight, begging Him for freedom.
God and I are kind of like me and Snowball – our Ignite annual semi-formal that happened last Sunday. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to put on a dress that would barely fit, or spend time with people when I could mope around my apartment and wallow in self-pity. And let’s be real – probably eat my feelings – thank youuuuuu Nutella (which, by the way, has proved an ineffective source of consolation compared to the comfort of Christ, but Paul gets it SO right in Romans 7 when he wonders why in the world he does what he doesn’t want to do #sinnature). Then one of my precious friends texted me and reminded me that sometimes I need to tell Satan to suck it – I’m the daughter of a King, rescued by His blood. So I put on a dress. And I got to spend hours with friends, dancing the only way I know how – best described as the “abort and flail” method.
I begged Jesus to let me sit out the dance. Daddy, just set me free of this thing so I can go on drping through life with a pitiful level of self-discipline and non-existent dependence on You. And He was, like, no. I think of that story in scripture where Jesus raises a little girl from the dead. I’m that little girl, dead in my transgressions, desperately wanting to wander through life on the outskirts of the school gym with the wallflowers who share my inability to dance.
But Daddy has other plans. He calls me His daughter, His beloved. He pulls me out on the dance floor, to spin and stumble my way through recovery. I’ll fall – as I have SO many times – but He’s holding on. And He’s actually not letting go. EVER. He tells us in Isaiah 41:13 “For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” Hebrews 12 promises that He disciplines us out of love, as a Daddy who doesn’t want us to miss the beautiful dance He has in store.
Although I love my “philosophy corner with Callie” moments, Jesus has been showing me that I can’t just set my mind to running the marathon and then run it. Like, shin splints on shin splints if you know what I mean. I had to spend months working up to the distance. Three miles wore me out when I first started – now ten miles is a casual run. Jesus compares our faith to a race in 1 Corinthians 9 for a reason. I would literally wake up pretty much every day and think that the day would be different. If I just worked harder, exercised more self-control, I could beat this thing. And pretty much every day I would fail. Because I was trying to drp my way along the wall of this dance – I didn’t want to step out of my comfort zone. I didn’t want to risk embarrassment and change and discomfort.
But He’s grabbing my hand and whisking me out there. It’s going to be an adventure of a dance – and it’s going to be hard. I don’t have to do it alone, though – Jesus tells me in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” I’m training for a marathon and Jesus gave me all the tools I need! I just have to use them. My nice new running shoes aren’t going to do a bushel of good in my closet. They only help when they’re on my feet.
So I’ve started letting Jesus work on my heart. I’m excited to spend time writing down the lies I believed about food, body image, people, faith – everything! I’m stoked to use scripture to counter those lies. My emotions are all tied up in the world, but by immersing myself in His word I can literally set my sights on what is above and pull my heart out of this death-trap of fitness and into my Daddy’s open arms. Discipline hurts – like 90% of my training runs. But every so often, I would blow through a six-miler and love it. The only run I ever regretted was the run I never did. And the one where I tried to do 20 miles and hurt my hip and got stuck in West campus.
So discipline will be ugly, hard, and uncomfortable. But my Daddy gave me some dancin’ shoes – probably dancing boots since He knows that’s what I like best! He gave me His word to plug in to, every day. And I’m not alone out there – there are incredible women all around me, falling and spinning their way through disorders like mine and other difficult ramifications about the cyclical and hideous nature of sin.
So dear Satan, sucks to be you right now. You may have the world, but I know who made the world and He made me too. Perfectly. Beautifully. Intentionally. My mind is mired in the depths of bulimia, but my heart beats to a different drum – the steady, rhythmic motion of my Daddy. The gentle, consistent rhythm of time in His word, disciplining my thoughts, holding myself accountable with the community He’s given me. Also, I am going to CrossFit in the morning whether you like it or not. Bring it on, MetCon.

The Frozen Gospel

Yes, I want to build a snowman, let it go, embrace the first time in forever, and discover if reindeer are really better than people. Let my new bedsheets with Anna and Elsa on them show that Frozen has quickly risen to the top of my extensive “I could watch this movie a million times” list – right up next to Tangled, Pride and Prejudice, Fired Up, Leap Year and Gladiator. Do I listen to the soundtrack on the regs? Is my showerhead getting sick of my renditions of all the songs in the movie? Do I gasp like a five-year-old every time one of the songs comes on? Invariably. But there is so much more to Frozen than a hilarious snowman, dreamy male lead, and catchy songs. Like in so many other blockbusters, the gospel peeks through myriad cracks in the icy storyline, proving that Jesus’s story of redemption is so engrained in all of our frozen hearts that it can’t help but emerge in our – well, everything! Including our movies!

Think of Elsa as us – she’s born a princess, daughter of a loving king and queen. But she’s different – capable of creating a winter wonderland which quickly turns from harmless diversion to dangerous threat. Her power to freeze is like sin. As attractive and fun as it may seem initially, sin not only separates us from God, but also from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Because of her power, Elsa was forced to “conceal, don’t feel.” Love became a closed door as she shut herself off from those she loved, aware of the danger of her power yet unable to control its vicelike grip on her icy hands. To quote Simon & Garfunkel, sin “like a cancer grows,” and repressive efforts only strengthened the power of Elsa’s condition.

Sin doesn’t simply gnaw on our hearts, robbing  us of the Lord’s gift of a heart of flesh and attempting to revert it back to its original state as a heart of stone. Sin hurts those we love as Elsa unknowingly hurts her sister in the beginning of the movie. Afraid of her own power, Elsa flees. She abandons the sister who loves her most, taking refuge in “ice”olation (I see what you did there, Disney) to free herself from miserable years of stifling her icy tendencies. Similarly, we run from the one who loves us most – from our Daddy. What Elsa viewed as letting go actually transformed her physically from the conservative queen to a seductive woman – the type of lascivious figure often referenced in the old testament in comparison to sin. So attractive, yet so cold.

But here’s the sweet part. We run hard from our daddy. But He runs harder after us. Anna wasn’t about to let fear or the lies of her community keep her from pursuing her sister. She tracked her down, but despite their reunion in the ice castle, Elsa was still trapped by her powers. A sacrifice was needed to free her from her frozen prison – see where we’re going here? J

In a stellar climatic moment near the end, Anna chooses to give up her life for her sister. Elsa was enslaved not only to this cold curse, but also to the fear of hurting her loved ones.  1 John 4:18 asserts that “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Through her sacrifice, Anna’s frozen heart was melted by a love that drives out fear. Made new!

There’s so many other little ice blocks of gospel in Frozen – every time I watch it Jesus tells me more about Himself! Like how Hans was initially such a dreamboat, until Anna was at her weakest. Similarly, sin can seem so attractive and only when the Lord allows us to be broken down are we able to see death trap of sin beneath its shroud of attractiveness and charm.

Even Olaf’s line to Anna that “some people are worth melting for” is a sweet reminder that some people are worth dying for. We are those people, and we are worth dying for. Not by anything we did – in fact, there’s nothing we can do. Scripture tells us that we were hostile to God! But despite the icy walls we erect around our frozen hearts, God’s love melts us so hard. We’re worth melting for, because Jesus melted for us. He let His perfect being spill His precious blood, dripping off a grimy cross. Then he beat the living daylights out of death. Sucks to suck, Satan.

Even the rocks/trolls cry out the glory of God! Kristoff’s goofy family is capable of providing so much wisdom, consolation, and laughter, although they initially appear as inanimate and mossy objects. Sounds like another inanimate object – brought to life through the spirit-breathed words of the world’s greatest love story, action novel, and self-help book. The bible sometimes seems like a bunch of rocks – weighty words dropped ineffectively on our minds. But when the spirit moves, the Lord reminds us that these wordy pebbles are life and useful for teaching, rebuking and training in righteousness! Quick shout out to the Jesus Storybook bible. It’s the literary equivalent of the song “Fixer Upper” – hilarious, cute, and meaningful.

The story of redemption is everywhere! Because our Daddy put a Jesus-sized hole in our hearts that only He can fill! We’re trapped, cold, helpless and afraid. But the red-hot flame of the love of Christ isn’t about to let us freeze – the cold never bothered Him anyway.

The Thief of Joy

My little brother is one of my best friends. Not a lot of people get to say that, but the Lord has given me this stud of a man, two years younger and many inches taller, as a constant co-conspirator and companion. We take trolling to new heights – and have to explain that word on the regs. To “troll,” according to urban dictionary (which I visited for the first time five seconds ago – hilaaaaaarious), is technically “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” But for Tim and me it’s more of “one who does a deliberately ridiculous act to an individual or group with the intention of causing maximum laughter and confusion.” Usually Tim and I are laughing the hardest.

Our family’s spent the past couple days at the lake house where my precious HGTV-addict of a decorative aunt dolled up four cute little homes for our extended family (and many missionaries and church groups!). In a card game my sweet momma continually called “foot mouth” (technically it’s “hand and foot,” but minor detail…), as the night tumbled on, Tim and I slowly lost hold on our already-tenuous grasp on maturity. Hours of quick wit, YouTube quotes, sound effects, and meaningless hand signals to throw off family members reminded me that in the midst of pain and struggle, God shows us glimpses of the joy He has in store.

It’s month six now of post-diagnostic treatment and I’m pretty sure I’ve actually gotten worse. I spent most of yesterday with bags of frozen rice on all the joints in my right leg after a really long run – this quick and extensive weight gain has changed my gait, rendering the orthotics in my shoes increasingly less effective in preventing injury. The notches on my belt are creeping outward, the elastic waistbands of my pajamas are inching inwards, and my energy levels are embarrassingly low – not to mention the poor example I know I set for overweight extended family members. I’ve spent hours trembling in the fetal position on my bed, curtains shut, tears clogging my already-compromised complexion as I desperately avoid facing the inexplicable emotions that plague me at unpredictable times. But I definitely cry into the pillowcase with the “Frozen” princess on it that I got at Target. I’m miserable at times, but still a goofy sister at heart!

When I’m crying and whiny and grumpy – basically all of the seven dwarves wrapped up in one normal-height individual – I let comparison rob me of the joy of the Lord. David spends the book of Psalms hopping from lamentation to exuberance and spanning most of the spectrum of human emotion – sounds a lot like me only this man’s faith blows me out of the water.

Comparison is one of the many thieves of joy – an element of a broken world that Satan uses to weasel his way into our lives and keep us from our Daddy. Call me captain comparison. But really. Obsessed with the way I size up, literally, against other girls. Painfully jealous of the beautiful dating relationships all around me and mildly nauseated by every cute engagement picture (it’s engagement y’all – “she said yes”). Angry at my mom for her charmingly moderate and healthy eating habits, furious with my brother who consumes slices of plain bread just to avoid letting his lightning-speed metabolism rob him of his bulky muscles. “It’s so not fair!” Translation: I’m a whiner and let my worldly comparison habit mar the sufficiency of God’s grace and provision.

Since when has my perspective on justice and what I deserve had any bearing on the truth of who God is and what He has planned for me? Did I forget to pay attention when He tossed over the keys to the limo of luxury or the SUV of the sweet life I have in mind? (I could have dropped them – in softball bench-warming was my greatest gift to the team #butterfingers). But none of the above – I just shut my eyes when he sent me about a billion signs that He loves me. He’s not about to let me suffer the consequences of a life directed by my own comparisons and whims – in His grace He took the keys out of the picture, sending His son to chauffer my life Himself on a dangerous road to an eternity with Him, replete with glimpses of what the bible and C.S. Lewis call the “weight of glory.”

Yup – on the outside I’m thrilled when my brother takes his incredible girlfriend, whom he met the first week of college, on a stargazing date in which he brought a camping stove to make her hot chocolate. On the inside I’m rife with jealousy, struggling to figure out which of my non-existent group of guy friends I’ll bring to our next Orange Jacket date function. I laugh and hug my friends as they cry over the dazzling new ring on their left hand, hating that my own ring from my parents for high school graduation gets tighter and tighter on my swollen fingers.

But I’m not my brother. I’m not my many recently-married/engaged/betrothed/promised/dating/inarelationship friends. I’m the woman God designed me to be. Never thought He designed me to look or feel quite like this, but it’s where I am right now! As a hyper-motivated, super-driven, hard-working leader of a woman, my lifelong singleness has been a constant thorn in my side. I’m consistently self-conscious, wondering what’s wrong with me, why solid Christian men never seem to take interest. People tell me I’m intimidating – and that’s the last thing I want to hear. The Lord has gifted me with intelligence and ambition, qualities I feel like rob me of the gentle and joyful aura of Christian womanhood I deemed necessary to settle down right after college after a Pinterest wedding and start a family.

I’m a goob. My daddy gave me a thirst for adventure and has SO intentionally blessed me with singleness, because this is His perfect plan for my ministry right now! I get to serve other single, and dating, girls, letting them see the brokenness under this go-getter exterior. Maybe I’ll be a navy doc and serve as an OB/GYN with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan? Maybe the Lord will bring my future husband into my life tomorrow! Either way Jesus is still Jesus and my mission is still to serve and glorify Him!

Comparison is a choice. But setting my eyes on jealousy and daydreaming only perpetuate this habit that weaseled its way into my worldview. When I run I get to think clearly – letting my mind bat around the results of comparison and of Christ. Comparison is easy – it’s what I’m used to. And it’s a thief of joy. “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things” – Colossians 3:2 and “take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” – Psalm 37:4. This power combo is the bat to crack a home run when Satan pitches softballs of jealousy. It’s not permission to turn God into cosmic Santa Claus – just the opposite! As we delight in the Lord, setting our minds on things above and choosing to consider Him and His word instead of our idols and insecurities, we render Him the desire of our heart. Jeremiah 29:13 promises that we fill find him when we seek him with all our hearts. The comparison game is lame. It’s like choosing to strike out every time we’re at the plate – home runs are a learned skill, developed from the habit of making the Lord the focus and desire of our hearts.

As for now, I’ve got a ridiculous cousin and goofy brother and loving family to spend New Year’s Eve with! But as a final reminder of God’s love here’s a short but cute reminder of how He feels about me – and you. Just because we’re His kiddos.  Mile seventeen of yesterday’s run was beyond brutal. My glucose and water supply ran out around mile fourteen and I was running on my brother’s rave playlist, will power and prayer. With six minutes to go, I felt like my legs would fall off at any moment. I think they might have – I probably wouldn’t have noticed since they’d gone numb like halfway through. That’s when Gunther joined. I found out his name later, but this big black and white dog trotted up and pranced along next to my heels after I begged the Lord to get me through this run. He stayed with me until I finished! I threw myself down on the yard of our lake houses the second my watch hit my finish time – naturally – and stared up at the spinning sky as Gunther stood next to me, reminding me that the Lord neither leaves me nor forsakes me. I was covered in leaves and over a day later, my legs still feel a little like jell-o. But Jesus is still Jesus – jell-o or no jell-o.  

The Beauty of Grace is that it Makes Life Not Clear

                “God is bigger than the boogie man. He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV…and He’s watching out for you and me.” – Junior Asparagus, Veggie Tales

                This little vegetable – armless yet somehow able to hold things – had it right all along. God is pretty big – actually really big. And He watches us jealously, guiding our lives with His sovereign hand.

                This is a truth confirmed in scripture so many times – Psalm 121, Psalm 139, Romans 8:28 – and about a gazillion other places! We don’t’ simply endure sufferings because God forgot about us or got caught up in running the rest of the universe. In His grace, he lets us undergo challenges to teach us, mold us, save us, free us, use us and literally whatever else He desires. The beauty of this is that sometimes we don’t know why things happen – and we may never know! But we can rest in the truth that He is bigger than our struggles, attentively delighting in us, holding our hand while we stumble through the path He laid out for us.

                This revelation dawned on me the other day as I was once again engaging in the melodrama of lamenting the loss of my once-so-thin body. Why did I get stuck with the one disorder that is brutally obvious? I mean, if this thing gets out of hand, everyone will know. If this remarkable rate of weight gain continues, I’ll adopt a whole new wardrobe, gait, and, well, shape! But that’s the beauty of it.

                The Lord gave me this disorder because the repercussions force me to face the issue head on. Bulimia – disordered eating in general – simply masks deeper pain and bondage. My precious therapist (literally this woman is the best) told me she’s never dealt with an eating disorder patient who hasn’t also suffered from depression, most also accompanied by the anxiety-OCD duo. And I am no exception.

Food became one element of my life I could control. By manipulating my intake and exercise, I could attempt to fill a desperate void, the source of which remains still unclear. Food became forbidden, morally labelled, slowly tightening its grip on my mind as days of calorie-counting and restriction engraved a dangerous pathway of food-related thoughts into my suffering brain. Biochemical insufficiencies compounded and the forbidden fruits (and by fruits I pretty much mean everything but) I had slashed from my diet became irresistably compelling. Will-power could only hold out for so long and the binges began – few at first, but increasing in intensity and frequency.

Food was no longer a source of fuel, but a powerful component of my ability, or lack thereof, to control my body. Somehow, the bingeing cycle perpetuated a view of food as not only a manner of slimming down, but also a method to stuff my emotion. I underwent months of therapy before the Lord began to peel back the layers of lies and ignorance that shielded my habit. Once I began eating a sufficient diet, the problems faded from the biochemical into the emotional and psychological. I was trapped – am trapped – in a bondage to food that I am convinced maintains a terrifying grip on so many others.

In a life rife with mercurial relationships, unforeseen circumstances, and mysterious happenings in our own bodies, food was a dependable coping mechanism. It tastes the same and has the same sedative effect. Always. And the immediate effects of overeating, abusing food by attributing to it drug-like qualities of temporarily curbing intense emotion, are difficult to see day in and day out. But day in and day out, my body felt the effects. Literally. Clothes became unwearable. Exhaustion became a daily battle. I have pen marks on my t-shirt sleeves from nodding off in every class mid-note-taking. This obsession, the addiction, and the chronic tiredness it creates has robbed me of mornings of productivity in my internship, running dates with friends, integrity in maintaining commitments, and an endless slew of other valuable experiences.

Sweet Jesus, thanks for allowing me to gain weight. If the effects of this disorder weren’t so troublesome, the habit would undoubtedly continue without addressing the issue. But in His grace, He’s let me experience the consequences of my actions. Most days, I simply feel like I’m making negative progress – one step forward and one step back then I trip and tumble like thirty six more. But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not only unclear and difficult to face, but also engenders trust.

About a gazillion mantras have rotated through my mind and pen as I temporary tat them on my left wrist. One of them is “Jesus is better.” He so is. No amount of food could stuff the anger, sadness, confusion or other unidentifiable emotions that ran my life for so long. No edible entity can fill the void I created in my heart by placing my identity in the perfection of performance and not the grandeur of grace.

To the many who struggle as I do, using food for a purpose for which it was never intended, Jesus is better. I have made a lot of baby steps and taken a lot of tumbles backward, and am still in the midst of recovery, but Jesus is better. My will-power continually fails, my silly crash diet efforts are actually hilarious at this point, and my flesh will fail – does fail. But the Lord is my strength, my portion forever.