prelude

We have to believe we are loved.
Because we ARE loved.

I’ve felt a little bit stuck for what has felt like a long while. But not in a way I can explain. Just stuck.
Just go with me. It’s probably felt like a long while because I’ve been feeling stuck, and so on.

But this week has allowed me to slow down some. I know because at the very beginning of this week, I started getting a cold. The only time I ever get colds is at the end of a very stressful time, when I’m coming down to relaxation mode, and my body lets go, and I stop fighting and my body goes, oh, look, you overworked yourself again.
I need to stop. I need to cease. I know this. I have always been the kind of person who needed silent, slow, still time. College was this whirlwind that I didn’t want to get caught by, but about halfway through, the busyness bug bit.

I need to be so entrenched in the joy of God’s love and the joy of repentance that it pervades even the stuck and the dark that can creep in. Being stuck and being still aren’t the same thing. Being stuck implies that there’s something wrong – that I need to be gotten out, moved forward, saved from the circumstances. But I don’t need to be brought out of my circumstances. I need to be still inside of them. I need to stop trying to pry myself out – stop thinking I’m stuck, and just be still. Like in Harry Potter (one of my favorite ways to begin a sentence) when Harry, Ron, and Hermione fall onto Devil’s Snare, this massive plant that could eventually tighten around them and strangle them. Hermione recalls learning that fighting the Devil’s Snare will only cause it to wrap tighter and tighter, and eventually kill them. What they need to do, rather than trying to pull themselves out of this plant they’re stuck in, is relax. They just need to relax, and the plant will let go of them. It won’t recognize their presence, and they can fall through. Ron has a really hard time with this, of course, and Hermione has to help him by blasting sunlight at it, which I suppose is a loophole, but you get the jist. 

I feel like I can turn every situation into Devil’s Snare. Fitting name, right?

I need to treat people as though they are completely forgiven, and somehow this really stops bitterness in its tracks. Sometimes I feel like I want people to know the depth of hurt they have caused me. I treat them out of my hurt heart, out of my broken place, rather than out of grace and forgiveness. I think that if I am too quick to act normal, they’ll never understand. But it’s not for me to cause guilt and cast judgment. It’s for me to be magnanimous. Set my mind above the situation, and behave, no matter what, with love and kindness.

I’ve been listening to the newest needtobreathe album, “Rivers in the Wasteland,” for the past few weeks, and I can’t get enough. Standout quotes from most every song, because their lyrics on this album are pretty perfect: 

“All of these people I meet, it seems like they’re fine. Yeah, in some ways I hope that they’re not, and their hearts are like mine. It’s wrong when it feels like work to belong – all I feel is hurt.” (“Wasteland”)

“We are all transgressors, we’re all sinners, we’re all astronauts, so if you’re beating death then raise your hand, but shut up if you’re not!” (“Difference Maker”)

“Heaviness is only temporary, the daylight will soon break in. The sunlight can change a heart in the wake of a bitter end. Oh, I know I’m gonna rise again. Set my sights on where I’m going and my goodbyes to where I’ve been. Oh, I know I’m gonna rise again. Singing farewell, king of the broken – so long, my friend.” (“Rise Again”)

“Your love is like radiant diamonds bursting inside us – we cannot contain. Your love will surely come find us, like blazing wildfires singing your name. God of mercy, sweet love of mine, I have surrendered to your design. Let this offering stretch across the skies and these hallelujahs be multiplied.” (“Multiplied”)

“Like a bull chasing a matador is a man left to his own schemes. Everybody needs someone beside them shining like a lighthouse from the sea…I know that in my weakness I am stronger; it’s your love that brings me home.” (“Brother”)

One day, in the midst of end-of-semester stress, Nick sent me the Bible verse that is central to the album, Isaiah 43:19: “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

On the day of my graduation party, Nick and I were driving out to my aunt and uncle’s house in the country and listening to the album. As we got farther away from Lincoln, I pulled out Jesus Lives, stopped the music, and opened to a page on “The Future,” a hot topic in most every conversation I have lately. As I got to the end of the page I was reading aloud, I stumbled over the last sentences: “As you continue taking steps of trust, expect the path before you to open up in refreshing newness. I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” I stumbled because I started crying, laughing in disbelief. My eyes shot to the opposite page: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and steams in the wasteland.” I couldn’t stop laughing, and crying a little. I was speechless.

After a long year of nothing speaking to my heart, God found his way through to me. Found his way through all the stones I put up. Self sufficiency leaves me dehydrated. I didn’t even realize how thirsty I was until I felt it again – until I felt that closeness of God speaking, almost whispering directly in my ear, “Emily, you look at yourself and where you are and see nothing but dry wasteland. But I am going to quench and nourish – even bring rivers through, and transform it so that it’s no longer the same.” God surrounds me with his message – with his love for me, but he has to get really obvious before I start recognizing him. It’s not as though this was the first time in a long time that he’s been with me and helping me. But it is amazing to me that he pursues us in our blindness.

I went to Florida last week for Reformed University Fellowship’s summer conference – a conference full of college students learning about Jesus and spending four hours a day on the beach. The main speaker from the conference was wonderful. He talked about justification. I wish I could just drop everything that he said into your brain so it would be as if you’d experienced it just the same as I did. I still need to read through my notes and relearn and revisit everything I was thinking about that week, so maybe I’ll just blog again in a few days when there’s more chance of clarity and less likelihood of rambling.

I had to pick one, so this is the last song from the album that you should probably just buy and listen to, but first hear this beauty.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KEPEI5hzOs

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