I thought about writing on here last night. But the things I wanted to say still felt too fresh and vulnerable to send out into the World, so instead I sat quietly on my bed and penned some things in the Leather Book. It’s a good book, that one. A safe place for all my words that don’t quite make sense, yet. And sometimes when I read back through its pages, the once-nonsensical words become sensible and I can see how the whole puzzle was put together.
But a lot of times, they still feel like untethered and unfound pieces of a 5,000 piece jigsaw that will only be completed when the Kingdom Comes...and maybe not even then. They sound desperate and angry and like...Psalms. “Oh Lord, I am having such a hard time. Where are you? Can you hear me? Please send help.” Was that not the frequent cry of the Psalmist? Of Job? of Joseph? Of the Israelites? Moses? Paul? Those of us who weep are in good company.
So now that all my heart-words are safe in that Book over there on my dresser, I can come here and share a bit publicly. I feel safe, here, typing into my OmmWriter--the click-click-click typewriter sound of the keys playing as these letters flow. The candles are lit: the ambiance under which I both write and shower. I guess that makes sense--both writing and showering are cleansing acts of self-therapy, and so it’s fitting to have both tasks backlit by the same light source. Writing/Showering by candlelight. Same/Same. The flames are a continuous reminder that it only takes one little light to fight back Darkness. Flickers of hope are many.
And yet, I am in a Sad Spot. I’m not quite sure how long it’s been, but I’ve been on the verge of tears throughout my days lately. Not tears like the weeping kind--though there have been those--but the kind of tears that roll silently down flushed cheeks. The kind that get you all choked up so that you can only talk in a whisper and even then mostly just say “i can’t talk about it.” I’m not sure why The Sadness is here, but I’m guessing it’s a combination of things. The Holiday season is holy and beautiful, but it’s also Hard for many. The air is thin with excitement and bustle and decorations and gifts, and under all thinness--just beneath the surface--I can feel the thick air of Sadness...Loss...Regret...Despair. The thin layer of sparkle and shine feels so fragile, like it could burst at any second and we’d all find ourselves down on our knees with our faces buried into tear-soaked carpeting--longing...missing...reminiscing on Years Past...on What Could Have Been...on What Could Be...on What Was.
I sit in church and listen to Pastor talk about how Advent prepares our hearts for the coming of Christ, and I feel all these people next to and beside and behind and in front of me--and all those I carry in my heart by the minute--buckling under the weight of the burdens they carry, desperate as they wait in Hope for the coming of the King whose "yoke is easy and burden is light."
And I think to myself...well, come He did.
And there the Jews stood with their heavy burdens and He told them if they wanted to follow Him they’d have to pick up crosses.
And here we are, 2,000 years later, and the burdens sure as heck don’t seem any lighter and we’re walking around with our backs breaking and hearts crushed because life entails more Loss than any of us can really bear.
The refugees are still running from reigns of terror, and heads are still rolling, and families are still fighting and breaking, and people are still getting shot, and wars are still raging, and breakups are still happening, and there is still estrangement between mothers and daughters, and we still have hard hearts and refuse to self-reflect, and the people He came to save are still outright rejecting Him, and WE’RE ALL STILL PRETTY DARN SAD, SO WHAT GIVES?
It’s been a few weeks now since I wrote a Very Sad Letter. I write a lot of letters, to a lot of people, but once in while life brings occasion for a Necessary Letter, and those are always really hard. They’re the letters that feel like a punch in the gut when I write them, and every time I reread them, and when I hand them to their Reader. I’ve written very few in my twenty-two years, and they’ve all been written for different reasons and at different times, but the effect is always the same.
Sadness. Loss. Brokenness.
This one, in particular, was a real kicker. It stemmed from a choice I needed to make about who I would declare King over my life: God or Myself. Submit my will to His or choose my will above all else? It’s a decision we all need to make, in every situation and many times a day, but sometimes it has very tangible and clear consequences.
This was one of those times.
Obedience is not easy, and I’m not sure God ever said it would be. And there’s always the question of whether I’m actually walking in Obedience, but I think most of the time all I can ask of myself is do whatever it seems the Next Right Thing is and then continue to walk forward in that decision. With many decisions like this one, Sadness is a natural consequence. I’m never sure how long it will last, but I’m always strangely thankful for its presence. Sadness is a good companion, albeit a teary one. It reminds me that I am capable of feeling loss--and therefore capable of feeling Love. It gives me a place to reminisce on Happier Times and realize that whatever, whoever, I lost is worth my emotional energy. It invites me to slow down and sit with my feelings, instead of trying to analyze and explain them away. It's stubborn and tells me it's here to stay for a while, so I might as well serve it a cup of hot tea and invite it in by the fire. Sadness is sort of cozy--like a heavy blanket wrapping me up on the couch while snow falls outside the windows.
But Sad Seasons are hard for me. They make me resent myself.
“This is not Jordan! The real Jordan is bubbly and happy and chipper and always always hopeful. Eternally hopeful. The real Jordan smiles without faking it and speaks articulately and processes verbally and digs deeply. The real Jordan knows All Shall be Well and All Shall be Well and All Manner of Things Shall be Well and so she flits around and offers long bear hugs and kneads cinnamon roll dough...happily!”
And yet I’m reminded that this is all me...all of me. I’m sometimes hopeless. I cry a lot. I like curling up under covers. I only like talking to people half the time. Maybe forty percent of the time. I’m good at socializing for two hours, max. I write a lot and think a lot and write more. And I sleep nine hours a night. I don’t do well with change, and I don’t do well in cities. I have a desperate need to be fully known and be loved in and FOR my fullness. I let people’s stories break my heart, and I usually fall quickly and deeply into friendships and relationships when I want them badly enough. Other times, it takes months to break out of my shell and decide to maybe try new friendship on for size. I’m terrified of being run away from. I live in two spectrums: showing people all of myself or being a shell of me. I like spending all day getting ready to put on a fancy dress and then changing into sweats within three hours of zipping it up. In essence, Sad Seasons are hard because I don't like feeling so burdened, and I don't like not being able to answer the WHY?? and WHEN??? questions. Thinkers need their questions answered, and the more I learn and know and ask, the more questions I have, and there are less answers of which I'm sure. But then, maybe, we acquire less and less of a need for cognitive closure the more we grow. Maybe true growth, in so many areas, means less answers. Maybe as we grow, the necessity for specific answers becomes reduced--we begin to realize how small we really are and how great, big, mysterious, and magical the world really is (Paraphrase of a Tim Kressin caption). Just a tangential thought.
These seasons also make me quiet, and thoughtful, which isn’t usually a very good combination for a deeply analytical verbal processor.
I’m told being analytical is one of my defense mechanisms, and maybe it is. I sometimes think that if I can just think and process and critique my way through something, I won’t have to bow to my feelings or listen to what they’re telling me to do. Using my brain feels much safer and wiser than using my heart. Usually, I use my heart first and then my brain comes later, and the decisions my brain makes make my heart Sad. Usually peaceful, but Sad.
And so, all this has got me thinking long and often about those for whom the Holiday Season is hard, and sad. A friend whose daddy died earlier this year posted a picture of she and her parents on Instagram tonight, and I felt like someone punched the world in the stomach. How is she supposed to spend CHRISTMAS without her DADDY?!? And my cousins and sweet Aunnie are spending yet another Christmas without my Uncle Greg, and there is dysfunction on both sides of my family, and many in my extended family do not know Jesus, and both my own daddy’s parents are now dead, and there are refugees who don’t even have a country to call home, let alone a roof over their head, who are giving birth in tents in the snow, and it just seems that a lot of people are feeling a lot of Darkness these days.
But then there’s the Christmas music. That speaks of sleigh rides through pure white snow; of families gathered cozy 'round chestnut-roasting fires; of bundling up with the one you love when it’s cold outside; of building snowmen named Frosty and believing in a reindeer with a red nose. And through all the thinly veiled happily heart-swelling music, there is an underlying note that says all is not yet Right, but we are waiting...desperately waiting...for Someone to come make it so.
And there’s this one ancient carol that sings
O ye beneath life's crushing load,
and I weep.
I look at my candles, flickering here in the dark, illuminating the room where I sit in my Sadness, and I remember that a King has come and is coming. He’s a King who invites us to rest, because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. It is because He said it is. He’s a King who didn’t come and Fix All Our Sadness but instead experienced it with us so He could say:
“I get it. I feel your pain, and I took on your death for you. I am working, and I am making all things new.
And I am coming back.”
And so, though our forms bend low beneath life’s crushing loads; though we toil slowly and unendingly with painful steps; the golden hour is near. We can rest in our Sadness in the midst of our waiting, because the Angels are singing.
Our King has come and is coming back
and so we wait
Because Hope is all we have when the world turns dark and we long for the Light to return to our chilly bones and weary souls. We must continue to carry the torch--to hold fast to the flickering flames of the miracles in our every day lives. The singular warm and radiant flames dance and whisper
He's coming back soon.
Light the first Advent candle and hold onto the Hope--the Hope that's been held and carried by forms bent low for thousands of years.
We are being held.
And so, even still, we wait...
& our Faith and Hope
will carry us through.
So I was talking about marriage today with a dear friend and her husband, and at one point long into the conversation her husband said something like this:
"I think it's possible that we're all too caught up in the question of 'who am I supposed to marry?' It consumes the thoughts, discussions, and prayers of so many of us Christians between the ages of 18 and 20-whatever, and I sometimes wonder if there are more important Kingdom Things with which to concern ourselves. I realize marriage is a BIG DEAL and a BIG COMMITMENT, but sometimes I think we make too big a deal of the 'Choosing the One' part of it.
Then one time I was discussing this issue with my best friend's pastor, who leads and disciples a lot of young(ish) Christian men, and he said something similar. He said that to decide on whether or not to marry a certain woman, a Christian man must ask himself these three questions about her:
I'm reducing this conversation to a couple short paragraphs when in reality it spanned a few hours, so I'm leaving out a lot of nuance. But I wanted to introduce those two viewpoints as a segue into some thoughts of my own. They help put into context all I'm going to type next.
I spent the day at their house mostly studying but also thinking about the conversation from this morning. His wife (my dear friend) and I were talking some hours later, and she asked me what I thought about those three questions. As we discussed, I realized I take issue with them (for many vast and varied reasons). She suggested we come up with a list of our own, together, because the question of "how do I know if I should marry this guy?" is important, and we both think it's good to have some sort of tried & true thought process behind our vacillations. The reality is that there's got to be a way for a woman to "filter through" the men asking her out to dinner. I don't mean for that to sound harsh or in any way to undermine the Biblical (and right) concept of submission and husband-as-family-leader. But I do mean it seriously. When a woman is being asked out for coffee on more occasions than she has spaces in her planner and getting "the look" from a handful of guys who haven't even asked yet, she cannot feasibly say YES, YES, and YES to every one of them. That game is exhausting and heart-wrenching and more times than not, fruitless. (News Flash that isn't news at all: the Dating Game is exhausting and heart-wrenching...) She has to have some foundation that helps her decide upon the sort of man to whom she'll say "YES, coffee sounds great; YES let's talk tonight; YES please take me to dinner; YES I want to get to know you."
And, when she meets a guy with whom she can envision marriage, it's important she has an objective SOMETHING by which to evaluate the situation and potential relationship. "Love is blind," they say. And they're right. We get all caught up and infatuated and gooogly-eyed, and we sometimes forget to add in a little logic. I think the butterflies and the heart-eyes are all good and important--I really do. I think the "falling" element of "falling in love" is precious and something to be enjoyed. But all of THAT is only healthy (and fruitful) if the Big Questions have already been discerned, asked, and answered correctly.
As we processed and discussed, we boiled it down to ten questions. Then we thought "man, that's a lot. Can we reduce the list?" So, we did. In the end, I think all the Things we were attempting to get at can be answered by four main questions. But since you're probably curious, I'll tack the "extra 6" onto the end of the list.
1) Does he love Jesus?
5) Do we see eye-to-eye on Fundamental Things. ***
I truly believe the last six are both embedded in and follow naturally from the first four, but I wanted to include them because they are *very* important. Sometimes it's nice to have the "what, then, should follow...?" clearly spelled out.
It can all seem so confusing, so Big, so daunting, can't it? Especially at this age. Most of us are joyful in singleness yet yearn for marriage. We want to be mamas and daddies. We want to settle down and experience stability. We want to know the man/woman with whom we will Do Life and Kingdom Work. And so, I think these questions are at least helpful. They're helping me stay on track and not get ahead of myself...or ahead of God. They're helping me really Listen to the Holy Spirit, who guides my life...our lives.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and convictions. Really, I would. The topics of dating/relationships/marriage are some that I've pondered/prayed about/wrestled with more than any others. I don't mean to make it all complicated. I really don't. In fact, I wish it was simpler than I've experienced it to be. I wish I could say: "the answer to each of those four questions is YES, so let's be done with all the Dating Games we've played our whole lives and just get married already!" But the reality is that it takes two to tango, yeah? So, naturally, it's going to be slightly more complex than me saying YES. First, he's got to ask. And until that day, Lord Jesus give me patience. :)
Addendum: Thoughts from Friends
First, I think it’s important to distinguish two issues. The first is: How do I tell whether I should say yes to someone who wants to go on a date with me?
I really appreciated all Chris had to say. I think I'd even add a 4th question onto his addendum. Something like:
4. Is there CHEMISTRY?
(A guy/girl can "check all the boxes," but if there’s not that level of spark, it ain’t gonna work (in most cases). I must admit that when deciding whether to say yes to a first date, chemistry is one of the two things I use to make my decision. The first is whether or not he claims to be a Christian. The second is whether or not I’m actually attracted to him. The third would be whether I can feasibly fit a date into my stupid school schedule ;) )
I think that we totally spend too much time thinking about marriage and the future when we are exhorted to not worry about tomorrow. It is a natural and beautiful thing though so it is not wrong or evil. But I think "a woman's heart should be so lost in God that a man must seek him to find her."
Yep, I love that quote too. The one about running toward God and looking to see who is running with us. There's something spectacular (I presume) about seeing your calling align with another's calling and then TEAMING TOGETHER for the sake of the Kingdom. And LIKING EACH OTHER while doing so. Woah, how awesome.
hey, i'm jordan.
i write here because i think our words are worth sharing.