I wrote this draft around the exact same time of year, at the end of January, in 2013–3 years ago. I never continued it, or wrote about any of the listed items/events in detail because I considered them too big to grasp in mere writing, or in a single blog post, and the task of writing six separate posts too daunting all at once, if six would even suffice.
Some of the memories listed below remain strong, seared into my memory like parts of my personality and existence that were permanently changed, at least for a while. If that is a contradiction, well, so is memory.
Hm. How to consolidate the last month of my life into one post?
Poem about Italy
Makoto Fujimura–To see is to pray. Maybe for me, to write is to pray. (true already on many different levels!)
God is always so gracious to me, always exceeding my expectations. He answers my prayers before they’re even fully formed in my mind. He gives rest to the weary. It is a joy above all else to simply fall on my hands and knees and face and worship him–I wish I could breathe this truth in every moment of my life.
Some of the memories listed above have turned into smoke, as in artsy, light, wispy, almost-fragrant swirls of chimney smoke from rooftops in Venice that I did not see because it was raining that day and still there were too many tourists, whirling around like inappropriate amounts of cream in our too-thick, too-rich, too-delicious because we already paid for it chocolate, filled up to a romantic substantiality by the echoes of our four part harmony touching the tiny arched ceilings of trespassed Italian entryways.
That’s not the poem I wanted to write about Italy, but that is the general feeling that I still remember. I think I may have written an actual draft saved somewhere on my computer, and maybe I will dig it up again later, but for now this smoke will suffice.
As for Psalm 91, that was a testimony of how God spoke to me powerfully through a sister in Christ in a time when I was overwhelmed by fear, nightmares, and various sources of stress both real and imagined. I was comforted and strengthened that week by this Psalm, and I shared its testimony a few times with other people in the next month. I could not have imagined that about 3 months later it would be this Psalm, that testimony, and God’s gracious divine repetition that would pull me out of the deepest doubt and despair that I have yet experienced about my faith in my life.
The basic message that remains in my heart is this: There is no fear that Christ has not overcome. God’s promises are true and steadfast, and he will crush the devil underfoot, in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones. The greatest miracle that we need has already been accomplished, and yet because of his grace he allows us to witness even more miracles daily; similarly the best miracles are those that cannot be visibly seen or tangibly grasped, but are undeniably real, like the love between a mother and a daughter.
Sometimes I still forget this message. I pray that this truth will continue to resound in my heart and in my life today.
Alabaster is related to the point above. I realized then that the church is flawed and we cannot take everything for granted or as truth, even if it is said in a church, or by someone of authority. Of course, in every flawed church there can also be many great achievements. I mean this not in the sense of miraculous healings or sweeping conversions but in the humbling of individual hearts before God, alabaster jars of perfumed oil spread at his feet. I realized that I do not know everything, in fact, I know almost nothing at all. I wondered if the perfume was wasted or if after all was said and done that I would find the jar to have been empty all along. But I also realized that when I poured out even the emptiness of my little jar, it was then that I knew what it meant to be filled up to the point of overflow. People complain that the Bible is full of contradictions. In some ways, I think it really is. Life is gained through death. Wealth by giving everything away. Honor through humility. Fullness of God by emptying of self. They are the most beautiful of contradictions that somehow make perfect sense.
Hy–‘s Baby was the first baby I have ever witnessed carried to term by someone I consider a close friend. I remember watching her grow in her mother’s belly for months, and how easily she was made to smile in her cradle after she was born. She was given a name that means “full of life,” and now that she is 3 years old, everyone can see how true she is to that name. The family moved away the year the baby was born, at the end of my sophomore year, so I had not seen them since.
Now there is another baby, and the family has moved to Korea, coincidentally (or not), and I was able to visit them for the first time in 3 years just this past week. I was so filled with joy and awe just watching how the whole family interacted in love and how the parents raised their children with patience and wisdom. For the first time, I felt truly envious of my friend in her life stage as a young mother.
Makoto Fujimura was a Japanese artist who spoke to us about how he sees and serves Christ through his art. The most impressive thing that I remembered, I already wrote down. To see is to pray. To live is to pray. If this were to become true, what would my life look like? Not to spend my whole life in the actual physical act of prayer, but to envision every physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual act as an offering, as prayer.
Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. This is something that took me the rest of college to learn, and that I am probably still learning. Isn’t it ironic that we spend so much energy learning to work hard, and then work even harder to learn how to rest?
I think it is incredible that 3 years later, I can see how the things God was teaching me back then have returned, or perhaps have always remained, in my life, only with more meaning than before. I have been in Korea for half a year now, and I have been putting off writing about all the things that have happened so far because I have feared again that they are too big, too many, too indescribable, or perhaps too small, too trivial, too unworthy of my time to take note of them, except in brief scribbles in the margins of my notebooks and emails to myself.
I see now that even if I do not write, God continues writing. I write these things in retrospect and reflection now because I do not want to forget, and because I want to start again in writing without fear. Maybe someone really needs to read these things that God has taught and is teaching me. Maybe that someone is me. So I echo this prayer that I wrote 3 years ago and I hope that the next 3 years may be as emptied out, and thus as filled to the point of overflowing:
God is always so gracious to me, always exceeding my expectations. He answers my prayers before they’re even fully formed in my mind. He gives rest to the weary. It is a joy above all else to simply fall on my hands and knees and face and worship him–I wish I could breathe this truth in every moment of my life. Amen.