It’s Okay to Admit that Losing Friends Hurts

friendsLosing friends hurts.

Sometimes I think that if all the energy we pour into avoiding that fact were spent elsewhere, we’d have cured world hunger by now.

The memes clutter our feeds.

“We never lose real friends, only fake ones.”

“Those who can’t handle your worst, don’t deserve your best.”

“Be yourself and the right people will gravitate towards you.”

“If they didn’t stay, they were never meant to.”

And today I found myself wondering…Who are we trying to convince?

Over the years, I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost them because someone moved. I’ve lost them because they got “too busy to call”. I’ve lost them because they married. I’ve lost them because they got married and wanted to stay friends but were female, and it was no longer appropriate. I’ve lost them because they forsook God and all the awkwardness that causes in the coffeeshop (I should have fought harder for those). I’ve lost friends simply because one of us changed, or revealed their darker side, and the other decided they didn’t like what they saw.

I’m no special case. Life winnows things away, and friends are no exception. It’s left me with a small but committed group of close friends I know I can count on, no matter how many the miles and misunderstandings. We’re in it for the long haul. I want to hurl myself into a lake with joy when I think of those people.

And sure, some people are best left in the past.

But…

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We Must Never Become Black Holes

holeI can’t express how stoked I am. In order to convey my illustration, I have to be geeky – I have to accurately explain the nature of a black hole.

“Hole” has always been a misnomer (leading to a lot of inaccurate artists’ renderings over the years, corrected only recently for the mainstream in 2014’s Interstellar). A black hole is an exotic star, one collapsed so far and grown so dense that its gravity out to a certain spherical distance is strong enough to restrain all light emanating from it. Since an object is only seen by the light it reflects to your eyeballs, that spherical region of a black hole appears, well, black to the outside observer. The star itself is still inside, but forever hidden from view because its light can’t reach you.*

For a long time, I was a black hole. Sucking everything in, emitting very little. God was slowly working on my strength, changing me from the inside, but it was a process.

Then, a few years ago, I chanced into a dating relationship. We had a good five months together before she called it off. That’s okay. It happens. (She’s engaged now.) But it was a revealing time for me. I got a chance to see how such companionship affected me, what it brought out, what it exposed.

Amongst the discoveries was this: while we dated, I started taking risks I hadn’t taken before. I found a greater enthusiasm for people, asking how they were, hearing their stories. And later, after the relationship ended, I found myself tempted to revert to my usual introversion. After some self-reflection, I realized why.

Emotional gravity.

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It’s Not About You, Christian Graduates

Graduation is upon you.

What a relief. To be freed from the hallways of the high school you’ve learned to hate and launched upon the world full of possibility. Just to be celebrated is a great feeling. Goodness knows we don’t get enough of that these days. Everyone is flying in from across the country just to attend your party, churches are holding banquets in your honor, and all of it is wonderful. It’s your moment in the sun. Bask.

The graduation speeches are exciting. Live your dreams. Reach for the stars. Realize yourself and your potential. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are or what you can’t do. Perhaps there is some truth there.

But we have a few problems here.

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To the Mother Who Second-Guesses Herself

mother-and-son-1256829_960_720 (1)Humility requires me to speak respectfully, even in awe, when it comes to motherhood. I have not yet been a parent, and I will never be a mother.

But I have learned this, mothers, thanks to my years in youth ministry: you have regrets. No matter how well your children have turned out, as they cross the stage and flip their tassels, all smiles with relief, you think of their flaws (as if there weren’t supposed to be any) and long to have some days back. Even when I’m thinking, amazed, “Are you kidding? I’ve known your kid for years. They’re awesome!”

The longing is legitimately greater in some mothers. But the mammoth task of motherhood is bound to leave holes. A mother can find the tiniest flaw in her own mother-work, as surely as she can spot a speck of dust on a table.

I want to encourage today. Yet I will never been a mother. I speak better than I know.

But I have been a child.

And I can say this with great certainty to many mothers: your children are probably thinking far better of you than you are.

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Boasting in My Weaknesses???

wreckI hate my brokenness.

I want it to end.

It’s been a tough week at work. The kind that leaves you feeling like a rusting wreck in the desert. Ever found yourself dreading going to work and finding out what little mistake is coming back to bite you this day? You’re breathing, so yes.

I know my weaknesses well. We’re old acquaintances. Not friends, though. I want them out of my life.

Tonight, though, I have to deal with the fact that they’re not conquered yet, that tomorrow hasn’t come yet, that the next opportunity to win hasn’t come yet. I have to deal with the shame and inadequacy that swarm toward this vulnerable chump like flies toward a carcass.

I’m reminded of a familiar saying.

God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.

But…there’s a but in my heart.

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“Happiness is Up to You”

celebrate2I entreat you for a respite from our usual Christian talk about how joy and happiness are different things.

Joy is possible in any circumstance, generated by intimacy with God and hope of heaven, not our earthly trappings. I fully embrace that as a central and crucial tenet of our faith. I even embrace the idea, without flinching, that God will withhold happiness if it makes us holier. That is well and truly believed on this blog.

But since I also believe that God does not exactly hate our happiness, let me share a verse from a poem that I ran across yesterday…

I asked God to give me happiness,
And God said, “No”,
He said, “I give blessings,
Happiness is up to you.”

– author unknown

Wow.

Yes, I know…I took this from a larger poem containing a few other ideas that some might differ on. That’s why I only reproduced this paragraph, because…wow.

How many blessings have we received and not made the most of?

Now, I hate that the previous sentence (and others like it) tend to come across so watery, wispy, and commonplace. Sometimes a little jolt is needed to really make a thought come alive. So let me offer a question I once read, one that truly exploded my contentment and easily counts as one of the top five most mind-blowing things I’ve ever absorbed:

What if God were to announce tomorrow that he would remove from your life everything for which you failed to thank him today?

ACK.

duck

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Godrise

riseWe’ve had a couple spectacular moonrises this last week, the enormous full orb majestically cresting the Swan Range, glowing against the cold, solid purple of the Earth’s shadow at twilight. My friends Mark and Cheryl were able to grab a camera and make a whole album out of it. (That is heroism, by the way – it was below zero temperatures that night. Again.)

No fussy, garish special effects extravaganza in today’s movies can give you chills quite like that simple sight, can it? Or like the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter that took place two Junes ago. Your mind knows that what it’s seeing is real, and you are awed – and humbled. Such is the power and artistry of God.

I had a random thought, do what you will with it: The moon prevents our earthly existence from averaging 50% light, 50% darkness. Its “sneaking” the sun’s light back into the night via reflection means that the overall balance ends up tipped in light’s favor…kind of like the balance of good and evil being ultimately tipped in God’s favor.

“Nothing can be so evil as God is good,” wrote Stephen Charnock. That idea stuck with me when I read it years ago. Some unconsciously believe that evil and good are opposite but equal. Cancelling each other out, neither ever quite going away (lest the movie have no sequel). But Scripture says God has won the battle, is winning the battle, and will ultimately triumph entirely.

 

Indeed, in the wintertime with snow covering the landscape, the moon is bright enough that you could drive at midnight without headlights (though I do not recommend it, or accept liability for what happens if you do). A fascinating parallel to the way God can be greatest and closest at the darkest solstice of our own lives.

Some darkness must come today. There will remain a groaning “as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

But one day, it will be defeated. Every tear wiped away. The day is not so far off now. God’s final victory is rising.

I wait eagerly.

In the meantime, God has given me a heckuva universe to watch. I sit slackjawed like a geeked-out kid before his cosmic theater.

 

Photo credit: Mark and Cheryl Reasner