A million miles in ninety days

November 18, 2015

You ever look at a picture of yourself as a kid, and then look in the mirror and think, "How did I get here?" Are those smile-lines on my face (jumping in Power Ranger pajamas), the same ones I have now when I cry? Has my favorite chocolate-milk bottle turned into after-work cocktails? Is this office the same as my winnie-the-pooh bedroom?

Change is inevitable, and usually scary. But I won't delay the point: you're you. Whether you've got some extra miles on your tired arches, or some serious heartaches in your soul; you are the kid then, living as a grown-up now.

Those parts of you that used to feel a bit more shiny don't disappear after you turn twenty-one (and learn that bar tabs aren't that fun, and the not-having-a-curfew is overrated on a work night). 

Change comes.

And sometimes, it doesn't take a far-gone childhood to notice.

Ninety days ago, I turned twenty-four.

That girl...I really don't know what to say about her. She is me. (We are always who we are.) But her skin feels large and out-of-place - like the 2XL shirt I bought at a concert last night.

Today, I smile - but I do so, knowing what it means to shake on the floor and sob. Today I laugh - but I do so knowing what it is to mourn without escape. Today I love - but I do so with the knowledge of loss, and the uncovered mask of naivety. These are the things that make adulthood seem harsh.

"Why can't I go back to chocolate ice cream and Toy Story?" But adulthood - and growth - isn't the forever oppressing dictator in our lives. Staying the same is.

Refusing to better ourselves, to stretch ourselves, to step into discomfort and become more whole while embracing all the holes inside ourselves; refusing to grow, and embrace change - that is scary; that is a cause for fear and paralysis.

Change is a catalyst for beauty. Stagnation is a catalyst for death. 

I think the idea is this: As we gather years and experiences within the confines of our weak bodies and soft hearts, we gather responsibility. With each birthday, we become more able stewards of...life. People, places, memories, our pasts, our families, our friendships.

With each year, we grow up - but that does not mean we grow hard; tarnished; bitter; angry; without joy. We grow. We learn.

In the first three months of my 24th year, I learned this:

Ninety days ago, I didn't need the Lord. 

Ninety days ago, I was not as weak, or broken; not as lost and not as scared.

Ninety days ago, I didn't need the Lord.

God was the high-five I gave on Sunday's; He was the maybe-in-a-few-months reply I'd give to someone asking if I'd join a ministry.

Ninety days ago, I might've been happier. Ninety days ago, I was also less alive.

Pain brings us down to the dirt - so we remember where we came from, where we will go, and what matters in between (which is usually not what we spend most of our days worrying about). 

But make no mistake. Though I feel more "alive" today, I also feel more foreign to myself. These growing pains aren't physical, but they feel like grand-canyon-chasms. I haven't quite grown into whoever I'm becoming in this season of jumping and falling, (and jumping and falling); I haven't quite connected all parts or written the thesis statement; haven't summarized the main points; haven't give my oral defense or looked back and said "Ah, yes. That's why." I haven't quite found the glue or chocolate sauce that helps each day feel a little more like my own choice and my own story.

But we make the choice to be alive. To face ourselves. And it hurts. It feels like muscles torn from your body. It is not romantic. Not a movie. Not distracting. It is not "lovely".

It is real. And it takes time, and perseverance; and time and perseverance; and time and perseverance; and some friends who whisper "Just keep going," when you want to stop. It takes silence, and waiting. And more silence and waiting - sometimes alone.

Choose to be alive. Feel the splinters and scrapes--and the cannonball pool-jumps and bonfire-games. Don't drown your heart in the allure of midnight calls or hollow laughter. 

This all takes time. And even if you look in the mirror and feel foreign and get scared and want to run from the face staring back, know that I'm next to you; staring and scared too, and waiting for the face in the mirror (my own) to feel like someone I know. I'm the friend waiting to hold your hand, ready to whisper those words when the night tries to drown out your joy and His truth; I'm right next to you, asking you to whisper His truth to me too; I'm there, clasping your hand, like the rope over this chasm of fear and doubt - waiting.

And even if I'm not that friend - even if I fail or run or hide - you still have a hand to hold. It just might be your own. It might be the choice to stay in and sit with yourself for a moment longer than you'd like. It might mean asking the silence - or the shouts - of our Lord to speak to you; might mean switching off Instagram and Facebook notifications and asking for affirmation from different places.

This is what it means to be human; to learn that pain and perseverance, however long or short, are synonymous with the art of living; and that beauty always has to start somewhere.

So it might as well start here. It might as well be us. It might as well be this rope, hanging over this chasm. It is the rope that God keeps offering - keeps asking - just as He did when I was young and asleep in Power Ranger pjs: "Do you want to stay with me? Or will you leave?" The question that persists throughout every season of my life is the Lord asking: "Will you stay?" Over and over and over. "Will you stay with me?"

And I will. I'll choose to be alive. Even when my skin feels too big, or I haven't quite grown in; even when I have to choose responsibility over naivety; even when my smiles feel a bit heavier, but somehow more free; even when my arches are sore, but my memories are rich; even when the sun asks me to surrender a little more skin to burn than I'd wish; even when the sunburn sticks; even when the moon isn't full; even when the porch lights burst and the glass cuts through my searching hands; even when friends turn to strangers and strangers turn to friends; and especially when I make the choice to try, again and again; even then, I know the truth; even then.

I'll stay.

I've never known a sweeter place, than crying at the feet of my Lord.