Saturday, August 25, 2012

Meeting a Perfect God even in an Imperfect System

I read a friend's blog post that was about common errors he has seen while being part of several college and youth groups in the past. We were in the same college group, and his post made me think in depth of my time there.

To be honest, when I first think about my college group, I think of all the random moments in Newsom Hall playing board games, watching movies, or chasing each other down the hall as part of an ongoing prank war. I think of giggling in my friends's room and braving the smells of the guys' floor to help my group invite people to the service or to hang out. Sometimes I joke that undergrad was one big Small Group party! :) :)

When I think about it further, I think about praying at Danforth Chapel and then actual services. I remember feeling comfortable with the group so much to share how God has helped me in a sensitive area of my life, and I remember the ladies in the group giving me hugs :) and then me giving them hugs in return. I remember a team retreat where all the guys jumped into a frozen lake.

Reading my friend's post made me think of some of the times where I had pain that may have been caused by the structure of the group. I remember being a graduate student and feeling behind because I was old and I wasn't a leader. I remember getting into a disagreement with a leader apprentice who didn't like that I missed some events to prep for the MCAT when I was premed. To his credit, he asked for an apology, and I forgave him :) I also had trouble when a friend became an accountability partner and had to correct me on some things. I nearly ended our friendship because I didn't like someone younger than me in age and in the faith "bossing me around." We patched our differences and we remain really good friends :) :) :) :) :)  One time, I was reading a pamphlet about godly dating relationships and realized that all the examples were written by students and former students who had a leadership role. My blog friend and I actually were joking that there was no input from the "peasant class." I think we even went around one evening like, "We represent the peasant class!" It was meant to be a joke, but it was sort of serious. Basically, when I saw my friends and I not as equals in the faith, but in some sort of hierachy with the leaders at the top (closer to God or more successful in their Christian walk) than me, it made me feel like I was doing something wrong. It made me feel  like I would be less worthy and able for God to bless me with a job or a young man who would pursue me with the intent to marry. When I felt that way, I would be sadder and I wouldn't feel as close to my friends.

Yet, nothing in this world isn't completely good and completely bad. My experiences in The Rock were not completely good or completely bad. Looking back, even in an imperfect system, I saw glimpses of a perfect God. Even when I was impatient with my dear friend for being my accountability buddy, she never got mad at me for going off on her. When I would cry and say, "I don't know if we can be friends." She was the one hugging me. I saw how God does not give up on pursuing us. When I was upset that I wasn't a leader on paper, I would cry to God and He would remind me through verses I would read about how we were all equal in Him. Paul's letters talk about comparison and 2 Corinthians is all about how Christ is the one who gives us strength and wisdom to build each other up. Not some role in our local church community.

There were some things I truly loved about The Rock. I loved how one of the pastors was so into praising God as Creator!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I knew every Chris Tomlin song where God as Creator was a main theme!!!!! And I would sing it really loud and I would eek! I loved how we prayed for campus when I looked around and saw how many people in the academic community deny the existence of God. I can truly say I love my sisters in Christ because they've helped me handle issues I've had based on my past and some have helped me handle my recent diagnosis of my autism spectrum disorder. I also enjoyed how a small group became like a miniature family. For someone coming from a family with a mild amount of emotional back-issues, the verse of God placing the lonely in families was clear when I felt at home with my group.

I appreciated how clear the social rules were in how we as women were to interact with the young men. For a young lady on the autism spectrum who grew up without a father or brothers, this was a tremendous social tool I used. Conversely, I was amazed the chivalry was not dead in the men. Even though there was the temptation to use these rules to say, "Well, such and such is more committed because he/she follows these rules better." the heart behind the guidelines is noble.

One of the most important things that happened to me was spending my summer after my Freshman year at home instead of being on a group mission trip or in Fort Collins where I could participate in the activities there. I was encouraged even then to participate with the group even when school was not in session. My first week at home, I called my mentor Christy nearly every day because I needed encouragement or I needed prayer. I would cry because I missed my small group and I missed her helping me. She emphasized that maybe God had me step away from the group so I could learn how to connect with God on my own. And I did. I learned how to pray and I learned how to read the Bible on a regular basis without someone reminding me. Seeing God's little smiles in seeing a cute flower or a pretty sunset encouraged me to keep a geniuine connection to Him.

Therefore, when I went back to school and back to The Rock, I had the community I was familiar with as well as the experience of communicating with God on my own. I could feel comfortable talking to God before a class as well as during a prayer meeting. God taught me things while I walked through The Oval as well as when I attended a service.

Looking back, the lesson here is that God is not bound by a system. All church systems are run by imperfect people. The first church spanned the middle east and the entire European continent and then needed the Reformation to set things straight. The protestant church emerged and over the years has formed different regional and doctrinal denominations. Nondenominational churches have their own culture with their unique strengths and faults. Yet people in and out of these systems have found God. They have embraced Him as their Savior, and they have drawn close to Him in personal prayer, reading the Word, and through community activities. Why do we need Christ? Because we will always fail. Why do the pastors need prayer? Because they need Christ to help them lead their people.

When I look back on my time in my Fort Collins church and as I participate in the life of my church in Denver, I must always realize this lesson: The system will always be imperfect, and the system is not what I need to pursue. God is perfect and I need to pursue Him.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Elizabeth Versus Elizabeth

Sometimes when it comes to relationships, I feel like Captain Oblivious.
Dark Helmet from Spaceballs
Haha, like Dark Helmet from Spaceballs!
He's pretty oblivious sometimes :D
This is mainly because I don't see when other people like each other and then when they get engaged or date or something, I'm like, "Huh?!" One of my friends can spot it from like ten miles away. Today one of my friends got engaged. I was like, "I TOTALLY DIDN'T SEE THIS COMING AT ALL!" 
Granted, this was one of those rare moments where the guy just up and proposes without dating beforehand. So that was harder to spot, but still. WOW! 

I wondered why that bothered me so much and then I realized why. One train of logic could be as follows: 
If I get good at predicting when other people will match up, I can thus predict when I will get matched up and predict if a guy likes me. If I predict that a guy likes me, I can thus have hope that someday he will be my prince charming and I will be a beloved princess. 

Kira Knightley as Miss Bennett
Kira Knightley as Miss Bennett
I just realized, that is sort of what Elizabeth Bennett did in Pride and Prejudice.  She would size up guys at gatherings and say, "This one is quite a gentleman." or "This one is terribly arrogant!" or "Ew." She and her sisters agonized over who would be 'the ones' for them. Of course Miss Bennett's Prince Charming came out of nowhere and it took a family crisis for her to see that she wrote Mr. Darcy off completely wrong and then had to be humble and accept his help and stuff. 

Elizabeth Elliot in her later years
Elizabeth Elliot 
Elizabeth Elliot on the other hand was doing life as she knew it when her Prince Charming came out of nowhere and was like, "Hey! You wanna be a missionary, I wanna be a missionary! Wanna get hitched??" and she was like, "Sure." She writes in her books about just doing your own business and letting Prince Charming come in whenever God tells him to. 

In The Rock I followed Elizabeth Elliot's (and my older sisters in Christ who mentored me) advice. Outwardly. I became better at not outwardly flirting with guys. Of course me having autism spectrum disorder that made it hard to read social cues didn't help me see when I was flirting even though I was trying to be stealth.... Anyway, I got better at that and blending into the group. 

However, I would think, "THIS GUY right THERE is possibly THE ONE!" and then get bummed when he wasn't. That happened a few times. Quite a few times. 

Now I'm learning to follow Elizabeth Elliot's advice inwardly. To focus on paralegal school (right now) and the working world and whatever else God has me in right now. I decided not to play the Elizabeth Bennett game where I think, "Is HE the one? What about THAT ONE over there? What about...." Because I realize that for Prince Charming to be the one, God would probably make it pretty darn obvious a) so my heart won't be pulled off astray by my own faulty guesss work and b) because the way my mind works, stuff like that just needs to be obvious. 

I am thankful God is teaching me these lessons and that when it boils down to it, I am HIS princess and HIS beloved, so I don't have to really clamor for an earthly prince charming to love me. The King of Kings does, so truly, all my fairy tale dreams ARE true in Him :) :) 

God's hand in a car dent

Today Mom and I got in a car accident resulting in a dent in the back of her car :( We were stopped at a light and the person behind us forgot to stop. 

Then it was off to the police station to file a report. Mom stayed relatively calm through it. I helped her fill it out by reading stuff off different papers she had. I won't lie, I sorta felt like a paralegal helping Mom fill out a legal document... I also asked the officer the questions Mom had since she doesn't like talking to people she doesn't know. 

So now we're home and Mom is resting up her back (because it was a little sore from the accident). One thing I realize is this: God's hand was all over this accident. Here are all the ways: 
  • Even though we got a car ding, it was on the back, not the front where the engine is. 
  • The airbags didn't go off. 
  • Mom stayed calm enough to exchange the information with the other driver. 
  • I was there to help Mom verify the information.
  • I stayed calm to help Mom file the police report.
  • The officer at the station was nice and available to answer our questions. 
  • The car ding will still allow us to open the trunk. 

It's still cool to see God's hand in incidents like this even though the incident itself is no fun. So truly in all things we can say, "God is Good!"

Monday, August 06, 2012

Faith in an Evidence Based Society

I'm going through 2 Corinthians now. I'm on Chapter 11. Paul details his sufferings and trials of being a Christian. He has to reassert himself because the Corinthian church has said that he wasn't that great of an orator even though his writing is ah-MAZING. It sorta reminds me of me :) I enjoy writing, I do NOT enjoy public speaking. This is why I could never be a lawyer and stand in front of a judge trying to sound coherent :D I'll just be the paralegal holdiing up the sign on the legal pad saying, "YOU GO, COUNSEL!" j/k I wouldn't really do that, you know ;) 

Anyway, Paul has to reassert himself because the Corinthians are part of Greek culture that values eloquence and academic achievement. They want proof that he's legitimate. Paul had to straighten out some issues because other teachers had come in and taught them undoctrinal stuff even though they probably sounded super intelligent. Poor Paul. 

Paul's proof of his faith is this: I've been through persecution and trial after trial (wanna look up my legal file?) and other hardships for Christ and I still haven't given up. I have gone through all this stuff because Christ is legit. This is my proof. That Christ is worth all the suffering I went through, and I have praised Christ through all this. 

Offa NASA's website 
Our society also esteems scientific achievement (in the nerdy-geeky circles and academia). For instance, today, NASA landed a probe on Mars :) Like ancient Greece, we are an evidence-based society. As Christians, legitimate evidence of our faith can include how we suffer for Christ and how we trust in Him in spite of suffering. 

Summer Vacation

The South Platte River...and feet :)

 Aaaaaah, Summer Vacation! :) Three weeks of relaxing on the beach (on the rivers and lakes in Denver) and enjoying the summer :)  

I finished my classes with A's! YAY! That was nice. I'm still volunteering at Colorado Legal Services doing filing and some clerical stuff like that. 
Sloans Lake :)

One nice thing about the summer is that I have the opportunity to do a few things: I could bum around the house and do recreational writing, I could help Mom out with projects around the house, and I could do more Bible study than I could during the times when I had to study for my class. If I just did the first thing, that would sorta be a waste. But doing all three is a good way to spend this little break. With the weather (sort of) cooling off, I can take nice walks and excursions too :) 

Yay for summer!