Last week at my SFC household, our topic came from Matthew 6:24-27. Upon reading, I realized that this was one of those Gospels that hit us a lot back when I was in YFC. In a funny way, I didn’t like this back then, even if I kept on going back to it, because it sounded so hard. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For someone who’s still trying to find her footing in a bigger world back in college, this was a scary thing. Still, I knew it was important, so I tried.
So our household head asked us: what are the things you denied yourself so you can follow God?
Of course I had an instant answer, but I stopped myself from speaking first because I wanted to chew on the question a little, and perhaps try to find another answer that doesn’t lead to that automatic answer. It was a good example, but I personally thought it was already old, passe, and wasn’t I supposed to be done with that already? So when it was my turn, I picked my answers carefully…and still ended up talking about that. Oh well. Anyway, here’s what I shared:
I denied myself of being self-sufficient. On my recent trip to Singapore, there was a time when I wondered if it was worth it. I wondered, because as I was planning my itinerary, I felt like I was hassling my friends there. For one thing, I was already crashing with them, and now they were rearranging their schedules for me. I tried to shake it off, and instead, focused on accepting this grace from them — because it is grace — but then somewhere in the middle of the trip, I felt it again. How maybe I’m such a burden to them, especially since I forgot to have my money changed at the airport. How they don’t have to do this, how I should be able to manage alone, how I should try not to be a hassle to them especially since I’m just a guest. I shouldn’t disrupt their lives and all that.
What destructive thoughts, right? I think I’ve been so used to taking care of myself and trying not to be a hassle to anyone that I forgot that people just want to do things for you because they want to. Not because you forced them to, or you asked them to, but because they love you and care for you. I’m that person who will go and do things for my friends and not ask for anything in return because they’re important to me, but when I’m at the receiving end of it, sometimes it’s hard to just accept it.
So I forced myself to stop putting myself down, and instead, just humbled myself and accepted this grace, no questions. There really is something humbling about allowing yourself to stop thinking of yourself as a hassle, and instead, leaning in to the people who care for you and accepting the grace and hospitality they can give. Because surprise surprise, we need just as much grace as the next person. We can’t give what we don’t have.
I denied myself of holding onto things that aren’t good for me. I was at mass one day before I left for Singapore and the priest’s homily was about forgiveness — how we need to forgive even if the other person isn’t asking for it but because you need it. If you don’t forgive, you won’t be happy, simple as that. I know that, and I believe that, and I kept that in my heart as I left. When I got back, I heard mass again and the homily was about forgiveness again. This time, the priest said that we love because we are forgiven, and we forgive because we are loved. It wasn’t a huge revelation, but it felt like an epiphany of sorts. Because she has been forgiven, she can love again.
I kept on asking this myself as I headed home from my trip: why are you still holding on to that? What are you so afraid of now? After doing the brave things I’ve done in the past months, how can I not let this one go? Why do I keep on doubting my resilience, my feeling of being okay, and God’s grace? It took me a while to answer, but in the end I realized that I was afraid of taking the next step because I was already getting used to this new normal, and it feels easier to be here now. I’m managing well. I’m not sure if I’m ready to take the next step, and if it’s right, and what if I’m not ready after all?
But how long am I going to stay here? I don’t think God will just magically whisk me out of this season — I feel like I have to take that initiative. Going back from my trip felt like the right time to jump, and trust that God is good and He will provide.
God is still making things new, but how can I accept those if I keep on having such a tight hold over the things I have now?
Maybe this season is ending.
You can let go now.
* * *
I called September a month of new beginnings. So many things are made new this month, not just my trip but in other ways, too. I’m glad I had that, and I’m glad that God’s grace permits me to have a new beginning every single day. It’s crazy and amazing and I don’t deserve it, but I accept it, because it’s grace. God knows how much I need that every single day. Every single new day.
It’s the end of September, and I’m kind amazed at how it just went by so quick. I always say that, don’t I? But it is true. And just like that, we’re at the last quarter of this year, and 2013, this year — The Year of the Brave — will end soon.
Maybe it doesn’t have to end. The Year of the Brave, that is. Maybe this declaration for the year will just go on and on, except that I don’t have to call 2014, 2015 or any other year, because I know that I already am brave. That I already have all the courage I need.
But…let’s not think too ahead. Three months to go. :) Let’s see what brave and beautiful things are in store for the rest of 2013, shall we?