This post marks a milestone–the 100th post I’ve written on this blog.
And the pressure of writing something stunning for this mini-monumental moment has been mounting for some time.
Do I write something extra-sarcastic and humorous, or deeply heartfelt and gut-wrenching? Do I write about joys and blessings, concerns or worries, insights and observations?
Ironically, I only started this blog on a whim about a year and a half ago. I only intended to use it for my own friends and family, at first–and in my spare time, working around my wacky schedule. I was stunned to find out that my youth and their parents were reading it…and then that I had a steady few hundred followers…and then that it caught the attention of the WordPress editors, who nominated it as a top post of over half a million writers, and recommended it to as many readers. I was surprised again to find that one of my most personal posts–one about the realization that my childhood was dead–was nominated by these same editors again, and that it was read by the equivalent of stadiums full of people all over the world.
So, you can see the interesting conundrum that’s going on: I intend only for this to be a fun, once-in-a-while side outlet, and people around the world are writing to me and telling me that they “love my work” and want to hear more from me.
Add to that the fact that I’m really not interested in devoting too much time to my personal blog–since I’d rather be engaging with the people around me–and you can see why this blog is a difficult balancing act. I refuse to utilize the “tricks” that professional bloggers use to gain more readers and make waves to garner interest, posting at ideal times of day and with certain keywords and word counts to maximize exposure. I’m simply a twenty-something who loves people, loves to write, and wants to be real. That’s it.
So, in the spirit of authenticity, I’ll devote this 100th post to something deeply meaningful to my life.
This past weekend, I helped facilitate a retreat for our Missouri District’s Peer Ministry Training team. Picture the cream of the crop student leaders from all around Missouri gathering at a camp and spending the entire weekend learning counseling skills and leadership training to use right away with their own peers, and you get a little glimpse of what we do at PMT. I brought 5 high school youth from my churches–young leaders who have been instrumental in my own middle school ministry–and it was incredible to see them be challenged and grow in knowledge and confidence right before my eyes, over the course of the weekend.
I had a flash of personal insight this weekend, however, while I was teaching a room of nearly 30 teenagers about “letting go” of all the things you’re holding onto in life. As I was speaking, I was struck by the absolute truth of what I was telling these students: when I let go off all of the “stuff” in my life, I’m more open to receive the blessings God wants to pour out on my life.
I know, it seems so simple. But it’s so profound.
To be frank, I shudder to think what my life would have been like if I would’ve ignored the Holy Spirit’s whispers in my life to let go of all I was holding so tightly to. In middle school and high school, I devoted nearly every waking minute to being perfect. I strove to practice my instrument diligently, trained to be the best athlete I could be, studiously completed my homework, took on every conceivable club and extracurricular activity and leadership position possible, and poured my life into friends. I spent countless weekends at school, hours at the gym, and every waking moment enjoying my whirlwind social life.
I knew I couldn’t possibly sustain the level of activity I was operating at. But I refused to let go of all of these things I was doing, and all of the things that I loved.
My life changed when I finally released my white-knuckle grip on everything–my future, my friends, my life goals, my choice of college major, my daily activities–and let it drop into God’s lap. I realized that I could finally open my hands up to what God wanted to give me, once my hands weren’t full with the immense burden I was trying to carry on my own.
So often, I pick things back up and cradle them to my chest, refusing to let go of them. And they aren’t just bad habits–many of them are noble, worthwhile endeavors. But it’s not until I let the Holy Spirit pry open my hands and gently drop this “stuff” that I’m able to clear my vision and see how much my Heavenly Father has blessed me with, and how much more He wants to give me.
That’s not to say that life is necessarily easier when I let go, or that God is guaranteed to pour out an abundance of blessings in my life. God isn’t a magic genie who grants my every whim. But He’s proven to me that His peace, love, and joy are lasting and deeper than anything this world can offer, and I’d rather possess that than earn a staggering paycheck or be known as the “top banana” in my field.
It certainly hasn’t been a coincidence that the incredible opportunities I’ve had in the last two years–chances to speak internationally to teens, write a youth ministry column professionally, participate in radio and video interviews, and help our international Lutheran organizations in various ways–have all come right after those moments when I’ve again dropped all of those things I’ve been holding in my grip.
A thought-provoking devotion arrived in my email inbox this morning, sharing the story of Jesus’ first miracle–turning water into wine–with a new twist: when Jesus told the servants at the wedding he was attending to “fill the jars”, they went and filled them “to the brim” (John 2:7). The devotion pointed out that Jesus likely would have transformed those water jars into wine even if they had only been filled halfway, or three-quarters full. As the author pointed out, “Likewise, God will transform as much of our lives as we give Him.”
I read recently in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship these words:
“When Christ calls us, he bids us come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time–death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old person at his call…But if we lose our lives in his service and carry our cross, we shall find our lives again the community of the cross with Christ.”
It is so true. If we lose our lives to Christ, we will find it again in Him.
Perhaps it took me 100 posts to reveal that one valuable nugget of Truth–but it’s certainly been worth the rollercoaster ride it’s taken to get here. Because no matter where I end up in life, or what I do, or whose approval or respect I earn, I know one thing:
My life is securely in Christ’s nail-scarred hands, and there is no safer or more satisfying place to be than there.