Just Write

A Soul Solstice

I found myself recently pondering the winter solstice. Actually, I found myself pondering the day AFTER winter solstice.

Somewhere around December 21 each year (in the Northern Hemisphere anyway) we experience the shortest day of the year, with the least amount of sunlight.  From that point forward the days start having a little bit more sun and a little less dark. Coming home from work and it already being dark out is never fun. I love the day after winter solstice, the day that marks the start of longer days. It’s as if the world takes a deep breath and hope starts to grow.

As I reflected on this I thought about the hard times in life… the times that seem like they’ll never end… the dark days of winter in life. I think about the moments after a loved one dies when the family and friends feel like the days just get darker and darker as they continue to grieve. I consider a friend who has been battling trauma and sufffering for more years than I even know, and just when it seems to settle, the darkness sets in again. I wonder about how many people around the world found out some horrible news today that will change their lives forever and a dark shadow was cast. We’ve all experienced (or will) at one time or another… the seasons when winter never seems to end.

But there is hope.

The day after the darkest day will come.

I was brought to tears recently as I heard a friend say, for perhaps the first time in 18 months, “I’m doing so well.” Her life is not perfect and the pain of this long “winter” season is not completely over with, but the days are getting longer, brighter… there is more light each day. There is hope.

In an earthly sense, winter will come again. It’s a cycle we can depend on. Winter turns into spring, into summer, into fall, and back to winter. On the emotional side of things we can predict this cycle as well… we will face hard times again. As long as we live on this earth, that is a given. But the cycle of literal seasons give us hope that spring will come again in the emotionally hard seasons. Also, there is hope for the day when that cycle will break and the light will grow ever brighter into eternity.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.  … I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” … And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory.” Revelation 21: 1-4, 23-24

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Just Write, transition

On Pain, Change, and Trust

I was talking with a friend back at the beginning of this year and he mentioned how he had been learning that only when our pain is greater than our fear will we be able to make positive changes in our lives. It was fascinating to hear him say that because I was wrestling at the time with a similar concept but from a different perspective.

I had been thinking about the concept of self-control and how to do the things that we want to do but somehow find so hard to do. (Romans 7 kind of stuff.) Just as an easy-to-understand example, let’s look at the ever-popular topics of eating health and exercise, especially popular this time of year! I think we all pretty much know that eating certain foods and staying away from others is how our bodies function best. We all know that finding ways to move more and get enough sleep helps us. We want to feel healthy … and yet we keep grabbing the sugar and skipping the exercise and cutting down the hours of sleep to pack more in our busy lives.

So how do we get to a point where change is possible and our resolutions don’t fall short on January 3. As the conversation with my friend suggested, sometimes pain is a great motivator. The diagnosis of a health condition, the threat of losing a job, the inability to play with kids… these are pains that sometime can force us into life change.

But I had been trying to figure out if there were other ways. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want pain to be the only way I can have positive change in life. Shaming ourselves (or others) doesn’t typically work and “just try harder” is possibly the worst advice anyone could ever give. But what DOES work? I was stuck… how do we embrace lives of self-control and discipline while still living in the freedom that actually leads to LIFE and not slavery to a system?

And suddenly I stumbled upon an idea, pieced together over a few days. Paul says it this way in Romans:

“But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting him. …” (Romans 9:31-32 NLT)

It makes me wonder… when our TRUST in God is bigger than our fear perhaps that ALSO leads to freedom, change, and abundant life.

As this concept processed through my brain I was reminded of this quote from Jessica Honegger:

“Self-control is really about these moment-by-moment choice we have to believe God. Do we believe that God is who He says He is and that He is enough?”

I heard that quote in a livestream of an if:gathering conversation last February between her and other women including Ruth Chou Simons who followed it up with:

“Self control is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s God’s work; you can’t muster it up. Don’t keep trying to staple fruit onto your tree. Hide and abide yourself in Christ.”

Self-control is probably one of the least popular fruits of the Spirit. We all want things like peace and love and joy… but self-control… hmmm maybe I’ll pass.

As I process these quotes, I wonder if we actually trust and believe God IS enough for us, especially in these areas we struggle to gain control over. Is he enough for our faults and failures, enough to satisfy our deepest longing, enough to bring peace in this chaotic would.

Hide and abide in Christ.

That really does sound a lot like trust. It’s hard for us to comprend because we think that we need a “7 steps to a better you” plan. Hiding and abiding can’t possibly be the key.

While God isn’t beyond using pain to bring about change in our lives if necessary, His preferred method is trust. Eyes locked in on Christ at every move; seeking His Kingdom first and letting everything else be added in after. Our God is so trustworthy, whether our hearts can believe it in any given moment or not. I’m still here, months later, trying to figure out exactly how trust practically leads to positive change in my life, but I have learned this in the process: without trust I’ll never take the risks necessary to find out.

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