My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
I’m sitting here in Ellie’s Bakery sipping on my New Harvest iced coffee, munching on a brioche a tete and lemon poppyseed muffin. Beautiful music is playing in the background, taking me back to the days when I worked for Williams Sonoma, and when I lived out the dream of traveling in France. Funny how this cafe experience is giving me more peace and a sense of rest than exploring a “nature-filled” park in the middle of New York City by myself the other day. For the past week I have been trying to balance life as a post-graduate by job hunting, meeting up with people, and figuring out what a real break looks like so I can actually take one after this crazy year. In the end, I found out that I am utterly dependent.
You’re probably thinking, “Aren’t we all dependent creatures? How is this anything new? No wonder you don’t work for the Discovery Channel.”
Yes yes, but what I mean is that after examining my own heart and removing all the “should’s”(should do, should think, should feel, should want, etc.), I was left with the raw reality of how much I desired to be self-sufficient. With all the bitterness I had built up against everyone else and myself, I thought being alone was the best possible answer to it all. “Remove yourself from the complicated relationships and from the old. Start fresh on your own. If this situation is hopeless, why hold on when you can just learn to accept it as your past? It was bound to end someday. You cannot continue living in this fantasy world.” So out of my selfish disappointment and fear,I decided to ignore some of the people I really cared about. If I can’t be with them for much longer, I’d rather put an end to this growing attachment.
Okay, well what is present before me? What does being home look like? “I will forever fall short of their expectations. Even worse, I will live out what I see in them because it seems like I’m bound to this unbreakable curse… and stuck in this city where life swallows you up until every last shred of energy has been devoured. And this is how life will carry on. Nothing more, nothing less.”
If any of you cook or bake, you will know that the slow-cooking method produces a more thoroughly and evenly cooked product. For example, using the sous vide method essentially manipulates temperature control in order to achieve results such as a more tender piece of meat. As for baking, the slow-wet method for custards (such as creme brulee) ensures a smoother texture because the egg proteins coagulate at a slower rate due to the low temperature of the water bath and oven. Or if you make a reduction sauce, flavors will intensify because the water (and alcohol if applicable) evaporates, leaving you with a smaller volume and more concentrated sauce. Just like that, I allowed for my anger to cook slowly and my feelings intensified throughout the process. I thought that because of this slow development, I had come to a clear conclusion of what I wanted or had to do.
But as I took my day off from everyone and everything else, I had an “Aha!” moment. Now it didn’t come immediately, because as I mentioned before, everything had been simmering, slowly cooking. What I realized was that I had not reached my conclusion just yet.
I already knew that I was capable of spending time alone, but what I didn’t know was how much God has changed my heart.
As I walked and took pictures throughout the park, trying to enjoy all the nature from the view, I began to feel rather disappointed. Not that the flowers, trees, and rocks weren’t beautiful, but something was missing. Sure it was nicer than most parts of NYC, but images of New England kept popping up. When I looked out into the Hudson River, I saw water from Beavertail and Newport. Or when I walked along the trails of “rocky cliffs” my brain automatically compared it with that of Purgatory Chasm. And when I sat down at a bench on one of the highest points, snippets of the lake at Camp Cody in NH flashed across my mind; and I remembered how serene and beautiful it felt and looked when I sat along the beach before sunrise. “Well, I’m planning to walk the Brooklyn Bridge by myself at sunrise tomorrow, maybe I’ll feel more satisfied then. Yeah, it’s going to be relaxing and mentally refreshing”. But this time I did not see comparative images of nature. I saw faces.
We studied Romans 8:1-13 at CAC on Saturday and one thing that we talked about was what living in the Spirit actually looks like. And as I have learned over the past few years, God has revealed His intentions for us as believers:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another in love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
And Paul writes:
I therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
And so as I saw these faces, I meditated on the reminder given through Scripture about the significance of community and fellowship. That’s when everything I had been trying too suppress burst forth. For the past few months I had been seeking man’s approval over God’s, leaving me feeling empty and worthless because I had placed my worth in the world’s hands.
It then spiraled into throwing my dependence on my church family, friends, and others away. At that point, I had already thrown my dependence on God away.
You see… I did not truly believe that God would provide a job for me and lead me to a place where I would be able to continue growing spiritually. And although my lips uttered differently, I didn’t really have peace because I didn’t really trust Him. And as much as I heard and read about how we needed to rely on Him, I wasn’t open to relying on anything else anymore. I wanted to rely on myself and make an effort to relieve the anxiety and confusion I was experiencing. Literally me, me, me.
Back to the faces; what I saw were faces of friends and family back in Providence. I missed them, so incredibly missed them. I have been so busy and caught up in being bitter that I had forgotten why I wanted to fight so hard to stay in Providence. Even if I feel like I might lose the battle, if what I’m fighting for is worth it in the end, why not fight? And that’s what it’s going to be- a battle. My sister Jasmine painted the perfect picture of what being a Christian looks like, “… paddling out in the waters. Eventually and very often, we will grow tired of paddling.” And it’s that much harder because we are living for something else now. Our purpose has changed and this is no longer the home we desire to be a part of. So when the struggle becomes unbearable and so painfully real, we want to stop paddling. What I forgot was the fact that God has given us new life with other people. Other people who will help point you back to the cross where Jesus died for our sins, and remind you of His great resurrection, giving us hope for His return; looking forward to the day that we will be with Him eternally. And until then, He has given us each other to bring glory to Him, and to paddle alongside each other because we will grow weary and suffer. I know that as of right now, being there with them is one of the better ways to help me paddle.
Now whether I end up going back anyways, or somewhere completely unexpected and new, I can at least make the most of this temporary period, where I will have this community and put up the best fight I can with God by my side. Perhaps it will just be a time to help me learn how to better prepare myself for future battles.
Peony, I can finally say that I found the root issue. I didn’t wage war because I didn’t want to die to myself. But praise God because the gospel makes it possible to do so:
So then, brothers,we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
So I have a month. A month to make this all worth it. I will always be homesick no matter where I go, but I’m grateful for what I learned through this recent experience because God is worth it.
Like the very beginning of this whole crazy long post, I will end with this:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.