As I write this, I am sitting in a new coffee shop here in Castle Rock, Colorado. It’s new to this community, but not new to me. In fact, it was one of my favorite coffee shops from my days in Oregon, and it almost feels surreal to sit here and think of those times, as though they were part of someone else’s story. In a way, they were.
I’m not the same person I was back then. I’ve written about the changes in previous posts, but I’m coming up on two years since I left, and the differences between then and now become sharper with each day that passes.
Then, I was scared. More than ever now, I realize how afraid I was, how much of my energy was wasted in fear. Scared of uncertainty, of being hurt, of being abandoned. Portland is a beautiful city, and I miss my life there in many ways, but my memories are scarred by the feelings I had of incompetence, of unworthiness, of pain.
Living in Colorado doesn’t mean I don’t have those emotions anymore, but it does mean that more powerful emotions have taken their place. Being surrounded by the love and support from my parents and siblings is irreplaceable. Being encouraged by the friends I have made here does more for my state of well-being than anything I ever got in Oregon. Even in the midst of dealing with surgeries, health problems, and pain (all things I have dealt with for the majority of my life), things feel different this time around.
So, I’ve been asking myself lately how I got to this point. How did I come to this place of being able to say I’m happier, I’m more content, I’m more satisfied in where I’m at, when two years ago, I was dreading moving to Colorado to begin with? How did I reach the conclusion that this is where I’m supposed to be, at least for the time being? How did I heal from the batterings and bruises that life seems to continually throw at us? My answer is simple in wording but so complex in meaning.
Jesus. It boils down to what He is doing in my life, in my heart, in my mind. It comes down to whether I’m willing and able to give myself up for the sake of the Kingdom of God, whether I want to surrender myself as I am for the person God has made me to be. It’s all about whether I am ready to take up the yoke of Jesus, to take my own trials and tribulations, hand them to God, and take up Jesus’ instead. That doesn’t mean that I am ignoring the struggles in my life, but rather, I am approaching them with the mindset of Jesus.
So what does that mean, exactly? Let’s take my health as an example. If you follow me on social media (or even read my previous posts on here), you’ll know that I have had fifteen surgeries throughout my lifetime. Fifteen times that I’ve dealt with humanity-inflicted pain and discomfort. Fifteen times that I’ve had a problem within myself that needs to be addressed, and by specialists who have devoted their lives to solving that problem. I could (and certainly have, in the past) approach this problem with groaning, whining, complaining. I could face these challenges with a victim mentality, asking, “Why me?” Just the other day, I started experiencing stronger headaches and pain in my incision on my head, and I immediately thought to myself, “Can’t I get a break for just once in my life?!” But, a stronger voice spoke up. It didn’t shut down what I was feeling, but it restructured it. Instead of, “Why me?”, how about, “Why not me?” Instead of, “Give me a break!”, how about, “Teach me something.”
On the night that Jesus was arrested and given over to crucifixion, He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42, ESV). Here’s the thing: bad things happen all the time. Uncomfortable and painful moments come our way too many times to count, and in our humanness, we want to avoid those things. We avoid things that hurt, that are uncomfortable, that make us lose confidence. How often do we ask God for things to make our lives easier, to take away the struggle or the challenge we’re facing, to give us booster seats and extra padding for when life gets rough? What if, instead, we simply ask God to walk with us through the fire? We approach the situation at hand with Jesus’ mindset: God’s will, not mine. God’s plan, not my plan. As we start doing this more and more, what if God’s will becomes mine? God’s plan becomes my plan. The Kingdom of God becomes the Kingdom of all of us, where we sit at the feet of the High King, not as disgruntled, reluctant servants, but as precious children who are eager to learn, to serve, to grow, to thrive.
Two years ago, I was the servant, frustrated with where God wanted me to be, irritated that God could possibly have a greater plan for me than my own, hurt that God allowed such bad things to happen to me. I’ll admit: I was angry. I was ready to throw in the towel. Having to move back home with my parents, go back to square one with the job search, suddenly be single again after over three years of companionship — what a major hit to my pride. It stung to realize how wrong I was about so many things and to come to terms with what I felt was a major moment of failure. Two years ago, I felt lost. I didn’t want to come home with my tail between my legs. I didn’t want to admit my faults and failures.
Here’s the thing about God. He doesn’t shame us for those things. He doesn’t look at us and see broken people. He doesn’t keep track of all of our mistakes. He looks at us and sees his children. He looks at you and sees his beloved, for whom he has given his Son. How cool is that?
So, two years later, I’m sitting in this coffee shop, experiencing flashbacks of doing the same thing in Oregon… but I’m not the same, and Jesus is responsible for that. And honestly, I’m ecstatic to see what he does in me, in you, and in the world in the next two years.