An Interruptible God

Adriel Booker writes of Jesus and His ministry:

“He was the kind of God who was interruptible, the kind of God who noticed pain and doubts and suffering and confusion, the kind of God who engaged deeply with people so that his heart would be moved to take action when they needed him most.

Interruptible.

That word jerked me right out of the pages, sending me searching through my own heart.

Jesus is the kind of God who is interruptible.

I think the reason I’m so enamored by this thought is the fact that I, personally, am not so gracefully interrupted. (To phrase it mildly.)

I am not a fan of unexpected detours. Sudden changes to my schedule have a tendency to make me spend the whole day trying and failing to recover my rhythm.

But here’s Jesus, making an entire ministry out of interruptions, taking them all in stride.

Take Mark 5 for example. He’s on His way to minister elsewhere when someone tugs on His cloak in search of her own healing. And Jesus stops. A little girl’s life hangs in the balance while He takes a moment to commend this impertinent woman for her faith. He speaks life into this woman even as the little girl He was on His way to save breathes her last breath.

Y’all, I get annoyed when my Tuesday dinner plans turn into Thursday lunch plans. Jesus got interrupted and a child literally died. His detour kept Him too long. His miracle came too late.

(Except, *spoilers* it didn’t because nothing is impossible with God, so this deadly interruption wasn’t quite as fatal as it seemed.)

You know what I would have done had I been in Jesus’ sandals that day? I would have shaken the woman off. I would have ripped my cloak right out of her desperate hands and rushed straight to the bedside of that little girl. That was the mission, after all. If Jesus had accomplished nothing else that day, healing that dying child would have been enough.

But Jesus knew there was room for two miracles where I would have only carved room for one.

He healed a woman of her infirmity and He also brought a child back to life.

Healing upon healing. A two-for-one special.

Jesus was the kind of God who was interruptible because He had to be. Life is full of interruptions, and if you don’t learn to take them in stride, you won’t accomplish much of anything.

My problem, I am coming to realize, is not that interruptions exist, but that I let them overstay their welcome. I dwell on them, fussing over the inconvenience, rather than moving on to the next thing.

What if I learned to hold things for that crucial moment they need to be held and then breathed them out and let them go? What if I learned to be more interruptible? Would it make room for more blessings, more miracles?

I think it might.

So here’s to embracing interruptions with the same attitude Jesus did——like this moment is all that matters. Like I have all of the time in the world to deal with the next thing. Like there is room for more than one miracle in my day.

With Expectant Faith

I recently finished reading the book Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri. It’s a beautiful tale of immigration and faith and risking everything for an uncertain future.

It’s a true story, although cleverly told as though the author is still twelve years old, living in the thick of it. The hero in the story is his mother. He describes her many times as “unstoppable.”

I’m sure his mother would tell the story differently. While her courage in leaving behind an affluent life in Iran for the sake of her faith is undeniable, I imagine there were times she didn’t feel as strong as her beloved son paints her to be. I’m sure there were places along the journey where she just wanted to curl up and cry. I doubt she felt unstoppable at every road block that stood in her path. I’m sure that courage was sometimes a thing she mustered for her children’s sake alone.

But the author sees her as unstoppable. Despite the storms that surely raged within her soul.

I don’t think it is spoiling the story to tell you how the author speculates she managed through all those dreadful years of wondering and waiting.

“Maybe it’s anticipation,” he wrote. “Hope. The anticipation that the God who listens in love will one day speak justice.”

I’ve been rolling those words around in my head for a week now, molding them into the gaps in my heart.

This is the kind of faith I knew God was looking to instill in me this year when He burdened me with the word Expectant.

Daniel Nayeri wrote in his book that what you believe about the future changes how you live in the present. That was the secret that made his mother an unstoppable force.

That is the secret that could unlock everything.

I’m going to be honest, my future has been looking pretty grim from my recent point of view. So I’ve had to change what I expect from the future. I’ve had to become one of those sojourners who believe there is something beautiful awaiting me at the end of this journey.

I’ve had to look toward the future with hope. Anticipation. Expectancy.

There is more, there is more, there is more.

All I have to do is claim it.

I’m learning (albeit slowly) to claim it. To be the kind of unstoppable Daniel Nayeri believes his mother to be. To have the kind of unshakeable faith that will say, “This is not the end. Mountains, move out of my way.”

Because I believe in the God who holds those mountains. I may feel as though I have come to the end of my being, but He is everlasting. He endures in both love and justice.

My story is not over yet. Dawn will break on the dark night of the soul. And I will choose to rise and meet it with hope in my heart, with anticipation in my soul, with an expectant faith.

An Ode to Joy

The word Joy keeps resurfacing in my life. All throughout the month of February, that pesky little word kept invading my grief as if to say, “Get up, get up and keep moving forward.”

You see, Joy took a little vacation from my life starting back in November. I checked out of Thanksgiving. I cried through Christmas. And for the entire month of January I just sort of existed in a perpetual state of sadness.

Then along comes February, singing its infuriating little song: “Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy…”

Where? I wonder.

“Down in your heart, silly,” Joy says with a giggle.

If I have any trace of that Sunday School Joy remaining deep down in my heart, I think it’s safe to say it’s buried beneath quite the pile of rubble right now. Yet the words that keep haunting me at every turn are those of James:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

I don’t know about you, but Joy isn’t exactly my natural response to troubling situations. I prefer to wallow in my misery, mourning deeply and artistically. I like to give Grief time to do its work and devastate me properly. I don’t want to think about how the testing of my faith produces perseverance; I just want to cry, dang it.

But this verse just kept on playing peekaboo with my heart. So I read the entire book of James and followed that up with the more sensible solution of searching my Bible’s concordance for other references to Joy, and that’s when I found this little gem tucked within the pages of Ecclesiastes 7:

“Consider the work of God; For who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other…”

I love how well those words parallel the words of James (while leaving room for deep, artistic grieving).

Consider it pure joy…

Be joyful… consider…

Prosperity and Adversity both have stories to tell. And while Joy may come as a result of the trial, it doesn’t actually show up until later. Sometimes much later.

I’m learning that Joy is cyclical, like everything else under the sun. Adversity will always take a swing at it, Trials will often tackle it to the mat, and Grief may sometimes hold it down for the count. And that’s okay.

Maybe I don’t have to feel guilty that Joy isn’t currently the reigning champion in my heart, so long as I’m willing to let her back in the ring.

The blows just keep on coming, but Peace is surprisingly holding her own, and Joy? Well, I think she has a fighting chance. That’s all that I can give her right now. I hope it’s enough.

Fishing for Redemption

I’ve heard a dozen sermons on the final chapter of John. It’s funny to me that the general consensus among scholars is that Peter was in the boat that day running from his calling.

“Jesus died and Peter went fishing,” the preachers say. Abandoning the cause. Returning to the familiar. Doing exactly what he used to do before Jesus showed up and offered to teach him a new way to fish.

I’ve heard it enough times that I accepted it as fact. It makes sense, I suppose, that Peter would run back to that at the height of his despair. Only, it wasn’t exactly the height of his despair, was it? That famous breakfast on the beach was, in fact, the third time Jesus made an appearance to His disciples.

Peter didn’t go fishing when Jesus was dead; he went fishing after Jesus had already risen. Easter had come. Hallelujah.

So, if Jesus had proven Himself to be exactly what the disciples had hoped He would be, what was Peter running from?

Let’s rewind to Mark 14. You might remember that fateful night when Jesus tells His disciples that Zechariah’s prophecy will be fulfilled: “I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered.”

Peter, of course, faithful follower that he is, says, “Never will I ever,” and Jesus says, “Bro. You’re not just going to scatter, you’re going to deny me three times before sunrise, so just cool your jets.” (Paraphrase, obviously.)

But that’s not all Jesus said that night. Right before Peter interrupted with his ill-fated promise, Jesus made a promise of His own.

“But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Back to John 21. Here’s Peter, who has been to the empty tomb. Peter, who watched his friend Thomas skim his skeptical fingers over Jesus’ scars. Peter, whose wildest dreams have been realized, but who is drowning in shame.

He denied Jesus. He denied Him three times.

Is he really worthy of being called a disciple? Did he screw up too big? Did he scatter too far? Does Jesus still want him—Peter, who denied all association just to save his own skin?

I imagine him replaying that night in his mind. I envision the moment his reflections turn from his own broken promise to the one Jesus made.

Galilee.

It’s the place where Jesus first found him, yes, but maybe—just maybe—it’s the place where Jesus might meet him again.

So I imagine that when Peter said, “I’m going fishing,” it wasn’t an escape so much as a hope. Maybe he’s thinking of the day Jesus first called him, or maybe he just needs something to do with his hands, but Peter goes fishing. Peter goes fishing on the Sea of Galilee.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t go running from God in places I expect Him to be. I don’t crank up the worship music and say, “Oh. Fancy meeting You here.”

So I really can’t picture Peter as running here. Hopeless, maybe. Lost, for sure. But I think Peter went fishing that day because he was yearning to be found. Running back to the place where it all began, hoping to begin anew.

I think he set out in his little boat knowing Jesus would walk by. I think he was hoping to be chosen again, just like he was called the first time.

I think he was asking, “Do You still want me? Or are You going to leave me on these waters where I belong?”

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Jesus waited for that moment to reinstate Peter to his calling. He’d had the opportunity twice before, but passed it over, leaving Peter to doubt.

Now here He was, for the third time, asking Peter if he loved Him, not once, not twice, but three times.

“Yes, yes, You know I do!”

And then Jesus spoke the words I imagine Peter was longing to hear when he set out in that boat of his.

A pardon. An invitation.

“Follow Me.”

Forgiveness. Redemption.

“I wanted you then. I want you now. You haven’t screwed up too big. You’ll never scatter too far. Welcome back to the flock, my wayward Shepherd. Come, Follow Me.”

Even When God Disappoints…

“God won’t disappoint you.”

“God never lets us down.”

I read those two statements in the same morning and bristled both times. Maybe it makes me a bad believer, but I question the truth of those words.

God won’t disappoint me? God will never let me down?

If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve likely heard that “every good and perfect gift is from above.” While that is true—biblical even—I can’t help but wonder when and where the church adopted the counterpoint to that statement: “Every hardship is from the devil.”

Because that’s the assumption, isn’t it? Blame satan, sin, spiritual warfare… but don’t blame God for your heartache.

The question I wrestle with today is how? How can one believe in a loving God who holds all things in His hands, while also believing that He allows things to slip through His fingers? Is God in control? Or does satan sometimes blindside Him?

Whoops. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Um, it’s satan’s fault. Sorry.”

I have a hard time believing that could be true. I can’t imagine that the God who so carefully crafted the universe could be so careless with something so dear to my heart. It doesn’t line up with what I know to be true of Him.

So as I stand here resting my head against the door He briefly opened and then so suddenly slammed in my face, I find myself disappointed (to put it mildly). Not in satan, sin, or spiritual warfare, but in the God who elected that I should walk this road and bear this burden.

Because while it may be that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him, that doesn’t mean that the process isn’t painful. That doesn’t mean I will never feel disappointed or let down. That doesn’t mean I won’t be devastated by a sudden turn of events.

That’s not how life works. That’s not how the Author of Life operates. He doesn’t shelter us from the storms of life; He simply weathers them with us.

The word God burdened my heart with for this coming year is Expectant. I have to admit it seems a strange follow-up to my year of Be in which I dismantled all of my expectations. It feels like a completely backward way of thinking. It feels like a recipe for disappointment.

I am trying to be Expectant of good things—to believe that this year will bring forth beauty from ashes. To look to the future with hopeful anticipation, trusting God to deliver good things, while not letting my dreams take too specific a shape.

So often, God’s will does not align with my own, and when I expect it to, I find myself disappointed.

This isn’t what I wanted, even if God believes it’s what I needed. Even if He ultimately knows best.

This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve walked this rocky road of disappointment and doubt. It’s hard to believe in the goodness of God when dealing with what one can only perceive as senseless heartache. So to assign God the reputation of never letting us down… Well, that just makes for a lot of disgruntled believers.

Because life is full of disappointments. Sometimes God opens doors only to close them again. Sometimes He grants us opportunities that aren’t everything we hoped they would be. And sometimes, as disappointing as it sounds, His good and perfect gifts are forged in hardship.

But even in the disappointment

I will continue to Expect beauty from these ashes. Because even in the disappointment, I trust that God’s heart toward me is good. I believe His will for me is pure.

And that, to me, is better than any misguided promise that life with Him will be easy.

A Year to Be

At the start of 2020, I sat down and had a conversation with God about a theme for the coming year. I needed a goal so that I could steer my life in that direction. But at the end of the day, having exhausted the possibilities, the only word that would stick to me was “Be.”

Be.

Boring old Be.

I mean, seriously, what is a girl to do with Be? How does one pursue something that is essentially the opposite of pursuit? Be is something that simply is, so what was I to do?

I begged God for a different word—something tangible. Some task that I could measure. I gave Him the entirety of January to change His mind, but the word remained, along with the certainty that God was calling me to set my standard of productivity aside.

It was a big year for me, after all. I had just moved across the country, I had a brand new ring on my finger, and I was planning a wedding that summer. God knew I needed time to learn how to fit into my new role.

“You are in the process of Becoming,” He whispered to me on that late January day. “This is your chrysalis stage. And while it may appear stagnant, you will emerge a new creature. You are quietly growing wings.”

I griped about it for another six weeks, and then the world fell apart and I was suddenly grateful for my passive, boring little word.

(Seriously though, can you imagine if this had been the year I tried to pursue a life lived Together? Or chosen that moment to decide to chase the Horizon? I would have gone stark raving mad with a word that required action from me.)

Suddenly, Be was a beautiful thing. My little spot of sanity in a world gone mad.

Be.

Take a deep breath. Everything will work out fine. Less doing, more being.

The truth is, I let a lot of things fall by the wayside in 2020. I wrote very little. The ice rink shut down and I didn’t check on the conditions of its reopening. I quit my job and started over somewhere new. Somewhere slow paced enough to drive the old Rebekah mad, but to make the new Rebekah smile at its simplicity.

And that’s how I know that 2020 has been my most successful year yet. Because I’m not sitting at the end of it, running through a mental list of my failures. Because I no longer worship the gods of productivity.

A year ago today, I would not have thought it possible to state into an uncertain future without the slightest bit of apprehension. I would not have thought I could replace heartache with peace. And, though I have my days, I am here.

I am here.

Present in my life in a way I did not know was possible. Breathing in the moment without that flicker of hurry at the back of my mind. I am no longer racing through the motions of life; I am merely showing up for it.

And it is beautiful.

Life in all of its unscripted, unhurried glory is beautiful.

I’m glad I showed up for it, and I hope you will, too.

Great Expectations and the Decay of Happiness

“Happiness equals reality minus expectations.”

That phrase, which I read in John Mark Comer’s Garden City (although he accredits it to sociologists Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarim from their book Engineering Happiness), has been rolling around in my mind for a day now.

“Happiness equals reality minus expectations.”

Huh.

When Levi and I were going through pre-marital counseling, there was a whole chapter on expectations. Our homework was to write down twenty expectations we had for our marriage in addition to ten expectations we imagined each other to have. We were then meant to share, compare, and otherwise work through our delusions.

I suppose the point of the exercise was to save us from future unhappiness (see happiness equation above), but concocting that many expectations for the sake of comparison felt like a sure way to guarantee my unhappiness in the moment. I managed to come up with a whole eight expectations before I called it quits.

I know it’s still early, but despite flunking marriage counseling, we are blissfully, deliriously happy. I’ve either kept my expectations simple, or I learned to shape them around the person I know Levi to be rather than a “perfect” ideal I might conjure. (Because let’s face it, in a perfect world, my husband would cook and clean and somehow still manage to make enough money that I’m not holding my breath when I tally up our expenses each month.)

But it works. My expectations do not outweigh my reality. I’m truly happy with the simple life we’ve chosen to pursue.

When I look at the world around me, it is obvious that most people cannot say the same. There is an epidemic of discontent sweeping through the nation. Despite the overwhelming amount of privilege to be found in America, we are desperately grasping for more.

And I wonder if these people will be happy when they “arrive” or if their expectations will have left them empty. Will they ever be content with enough when there is always more to be had for the taking?

Would I be happy just to sell a novel if I’m fantasizing about it landing on the New York Times Bestseller List? Would I be delighted by a simple review from a reader if I was hoping to be critically acclaimed?

It’s worth pondering. Is it possible that our great expectations are sabotaging our ability to be happy?

There is a lot of tension in America right now, everyone constantly refreshing their phones to see if the votes have been counted. The next four years of political decisions hinge on the outcome… but your happiness doesn’t have to.

People will tell me that is a privileged point of view. But is it? Is it a privilege to be happy despite the state of the political world or is it simply a choice? A choice to choose hope instead of despair. A choice to choose love over hate.

I am a firm believer that your mindset shapes your reality. That’s why the placebo effect works. Belief has the power to heal and uplift, but it likewise has the power to drown and destroy. So really, you can’t afford to walk into the day with anything other than a positive outlook. Your literal health depends on it.

Politics take place in government circles, but happiness… that starts here. With you. With me. With the choices we make daily.

And stuff like that? Hope and love and joy and peace… it’s contagious. That is what is going to change the world. Not a couple of guys sitting at a desk in their big, white house.

We have ascribed too much worth to outward circumstances. We have given too much power to politicians. It is time to take back our lives. To reshape our expectations and the disillusionment that comes with them. It’s time to extend a little grace—we’re all only human after all. It’s time to choose to be happy, despite the media telling us that we should despair.

At this point, there is nothing you can do about the election. You did your part, but now it is out of your hands. You can, however, elect for love to reign over hatred in your heart.

I know I want to live in a world where love wins. I hope you’ll choose to create that world with me.

Pursuing Stillness

My husband has been comparing me to horses pretty much since the day we met. (He’s a horse trainer; it can’t be avoided.) Fairly early on in our relationship, he told me I reminded him of one of the more sensitive of those creatures. He knew that if he pushed me too hard, too fast, I was liable to jump right through the fence.

He wasn’t wrong. In the end, it was his gentle persistence that won me over… even if he does insist on handling me like a horse.

It’s an apt comparison though, especially when it comes to his own personal project pony. If having a “spirit animal” is still a thing, Kismet is mine. In observing her, I learn much about myself.

Perhaps our similarities are what draw me to her, but also what make her difficult for me to ride. The things I struggle to control in her are the very things I fail to master in myself.

Stillness is hard for both of us. In order for me to maintain control of Kismet, I have to lower my energy and find a sense of peace. But peace is not my natural state of being. I like busyness. I enjoy multitasking. Slow and steady is a phrase I often interpret as dull and boring. Even when I am sitting still, my mind is racing in a hundred different directions because I feel like I should be doing something.

But Kismet is teaching me the Art of Stillness, not by example, but by the fact that Stillness is what she requires of me if I want to stay in the saddle.

Sometimes it feels like she fights me with every step. She wants to press ever forward, ever faster. Always moving, and always moving her way at that.

Last week, we took the client horses out and about for a ride to see how these green broke ponies would react to the great big world. It was Kismet’s job to take the lead—to walk fearlessly up to bridges and dumpsters and mountains of firewood so the others could see these things meant them no harm. Kismet got bored with it pretty quickly, never wanting to linger over any one thing for long.

My instinct is always to fight her—to force her into submission—but I know she only feeds off my energy and fights me all the more. So I took a deep breath and calmly turned her back around.

Peace.

Stillness.

Why are those things so hard?

As soon as we turned back toward home, the problems only escalated. She picked up her pace, eager to get back to her pasture and her herd. I wound her in serpentines to keep her from charging too far ahead. I intentionally guided her in a direction that was not quite where she wanted to go. Still, she kept her nose tipped to the east, pulling on me.

“I know what direction home is,” I assured her, “but we’re not going that way right now.”

She stomped. She spun. She struggled.

And I related with that horse all the more as she strived against Stillness.

A great big exhale of energy.

Peace.

Stillness.

“I’m okay, you’re okay,” I breathed, willing it to be so. “Whoa, girl. It’s okay.”

We survived our outing, much to my husband’s relief. Despite his more natural tendencies, I think peace is a hard place for him to find when I’m on that wild pony. If you ask me, he’s too hard on her, but I can’t begrudge him that. It’s his job, after all, to gentle horses, but despite all his efforts, this one refuses to be fully tamed.

Sometimes I think he forgets where she came from. After all, this horse would have been dead years ago had a friend not pulled her from a kill pen based solely on her looks.

Someone had given up on her potential. Someone had decided she was beyond redemption. Even the friend who rescued her from the throes of death quickly realized there wasn’t much she could do from this creature. She had no use for a bucking bronc so if Levi was looking for a project, he was more than welcome to take Kismet off her hands.

So really, when you look at where she came from, Levi has worked a miracle with this horse. He saw her worth and fought for it. He gave her purpose. It could almost be said that he brought her back to life.

But she’s still overreactive and highly emotional, and he can’t change that. Just like he can’t change me.

Sure, he can create the proper environment for breakthrough. He can coax her along. But he can’t make that change happen deep inside her where it needs to take place.

Because, while peace is something you can taste in the presence of someone who has mastered the Art of Stillness, it can’t become your own until you want it badly enough to seek it out for yourself. Maybe it can be borrowed for that moment when you need it the most, but possessing it—truly inhabiting Peace and Stillness—is a chore.

I don’t know if Kismet will ever put in the work for herself. I don’t know if horses are capable of the type of self-reflection it would take to overcome all of her past trauma and truly change. But God knows that I’m trying.

I’m taking deep breaths. Exhaling slowly.

I’m reaching for Peace.

I’m pursuing Stillness.

One day, by the grace is God, those things may come easily to me. Today, I strive for them with sheer willpower, reining in my thoughts and centering my focus.

Because there is something sacred about Stillness, and I want to know it better, despite my wandering heart.

Art by: David Roper

Here’s to New Beginnings

I was set up to believe that my wedding day would be a much bigger deal than it actually was. Sure, some of that was due to COVID-19 and realizing we would have to downsize (while also realizing that a small, intimate wedding in our backyard suited us better than the big production ever would).

But still…

I was waiting for that moment—anticipating the pre-wedding jitters as the magnitude of this decision sunk in. That moment never happened, because really the ceremony was little more than an official confirmation of a decision that had already been made, slowly, over the past two years.

On the day I read Levi Roper my vows, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. That was not the case two years ago.

I remember that night so clearly. After three months of fighting feelings I did not wish to have, I found myself losing the battle. I had to address what was happening between us. I had to know.

And yet…

I had an entire list of reasons I shouldn’t pursue this. I imagined a hundred scenarios of things going wrong. In fact, I had only one reason to consider having this conversation at all.

I wanted this. Despite Logic’s attempts to reason me out of it. Despite everything I risked losing. Despite the easy path being to continue on with my life as it was before I ever heard the name Levi Roper.

Yes, despite all of that, one thought rang clear in my mind on the night of July 14, 2018:

“Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.”

So I brought forth my questions and uncertainties and, one by one, he dismantled them all.

Now here we are—one month into a life I never dreamed possible. Mere weeks into a lifetime I almost never had.

All because I was afraid of new beginnings.

I still am. I have a hard time plunging into things where I cannot predict the outcome.

I’m practical, is all. You may not think a trait so simple and seemingly helpful as practicality would be the death of me, but it is, you see. Because pouring all that energy into something that isn’t going to last seems decidedly unpractical to me.

That’s why I find beginnings to be so daunting. Because choosing something worthy of cultivating is a challenge. Starting out and forcing myself into a rhythm is a chore. And knowing that I could work my hardest for naught… Well, that is disheartening, to say the least.

It is so easy, two years down the road, to look back on that pivotal moment and romanticize it:

Silly girl. Look at how things turned out. What did you ever have to be afraid of?

But I was afraid. Looking back on it now, knowing the ending, doesn’t take that fear away; it simply transformed it into something I can cherish with the gift of hindsight.

My favorite part of our story is that I chose him despite myself. Despite my fears. Despite the story I was trying to write for my life.

Levi was (and is) a new beginning. And I didn’t think I was ready for that.

The word God whispered to me as a theme for this year is Becoming. I am all too aware that I am in transition—that God is shifting me into a new season, despite my own plans.

Something new is beginning in my life and it scares me. It scares me because it is unknown and unfamiliar and not in the plan. It scares me because I can’t make out the shape of it quite yet and I feel like I’m walking helplessly into the dark. It scares me because everything I thought I wanted suddenly doesn’t feel like enough.

And I haven’t felt this afraid in two years, when I whispered my confession that, yes, I wanted this into the dark.

I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I’m becoming. And I could think of a hundred things that could go wrong. I can think of a hundred reasons to stay the same—to cling to the familiar. Still, I find myself whispering into the darkness, “I want this. I don’t know what it’s going to look like or how long it’s going to last, but I want this. Despite everything.”

So here’s to new beginnings and the adventures they hold in store.

@jessicahackerphotography
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Of Hypocrites and Grace

“But sometimes a hypocrite is nothing more than a person who is in the process of changing.”

It has been a couple of weeks since my fiancé sent me this quote from the book he is reading (Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson), but I cannot seem to shake these words from my mind.

I have been guilty of judging hypocrites too harshly more often than not. When I find that someone’s actions do not align with their words, I am more likely to write them off as insincere than leave room for the possibility that the person they have been in the past has simply not yet met up with the person they strive to be. And I wonder, as I fight my own battle of becoming, just how much of a hypocrite I appear to others.

If you have followed me for any length of time, you’ll know I tend to live by the words of Jesus and Hannah Brencher. I think we all know that Jesus is a huge advocate for redemption, but here’s what Hannah has to say about it:

“Leave space and room in every sentence you write for grace and redemption. The most beautiful thing about characters is their ability to change. Don’t ever steal that from someone by writing a story they can’t grow out of one day.”

When I look around my world today, I don’t see a lot of space for grace and redemption. While the potential for growth remains in the heart of each and every individual, it is as though the world in which we live has become the enemy of grace.

We are a people divided, each declaring the other side to be wrong, never stooping to anything so low as empathy. We cast accusations regardless of the lack of evidence and rally people to our sides because heaven forbid we hold our opinions alone. Now we have to feel justified in our hatred.

I was on Twitter the other day and stumbled across a post about a well known author who had allegedly admitted to an accusation of sexual harassment last year. The person sharing this post was appalled that the author in question was still publishing books and essentially called for a boycott of both this author and the agent who represented him. If that were the end of the post, I probably would have kept scrolling past without much thought, but it didn’t stop there. The person posting went so far as to call out the people who were seeing this post and not sharing it because apparently everyone needed to be outraged that this author was continuing to try to make a living despite his past sins.

According to that post, I am a horrible person for not forwarding this information to everyone I know, despite there being no actual information shared. I have no idea what this author said or did to merit such an accusation, therefore I have no idea whether or not this punishment fits the crime, yet I am supposed to blindly accept that this author is the actual worst and convince all my followers that they should hate him, too. (Interestingly enough, I had read one of this author’s books and didn’t love it, so I guess I’m boycotting the author anyway, but just because he isn’t my cup of tea, not because I’ve been convinced that he is a sexual predator.)

Sadly, this incident is not isolated. We are crucifying people for the sins of the past. Things that were said or done five, ten, twenty, or even thirty years ago are being dug up and judged by the masses to determine the character of the person in question. “This person said or did X. Proceed the public campaign to ruin their lives/careers!”

Don’t misunderstand me. It’s not that I think sin should go unpunished, but I do sometimes wonder if the punishment the public prescribes appropriately fits the crime. I wonder if, after all that time has passed, the punishment has already been paid in some fashion. I wonder if the person being accused today does not also condemn the person of yesteryear.

Mostly I wonder if we have removed the space for redemption in their stories. If, by refusing to accept that a person can change for the better, we are molding them into the very villains we imagine them to be.

I fear we have become a society that would cast stones first and ask questions later. Worse yet, I fear we have become a society that casts stones without ever bothering to investigate the truth. That we blindly accept the cries of the masses to crucify an innocent man, never questioning his lack of guilt. Never regretting the role we played in his downfall.

Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

Even as self-righteous as we’ve become, it takes only a little introspection to realize we don’t qualify for that privilege.

We are all hypocrites, trying to reconcile new beliefs and old habits. We are all on a journey of becoming, often failing to uphold our own standards, but pressing onward regardless of how many times we’ve fallen.

So please, for the love of all that is sacred, drop the stones to make room for grace. If we covet second chances for ourselves, I think we should afford others the same privilege.

Instead of striving against our perceived enemies, let us strive to redeem the world in which we live.