“Wow, this is deep,” I mused.

I find myself enraptured by the words I read on the screen, when the inevitable moment arrives: I disagree with the author.

“No, that’s a horrible way to look at it. This is exactly the mindset that irritates me about people today.”

Then I remember a crucial detail: I’m reading my own posts from 3 years ago. At some level, I wonder if this points to growth. It surely shows change of some kind… I’ll just call it “growth” for now.

This is the quote in question: “Yet, before we can see the wholeness of God, we must first be confronted with the utter brokenness of the world and feel the painful despair of knowing that we are powerless to fix it.” (If you’re curious, it comes from this post.)

You may have heard this same idea phrased in terms of light and dark: “You don’t know the value of light until you’ve experienced darkness.” The problem is that since dark doesn’t technically exist, but is only a term to describe an absence of light, the root issue of not valuing light is a one of perspective and insinuates that if you don’t value light, it’s because your perspective actually values darkness. While it is possible to learn to value light by experiencing its lack, it’s also possible to learn to value light by experiencing a greater measure or intensity of it. Say for instance that you were sitting in a room lit by 800 lumens and then turned on another light which brought the level up to 1,200 lumens, you could say that the increase of light revealed that you had only known darkness before the increase (pessimism) or you could say that the increase of light revealed to you a more marvelous reality of the power of light (optimism). Thus “darkness” becomes relative to your experience of light. There is no such thing as darkness, only a perspective that values diminishing light (that is, centered around measuring visibility in terms of how much light is missing from the environment and evaluating what you can’t do because of this lack, which is the nature of pessimism).

Bringing it back full circle, there is no such thing as brokenness (which I believe is nothing more than a perceived lack of the desired level of wholeness), but only a perspective that is centered around the concepts of brokenness and despair. In any situation, I believe you can see brokenness getting in the way of healthy and functional systems, or you can see wholeness promoting the growth and betterment of the same institutions. You can pinpoint areas of lack and problems, or you can pour effort into increasing the efficiency and health of the good things that are working. The two perspectives are not getting at different issues, but are approaching the same thing from different angles.

The thing about the pessimistic perspective I’ve described that irritates me is that it encourages you to actively look for problems and exerts an emotional gravity that sucks you into cycles of hopelessness, despair, and frustration. The pursuit of problems can eventually lead you to ones that seem so big and so powerful that you feel utterly insignificant and powerless. It leads you to experience a reality that often defies the facts because you are emotionally compromised. Without the realization of a powerful and loving God who is committed to your deliverance, this realization of insignificance is an emotional dead end.

However, if you are somehow convinced of the reality of a God like I mentioned, something must fundamentally change in your perspective. To continue looking for bad things in life is an activity that is incongruent with the assumption of an all-powerful, loving God. If you live from a pessimistic perspective, your actions reveal a belief (perhaps even a subconscious belief) that God is not good, uninvolved in your life, not willing to help you, or other similar ideas.

Optimism can also cause you to become emotionally compromised, but in a way that enhances your ability to act, connect with others, and flourish. It can lead you to experience a reality that defies facts by convincing you of your power to change things through a commitment to your internal values and practicing boundaries that keep unhealthy thoughts out of your heart and mind. It leads you to celebrate life through engaging in it, rather than withdrawing from your circumstances through criticism.

Coming back to the quote (from my own mouth!) that set me off in the first place, I believe that what I’ve said is correct as long as it’s interpreted as a descriptive statement rather than a prescriptive statement. I don’t want to tell anyone that they have to be aware of darkness before they can value light. As long as you’re aware of what’s changing, that’s what matters. It can be viewed as brokenness causing pain or as wholeness advancing peace, but don’t make your perspective into a prescriptive stance on life. Use it to celebrate the possibility of change. Use it to enjoy the present. Use it to subvert reality and make circumstances your playground rather than your prison.

If you also happen to confess (as I do) that God is loving, all-powerful, and engaged in your personal life, then I want to encourage you with the thought that you are a Divine detox agent. Your positive confession of who God is creates an environment where negative thoughts and brokenness become consumed by righteousness, peace, and joy. The intensity of your detoxifying effect is determined by the singularity of your focus on God’s power to raise the dead to life, as shown by the life of Jesus who is the firstborn of the dead, and your choice to remain fully convinced that God wants to make you like Jesus.

Basically, life with God in view is wildly optimistic because the nature of His being is goodness. I don’t have any more time for negatives.

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Closeness with God can be a difficult, ever changing thing. It’s never because He changes, but always because we change. Change. I hate it and love it at the same time. It’s what happens as we renew our minds and bring our lives into alignment with the reality of our new natures in Christ. We are already seated in heavenly places with Christ, but we have to learn how that looks as we live on earth and it can be a difficult, painful process. Sometimes there is great joy in the process too. Sometimes we celebrate the process with other people. Sometimes we journey alone for a time, a phenomenon I know as the desert.

I think that we go through many deserts in life—times when the landscape (circumstances, relationships, etc) are barren and ever-shifting. No matter how well you prepare for it, you will eventually run out of supplies, and you must rely on God to provide manna in the morning and quail in the evening. You must rely on God to provide water from rocks and make the bitter waters sweet. It is often a time of loneliness.

With each desert that we go through, the only thing we can do to experience it differently is to change our perspective of it. This time through, I’m realizing how much joy there is in letting go of everything. I’m releasing friendships, grades, dreams, and plans, and finding that in my human loneliness I find spiritual closeness to my God—One who is not present physically, yet Who is more real to me than any other person I’ve ever met. I find myself hungry for the manna of His presence which, oddly enough, I cannot find in the company of others. I need the desert in order to draw close to Jesus. The desert has become for me no longer something I dread. I love the wide open spaces. I love the utter dependence. I love the closeness. I know that when I have reached the end of my desert season I will be ready for whatever comes; but for now, I am resting. Jesus, I am resting. Thank You.

I'll have nothing except for Him

Hey there! So, today felt brand new. This has been my fourth day on Spring break and, lest I become complacent, today came with a sudden change of pace. I had to leave the house actually because my mom was doing childcare. Anyhow, I decided to walk to the Bayside Church Cafe (because I don’t have a car) and work on homework. So that’s just what I did. I left the house at 9 AM and made it to church at 9:45. I even finished a whole paper while I was there! Then I left around 2:15 PM and as I was walking home, I stopped to take this picture:

Power Lines
I really love man-made objects.

I don’t know why, but it struck me as particularly picture worthy. It’s just so expansive. I like wide-open spaces. At this point, I was almost home, but instead of going home, I decided to walk through Maidu park nearby and I ran into a guy I know from school who I had no idea lived there! How cool. Then I saw these clouds and just had to take another picture:

Clouds
Another "Wow" moment. This scene caught me by surprise.

You might be wondering at this point why I’ve bothered to tell you every little detail of my day. It’s because I never used to think this way. Something in me has changed. I don’t really know how, but living at school for nine months out of the year has caused my perspective to change a little bit. Honestly, I don’t like being back at home. I wish I was on my own. I wish I had a car. I wish I had lots of friends that I could go do things with. I wish I had a steady source of income. But that’s the wrong way of looking at things.

I used to be dominated by routine. No longer am I stuck in my circumstance. Somehow, all of the lessons I’ve been learning about seeking Jesus every day has caused me to see that it is possible to live above my circumstances. This whole time that I was walking, I was also praying. What I noticed about today is that, although I am in a familiar environment, my interactions in it have changed. Maybe there is hope after all that change can happen. Maybe there is hope that I bring a little bit of the kingdom of heaven to the world around me as I renew my mind. Maybe there is hope that good things will come of all my desires. It’s a little change, but I’m beginning to feel as though that’s a misnomer because even a “little” change takes a great deal of effort, sometimes more than we can humanly exert. That must mean that God is moving!!! Thank You, Jesus!

I was feeling defeated today. What do I do when I feel defeated? I talk to Jesus. So, J and I were talking today and He showed me something that I hadn’t fully realized. I’ve been comparing myself with my brothers and sisters in Christ, trying to measure up to an imaginary standard of excellence that would not bring fulfillment.

I was questioning God. Why do there seem to be so many people much more talented than I? Why do I feel unneeded? Why do some people have their lives handed to them on a silver platter and I never find an open door of opportunity?

Each person has a unique path set before them, regardless of how similar some paths may or may not seem. The end results may be drastically different or the paths themselves may take different routes to reach the same destination. No one really knows what the future holds. The only thing that is fairly certain is that each person will experience life differently. When you compare your path with that of another person, you are trying to live into their identity instead of your own. Stop it. Discover your own identity and live into it.

Perhaps you don’t have a grasp on your identity. That’s okay. Put yourself out to experience life. Every time you find something that doesn’t work, assimilate that “not me” experience into your perspective on what to do next. For me, I’ve had my fair share of “that’s not me” experiences and sometimes it is disheartening because I feel I’m no closer to truly knowing what IS me. That’s when I cling to God’s Word.

According to the Scriptures, I am safe and secure in Christ (John 10:29). I am loved by God (John 3:16). I am royalty, a co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17). I am a friend of God (John 15:15). I have a future full of hope (Jeremiah 29:11). I stand in grace (Romans 5:2). I have access to the throne of grace in Heaven; I can boldly approach my Father (Hebrews 4:16). This is the perspective I want.