Saint Sophia’s Cathedral in Los Angeles (My Greek Orthodox Experience)

Upon entering Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, my eyes were taken on a journey into the past. Absorbing the intricate symbolism and rich history hidden in these walls, I stood in admiration. Vaulted ceilings directed our gaze toward heaven, and chandeliers caught the light so effortlessly, splashing rainbows on the nearby walls. Gold embellishments, rustic scents, and the echoes of faint whispers all painted a memory; a memory that is not my own but of which I have come to know. This memory is deeply embedded into our every day, although often forgotten it is what connects us to this earth and one another. Although we were not present and our eyes have not witnessed, we have this recollection because we have faith. Our faith takes us back to that moment where everything ended and where everything began; the crucifixion.

A close friend of mine, Alexandra (Lexy) who is a member of the Greek Orthodox church allowed me to join her for a Sunday service at Saint Sophia’s Cathedral in Los Angeles. To my favor, it was the first Sunday of the month, which meant that the service would be in English rather than its normal Greek. As we entered the foyer of the building, she ventured off to the side where she made a donation, lit a candle, and then approached a portrait that was located to the right of the main church entrance. Bowing her head she blessed herself with the sign of the cross three times and then kissed the portrait. As I stood by her side she noticed that I was watching intently and ventured to explain to me the significance of her actions. She described how the Greek Orthodox Church venerates icons, which serve as a symbolic remembrance of those who helped advance God’s Kingdom on earth. She also explained the signing of the cross, how Greek Orthodox Christians signs the cross differently than the Catholic tradition. Greek Orthodox signing is performed from the right to left shoulder (rather than left to right) using the thumb, index, and middle fingers to represent the Holy Trinity and the pinky and ring finger bent downward touching the palm to represent Christ’ dual nature, both human and divine. This rich symbolism of the Trinity continued throughout the service and increased tenfold around the time of communion. For most of the service we remained standing, an act of devotion that I found endearing. We listened to scripture readings as well as songs from the choir, which was interestingly situated behind us on the upper tier of the church. I asked Lexy why the choir was placed behind us rather than in front on the stage, as is usual in my own tradition (Churches of Christ). She detailed how the iconostasis (screen of icons) divides us from the altar where the communion is prepared, symbolizing the difference in sanctity. The choir does not stand in the front but sings from behind and above so that they may be heard throughout but not seen. She described how the Greek Orthodox church adamantly strives to create an experience that elicits harmony. The intentional positioning of the choir allows their voices to reverberate and cascade over the worshippers, providing a transcendental experience where we feel as if angels are calling out from above. The service increased in solemnity as time moved forward, leading up to the most vital moment, communion. Whereas Protestant church services tend to proceed in a manner that portrays the sermon as the apex, Greek Orthodox Christians revere communion as the most crucial facet of their church service. The service is designed in such a way that every decision, every action, every thought aggrandizes to this one moment, the receiving of communion. I unknowingly made the mistake of asking Lexy about whether or not I would be able to take communion (I was only able to receive a blessing because I am not Greek Orthodox) and she immediately corrected me and said that we don’t take communion, we receive communion. This slight modification in word choice resonated with me, prompting me to meditate on the way that I have understood the weight of communion. Admittedly, there have been times throughout my life where I have selfishly mistaken communion as a time of personal rejuvenation and have equated the Eucharist as a source of nourishment that I am able to take, rather than a humble affirmation of my commitment to Christ. I believe Protestant Christians like myself, come empty to the table each Sunday relying on communion as their own means for personal subsistence. We do not approach the table in a manner where we are reverently receiving God’s body and blood, but rather in a way where we take our fill halfheartedly. Somewhere along the line we have lost our understanding of the weight and depth behind the receiving of communion. As I came across this realization, my heart filled with contempt and remorse. As the priest prepared the Eucharist, he walked down the right aisle of the church cradling the chalice with both hands out in front of his body, close to his heart. He continued around the last pew toward the back of the church and proceeded to walk back up the center aisle. I asked Lexy what this procession signified and she explained how the priest was blessing the church. Every individual then stood facing the center aisle and as the priest walked by each pew, this was a cue that signaled the worshippers to sign the cross over their bodies. Each of his steps created a ripple effect, with all believers signing the cross in perfect unison until he had reached the last pew. In the midst of this dance between the priest and the worshippers, instead of fixing my eyes on the chalice, my eyes glanced across the adjacent section of pews toward the wall facing me. On this wall was an illustration of the crucifixion. It was in this one instance where I felt harmony, not only with this body of people but also with those of the past. A poignant fragrance of cedar drifted through the air around me. The candles lining the wall flickered dimly, casting shadows across the illustration. One deep breath filled my lungs with history and I was taken back in time. This wall was adorned with reminiscent affliction; an image of anguish that came alive. The suffering portrayed was palpable and I became overwhelmed with a sense of reverence. I found myself entranced at the scene lain before my eyes. The agony illustrated situated a knot in my throat that wouldn’t fade, but I could not turn away. It pained me to contemplate the image, but when I finally took the moment to really see, I was overcome with awe. I could sit and stare for hours, lost in this moment. I was able to relish all facets of time; past, present, and future. As my eyes glanced from detail to detail, I enjoyed a rich history where I became connected to this memory. Reminiscing on His death made time both obsolete and precious. It allowed an instance of reprieve where I could escape the world around me, but of which brought me nearer to it at the same time. Every aspect of this moment; its various sights, sounds, and smells intricately woven together brought me closer to reality but altogether pulled me away from it. From the moment my eyes saw the crucifixion painted across this wall I began to understand why the antiquated Greek Orthodox tradition has survived for so long. This moment when time stands still, where you can’t help but fall on your knees in reverence to a moment that connects you to an event from 2000 years in the past; that is what our relationship with God should look like. Although I am a contemplative individual with overwhelming amounts of sentiment and reflection; to consider the day where I will encounter God in person, is incomprehensible. The Greek Orthodox church seeks to create a transcendental experience where we can meet our Savior, and fortunately I was able to experience and know Him a little more, if only for a brief moment.

Fear and Faith are incompatible

Seeing as Valentine’s Day has come and gone in a whirlwind, my thoughts leading up to and subsequently following this holiday has led me to contemplate this emotional day.

Valentine’s day is a day where “I love you” is expected. A day where its ok to be overly emotional, and a little too gushy. Where public displays of affection leave you nauseated, or maybe that’s because of the egregious amounts of chocolate you have eaten… See, on Valentines Day it’s expected and even encouraged to confess your feelings for your loved ones,  and there is usually a tremendous amount of pressure and expectation to reveal yourself. The more and more I think about Valentines Day, the more I see how this day often reflects our own walk with Christ. See on Valentines Day, we are encouraged to lay all our cards on the table, to open our hearts and declare our devotion for the one we love. To allow another person to see who we really are, to share ourselves and to become vulnerable.

However, more often than not Valentines Day remains just another ordinary day because like most days, words are left unsaid. When the opportunity arrives for us to lay our cards on the table, we panic and then we continue to rationalize our fear.

In this same way, we fear to be bold and speak up about our faith. We fear to declare our love for the Lord.

Reminiscing on my walk with Christ I have found this very much to be the case in my younger years. Going to public school for the majority of my life, I have been surrounded with peers from all walks of life. My high school was a melting pot of an assortment of cultures and convictions. I had friends who were Buddhist, friends who were Atheist, friends who were Muslim, and quite frankly friends who even made fun of me for being a Christian, all jokingly but nonetheless pointing out the fact that I was different . Teachers taught us that religion was taboo, a topic to be discussed behind closed doors and from a young age I understood that a person’s faith is something that needs to be kept secret. Looking in hindsight, I see now that my faith as a Christian was being overwhelmed by a sea of diversity and I feared revealing who I really was.

I feared the vulnerability associated with claiming that I was a Christian.

I may not know where you all are in your own faith journey, but I think that we have all come to this point in our life where we may have feared speaking up. Whether out of fear of ridicule, or rejection, or embarrassment.We fear revealing who we really are, because we want to be normal. We don’t want to be different from the rest.

Looking at 2nd Timothy Chapter 1, Paul gives us a glimpse into Timothy’s life. In this passage Paul encourages Timothy to continue his work in the church, but Timothy very much harbors a spirit of timidity. In 1st Timothy Paul even instructs Timothy on matters relating to his health, and talks about frequent bouts of illness that some speculate to be related to anxiety and worry.

But, Paul assures Timothy that there is no shame in finding his identity in Christ:

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

But most of the time, we don’t like speaking up. We’ve become meek and afraid to speak boldly because we don’t want to forfeit our safety, and maybe we have even been ashamed of our identity in Christ.

See being a Christian isn’t always easy…..most of the time it’s actually very challenging. Its a 24/7 commitment that sometimes makes it hard to relate to people. Especially in a world that tells us we can do it on our own, that we alone determine our future; its not natural for us to lay our burdens down and rely in Someone bigger than ourselves. Our society has progressed to the point where we don’t need God because we are self-reliant. But this is one of the biggest lies our society feeds us today, that we need to conform, that we need to stick with the status quo, that it is all up to us. Our society tells us, don’t say this or that because that’s not socially acceptable. Don’t talk about politics or religion because you will just make people upset.

But the one thing we as Christians often forget is that we are not here on this earth to please other people, we are here to please God alone. And that fear that so often overwhelms us that prevents us from revealing our true selves, is merely a lie.

We see this fear manifest in Peter’s life. When asked if he knew Jesus, he denied Him. He forfeited his faith when times got hard and became a lapsed Christian. He wasn’t fearless enough to step out in truth. He relinquished his faith because it was easier to follow the crowd. Because it was easier to blend in.

We all have encountered these moments. We have been hesitant to share our beliefs, we have been embarrassed, and have feared that we will be rejected. Perhaps we are scared that we are hypocrites; that if no one knows that we are a Christian then we don’t have to meet any preconceived expectations and then we won’t let anyone down.

There have been many occasions in my own life where I should have said something, where I should have defended Christ. But Words were left unsaid.

We’re not doing anyone a favor when we stifle our faith and we’re sure not doing God any favors when we’re too afraid to claim Him. God tells us that there is a time for everything. But the time where we need to step out in our faith, to be bold and radically proclaim Christ, is now. We need to claim victory over our shame and have the courage to move forward.

In Ephesians 6:19 Paul says, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should.

Even when Paul was in prison in the worst of the worst conditions, repeatedly stoned and beaten; he did not stop speaking up about his faith. He boldly professed his identity found in Christ, and during a time where you were likely to be put to death if you claimed Christ.

In Philippians Paul tells the Philippians in Ch 1 verse 20: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Similarly, in Romans 1:16 Paul says: I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

In all of Paul’s letters, this character of boldness and fearlessness are so greatly emphasized.

Fear and faith are incompatible. We cannot dive further in our faith if we harbor this fear.

There’s  beauty that is to be found when we pursue God. Our faith does make us different. God never intended for us to blend in. We were born to stand out and to stand up for our faith. We have someone who fights for us everyday, and its time we started fighting for Him.

Reminiscing on Valentine’s Day, I wanted to leave you with a thought:

What if we viewed every day like Valentine’s Day? What if we expressed not only our love for one another, but also our love for God without fear and shame, but with bravery? What if we spoke confidently to one another about what’s really on our hearts, instead of masking ourselves?

My hope is that we can all stand boldly, claiming Christ as our light, which in turn will help ours to shine that much brighter.

Echoes of the Heart

Will my love sustain the relationship that I have with my future spouse? This question has been dancing around my mind for quite some time. This question consumes us as that one person we can’t seem to shake overwhelms our thoughts and determines our actions.

Every step, every breath; becomes a path toward earning their love.

Our day becomes a stream of conscious determinations, heightened echoes of the heart; desperate screams for this person to realize that the person standing beside them, is all they’ll ever need. Because you believe that you can provide their happiness. And you want nothing more for them than for their life to be filled with joy, even at the expense of your own.

Which begs the question: Is there a point when love becomes a manifestation of our own deceit?

They say to have loved and lost is better than never having the opportunity to love at all. But would it not be better to have never loved, if the love that you had was seemingly composed on your behalf?

Love, while equated with a beautiful rose, is often misguided; as so many of us fail to remember that this beautiful rose holds thorns. In all of the fairytales I have seen whilst growing up, love was always manifest as three parts of an enchanting story: a spark of desire, a battle to win back the love after being forced away, and finally the love rekindled and blazing forevermore. In the second part we see that sacrifice proves to triumph over evil and love is granted. The prince risks his life to see his princess for one last moment, and ultimately sacrifice triumphs and their love never dies.

However, we often fail to realize that sacrifice must also be evident in part three in order for love to withstand the trials of life.

For many years, I have equated love with sacrifice. Biblically, sacrifice is revealed as the ultimate form of love. Love cannot exist apart from sacrifice because there is no such thing. Christ revealed this truth as His Love flowed from the cross.

However, in my younger years, my conception of sacrifice was skewed. As Jesus became the lowest of the lowest, I decided that I needed to put my desires on the back-burner and do everything in my might to insure that my loved ones were happy. When in a serious relationship for almost 4 years, I understood that love was only revealed in those times where I sacrificed myself for my partner. It wasn’t until years later that I realized my conception of sacrifice as being equal with love, was distorted. I had reduced love to a mere string of actions that put another person before myself; and in the process I was losing myself. I had sacrificed myself, my feelings, and my convictions because I knew love to be sacrifice. It was the only fitting way to ascertain that what I had with my loved one, was real. For 4 years, I had worried myself with actualizing and validating my love to the point where the “love” that I was expressing, wasn’t love at all.

Sacrifice had become my own means of creating love.

Now, 4 years later (with many lessons learned the hard way), I can profess with confidence that God is Love- sacrifice was but a facet of His Love. Love cannot be fabricated, nor can it be wished or summoned. More crucially, Love cannot be defined and understood by human standards.

Love comes quietly when you least expect it. It floods your entire mind, body, and soul; harboring a strength to view the world in a different light and prompting you to become what He intended. Above all, love only becomes true when it is a commitment professed in reverence to the One who is love.

Fear is Merely a Lie

Do not be afraid.

Throughout the Bible this phrase is declared 365 times. 365 days of the year we live in fear. 365 days of the year we find ways to cope with the life God has given us, because we give in to a world that tells us we can do it on our own. We’ve bought into the age old lie that our life is what we make of it, and when our life isn’t what we’ve been striving to make it, we suffocate. Our head barely reaches the surface and we grasp onto anything, anyone that will help keep us afloat. Our minds become consumed by cyclical thoughts, always leading us back to that single provoking thought that in turn forces our faith to fade and our fear to increase. Personally, I have fallen victim to my own fear. My faith has drowned in fear of my own inability to survive in a world that suffocates us each day. Oftentimes my faith has been driven by my fear. Until one night changed it all. I finally broke the surface and realized that fear is merely a lie.

In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl elaborates on our pursuit for meaning in life and the purpose of suffering. Frankl details how we have brought fear upon our own shoulders, which he poignantly dubbed anticipatory anxiety. According to Frankl, anticipatory anxiety is our own contrived fear before a stressor or suffering has yet occurred.

Over the course of one summer, this rung true in my own life with bouts of insomnia. Attending a prestigious University where every student is overcommitted and actively engaged in myriad clubs, non-profits, jobs, and internships, not to mention a full course load… my schedule had always been busy. But I enjoyed my productiveness and found my worth in my effectiveness. Small accomplishments and simple joys in my everyday kept me going and provided hope.

I had just finished my sophomore year, a very rigorous year, when I started summer school. My summer break was virtually nonexistent, as I took three courses for my major and held two jobs for the summer (one as Residential Advisor for over 400 students-which demanded me to stay up until at least 2am each night, as well as a desk job for the campus ministry office). I had been in school since August and it was now the end of July. A full year without any downtime to process. My body had reached its limit. Once I finally had a couple of weeks to recoup back at home, my seeming “unproductiveness” left my body unable to fall asleep. Frankl describes this anticipatory anxiety as cyclical:

The fear of sleeplessness results in a hyper-intention to fall asleep, which, in turn, incapacitates the patient to do so”.

My body had grown accustom to being busy to the point where when it was finally allowed to relax, it couldn’t. These 2 weeks at home were the longest 2 weeks I have experienced in awhile. Each night as I lay down, my mind raced every which way: to-do lists, finances, future goals, contrived scenarios, hypothetical conversations, childhood memories, and optimistic hopes.  My thoughts consumed me, I could not sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time.

Time passed slowly, but sooner or later I was back at school starting a new academic year. But my insomnia insidiously seeped back into my life. Soon it came to a point where I dreaded the night, for fear of my inability to fall asleep. Each night I would venture out into my apartment living room where tears streamed down my face. My bones ached and I felt as if I was losing myself. I began to detest my overly active mind. The contemplative, thoughtful, and optimistic woman I once knew myself to be, had become an anxious, paranoid, and guilt ridden girl whose days were fogged by her fear.

One day I had arrived back at my apartment to try and take a nap. I had never been one to like mid day naps but I desperately needed sleep and thought that if I couldn’t find sleep at night, I might find it during the day. As my eyes slowly shut my mind remained awake but my body fell asleep. What I would later discover to be sleep paralysis had come over me. Later that evening as I tried to fall asleep, thoughts of sleep paralysis became lodged in my mind.  I tried to wish them away, but couldn’t. My heart beat faster and I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe. And then I couldn’t. My strivings for perfection in the daily underpinnings of life led me to experience my first (and hopefully last) panic attack.

As I heard the paramedics come into the apartment, my panic increased. My vision became blurry and my hands and feet went numb. Because my breaths were so ragged my body could not get the oxygen it needed. The paramedics carried me out to an ambulance where I was taken to the hospital.

As my roommates drove me home from the hospital that night, I fell into a deep sleep, the best sleep I had gotten in months.

Early the next morning my father called. And gave me a couple verses to meditate on before bed each night, Matthew 6:25-34. Each night I recited this passage over and over in my head, and just like that I was able to fall asleep.

But soon, memories of the panic attack challenged me during the daytime. Bouts of sudden anxiety would randomly overwhelm me at the most inconvenient times.

In his book, A Grief Observed, C.S Lewis details this reaction:

Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”

Fear had seeped into my every day, making every day a never ending panic attack. I had been desperately trying to avoid panic to the point where I was causing myself panic. I vividly remember this happening to me while I was sitting in my Psychology & Religion lecture. The entire class, I had been focusing on my breathing for fear of another fit of panic, when suddenly, my body became hypervigilant. I quickly became overwhelmed with the fear that I was having another panic attack right there in the classroom. I quickly recited the verses my father had given me, and slowly but surely I regained composure–scripture and prayer had become my means of coping. But this still leaves us with the question of why we have to cope in the first place.

Fear itself, is the product of suffering. But what is suffering the product of? Further, why would a good God allow us to suffer so? Lewis asserts that suffering becomes evident in those times where our will transgresses the will of God:

God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t.

Suffering is evident because of our own lack of faith.

God seemed to be wanting me to realize that my fear was outweighing my faith; on multiple occasions thereafter he presented opportunities where loved ones bolstered my heart with courage. While studying for finals with a friend, I had been venting about an upcoming presentation that was required and how I was afraid of speaking in public. My friend asked me: “Do you know why you’re afraid?” of which I answered “Well yes, I don’t want other people to think I’m ignorant. I just want people to relate to what I speak about”. He then answered: “No, you’re afraid because of a lack of faith”.

Similarly, upon arriving home for winter break my father and I drove to Starbucks where we talked about my upcoming summer mission for Lets Start Talking in Thailand. We talked about how my mother was afraid of me going  and how she did not wish me to go on the trip, which had become an inner struggle for myself.  I understood that I was to honor my parents but could not come to terms with choosing between God’s will to evangelize, or staying behind to honor my mother. That night my father quelled my worries. He told me that I am to honor my parents, but first and foremost I am to honor God. My father described how at times we all let our fear outweigh our faith; which is precisely the point where I understood that I could not let it rule my life any longer.

This is not to say that fear is illegitimate. Fear serves a purpose, specifically in our relationship with God. Lately it seems as if there is a general lack of fear in accordance with how we view God, which needs to be addressed. We don’t fear our God enough! But as far as fear goes for earthly things, fear is merely a lie. Fear only serves a temporary purpose. It can either get us back on track in our relationship with God, or we may let it consume us and pull us further from Him.

While attending a Global Missions conference in Memphis, I had the opportunity to have dinner with one of my professors, Dan Rodriguez, who told a story of how a student in a study abroad program had lost his life in a rip current off the coast of South America. The student and his friend had been swimming out in the ocean when the current swarmed them. The students friend who had survived the rip current described how the boy had become so terrified of drowning that he tried to fight the current and swim back to shore. But the current fought harder. The friend however, survived because he knew not to struggle against the current. He knew that if he just let the current take him, he wouldn’t drown.

So often we let life’s currents overwhelm us. We struggle to survive on fear because our faith is lacking. But we need not fear because we always have Someone looking out for us:

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”-Deuteronomy 31:6

No longer do we need to fight against life’s currents. Let life’s currents take you where they may, and enjoy the ride along the way.

My Beloved

 

Winter has arrived, and slowly the year draws to a close. I relish in these last couple of weeks before the new year, and my thoughts run awry. Each night as I lay my head down, my mind races, organizing my to do list for the upcoming school year: this internship, this job, these classes, this car payment, that friendship, this mission trip, that professor, this grad school. I sort through past memories, contrive alternative solutions to lessons learned the hard way, and create hypothetical situations of memories past where in this scenario that I have oh so perfectly designed, I can redeem myself. I shuffle through my laundry list of future hopes, categorizing them and branding them with the words: possible, potential, and preposterous. As if I have the power to determine what my life encompasses. I lay for hours, trying to figure out every detail to every problem, every task, every thought. Because in my mind, I have the control. Until that moment comes, where I finally sort through every finite detail and I am still unable to draw a conclusion; only then do I look to You. Apologetically, the last thing on my mind, is You. It is in this moment that my shame becomes overwhelming. Mentally I degrade myself for remaining blind. I tell myself: I’ll do better tomorrow; to acknowledge You, praise You, and give You control over my life. But that’s just it: as if I am the one allowing You to control my life. I pray nightly, Lord take control of my life, as if You don’t? “Lord, fill me with Your Spirit”, as if I have the right to summon it upon myself? “Lord guide my thoughts”, as if He doesn’t already know my every desire.

 I am deceived. Deceived by my own thoughts, thoughts that over the years have granted me endowment over my own life. If I am to be brutally honest, I am utterly afraid of placing my life in Your hands. I’m scared to pursue the life that you designed for me, because I fear that I will fall down, time and time again. After all, my past mistakes are proof enough, that I’m not strong enough, that I don’t deserve to become holy, that I don’t deserve to seek after Your own heart. But that’s the biggest lie our society feeds us; that we aren’t worthwhile, that we aren’t loved. God didn’t have to breathe life into this world, He didn’t have to design our hearts so intricately; but He did. He did because He wanted nothing more than for us to be in relation with Him. Though I stray from Him each and every day, He always pulls me back to Him. With outstretched hands he whispers, my Beloved

A Nail on a Wall

Shuffling through old photos,

reminiscing on fond memories,

a laugh, a sigh, a tear, an ending.

Eyes glance from moment to moment,

desperately sorting through the past,

and thus begins the mending.

An empty stare towards a blank white wall,

until I stumbled on that nail so small.

with an outstretched hand, my palm covered the head,

and with a wince of pain my heart was dead.

You bore this nail,

so I didn’t have to.

All for love’s sake,

You came to my rescue.

Ridiculed, scorned, beaten and bruised,

an ocean of blood, and my sins were excused.

No greater love than this: That He laid down His life for mine.

And yet, towards His love I remain malign.

Replacing Him, for this affection, that affirmation, this attention;

not even thinking twice for His feelings, His love.

Searching in vain for my own contrived faith,

telling myself, “when I have that car, this husband, that career;

then I’m safe.

And so I wade in lukewarm water,

never diving deeper,

placing my desires at the altar.

I have forgotten You,

turned back on the only One I needed.

Chasing after a false hope,

but You always pleaded.

Pleaded for me to return to You,

earnestly urging me towards Your embrace,

but blindly I stumble in search of Your grace.

In search of Your grace on a misguided path,

paths that cleverly meandered around Your wrath.

Because I was scared to place my life in Your hands,

I took it upon myself to take charge of Your plans.

And now I am asking myself why,

why I am standing here, in this place that I so fervently tried to deny.

I was a fool to believe that I controlled my destiny,

that I was the mastermind behind my fate;

because You are the one who designs my journey,

Your timing is never a moment too early, never a second too late.

So here I am now, begging for Your forgiveness,

ashamed, embarrassed, broken, defeated.

I want You to look at me for the wretched sinner that I am,

and show me no mercy, for I should be damned.

I deserve Your wrath, Your punishment, Your trial;

it was You that I disappointed,

it was You that I beguiled.

And I want nothing more than to pay the price for what I have done,

trading Your love, for temporary satisfaction.

You should forget me, as I have forgotten You;

I am undeserving, the things that I have done I cannot undo.

In this moment I am broken, beyond repair;

but You whisper one last time, “ Come to me in prayer”.

Down on my knees I bow my head,

presenting my remorseful heart, offering it to You instead.

I hand You this blackened, cold, and hardened heart,

I don’t want it anymore; it’s falling apart.

You alone are the only One who can mend it,

and if you permit,

then I shall submit,

to glorify Your name, Your honor, Your heart,

and live the life that You created me for.

Through His life, I have found mine

Easter.

We rejoice in His resurrection, and our hearts are focused on Him.

This is a time where we realize the fullness of our lives. A completeness found through Him.

I looked forward to this feeling as Easter day approached. I looked forward to my parents coming down south to visit me at school. A time where I could enjoy my parents; I hadn’t seen them since Christmas.

My mom had bought me a new dress just for the Easter service and still brought me an Easter basket, despite the fact that I was almost a Junior in college….

The day before Easter, I was cleaning my room awaiting my parents arrival when my mother called. Her voice was frantic and rushed.

And just like that my mother was rushing my dad and I to the hospital.

He gripped the edge of the car seat with such strength, his nails left indents in the cushion of the seat.

As if holding on for his life, he cried out in pain, over and over again.

My mother rushed through the canyon, beeping the horn and flashing her emergency lights on and off. No one seemed to understand the  severity of our emergency. Crossing over the double yellow lines into oncoming traffic, she tried to pass some cars.

Merging on to the freeway, his screams grew louder.

We hit 100mph, and my dad seemed to be losing consciousness.

As my father cried out to Him, I silently pleaded with God. Asking Him to take his pain away.

My mother merged into another lane almost causing an accident.

It seemed as if everything was preventing us from getting to the hospital.

Gasping for breath, my father did not seem to have any willpower left in Him. He quietly prayed, and tears flooded my eyes.

In that moment, I finally felt whole.

In a moment where my life was shattered, I felt the most complete.

Watching my father grasping for life, I understood mine.

As we finally made it to the emergency room, my mom got out of the car and helped my dad through the doors. I rushed to park the car, and broke down as I watched him leave. Running back to the emergency room, I heard my dad crying out in pain echoing the halls. I wanted to rush back there but I had to sign in stating my relationship to my father. A security guard unlocked a wide door and I rushed through the halls trying to find my father. My mother ran into me in the hallway, and held my hand. There was only one chair, so I sat down on my mothers lap. Just like when I was young. We cuddled, and memories from my childhood flooded my thoughts.

I was filled with guilt.

Away from my home while I am at college, I regret the time that I have sacrificed being away from my parents. The two people I care for the most. Guided by His hand, my parents have sacrificed everything for my sister and I, to give us the life that they could never have.

Working overtime and multiple jobs, my parents have done everything they possibly can, just to prepare my sister and I for a life that will bring happiness.

But in the process, they have forgotten theirs.

Their lives revolve around ours, and I worry that sometimes they forget to live theirs.

These past couple of years have been bitter sweet. I have to be away from them so that I can provide for them, and give them back everything they have given me. They deserve everything I earn, because without them I would be nothing.

Hopes that one day I will have a steady income, a loving family, and a house I can call my own. And I know they hope to see my hard work become a reality.

But I worry that they won’t make it. And I regret the time I spend away from them.

My dad still screams, but my mother distracts me with questions. Asking how my friends are, discussing GPA, professors, work, future goals, and how things have changed back at home.

Easter has arrived, and my parents and I attend the service as if the previous day was a faint memory.

But yesterday is still vivid in my thoughts.

Easter has become not only a reminder to remember Him, but to embrace life.

Through His life, I have found mine.