Strong Girl Secrets: On International Women’s Day

“No. I am not strong “for a girl”, I am JUST STRONG.”
…this is all I have to say to those who have ever fetishized a woman’s physical strength, mocked a woman’s spiritual strength, misjudged a woman’s mental strength, took for granted a woman’s emotional strength. 

I love wearing this tank because it makes others conscious that I am willfully freeing myself from & rebelling against the single narrative that women are told they must accept. “No…”, I say gently, but firmly. “To be a GIRL is to BE strong.” 

I love sharing the confidence that lifting has given me because I want other girls to experience that confidence, too. I want to share because knowledge is power. Because it feels great to smash your goals, to see progress, to take care of yourself. I want to show men that women deserve respect in the gym sphere (& everywhere else, for that matter), & I want to show other women that they can do what I am doing. I want to inspire women to take up space, exude confidence, learn the benefits of lifting that will strengthen both body & soul. So I share it. 

I am not your competition. 

How easy is it to look at the love or attention that other women get & feel “less than”? None of us are fully immune, because it is what we are taught. But we don’t have to be cut-throat. It is not a competition for worth or purpose. Here’s why:

God made us exactly WHO we are supposed to be & He put us exactly WHERE He wants us to be. 

We can have radically different looks, & that does not make one somehow better than the other. We can have all the same talents & interests, & that does not mean that someone else is better because they are pursuing them in a certain way. You can find yourself wanting that job or position, or wishing you had those features, but you will just be wasting your time being miserable. Understand that they are their own person, their own entity, with their own path. We can also have very similar looks & very different talents & interests, but that does not make each of us worth any less. 

Someone else’s beauty is not the absence of your own. And just because you think someone who is very different than you is beautiful, does not mean they would not also find you beautiful. There is not one type of beauty. No matter what society tries to tell us.

The fact that we grapple with & attempt to refigure our thoughts on beauty so much only shows just how truly pervasive the message of beauty = worth really is. It’s like we must knock this wall down before we can really get to talking about the legitimacy of our feelings & hearts & minds. 

This world’s fixation on physical appearance is so sick, so toxic. How is a woman to respond when she’s both bullied by peers & objectified by men the minute she hits puberty, or even before then?? Women are worth so much more than their beauty & their bodies. 

I want the world to know how precious God’s gift of women are.

So I write this for ALL women. For the little girls who starve themselves because they think they are “fat”. For the women who are “too big”, “too loud”, ”too muscular”, “too much”. For the ignored beauty of women of color, gay women, trans women, physically disabled women, mentally ill women. For the women of every race & religion & tribe & tongue. 

For the women around the world & on our own block here in America who are put into boxes & handled as objects, not because of what they wear or what they say or what they like, but simply because the idea of “woman” has the entitlement of others weaved into its inception. Because frankly, women are still not regarded as “human”.

(Look up Immanuel Kant’s “Less Than Human” philosophical argument to see how masculinized morality & worth really is).  

Can you so heartlessly brush off their humanity? Hastily push aside the fact that they carry the image of God? Can you see their worth, even if you don’t understand or agree? Is it really about you in those moments? Or is it about meeting a woman where she’s at? 

So I write for the women who aren’t believed, who are brushed off. For the women who are unapologetically brave & angry & speak up & only get met with scoffs & eye rolls & mansplaining. For the women who don’t get to make decisions, who don’t get a voice. For the women whose dignity was stripped away. For the woman who had cried & screamed & endured so so much, who has hated being a women, because of all the pain it brings. 

You are strong. You are so so strong.

But oh girl, I know the pain is so real. 

In case no one has told you, let me assure you. You are allowed to feel the pain you feel. It makes sense why you would be upset or angry. You don’t have to explain. You don’t have to justify it. To me or anyone else. You are allowed to LET yourself hurt. You need to. Please please don’t stuff that down. Find a safe friend, a safe space. This gift from others can help make it so much easier for you give yourself this gift of kindness, to find hope that you CAN heal. 

It feels unfair for anyone to tell you to “get over it” or “change”. So lets be rebellious together. 

I believe it’s a rebellious act to love & accept yourself in a society that is constantly trying to convince you that you need to change, to conform, to be quiet, to be small, to be pretty, to squish yourself & shrink yourself until you fit the mold they made for you. 

This is my secret power, as a woman: 

I don’t have to save myself, because I have a Savior. He held my pain in His wounded, bloodied, heaving chest as He died for all the pains that we inflict & feel. He feels the full weight of my hurt because He is nearer to me than my own breath. He sponges up my hurt & scoops me up & whispers, “Just Be. Just Be With Me.” And I can breathe & fall asleep. 

I have scars & I bet you do too. 

But how sweet is it that if we trust in Jesus we will one day be given new bodies, robed in righteousness, as we fully experience the freedom & safety & joy this world can no longer provide? 

In this I have hope. 

In Christ, I am redeemed & beautiful & free. 

I am choosing to accept myself today, just the way that I am, because Christ saved & accepted me. I will fill my heart for myself & others with His heart, not the world’s. 

Can we build a community that values the heart of a woman who loves God? Can we dream big heaven dreams together? Can we sit together in our pains & laugh together in our triumphs? Can we hold on to God together through it all, as He holds on to us? Fellow woman, dear friend…

Will you join me? 

Because girl, your strength is beautiful. 

• • • • •  • • • •  • • • • • 

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

  

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His Sunshine is my Crown Today: Brief Musings on Names, Crowns, & Beautiful Exchanges 

And I want to live fearlessly

Believing nothing could ever hurt me

If I’d just love

If I’d just love relentlessly

……….

And my name says that I am light

And I want to learn how to fight 

For the ones

This dark world has barred from hope

And I want to see with clear eyes

To see beauty beneath 

Every painful disguise

I want the bravery to dream 

-Quilts, Coats, and Colors by John Lucas
✨ ✨ ✨ ✨ ✨ ✨ ✨ 
 Stephanie means “crown, garland, fit for a crown”. My floor verse as an RA this year is Isaiah 61:3, the “beauty for ashes” verse, that reminds us of God as one who replaces our brokenness & despair with good things—as one who gently lifts our heads, wipes our ash-laden brows & puts in their place a symbol of honor & importance.
“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”
It talks about a God that uses the testimony of this transformation to grow us to be “oaks of righteousness”, trees that He planted, whose upright strength against adversity is a testament to His glory. 
I want to bring glory to a God like that. I want my girls to feel the strength & hope in those truths. I want to know & be known. I want to let people know how LOVED they are. 
My name reiterated to me just now that God is the one giving me this desire to love relentlessly amidst hurt, to learn how to fight for the hopeless, to find beauty that is concealed by the present heaviness. 
So thankful for a God that makes me smile & inspires my creative mind & sensitive heart to be brave with Him, to dream with Him. 
His sunshine is my crown today. ☀️

What I wish you knew: World Mental Health Day 

Hi. I have ADHD. Today is World Mental Health Day & despite being terrified at the prospect of posting this & sharing with so many people, I realized that if I truly believe what I do about mental health & our Creator God, I should not fear the opinions of others.

I have lived my whole life, nearly 21 years, with this disorder & all its challenges, although I was not aware of it for almost all of those years. 

Being diagnosed as an adult, I have had flashbacks to several confusing instances throughout my life that suddenly make so much more sense now. 

I am choosing to look at all that I have been able to do, despite the difficulty, to thank God for getting me to where I am today.

I did not decide to have an imbalance of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, or its chemical components dopa & dopamine, affecting possibly my prefrontal cortex, limbic system, basal ganglia, or reticular activating system. I did not decide that it should affect my attention, behavior & judgement, & emotional responses. 

I did not decide that it should worsen my ability to carry out executive functions, like planning, completing, focusing, organizing, & generally feeing successful most of the time. 

Young girls are less likely to be diagnosed, partly because they may be given more positive social reinforcements for their hyperactivity or if they are the inattentive type, they may not even be noticed outwardly in their struggle. I was always seen as an energetic, chatty child, deeply sensitive & emotional. I did well because of all the support & care I got. 

But it is still painful & confusing to me. It caused me so much guilt & shame & weariness.

I always feel like my brain is dragging my body around. 

Constantly seeking out stimulation for your brain when your body can’t handle it is hard.

It is hard to get work done & keep up with everyone else, but that is not for a lack of trying, nor does it indicate my intelligence. 

It is like trying to get work done on a laptop with non-stop pop-ups covering the screen every few seconds. 

It is like living in a soft rain of post-it notes.

It is trying to complete everything at once & planning & scheduling & working so hard, only to see nothing really completed. 

It is reading the same sentence, paragraph, page for multiple minutes, the same article for hours.

It is being drained by just planning what to wear, when to wake up, & how to get through the day.

It is meticulously planning everything, breaking down 1 step into 50 little ones, just to make it less impossible.  

It is trying so hard to function normally that you are driven to intense apathy & depression. 

It is being ridiculously social & on-the-go or miserably lethargic & self-loathing.

It is feeling annoying for everything.

It is apologizing too much.

It is feeling social anxiety.

It is living in a secret world of shame. 

And I think this is in part because

The stigma is still real.

People think it makes you unapproachable, unloveable.

People are afraid.

Or

People don’t believe it’s real.

As flattering as this seems, to think that others won’t see you with a tainted lens, 

it hurts to think that they will only expect you to “try harder”, as if it were in your control. 

I think I tell myself to do that every day anyways. 
But it is also endless ideas & excitement & creativity & constant stimulation. It is spontaneity & flexibility & empathy & grace.

It is curiosity & flashes of brilliance & the occasional ability to dedicatedly work at something fascinating for hours on end.

It has given me a love for the ability to express myself through written words, through song, through working out & being embodied.

It has made me desire to provide others with a safe space, with comfort enough to share & be themselves. It has taught me not to assume I know others’ stories. It has driven me more deeply into my role as an RA, as a psychology major, & in my anticipated future role in counseling, ministry, or social work. 

Some days, it’s easy to cry to God & tell Him I’ll try & be better when I know He is just trying to quiet me with His love, to remind me that He made my mind just the way it is & because of Him I don’t have to try. 
ADHD is not just a child’s disorder.

It is not limited to the stereotype of a child that is bouncing off the walls & hard to handle. 

Nor is not a moral indicator or a basis of which to judge someone’s effort or care. 

It does not give you the right to assume the content of someone’s struggle. 

And taking medication for mental health is not shameful. 

Working through mental health should not be a private, silent struggle. 

I am here for you.

There are people who want to help you. 

There are people who won’t put you don’t.

There is a God who made your mind & who aches for your pain & who walks besides you in your struggle. 

Breathe. Be kind to yourself. There is so much grace.

On Comparison and Pride: I don’t care what you think, I don’t even care what I think! 

Ok, this is the perfect timing for me to finally finish and post today. This is sort of a “part 2” to my 4 part series on the book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller, and this one is about jealousssssy. 

Thinking about going back to school lately has made me feel everything from pure excitement to anxious dread. 

The night before flying to Korea, I had some timely conversations about the difficulty of a cyclothymic college lifestyle (a constant cycle of non-stop going until crashing) and how we have been hurt by the things others have said to us (hurt people, hurt people). (The way I describe this… I think my psych major is showing haha). 

I think it was really helpful to discover that others were and are as vulnerable and impacted as I was, and we were able to think about the unique pressures at Wheaton College and how they could hinder our Christian walk, no longer providing a holistic balance to life as a student, but more of a credentials checklist or impressive resume. (the theme is we are stressed out, worrying about doing and doing). And when everyone is good at the same things, sometimes it’s hard to find joy in them at all. It’s hard to feel uniquely purposed and created, especially when we see others apparently “thriving”, or doing what we do, but better, or more easily, or given more attention for it. 

But the next day on the plane to Korea, I read these words of Keller’s: “What if we compared ourselves less? What if genuinely found joy in other’s accomplishments as if they were our own?”

I’m awful at this often times. I can be such a jealous person. I think as someone who really values authenticity, fairness, and is more competitive than I care to admit, I get torn up or really down on myself when I see others get more attention or care for the same things I do or am into. I often doubt my worth, if I am liked or accepted by others, and I can find myself getting bitter towards others who receive the affirmations that I crave. I find myself wanting to question others motives or why they are so special compared to me and everyone else. And this makes me feel ugly inside. It releases the poison called jealousy. Pride. It’s a dangerous way to live, when we try to graft our self-worth off of the words we receive from others. 

As I think of this, a metaphor comes to me—we want to snatch the blessings out of others laps. We are always hungry because we are so focused on stealing the scraps from others that we forget God has already laid out a table before each of us, and that it is the only thing that can satisfy our deep desire to be loved. We may know this about the value we should place on God’s words vs. words of man, but the lesson I am learning lately is the reminder that the food at the table is not only plentiful, it will not go away. And each of us have a seat, a place, and a plate. There is no need to take from others here. We need to embrace the abundance that God has laid before each of us, not worrying about the blessings given to the other. 

As I thought about this ugliness that I can hold inside me, this vice of mine that you can likely relate to, I thought:

“But what if we also were truly self-forgetful? What if we weren’t so deeply affected by the things people said to us?”

I say “what if” because to me, this is a very difficult preposition, it’s not something that takes a simple mind switch, it’s a dramatic lifestyle change. 

What if we went through life on an even keel, with a sturdy foundation of self that wasn’t as shaky as the unpredictability of day-to-day life?

Although I can apply this in many ways as someone with a performance arts background, I think I see this most clearly in the quiet isolation of training sessions as a powerlifter. 

I am a very emotional lifter, not one who stomps around and makes noise, but one whose internal battle is the loudest during the lifts. I thought about how frustrated or discouraged I got when I would miss PR attempts (which started to happen when I used to never miss them) vs. when I would get them, and I wondered why I could react so differently, how it could often make or break my day. I realized it was because I let myself think anyone and everyone watching would dramatically change their perception of me and my strength/worth/whatever based on how I handled myself with the barbell.

But I always watched my lifting buddy pop back up and respond with energy and thoughtfulness whether or not she hit the PR and I realized she is not only way less self-monitoring than I am (sorry, another psych term), she is good at practicing self-forgetfulness. (After all, she is the one who bought me the book on Amazon on the spot on a bad day!) 

I craved to make the switch, to not be so hard on myself, to not assume that just because people saw me, that I was being watched. 

Let me say this because I know some of y’all need to hear it—we CAN’T assume everyone is always examining us, judging us.

Difficult things from past situations caused me to think that others were constantly critical of me, that the seemingly normal things I did were repulsive, and this is a scar I still bear, even as I walk around Wheaton. 

It still cause me a lot of difficulty eating certain foods in public places when I’m alone or around certain people.

It causes me to forget how to walk sometimes because I’m so focused on how to do it.

It causes me to internalize every glance, every word, every action. 

It causes me to feel unsafe in a lot of normal situations, it pushes me to “check” myself more than I care to admit, in a lot more ways than I mentioned. 

But if we share experiences, we can all realize that everyone always thinking about themselves! If we all are, than we are all walking around insecure, jealous and afraid, prideful because we either have put too much value on ourselves, or not enough. 

In counseling this year I had a realization that when I was self- critical and afraid of other’s judgements, that it was really an issue of pride. 

I was not giving others the benefit of the doubt. I feared others because I already assumed how they would perceive me. I was doing to others what I’d most feared they’d do to me, and while I kept it inside me and didn’t let others know, it only hurt me. It made me feel “not good enough” to be with certain people, it made me look at myself as “lesser”. 

Instead of being aggressive about my judgements of others, I would slink back, hide away, try and shrink myself down. 

The harshest voice I heard came from within my head, but part of me was wise enough to know it was not for me. 

It was myself giving in to the sin and power that Satan grabbed ahold of in my life, it gave the voices a vehicle to victimize and terrorize, to tear down others through myself and myself through my distorted re-invention of others. 

There is a difference btwn being down, focusing on the self and being inspired by God’s truths and focusing on others. I could write and talk about this forever, because I have seen the dramatic change in my own life. We know that we are by nature bad and yet given a free gift of undeserved acceptance and grace, but we don’t let ourselves live with an unshakeable confidence and a completely honest acknowledgment of our sinfulness.

To love others, we cannot desperately chase after what is theirs, nor can we fear their judgements or place judgement on them. To be closer to people, we cannot isolate. To appreciate, we have to interact, connect, find joy. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it because it’s how God made us to be—we need each other. 

I recently heard a phrase that says “I wish you self-esteem so high that you are humble”, and I feel like I’m still trying to figure that out. But I think it’s getting at the heart of what Keller was trying to say. Confidence is not bad when it is constructed out of the unwavering belief that what God has for us is FOR US. We don’t need to compare or constantly edit ourselves for worth because we already have worth in our Creator Daddy who fashioned us just so, who never intended for us to be someone else, and who has a unique purpose and path for our lives to glorify Him. Realizing this can only produce the purest humility through the Holy Spirit opening our eyes. 

I have felt that freedom before. I know it is possible.

What if we were living as people who truly believe they are redeemed and because of this, have no shame?

What if we decided to pray against any intentions, expectations, or preconceived notions so that we can protect ourselves against any lies that Satan wants to whisper to our fragile egos? 

What if we saw that the fruits of this sort of discipline, of dying to self could cause us to find joy in each individual’s path and security in our own lives no matter the good or bad? 

I challenge you to pray for God’s eyes, to see others and yourself the way He does.

Remember, what He has for you, is FOR YOU.

Relish in the fact that your Father loves you. 

 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

On Self-Esteem: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Needless to say, it’s been a while since my first blog. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking of plenty of things I wanted to write.

But besides being busy, a lot of the reasons had to do with my perfectionism. 

(Is it clever enough? Deep enough? Can I figure out how to navigate this simple website well enough to sign off with my signature so it looks cool and legit and stuff?) 

Even in this, I see how correlated standards are to my self-esteem. 

While writing this, I am on an airplane from Chicago to Tokyo (on the way to Seoul, South Korea), which is why I am actually writing! 

I even got to sit down and read a book! For fun! And it’s called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller. 

It was first recommended to me almost a year ago by a friend, and it recently got in my hands after another wonderful friend listened to me talk for 30 seconds and ordered it for me on the spot. 

It’s only about 40 pages and has 3 chapters that reflect on Paul’s letter in 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7 titled “The Natural Condition of The Human Ego”, “The Transformed View of Self”, and “How to Get That Transformed View of Self”. 

Reading the truths in this, I found it highly inspiring and ridiculously difficult. 

This is largely because I naturally function as (amongst other things) an anxious, hyper-vigilant, Highly Sensitive Person… one who is highly self-aware and highly affected by my environment and all it’s stressors. (You can look these up if you want to understand more of what they mean). 

I so highly tie these traits into who I am, how I think, and what triggers me that I found it so hard to separate myself from the tendencies I have, as one who suffers under, or at least operates under a very specific and sensitive frame of mind. 

But I see that God wants to use Keller’s words (which are ironically Keller using God’s words) to point out that all of these things have been not only used for bad and can be reshaped, but that they can and have been used for good. For example, I’m very interested in human connection and interaction and I know my flaws and deeply ponder the results of being human, which made me receptive to the words I digested. 

Most everything I read resonated with my desire to grapple with the human condition, and yet I felt such an aching dissonance because everything in me that I accepted and loathed, sides of me that were so striking different from this type of self-forgetful person Paul was felt so central to who I considered myself to be, the way God made me.

But if I hold onto these things as my identity and not traits that shape my reactions and choices, I will not be better off. 

Paul stresses that his identity is NOT connected to what people think of him, or even what he thinks of him! 

The first part is challenging enough, but it took me several re-reads of most of the pages in that book to even understand the second part! 
Earlier this semester, I went for a spontaneous walk with God when I had a bruised ego and embarrassed myself in front of others. It wasn’t a big deal, but I found myself desperately wanting to disappear. 

With tears in my eyes, I lamented my laments. I despised myself for my reactions and the way they made me fearful, mistrusting, and nearly paranoid. I grieved the downfalls, because I knew the time I spent stuck within my own insecurities held me back from my ministry, from time I could’ve used pursuing what God intended for me. 

Keller uses the illustration of a court room to explain what it feels like to feel the need to prove yourself day after day, what it feels like to walk around feeling like the way you present yourself correlates with your overall worth, as though “the performance leads to the verdict”.

But the point he goes on to emphasize is that with the redemption of Jesus’ cross “the verdict leads to performance!”

I quickly learned that self-deprecating does NOT equal self-forgetfulness. 

But I also realized that my strong conscience and acute sensitivity can be used by the Father to illustrate and bring to life what He wants to teach me and how He wants to shape me and guide me. 

I had a teaching moment today actually. 

When I was walking through the airport, my toe started randomly hurting. (Not sure if this was due to spraining my toe/chipping my toe bone in the past or a rogue shoe situation, but even a few moments bothered me enough to think about it). 

So imagine the little smile shared between God and I when I picked up Keller’s book and read these words:

“Have you ever thought about the fact that you do not notice your body until there is something wrong with it? When we are walking around, we are not usually thinking how fantastic our toes are feeling… Walking around does not hurt my toes unless there is something wrong with them. My ego would not hurt unless there was something terribly wrong with it. Think about it. It is very hard to get through a whole day without feeling snubbed or ignored or feeling stupid or getting down on ourselves. That is because there is something wrong with my ego. There is something wrong with my identity. There is something wrong with my sense of self. It is never happy. It is always drawing attention to itself.”

That day, my sense-of-self functioned like my toe did today. 

Both curled up and writhed and made me question why such a thing would throw me off enough to forget to be content.

But there is no need to run from the only thing that can provide us the security we do deeply desire—the fact that the verdict placed on Jesus leads to our performance.

It allows us freedom—from perfectionism, anxiety, hyper-vigilance, stressors, triggers, embarrassment, mistrust— 

It allows us the freedom of self-forgetfulness. 

I thank God for the hard days that have passed since I wrote this post, and I thank Him that I continue to re-learn this lesson day after day. May we begin each morning with the deeply rooted sense that we have already been freed from all the burdens we so deeply latch onto and try and nurse ourselves. I pray that we would remember that even in our quietest, loneliest moments of hurt that God dwells within us and beside us and is the one that tells us who we are. 

An Intro: Beauty From Ashes & The Footfalls Metaphor

I clutched the corners of my bed sheets and cowered in the darkness, the portable cd player beside me quietly whirling as a somber piano melody sifted through my headphones. Over seven years later, I laid in my dorm bunk bed, tears quietly streaming down my cheeks, earbuds pumping the same piano song that I’d never understood as much as I did that day. The second verse washed over my limp, unforgiving, restless body and I finally understood.

“My whole world is the pain inside me
The best I can do is just get through the day
When life before is only a memory
I wonder why God lets me walk through this place
And though I can’t understand why this happened
I know that I will when I look back someday
And see how you’ve brought beauty from ashes
And made me as gold purified through these flames”

These are some of the words from the song “Beauty From Pain” by Superchick, and as I thought about what I wanted to blog about, I couldn’t help but think about the various struggles and run-ins I’ve had with pain. All around me, I saw pain weaved into the narratives of my friends lives in various chapters and seasons of trauma from the people they were around and positions they were in. Everything from heartbreak to death to diseases both mental and physical, I saw hurt and struggling. I thought about what I learned when I let anxiety and depressive self—consciousness overtake me, how I deal with issues of body image and self-esteem, how I strive to grow in God’s wisdom as I ask questions and really learn to be a listener, how I am constantly wondering and learning this year to be in AWE of what God is doing and the in-explainable joys that come out of some of these very dark places my friends and I have been. These are the things worth talking about, these are the things I wanted to discuss and share.

Beauty from ashes to me is the reminder that out of unbearable pain and circumstance, God is rebuilding and regrowing what has died within us. When we feel that all that we are is burnt to embers and we are left with nothing, God finds a way to whisper through the darkness to our cold, still bodies, to place a hand on our shaky, faint souls and to claim them as His own. We are nothing without Him, and with Him, we are able to live leaning into the beauty He intends for us.

I have sat and wrestled so much with others even in the last few weeks with the question of why a good God would allow pain and suffering. I hold each of these moments to “sit shiva” with others who are in pain as a gift. I feel God has put me in precisely the exact places and moments I needed to be a part of so that I could “mourn with those who mourn” (I will write more about this at another point). It’s a part of my life calling to ponder pain and to be sensitive to the emotions and hurts and spiritual battles of the brothers and sisters around me. And this question seems to be central in it all—it’s called the Great Theodicy Debate. In my Abnormal Psychology class last semester, part of our final was addressing this question head-on, with 5 core assertions. This is merely a fraction of one of my assertions, but it was an epiphany that God gave me when I was sitting on a dorm room floor, crying with a friend in pain, trying to find a way to articulate the way I felt wildly secure and unwaveringly certain that giving away our own desires to be swept up in His will was best. I wrote this months ago, and I continued to think back on it time and time again over these last few weeks, so tonight I finally re-read what I had written. I called the idea “The Footfalls Metaphor.” I wrote:

“Essentially, it’s the idea that God has His arm around us, holding our waist securely, tightly, while allowing our feet and legs to dangle freely. This allows us some mobility in the sense that we can enjoy the sensations brought about by being able to dangle and wiggle, but as a young child, we begin to feel a distressing sense of uncertainty. We want to put our feet down, we want to choose each step. We say “God, that looks like a good spot for my left foot… here is a place to place my right!” Yet we can’t quite reach out our feet to land those spots and we begin to kick impatiently. We forget the secure hold and begin to struggle, to see the dangling as a curse, a limitation to our desired mobility, and yet a terrifying insecurity for the fact that we stay within the air, for we have forgotten the arms that hold us. We kick and say “God, I don’t like this!” as we try to fight God, as He gently places our feet saying, “Step here, and here… and here.” The steps could be and often are a struggle, when we fail to see or to try and understand. Each one becomes shaky and violent, and sometimes, when we misstep in a place God plants a foot, we think that God must not know where He put that foot. But the biggest realization about my little kicking feet that I realized is that life is better lived leaning into the footfalls of God, our Daddy. The struggle only worsens the steps for our little bodies—each moment feels like torture when trust for the Father is not present. But knowing we are not alone—that His strong arm holds us even still—we can learn to stop kicking and trust that a step stumbled or a step strong is better when you are in sync with the way God is moving you. Praying for the grace to accept God’s will is really the singular, most powerful thing I have done personally when confronting the pains of life, and doing so means I expect that I will never be surprised with the results that God intends, but because I expect the unexpected, I am not just surprised at His will within the anguish, I am in awe. Like Job was silenced—“I spoke once, but now I will say no more”—I ponder the way we can confront God with this question of theodicy. With this in mind, this new-found perspective, how do we respond to our situation, guided by a loving God through life’s inevitable pains and sufferings?”

As I reread this final question I articulated, I realized that it was a choice. In my other assertions, I explained the goodness of God and that living in a fallen world are things that must be taken in to account and are often things we fail to see from our perspectives of pain. But I know the final part of grief work was the choice to be made into something we cannot make ourselves—to be open to seeing the beauty in our ashes. I thought about what I know to be true. I know that God is startlingly BIG and more aware and in control than we will ever be (read more about this in Job 38-39). I know that God wants good for us, and that all the poison this world brings into our lives and the lies that Satan saturates into our minds are easy to focus on. I know that we won’t always understand the pain we feel and the ugliness and the feelings of dissolving into bitter ashes. But guys, I am so utterly convinced that God wants to hold us securely and tightly as we cry, to reclaim us as His own, and to kiss our heads and speak over us what He sees—“beauty.”

I pray that He holds you in your pain, that you can believe through your mess you are beautiful, and that you can embrace His promise that there will be a dawn.

                                     

To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

                                                                            Isaiah 61:3


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