When I was a freshman in college, our fellowship did a study on Daniel. I don't really remember much about it because, well I was a freshman. But yesterday one of dorm bible studies I help supervise did their bible study on Daniel and I was blown away. I had forgotten how amazing Daniel was.
We studied how Daniel had humbled himself before the chief official and asked permission not to eat the king's food. And when he had done so he was healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. It later says that God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and reams of all kinds.
As a group we had decided that because Daniel was so humble and obedient to the Lord, there was room for God to fill him with more. This struck me because I often ask God to fill me with more - more wisdom, more understanding, more vision, more love, etc. But I wonder if the reason I don't feel I have more is because there isn't much room left for God to fill. That I have filled my life with junk that there is no room for God to pour out what he could.
The other men ate the choice food and they weren't seen as unhealthy but they were not nearly the nourished that Daniel and his four compadres were. Because they had emptied themselves, God was able to fill them with himself. I wonder if our pride keeps us from being filled with what God has because there literally is no room left for God. We become so full of ourselves and full of other stuff, that there becomes little room for God to do work in our own lives.
Just a short reflection today. But I did manage to find our video we made when I was a freshman in college of a modern day take on Daniel. Please - enjoy.
About once a month I head over to Descanso Gardens in Glendale for rest, reflection, and Spiritual Direction. I love the change to sit in nature with my camera and be free for a moment. It was also raining before we arrived so the pictures were even better in the cloudy light and fresh rain drops.
When I was a kid we used to watch reruns of friends while my mom made dinner. I didn't understand a lot of the tv show, but I did understand one major thing - I wanted my adult life to look just like that. Well mostly like that. I envisioned my life where I would live in a cool, hip, apartment and hang out with my neighbors all the time. We'd have our boyfriends over or if we were single we had have girl nights and rant about how stupid boys were. We'd spend way too much time at our favorite local coffee shop or local bar - and it would be awesome.
College felt so much like Friends and I loved every moment of it. I could walk down the hall of my dorm and ask to grab dinner with someone - and I have 30-40 people to chose from. When I moved into a house, I lived with 5 other girls and there was always someone over. I could text someone "want to hang out right now" and I wouldn't even have to send five texts before I got a yes. In college people were everywhere and I had so many options of who to be friends with.
But then I graduated and it felt like everything changed. I moved down to LA and slowly started to lose touch with some of my college friends. As I started with InterVarsity staff I noticed that my Facebook friends increased but it seemed that my deep, meaningful friendships were slowly decreasing.
Making Facebook friends was easy - making deep meaningful friendships was a whole other story. I was coming into a new place, a new church, and I was the outsider. No one in the church needed me while I desperately needed them. But there were times when I didn't want to put in the work to make new friendships because it was hard. It took time and I needed someone to process life with at the moment and I wanted my old friends back and only a text message away from hanging out. I didn't like how much time, how much effort it took make those deep friendships. So at some level I just stopped trying. It felt easier to be angsty when my old friends didn't call me back rather than put myself out there and meet knew people - to risk being judged or misunderstood by new people. I wanted things to go back the way they were.
But I couldn't do that any more. As much as I tried to stay in the past, I was moving forward (even if slowly) and so were all my fiends. If I've learned anything in the past four years since I've graduated is that making deep friendships once you leave college takes way more time. I don't have InterVarsity conferences or retreats to propel friendship intimacy forward with my peers. The people I interact with don't live down the street - they live on the other side of the 405 and that might as well be hours away. And even though it feels like ages, being at my church for a year and half is a really short time in the adult world. I'm right on track for where I should be in how well people know me.
But that doesn't make it any easier. Because making friends as an adult is hard but that shouldn't stop me from trying.
I used to write all the time. Daily I would journal and weekly I blog. In my free moments I'd jot something down in a notebook I always carried with me or take a note on my phone. I would sit with my favorite pen while thoughts poured out of my soul like rushing river. A river full of dreams, of imagery, of feelings, and words poured out onto thin lines of paper.
But now it is dry. I sit down at the computer or with my journal and my throat feels parched. The ink seems sit, the page remains blank, and the keys stay silent. I have become silent. Somewhere in the past few months I became afraid of using my own voice.
I became afraid to say the wrong thing. I became afraid to mess up. I felt that people were suddenly looking more to me to get it right, to be perfect, to know the answers, to have the best grammar, and to do the right thing. I felt a growing sense of pressure - like a backpack - getting heavier and heavier. Like each time I wanted to get it right, another rock was placed inside.
That is not what God, nor anyone has intended for my life. God wants me to live a life of freedom and somehow I imposed this burden upon myself. God never wanted me to live in fear but has given us a spirit of power, love, and self control (2 Tim 1:7). God wants me to use my individual voices to change broken systems, to encourage, to edify, to bring justice, and to advocate for those who cannot speak. When I gave into the fear, I stopped doing all of those things. There may have been places where I needed to say something but I stood in the shadows of silence instead.
So I am going to step out in faith and speak. I will use my voice to bring others into my experience and listen well to the voices of others. I want to share the stories of Ferguson, of injustice, of hatred, of campus access, and of revival, and breakthrough, and prayer, and transformation! I want to speak to encourage others to stand in the freedom that Christ promises and no longer live in the burden of shame or guilt or bitterness.
I'm human though so I'm probably going to say the wrong thing at some point. I really wish I wouldn't but I'll make a grammatical error or a typo or say something meant to be helpful but cause hurt instead. But God does not expect perfection, he expects obedience and love. And if using my voice brings love then I think it's going ok.
Here's to letting you all (the two readers beside my mother - hey mom!) into the places of my life - both the painful and and the joyful. Here's to letting you in the reality of our world around us and sitting sometimes in the messiness.