Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Anatomy of a Hard Semester

This is probably the hardest semester I have experienced in four years of college.

We had bug problems in the dorm that I let stress me out for an embarrassingly long time. I had weird, persistent health issues. I had to totally re-define my social life as several of my closest friends graduated last semester. I relearned how to live without a roommate ... and I remembered how lonely it is. My friends and I had to overcome some issues as we're all changing fast and having to adapt to each other again and again. I had more spare time than most people, and I had to find ways to pass many hours, often alone. Graduation and my future loom ahead, and I've been trying to nail down career/ministry plans.

For a while, I really wished this semester hadn't happened. That I could erase it all, start over. Or at the least, leave this place and never look back. These trials -- though none were particularly acute -- lingered with me, ebbing away at my joy and hope.

But then things changed. Like flowers suddenly bursting open, God did two quiet, marked works in my life that brought me to the place I am now.

First, I was convicted of incredible selfishness. I felt alone, unloved, and misunderstood by even my friends. Then God woke me up to how all of my desires were revolving solely around myself. I was the unloving one. I was isolating myself. When I started caring about others again, my sense of loneliness nearly vanished. I didn't expect it to last more than a few days. "Really, " I thought, "don't most spiritual 'highs' just relapse before long?"

It's been weeks/months. Not every day has been fantastic, but there is still a huge difference in my perspective since I started getting my heart and mind cleansed by God in this area.

Second, God has been re-teaching me His love. I honestly had questioned it--not His salvation or the kindness of His actions, but the affection of His person for me. How many people have told me that love is an action? A verb? So it only seemed logical that God's love was one of action. He chose to save me. He rescued me. But caring about me? I doubted it.

Thankfully, a good conversation with my brother and some simple Scriptures helped me begin to believe again that God loves His children with both His actions and His emotions. I can't grasp that entirely. But it is good.

So. I ask myself ... who have I become this semester? How have I changed? How have these trials reshaped me?

  • I'm becoming comfortable with myself again. I know God made me individually to serve Him in a special way. I don't dislike myself the way I used to. I don't have to hide my true self or feel the need to be like my peers. I don't have to fit anyone's mold, but instead let the Potter shape me as I live under His loving gaze and gentle hands.

  • I am becoming more balanced in my needs to be with people and be alone. I enjoy the times I spend with friends and acquaintances, but I'm not afraid to be alone with my own thoughts.

  • I laugh less ... but I smile more deeply. The many trials of this semester have dimmed my happiness in some ways. The pressures I'm under are keeping me more reserved, focused, and serious. I'll hear someone laughing in the dorm hall sometimes and wonder how long it's been since I really laughed. This is hard sometimes. And sad. But before I sound too mopey ... don't worry! There truly is a smile deep down in my heart. I am in a relationship with the living God. That is enough. And the happy moments are coming back!

  • It feels like many broken pieces of me--from this semester and past years--are being healed into something stronger and better by God's grace. Pain has pushed me closer to His presence, and it is entirely worth it.
So I praise Him for this semester. I thank Him that fall 2016 was a crazy, weird, hard semester. Because He is working, and He has been kind enough to let me see a bit of what He is doing. I cannot help but "declare ... [His] works."
"But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works" (Psalm 73:28).

Mountaintop views ... in my adventures and in my soul.