How I’m Learning to Abide

This week I have been reminded of my constant battle against myself to be content. I have offered blame at being a first born, at being motivated, wanting to live abundantly, blah. The truth is I get antsy and discontent with what I have at the moment and want the next big thing. It’s funny how quickly I forget how much I anticipated the stage in life I am living now. 

Now, I am not talking about Ben. I have no regrets in marrying my best friend. He is an amazing husband, and I experience joy just thinking about being his wife, for more than six months now!  But Ben was one of the things in life I didn’t want to have to wait for. 

In elementary school, I wanted to be treated like I was older and could handle more than the average 10 year old. Then I walked into middle school, and I didn’t find more of the independence I sought; rather I had to try even harder to somehow be above the kids around me- be older, wiser, funnier, prettier. Anything that made me stand out in a way where people wanted to be me, or looked at me and thought, “Wow! She really has her life pulled together!” Ridiculous, I know now. Maybe I will find the answers to my questions for identity in high school. I longed to be a teenager. I desired my next birthday for the six months that preceded it because I desperately believed the next age would alter how people viewed me. I always longed for the next “best” thing, thinking that 15 would tell my parents I could take care of myself, but realizing if I was 16 and could drive, it might be even easier. I could never resist what was up ahead.

When I was 17, I couldn’t stand the thought of waiting another year before leaving for college. I wanted to be free, to try life on my own. I screamed with my words that I was perfectly capable of handling my own life, but I couldn’t seem to communicate that idea through my actions.

And then, I finally moved into my dorm room. I was an 18 year old freshman at Bethel University in Saint Paul, MN, almost exactly 1,000 miles away from home. And I was overjoyed for a while- getting to be in charge of me and I was proving to everyone that I was independent. I think back to my freshman year, and I only remember calling home about 4 times, and usually to arrange travel plans. I needed that space so badly, but it seems a bit sad now. Anyways, about halfway through freshman year, I thought to myself quite a few discontent thoughts. I looked around my teeny tiny dorm room that I shared with 2 other girls, and I thought- if only it could be sophomore year. I would have more space, more privacy, more fun. I would enjoy my life more if I had more status, more credits, more accomplishment. Sophomore year is going to be way better than freshman year.

And sure enough, it came, and it brought with it the maximum amount of stress life could bring me, but the truth is I asked for every minute of it. I took 40 credits that year, many of them upper level courses because I forgot to mention I decided to graduate from college a year early. I had wanted to be in college so badly, yet led myself down a path that would continue to show the world that I could handle tough situations. I could do impossible things. I could accomplish much. But I was really really tired that year, even more cranky, a terrible friend and roommate, jealous of the people around me who seemed to be enjoying their lives. I do love learning, and I liked all of my classes, but I had become addicted to this prize of finishing first, and it was eating away at me. My school work became an idol, and I sacrificed many of my relationships to it. I found that I had agreed to a list of priorities that involved things and work over people. And when I did have a few pennies of time to spend on people, I chose Ben. Was it fair? Absolutely not. It was the most awful thing I could have done to him, yet he loved me when I was broken, hard, and selfish. I thought to myself- what am I doing all of this for? The next phase of life will be so much better. I want to marry Ben. That will solve all of my problems. Newsflash: Marriage will NEVER solve problems; it will only give you more space to confront them. I knew this would be marvelous, but I still had a year of school left. (Also, I am like 19 or 20 at this time- dream big.)

In the fall, I had planned into my schedule to study abroad on England Term with a group of about 18 students with a professor and his family. This was the trip of a lifetime. From August till December, a bunch of English major geeks like me were going to travel to 20+ different cities in the United Kingdom and Europe to study literature and visit authors’ homes. Come on! There were so many times sophomore year where I couldn’t help but daydream about what going abroad would be like- what would I see? Who would I meet? I will be learning outside in the real world- God’s creation- and not inside these 4 cold walls of the library, classroom, never ending rotation.

When the trip came, I tried to have fun. I tried to live in the moment and experience England, and there were breakthrough moments where I was successful. But sooner or later, my sour attitude would spark up, and I looked at the people around me, and I thought, why go see these places and make these memories with people I do not love. Ouch- I love many of them now, but I craved Ben. I had allowed him to be the comfort in my life instead of surrendering my pains and frustrations to Jesus. Of course, Ben loved me, but he couldn’t help me in the ways Jesus can wrap himself around his lost. I felt alone on the trip; I felt sorry for myself. Get over yourself, Bek, I thought. You’re in freaking England! Or France! Or Ireland! Or wherever. Live it. Besides the breakthrough moments I had, I still could not help finding myself wandering off to ideas of marriage and getting engaged and the life I wanted to have when I got home from studying abroad. It has been more than a year since returning, and many days I think about my experiences abroad and recall the learning we lived. I almost find the trip more valuable now, knowing how awesome it was and how those times of being present to my setting really shaped me as a person.

Ben proposed within the month of returning from our study abroad trips. We were engaged for seven months, and for most of it I was yearning to be married. Engagement was what I had so desperately dreamed about, and seven months seemed like an eternity to me. I really wanted to skip the foo-foo embellishments, mute the numerous conversations about details, and just get married! The confusing part is- I am a very detailed, planning sort of woman. I love to-do lists, efficiency, bargains, all of the above. Planning a wedding for me and Ben should have been the most exciting part of the whole deal for me, but I really sort of dreaded it. Even now, I am not sure if I was greedy for the next stage of life and wanting to skip the current one or if maybe there was some wisdom behind my approach of choosing the simpler option to every wedding decision and keeping earthly things bare-boned and fattening up the covenant celebration part we could take with us through our marriage. Regardless, I think back to engagement with two reflections: 1. I am so glad we are married and not engaged. Ha. 2. I wish Ben and I would have been more intentional about how we wanted our engaged life to look. You know- have conversations from the beginning about still having fun and dating each other; both agreeing to work on wedding stuff a certain number of hours then calling it quits for the week. We both agreed from the start in December 2011 when we got engaged that we would spend either equal or more time preparing four our marriage than for our wedding day. I am thrilled with the effort we put forward, but it made wedding planning really stressful because we never worked on it very well, and we ended up having many arguments about it. It is a pretty ironic moment when you are frustrated and fighting with your future spouse about your wedding, and we had more than our fair share of those moments. The point is we both wanted to skip the months in between.

Married life is absolutely a blessing! No complaints and no seeking the “next big thing” aka children quite yet. I have however been struggling to be content with my job though. I did not apply for any full time English teacher jobs after graduating in May. This was surprising even to myself because I am a go-go-go, green light, maximize time and efficiency, save money, on to the next thing kind of girl- hence many of the stories I have told you in this post. I thought about the dinosaur-size transition I was about to make in marrying Ben in August, and for the first time I felt okay with God asking me to slow down. I remember thinking “Marriage is what you have really been wanting, praying for, waiting for… you won’t fully appreciate it unless you give yourself time to adjust.” I struggled with this process. Even now, I wonder all the time if I could have handled a full time teaching job while Ben finishes school. The answer sways from absolutely to never depending on the day.

When we moved back to Minnesota this fall, I found myself lonely, bored, unchallenged, etc. It was the first time nobody was setting expectations for me. The transition out of college was much more difficult for me than the transition into college. I struggled on a daily basis with keeping myself occupied and entertained. Ridiculous- I know. Out of this abundance of free time, I had a lot of time to think and I was getting restless. A great friend told me about this word: abide. I had never really learned about it until this season of my life. Maybe because I did not have time to understand what it meant!

In life, we have seasons of abiding and seasons of fruitfulness. Just like a harvest, there are times when it is necessary to stay rooted, remain in the vine, be nourished, abide. And there are also times to be fruitful, productive, grow and stretch, bless. To be honest, I started thinking about the way I had been living my life and spending my time the past few years, and I was confused. I really did not spend very much time being present to where God had brought me- soaking it in, enjoying it, living it out. I could not recall a time where I did not have a to-do list with objectives, goals, and deadlines. If you would have asked me, I may have believed I was being “fruitful”- productive anyways, but on my terms or God’s? I started realizing that we need these quieter times in life to be still, to have the only expectation be this request from Jesus:

“Here, Bekah, come and sit with me awhile. Rest in my presence. I have things to teach you, things I want you to do for my Kingdom, but I’ll equip you here first. Come and abide in the vine. Remain in me and I will remain in you. You can’t produce fruit if you sever yourself from me. Apart from me, you can do nothing. If you remain in me and my words find themselves at home in your heart, you can be sure I am listening to your requests and acting on them. You bring the Father glory when you produce good fruit, and it makes you a true disciple. As the father loves me, so do I absolutely love you, Bekah. Remain in my love for you by obeying my commandments, and be filled with joy. Remain for this time that I have given you. Abide in me.”

You mean I don’t necessarily need to be accomplishing anything right now? You mean I have time to rest? Yes. I can tell you now it is still hard to realize the blessing of this season of abiding I have been given. I know Jesus is remaining in me as He promises as I hope to be a branch firmly connected to the vine. And when He calls me to be fruitful, perhaps with a full time English teaching job, I pray I am obedient, still able to remain in his presence and love and bring glory to the Father.

In this season of my life, this 2012-2013 school year, I have not been a school student or a school teacher. For the first time since I was probably five years old, I have not had that clarity in my identity. Yet, my identity has been cleared up for me. I am a daughter of the Most High King, adopted and cherished. I am a lover of Jesus Christ; my sins erased and washed away to be a part of the radiant bride for my Savior. This identity defines me first- before job status, any earthly activity, blah.

I challenge you to take time to abide in Christ, the true vine, soon. I have been helped out a ton by John 15, the devotional Jesus Calling, and something I learned from premarital counseling. Our pastor Andrew at Bloom told us that God is almighty, He is powerful. If He desires something to be accomplished through our lives, then He will allow it to take place. I have really been comforted by this, knowing that there is a school and a group of kids out there for me to love on, and God will not let me sit on the bench if He wants me in the game. Sports metaphor for you! This time of abiding is time to be close to my coach, my guide, my support. He is equipping me for the task of shining kingdom light, and He is working all things together for the good of those who love him. He is working all things together for my good in this stage of remaining in Him, in this time of abiding.

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