Thursday, March 31, 2016


I think God made me a runner.

My bones are filled with deep desires to travel and explore the ends of the colorful earth that God has created. I thrive on the adrenaline that comes with encountering the heart beat of a new story, a new creation.

I live for relationships that only let people in a quarter of the way into my heart, that way they never have the power to hurt it. Woven into the fabric of my very being is the question of how long before a person realizes they want out. I contemplate the end before it even begins, asking myself, "When is the end? When's the expiration date on this friendship?"

So I run before they come to the realization that they aren't even halfway down to my core. I run before I am found out.

I run to a new place, where people don't know anything beyond my sweet smile and listening spirit. I hear beautiful stories of grace and see God's faithfulness in the eyes of a young girl searching for freedom. I long for a place with new laughs and new languages of love.

I live life chasing the over-promised and under-delivered wind.

Commitment is the enemy, as I continually try to get out of long dates and pre-planned events. My responses to people always include an "I might be there" of some sorts. I don't invite hearts into my own home because it gives them the power to stay however long they would like. Trapped in my own safe place, I am suffocated. I can't even run from myself.

Only wanting to be let in to the homes and hearts of others, the feeling of being trusted is like the sweet taste of milk and honey; it warms my soul. The honor of being there for someone is priceless. So I listen like it's my job, as if my life depended on it. I hear more stories of heartbreak and love lost; vulnerability at its finest. Advice is my middle name, empathy is my top strength. Taking on someone's problems as my own is my favorite pastime. Somehow my strength is always enough, or so I think, to be there for everyone, to be everyone's everything. I love people with my own, limited, human love, always attempting to change lives in the name of God but somehow managing to seek glory for myself.

Letting people in to my own issues? That's crazy talk. Life is meant to be lived with one foot out the door, always ready to abandon ship if necessary according to the fear that tries to guide my heart. I am a visit not a long stay. I am a hotel not a home.

At the first sign of interest in my narrative, I'm back on the run. No direction in particular, just anywhere away from the chance to be honest. I hide each square of my colorful quilt - each piece into my heart - never allowing it's warmth to embrace anyone but myself. Never telling the stories that stitch together the fabric of my innermost being. I rob myself of my own humanity when I take on the burden of carrying my story alone. I forget that story-telling is a beautifully intertwined dance between the most life-giving and draining phenomenas that one could ever encounter.

Running has become my second nature. Even when my feet are resting, my mind is running like it's on a mission. It's just easier that way. It's easier to assume that everyone will eventually leave you, that way you're never disappointed when they do. So I live with the sound of the waves coming and going on the shore as my deep inhale and exhale. My dance is to the rhythm of my irregular heartbeat; no one else could ever keep up.

I want the depth of a valley but constantly find myself at the shallow shore. I want the destination but never the journey. The journey exposes too much about me. It's too freeing. The stakes of rejection are too high. So I run.

I used to wonder why I knew my friends so well but they knew nothing about me. I knew but was never known. I finally realized that people needed to journey with me, through the valleys and mountaintops, in order to know me. They can't meet me at the end of the road, they have to walk with me and see the deep valleys of my life to celebrate the mountain highs. They need to know how far I've come to appreciate the end. To be known is to be loved, to be loved is to be known.

It gives me peace to know that even Jesus had His own posse of runners. 

The twelve disciples went from town to town, on a pilgrimage in the name of truth and light. The radical life they lived together left them with running in the direction of Jesus as their only option.

And when Jesus' time on Earth was up, He reminded them of the gift of humanity they had been given. Glimpses of His love came in the hearts of the broken and vulnerable, the runners. And in the beautifully heart-wrenching image of the cross, Jesus introduces one runner to another:

"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom He loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home." (John 19:26-27)

Inviting someone into the depths of a home, your own home, is like telling someone every secret you always thought you would keep to yourself. Every room reveals a different secret about who you are, the ultimate form of vulnerability.

And right before His death, Jesus sees two runners, two people He knows therefore loves, and tells them to run together towards Him. He tells them to journey together into the core of their homes and very beings - where they will find each other's hearts.

I think God keeps revealing to me why He made me with a little extra kick in my feet. For the quiet ones, for the voiceless, for the ones like me who always choose silence when given the choice. The "I'm fine's" and "I'm doing good's." For the ones who value a voice because it is heard seldom and cherish the song because it is only sung once. For the ones who long for truth even when a lie is easier. For the ones who feel like their brokenness is too deep to be shared and their insecurities too wide. For the ones who don't believe their song is worthy of being sung. For the ones who live in expectancy that they will be let down and rejected. For the few other runners of the world, to run alongside them. We are here for each other - to remind each other that we are not running alone.

He reveals to me the mystery of His love through the few runners I know, the true friends, the ones that understand the depths of my soul. Faithfulness is seen in the rays of sunshine others call their eyes. Commitment is our mutual enemy but somehow we always find ourselves coming back to each other. When we need a reminder that there are people on our team, that we are not alone, we find ourselves all running in the same direction. Fear is our fuel. I look to my left and my right and they are always there, running with me. We remind each other that people may not always be able to find us in the small crevices we run to, but we always will.

They remind me that I can never run from Love further than I can be found. I will never be out of bounce in Love's court.

I'm sure that God is never uncertain about His decisions to make us the way we are. He doesn't second guess His creation. I know this because He has created me, knowing well my runner habits. I know because He reminds me that my feet were not an accident, that they were meant to run towards something greater than my own fears. He knows how to turn them towards the direction of Home every time. Faithful despite my faithlessness.

Somehow, God always let's me run. Maybe it's because He knows His will is stronger than mine. Maybe it's because He trusts that I'll eventually run home, needing more amazing grace than ever after a long time of being lost. Maybe He knows that at some point, lost won't cut it anymore. At some point, I have to be willing to be found.

In His sweet and still voice He whispers, "Stop running in the direction of fear. I've made you a runner to become a pilgrim on the path of peace. I've given you eyes for the other runners of the world, for the people who feel invisible and voiceless. And when you do - run in the direction of peace that is - you'll find the fullness of life, and better yet, you'll find Home. My presence."

I'm glad God made me a runner. A free spirit. And on the days where I feel like I've run too far to ever be found, I am reminded of Love by the ones running at my side. I know I'm a runner, but I'm glad I wasn't meant to run alone.

I'm glad God lets me run. It makes the love story more profound. It makes coming Home even sweeter.

The good news? Even when Jesus died, death never stuck on Jesus. It tried to shove Jesus in its tight little grave but He just wouldn't fit. Death was never a good look on Him. You know how I know? Because three days later He was alive, as just another reminder that not even death was powerful enough to break the commitment He made to my free and running spirit. God's love language was Jesus and His gift was a pair of feet to run towards Him. His commitment is so sure that He runs towards us when we long for the richness of Home. He runs towards us when we fully expect to be greeted by punishment after a lifetime of running away from Him.

"I just want to be with you," He says.

So may my tendency to never go beyond the surface be as Jesus said it always was - finished. May each step taken in the valley and at the mountaintop be shared in confidence because it is worth hearing. May I know and be known. May each stride in my run towards Jesus produce endurance, with each bead of sweat representing more and more purpose. More motivation to keep running towards Him.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A New Heart

"Either these words will come out or they'll haunt you until they do. Refuse to let fear write this letter. Let every word written, instead, represent and be synonyms for love." 

Before I found love, well, before love found me, I used to wonder what it felt like to be chosen. Chosen out of a crowd, sought out from an audience. I longed to be seen, noticed, and appreciated. For a long time, I thought I could fill the emptiness of being second choice with my phone, praying to be truly seen through a screen I thought would fill my heart with every double tap on my twice edited, all too perfect picture. I convinced myself that to be looked at was to be seen and to be heard was to be listened to. 

And just like that, it was gone. As quickly as it came, the heart on the screen was fleeting, almost like it was never there. It was completely and utterly unfulfilling for the human heart - not fitting quite right - like the wrong glass slipper on a heart that was shaped more like an asymmetrical lump. 

I tried to hold it in the palm of my hands - that little red heart - to feel something, anything. But finally something told me that the red, symmetrical, perfectly shaped heart always had a giant CLOSED sign on it. Do not disturb. It doesn't allow for things to come in and out. There's no blood flowing to and from it, keeping us alive. It's just a bad drawing of an anatomical heart that somehow made a holiday for itself and made empty promises that it would fulfill us and make us feel warm inside. It never really chose us, saw us, listened to us for who we were. It was just an impostor.

The human heart on the other hand, now that is art. It has perfectly placed arteries and veins, blood flowing in and out, and an aorta to distribute oxygen rich blood into the body. A semi-lunar valve to prevent the back flow of blood from the arteries. I'd like to think God does that for us. Provides the oxygen in our lungs and tells fear to keep out the way the heart does for our body. 

"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34)

And from that, the abundance of my fearful, 2D, little red heart, I lived. Two things I learned from fear: everyone will break your heart and running is always the answer. So I began to run because I believed him. I even believed I could outrun fear himself because I knew he would break my heart someday too.

I thought fear was the only one who would ever choose me. I thought he was the only one who could see me for who I really was - just a girl with an abnormal, worthless, heart beat. "You need me to live," he whispered, "I'm your pace maker - the reason you're alive." Sweet empty nothings whispered in my ear and promises that he would never leave me. He vowed to always choose me first, to never leave me, to protect me from the will of God. He taught me to trust no one because who else could be going through something as pathetic as you are?  "You're on this journey alone. No one will ever understand you."

No one understands you. This. This thought is the root of all fear, the very reason fear makes its way into hearts around the world, unannounced. It convinces you that whatever darkness you're feeling, whatever ugly lie you're believing about yourself, it's just you. Alone. Everyone else is fine, it's just you, fumbling around in the dark trying to find the light switch on the wrong side of the room.  

Then something happened. I fell. The kind of fall that scratches you up and makes you feel like you have nothing left to give. The fall after you've been running and looking over your shoulder for too long, making sure fear isn't following you, forgetting to see what's in front of you. It was like something grasped my heels and I had no choice but to fall face forward. I guess that's one way to get my attention. What I didn't know was that falling - that's fear's worst nightmare. It's too vulnerable for him. It exposes the lies he'd been telling you all along. It makes you look down and realize that you were running in place the entire time - merely just a simulation of going somewhere, but never leaving fear's side. I thought it was till death doest part with fear, but little did I know he never signed the marriage license. I was so busy being convinced by fear to run, run, run, that I didn't realize what I would be missing if I just stopped. It was then that I learned of love.  

So this is a thank you. Thank you, fear, for teaching me that there is someone better than you. Thank you for the bruises you gave me, for the black eye I believed for far too long that I gave myself. Thank you for always reminding me that it is YOU who is alone, not me. Your insecurity is so deeply rooted in the definition of who you are that you tried to make it define me too. And let's be honest, you never really chose me first. You tried to drag me along for your ride and convinced me it was my ride. You just wanted someone to feel the pain you were feeling. I get that. 

I'm sorry, fear, I found love. Love didn't try to convince me that I was alone, it reminded me that someone gets it. That's all I needed, the assurance that one person out there is going through the same thing. Love was like a sweet familiar friend. We had never met before, but when we did, it was like we'd known each other for years. It was like picking up right where we left off, catching one another up on old stories and laughing about both the future and past. 

Love isn't cheap or stingy. When love found me, I came with a price and it wasn't cheap. I wasn't the item in the department store that got put on sale because it wasn't selling. Love bought me at full price and didn't even have second thoughts. He restored my true worth. 

Love took the form of blood and came gushing into my real, broken, tender, human heart. Pumping in life and filtering out fear, this cardiac arrest was just what I needed to unclog my arteries filled with greasy lies and salty wounds. Love came in the nick of time - just when I was ready to sell my aorta to fear for the small price of a dime, not understanding it's worth. As we were getting ready to make the exchange, me and fear - my heart for a dime - Love's blood pressure increased in my heart and flatlined my obscured vision. 

A heart transplant. Out of the abundance of my new heart, my mouth speaks. Love is my new heart. It drives out fear and now I can only speak into people what there is an abundance of in me - life. 

These days, fear is sneakier. Before I know it, he seeps in and I relapse. I thank him, again, for pushing me closer to Love and making me stronger. I thank fear for reminding me who saved me - Love. 

Sometimes I still convince myself that the tiny red symmetrical heart on my screen is enough. I swear it gives me life until I find myself empty, realizing I've diminished my complex anatomical heart to nothing but an easily satisfied object. 

Most of the time, I have more questions than answers, and I'm okay with that. At least I've learned to stop running. I'll be the first to admit that fear still makes an appearance here and there, but he's no longer the star of my love story. This letter is his last letter right here. He is not choosing me nor I him. When I finally fell, fell right into the arms of love, arms that had been waiting to catch me since day one, I laughed. So this is what it feels like to be chosen. 

I think fear loves comfort and hates commitment. He loves comfort because it means apathy and hates commitment because that requires choosing love. Fear also hates adventure because it means you're conquering him. I knew love was different the moment we met because when He found me, face flat on the ground after a fall, He smiled and whispered, "What's life without a little adventure, eh? Just take my hand, and I'll give you My heart."