(This post was originally published on my personal blog, Of Postcards & Ink, between 2015-2016.)
This little earth, contained in the complexity of the universe, is a miracle. We live in the eye of glory, a storm of the miraculous, with so much beauty and so many glimpses of our Creator to behold. This week (post-mountain-induced high), I’ve been reminded to catch those glimpses, not only in the big, bright and awe-inspiring moments, but in the small, unassuming and routine ones too. This week has been an unexpectedly quieter one, as a variety of administrative factors came together and left me with a single full day of class and not much else beyond a couple of group assignment meetings and Bible studies by way of scheduled commitments. In some ways, the quietness of this week has been much needed, as I came off the excitement of last week’s adventures and spent some time being still, reflecting and preparing for the month of busy-ness ahead.
One thing I’ve been dwelling on this week has been the idea of vulnerability. Since beginning my exchange and committing to keeping this blog filled with weekly or bi-weekly reflections about how I’ve been feeling, what I’ve been learning and how I’ve cried tears of joy and of sorrow while being pushed further than ever before into the sufficiency God’s grace, so many of you have thanked me. You’ve thanked me for being real and for sharing my heart. For not allowing the glossiness of the romantically-marketed and wanderlust-fuelled notion of exchange to cast an artificial rosy tint over what can be an experience that throws you in the deep end and forces you to sink or swim.
As I prepare to share each post with you, my heart is often beating a little louder than usual and my mind is usually racing a little faster than usual too. There’s something terrifying about being vulnerable. Every time I push the button that publishes these posts, I invite you all to take a trip into my heart and around my soul. Some days, I feel like a confused contradiction, having gone through soaring highs and heavy lows in condensed periods of time, and writing about it forces me to confront that – wading through the messiness of my strengths, my weaknesses, my character and my sin. Through being thrown into such an extreme change in circumstances, I’ve grown to see the beauty of change and to appreciate the volatility of the human heart and its emotions. By God’s sanctifying grace, I’m learning to be gentle with myself and to walk myself through the autumns, the winters, the springs and the summers with patience for who He’s shaping me to be today, tomorrow and every day after that.
And why do I do it? In recognising the fact that this blog and the words that I’m writing are some of the only glimpses of my exchange experience that people I share life with via social media may see, I’ve been challenged to think about what it means to pursue a life – and an exchange – marked by vulnerability, authenticity and grace. In and of themselves, authenticity and vulnerability can be dangerous things if they aren’t paired with grace. But paired with grace, authenticity and vulnerability are, for me, the fruits of security and sufficiency in Christ – an awareness that my identity is rooted in the reality and relevance of God, His promises and His faithfulness.
By allowing my identity in Christ to shape all else, there is true freedom to be honest about who I am and the things I find easy or hard, while marvelling at the sanctifying process of who I am becoming. I’m learning how to reject a life marked by pretence or performance, because grace has set me free from both. I’m learning not to let fear, insecurity, or anxiety cripple me into patterns of self-aggrandisement or temptations to hide the shadows and moments of darkness. I have Christ and He is enough. He’s enough because in Him, the love of God is the conduit carrying me from who I am to who I’m becoming. His grace is enough because it actively works until it reaches completion and frees me from the crippling desire to find my validation in the opinion of others, while preventing me from blindly subscribing to the notion of absolute self-acceptance as I confront the fact that there are parts of me that are unacceptable and that need to change.
And so I just want to thank you. Thank you for your patience and your kindness. For inspiring me and encouraging me time and time again to write and to be raw with you. Thank you for your love for authenticity and for sharing about how you’ve been finding your summer, autumn, winter and spring. For being real about the growing pains, the stretch marks of life, and the hard but glorious beauty that they are ushering into your story.
I’ve been learning that the symptoms of struggle aren’t an excuse to sink, but the waves that will slam me into the Rock of Ages. I’ve been encouraged to look upwards and to look outwards. To abide in my Father, to see His wonders in every hour of every day, and to praise Him through the ups and downs. And as time has passed and continues to pass, I’ve revelled in the victories that have come from reaching days and seasons where the tide falls and the calm stretch of joy and of peace lasts longer than the storm.
As I’ve been learning the value and beauty of vulnerability, this observation from Matt Chandler has particularly resonated with me: “One of the great paradoxes of Christian faith is that our weaknesses edify and encourage one another to greater holiness. Isn’t that strange? That strengths, perceived, and in particular, projected strengths could actually, at times, hinder growth in the things of God. Whereas honest weaknesses have a way of stirring us up towards greater holiness, creating safe places for us to experience the grace of God.“
Thank you for cultivating a safe place with me, where we can grow and be nourished together by the grace of God.
Thank God for encouraging times spent with brothers and sisters in Christ here. At GBU this week, we had a training session that was all about how to approach Bible passages inductively and being able to work through the familiar stages of observation, interpretation and application anew in French made my heart feel so full! God is good. His Word is alive – no matter what language it’s in.
Please pray for me and all of the other delegates who will be at the GBU weekend away next weekend. For us all, that God might prepare our hearts and minds for the week of teaching and discussion around His word, that the speaker might teach faithfully and that we might all be transformed to grow in our likeness of Christ through it. And specifically for me, that I might continue to grow in my humility, contentment and servant-heartedness as I inevitably face frustrating situations where I wish I could express myself more freely and eloquently in French and learn how to project Christ’s love, even through my weaknesses.
Thank God for online resources. I’ve started listening to the talks from this year’s KCC ENGAGE Conference and they’ve been such valuable and refreshing sources of wisdom and truth. Having heard bits and pieces of them from Dickson and others, I’m looking forward to continuing to work my way through them this week and have my perspective adjusted and realigned to reflect the eternity that gives my life significance. Praise God for the eternal value of His wisdom, which He graciously reveals to us through books like Proverbs and through which we can learn to live well.