Romance, discontent, brokennes, renewal

As the title suggests, I have a lot on my mind, and I'm going to try to make this coherent.

Everyone has something that distracts them. Well, actually, I believe everyone has several things that distract them... Yet I've come to know that the biggest distraction for me is one that I believe is very common: romantic relationships. I'm not exactly referring to being *in* a relationship and being distracted, seeing as I have only been in one legit relationship in my entire life. Instead, I build dreams around people when I see the potential, and those dreams become distracting. When I see that they aren't being realized, when I still feel lonely, then comes something that is very, very unhealthy.

Discontent. I don't feel depressed or despairing or anything that dramatic, just this dull discontent that robs my joy and thankfulness. No wonder envy is referred to as idolatry. When I feel discontent with my current state of being, it is the most difficult to praise God, really. It's almost as though I can't think of things to be thankful for nor to ask for - everything just seems hollow, and I'm terrified that I won't receive whatever I believe will make me happy.

And then it happens. The *it* is a little different every time, and maybe that's why it's called brokenness. Suddenly, the hope of my fill-in-the-blank dream disappears with a horrible snap and I'm left with heavy disappointment.

This has happened countless times in my life (and I'm sure in yours too) but very specifically, I'm referring to the loneliness of a broken dream of being *with* someone. It doesn't matter who broke it. I remember the first time I experienced this: I was 10, and my response was intense bitterness. (Got started early, eh?) Then at 14, I cried for what seemed like hours in my mom's arms, sobbing "I don't want to let go" again and again. Then after highschool, overwhelmed by guilt and curled up crying alone. A few years later, less tears, a bit more trust. Again, and again.

The most recent time was the same pain, the same self-given lies, the same loneliness, but more than ever I became aware of this strength that was most definitely not my own. Maybe it's because we'd just been studying brokenness, maybe it's because of the Leeland song I'd been listening to, but I remembered, I experienced a healing even in the midst of the pain. The verse in Lamentations comes to mind, "The Lord is my portion says my soul; therefore I will hope in him."

Even in the wake of broken dreams, there is a hope that God is ever-present, God is good, and God only does good things in my life. Sometimes good things don't feel good. But how can I know what the outcome of any given situation would be? Maybe God is protecting me from a worse pain. Maybe he is preparing me for something even deeper.

Or maybe he can just take any situation, no matter how ugly or stupid, and use it to remind me that he is enough and I can trust him.

Jesus cried in the garden, knowing that God could take away his suffering on the cross. Yet he trusted him to the end. God wants me to be conformed to this very image, a daughter who cries out my deepest longings even while I trust that his will is more perfect than mine, and I can and will submit.

I'm afraid I'm not explaining myself well. God isn't pleased by discontent or betrayal or any sin, of course, but like I've said before, just because something is evil, doesn't mean God can't bring good out of it. Just because God can bring good out of it, doesn't make it any less evil.

The point is, even through my ugly weakness of loneliness and my perhaps silly repeated dreams of finding the person I'll spend the rest of my life with, God is my strength. Even when I feel like I keep making the same mistakes and feeling the same disappointments, I can see that in reality I am in fact growing, just like he promised.

And that strength in weakness, that constant presence and unfailing love that no one else in this fallen world can offer me (that I can't offer anyone else), that saving grace, it all makes me fall in love with this God even more, trusting him with everything.

The cycle will begin again, like the moon waxing and waning, like summer to autumn to winter to spring. But every time, I learn something new. I'm conformed. I grow. And that makes the brokenness worth it. Maybe it'll be a different situation someday, but the same hope will prevail.

I'm sure of it.


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La Santa Muerte

I had a brief and interesting conversation with our taxi driver tonight. Our coordinator Sean likes to ask taxi drivers about the things they have in their taxis, so I thought I would ask our taxista Roberto about his many images of La Santa Muerte, or the Sacred Dead. She is like a grim reaper, and there's a very large subculture here that worships her. I'd never actually talked to someone who did, so I thought this was a good opportunity.

"Is this the Sacred Dead?" I asked.

"Yes, I have several." (Pointing to the other images.)

"Are these things that you use to worship, or do you just think they're cool, or what?" (He also had a cross, so I was curious.)

"Oh yes, we woship her, she is like a little angel that protects us."

"So are you Catholic?" (Pointing to the cross.)

"Yes, yes I am."

"Oh, I don't really know much about religion in Mexico, so I didn't know that the Sacred Dead was a part of Catholocism."

"Well, the Catholic church rejects her, and lots of other religions too, but it's like God is good, and demons are evil, and she's in the middle, neither good nor bad. So she can help us. And what religion are you?"

"Oh, I'm Christian." (He asked if I had been at church, so we talked a bit about the small group we had just left.)

"So you guys don't believe in the Sacred Dead?"

"Well, no. We believe that the only mediator we need is Jesus Christ, like the Bible says."

"Oh yeah, well, Jesus tells you to follow him, to come to him. The Sacred Dead doesn't say that. We can just do what we want and she protects us. But I respect all religions. I mean, you talk about religion or politics, you're going to disagree right?"

And that was about it. I still find it so amazing that we as people all over the world seem to have no problem whatsoever hanging our crosses next to our idols, whatever form it may have. But what really struck me about this man is how honest he was about not wanting to follow Jesus, even if he wanted Jesus to be a part of his religion. But the thing is, following Jesus isn't a burden - it isn't easy, but it's a life of love and hope, a life that lasts.

Good and evil, God and Satan, they're not equal opposites. Jesus conquered sin and death - if we follow him, we have no need to fear the other powers of this world. I think we all need to be reminded of that.