Don’t be alarmed. This is not the end of EEB! This is a post about life, not a warning. We’ll be around for a while longer, God willing :-)
Over the past few months, I have found surprising strength in God. Radically. Throughout the whole time, however, something hadn’t been quite right yet. I felt like I was taking awkward baby steps against high tide and didn’t quite have a heading. I was confused, but kept going. And even though I’m still growing, obviously, I think a lot of this confusion just culminated into answers while I was praying and reading my Bible a couple of days ago. I was praying about something in particular, which I will explain to you in a few minutes, and I opened up the Bible, looking for help. God pointed me to a scripture I had no idea existed in the context I was thinking, but it perfectly fit what I needed. Tears streamed down my face as all the pieces suddenly flew into place…it was amazing and broke my heart all at the same time.
It all started back in the summer. I had just learned that some people I knew didn’t think the same way I did about religious matters, which troubled me. They were Christians in the sense that they believed in Jesus Christ and God made the world, but we differed on a lot of other issues. And for some reason, I have the weird tendency to assume people think the way I do and to assume they’re perfect. When I realize this is not case (as it obviously never is), I tend to say, “Oh, that person needs help. He/she is broken and needs Jesus.” What hypocrisy! I always forget what I mess I am in. None of us are perfect.
The problem was, I didn’t know how to take disappointment. I kept trying to either defend the people in my mind and actions, or completely rejecting them. I prayed about it, and honestly I thought that both actions didn’t seem quite right: it seemed a bit extreme to avoid these people like I was a perfect saint since the only Real Perfect Holy Person died for them, but at the same time it was a really stupid idea to try to copy their mistakes! Anyway, I kept praying about it, but feeling confused. And then fear crept in, which only added to my confusion. What if I had to say goodbye? What if God was trying to tell me to go? And then what if He wasn’t? What if He put these people in my life so that we could grow in faith together and I was supposed to be His hand in guiding them? I couldn’t decide which one was worse because either way it would require more strength than I thought I had.
I decided, at least for the time being, that the best idea was to serve God in all I could and try to keep my spiritual ears open, but honestly it’s hard to be unbiased when you want Someone to say something.
For the next few months, I went through some terrible times. Some days, I became almost embittered, becoming scornful in an attempt to let go of these people. I tried to tell myself that I do without them; I tried to convince myself that I was strong and had the strength to “defy gravity,” so to speak. I had the Lord, so why did I need people anyway? These days didn’t last very long. After all, who has ever heard of a “wicked” Christian, pun intended? It became very clear that this was not the way of the Lord.
The other days were just as bad, if not worse. If I wasn’t copying these other peoples’ mistakes, I was living in fear of losing them, or perhaps doing both at the same time. Needless to say, it was a terrible, terrifying place to be.
Yesterday and today peace finally began to fall upon me. I was still worried, but I had decided that I was going to follow God no matter what. I was thinking about some friendships, almost dead, which had been hanging in the shadows for some time, and was nearly sick with worry. What if the same thing happened to my other friends and family who I had already been worrying about for months? The friendships I had already lost stung badly…I was still not healed from some broken relationships which had spiraled a long time ago. It would nearly break me if something like that happened with anyone I really knew well and loved. Once again, I prayed. I needed comfort, and answers. I didn’t know how to deal with not knowing the future. I didn’t know how to deal with disappointment. I didn’t know how to deal with tough times, or troubled relationships, or goodbyes, now or later. And then a miracle happened. I opened the Bible and found myself in Ezekiel. I flipped back a few pages, trying to find something to read and feeling literally lost because I didn’t think Ezekiel was almost in the New Testament (I don’t know the exact order of the books of the Bible like I should…) Then I “stumbled” upon Kings and found the passage where Elijah is taken up into heaven. As it turns out, this was God’s direction, not me simply browsing through the pages.
I had read about Elijah being taken up into heaven before, probably in a kids’ illustrated Bible, but I had never noticed his apprentice, Elisha. If you can picture Elijah as Frodo Baggins and Elisha as Sam, then you get a good idea of their relationship. As I continued reading, “The Breaking of The Fellowship” even started playing in the back of my mind, which certainly didn’t help the flood of feels I was going through by this point, nor did hearing my brother playing a moving rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” on a CD player down the hall. In the Lord of The Rings trilogy, Sam follows Frodo from the beginning of their journey through the end, and then to the final moments of Frodo’s life on Middle Earth, when he sails to the Grey Havens, which is basically a heaven for elves in the book. The story of Elijah and Elisha reads the same way. Over and over again, Elijah tells Elisha to leave him, but each time Elisha replies, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you” (2 Kings 2:2). Time travels on, and other prophets ask Elisha if he knows that the Lord is about to take Elijah away from him and up into heaven. He responds, “‘Yes, I know,’ Elisha replied, ‘but do not speak of it'” (2 Kings 2:3).
And then the climax of my emotional battle came when I read what Elijah asks Elisha just before his departure for heaven. 2 Kings 2:9 says, “When they had crossed [the Jordan River], Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’” (2 Kings 2:9). Several things hit me all at once, and I began to cry. Then the most amazing thing happened. The Holy Spirit began to communicate with me clearer than ever before; it was actually like God was right there holding me. I broke down.
I realized that Elijah’s words needed to become my attitude towards everyone because I would have to tell them all goodbye one day. Everyone. Friends, family, everyone… not just fleeting friends who visit for a season and then move on. I had already been thinking about one person in particular through all of this turmoil over the past few months….in fact, throughout this post I have been saying I was concerned about “people,” but in reality I was mostly concerned about one person who I love, and whose position in my life seems most uncertain and unpredictable. Well, when all of these thoughts began to unfurl, this person immediately came to mind, and then Sarah. I didn’t know why she came to mind, unless I was thinking of the relationship between Elijah and Elisha because over the years she has definitely been an Elijah and a Sam to me. She has guided me through many a Mordor! However, at the moment, I still wasn’t sure why I was thinking about her in particular; I did figure this out the next day, however, and I will explain in a moment. But while I was thinking about Elijah’s attitude and inevitable goodbyes, I suddenly had a shadowy mental image of a light in a dark tunnel, and stairs. I suddenly believed in God and in heaven more than ever before; it was like I was catching just a glimmer of things to come. I felt just a drop of God’s presence deep in my heart, and it was enough to totally make me believe like never before. While all of this was going on, God seemed to be whispering in my head, “Can’t you trust me with these people? I have them safely under my wing and we are all going to be together in heaven one day. Because of this, there is nothing in this world that can truly separate you from them. You might be apart from them for a little while, but I’m not trying to separate all of you in the long run. So why would you try to blame me when goodbyes come, and why are you worrying about when you are going to have to tell them goodbye? Can’t you trust me?” This was the first time I had felt so much confidence about all of the believers I know (and the ones I don’t know) being together forever someday; it was amazing! It also showed me that my focus had been in the wrong place. I had been too concerned about “forever” in the earthly sense of the word, forgetting that “forever” literally means eternally in the spiritual sense and is much more important than anything which “matters” down here on earth. The good news is that, while earthly forever is somewhat of a myth, spiritual forever is a truth and it was the one God was giving me confidence in!
I realized that since goodbyes are inevitably coming, we must each be warriors. We must be strong enough in our own faith to stand and lift others up when they fall, and we must have enough faith to keep fighting after life or death has taken our fellow warriors away from us for a time. However, all the while we must be gentle enough to receive help and to give as well as receive love. We’ve got to have special people in our lives without becoming overwhelmed by the fear of goodbye. Essentially, we’ve got to be fearless warriors. For years I had read Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” but honestly I didn’t, and probably still don’t, fully comprehend it. To me, it seemed like one of those pious sayings which mean well, but, well, don’t mean a whole lot, like “Bless your little heart.” But really, it means that we draw all our strength from the Lord.
I did discover why Sarah was in that vision, and it does have something to do with finding strength in the Lord. The next day I talked to her, and discovered she wasn’t as perfect as I had always imagined. She was going through hard times, too, which I somehow didn’t believe was possible for her to do and probably why I hadn’t opened up to her so much about some of the problems I was facing. While I was talking to her, though, it hit me: our strength does come from the Lord and everything we do is supposed to be modeled after Him. In our lives there are many “idols,” but once we are past the stage of “monkey see, monkey do,” I strongly believe that there are no more “role models,” just “role virtues.” This is because we all stumble, and if you think people are perfect, you will be sorely disappointed. And this is going to sound very hypocritical, but when I hear other people aren’t perfect, I tend to label them as “a mess,” quite forgetting that I am in the same boat! Some days, I am not even in the boat, metaphorically speaking; I’m holding onto a lifesaver outside of the boat, fighting waves of doubt. Point being, we do have spiritual leaders in the Christian community, yes, but I really don’t care if you are a new Christian, devout Christian, pastor, etc. If you are breathing in this world right now, you and I have equal chances of letting doubt and the world overtake us without God’s help. If you are in doubt right now, I urge you to keep going. God is with you, even if you can’t see Him, and I promise He will speak to you, as He spoke to me after months of waiting. And I will live by Elijah’s standard: I want to do what I can for you before I am taken from you or before you are taken from me. If you are a Christian, you are my family and we are supposed to lift each other up and pray for each other because no one in this world is free from doubt and we are all in the same boat. If you are not a Christian, then I wish you would talk to me all the more because there is hope in Jesus Christ!
So as the world rages and falls into the dark shadow of Mordor, stay strong, my friends. Keep fighting the good fight in Christ’s name, as He gives you as much strength as you need for your calling. Love your friends, family, and everyone you come into contact with, no matter how long or short you may know them. Don’t worry about how much time you have on this earth, or how much time you have with people, but trust that God, who has them all safely in His hand, will give you just the right amount of time needed. And then use that time wisely. Pull the lost around you into our boat so that more people will be a part of the Lord’s promise of bringing all of the believers together again in heaven. I can hardly wait until we are all together with God in a true “Fellowship of the King.” :-)
Best hopes for your journey! We’re here for you all.
If you are still here, thank you for reading this super-long post! I hope it was a help to you. And just so you know, there will be more posts in the near future. :-)