(First off, my new Mac came in today. Yay. I spent the afternoon getting it all set up and my printer loaded on it and things; everything will be back to normal tomorrow because I'm going after lunch to the computer services place to get everything moved over from one computer to the other. Second, my cap & gown also got here today - things just got very, very real.)
Austin and I have gotten in a tradition of having dinner pretty much every Tuesday. I'm very thankful for this because he is pretty much my best friend left on this campus, and my time here is quickly running out so I want to make the most of it, not just with him but with all my Reformation brothers and all of the other people that have impacted my time here.
I actually saw him when I went to get lunch earlier today, so it was like a double treat. He knew I wasn't myself when we met up for dinner because I'd mentioned at lunchtime that I was in a lot of pain, and when we sat down, he looked at me in that way that was like he was just waiting for me to tell him what was going on, almost as if he could read the pain and distraction because of it on my face.
God bless that boy. I don't know how else to put it, but it's like every single day, my appreciation for him and his heart grows beyond what I could have ever expected. Today, I was simply grateful for him because he distracted me. I spent most of dinner laughing at the plan he has for an upcoming presentation (let's just say it involves Don't Stop Believin', a wig, and a fist pump) and encouraging him to go through with the character he's setting up. And for about 25 minutes, I actually forgot how badly I've been hurting for the past few days. I couldn't tell him how desperately I needed it, but he lit up with a grin when I thanked him.
We also pray together pretty much every week. This used to be something I was quite terrified of, asking people to pray with me or for me, but lately I've been made aware of just how much I need that, and I think we all need that. We need those people who are willing to hold us and go to the Lord on our behalf. There is strength given in prayer, especially when it comes from people you know love you fiercely and proudly and loyally. And Austin's one of the most faithful people I know, and one of those least afraid to share his faith with the world. I'm beginning to understand what it means to learn from people because of the way they live their lives, something people have said several times about me, because of him and some of my other brothers.
So while Austin praying for me is something that I am used to (not that that in any way diminishes my appreciation for his willingness to do it), there was something he said tonight that I don't think he's ever said before. He asked God to continue to grow our friendship. I don't know why that hit me so hard, but it did. Maybe because this is the first time I've ever had feelings for a guy friend and our friendship not hit any rough spot because of it. Maybe it's because I'm still waiting for him to get tired of me and leave. Maybe it's because my struggle with looking at my friends and wondering why they stick by me is more real with him than just about anyone else.
But there was something that Clayton said to me on Saturday that I haven't forgotten since. "I think a lot more people love you than you think." I asked him what he was referring to, and he wrote back "All the Reformation brothers!". I don't question their love for me, no, but I'm still having a hard time believing that I deserve it. That I'm a good enough sister to warrant their love, their time, their grace. But here's the thing, the thing that makes me feel like the world's biggest idiot - when you say yes to the love of Jesus, everyone warrants that love. Everyone is worthy. Because the Lord doesn't keep records, or make comparisons, or consider one child more or less worthy than the next one. God wants all of us, even the ones that the world deems not worth their time.
"We accept the love we think we deserve." A line from the movie "Perks of Being a Wallflower". A line that I firmly believe is true, and am still learning how to apply to my own life in such a way that I can accept the love that is pouring at me from all directions, love that I somehow continue to question and push away even though I know I want it and need it, even though I know that the last thing I want to do is push away the people who deem me worthy of the fight to prove their intentions.
How long will my past continue to haunt me? How long will it continue to affect the choices I make in my relationships today? This isn't so much causing problems in the relationships as it is driving me insane because I end up in the same place time and time again wondering when I'll stop asking the questions I've asked more times than I can count, leaving me writing blog posts that probably make anyone who reads it feel like they have a wicked case of deja vu. My friends, the real friends I have now, they know my heart. They know that it's not anything they are or are not doing that's causing these questions, that it is nothing more than chains I'm caught up in, scars I hold from people who damaged my spirit long before I learned what real love looked like and felt like. They know that the questions aren't even really about their or their motives or intentions, that they're more questions I ask myself of my own worthiness and of wondering how long it will be before I mess everything up. They know I'm trying. I just wish I wasn't still having to try so hard.
Again I return to my problem of remembering to give grace to myself. I treat these emotional issues that I struggle with as if I expect a switch to just be flipped and the problem to go away the first time I ask for it. But that's not realistic. I've learned that many things in life are a process of stepping backward and forward, learning and relearning lessons. That's why God told the Israelites to pile up stones to remember stories of how the Lord had come to their rescue, and to tell them over and over again to the coming generations - because we're going to forget. We're going to need to hear something multiple times before it will stick. I'm so thankful that the Lord is patient and dedicated enough not to get angry when I need to hear something again, and again...and again. God doesn't hold a grudge. God doesn't get irritated. God just wants to help, to teach, to comfort through the current situation.
So indeed, I also pray that God continues to grow my friendship with Austin. I pray that we grow even closer than we are now, and that we don't lose the gift that is our friendship as I face graduation and moving out-of-state. But mostly, I pray that I grow as a friend to him and to all of the people that I love, so that one day, I will reach that place of security that I'm lacking now - that one day I will stop wondering why Austin, or any of my brothers, or anyone else is still here and just rest in the fact that they are, that they love me, and that they are a constant and utterly beautiful picture of God's grace and the knowledge that I am loved more than I could ever imagine.
As I grow closer to the Lord, and I find rest in the all-encompassing love that I said yes to two years ago, I know that it will become easier and easier for me to accept the love of the family I have found here on earth. Because I have to be able to accept love before I can truly give it out. As long as I continue to grow, though, as long as I continue to seek what is greater, then I'll be okay. When I get comfortable, when I stop growing, that's when I'm really in danger.