Wednesday, September 23

The Crucible

I've got a professor who calls seminary "a crucible".  She talks about it in terms of test and trial, coming into a setting filled with requirements, deadlines, questions, and discussions aimed to get you to look deeper, to find those things within yourself which are so dark they have become unknown.  It was for this reason I signed up for this particular school.  Many universities and places of training offer top-notch professors and curriculum, convenience for scheduling, and test scores that will make you go "oohhh".  However, when I sat down with this same professor and she said to me, "You won't be the same person when you leave, as you were when you came.  It's not possible.  And that's not all our doing, we want you to know the material, but somehow this place creates a space where God really wears you down.  Your life gets turned upside down, and your only option is to fight and battle through it."

Where do I sign up?.

Which, seems crazy in a world consumed by comfort and the desire for it.  It also reminds me of the time, weeks before I walked down the aisle, when I said...out loud..."I'm going to pray for the hard stuff.  I want to know that God is using me and has something out there for me.  I don't want to pray for comfort and be lazy, I want to pray for hard and be used and be better."  (paraphrasing, I'm sure).  The company I held in that moment looked at me with either shock or disgust, still not sure which.  Because why, why would any right-minded woman pray for hardship, battle, sorrow, pain, and difficulty?

Here's why I said it then.  I was young, doe-eyed and had big dreams.  I wanted to accomplish something in the world.  I had also already made a few oopsies and wanted to know there was more to life than shame and blame and mistakes. 
Here's why I believe those words to be true today.  Sure, I still want to do big things and I still dream of being a more Wholehearted (thank you, Brene' Brown), well-rounded woman who has a lot of grit, a lot of tenacity, and a lot of love.  But today I know a little more about those words I spoke.  I'm growing to believe, with each day and courtesy of Brene', that I cannot have deep joy without deep pain.  I cannot close myself off to pain and growth and difficulty, and still be able to feel joy, gladness, and gratitude.  Just not possible.

Plus, I'm learning this.  When you Google the word 'crucible' you get a box with three definitions.  The first, a ceramic or metal container that gets very hot and melts things (paraphrasing again).  The second, a 'place or occasion of severe test or trial', and the third, 'a place or situation in which different elements interact to produce something new'.

You saw it, right?  A crucible is both a place of severe test and trial, and also a place where something new is born.  You cannot have deep gladness without deep pain.

And sure, I still get pissed when severe pain comes my way.  I feel inconvenienced ("it wasn't supposed to be this way"), hurt, betrayed, worried, afraid, and scared shitless.  But give me a minute, and I'll remember this life can be that way...deeply hurtful, very scary, and totally unpredictable.  But on the other side comes that birth, the something new.  Out of the fire comes something really beautiful.

Give me a minute and I remember I do not walk alone.  God may also be unpredictable, but unpredictable in a way that says, "I know best, but I've got you."  It is no accident that a crucible is both painful and wonderful, because a heart must also be the same.  There will be pain, if you allow it, and there will be deep love, if you allow it.  Shut out one, and you lose the other.

Or, in my case, pray for one and get a whole lot more than you bargained for.  Someday, I know, there will also be great joy.

Brene' Brown. Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. (2015)

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