Hello, it's me
I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet
To go over everything
They say that time's supposed to heal ya
But I ain't done much healing
Hello, can you hear me?
I'm in California dreaming about who we used to be
When we were younger and free
I've forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet
There's such a difference between us
And a million miles...
You know these lyrics - all too well. Admit it, you've sung them at the top of your lungs while driving down the freeway. At first listen - this song hit you like a ton of bricks. Adele - she's done it again, she's taken the words right out of our journals. Her talent is unmatchable. But, what's her secret weapon? That's easy - it's her ability to embody our tragedies as if she were living them right beside us. She sings about love and loss in a way that will leave your bones chilled and bring your heart right back to that vulnerable place of brokenness it once found itself on display for all to see during those immediate days following your deepest heartbreak.
Adele - traditionally known for her mastery of transforming the tragedy of love and loss into hit-ballads. I've heard this particular chart-topping anthem she calls 'Hello', for once isn't a song about a past love, but this time, she's written a letter to herself - A Hello From the Other Side. At age 25 when you release the year's biggest-selling album, selling a record 2.3 million copies of “25” in just three days, breaking ‘NSYNC’s longstanding record for most album sales in one week, I'd say you've arrived at the other side of something.
Lately, I've been consumed with thoughts about 'the other side'. In our comparative culture, we tend to look to others who seem to be living on the other side....of tragedy, success, dating, hard work, their big break, marriage struggles, infertility, that cancer battle, etc. Whatever it is, we just long to make it 'there.'
Our culture has created a standard of arrival dictated by life-stage. People are getting married later and later, causing some to live in a constant state of 'not yet.' This has surfaced as a result of unmet expectations, proving to be the leading culprit of a generation of sojourning souls. You were told from a young age that - you will get married. The reality is, many are embarking into their 30's - unmarried. We've looked to marriage as the ideological point of arrival. It can feel like there's a dividing wall centered around those who've arrived and those who've yet to enter over to 'the other side'. I believe this 'not yet' mentality to be one of the greatest lies of our generation. Remember, when voting as a single, your ballot counts as a whole person.
You are whole - with or without a significant other.
I've been raised in the church. I've grown up learning and believing truths about the character of God. Things like His faithfulness, ever-presence, and goodness. I've heard preachers teach about these things for years and knowing the truth about the character of God in my head and those truths progressing to belief within my heart has come pretty naturally.
Until lately...I've started to think that these beliefs seem to be a whole lot easier to preach about and truly believe when you've actually made it to your other side. When you've gone through the valley - and have seen God show up and bring you out. He's given you the desire of your heart; He's made sense of the mess, healed, reconciled a relationship or fulfilled your deepest longing. You can clearly look back and say 'this is why the Lord took me through that'. You've seen the purpose in your pain and worthiness in the wait.
You're living proof that there is joy on the other side and that is something to be celebrated!
For others, you may feel like you've yet to make it to the other side. You may be struggling to believe in the dark what the Lord has revealed to you in the light and asking the question - where is the hope? Sometimes the characteristics of God which we stake our lives upon like His faithfulness, nearness, and goodness, begin to feel like that of a complete stranger or become a distant reality. Maybe you have yet to see the Lord show up in the way you've hoped He would for years. He seems distant and sometimes you find yourself asking...does He even care at all?
Friend, know and believe today - you are not forgotten.
My dad's been sick for a long time. We recently found out that he's been diagnosed with a disease which has for years affected his body, is progressing to affect his mind and will most likely eventually progress to take his life. This is a hard reality to face. From the inside looking out towards the long battle which lies ahead - it's hard to confidently speak about the Lord's faithfulness or even see any purpose behind all of the pain this will cause him and our family. Those truths I knew so well seem so far from this side of things. I'd so much rather be able to look back and proclaim the way God has come through, but right now - it's difficult to narrate the story from this perspective. Though, in the midst of the fog, I have to remind myself of this...
The character of God does not change based upon our current circumstance.
Last weekend I was visiting Atlanta, GA where I attended Passion City Church. The pastor, Louie Giglio was starting a new series called 'Label Maker'. The question he centered the series around was this - Who or what defines you? This particular week, He spoke about the word 'chosen'. He said God has a Sovereign plan that has been unfolding since the beginning of time...
"The sovereign plan is that you were chosen by God. "
He said, Jesus gets the last word and He is saying - 'I choose you'. An idea, which countless theologians have been debating for years. Louie spoke to the divine mystery that comes along with this truth. The simple reality that God is running the show and when we understand that we are chosen by the one who is before all, in all and through all - everything matters. We have been given unshakable confidence. We don't wait for a circumstance to validate us because just as quickly as that circumstance can bring us value - it has the ability to stir up deep rejection. With Christ, we get to walk into situations already validated.
WE DON'T LOOK TO OUR CURRENT STRUGGLE OR THE OUTCOME OF IT TO DICTATE OUR VALUE, MEANING OR PURPOSE.
He went on to speak about Ephesians 1. In this chapter, the author Paul wrote about the 'immeasurable greatness of the power of God'. He wrote these words from inside the walls of a prison cell. Paul, even though shackles bound him, knew his position as a chosen son of God. If someone were to say to Paul - 'I don't see how you can be chosen when you're in prison', His answer would be...just wait. The prison is for a second. The kingdom of God, the glory of God working through your life right now will last forever.
"The people who are unshakable through it all are the people who know they were chosen before it all." - Louie Giglio
He ended the sermon with these words - which you may need to hear just as much as I do today. These words are reminders of who God says we are. Regardless of what side you may find yourself on in this very moment - these words remain true about you...
"You are not rejected, you are chosen. You are not insignificant. You are not forgotten. You were not an accident, you were not unplanned, you were not a surprise, you were not, not-lovable and you are not, not valuable. You have always been and you always will be, to God-almighty - of extraordinary value. Before there was a Universe for us to exist in - God already was on the record and said, "I choose you". Those other words, those other labels, they're real words - but they're not the last word."
What is our responsibility in all of this? We have to be willing to believe God and agree with Him when He tells us who we are. The truth of who God says He is - that He is with us and for us and that He is a loving Father, remains the same, regardless of if we are on the mountain or in the valley.
Today, I certainly don't feel like I'm in the strongest place of belief. But, I find comfort in the fact that it's ok to be where I am and ask the difficult questions. Ultimately, I know I'm not alone. I know there are others living in the tension of anxious anticipation of promises unfulfilled and experiencing deep pain from a disappointment of various kinds. May we heed Paul's advice in all of this and just wait. When you feel like you've yet to see light surface from beneath the shadows, remember...
This present darkness doesn't have the ability to touch your eternal destiny.
Side note - when going through something difficult, I always find exercise to be that which allows me to hold it together. Today, as I was driving to the gym, processing the news about my dad, my heart began to break. I began to wallow in self-pity over those things which are simply out of my control. You know the type? Overcome by sadness, tears rolling down my face, all of a sudden, I began to feel a sense of gratitude wash over me. I thought about the empathy being instilled within my heart during the dimness of these days. The Lord uses empathy for His kingdom. Statements like, 'I've been there before" or "I get it" are often used to bring a deep sense of love and belonging to another.
Empathy is an outpouring of jesus and the kingdom of God working through our lives - this makes the pain worth it.
Though this present moment may look dim and the pain may feel heavy, the Lord has gone before all of it. There is greater purpose, transcending far beyond your life-stage, present trial or success. He's called you chosen before the foundation of the world and that is the last word. Every single detail of your life will take shape - and because of this, I can't help but think, maybe there are no sides in this life.
In the midst of your pain, sickness, failures, successes, loneliness, family hardship, love, loss...there's purpose. When all is said and done, our lives, well, they're contributing to one hell of a Hello From the Other Side, which will knock the socks off Adele's chart-topping hit...just wait.
P.S. If you'd like to watch Louie Giglio's full sermon entitled 'Chosen' - here it is.