Three years ago, I put on a cap and gown and some amazing red high heels and walked across an auditorium stage and received my college degree. Elated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt that day.
Sometimes, over 1,000 days later, when I’m sitting in my cubicle, I wonder what in the world I was thinking when I decided to go back to school. I mean, in all honesty, I could have absolutely gotten the job I have without it. I could have done a lot of things without it. It wasn’t a necessity – in theory.
In reality, I had plans to go on and get a Master’s degree afterwards, but I have yet to decide what I would want that to be. A lot of the programs that interest me just aren’t doable at this juncture in my life. And I don’t see a reason to pursue something that I’m not passionate about. So my hard-earned, Summa Cum Laude diploma hangs on the wall outside my cube, and it’s the first thing I see when I walk in every morning.
Some mornings, it stares me in the face – angry at hanging on a cubicle wall in a job where it doesn’t feel like it’s being used. Other mornings, it greets me like an old friend, reminding me that on the hardest days of being a full time adult student with tests and homework and research papers and internships and volunteer hours while also driving 2 hours round trip every day, working, and taking care of a family, that I made it. I survived. And I reached my goal. And whatever may be ahead of me this day, I will survive it too.
So no, my degree wasn’t a necessity – in theory. But it has become something tangible that I can point to and say – “I did it.” Even though it was hard. Even though I wanted to give up sometimes. Even though I hated parts of it. As I stared at it this week, and looked through some graduation pictures, I remembered something.
Many years back, a dear friend of mine gave me a devotion reading about the “Even now” prayer. It was based on the story in Scripture about Mary and Martha waiting on Jesus to come see about their sick brother, Lazarus. You’re probably familiar with the story, but in case you’re not, Jesus delays his arrival and by the time he gets to his friends, Lazarus is already dead. Martha greets Jesus and tells him that he’s too late. And I kind of think the old Martha, the one that didn’t have a relationship with Jesus, would have just left it at that. Would have maybe gotten bitter about the fact that Jesus took his sweet time showing up when they had made it pretty clear that they needed him.
But she doesn’t just leave it at that. She says, “…..but, even now, I know that your Heavenly Father will give you whatever you ask.” Martha doesn’t know, at this point, that Jesus will raise Lazarus from the dead. She just knows he can. And sometimes, as hard as it is, being a Christian is more about knowing who God is, than what he is going to do. It’s about knowing his character, and trusting in that character – even when it doesn’t make sense or feel like it’s benefitting us in some way.
The devotion reading my friend gave me went on to talk about praying those “even now” prayers. About all of the times where our eyes told us one thing, but our hearts told us another. About believing in something that you may not necessarily see with your eyes, but know, internally, on a spiritual level.
I’ve prayed a lot of “even now” prayers. In a lot of ways, my whole life feels like an “even now” prayer. There are so many things that I really thought would be different about my life but because of circumstances, or decisions I made or somebody else made – it’s not exactly what I thought, or sometimes hoped, it would be. But, even now…………
“Even now” is the essentially the whole of Christianity, because it means surrender. And you cannot be a follower of Christ until you surrender. It’s about renouncing sin, yes. But it’s so much more than that. It’s about surrendering your own preconceived ideas of what religion and spirituality are, and trusting in something bigger and more amazing than our little minds can comprehend. It’s about being open to possibility.
Even now – when it feels like the whole country may have officially lost their minds.
Even now – when the doctors give you bad news.
Even now – when your marriage is falling apart.
Even now – when you are feeling completely alone.
Even now – when just getting out of bed seems impossible.
Even now – when life is utterly overwhelming.
Even now – when it seems like your mistakes will always determine your future.
Even now – when your heart is broken.
Trusting God, even now, is called faith. And we don’t have to have much. A tiny amount will do. And we don’t have to have everything about God, ourselves, or life itself figured out to just pray, “Even now, God.”
Even now, God.
Several years ago, my mom lost her wedding band. She and Dad had matching yellow gold bands. Wide, with a little design in the middle. She was absolutely sick over losing it. My Dad, being the sweet guy that he is, had the middle cut out of his band and made into a new one for her. (Cue the “awwwwws”) Mom eventually found her ring – actually Dad found it – but the point is, it was found. And since she now had her original and the one Dad had made for her, she had HER band cut, kept the center and gave the other two bands to me and my sister.
My own wedding band isn’t fitting me well right now. It’s also a wide band and my fingers will swell so I end up having to take it off after not too many hours. Feeling naked without a ring on that finger, I often wear the band my mom gave me. And lately, I’ve taken to wearing it for other reasons. The “even now” principle is one of them.
I’ve seen my parents’ marriage endure a lot over the years. Sickness, health, richer, poorer, better, worse – I’ve watched it all with my very own eyes. The fact that they are together and stronger than ever gives me evidence of what pushing through difficult times can bring about. As I said, there’s a lot going on with me right now that I’m finding hard to push through. That little gold circle reminds me that I come from strength, I come from faith – it’s in me, I just have to hold onto it. Even now.
I don’t know who all reads this blog. But I know we’re all facing our own personal battles. Sometimes, this time of year especially, those battles can feel VERY uphill. My priest talked a little about this last Sunday – how this season that is supposed to hold so much Joy, can be just the opposite for so many. I have a heart for those people. I understand them. I get it. And thankfully, Christmas came all those years ago, and comes again every year, despite our feelings. So the “even now” idea takes on an even deeper meaning when I reflect on it this time of year. Even now, when I feel rushed and run down and stressed and just know that I won’t get to something that needs my attention, even now – Christ will come. He always does. For every haggard, exhausted, even sometimes hopeless saint, Christ will be born anew in our hearts this Christmas. We might be like Martha and start out saying, “Hey, you know what, if you had gotten here sooner ________ wouldn’t have happened.” But I pray that we end that statement like hers also, and remember, that even now, there might be joy just ahead.