The Challenge.

I graduated from College last week. That is, in one night, I saw the culmination of four years of tears and hard work. To be honest, it was a bit of an anticlimax. I desperately wanted to be there – I even won the argument with my doctor as to whether or not I was allowed to go having come down with the flu the day before. In many ways it didn’t disappoint. The memory of standing on stage with my teammates will not quickly vanish from my mind. Still, as I look back over the years, the few hours we spent dressed up in Harry Potter-esque capes and hoods did not equal the pain and tears of four years. There should have been fireworks, and a marching band, and circus performers, and and and.

So here we are. Graduates. Oh my.

Each of us had to write a sentence describing what we’re doing this year, having been pushed out of College into the big bad world. Here’s mine:

Tess is pursuing a ministry in writing, hoping to use what she has learnt at College to write theologically rich articles showing both how the gospel is good news in every sphere of life, and also how Christianity is both intellectually and emotionally credible, in a world which so often discredits it on both these counts.

It’s true. I want to be a writer. I just love words. I love their power to persuade and heal, to hearten and stretch. I’m not silly though, I realise that I have chosen a career in which the days are either brilliant or rubbish, that the middle ground is famously hard to find. I realise that I cannot make the words come, any more than I can make the rain come, and that I depend heavily on my creativity to make this work. I realise that this is an unusual choice, but still, it is my choice.

This brings us to the challenge I am setting myself. One article, every week for the rest of the year. Hopefully I’ll have time to do more than that, and hopefully there’ll be opportunity to be published in actual real live journals or newspapers or magazines. But this is the minimum. I’m setting myself this goal, at least partly because I have become completely institutionalised and need structure. But also partly because I have become immobilised at the immensity of the task that I have chosen. This is my way in.

I heard Mark Scott, the Managing Director of the ABC, speak the other day. He said that people who have successful careers in their 40s and 50s are the ones who worked really hard in their 20s and 30s. This is exactly what I plan to do.

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Too scared to dream.

Ever had one of those existential moments where you wonder what you’re doing with your life and where you’re going and why and how you got there? Please say it’s not just me.

I write this from an apartment in Bastille, Paris. A strange place for a crisis. I am here on holiday. It’s exceptional. To me it feels like an odd mix of Mexico and America. I recognise stores like Cartier, Tiffany’s and Swatch. But the traffic is manic like in Mexico. The worlds largest roundabout (the Arc de Triomphe) is constantly circled by swathes of cars. There are no lanes. It feels like chaos. It feels like Mexico.

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Aside from all the beautiful things to see, this is the first real time I’ve had in a long time to sit and think. And it’s dangerous. It’s really the first time I’ve let myself totally feel what has happened the last few months. Disappointment. Loss. Unmet hopes. Not one feeling that is pleasant.

I feel lost. More than a little like I’m grasping in the dark. I’m scared about what comes next, mostly because I don’t know what it is. Here I am: a graduate twice over, and unemployed. Eish. I never had a plan, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t part of it. Everything I thought I would do, I’m not doing. I’m not working in Geography or Urban Planning (my first degree). I didn’t finish my PhD. I studied theology for four years but I’m not being ordained, I’m not going overseas, I’m not working with kids, and I’m not a chaplain.

When I wander through art markets in Montmartre I wonder if I could be a painter who sells her paintings. When I while away time on Etsy I wonder if I could sew vintage decorations and sell them. This is the kind of stuff I wanted to do ten years ago. But I suppressed it because I thought I wanted to be a doctor. And all that other stuff was a bit hippy and weird. Who doesn’t want to fit in and succeed in all the traditional ways when they’re 16? Ten years later and I still want to do those things. Maybe that means something.

Do I have anything to show for the intervening ten years aside from an $85,000 debt to the government? Is all that time wasted? It’s easy to think so. My understanding of the world does not let me think this, even though some days I might like to. Does not God use everything to shape us? To grow us? To teach us of our dependence on Him? I believe so. If I had not started a PhD, I would not have moved to Wollongong, the place I really began to learn that God wants my love every day of the week, not only Sunday. If I had not gone to Mexico, I would have continued to believe that God’s will and mine were the same. I would not have learnt to trust His goodness when I can’t do what I want. If I had not gone to Moore College I would not have been pushed to answer questions like ‘why does God let his people commit suicide?’ There are no easy answers I’m afraid.

What do I have? I have a better knowledge of God and a better knowledge of myself. I’m still scared. So scared. So scared I don’t even like to dream – usually one of my favourite things to do. This pains me more than I care to admit. But I know that He has me. Even if I have no idea what’s coming. He has proven himself faithful, even in the moments when I didn’t think he would. Even in the moments when I wasn’t sure that I would be faithful.

I am afraid. But for this:

The Lord is my refuge and strength,
Therefore I will not be afraid.
Though the mountains give way and fall into the sea,
He will come and rescue me. Ps 46:1-2

Whatever comes.
Bring it.

Home.

There are a million tiny thoughts circling around the periphery of my mind. I cannot decide which one to grasp hold of. It could be the dreaded farewell of one of my best friends coming up on Sunday. It could be that today I moved out of college permanently. It could be the uncertainty of future friendships. It could be any of the thousand little tasks to be done before Monday. It could be that this time next week I will be in Paris.

They sit there, threatening to jump into my consciousness and overwhelm me with grief or excitement or fear or busyness. Their presence destroys me a little. Partly because I know they are there. Partly because I don’t know what to do with them except wait.

In the meantime, I sit on the worlds most comfortable couch, enjoying the view of a wild green garden, the sound of birds playing in the bird bath, and my mums gluten free, dairy free, fructose free, but curiously not flavour free tabbouleh.

Ah, home. I like it here.

Adieu.

4 years. 8 semesters. 104 weeks.

23 essays. 21 exams. 1 critical reflection. 2 book reviews. 1 sermon series. 1 presentation. 1 project.

4 mission weeks. 3 sermons.

This is the end.

This time last year I said goodbye to a group of people who had become such a huge part of my life. The sadness sat over and around me like a fog. I don’t quite know when or how it eventually lifted. I have been waiting for it to descend again. It hasn’t. I have not yet cried about finishing college and leaving this ragtag group of people who have taken up residence in my heart.

But as I pack up my room I am filled with nostalgia.

I remember the day I moved in. I remember driving my parents car into the driveway at number 28 and being parked in by Kylie. I remember how it only took one trip in the car to bring all my stuff in. I remember feeling intensely insecure and uncertain. I remember being afraid of becoming one of ‘those’ Moore College people. I remember unpacking and feeling certain that this room with its green feature wall would never feel like home. I remember sobbing myself to sleep the first night I slept here, not sure of who I was, why I was here, or what the next one year, three years or even four years would hold. I remember the unfamiliar hallways and fixed meal times. I remember feeling like I was on camp. I remember not knowing anyone. I remember feeling like an outsider.

And then we graduated into second year. Finally we weren’t ‘first years’ anymore. I remember thinking how hard the work was. I remember the whole year feeling like a massive high. I remember feeling comfortable in my friendships. I remember welcoming Kate and Tam on to our corridor. I remember the feeling of knowing what I was doing because I could help them. I remember writing and essay on the resurrection of Jesus and talking about it with my barista. I remember welcoming little Annabelle into the world. I remember the comfort of not having to say goodbye to anyone from our year.

Third year was a vacuum. Not the excitement of first year. Not the delight of graduating in to second year. Not close enough to the end to see it. Just stuck in the middle. I remember the terror of panic attacks. I remember the kindness of Katie who would sit with me during them. I remember the tears. I remember the confusion. I remember a lot of sleepless nights. I remember the stars. I remember Paul and Ryan letting me lie on their couches and just be. I remember Michael’s lectures on the Christian life. I remember the love-hate relationship I had with ethics. I remember learning in a new way that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

All of a sudden we were in fourth year. I remember deciding to do both my electives and audit a subject in first semester (not my finest moment). I remember the pain and joy of Shapers. I remember becoming real friends with lecturers. I remember the moment I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. I remember wanting to do a project, and then wishing I hadn’t, and then glad I did. I remember wanting to make the most of the limited time with people. I remember being too tired to make conversation. I remember being thankful for friends with whom to be silent. I remember wishing Sarah and Kylie were here. I remember the way God provided new friendships. I remember the feeling of satisfaction.

And so much more.

And now we are finished. I feel like I blinked and suddenly it’s over. There are too many things to miss. Too many things to grieve. Studying together, not only with brothers and sisters, but with friends. Living together, and the unusual delight of just popping by to say hi. Learning together, both being taught and teaching each other.

I used to think that I made the decision to come to college because I wanted to be trained to do my job better. I wanted to spend time studying the Bible to grow in my knowledge of God so that I could teach others. Now I realise that God brought me here to break me. Never have I been so aware of my own sin, my own faults and failures. Never so aware of God’s unfailing, unending and unchanging grace. I am not the same person I was when I came here.

I wait for the fog of grief to descend. I am certain it will come.

But for now, Moore College, I bid you adieu.

A challenge to a nation of racists

*the full text of my sermon on asylum seekers from women’s chapel at Moore College this morning.

Two months ago, our former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced a new policy on asylum seekers. This was it:

Asylum Seeker Policy under the Rudd Government

Asylum Seeker Policy under the Rudd Government

One month ago, Australians dismissed Kevin Rudd and installed Tony Abbott as our Prime Minister. If anything, the treatment of asylum seekers has worsened, not improved under this new government. Now, as well as removing all chance of being resettled in Australia, the government is refusing the release of information to the media about boat arrivals. It’s almost farcical.

We have a problem. It is, perhaps, a problem unique to the inner city, politically left-leaning people among us. Nevertheless, it is a problem.

Thousands of people are fleeing from their countries of origin to seek asylum in Australia. This is not new. Australia has a long history of resettling displaced peoples during international and regional crises. However, this issue has escalated in recent years, and even further in recent months.

Apparently, these changes have been introduced to stop people smugglers and to stop further loss of life at sea. It’s an admirable goal.

But the country is in an uproar. Why?

Initially, at least some of the objections arose out of the political nature of the debate. Others were concerned with our international obligations. With the change of government has come a shroud of secrecy surrounding boat arrivals leaving Australians uninformed and frustrated. Yet others have applauded the hard line taken by both Kevin Rudd and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, seeing the hard line policy changes as a necessary step in dismantling networks of people smugglers. Christians sit on both sides of this debate.

Perhaps you don’t feel it. Maybe you feel like you’re drowning in essays and exegeticals and exam study. Maybe life at college is all consuming. Maybe you’re busy trying to keep up with your family and your friends. Maybe you are worried about your parents failing health. With all that, you might feel like you don’t have any more mental or emotional energy to think about this issue. Perhaps you are perplexed by the complexity of the issue. Perhaps you cannot see a way through. It seems easier to not think about it.

I get that. I really do. I wish I had an answer. I don’t. I can see valid points on both sides, but I recognise that there is not one simple solution. A multi-faceted approach is required, but this will take time, creativity, and regional co-operation to say the least. Nevertheless, I believe it is possible to carve out a way through the political rhetoric, through the emotive language, and through the general state of overwhelmedness that many of us feel.

With such a complex and emotive issue we need a multi-faceted approach. And here it is.

some thoughts on asylum seekers

some thoughts on asylum seekers

The image of God.

The humanity of Jesus.

‘us’ and ‘them’.

Three massive topics. One little sermon. Put your thinking hats on.

First, asylum seekers are in the image of God.

This argument is both pervasive and persuasive. It goes something like this: we should care about people because they bear the image of God.

Christians often argue that that the dignity of the human being is grounded in the fact that he has been made in the image of God, usually citing the famous passage in Genesis 1:26-27.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth”. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

But let’s be real about this.

We have here only 2 chapters worth of description of the unfallen human life. And descriptions of what it actually looks like to have dominion and to rule in the unfallen world are not exactly profuse. The image is described largely in terms of responsibilities (having dominion, ruling, subduing, filling) rather than the mental abilities or emotional capacity of Adam and Eve.

This has led to an enormous amount of ink being spilled over the question of what it actually means to be in the image of God. At least part of what it means is to be relational. God speaks to them, and they speak back. This is one of the major differences between man and the animals.

Much more has been made of the idea of rationality and reason as those human characteristics that image God. Those who are steeped in our tradition have suggested that

‘the rational soul is made to the image of God in the sense that it can make use of reason and intellect to understand and consider God’ (Augustine).

There is something very appealing here. We are educated, upper middle class Christians. Most of us have one, if not two university degrees. We are rational. And we value rationality in others. If being in the image of God equals possessing a rational mind, then many of us can be confident that we are in the image of God. It is persuasive because we can point to faculties that we possess to assure ourselves that we are in God’s image.

BUT

This isn’t grace. If I can rely on my rationality to be assured of bearing God’s image, I am no longer relying on his generosity in making me in his image in the first place. We are made in his image, and we bear it still, even though we are plagued by sin.

It is true: all people are made in the image of God. But the question still lingers: what does being in the image of God actually mean? Answering this question will help us navigate a way through the complex issue of asylum seekers.

Casting our eyes to Jesus, we see the one who bears the image of God fully and perfectly. Jesus is the true image bearer. Colossians 1:15 says,

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

He shows us what it truly means to be a human being in the image of God. We can learn a lot more about bearing the image of God from Jesus than we ever could from Adam and Eve.

Jesus took on human flesh. Paul tells us how it is:

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Phil 2:5-7).

So also John:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

The gospels tell us the story of why Jesus took on the likeness of men. It was so that he could stand in our place, take the punishment for sin that we deserve, and redeem sinful humanity, thereby opening up the way for humankind to once again be in a right relationship with God.

This was God’s decision. It was not based on the inherent worth of the individual. Once before he had made a different decision. Cast your minds back to Genesis 6.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

But he promised to never do that again. Never again! This promise was yet another example of God’s enduring commitment to his people

In the incarnation of Jesus we see this commitment take on a whole new level of self-giving as God the Son takes on flesh and enters the world as a human.

The incarnation is not a new attitude towards humans. It is the actualisation of God’s self-giving love for his people that he has always had for them. It is the next step in salvation history and yet another declaration that he is committed to his creatures. It is God’s declaration that human beings are valuable. And their value is derived from God’s own attitude towards them. This attitude is marked by love and sacrifice.

The sacrifice of Jesus was his death. His vindication was his resurrection. And his resurrection was nothing less than miraculous! He was raised to life in an actual physical body. Not an apparition. Not a ghost. Not a spirit. An actual body.

Jesus coaxes the disciples to touch his resurrected body to prove it:

“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:39)

A human in his life. A human in his resurrection. There is continuity. If there were not, then death would not really be defeated.

‘But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead’ (1 Cor 15:20).

The resurrection of Jesus signals Christian hope for bodily resurrection in the age to come. In a profound sense, I am my body.

If we thought God’s commitment took on a whole new level in the incarnation, in the resurrection of Jesus we see him raising it even further. The resurrected Son of God affirms the goodness of the created order.

Even this is not all there is! As the physically resurrected Jesus, he is taken into heaven. Luke records it for us:

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight (Luke 1:9).

There is nothing in the creeds of the early church to suggest that when Jesus ascended to heaven, he somehow left his body behind. And any view of the incarnation that ceases with the ascension is actually a sentence of condemnation.

If he dropped his humanity, our humanity, then he has effectively dropped us.

What we have here in Jesus is a summary of God’s attitude towards humans. They are the objects of God’s love. He has declared it to be so in his Son.

If this is true, then it changes the way that we think about humans.

It changes the way we think about asylum seekers.

We are not the first to think this.

The 1860s saw a great deal of racism directed towards Chinese immigrants. A group of Christian ministers penned a letter to the public in response. It read:

We need not remind you that the record of redemption lays down the grand principle that God made of one blood all the nations of men. Common in their origin – one in their fall – the objects of the same divine compassion – they are sharers of the nature of him who was found in fashion as a man. He lived and died and rose again for the redemption of all mankind.

Much has changed in the intervening 152 years. The world is a very different place. But in many ways, nothing has changed. Racism is rife. People still need to be reminded, perhaps more than ever, that all mankind shares in the nature of Jesus.

They need to be reminded because we live in a nation of racists. And it’s not just out there. It’s in here. In this room. In my heart. In our hearts.

And Asylum seekers are different to us, aren’t they? They have a different culture. A different religion. Different family structures. A different language. They are not the same as us.

But let’s not jump universally condemn this differentiation between ‘us’ and ‘them’. It might actually prove to be a little bit useful.

To begin with, this is the way that God exists in relationship with himself. Yes, I am talking about the Trinity.

In John 14-17 Jesus says,

‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’ and ‘All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said to you that [the Holy Spirit] will take what is mine and declare it to you’.

This could be the subject of a whole sermon, but here’s the take home point: Within the Trinity, each person dwells within the other. Each is distinct. Together they are one. This is very hard to understand. Don’t think about it too much. It’ll make your brain hurt.

As we have already traced, he gave his Son to bring the offer of redemption to all humans. This is simultaneously the declaration of the value of the human, and the revelation of his self-giving love for people. Jesus Christ the man gave up his life to welcome God’s enemies into his eternal communion.

We know that he did it for his enemies because of Romans 5:6-8:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Did you notice that? Again, it’s God’s enduring commitment to humanity. For those who are his enemies.

God the Father relates to the Son and the Spirit as ‘others’. Now we see that as the Trinity, they are the ‘us’. We are the ‘them’. We, the sinners.

On the cross,

‘we, the others – we, the enemies – are embraced by the divine persons who love us with the same love with which they love each other and therefore make space for us within their own eternal embrace’ (Volf, Exclusion & Embrace).

The life of the Son is the gift of the Trinity as a whole. He gave his life to make space for the ‘other’, the sinners, to enter into communion with God.

Such an offer of embrace was costly for God. It cost the life of his beloved Son.

The offer is extended to all people. But it is not unlimited. The death of Jesus is both a yes and a no. God will not embrace every person. Nevertheless, God’s self-giving provides a model for welcoming the ‘other’ and the ‘stranger’ into the Australian community. God’s own response to his ‘other’, his enemy, is to open up himself and extend the offer of welcome.

As tensions escalate and frustrations are expressed, the Christian may bring a word of surprising comfort.

Every person is both an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. It is a matter of perspective. This must be held tightly together with Jesus being the true image bearer. God has declared the eternal value of human life through the incarnation, resurrection and ascension of his Son, Jesus Christ.

By willingly donating his life, Jesus has opened up the possibility of moving from being God’s other to being part of his eternal communion.

In the same way, we may pursue sacrificial giving of our social expectations and our very selves. We might do this so that we can welcome others as God has welcomed us.

Yes, it will open up the possibility of rejection, failure and even violence.

But it will be a response to asylum seekers not driven by fear of the ‘other’, but by the love of God.

Now that’s a better place to start.

I lost myself, and found someone better

My plane landed in Sydney on the 24th of January 2010. Three days later I moved all my worldly possessions into the room at Moore Theological College that I have now occupied for almost 4 years. Four days after that I spent my first night here. Then class started.

For the 13 months previous to this I had lived Mexico City. I lived with a charming Mexican family in one of the more pleasant parts of that megacity. When I was 24 I decided that I wanted to do one year of my MTS Apprenticeship overseas. I knew some people there, they invited me to train with them, I said yes, bought a plane ticket, and was on a plane within 7 months. I spent the year working with Compañerismo Estudiantil (it’s the AFES equivalent in Mexico).

But I digress.

Looking North West over Mexico City

Living in a megacity is a bit like living between the emergency department of a hospital and a rave dance party. All day and all night are marked by sirens, people shouting, dogs barking, children yelling, and noisy buses. All day. All night. It is a huge city, and it never sleeps. This, mixed with worsening digestive problems, produced in me a highly strung, intensely stressed personality. I didn’t know any of this until I got back to Australia and slept at my parents house. It was so quiet. I felt like I could breathe. It took me a long time to unwind all that pent up stress.

But this was the least of my problems.

As I was reunited with friends and family, I felt both there and not there. My body was there, but something was missing. And it wasn’t just jet lag. That bit of me never came home. The Tess that I knew was somehow no longer with me. This perplexed me no end. Australia is my home. Sydney is where I grew up. I expected to be comfortable here. Instead, everything felt foreign. I expected to know what language to speak. Instead, I would go to say something and it would come out in Spanish. I expected myself to be able to relate to people. Instead, I found myself wondering why people were being so cruel to me. I’d never had these problems before. I’m not socially awkward, I am pretty good at making friends, and usually love being in new places with new people. Not anymore. Now, the list of things I no longer knew how to do was endless. And extremely disconcerting.

I had expected to be able to slot back into my lovely Australian life as I had left it 13 months before. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only did I not know how to slot back in, as I watched others live their lives I wasn’t entirely certain that I wanted to. It didn’t look as appealing as it used to. I knew that I had lived like that for many years, but I wasn’t certain anymore. All I had was zillions of questions. And no answers. Again, disconcerting.

I had never consciously decided to live the way I had before going overseas, it was just the way it happened. I adopted my familial ways of doing the washing up. I emulated the fashion and music tastes of my friends. I wanted to fit in, after all. I travelled, because that’s what you do in your early 20s. I went to uni, because that’s what you do when you finish school. I never questioned any of this. I never asked why we do things the way we do. I just copied. I grew into well-worn patterns that had been trodden by many people before me. What could be so wrong with that?

Because I had travelled, I knew that moving to Mexico would mean learning a whole new way of living. I had prepared myself to consciously think about new ways of both verbal and non-verbal communication, of thinking, of shopping, even of doing the washing up. A thousand things, some big, some little, needed to be learned. It was fun, for the first two months. Then terrible for two months. And then, it just was. What never struck me was that I already had learned ways of doing these things in Australia, it just hadn’t been conscious. So when I got back, everything came crashing down. I had to learn everything. Again. Like a child. Every single moment was plagued by this learning, but was mirrored by my internal dialogue which persisted with the phrase: ‘you should know this’. I came to know this constant companion as reverse culture shock.

I watched as endless nameless faces paraded before me asking what I did before college, what living in Mexico was like, what I hoped to do afterwards, and then paid me out for all those things. Confusion was the order of the day. I cried a lot. A LOT. I skipped most of my Greek classes that year because I was having enough trouble figuring out whether to speak English or Spanish. I didn’t need to add another language into the mix. I would sit in the sun and quietly cry behind dark sunglasses.

IMG_2222

I was focusing on surviving. Anything more than that was a bonus. At almost every point I questioned why I was here. Most of the time I didn’t even want to be here. I struggled through essays and exams and classes. I almost dropped out once or twice. I had always planned to stay for three years but on a spur of the moment decision I had enrolled in the one year diploma. I vacillated between staying and leaving maybe half a dozen times that year.

My whole life had been ripped apart. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know how to live here. I didn’t know how to relate to people. It was a total disaster.

Through the tears and exhaustion, I knew something had to be done. But what? How was I going to put a life together? And would I be happy to live it? Only questions. No answers.

From pretty early on I knew I didn’t simply want to emulate those around me. There had to be another way. I couldn’t really put my finger on why I thought this, but I was certain. Whenever I caved, my heart and mind would chime in, asking, ‘Why are you doing this? Do you really like those jeans? Or do you just like them because she thinks they look good on you? What do you like/want/think?’ It was a question that I didn’t know the answer to. And it happened over and over again. It was exhausting.

So I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. I would open iTunes and look through music I’d never heard of until I found something I liked. I would wander down King St, Newtown and find some clothes that I liked on me. I needed to spend a lot of time with myself to get to know myself and my likes and dislikes. It was unpleasant. I was a total mess. I was no fun to be around. I did not enjoy my own company. All I wanted was to get out of my head, and here I was intentionally spending time with myself. Surely that is the definition of madness. Not only unpleasant, it was also really hard. I had been conditioned to know what I think only as I know what others think. What did I think? How would I even figure that out? It took a long time. And I’m not even finished yet.

There has been some beautiful fruit from this long and painful process. I am more sure of who I am than I was four years ago. I like electronic and rap music. I never knew that. I like having my books in colour order on my shelves. I never knew that. I like to write, and I certainly never knew that. I have opinions. That scares me, but it’s a bit fun to know what you think. I am creative. I think I knew that, but it has taken on a whole new level in the last few years. I am whimsical and dream up blanket forts. I love to be the date night enabler for my married-with-kids friends. The funny thing is that I would never describe myself as confident, but maybe for the first time in my life I have a sense of myself.

I’m certain that I would never have done this or ended up here had my life been not pulled apart by moving continents a couple of times. Why would I have messed with something that worked? But now that I can actually think about it, I am so grateful for the chance to discover the person that God made me to be. I’m not done, I’m sure I will keep finding out more stuff about me as time rolls on. I’m a little bit excited about that. Who will I be? I don’t know, but He does, and I actually can’t wait to find out.

For now, I like this Tess. I might even like her better than the old Tess.

me. happy.

I’m not ready to grow up

I am 29 years old. I am about to graduate from a tertiary education institution for the second time. And I’m still not ready to grow up.

Perhaps you think I’m just another example of Gen Y kids being unwilling to move out of their parents houses and take responsibility for their own lives. Can I assure you that this is not me? I have lived out of home since I was 20 and took on a great deal of responsibility at a very young age.

To me, growing up includes taking responsibility but is fundamentally about something else. When I think of growing up I think of stale, boring jobs. I think of what doesn’t change. And the problem is this: I haven’t done everything I want to do. I still want to be a baker, an astronaut, a train driver, and a pilot. I want to learn how to be a carpenter, how to fix a dripping tap, and how to grow a plant from a cutting. I still want to get a tattoo and dye my hair. I still want to learn French and Italian and Russian. I still want to travel to Morocco and Alaska.

I’m not ready to let go of my dreams, but we are standing at a crossroads. The time for study and excessive holidays is passed. And it feels like the time for stable jobs and families and circles of friends is here. Goodbye freedom and whimsy, hello stability.

Ever since I can remember I’ve always loathed stability. It’s why I don’t go back. I won’t live in the same place twice. I usually won’t holiday in the same place twice – there’s too many places to explore. Even now as I holiday at Diamond Beach, it isn’t the same as previous years. In first year I discovered that I actually liked my friends (if you guys are reading this, thanks for giving me 9 months grace). In second year it was not like first year and that made it sad. And now, it’s all a bit bittersweet and somber because we don’t have three years in front of us, we don’t even have three months.

We stand on the precipice of the future, gazing into the unknown, and I only see fear. I fear becoming stale and boring. I fear that my dreams will pack up and leave me. I fear that my whimsical, daydreaming, crazy holiday planning, creative, flower picking self will be left behind and replaced with a boring adult.

Who will I be? How will I change? How will I force myself to stop running? Only God knows.

moore college family holidays

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Three years ago we came here to Diamond Beach for the first time. It was as peaceful then as now (perhaps even more so – there was less development then). When I arrived on holidays I was not certain I would be staying for 2nd year at Moore College. By the time I left, I was decided. Though many pro/con lists had been made, after spending a week with these people I was certain that I wasn’t ready to not be friends with them. This was the deciding factor for me.

I’ve never really been one to keep going back to the same holiday destination year after year. With the limitless number of destinations it is odd to me to stop exploring and settle for familiarity. This is the third time we have come here. I expected myself to be bored, to want some new place to explore.

But there’s something about this place. I sit on the verandah and breathe in the blue green ocean. It feels like I am inhaling rest.

We have returned here for our final College Family Holiday before we graduate at the end of the year. In the blink of an eye four years have passed. I’m still not ready to leave them. I want to take each and every one of them with me.

In many ways this year has felt a lot like a long process of saying goodbye. Is started with the graduation of some dear friends last year. It is so precious to me to be able to spend this week with them. They each have a special place in my heart and while I know that this unique time is coming to an end, our friendships are not. They are simply teetering on the edge of the abyss of the future. How they will change I know not. Where God will take us I know not. I will miss them, this I know.

Diamond Beach. You have been the home of sweet memories. I shall miss you as I miss the people with whom I have shared these past four years.

the truth about 4th year

I feel defeated. Humbled. Laid low. Broken. Weary.

When I made the decision to stay for 4th year at Moore College, I was swayed by the promises of those who had gone before me. They cheerfully offered the advice that the final year was amazing. Worth it. The year where everything gets pulled together. The year where you get to think about whatever you want. That if I was inclined to study then I wouldn’t find it too hard. Especially on the basis of this last point, and given my excessively long time in tertiary institutions, I figured it would be OK.

They neglected to mention that it was also the year that you get pulled apart. The year you swing wildly between ‘I love it’ and ‘I loathe it’. The year you have an almost constant headache from a painfully tense upper back. The year where your eyes sting from too much time in front of a computer and not enough sleep. The year where your brain feels that if your eyes read anything else, it is just going to pack up and move out.

The most curious thing to me is that it is both these things at once. This confuses me no end. Only a few hours ago I was delighted to discover that I actually liked one of my hardest subjects. Now as I brood over the essay for the same subject I find my mind empty, a string of what appear to be non-connected words flashing before my eyes.

I speak to 1st years, and their bright eyed excitement wearies me. They animatedly ask ‘what’s 4th year like?’ I want to say that it’s a freaking nightmare. But I also want to say that it is brilliant. That I’m learning and growing and actually loving God’s grace more. That in my weakness I see his power. That even though it is hard, it is also an incredible blessing. Oddly, both are true.

Things that are hard are not always worth doing, but things that are worth doing are often hard.

This feels very true today.