Let’s just imagine that this is a coffee date where we catch up and talk about what’s going in our lives. Of course we would meet at Blue Bottle Coffee a San Francisco institution and not only would I order a beautifully made latte (what are you going to have?), we would also order waffle triangles. Very few, if any coffee spots remind me of Italy but this coffee does and so I am in a bit of a nostalgic mood, as if I am viewing the word through a thin layer of memory and positivity. I’m so happy we were able to meet up today. Cheers.
How are you?
Most likely, I would make you go first because my feelings are all over the place. I’m a verbal processor so I take your highs and lows seriously. How can I pray for you? How can I encourage you? How can I speak truth and love to you?
Now we come to me. I also make you go first because for a verbal processor, I stopped speaking so intimately with all but a handful of people several years ago.
I’m leaving San Francisco and I am trying to end well while packing up my life. I don’t look at this as a failure; I look at Chicago as another adventure. I am not the same person I was when I arrived here with my giant suitcase. God saw to that. I really can’t take any credit for that whatsoever because…well, because I didn’t always pay attention to Him here. Of course, I was always the most conservative girl in the group I was with. But what does that really mean here? The changes in me were slow and incremental. I did some things I regret. And yet, God’s promise remained true as well: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of God, are being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
I can’t forget the verse which precedes the one I just told you: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (3:17).
Did you know I studied the concept and the word freedom for about a year in college? I mean I went into the Greek and the Hebrew (I’m no scholar but I love to learn and there are so many helpful tools out there.) It came about because of two portions of scripture I read. Since we are at coffee, this is a passage I would have to look up on my phone but this is where my journey started.It’s from Exodus 6. At the time, I was dealing with memories of a past I would like to forget and I just sat and read that passage over and over again because how many times does God promise to deliver the Israelites? To redeem them? To give them a land? To take them out of slavery? There is so much repetition. And yet they cannot listen, they cannot hear because of their past–how broken they are, how harshly they’ve been treated.
Have you ever been talking to someone and they are just not hearing you? No matter how many times you say it?
I realized God promised me freedom and I wasn’t living in it. I couldn’t even listen to His promises because I was giving my experiences more power over me than God. I went straight to Galatians: For the freedom of God has set us free…(5:1a)
Then I realized I wasn’t living in freedom and that’s why Jesus died on the cross and by choosing to live without freedom, I was basically saying that not only did Christ not accomplish his goal but that his death was useless. I don’t believe that and I didn’t then so I had to learn more about freedom and how to live in the reality of Galatians 5:1.
Anyway, I am rambling. That was years and years ago.
In the time I’ve been in San Francisco, my Bible remained closed more than open. It’s not that I should read the Bible. It’s that I am happier and more joyful when it is open (and I am reading it which goes without saying…). But God. But God. (The ESV Study Bible says somewhere–I think in the Ephesians commentary–that these are the two most important words in the Bible.)
He continued to transform me and in the past six months, when I woke up and started to talk to him more, He has been so gracious. I started so slowly, so haltingly. I struggled. You see, I forgot to mention that my “it’s complicated with God Facebook status” started when I was 23, after I felt burned by a Christian organization. I still believed everything. But He was so connected to that hurt. (Please know that I believe this organization does good…My entire experience as a Christian was tied to them so when mistakes were made, it burned and hurt more. The fact is that organization/churches are made of people and people sin and make mistakes. I still don’t think the people involved know the extent to which I felt damaged…Even now this is so hard to write. But hey, you met me for coffee.) I distanced myself from the organization. So much so that I changed my phone number and was very selective in who I gave the new number to! Witness protection program anyone? And I admit that I distanced myself from God. I could not separate the two no matter how badly I wanted to, even though I knew they were separate. My relationship with God became serious right before Freshman year and I became involved with this organization as soon as school began. I didn’t know what a relationship with God looked like without them. I felt like I was in an avalanche and didn’t know which way to dig but I had to avoid hurt so I literally climbed into a cocoon. I say literally because I crawled into bed and put the blanket over my head and talked to about five people who kept saying: Nina. Nina. And their voice sounded far away. I knew they were right. I knew hurt is part of the deal but I didn’t know up from down. I didn’t trust my experience in college…what was real and what wasn’t. I went through the motions and wonderful friends kept pushing me and telling me: Nina, you are not meant to go through the motions.
Eventually, I flew to San Francisco and I was alone. I didn’t have a bed. I needed God. I clung to Him. He was so faithful and I saw him in everything. The more comfortable I got, the more that old hurt creeped in. It’s only been in the past six months where it’s come back to freedom. The experience of moving across the country changed me. Yes, I made mistakes. But God continued to sanctify me, transforming me from one degree of glory to another. I was reading my Bible the other day and I saw a post it note with a prayer request from before I left for SF, actually way before, in 2010, and God has answered that prayer and continues to answer it.
I know I rambled. I’m sorry. It’s been a long while since I opened up like this but I think that is part of the healing God is doing in my heart and has been doing these past six months. You are a good friend for listening to all that. I think I owe you another waffle triangle. It’s nice and warm and delicious. You can see the vanilla bean when you take a bite. Thanks for listening. Talk to me?