I have a warm, yellow-toned globe string light hung up on the side of the wall next to my bed. It was too bright with all of the bulbs on at once, and its main purpose is not just for hipster aesthetics, but for my room to feel cozy and like home (away from where my heart and community is, back in Long Beach). As a solution, I slightly unscrewed alternating bulbs. Now I had an on and off switch for whenever I wanted that warm and “feel-sy” ambiance.
Tonight I caught one bulb flicker, and I’m not sure how I did not notice before (I probably wasn’t paying attention, as usual) but one of the globes shone brighter with a more cool-toned white light piercing through the tiny bulb. I let it be and carried on once the flickering stopped.
An hour or so later, my room got super dark all of a sudden, and I just sat there a little confused- completely forgetting about this weird, lonesome white bulb that had flickered earlier. The one light shone brighter than the rest, so bright that the rest of the bulbs looked almost faulty.
By the way, to all my new friends and readers- if you have not noticed yet, I am very open and honest about my faith and my journey with it. I see myself as a character in God’s storybook for this world.
With that said, continuing on to my bulb story. As followers of Christ, we are called to be a light in this world. Does this mean we shine brighter than everyone else? Well, not literally. To be frank, the light shining through us is not because we’re that great, but it is reflective of who God is. If anything, this light is very exposing to our super messed up souls, but grace allowed us to be a part of God’s story for some crazy reason. Anyways, figuratively, one who is walking in the grace and love of Jesus should carry a different spirit, something unspoken and not tangible that still shines through a person as a different shade of light in this world.
Grad school is fun! I made amazing new friends from various backgrounds, even those who get my weird humor and accept me for all my weirdness (for now at least haha!) to survive classes with. I have been attending Renew LA as a new home church, and it’s incredible how much I’ve been learning there. I’ve been welcomed, greeted, and I’ve even gotten to meet friends of friends who I may have scared slightly upon first interactions, thanks to my overly friendly (and excited) attitude LOL. Oops. *Too obviously stoked to be making connections and friends*. I sometimes tell myself beforehand to relax and be more composed, so I can be more cool and chic. It doesn’t really work, and I spill out my real personality anyway *shrug*.
Grad school is also rough. Academically, I always feel like I am behind and not doing enough with my time. I found myself soaking up all the voices of anxiety and insecurity around me, as I tend to absorb other peoples’ emotions. I found myself not being able to sleep for the past week, fatigued and unmotivated. I’ve been “busier” before, I thought to myself. I should be able to handle this. What’s wrong with me? Why am I so weak? This week looked like internally beating myself up for my noncompliant body, all the while it was screaming at me to stop and breathe.
Physical signs of “breaking down” versus emotional are easier for me to ignore. I strongly believe it wasn’t just lack of sleep or accumulated stress (although, highly contributing factors) but a spiritual alarm going off.
We are called to be a light, and it’s easier to let your light shine when you’re with others who are just like you- a cool-toned, odd light bulb. When everyone is different and out of place, you still feel “in place”. Does that even make sense? Basically, in this new environment where I am not surrounded daily by my faith community, things feel very very different and out of place.
Tonight, I had a mini breakdown while listening to a cover of “There is none like You”– totally did not see this coming. Usually, strong emotions come to my attention first before I know what’s going on in my mind. Through the night, in prayer and worship, I dug out what’s been weighing on me- feeling like nobody really knew me or understood me. Silly right? I have so many people who love me and support me, granted from more of a distance now. I have nothing to complain. Also, how do I expect that from people I just met like a month or two ago? Every week, the weight of classwork and things to do piled up and even socializing felt burdensome to my schedule. I missed coming home to roommates and having people constantly over, to talk about life, what God’s doing in our lives; Friends to cook and eat together with, to make inside jokes with, to laugh and cry with. Unrealistic to see this culture and lifestyle outside of college, I have come to accept that for sure. It’s not like I haven’t felt lonely before even when I was surrounded by a bunch of people all the time. Different context, different season of life, yet the same pattern of brokenness and a place I need deeper healing in.
Here I was, forgetting again. Just a few weeks ago, after a night of a breakdown similar to this, Jesus reminded me of my identity as His child, His daughter and for me to not seek worth in what I was accomplishing or not doing.
Here I was, forgetting that I did not come to UCLA purely for academic achievement (although I will strive for my best). In the last post, another incoherent ramble, I talked about how God literally paved the way for me to come here. I didn’t even have dreams to pursue public health until I attended the Los Angeles Urban Program (LAUP) the summer of 2016 (you could read about my experience in an old post). Jesus gave me bigger dreams to fight for social justice in my area of expertise (nutrition major) and to be a health advocate for those who do not have a voice in society. He called me to be a bridge builder. I’m here because God wanted to grow my heart for His people, this city, and to be equipped so that in the future I can be used by Him to be even a small flicker of light in darkness whether it be health disparities, food deserts, or other systemic injustice and oppression.
Here I was, feeling like a burden to reach out to people further away. Nobody can read your mind or heart, darling. I have to trust that I could express my heart and be accepted, and not rejected but embraced with love. As my good sister Cristy put it once when we had a phone conversation: not spreading yourself thin but with wisdom and foresight entrusting a select few who God has placed in your life specifically for the current chapter of your life. People won’t satisfy all my needs and desires, but brothers and sisters in Christ are called a family for a reason. Let people in, let people love you as much as you love to give love.
Here I was, thinking I can go by each day without sitting at the feet of the One who knows my every thought, every desire, every emotion. No one else can know me and love me like my Father in Heaven can. Feeling overwhelmed and lonely is silly really, but instead of judgment or scorning, He has open arms to welcome me, gently remind me of things I forget so easily.
By my own might and strength, it will feel like I can’t “shine” enough. Or, I will feel embarrassed and super out of place, wondering if people will look at me funny or not want to be associated with me. I’m learning how to balance being a light for His Kingdom while not being ashamed and while fighting temptations to subdue the light that is seeping through me just so I can blend in and camouflage.
I don’t think I’ll be turning back on that light bulb, it hurts my eyes and breaks the cozy mood. But maybe it’ll flicker again out of the blue just when I need this reminder once more, and I’ll find myself at this post running another circle around mercy and grace.
P.S. Oldie, but a goodie. The cover I was listening to: