A couple of weeks ago, on March 29, as I was driving with my sons, I realized, Today is my seventeenth Jesus-versary.
Seventeen years ago, a very young twenty-one-year-old, I went on a weeklong retreat where I studied the book of Mark for 8-10 hours a day and had a very intense “Jesus is God and he’s real and he loves me” moment.
Mary at the retreat in college. Image courtesy of Mary Chong Carrera.
Usually, I anticipate this anniversary with joy, remembering that very special week and how it was the catalyst for so much change and growth in my life. But this year, it was not even on my mind, and the day snuck up on me.
For the last year and a half, I have been struggling in my relationship with God. I’m still struggling. I’m sad and angry. I’m tired. Our family, our marriage, and my life have been under so much stress. I just want a break, a chance to breathe in the midst of what seems like crisis after crisis, bad news after bad news, hard situation after hard situation. I long for a period of calm.
Why isn’t God stepping in to calm our lives? Why doesn’t he stop these hard things from happening? Why isn’t he protecting me but is letting me be hit with thing after thing? I know he is able. So why does he not intervene?
I don’t know why.
Sometimes, I entertain the thought of turning away from my faith and walking away. Close the chapter of following Jesus, leave God behind, and move on. And every time, a voice from deep within whispers, “You know too much of God to turn away from him.”
“What do you know of God?” my mentor asked me when I told her this.
I feel tension in response to this question. On the one hand, this question is easy to answer. I have experienced so much of God’s amazing love and power.
On the other hand, the disappointment of this season is so heavy that I cannot let go of my angry resistance and allow myself to acknowledge what I know to be true.
Copyright: gow27 / 123RF Stock Photo
I’m tired of being angry. I want to be in a different place, but it is so hard not to be angry. I want to take a step toward a more hopeful place with God.
To celebrate my seventeenth Jesus-versary, I decided to reflect on seventeen things I know to be true about God:
- God knows all about me and he loves me, like Jesus knows and loves the bleeding woman. He will take the time to show me that this is true.
- God did not just show up in my life when I started going to Bible study. I can see his presence and activity throughout my family history and my life.
- God loves the poor, oppressed, and hurting, and invites me to take practical action to do the same.
- God wants everyone to know and experience him, not just church-going Christians. Sometimes, he lets me be a part of people’s journeys of getting to know him. And I absolutely love being a part of those journeys.
- God will provide community to support and encourage me wherever I go.
- God shows up in nature—especially the ocean—to show me that he is present with me and hears me.
- God has the power to physically heal, not just during biblical times, but also today in the people around me.
- God provides for all my practical needs.
- God cares for me through friends, family, and strangers.
- God gives unexpected, un-asked for, and extravagant gifts that are amazing and bring much joy.
- God will bring me into spaces that are uncomfortable and unknown. He does it to bring healing and joy to others and me.
- God is present to me in the most difficult and painful times.
- God brings redemption to the scariest of situations, sends a messenger to encourage me, and gives me strength to fight the voice that tries to bring me down.
- God celebrates with me when I celebrate.
- God continues to show me that I am a limited person who cannot do it all. And yet, he still loves me and has a purpose for my limited human life.
- God is with me when I am really, really afraid.
- When I am angry and refuse to engage with God or only shout angry prayers, he does not leave my side or force me to be okay. He makes himself present to me through songs, Psalms, images, and the prayers and support of others.
As I think on and write these things, I feel a melting of the glacier that has formed around my heart in the last year and half.
It’s not all gone. But I think I may be taking a step toward healing.
Mary Chong Carrera was born a friendly, fiery extrovert with a flair for drama. Growing up has brought a healthy dose of wisdom; she's learned to appreciate being still and quiet.
Mary attended Santa Clara University, where she cultivated great friendships, studied accounting, and fell in LOVE with Jesus (Christ, not her husband--that Jesús came later).
Mary has a passion for people and loves developing friendships, empowering leaders, and walking with others as they explore faith. She's wife to Jesús, mom to three adorable sons, Jesse, Ángel and Sebastián, part-time InterVarsity campus minister, and full-time human trying to engage with the world with love. Though her big Chinese family drives her up the wall sometimes, she loves them to pieces and knows she wouldn't be who she is without them.