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What Do You Want?

Today is my last day of being 24.

Initially when I think of 24, I think of it as the year that chewed me up and spit me out. We jokingly say that 24 is our martyr year because of great saints who died at the age of 24. There were many moments this year where the pain felt so crippling, that the longing for Heaven was very strong. In some ways it still very much felt like my martyr year.

A year where I grew so much in surrender. Learning what surrender is and what it is not. The year when during the winter, Jesus held my heart and asked, “What do you want?” That is the question that pierced my heart and I have never quite been the same since. I wanted to be cared for. I wanted someone to take care of me. That is what I wanted.

This led into a slow and persistent journey of learning what my needs and wants are. Something that should come naturally, but as a young child I learned to deny my needs. I learned not to ask for them, in fear that they won’t be met, or even worse, rejected. So tightly knit in my heart was the lie that all my needs do is overwhelm and crush people. Yet here my Savior was, asking me: “What do you want?”

My heart was so conflicted. My Jesus, his words were everything I longed to hear, like I was made to be asked this question, yet so many people around me pressed something like, “That’s not going to happen, I just need you to surrender more.” And after over and over, it seemed like the presence of my need meant I wasn’t surrendering enough. If I was more holy, I wouldn’t need anymore and my heart wouldn’t hurt anymore. Now I know, this is a lie, this is the path to self-reliance.

Surrendering my needs is not ceasing them to exist, but rather it is giving God permission and access to fulfill them.

In the past when people said, “I just need you to surrender.” It was a “holy” way of saying no, and it was used to then abandon me without any responsibility for further care. Now I know, it really wasn’t about fulfilling my need in a certain way. In the face of denial, what I really wanted was for another option for support and love to be presented. I wanted to be cared for.

It was all so confusing. “Surrendering” sounds like something I want to do. But why was I feeling diminished, uncared for, and rejected? I started to wish I could be someone else, someone who could have “trusted Jesus more,” someone who was more secure, someone who wasn’t so scared of losing people. I wanted someone else's story.

The night came and I was angry. I couldn’t understand why. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me. It was then I was given a vision of a young girl crying, pointing and yelling at the parts of herself that made it hard for her to love well. She was angry because she didn’t put those parts of her heart there, yet they still affected the way she loved and attached to people. As much as she wished they weren’t there, they were a part of her story. This girl was me. And luckily Jesus was close by. Rather than pointing out my inability to love perfectly He said softly, “I don’t blame you. You are right. It is not your fault that these things are here.”

If Jesus didn’t hate my story or blame me for it, then I wasn’t going to either anymore. With my permission, He took me by the hand and promised we would break down these walls one piece at a time.

What my story needed was care. And the great thing about Jesus is that, He has the greatest capacity to care for me (and you.) Sometimes the person in front of us doesn’t have the capacity to give the care, generosity, and gentleness we need. And it is not because they want to reject us, but it’s often because they have a story too. And it doesn’t mean that they won't ever have that capacity, life is full of ebbs and flows.

I have been loved very well by someone, who then later on did not have that capacity, and they felt so much shame for it. As much as I was confused and hurt at the time, I hope Jesus will look at them too and say, “it is not your fault.”

Jesus is not mad at you for your wounds. Would I want to relive the pain I experienced this past year? Not really. But there is a part of me that is grateful, because without these moments, I’m not sure I would have encountered the tender face of Jesus like I have, at least it wouldn’t have meant what it has. He has used recent hurt to draw wounds that started many years ago, and all He has brought to these wounds is mercy.

Once you encounter Jesus as Healer, I’m not sure you’re ever really the same again. And that makes sense, because that is who Christ is and that is what He came to do. I’m not sure I would actually trade anything to know Christ even just a little bit in this way.

So maybe when I’m 25 I’ll stop being blown away by how gentle, and kind, and delightful the face of Jesus is...but part of me doubts it, and the other part of me really hopes not.

This was part of a journal entry that I wrote on the eve of my 25th birthday. Although the year was difficult, I have been surrounded by so many people who have loved and supported me. I hope and pray that you can ask Jesus for what you want.


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