“The Best is Yet to Come”

Live Testimony Audio from 3/2/2017 at Epic Life.

Speech Transcript 
It’s good to see you guys and I have a confession to make. In my last testimony, I told a story, about the time I moved to Sacramento, “a couple years after college,” to go back to school. What I conveniently forgot to mention, back then, was that in those “couple years after college,” I got expelled from my other school. Let’s dive into that blip on the radar screen. It’s late August of 2013. 

I am feeling relieved, and also, I admit, a little smug, that I finally know what I am going to be when I grow up: A Doctor of physical  therapy. Getting accepted to grad school was a big deal, so I arrive on the first day excited ready to roll. I imagine the next 3 years are going to be full of stimulating discussions, study parties, and extra time for creative research projects.

Well, it wasn’t like that. In the first round of midterms I get flattened across the board, in all 8 classes. That’s  not the only problem. By one month in, I cannot help but notice, that this profession (as a doctor of physical therapy) is not what I expected, at all.

I feel like a bride walking down the aisle, gearing up to dedicate my life and get married to this career, that had seemed really cool in the lead up stages. Except now, the closer I look, the more turned off I get.

I briefly entertain the thought, that maybe I’m making a big mistake, here. Then I  cut the thought out of my mind. I already wrote the tuition check! I tell myself this is standard cold feet; it’s time to get work, and rescue my grades. 
Highly motivated by the fear of failure, I give it my all: I spend my early mornings in the labs, and my late nights roaming the streets of Alameda!with flash cards. And of course, I pray. “God, please do not let me fail.” I say. “But if I am going to fail, or if you don’t want me here, I would rather you make me sick, it doesn’t  look like my fault.”…. Be careful about declaring bad theology!

The night before the first final exam, out of nowhere–I get violently ill. I take the finals anyway, and a couple hours after the last exam, receive an email summoning me to the dean’s office. I walk in, and sit down, and they hand me a box of Kleenex.  

“Well Chrissa, we know you tried really hard, and you came really close, BUT…” They go on to inform me that I failed two classes, one of them by two tenths of a point, and the consequence is expulsion. Expelled? I think to myself. That kind of stuff isn’t supposed to happen to me. 

But it did.

That afternoon I say goodbye to my classmates, pack up my apartment, and drive to my parents house. Awake that night, I try to reconcile with how it was that I could pour so much of myself into something and still miss the mark. Naturally, I have some disappointment to deal with, here. But  I want to get over it, already. So after the Christmas vacation, I set my eyes on a different school in Sacramento, and divert attention and hopes elsewhere

Part 2: The Bachelor 
Okay. Here’s another confession. I cannot stand the Bachelor TV show. Contrary to popular assumption, it’s not because I think it’s too unrealistic. Based on my early/mid twenties dating experiences, I find it a little too realistic. Basically, after grad school, there’s a dramatic dating elimination hunger games going on in my life. All the contestants are stalking each other on social media. Girls are crying; guys stressed because the girls are crying: And I am in the arena, praying for wisdom, because I’m so confused. But when my prayers are answered, I realize, Oh, this  is not complicated.

Simple math. If the sum amount of my pain and your stress, are consistently greater than that of my happiness and your peace—it’s just not a good fit. 

With my new found logic, I exit the the bachelor hunger games arena—but not scratch free. 
Part 3 Disenchantment: 
Not only am I torn up, but I start to wake up to a disenchanted reality full of deferred disappointments. In my experience,

 The longer you stay drunk by the comforts of a lie, the worse the hangover is when you wake to the truth.  

I feel like I went to sleep in Disneyland, and woke up in a Linkin Park music video, that keeps reminding me “I tried so hard and got so far, and in the end it doesn’t even matter.”

I look back over the last 3 years—what was supposed to be the big launching into real adult life— and I see failure and heart break.

 In addition, I have an overwhelming awakening to the concept of choice. I recognize that even with good intent, I don’t always make good choices. Mistakes are painful and I’d rather not make them anymore. Thus, I decide I’m going to work really hard to not to make any wrong choices.

Part 4: Refinancing the Heart 
Unfortunately, I don’t trust own decision making mechanisms, anymore, so I’m on the hunt for permission and validation. I want someone to tell me what the right answers are, and give me some reassurance that I’m doing a good job at life.

But I don’t get this reassurance. And even when I do it’s not satisfying; it never feels like enough. Because I never feel like enough. Then, God gives me an analogy.

My heart is like an economic system, currently on the brink of bankruptcy for 2 reasons. 

 a) My identity stocks are owned by 95% earthly shareholders.

b) My self worth is outsourced in either performance or people.

I have learned: Acquiring the value of our self worth, has to be, a passive income inside job between us and God. Only then can then can we operate in freedom and generosity.
So I go about refinancing my heart, and continue my quest of making only right choices.

Part 5: Constant Vigilance
My next approach, is one of constant vigilance. I believe that if I can simply gather enough information, analyze the situation to (near) death, and eliminate as many potential unknowns as possible—than I can outrun the unknown , escape criticism, avoid mistakes, never get hurt, and excel in all my endeavors. 

For a little while I think I have a high functioning undercover strategy working out for me—until I get coffee with Eric Waterbury. He looks at me like an X-ray and says “if you keep doing this, your life will stay small, but it has the potential to be powerful.” After the denial wears off, I see he has a point: my constant vigilance is shrinking my life and faith. 

See, FAITH as defined in Hebrews is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance in what we CANNOT SEE. But, indirectly, I have been saying to God. “God, here is my circle of trust. It’s roughly the size of a human eye—so that limits us to  what I can see. On a good day it expands to the size of my head–meaning only what I can think of. God, I want break through! But don’t break my borders.” 

MEANWHILE, on Sunday, Hillsong United comes on, and I’m belting out “Spirit lead me, where my trust is without borders.”

Once again, I am convicted. 

Part 6 The Central Story
Finally, a few months ago, I reach a point where all of these convictions converge to trigger the question:

 “Is this the kind of story I want to tell with my life?”

Everyday—whether I document to my diary, or post to Instagram—my actions, beliefs, and decisions are telling a story—for which only I will be held accountable for at the end of this life.  

If I’m honest with myself, the central themes of my story right now, look like…

Mistake prevention, perception management, sin avoidance, social media upkeep, and, idea hoarding.

I  don’t read this genre for fun. In literature and film, great stories never start, or end, with flawless characters, or perfect plot point destinations. A great story happens, when a character wants something, badly enough that they are willing to face fear, doubt, and conflict, to fight for it. Also, for a story to work, it needs an element of uncertainty. Otherwise, we would no longer feel compelled to turn the page, or click next episode, at one in the morning. 

As the dots connect, I realize, that maybe, achieving perfection is not the purpose of my life story. In fact, maybe, the goal of not making any mistakes, IS the mistake. That’s the very thing my keeping my real self, and all my ideas, locked inside and away from the world.
Also, if I really do ask the Holy Spirit to lead me down a path that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, or no mind has imagined—then I simply do not have time to live a story limited by the fear of failure.

Part 7 His Kingdom Come 
Presently, in the process of letting go of perfection, my vision has improved – both near and far site. I can see present reality more clearly—because I am no longer afraid to look at it. I can also see my dreams for the future more vividly—because, I now aim to choose curiosity over despair, when facing the not yet charted transition territories.

 There was a time, not too long ago, when I felt crushed by the weight of the “not yets.” I asked God: ” How do I deal with: the people not yet healed, the hungry children not yet fed, the debts unpaid, my stories not yet published, and the deep longings of my heart not yet fulfilled? These questions used to haunt my story. Now these questions drive my story.

 I have accepted that between reality and dreams, a gap in some form, will always exist. Afterall we are here on earth and NOT yet in heaven. But now I see that inside the gap is our invitation to carry forward the greatest story ever told. 
 It’s a battle, where we face darkness with torches of light; 

an adventure, where we slash through thickets of lies with swords of Truth.  

And it’s a romance, of God’s outrageous, everlasting love for us. 

    Alas, together in this story, we rally, with patience and urgency, for His kingdom to come and His will to done. 

 You guys, the best, is yet, to come!

The 4 Best Types of Study Buddies

On the benefits of collaborative studying, and the 4 types of people to study with.

I once believed that the purest form of studying consisted of flipping through large textbooks in the isolation of one’s dorm room. And yes, this is probably the least distracting.  But throughout college and then grad school, I discovered that studying with others is not only more fun and interactive, but it can also stave off academic burnout and boost your scores. Based on a mixture of experience and observation, I’ve broken down the 4 types of people who make for the best study companions.

  1. The Class Underdog:  Toeing the line between passing and failing, the underdog fights just to stay alive. Now, before proceeding any further, I must note the important distinction between the underdog, and the slacker. Lazy and unmotivated, the slackers survive by becoming parasites of everyone else. Subsisting off of others outline materials, notes, and even test answers, they put forth the minimum effort, so they can save energy for the big weekend party. The underdog, on the other hand, wants to succeed, and will work like a dog to keep their head above water. In many cases, certain circumstances, such as a month-long  mononucleosis absence,  have placed them against all odds. Other times, they excel in one area and fall short in another. Picture the Spelling bee champion who has difficulty wrapping their head around discrete math despite their best efforts. Whatever it may be, the underdog is rallying, and the rest of the class rallies alongside. But why study with someone below your skill level?   Well, the relationship between the underdog student and “the helping student,” is actually quite symbiotic. Taking the underdog under your wing creates a sense of purpose and responsibility in your own learning; it’s no longer just about you. The act of teaching another requires distilling complex material into simple and understandable terms: a valuable life skill. After studying with you, they leave encouraged with improved understanding, and you leave with a solid foundation of your basics.
  2. The Loyal Friend:  Many students complain that their academic life impedes on their the social life.  But I ask, why separate the two? Friends can provide comfort, support, and accountability, through both the A+ papers and the humiliating public presentations.  In my four undergraduate years, I only pulled one all-nighter which was mostly due to lack of planning. I met with a few close friends in a classroom underneath the library with the intention of keeping each other company for a few hours while working on our respective research papers. By 11 pm, when we realized our severe underestimation of the time allotment for the assignment, we resigned ourselves to camping out in the classroom. Obviously, we would have preferred to return to our dorm rooms to sleep, but we decided to make an event out of it. One elected tribute fetched donuts and coffee from the dining commons. Another configured a playlist of gladiator film scores and Disney songs to keep the mood both light and inspiring. And I, assumed dominion over the whiteboard, to make sure we did not forget about our other exam in the morning.  Alternating between periods of silent typing and loud pop quizzing, we completed our projects and shared many delirious and sleep-deprived laughs. Oddly, I look back on that night as one of my favorite college memories. It was far from the most pleasant or comfortable one, but I experienced that together we could tap into mental strength and energy reserves that would have otherwise remained dormant. Note: Don’t make a habit of all-nighters. Find a friend you like hanging out with, of similar study style, and show up consistently for one another.
  3. Your Class Rival : Taking great pleasure out of playing devil’s advocate, the class rival loves to argue–especially against you– and it drives you crazy. If you can’t find a match for this job description, stop looking for rivals in the wrong places.  A fight about the Pythagorean theorem in a  Geometry class can only progress so far. Instead, keep your eyes peeled in the more discussion-based courses. Open a can of worms to debate health care laws, predestination vs free will, or title nine, and the professor may have to step in as a referee to hold students back. Despite the frustration of mingling with your contrarian classmate, there are benefits in the two of you joining forces. Since they make your blood boil, you’ll naturally step up your game to stay competitive.  Expect them to find faults and poke holes in the weak parts of your argument—and learn to welcome that. In turn, this causes you to sharpen your case and open your mind. The debate process will lead both of you to discover new sources, gain understanding, and maybe even cultivate a respect for why the other person thinks the way they do.  Note: Argue logically–not just to be right– don’t forget to listen, and keep shouting to a minimum.
  4. Your Class Crush: So you’re kind of interested in someone but neither of you knows how to break the ice to ask about a real date?  Invite them to study with you, and chances are both your grade, and romantic outlook will improve.  Sorry to point out an uncomfortable truth about your priorities, but its highly unlikely you’ll bail on a study session when it entails spending several hours in close proximity with someone you’re attracted to. Whenever they open their mouth to explain a concept, you’ll pay attention and hang on to every word. Plus, those same chemicals that send the butterflies in your stomach buzzing also enhance memory. Go ahead and skip the caffeine to rest your adrenal glands! And academics aside, if you and this person actually have potential, studying can act as just the right type of starting ground.  Problem-solving provides an organic environment of collaboration on something beyond yourselves and naturally exposes strengths and weaknesses. For example, if someone chronically breaks down in fits of rage and neglects all responsibility under stress, it might take five coffee dates to figure out what you could have discovered in one study session. And who knows,  maybe they’ll find your diligence and devotion so captivating that they’ll cue the music to Six Pence None the Richer, and serenade you with  “…quiz me, beneath the milky twilight.”  Note: Avoid using this technique as attention fix. If you study with someone so often that others start ringing fake wedding bells when you walk in the library together, take a step back and talk about that. Keep academics the priority; dress modestly, and stay on task. 

What kind of people do you like to study with?