teedbit/word vomit/sleep deprivation
I was introduced to Zhiping by a mutual friend. She was moving to Philly after graduation and needed help finding a roommate. It just so happened that I was moving and could use a roommate as well. We set up a phone call and talked about living together. It never panned out; I was eager to live on my own and signed a lease for a studio (one of the dumbest decisions I ever made) while she needed more time to look around before signing a lease. We ended up living just two blocks away from each other.
I tried my darned hardest to love on her like Jesus would (not out of love as she so erroneously thinks but out of a sense of duty and self righteousness); she was new, alone, in need of community, and didn’t know Jesus. So I showered her with love. I wasn’t consistent or steadfast with it but she felt it somehow and to this day she still talks me up to her friends when I meet them: “Becca did this for me, Becca showed me this, Becca was my first friend in Philly, etc.” Whenever this happens, I feel like I’m being smacked in the face with God’s grace; it always catches me off guard. I genuinely don’t believe I loved on her so that she would talk me up in the future but I also genuinely don’t believe I did it out of the goodness of my heart: I was taught to jump at every opportunity to share the Gospel so I tried my best to perform. I was doing it to prove myself to God as a good, hard worker…not to love on her. She was a method for me to “gain more favor” in the eyes of Jesus.
Anyway, circumstances changed. I went through a break up that wrecked me; my faith took a hit as did my mental well being when coupled with the exhaustion of my strenuous busy seasons. I stopped being “intentional” with her, yet she was still faithfully my friend. She remembered what I did in the beginning of our friendship and used that to color her perception of me; she was genuinely thankful for me and treasured me. She worried about me. She fussed over me. She asked about what was going on. I let her in and revealed many things that I wait years to share with people about and we became even closer.
One time I told her about my parents. She propped her head up with her hand underneath her chin and looked at me. “It must be so hard for you.” I almost cried on the spot. She didn’t say it just to say it like I do in response to people sharing their struggles. I say it because that’s what they want to hear. I say it because it’s the “right thing” to say. I say it because I want them to know I’m listening to them and I’m empathizing with them.
But, she said it because she really knew it was hard for me and hated that it was hard for me and worried about me continuing to suffer hardship. She couldn’t empathize because she didn’t know what it felt like nor did she pretend like she could but she knew it hurt just by hearing it and she hated it because she loved me. She never made it about herself; she just listened to me and hurt with me.
I cried afterwards when we parted ways. Somehow through her, I felt like God was affirming that He knew my pain and He cared.
When she started job searching outside of Philly, I felt my heart start to crack. When she moved to New York, I felt an emptiness settle in my chest. I felt like I lost something. More than just a walking buddy, a fellow orange lover, a friend. It almost felt like God was taking her away from me.
She used to always skip over the crosswalks, landing only on the white stripes and I’d think of her every time I crossed the road, feet numbly refusing to skip and heart almost refusing to beat. I didn’t expect to get so close to her; I didn’t expect to treasure her so much. I wanted to love her for Jesus, but ended up loving her for myself.
[july 2017] I visited her in nyc and I went with the intent to catch up with her, comfort her, ask how she’s adjusting to NYC. I prayed fervently to be able to bless her, to guide her, to be there for her as Jesus would want me to be. I caught a cold that day and it wore on me as the day went by. She fussed over me and refused my apologies about being sick while I was seeing her. She let me sleep on the futon in the living room because I don’t sleep well when sharing a bed and she gave me her blankets because she worried I would be too cold. She left her apartment late at night to take a train to her friend’s place to pick up blankets for herself. I worried and told her to stay; I insisted I didn’t need the extra blankets but she didn’t listen. “It’s not that far away,” she said (it was a 20 min subway ride), and “it’s not that late but don’t wait for me, go to sleep” (she ended up not coming home because her friend put the blankets in the wash and she had to wait till 2am for them to dry). I slept like a baby, cocooned in her extra blankets and woke the next morning feeling much better. She hardly slept that night, she didn’t get to shower or change clothes, but she met me in the city and walked all day with me because she didn’t want to waste my time there. She fussed over my health repeatedly, inquired after my emotional and mental well being, and sent me home.
I was so blessed by my time with her that weekend. She loved on me and I didn’t get to do a single thing for her. I cried on the bus ride home, because I missed her already, because I knew it was God loving on me through her, and because I felt guilty. I felt so guilty.
[september 2017] Zhiping comes back to philly for my birthday weekend. I asked her if she wanted to and she answered with a simple and resounding yes. She’s very straight forward and to the point. It meant the world to me.
She buys me a shirt, one that I like. We eat dinner (I barely eat in my happiness and excitement over the multiple people who spontaneously crashed our date) and then go to a beer garden to get drinks. More people show up; I get lost in the excitement and drink too much. Zhiping doesn’t know half the people there but I leave her to fend for herself as I seek attention from others (she does well; she’s outgoing and charming but I hate myself for it later). We get back home and I tell her to take the bed; I’m sleeping on the couch. One, because I don’t sleep well when I share a bed and two, because I think I might puke.
I’m hungover the next morning (damn, didn’t see that coming). It’s my first hangover ever (ahh at the ripe age of 24) and I miss church. I throw up multiple times and feel like utter shit. Zhiping originally had lunch plans with her other friend but she pushes it back. She takes one look at me and ushers me back into my bed and announces that she’s going outside (in the sweltering, humid heat) to get me some Gatorade. In the time she’s gone, I writhe in agony and nausea and berate myself. Why the flip was I so stupid. I’m wasting my time with her again. We didn’t get to stay up talking or spend quality time; I didn’t get to ask how she was, we barely got to talk.
She gets back home and cooks some ginger tea for me. She makes me drink a huge bottle of Gatorade. She blows on the piping hot ginger tea and feeds me it. She sits on the edge of my bed and rests her fingers on my brow and temple and cheekbones and massages the pain away. Her own brow is furrowed in worry. I feel so stupid and ugly and exposed in that moment (dude, she can see my pores, she can feel the oiliness of my skin) and try to stop her; she leans closer to me and glides her fingers over my eyes and asks if I feel better. There is nothing but concern and care in her eyes and I am completely taken aback. No judgment.
She makes me feel safe. I close my eyes and let her smooth away the pressure in my head. The allotted time she pushed back to meet her friend has now passed and I remind her that she needs to go and she shakes her head: “no, I pushed it back again. I’m worried about you; I don’t want to leave you; I think I should just cancel.” Again, I am floored.
I eventually convince her to meet her friend; she leaves more ginger tea on the stove and lets me know when she’ll be back from lunch. I sleep and am still bedridden when she comes back. She needs to catch her bus now and I make to get out of bed but she stops me.
“Don’t worry, I know where it is. Go back to sleep and feel better.” She insists on leaving by herself without me seeing her off and whisks herself away after giving me a hug and reminding me that there’s another bottle of Gatorade for me to finish in the fridge.
I never drink it. It greets me for the next year every time I open my fridge; a metallic blue reminder that God is so forgiving and gentle with me.
[november 2017] I’m convinced this time to properly catch up and spend time with Zhiping in NYC. I don’t understand the concept of thick, warm coats or dressing warmly for the winter and when Zhiping sees me in my flimsy “winter” jacket, she fusses over me again. “Aren’t you cold?” I assure her I’m fine but it’s the first snow of the season and slowly throughout the afternoon, I feel myself getting colder and colder and worry that I’m going to catch a bug yet again.
She notices and takes off her own thick coat. “Switch with me. I’m wearing more layers than you; I’ll be warm enough.” I protest but she refuses to put her coat back on so we switch. Warmth immediately envelops me. I’m so cozy I nearly fall asleep on the subway. She wears my thin little coat the whole day, in the snow, into the windy night.
She houses me in her tiny little apartment (she’s moved since the summer) and we share the same mattress. We talk and catch up but she asks more about me than I ask about her. I feel so much peace next to her and fall asleep almost immediately, sleeping through the whole night. It’s the first time I can remember sleeping through the night without waking while sharing the same bed with someone. I wake up refreshed and light and sick-free.
I leave New York remembering that the Lord is a God of warmth and peace.
[november 2018] this weekend I visit Zhiping again. We fight the whole weekend over checks and metro passes. I manage to cover the first meal and then the rest of the weekend she basically refuses to let me pay for anything. “You’re visiting.”
It’s not like she has money to spare. She doesn’t. It’s not like she’s treating me like a charity case because I’m unemployed. She doesn’t see me that way. She genuinely wants to treat me because she loves me.
She texts me the night before reminding me to dress warmly (I debate for a short while whether I can weather the weekend in a thinner coat then decide against it per her reminder and am oh so happy about my decision as I’m warm and toasty all throughout the trip). I tell her where I want to go and she takes me. She asks if I want water, if I want anything to eat. She probes me and invites me to catch her up with what’s been going on with my life. She asks if I like the food we eat, if I’m having fun. She waits patiently as I take a million photos of the same exact thing. She stops me from spontaneously buying concealer and gives me her expensive skin care items so I can cover up my breakouts; she looks at my face and tells me she doesn’t notice anything unless I point out the pimple on my face. She talks me up in front of her friends and explains in detail to Jess how I beat her friends at poker, refusing to let me belittle her compliment. We stay up till 3am playing poker, Avalon, talking about MBTI with her friends, even though she needs 8-9 hours of sleep to function and knows she has to wake up early the next day because she’s accompanying me to church. She drinks caffeine throughout the day and declines my suggestion for her to go home and catch up on sleep since Jess can accompany me. She wears her hood up because she’s cold and buys extra coffee to warm up her hands as she walks in the chill of the city and doesn’t complain even though we end up walking a total of eight miles to go to the places I want to see.
When she and Jess drop me off at the bus station, she hugs me goodbye and thanks me for visiting her. Again, I’m taken aback. She tells me to let her know when I’m home and I know she means it, not just saying it (because she messages me just a little after two hours later checking if I made it back safe). I feel the familiar sadness gather in my heart when I glance back at her and Jess as I board my bus.
I leave New York mulling over these things in my head and marinate in self hate (I’m working on the negativity and it’s slow in coming BUT I’m working on it). Again, I feel like I didn’t do a thing to serve her. I didn’t do anything to better her life or get her any closer to Jesus. Instead, I was spoiled by her the whole trip. As I think about how she loves on me, I remember the Lord’s love for me and all I can think about is how I do not deserve this, I should not be this happy, I should not be loved in this way. Why? Because, I didn’t do anything to deserve it. It bothers me so much that I feel a sudden urgency to pray.
I haven’t prayed in forever (save for praying for my discipleship group and one off prayer requests that pop up in person). I have felt quite far from God for a while now. I’ve stopped reading the Bible. I can’t do it anymore for some reason. It’s physically hard to concentrate when I try to do both. I get racing and anxious thoughts. Sometimes I think it’s spiritual warfare, other times I think it’s just my anxiety/depression flaring up (or it’s both, who knows). But, I have been struggling for the longest time in this season to forgive myself for not turning to God. I question His goodness. I get unbelievably angry sometimes, at everything and nothing at the same time. I feel particularly snarky towards Him. I don’t want to talk to Him. Yet, in this moment on the bus as I think about how Zhiping loves on me, all I can think about is paying her back.
“Oh Lord, move me to serve her. Move me to love her. Use me to help bring her towards you – I want her to know you. Please, I want to love her properly again.” I pray this prayer and feel excitement start to bubble up in my chest when I feel the Lord suddenly refute me.
“Why are you praying do something rather than to know me? Do you know me? Do you understand what I want from you?”
The excitement stills and I pause in my prayer. The Lord reveals more to me as I listen to Him.
“All I want from you is for you to know me. Why do I want you to know me? Because I satisfy. Because I give you the fullest of joys. Because I am the greatest thing you will ever experience. I want to bless you. The point of your whole life is to get to know Jesus. You do that by serving other people and obeying my commandments but that is not the point of your life in itself. That is the method in which I teach you more about myself and give you space to experience me, by having you walk more like Christ. But if you choose to only do these things without getting to know me, it’s all for nothing. You might as well not do them.
All I want from you is to know me and rejoice. You don’t have to do so many things – I don’t care how much you do; don’t you realize I love you whether or not you do them or not? Haven’t you realized that no matter how angry you get with me, I will not leave you? Haven’t you noticed that I have never left you; it is you who kept trying to run away? Don’t you see that I’m still speaking to you, even if you’ve refused again and again to speak to me? Don’t you get that no matter how much you hate yourself or think yourself ugly and grotesque, you cannot convince me that you are anything but worthy? It’s not about what you do or what you think. I decide whether you are worthy or not, not you. I decide whether you get to be loved or not, not you. I dictate the terms of which I will care for you and love on you. Who are you to tell me that you should not be loved? I am God, and I decide to love you. Just accept it. Just receive it. You don’t have to do anything so stop praying to do something to earn my love and just pray to know me.
I love you, child. Why will you not accept it? Why will you not believe it? Stop beating yourself up. Stop hating yourself. Stop distancing yourself from me because you feel like you’re not allowed to come to me. Your opinion doesn’t matter; I am God and I speak the truth. You are my daughter, dearly beloved, and you deserve this love I am giving you so receive it and be at peace.
It’s very hard for me to believe the Lord at times but when He uses Zhiping like this, it’s easier for me to understand. I don’t think I deserve Zhiping’s love and affection. I don’t think I deserve her care and worry. Yet, she forces it on me and I still end up accepting it. She doesn’t waver in her love for me, even when I fail on my end to be a good friend. I guess I’m realizing something about being loved – you don’t get to choose whether you’re loved or not. The other person chooses. It depends on the other person. Zhiping chooses to love me, therefore I’m loved by her. Even if I reject her love, it doesn’t change the fact that I am loved by her. And it would only hurt her to push her away, to tell her that she shouldn’t be treating me this way. Because, who am I to boss her heart around like that?
In the same way, who am I to dictate how God feels about me? He loves me and there’s nothing I can do about it, regardless of whether I agree or not so I might as well stop being a fool and accept it. If I can let Zhiping spoil me like this, if I miss her so much and will visit her to spend time with her even if I don’t feel like I deserve it, then shouldn’t I be able to do the same with God?
I’m running on less than four hours of sleep and I’m starting to word vomit so I’ll just end this with a prayer.
Lord, I am so thankful for the ways in which you humble me. Thank you for showing me the sinful ways in which I’ve been living, trying to earn your love and reject your love when I feel like I haven’t “lived up to it”. And thank you for showing me that I can absolutely do nothing apart from you. I wanted Zhiping to know you, yet I barely know you myself. You used her to bless me instead of the other way around. I thought I would be doing you a favor, yet you one upped me. Who do I think I am? Forgive me for thinking so highly of myself, for thinking that I could do anything for you or anyone else. You reveal to me more and more every day the depths of my wickedness and guilt – yet you also gently remind me that this has all been paid for by Jesus on the cross. Show me the length of the cross; show me the power of Christ’s love for me. This love that covers all my sin is also able to overcome the struggles and suffering I am experiencing now. I know I am in a dark place, yet your light will always reach me. I know I feel lost, yet your eyes are always on me and you know exactly where I am. I know I will fall back into wrong ways of thinking and repeat this struggle to believe and understand again and again, but you are faithful. You will never give up on me and I thank you so much for sticking with this humiliating heap of flesh and bones. How you see me as a gem I feel I will never quite understand but I pray that you would allow me to view myself more and more as you see me. Help me to know you more. Help me to desire Jesus more. And I pray also that Zhiping would come to know and love you, regardless of whether or not I get to play a role in that.
Thank you for New York; thank you for Zhiping, thank you for the ability to pray again even if for this short moment; thank you, Jesus.
To knowing Him more.