BY: NORAH LEE
“And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames”
— from a verse of the song, “Desert Song”
Beauty is pain. And no pain, no gain. For pretty eyebrows, you have to endure through the painful process of waxing and plucking. It seems all worth it in the end, and though you know that you will cry, you go and get it done again when you start growing bushes. Or a unibrow. Really, beauty is refined through pain, and there is almost always something to be gained through pain.
I used the phrase, “no pain, no gain”, on myself a lot in high school. High school was not a fun time for me as I went through more than enough sleep-deprivation and stress. Without satisfaction from the uninteresting AP classes I was taking, along with too many hours of volunteering and extracurricular activities, I found no real purpose in anything. But I kept telling myself, “Even though life isn’t too great right now, your future self will thank you” and continued to suffer. I woke up every day thinking about how much work I still had left to do, and how tired I was to do them. As sad as this sounds, I felt like I was at war with myself daily just to beautify my college application, ultimately to somehow glorify myself.
During this time, I became “too busy for God,” only going to Him when I needed Him. I wanted to live a “comfortable” life until I died and went to heaven. When I had to list things that were important in my life, it was always something like “Friends, family, and school?” I thought this was normal. I thought God was like Santa, who lives somewhere no one actually knows, and whom we are not to have a personal relationship with. I did not realize then that these were all lies being told to me constantly by the world.
When I thought that I was constantly at war with myself, I was not just battling my physical and mental capabilities but really with all the idols I had established however long ago. Having been told that going to a “good school” will eventually pay off in getting me the right job, the right house, the right car, and the right life, I invested everything I had to reach that goal. God was supposed to help me with it when I seemed to struggle. I found my identity solely in my grades and I found happiness from an A on a test, not from spending quality time with God. No wonder why happiness felt so short and temporary.
It was not until college, by His grace and mercy, that I discovered the truth. I realized that God actually desired to talk and listen to me and spend time with me even when I was always running away to keep a distance away from Him. He told me that He loved me no matter what grade I received in a class. And that the true reason for everything I do should always be for Him and His kingdom and glory. Dang, how is it that my grades which seemed so crucial only a couple of years ago have no importance to me now? And why did it take so long for me to see that the only thing eternal and everlasting is God?
We are only sojourners here on earth, meaning, that though we shouldn’t abandon our duties as students as we are being equipped and prepared to do what God calls us to do next right now, we should have more of a kingdom-mindset. As for me, the self-serving, self-glorifying me is slowly changing, even as I still struggle with my identity. I know that it is found in Christ alone, but I often get stressed out about school (which seems normal here at Berkeley) and resort to eating a pint of ice cream after a midterm. But I read somewhere that babies fall over 2000 times before they finally successfully take their first step. This reminds me that we may get bruised or hurt from falling, but as long as we keep our eyes fixed on God through the pains, we will find greater reward in heaven. But until then, I am getting my knees ready to fall several thousands of times.