faithful and reckless, and Grace in every season: reflections on 2019

As the decade comes to an end, penned here is my customary letter to self.

Another year had gone by so quickly. It feels as though I had only returned home to Indonesia, but here I am at the brink of my two-year mark of working at my parents’ company. This past year, so much has happened—I don’t even know where to begin. On top of the various roles I have been given at work (within our financial services holding company, philanthropy division, and the college we had just started), I had to manage my time with the online classes I had for my Masters of Education program that I am taking through Biola University, as well as my other commitments to family, friends, and most of all, my faith.

2019 had been the year when I finally settled at a home church, rebuilt a rural church in Sumba for my 25th birthday, and became well-acquainted with the “ending Biblical poverty” movement. I also had been given various opportunities to become a guest contributor at various faith-based websites, preached at work, schools, youth groups, and even an old folk’s home. The eventful year also included myself becoming a legislative candidate, publishing my first book, and traveling to four different continents.

Doing “more” however was coupled with a sobering reminder that I was not immune from the hidden sins of my heart. In fact, it was made clear that I needed constant repenting and coming back to the cross. Productivity had become a terrifying vice, as my heart proved to be a most competent factory of idols. I found myself gravitating to lesser loves. Yet even so, time and time again, Grace is sufficient, and Grace sustains. “I am who I am by the grace of God,” (1 Corinthians 15:10)–even for the most calloused of hearts, the Gospel is the remedy.

Dear future Jessica,

The year 2019 had gone by so quickly and it seems like you’ve only just begun. You entered the year with remnants of a heartache, that ushered in fears to your already-insecure heart. But again, the Gospel alone spoke truth into your soul, until your wrestling rested in the penning of a love unrequited. Two truths were held in tension: that surely, you are never worthy, yet truly, that you are loved. Your unworthiness only reflected the deeper truth of the love of God, who regarded you in your humble estate and lavished His unmerited love for you. 

You recognized your own failings. The inability to keep your heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). You thought you could guard it with all the walls you had set up high. Yet lesser loves still entice, and ‘tis a most difficult task to “not trust in the sweetest frame.” You have been known for your careful, calculated steps. Even as a child you always had been the cautious one. But even so, you found yourself to be reckless, at giving your heart away–it is far too easy for you to have your love divided.

Faithful and reckless–that is who I am, Lord. I have trusted You through the seasons, but my heart has doubted all at the same time.” (Journal, February 11, 2019).

But faith is never the absence of doubt. Neither had it been your undivided love (Psalm 86:11) for the Lord that sustained you. It is His grace–always His grace, that begins, sustains and completes (Hebrews 12:1-3). John Calvin describes the human heart as “a perpetual factory of idols”, and this had been true for you. The lesser loves of the world continue to beckon and lure you to an abyss of wants. Yet none but Grace would suffice.

You longed for the confinements of a quiet life. It led you to seek to serve your family faithfully, be it within the family business, or at home. You delighted in taking care of your elderly and the young.

Yet a turn of events led you to become a legislative candidate for the country. The thought of possibly being given a seat at the House of Parliament was terrifying. You cried some nights. You wished you could deny your birthright and flee towards a secluded life. Yet as you looked to your life, you see His fingerprint orchestrating it all. Never did you think were you fit for such a task, yet the Lord’s sovereign Hand does what He desires. And though you did not end up in any governmental position, such was the exposure of an idol of your heart: a love for comfort. 

But Christ never promised a life of comfort. What He did offer, is Grace in all seasons. Where our knowledge of our salvation ought to beckon us to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Whether He leads you to high places of authority or the confinements of a quiet life, the call is the same: to live as Christ lived–a life marked with a death to self. Such is the posture He seeks of His child: to, in all things, even in the most uncomfortable of paths, say, “not my will but Yours be done,” (Luke 22:42).

“A sentence from a song that has been echoing in my head: so I stop all negotiations with the God of all creation.

Have I been negotiating with You, my Lord? I have, and I know it full well. The life You have led me to live is far from what I would have sought for myself. And You know that full well. But Father, how can I remain ignorant if I see a world that is hurting?

I desire to walk with You wherever You may lead. Even if it means that I shall not find comfort in the here and now.” (Journal, April 3, 2019)

You longed for the familiarity of the four walls of the church. To settle in a home church and daily be amongst others who spoke the same language and understood the same yearnings of heaven. And so you delighted in serving on Sundays, and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in the various platforms that you were entrusted with.

But work often became frustrating because you would see how sin truly marred relationships and distorted the goodness of work. That one trip to Thailand during Easter weekend confirmed many of your dislikes about this present world. You saw how people would distort their God-given gender identities and how they would capitalize on their bodies. You saw what godlessness meant and it brought you great anger–you simply wanted to run away to your safe community. You were embittered because you dreaded spending Easter in that “wretched city,” but such was the exposure of an idol of your heart: a love for familiarity and a refusal to love those who are different.

But Christ never called us to serve when convenient. He calls us to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44), for even Grace is there. The call of Christ is not simply to “gather,” but rather to “go and make disciples,” (Matthew 28:18-20). You did not like being in Thailand that Easter weekend, but that weekend revealed an even deeper Gospel truth. That as you rejected a people you considered “heathen”, remembrance of the Lord’s death and resurrection reflected the fact that Christ’s message of hope and salvation is extended even unto the least of these (Luke 19:10). At the cross Jesus even said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34)–such was His compassion. Such was the extent of His love.

‘Fully known yet fully loved,‘ is the message of the cross, and I left it behind at that little [DIY] cafe [in Thailand]. And this is the same message for the ladyboys, those young girls who make a living by capitalizing on their bodies. I struggle writing this. But this is true. This is true and this is the truth. That You, O Lord, said it is finished, even for them who are the most Christless. (Journal, April 19, 2019)

You longed for the stability of having a family of your own. Oh, surely the Lord knows your desire for marriage and children. And so you sought to love the little ones sent your way as best as you could.

But as you witnessed your dear friends step into seasons of marriage and motherhood, every celebration only carved out a deeper longing in your soul. Then along the way you started having irregularities in your own menstrual cycle. It went on for months, and for the first time in your life, thoughts of infertility began to surface, and it brought you to your knees. You cried at the fear of barrenness, at the possibility of a lifetime of singleness. And such was the exposure of an idol of your heart: a love for company and a confidence in your own ability to nurture.

But Christ never promised us the coming season of marriage and childbearing. What He did promise was that He would never leave us alone (Deuteronomy 31:6)–there is Grace in every season, even if the season does not pass. His leading extends beyond mere seasons carved out by human hands, and singleness may be unto some, a season that may never pass.

“The seasons I see my friends enter into: seasons of courtship, of dating, of marriage, of motherhood. These are seasons I would love myself to be in, yet find them way too far out of reach. I pray, Father, that if this be Your will, that You’d keep me dependent. I am content where You place me, because I know You are the Giver of all things: the good, the bad, the ugly. And even in my worst, Lord, You are there.(Journal, September 9, 2019)

For beyond the comfort of a life imagined, is True Comfort found in life eternal. Beyond the safeness of familiarity, is the Surety of the Gospel and its call to lay oneself down. And beyond the rejoicing of physical birth, is True Joy found in spiritual birth.

And you have been a recipient of them all.

So as the years would go by, and you remain to be in a season where you do not wish to be: be reminded of the Truth that you are simply partaking of what you had already been a recipient of. You are never operating from a place of lack. But in Christ had all your “yes and amens” (2 Corinthians 1:20) been. He never withheld from you any good thing, for He had already given you Himself, His all.

Faithfully has He led you, even as you knew not. “For the Lord is in this place, and I was unaware,” (Genesis 28:16). So even as faithful and reckless you remain, and your heart a perpetual factory of idols, know that in yourself, you need not trust–but Him, His Grace, in every season.

Love, Jessica Tanoesoedibjo (2019)

“My younger years of simply walking
In the simple truth to trust and obey:
“Your Word is a light unto my path,”
Rings truer in passing days.

And onwards now I go, missional as ever,
Only knowing that wherever, whenever
You may change my course
And I shall be alright.”
(Journal, July 2, 2019)

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