Gritty, Not Pretty: Uncurating My Spirituality
I’m a millennial so every now and then, I scroll through social media and stumble on an inspirational post from a friend. We’ve seen them - impeccably formatted, choice fonts, punchy yet poetic; enough conviction packed in 140+ characters to start a reformation. Pretty and well-curated advice abound thanks to the connectivity of the world-wide web. Aside from the rush of positive thinking, I pause and wonder, “Has this any teeth?”. In other words, would this sustain us if we just as quickly wander into the dark night of spiritual crisis? In truth, a pithy text-over-image or well-lit photo wasn’t enough for me when I faced a long and treacherous battle with depression. Yes, I confess I was a ministry leader and I struggled with depression and fatigue. I was anything but a pretty picture of spiritual health.
I decided to take time to deconstruct my own relationship with God. Had I developed a sincere spirituality that reflected the renewed mind of a believer? A theology professor once explained to me that spirituality is the way (or “swagger” to quote directly) in which we conform ourselves to the character of Christ. We all have our manner of speaking or style of dress and our spirituality is how we relate to God and yield to the Holy Spirit. Yet in my confusion, Christ’s example felt impossible when I struggled with issues of worthiness and trust. So I decided to dig into scripture and study men and women whose testimonies could give me vocabulary for my pain but also shape a new framework for my faith.
In my wrinkled Bible I encountered women like Esther who surrendered her virtue to a corrupt king for the lives of the Israelites. The childless and inconsolable Hannah who birthed Samuel, the prophet that anointed Israel’s first kings. The powerless concubine Rizpah, whose public lament and protest ushered an end to a three-year national famine. A teenage, unwed Mary who faced the possibility of public stoning for carrying the world’s long-awaited Messiah. In the midst of hardship, these women placed their future in the hands of a God they knew so intimately that their response to humiliation was humility. They didn’t clothe themselves in fine linen and communicate their grievances with the grace of a sage. Instead their passion overwhelmed them and deep in their spirit they accessed the resilience to persevere.
The quality of their spirituality was gritty -- a supernatural determination to persist -- and qualified their name-check in our Bibles. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he writes the marks of a true Christian:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
- Romans 12:11-12
The kind of love Paul commands us to develop isn’t easy. It demands we are genuine and love be molded by an authentic expression of the Gospel. I’ve learned this process of becoming requires grit, and the examples of Esther, Hannah, Rizpah and Mary, ultimately drew me to fix my focus back on Jesus. It was then that I could finally grasp Him as my Savior once more - the one who honors the unprettiness and restores me as I walk into the gentle twilight of a new day.
It is my prayer that those of you who’ve begun to feel surrounded by hopelessness and despair can cling to our Rock, the immovable and ever-present Jesus. As you exhale, I ask you wait and feel His presence as you courageously walk through your journey of healing. [Selah]
~ Krystin Bruan
Krystin desires to see people thrive and experience the freedom of their God-given gifts. She aims to raise the collective volume of marginalized voices through cultivating compelling narratives. She believes that through healthy collaboration and creative initiatives, communities can inspire hope. She loves working with artists, college students, and young professionals to uncover biblical truth and develop healthy spirituality. Krystin is currently working with college students at her alma mater, NYU, and pursuing her graduate degree in Nonprofit Management at Columbia University.