Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When I Grow Up

Awhile back, when I was helping with a middle small group, there was one particular conversation that I remember well. I was talking with a group of eighth grade girls who were about to start high school. We were just chatting as we waited for their parents to come pick them up. The girls were all talking about starting high school and the things they were excited about and the things that made them nervous (such as being stuffed in a trash can- true story). As I listened to them, I immediately was transported back to my eighth grade mind. I remember what it was like to start high school. There were so many things ahead! I had a very clear picture of what my life was going to look like by the time I graduated from high school AND college!

As I stood there thinking about that vision, I realized I was way off!

Why are we such stubborn creatures? We all have visions of what our lives will look like in the future. It usually involves a fantastic body, someone gorgeous standing next to you, two kids, a dog (that makes 2.5 kids total), a great house, and no money problems!

I don't know one person who has that life. Sure, maybe you have 2.5 kids and a great house, but somehow the vision of our lives always falls short.

So why do we hold on to it so hard?

I have found that we are so quick to tell God that we surrender our lives to him, but when it comes to our future, we hide that away like Gollum does with the one ring. (That's a little nerd metaphor there in honor of the release of The Hobbit)

Nothing about my life resembles what I had planned. Am I okay with that? Do I trust God's plan enough to let go of my vision for my life?

I certainly think we would agree he is qualified to prepare a plan for us (being the creator of the universe and all).

So what does he have to say?

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
-Isaiah 55:8-9
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
-Psalm 139:1-3
But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
-Romans 9:20-21

God knows a little bit about what's going on in our lives. He has his own vision for our lives.

Someone very wise told me that when our dream dies, God is able to birth his dream in us.

When we stubbornly hold on to some idea about how are lives should look, we end up saying things like, "What am I doing with my life?" "There has to be something else." "Why can't I just get my life together."

It takes daily surrender, but when we fully allow God to direct our lives and replace our vision with his, we find peace. We can fearlessly face the future.

There are times when this can be extremely difficult for me. There are things about my life that I get insecure about because I thought it would work out one way and it didn't. I jump right in to "What did I do?" and "Is there something about me?"

The truth is that I only have to know that God is good, faithful, and sovereign to face the future. I have never looked back at my life and thought my plan would have been better. God has never let me down. I am his daughter. He is a perfect father. He loves me. I want his plan for my life.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jesus Sent Him Away

Sometimes I find myself asking God why I couldn't just do something easier. Why does it have to be so complicated? Why does it have to be so hard? Why can't it just be me, Him and my bible alone on a desert island?

There are those days when you sit down and read the bible and things are at peace, but as soon as you get out the door, the world is there waiting. Whether it's frustrations, insecurities, selfishness, or just struggling to interact with people, it always seems like it would be easier to just be alone with God.

I was reading in Luke 8 today, where Jesus casts out a demon from a man. That in itself is a wild thing, but it gets even stranger. Starting in verse 38 it says:

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
I sat for awhile today thinking about the first part of those verses. Why wouldn't Jesus let the man go with him? I could kind of empathize with this guy. He had been literally battling a demon inside of him for who knows how long. Then, Jesus comes along and releases him from that bondage. That guy probably feels amazing right now!! The weight and struggle finally gone! Of course he wants to go with Jesus! Going with Jesus means security! It means that if anything happens to him again, Jesus is right there to help him! Staying with Jesus probably means a lot of comfort to this guy!
But Jesus sent him away.
On my own I fail at a lot of things. I'm a horrible friend, a selfish child, and a prideful woman. When I'm alone, spending time with God, I feel at peace. I go through phases where I just want to run to my fortress of solitude and avoid other people completely. I have to force myself to interact with other people! Staying with Jesus means security and comfort to me. I can relate to the guy in Luke 8.
But there's something Jesus had to teach both of us. We're not called to live in a spiritual huddle! He sent the man back to the town to tell how much God had done for him.
Yes, we have to spend time with God. He is the wellspring of life for us! We have to be filled up by him!
Then we have to go out.
We are called to go out and tell others. We can't stay on our desert island.
Honestly, this is hard for me. I have to ask God to give me a heart for people. I have to ask him to help me not get focused on fixing myself but on following him! I'm learning to be okay with asking him for that!
It seems like such a simple idea, but I know there are times in my own life when the temptation is to isolate myself. To not be in fellowship with other believers or even tell others about Christ. That's when we have to rely on his grace to be sufficient to cover our weaknesses. While I may struggle to serve people, Christ served them even in death and I know he will give me the grace to love them.
I'll end this by saying that I don't have it all together. I fail at a lot of things. I get down on myself for not being able to "get it together" or for continually bringing problems to people. It's a continual process for me to surrender myself and my struggles to Jesus. The only time I ever have anything to write about is when God has brought me through something. I want him to redeem my struggles for his glory. That's why it's not always easy. That's why it's not always comfortable. It's not about me!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

That 1% Feeling

Awhile back I was reading a blog post, where the author said that 99% she was fine with who she was, but then about 1% of the time she struggled.

For me, this week has been that 1%. It was an often embarrassing display of selfishness, pride, and blubbering tears that resulted in me apologizing to a lot of people who had to witness the spectacle.

For most of the week, I couldn't exactly pinpoint the source of all the internal conflict. After what seemed like endless pleas with God, he finally answered me with some conviction.

99% of the time I'm fine with being single. It's not a big deal. I don't need pity. I don't need a date. I don't need you to tell me "there's someone out there for you." I'm good.

Then something happens, or somebody says something, and I'm launched into that 1% feeling.

This time it started with a feeling of being the "only" single one left. Yep, nobody said fears were rational. I looked around me and everybody had somebody. Then I started in on the spiral of trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

Then I realized the root of all this was fear.

Again, I know fear is often not rational. I had a deep fear of being alone. Not alone as in sitting by myself at lunch. A fear of being alone without any friends or family. Of course that 1% feeling would creep up in tandem with this.

I read something a few weeks ago that really only clicked with me tonight.

"Is it possible that what singles often see and desire in marriage: the opportunity to be a loving and supportive counterpart, lead spirtually, build family through intimate fellowship, and "raise" children, can be found within the church, outside the marriage relationship?"
-Singlehood Redefined

Bring on the conviction. Just like Peter walking on the water, I took my eyes off Jesus and got wrapped up in my circumstance. It's easy for me to feel shame. Shame for things I said or the way I made people feel this week, while working through my muddy mess. It's easy for me to want to find a rock to crawl under!

Thank God that I don't have to live like that! Thank God for his grace and mercy for my messed up life! Thank God he forgives me for my fear and lack of trust! Thank God that he provided me with an answer to my fear.

I love to encourage people. I love to help people. I've always thought about how amazing it would be to be able to be a help and encouragement to a husband (or a particular Needtobreathe band member who shall remain nameless).

What if God provided me that opportunity for that already? We talk a lot about bearing each others burdens as the Church. What if I can direct to encourage to His bride-the Church!

I love the book of Joshua. A lot of the reason is probably because of how many times God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. Joshua 1:9 is my favorite: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

What do I have to fear? I don't have to fear being alone! God's provided an entire family for me to be a part of!

I am so thankful for this revelation and most of all the peace that comes along with it. Of course, that 1% feeling comes and goes, but God's given me the promise to be with me and that's what I'll cling to!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to be a Friend

I generally consider my people skills to be pretty rotten. I'm working on it, but God has really been showing me a lot about friendships through reading 1 and 2 Samuel.

I have really been struck by the friendship between Jonathan and David. I began to read and study these two men and was struck by their deep brotherhood. We talk a lot about being brothers and sisters in Christ, but sometimes I really wish there was a clear five step plan! As I was studying, God really spoke 4 things to me about David and Jonathan and what godly friendship looks like.

1. Jonathan loved David like a Brother

1 Samuel 18:1 tells us that Jonathan loved David like himself. In order to have a deep friendship with a brother or sister in Christ, we have to love them! That may seem very elementary, but that's the first step. What does that really look like? How do we know if we're really loving our brothers and sisters? Turns out that as Jonathan's and David's relationship grew, we see this demonstrated.

2. Jonathan Encouraged David in His Call from God

1 Samuel 18:4 says: "Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt."

This symbolized Jonathan acknowledging God's calling on David's life and saying he would follow him. What a huge encouragement for David as he's running for his life and probably wondering if he heard God or the fish he ate for dinner!

Also in 1 Samuel 23:16-17, Jonathan encourages David by telling him not to be afraid and that he will be king of Israel. Again, encouraging David in his call from God.

As brothers and sisters we have to affirm each other in our weaknesses. If I've just done something that was really hard for me, it's invaluable for someone to recognize that and tell me I did a good job. Simple as that!

3. Jonathan Fought for David

In 1 Samuel chapter 20, Saul is literally out for blood. Jonathan risks his own standing and his own life to help David.

Are you fighting for your brother and sisters in Christ? One of my wisest mentors said that as Christians, our wins can't come at another person's loss. In your relationship, can only one of you succeed? Can you celebrate with your brother or sister when one of you does well? Are you willing to walk through life with your friend? This isn't a surface level relationship. Jonathan risked everything to be there for David! Are you willing to risk to be there for your brother or sister?

4. David Grieved Jonathan

2 Samuel 1:11-12 says, "Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword."

Starting in verse 19, David composes a song expressing his deep grief at the loss of his friend.

I'm not saying that to be a good friend you have to wait until your friend dies! This part of Jonathan and David's story really struck me because of the reversal of roles. Up until this point, Jonathan has been there for David. Now, David is "there" for Jonathan.

Friendships work both ways. As brothers and sisters we have to be willing to be there for each other through seasons. There may be seasons when one friend is going through a rough time and the other friend has to be there for them more, and then vice versa. Are you willing to walk through those times with your brothers and sisters?

Needless to say, I still have a lot to learn about what it means to be a true sister in Christ to those around me. I mess it up. I get selfish. I get prideful. However, I know that God will continue to teach me how to be a better friend.