Yesterday, I found a journal entry I wrote sometime back in 2004 but it still so fitting today: ” Alone…when the world goes on all around you, but yet you still feel so alone. When time keeps moving, things keep changing but you seem to only see it from the outside looking in, with no real place it it at all. When all you crave is desire from someone else. Desire for a friendship, just a caring hug. A touch just tells so much, so easily. But there are days that go by when no other person touches me at all. Its like that is the way the hole of loneliness is filled inside me. Maybe….I don’t know exactly. I just sometimes feel there isn’t a place in this world for me.”
These thoughts, from my 20 year old self, are still strangely similar today. It is often that I still feel like I am on the outside looking in…a part of a world that I do not fit in at all, and am at loss to how to interact with it.
Last night I went to a party. It was a small party in a backyard, some people I knew, some I didn’t. All were connected by a passion for ultimate, and was an easy fun atmosphere. I went with a friend whom I have grown very close to lately and was so excited about being a part of this night. But as the night wore on, the more lost I felt, the more I didn’t feel a part. I don’t know what happened to me, what caused me to shut down and not know what to do. Maybe it was when the 4 people I knew best at the party went off by themselves to play a game that I wanted to be a part of, included in, and was left out that my defenses went up. Or maybe it was my insecurity over the other girl and trying to figure out if she liked my friend. I’m not completely sure…but for the last 2 months or so, this crowd has been the group of friends I have been spending most of my time with. They are a group of people I have finally felt like I belonged in, accepted in, wanted me to be a part of them. I have quickly felt accepted and liked. Sure, it didn’t hurt that one of the cutest boys in the group was hanging out with me and telling me/showing me he liked me. But this group…..they accepted me when my life held so many questions,made me finally feel like I belonged with a group, life was fun, ultimate was plentiful, worries were few and apathy was strong.
but last night, something changed.
I started feeling that “I don’t belong here” thought process and I never fully recovered. I tried harder to play the part, tried to pretend that life was good, talked to my friend and tried to get him to understand..I tried so hard…I just couldn’t. I didn’t know what to do. So I hid in the bathroom until I could be sure the tears were blinked back..and returned with the face that hopefully made people think I was a fun person. But I couldn’t shake the feeling….I didn’t belong there. While the people were cool, the games were fun, the conversations things that interested me, I just realized that I didn’t belong but didn’t understand the origin of the feeling or how to overcome it…so I just thought, deeply.
After the party, my friend and I went to the cool new bridge in Dallas. I wanted us to walk across it…but that didn’t pan out. I really wanted a chance to be about to walk and talk with him. He is a friend to whom I am not sure I have been more honest with anyone else. He gets me…even my doubts and fears. I wanted to be able to talk to him about these feelings I had from the party, but it never happened. However, we did stop on the bridge, get out and look at the massiveness of the structure. As I stood there, alone, looking up at the peak of the bridge and then out across the beautiful view of the city of Dallas at night, I began to realize some things. I slowly began to realize how small I am, and how big everything else is, how insurmountable I am. At the time, I didn’t realize God was a part of those thoughts, I just knew I wanted someone close. I knew the tears were about to come, the hurt and pain over the last month of rebellion were about to hit the surface, and I wanted someone to care. I wanted my friend to hold me and care about me. I wanted him to want to be there for me and let me know it would be ok. But as we got back to my place, he didn’t pull into a parking space like I wanted him to, and he didn’t read my mind and know what all was going on in my head, he read my emotions that I was hurt and upset, but he didn’t react in the way I wanted. I wanted him be there..to just hold me. A touch just tells so much, so easily. but it didn’t happen.
So i grew hurt. and angry. I punched the concrete floor and my car. and I cried. I cried that this guy that I used to like didn’t want to be with me any more, even though he says he likes me. I cried because he was the only one that understood me and would hug me, when that was all I wanted. I tried to place the blame on him, that it was his fault I was hurting. He rejected me, he didn’t want to be with me, he would rather have someone else..but that wasn’t it at all. I cried because for the first time in a very long time, I felt alone. utterly alone. and I cried.
But in the darkness of my bedroom, as I sat on my bed alone and cried, I began to see my rebellion, how I had run and how I had forced myself to be alone. I used to trust in the promises of God, trust that His ways were best, trust that He had a plan for me even when times were hard and lonely. I trusted Him and His ways. But 2 months or so..I started doing things my way. I started hanging out with the friends who didn’t love Him, started hanging out with the boy who was curious but didn’t know my God. The deep rooted doubts started to surface, but even more importantly, the rebellion in me took off. I didn’t care for the ways of the Lord, I wanted a fun life. I wanted to be liked, loved and cared for by a boy that was giving me attention that I was really attracted to. Differences in religion didn’t matter too much, it was all just fun and casual and I liked him. I wanted to belong and fit in with this group of people who made me feel so included where my church friends/christian friends never were that inclusive. Recently I had been deeply hurt by a group of christian girls..this group friends were showing themselves to finally be the group of people that I have desperately been wanting, friends that liked me, included me, made me feel like I belonged. But it was all falling apart and I was hurt and alone, physically and spiritually. I had run from my God and He was graciously letting me see that I did not belong in this world.
And so it began…it began several hours of me crying out for the Lord, for forgiveness for my rebellion, for thinking that I knew better than Him, for forgetting I needed a Savior, for repentance for my sin, and a desperate plea to please take me back. Please let me trust in Him for my security and joy, not in myself or other people. I had seen first hand what that did. And trust….that He had a plan for me that was far better than what I was trying to make for my life. Today in church, Matt spoke a lot that was directly pointed to me, but one like that hangs in my head, “Sometimes, because of His love and delight in us, the Lord will wound us temporarily in order to take something away from us that will cause a lifetime of unhappiness.” Right now, I am still unsure of what the “lifetime of unhappiness” would be. I think me and this boy could be great together. But, I have learned the hard way, I will trust in His plan for my life. I will trust that He is working in this broken time. I will trust that He has a plan that far outweighs my own. I will trust that He has a man for me that will love me rightly and will never let me go. I will trust that He will bring that man into my life in His time (and I pray that is soon:) ). But mostly, I will trust in Him, as my joy and security. My happiness and my substance. He is my strength. He is my redeemer. He is my joy. He is my illustration of love. He is my reason for living. And my new job outside of ministry, and my ultimate teams and these new friends I have…now have a new perspective, a better perspective. They do not define me…The Lord is letting them be a part of my life for me to delight in, enjoy and have fun…but not place my identity and security in, not allow to rule my life. He is my life.
The last 3 months have been some of the hardest in my life. Every week has presented itself with a new struggle and/or pain. Whether it is losing a best friendship, wrecking my car, the IRS saying I owe money, jeopardy in my job, kids dying, friends being physically attacked, a friend dying and more. I long for a week to sit back and rest….rest in good, comfortable times. But these days, all I am left with is the feeling in my heart of how much I long for more..how I long for escape from this world and its pain….and how much I hope in my sweet Savior to come and literally rescue me. Because see, when I attach my hope to the things in this world, I always come up needing more. And all too often, I tend to attach myself to hope that will never deliver what I’m asking it to deliver.
Over the last few months, I have been reading through the Old Testament prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Some might think these books are terribly boring, however, the Lord continues to pull at my heart and challenge me in my depravity through these books. In all three of these books, the Lord is speaking to the prophets to tell the nation of Israel they are about to be basically wiped out, almost completely destroyed and taken into exile because of their idolatry, pride, and rejection of their covenantal God.
To set the scene of where Israel finds itself in Isaiah 59, the nation of Israel is in a completely hopeless and dark place. They have been in captivity in Babylon, have come back to Jerusalem, and for the first time, see the destruction their city has been left in. There are no city walls, no more temple, no central government, no enforceable set of laws, no obvious leadership, and no justice. There is violence in the street, massive poverty….basically, a complete, fundamental, widespread social breakdown. It’s a mess. And into that darkness, there is a brilliant discussion of hope, maybe one of the most brilliant discussions of hope in all of Scripture. Because in those dark moments, your true, real hope will be exposed. And your true, real hope will come through for you, or it will deeply disappoint you.
The Israelites find themselves with nothing, and anger towards God begins to set in. They question the faithfulness and love of God because life hurt and doesn’t make sense. Like Israel, I often times find myself questioning His faithfulness, goodness, wisdom and love in times like my last 3 months have been. Usually it is not hard trust in the providence of God and know His hand is on all events in my life, but it does not erase the pain, nor the questioning on why He has to use this painful method to teach me something I feel like could have been learned in a much easier way. When I allow my heart to begin to question God’s wisdom and goodness, it becomes really hard to run toward Him for help. Because you don’t go for help to someone who you have come to doubt, someone who is less than faithful to His promises. Here is where Israel has found themselves.
But in fact, Israel was just as hard-headed as I myself am, and it takes extremely painful circumstances to teach them to return to their God. Our God is not a God who hurts and wounds with no cause, He is a God of love, but He is also a jealous God who demands wholeheartedness of His people. The people of Israel ran off with other gods, given themselves to creation rather than the Creator, and the Lord’s wrath was displayed, in order for His people to return to their God. He does not punish nor display His wrath unjustly, but He does so only because He loves us. It is like a parent who punishes their child because they ran out in the busy street, in order to teach them to never do it again. Our God is a God of love, and sometimes that love hurts. So He has brought us through difficulty, not because He doesn’t love us, not because He can’t hear our prayer, not because He’s too weak to help, not because He doesn’t care. He has done so precisely because He loves us and is near.
Israel had placed themselves in a hopeless state. They ran off with other gods, gave themselves to creation rather than the creator and refused to acknowledge Him as their God. We are just like Israel today; we do the exact same thing. Sin haunts us in the exact ways it haunted man 2,000 years ago. The sin of man creates a hopeless state. There is something that lurks inside of me that is dark and dangerous, that kidnaps my thoughts, that diverts my desires, that distorts my words, that drives my behavior: iniquity,transgression and sin. Our biggest problem is ourselves, we ourselves are in a very hopeless state.
The doorway to hope for Israel was the hopelessness they found themselves in. Could this be true for me as well? When all of life is falling apart and I feel like everything is hopeless, is that the start to real hope? Christmas was 6 days ago. The Christmas story that I have heard many times over the past month is about a Nativity, a baby who is God in the flesh and….it is all about hope. Hope found in a stable in Bethlehem..the God-man who brought the hope of salvation to the depravity of man.
The doorway to hope is hopelessness. The only way I will ever find true hope is to give up on all those places/all those people where I’ve tended to put my hope that can’t deliver. Only when realizing they can not bring me fulfillment, realizing the magnitude of my own sin, do I realize I am hopeless in this state. The doorway to real hope is hopelessness. It tells you not only is it hopeful to hope in Him, but it’s hopeless to hope in anybody else. All my friends suffer from the same condition I find myself in. And all those other things in creation I try to put my hope in, all those situations and all those places where I tend to run are populated by people who are desperately as hopeless as I am. There is no hope to be found in this world. We need something outside of ourselves, something unlike anything in creation to save us.
Hope, to be reliable, to be trustworthy, to be hope, must fix what is broken. Hope, to be hope, must address the biggest, deepest, darkest dilemmas of my life. If hope can’t fix what’s broken, why would I hope in it? Hope is not a situation, hope is not a location and hope is not an experience. Hope is a person, and His name is Jesus. Hope is going to come.
After we find ourselves at this moment where we utterly have no hope, nowhere to look, we find Jesus. That’s the Christmas story. The Christmas story is hope coming. That’s why the angels sang those glorious songs. That’s why the wise men came to worship. That’s why the shepherds were blown away. Because hope had invaded the earth in the person of the Lord Jesus. Hope had come. Hope that had been so long lost, hope that seemed to have been destroyed is now returning in the person of the Lord Jesus.
33 years after that night in the barn where shepherds and wise men bowed down in worship to the baby who was God in the flesh, He died on the cross and paid the price that my sin deserved in order to ensure my righteous state before God the Father. He is my propitiation. Jesus died on that cross, but then defeated death and rose again. That day, on the cross, the wrath of God and the grace of God kissed. His wrath was satisfied by the blood of Jesus and his grace is seen. On the cross, the One who is hope brings together with the justice and grace of God. And hope is returned, because that moment where justice and grace kiss, delivers to us the one thing we need – help with our deepest problem, sin.
Today, my hope rests in the anticipation that soon, He is returning. One day, He will return to defeat death and drive away all pain and evil. Sin is serious, sin is evil, sin is disastrous and sin leads to death. And this just, holy God will never say, “It’s okay for you to sin. As long as you’re happy, I’m fine.” No, He is a holy God who hates sin. He will not tolerate it. He will punish every sin. There is a way in which God’s righteous anger and His holy justice is the hope of the universe. God’s anger with sin and God’s commitment to justice mean He will not rest until sin is forever defeated. He will not relent and He will not quit until every molecule of sin is delivered out of every cell of every heart of every one of His children. There will be a moment where sin will be no more because there is a holy God committed to justice and we’ll be able to go to the one funeral we want to go to, the funeral of sin. Sin will die and we’ll live forever in a place where there is no sin, there is no violence, there is no evil, there is no transgression and there is no sickness, suffering or any of those things. They will be forever defeated because He is a just God who longs for the day this world returns to how it was intended to be, a full unhindered relationship with man.
And so, I close with John Piper’s prayer, “O Jesus! When will “soon” be? We know that you are not slow to fulfill your promise “as some count slowness” (2 Peter 3:9). Forgive us when it feels slow to us. You know we are dust (Psalm 103:14) and that our brief years are full of toil and trouble (Psalm 90:10). Many of us are weary and struggle to keep perspective. Our indwelling sin plus trouble plus waiting tempts us to cynicism as “soon” unfolds over millennia. We do believe, Jesus; help our unbelief (Mark 9:24)! So our prayer at this year’s end is simply, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)! We will wait for you as long as it takes. We trust that you will come when the time is full. May that time be soon. You said it would be. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
Come Lord Jesus. I am ready to be in Jerusalem.
Circumstances vary, but the feelings are similar. We feel isolated, vulnerable, and alone. We want to talk and be heard. We want to be known and understood; we don’t want to feel invisible. We want to be included and cared about. Wanted. We desire intimacy. We want to be connected to someone.
So how do we remedy this loneliness? I thought it was simple: Make one really good friend. I am a decent listener I think, so, my job was to listen, make you laugh, and help you out. Your job was to be my friend so I wouldn’t be lonely. But eventually I would upset the balance of this arrangement by asking you to help me. If you couldn’t manage it, I felt hurt. Or maybe I couldn’t get you to listen to me for ten minutes when I had already listened to you for hours. Or maybe you choose to hang out with another friend instead of me and I take it as a personal rejection. When you let me down or are not there for me, I saw them as obstacles to my sense of security and belonging. Whatever the case, I would take self-protective steps to prevent getting hurt again. My best way to protect myself is to back away from the friendship, even if it has become a very good friendship that I deeply care about.
Not a very healthy dynamic.. I work to get you to like me, but I also work to protect myself from you. I move toward you because I want your acceptance, but I back away because I want to play it safe. A tug-of-war goes on within my heart. My desire for acceptance wins one moment, self-protection the next. The result? I send out a continuous stream of mixed messages. When I am self-protective, I withdraw into myself. But then I become afraid you are (a) losing patience with me; (b) glad to be rid of me; or (c) not even noticing that I’ve withdrawn. All of these possibilities are bad, so I risk getting hurt by being nice again so you’ll still like me. Sooner or later, it all takes too much effort and my heart does not know what to do except cry and fight the desire to hold on too tight because I can’t imagine life without friends, and resort that my life is destined to be completely alone and by myself forever. But eventually, I grow tired of days spent alone or days surrounded by people who really do not know me, the memories of our cycle fades, I think that if I am better, you will like me more and I begin the cycle all over again. Because see, this friendship has become an idol and I can’t imagine loosing it.
In the case of a “idolatrous relationship,” these typical idol patterns reinforce and compete with each other. They fit together in an uncanny way, creating massively destructive feedback loops. Idols counterfeit aspects of God’s identity and character: Judge, savior, source of blessing, sin-bearer, object of trust, author of a will which must be obeyed, and so forth. Each idol that clusters in the system makes false promises and gives false warnings: “if only…then….” I start to think, “If only I am more fun, then…” or “If only I am less awkward in certain situations, then….” This idol promises and warns, “If only I can give the right thing and can make it all better, then the friendship will be better/I will be liked more. Because both the promises and warnings are lies, service to each idol results in a hangover of misery and accursedness. Idols lie, enslave, and murder. They are continually insinuated by the one who was a liar, slave master and murderer from the beginning. The simple picture of idolatry—a worshiper prostrated before a figure of wood, metal or stone—is powerfully extended by the Bible. In Psalm 105 and 106, a history of Israel is given and what the Lord has done for them. In 106:28, it says that the people of Israel yoked themselves to their idol, Baal, even after all the Lord had brought them through. This began the process of me thinking, “what idols am I yoking myself to?” As I was, at the same time, crying out the Lord about my loneliness and friendships that I keep screwing up no matter what I do, my eyes are opened to a correlation between all 3. These are my idols and people make horrible gods.
In his mercy, God hasn’t left me to endlessly repeat this cycle. He opened my eyes to this reality: it isn’t what remedies our loneliness, who fixes relationships but who remedies it—namely, Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners.
He loves me too much to allow me to continue life with my current gods. It is taking hurt, brokenness and feelings of loneliness and rejection to strip them from me. Loneliness is a result of man’s original sin against God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1–13). The perfect union Adam and Eve had enjoyed with God and with each other was destroyed when they chose to disobey God. Sin separated them from God and from each other. Where once there had been openness (they had been naked and unashamed), sin made for hiding (behind fig leaves and trees). Where once there had been completeness, sin made for loss. Where once there had been acceptance, sin made for rejection. Where once there had been praise, sin made for blame (“she made me do it”). Hiding. Loss. Rejection. Blame. All ingredients of loneliness. Loneliness was born at the Fall.
It is true that before sin entered the world, God had declared that it wasn’t good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18), but God was stating a fact, not voicing how Adam was feeling. At the time, Adam was enjoying perfect communion with God. Apart from God telling him, he had no way of knowing that anything more was possible. Maybe Adam began to get an inkling of it as the animals paraded past him, but it was God’s assessment that man should not be alone. This shouldn’t surprise us. After all, God created man in his image, and he is not a God who exists alone. He is one God in three persons—three who are alike, yet distinct. God wanted man to enjoy fellowship with him, but he also wanted man to enjoy the kind of fellowship God enjoys as three members of the Godhead—with others who are like us, but distinct from us. Because we are made in God’s image, we are made to be in relationship with him and with other people.
I desperately desire good friends, just a few good friends who know my heart, my past, my sin and my struggles and who love me enough to walk through life with me. Who enjoy being with me and love to laugh with me; who want to be with me. I also desperately desire a husband and a family. And even more so, I am desperately ready for the day all of this will finally be healed, I will be the bride of Christ and will finally get to meet my bridegroom Jesus face to face (Revelation 19:1–9). Oh what a day. Until then, as I anxiously await, I pray I love and cherish my friendships, healthy friendships who are not gods, but who are a creation of my God whom He has given me to live in community with. Only. Because people make horrible gods.
A few weeks ago, I bought a new snowboard in Beaver Creek Colorado. I picked this board mostly based on price, but also the shape of the board, how it rides, and how it looks. 🙂 I did not, however, notice the name of the style. Who would have thought that this snowboard would show me something so profound.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of riding this board for the first time in Keystone Colorado. It wasn’t until Saturday that I realized the style of the board is Grace, made by Ride Snowboards. Ironic really, for while I boarded by myself this weekend, with only my thoughts and music to keep me company, the Lord taught me a lot about grace.
Grace, Grace, God’s grace; Grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Grace, Grace, God’s Grace. Grace that is greater than all our sin. No day of my life has passed that has not proved me guilty in His site. Day in and day out, I mess up, sometimes subtly but sometimes obviously. My days are filled with a daily war with my temptations that I all too often lose the battle with.
But even deeper, the grace of God was shown to me a long time ago, in the Garden with Adam and Eve. God gave them one rule: to not eat of the certain tree. The penalty of this action would be death. When Adam and Eve did eat of this tree, they committed a very great sin: treason, an attempt to overthrow the government. Their sin wasn’t eating an apple, it was their attempt at becoming their own god. (Genesis 3:5-6) God didn’t kill them that day, he extended grace to them, but from that day until now, man, including me, has been committing this same sin time and time again.
Grace brought Jesus to the cross. My sin held him there, but his grace payed the price. I am ransomed through the blood He shed for me. By grace I am set free, I am reconciled to mercy and to the cross I must cling.
Riding through the mountains on my snowboard, fully enjoying the beautiful nature of the Rocky Mountains, listening to the songs of Michael Bleecker, having a heart totally in tune with the Lord alone, and being completely controlled by my snowboard called Grace, I saw the Grace of the Lord in a whole new light.
The grace of God is the only reason I am alive, the only reason I have salvation. He covers my daily sin and guilt with His grace. He goes ahead of me when I share His Gospel. He opens ears and hearts and His grace alone saves my kids, I am merely an unneeded servant. His grace alone is the substance that I need in life, to live the life he has laid out for me. And if one day He gives me a husband and a family, it will only be out of the extension of His grace.
In John 21, Jesus comes to some of His disciples. Peter was there, probably very discouraged. Like Peter, time and time again, I deny my Lord for my own desires and what I think is better. Here the Lord tells Peter that even though he denied his Lord leading up to the cross, the Lord will use him in a mighty way. Grace, despite our sin.
There on the cross he bore our sin. Then imputed righteousness. And now we stand here justified. And now we live because He died.
Wonderful Grace of Jesus – greater than all my sin. How can my tongue describe it? Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free. Wonderful grace of Jesus. Reaches me. Wonderful grace of Jesus, deeper than the mighty rolling sea. Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain, all sufficient grace for even me. Bigger than my sin, greater than my shame. Oh magnify the precious name of Jesus!
Thank you for your grace!
My family didn’t grow up observing Lent, in fact, I never had even heard of it until somewhere around age 8 or 9, my cousins (who were Methodist) told me about this thing called Lent. They told me that for 40 days before Easter, they didn’t eat chocolate and then, on Easter morning, they got to eat all the chocolate they wanted to make up for all the days they didn’t eat any. For some strange reason, I wanted to be a part of it. I don’t know if it is because I knew it had something to do with church and this might make me more “christian,” or if all I really cared about was chocolate. But whatever the reason, I have been giving up something for Lent since late elementary/middle school years.
As I have gotten older and really started to learn about what Lent truly is, I have really started to value this observance that most protestants/reformed denominations do not. Therefore, I am usually one of my only friends that sacrifices something in the name of Lent. However, I do love that Lent invites us to make our hearts ready for remembering Jesus’ passion and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. As a period of preparation, Lent has historically included the instruction of persons for baptism and profession of faith on Easter Sunday; the calling back of those who have become estranged from the church; and efforts by all Christians to deepen their piety, devotion, and readiness to mark the death and resurrection of their Savior. As such, the primary focus of the season is to explore and deepen a “baptismal spirituality” that centers on our union with Christ rather than to function only as an extended meditation on Christ’s suffering and death. For me, this is something special, a time I desperately need to awake my religious affections for Christ. People may choose a variety of ways to observe Lent in their personal lives. Some choose to “give up” something for Lent; this may free them from a bad habit or a distraction or may simplify their lives, and it allows for more time to spend in studying God’s Word or in prayer. Others fast, to cleanse their bodies and to identify with the poor. Some choose to commit themselves to acts of mercy, to giving of their money and their time to service in the Kingdom. Some use these 40 days to focus on a particular portion of scripture or daily prayer or a devotional book that helps them to journey with Christ to the cross. In all of these ways, people use this season for deeper reflection and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death on Easter. I love what Henri Nouwen says about Lent, “How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent?”
Throughout my life, I usually think about what I am going to give up for Lent months before Ash Wednesday rolls around on the calendar. I deeply ponder what it is in my life that I need to learn to do without. I have given up candy, chocolate, sodas, alcohol, lying, deserts, tv, facebook, a certain friendship, etc… Every year I am convicted about something in my life that I am placing too much dependence on. This year, my choice was a quick and easy one, sweets and tweets.
Sweets and Tweets. Great tag line, eh? I was pretty proud of myself for thinking that one up. I came across these 2 sacrifices for a variety of reasons. First of all, sweets. True, I am trying to watch what I eat, lose weight and be a more healthy individual, but I did not give up sweets only because of this. I was coming to realize that I had an unhealthy obsession with deserts/unhealthy food/cookies/cakes and the like. I would be full after a meal, but still crave something sweet. While this can sometimes be an ok thing, it was turning into a dependence that I knew I had to break free from to be a healthy person. So, maybe giving up sweets was more so based on what it was doing to my body, but this sacrifice is calling me back to the Lord. I am learning to seek elsewhere for what fills me, and I have found myself having a sweeter time with the Lord. My morning time with the Lord is still the same, bowl of fruit, hot cup of coffee in the chair by the window reading my Bible, but I have found myself working through scripture more, and remembering the sacrifice Christ gave for me, a sacrifice I all too easily gloss over far too many times. The fact that Christ gave himself for me, my enormously depraved, sinful self, blows my mind every time I deeply think about it. It is almost too much to imagine. Me? He loves Me? I love the time of Lent, solely because I love how it pushes me to dwell on this fact more often than usual.
And tweets. Maybe this wasn’t so much as a spiritual decision as a personal necessity, but I gave up twitter for Lent for several reasons. First, I was finding out that I was not being wise in my discretion on what I should tweet. Something had to change. I was depending too much on this electronic form of communication to tell the world things that oftentimes did not need to be told to the world. Which leads me to my next point. I was learning all I needed to know about my friends, via twitter. And they knew everything that was going on in my life, via twitter. There was no need for phone calls or coffee dates. No need to catch up on what is going on in each other’s lives, no real need to talk. When you can tweet, why talk? FYI, coffee dates are my favorite things in the world. I love sitting at a coffee shop catching up with a friend, but I seriously do not remember the last time this happened in my life. So, I knew information, or they knew information about me, but I was still deeply craving personal interaction. I wanted someone to care about me enough to ask me what was going on in my life, how I was doing, if life is hard; not just read my tweets. But, with the amount i was tweeting, there was no need for anyone to ask me this and I basically knew the whereabouts of my friends. There is a deep problem with this.
While electronic communication can be a wonderful thing and I love the world wide web, it destroys face to face conversations. I gave up twitter, even deleted the app from my phone, in order to pursue friendships on the personal level better. I want to hang out with friends more, catch up with friends on the phone more, ask them personally how their life is going….and I want them to do the same for me. Christ does call us to live in community and if my community is being built around twitter, I have a problem. So, I stepped back from twitter to fix this problem. Right now, I don’t feel like I have done a great job in this department, even though I am not tweeting. Sadly, life stays the same, even in Lent, and relationships still can be strained. And of course, I still struggle with opening up to people and knowing how to pursue friends. So, in the 2 weeks of Lent so far, I am still working on this. But my goal, by April 24, is to see a remarkable difference in my relationships with people, difference for the better.
So Lent. No I am not Catholic and therefore it might seem dumb that I even acknowledge this time, but for me, it is a special time. A time of remembering what the Lord sacrificed for me, a time for me to practice a spiritual discipline that I rarely practice, a time that draws my heart closer to the Lord, and a time that I pray helps me strengthen personal friendships. And so, I pray:
we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you
with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
When you want to write a post on exhaustion, but you are too exhausted to even think of how to start the post, does that mean you are past the point of exhaustion? My last few weeks have been wonderful, but they have literally left me at a point of exhaustion. This post has been sitting here in draft mode, ready to be finished, for the past week and a half and I am just now able to put thoughts to words and finish the thoughts. The past weeks have been full of wonderful meetings with my personal friends, mothers of teenagers, committee members who support North Dallas Young Life, middle schoolers and high schoolers. Being deeply involved in the lives of others is a wonderful thing. To know the joys and good times, the hurts and temptations is both wonderful and heartbreaking.
Mothers tell the background of what is going on: who is affected, the concrete details, where the events have happened and then ask deep questions, searching for answers as to why their precious young teenagers are having to deal with situations that they could not even imagine going through in adulthood.
Teenagers give me tearful emotions, crying out for answers as to why their world is so broken. Middle schoolers and high schoolers alike come asking the same question: Why is their world falling apart? Why are their friends “experimenting” with sexuality and what does that mean for them? What do I believe is truth ? Is there really truth? Why do I not have any friends – everyone in my class smokes pot and sleeps around? Why do I not fit in with anyone? Why is my family life chaos? Why does no one love me – what do I need to do to get someone to love me? Their questions are not always out loud – sometimes they are only seen through their actions or told through their stories over ice cream at Pinkberry. The deeper I gets into these relationships, the easier it is to pick up on the questions, and the easier it is to go home every day with a broken heart.
This is my work world – day in and day out – it never ends and always changes. It’s wonderful and heavy. And it is hard to come home. Once I come home, I face the reality of my own life, its struggles, questions and temptations. These struggles in my own life weigh me down tremendously but I can deal with it in my life. I have the people/support/God in my life to wade through those waters with. However, it angers me that my teenagers have to work through the same struggles.
My own life is not rid of similar struggles. Throughout my life, I have struggled and fought my way through life with the Lord. Today, I am still walking in the midst of all the struggles that have followed me through high school, college and post-college life. It is a daily fight. I do not know why the Lord has me walking through so many things, but for some reason, this is the walk He has for me. I have accepted this war as my life and am ok walking through it, only because I have hope that my Savior will save me and there will be a day in my future where I am free from all the struggles in this life. These things cause me to daily come to the Lord, crying out for help.
But most of the teenagers in the schools I work in do not know my Savior, therefore they do not have this hope. Many of my teenagers do not have a glimpse of a day where there is no more pain and struggles in life. Without Christ to see through the struggles in this world, they look for other saviors, that only end in even more pain. There is no way I can navigate them through these waters without talking about Jesus. He is the only one to heal this chaos. The craziness in this life will still remain; the tv shows will still show teenagers in same-sex relationships and free flowing alcohol, the music will still talk about a teenage dream, and hallways are still full of mean girls and teenagers with broken families. Therefore, my heart cries out for my Savior to save these teenagers, who are too young and innocent to know how to walk through these waters their middle schools and high school represent and who desperately need a Savior, to save them from this life, from themselves, and from their sin. Lord, please come soon and end this chaos….and please save our teenagers.
Give us the teenagers that we may lead them to Thee. Our hearts ache for the millions of young people who remain untouched by the Gospel and for the tragically large proportion of those who have dropped by the wayside and find themselves without spiritual guidance. Help us to give them a chance, oh Father, a chance to become aware of thy Son’s beauty and healing power in the might of the Holy Spirit. Oh, Lord Jesus, give us the teenagers, each one at least long enough for a meaningful confrontation with Thee. We are at best unprofitable servants, but thy grace is sufficient. Oh, thou Holy Spirit, give us the teenagers. For we love them and know them to be awfully lonely. Dear Lord, give us the teenagers.”
– Jim Rayburn, Founder of Young Life
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:18-22
O Lord…I need you. Please help me to put my hope in you. You will provide for me, you alone will save me.
8 years ago, I sat at Mississippi State University wondering what in the world I was doing. I loved art and computers, I wanted to be creative, and inside me, I wanted to be famous. I found myself majoring in graphic design with an emphasis in animation. It was animation that stole my heart – something about the creative process, the storyboards, the late night rendering sessions, the community within the studio, the way I could turn a drawing on paper into a 3d model on a computer was fascinating. When I entered the program, Pixar was the big thing. I remember watching hours of Monster’s Inc and similar
movies to try to learn how they got textures to move like that and characters to look so lifelike. I wanted to work at Pixar! That’s a cool, impressive job,
right? Also, back in those days, Lord of the Rings became the obsession of almost every animation major, especially at Mississippi State. One of our professors took off and moved to New Zealand to work for the up and coming Weta Workshop. LOTR 1 and 2 came out and we devoured them in the studio. One time, while pulling 4 all nighters in a row (it happened often), I watched LOTR – The Twin Towers, so many times that I had it memorized. I wanted to learn how to make digital effects so real, how to texturize a model so complex and how to build a vector so smoothly. LOTR became the ultimate of an animation degree.
During this time, I was also dating a boy named Wade, who was pursuing a master’s in animation. Wade’s talents were far above mine and he soon also took a position with Weta in New Zealand to work on LOTR 3. After he moved to New Zealand and I realized how wonderful this country was, all I wanted to do was get to New Zealand and work for Weta. I have no idea if my abilities would have really allowed that dream to be a reality, but it was my desire. Because I was still under the financial security of my parents and they forbid me to go to New Zealand, I never made it there. Wade eventually came home and Weta won an Oscar for Visual Effects on LOTR 3. Wade didn’t want to go to the Academy Awards and I remember being fairly angry that he didn’t go and take me as his date. That probably was my only shot to be in a place like the Academy Awards and he didn’t want to go??! Are you serious??
Somewhere along that time, the Lord started working in my heart. I loved my animation, how I could easily lock myself in the studio and not even realize when days would go by. I loved how the thoughts and worries of life slipped away when I had a pencil, paper and computer. It was an introvert’s paradise. Eventually though, I saw my position in my life as a believer who is called to be out in the world telling people about Jesus, and I wasn’t sure how my current
life was really allowing that lifestyle. After a little while, I received my degree, but turned my back on animation and haven’t touched it since, in order to pursue a life where I can be most used by the Lord. It took me some struggles to figure things out, and some years of growing with the Lord to get to where I am today, in full time ministry. And even when days are so hard and painful that I want to run away and quit my job forever, I know I am in the place the Lord has for me, at least for right now. But tonight, while watching the Oscars, I couldn’t help but think about the life I left behind. The life of animation, movies and film, digital effects and Oscars. It is an exciting life! I still long for that world sometimes, there is a tug on my heart to get back into it and succeed at this art that I loved, but the Lord redirected my path, and who am I to question Him?
I am sure there are some animators out there that love Jesus, I am not saying that it is not possible. I just know that it was not the life the Lord had for me. As an introvert functioning in a largely extroverted ministry, sometimes I question the why of this. But I do know, that our immeasurable value rests solely
in the fact that God created us, that His unconditional love sets us apart and that He designed and empowers a unique plan for each one of us. Jeremiah 1:5 says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart.” I was born in response to the determined plan of God, not as an afterthought. Before I took even one breath, every day, every step and every circumstance in my plan was recorded. I trust in a God who predestines His own and it is extremely reassuring, when I question the hard times in life, to remember the truth that my God predetermined the steps He laid out
for my life. There is no way I can mess them up! God’s plan uses my strengths as well as my weaknesses, both of which are a part of me that God created, a truth that I am learning how to embrace. Different seasons of life are also part of his plan for my life as well, the easy and the hard. True success comes, not when I win an Oscar, but when, I find myself being in the place God created me to be, doing what He created me to do; sharing His Gospel everyday with all those around me.
Could I dothis in the animation field? absolutely
Could I have had the life I wanted back in college? not what God had planned for me.
Ah, the plan of God. His word says that only HIS plan succeeds in life and for that, I am grateful. I don’t want to imagine what I would have made of my life if I would have gone down that path. Knowing the things I struggle with today, and after watching the people/movies displayed at the Oscars tonight, I can only imagine that it would not be good at all. Regardless of what my actions would or would not have been, it was not God’s plan for me. I am thankful that I can rest in the supreme, sufficient and Sovereign God that is mine. His plan alone is the one that works, the one that is best, the one that brings life. Just as John 6:35-40 says, “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” He alone gives life, not this world that so falsely advertises that it can give me life. I so quickly and easily fall prey to the materialism of this world and what it can offer me. But my God is faithful, even when I am faithless. Thankfully his love and plans are not conditional, but unconditional. He gave me everything, but requires nothing of me but to come to him with open arms. Praise Christ that He gave everything, so that I could have life, life that has ultimate joy. Lord forgive me for thinking the world can give me joy, and give me the strength to fight this world and pursue you and your Gospel alone.
I do not think any efforts of my own will can end once and for all this craving for limited liabilities, this fatal reservation. Only God can. I have good faith and hope He will. Of course, I don’t mean I can therefore, as they say, “sit back.” What God does for us, He does in us. The process of doing it will appear to me (and not falsely) to be the daily or hourly repeated exercises of my own will in renouncing this attitude, especially each morning, for it grows all over me like a new shell each night. Failures will be forgiven; it is acquiescence that is fatal, the permitted, regularised presence of an area in ourselves which we still claim for our own. We may never, this side of death, drive the invader out of our territory, but we must be in the Resistance, not in the Vichy government. And this, so far as i can yet see, must begun again every day. Our morning prayer should be that in the Imitation: Da hodie perfecte incipere-grant me to make an unflawed beginning today, for I have done nothing yet.
– C.S. Lewis from his book The Weight of Glory
Thank you C.S. Lewis for this reminder today…to start this battle every morning, and to keep fighting….