Tagged: faithfulness

When You Get Engaged

Grant proposed to me on December 13th and I am officially an engaged woman! Wedding planning has me stoked (probably a tad too stressed, as well), and I know that being engaged is supposed to be an exciting, celebratory time. And I am excited and celebrating.

But I’d be lying if I said that Grant and I are having the time of our lives. I pray to God that this is not all there is.

Because relationships are not easy. They are back-breakingly hard.

And if you are dying to be in my shoes, I want you to know that sometimes I’d really like to be in yours.

This is where everyone scolds me for getting engaged. You’re not ready! Are you sure he’s the right one? This is an awful attitude to have when you’re getting married. 

But is it so awful? To have the realization NOW that love feels almost impossible sometimes than have that realization AFTER we vow to spend the rest of our lives together?

I’m thankful that my eyes are opened continually to the selfishness of my nature and the selfishness of his. I’m perhaps even glad that we fight and raise our voices and feel hurt from the weight of each other’s weaknesses.

Why? Because when I say “I do” to this man, I’ll know that I really mean it. I’ll know that this commitment I am declaring before God and my loved ones hasn’t been made in blind love. It’s been made through tears and anger and fears and some bitterness, too.

I believe that the decision to marry someone is a commitment that should not be made when you’re happy. It should be made when you’re in your lowest of lows, when you’ve seen some of the tough stuff that this commitment will ask of you and bring into your life.

Although I know marriage is not all there is to life, I do believe God designed it to be a beautiful and life-long demonstration of Christ’s love for us. And in case you are unaware, Christ loves us through EVERYTHING. Our good times, our best behavior, and also our weakest and darkest moments. It doesn’t make sense. And Grant and I want to love each other in this nonsensical way, too.

We must be crazy because we are nowhere near ready to be married. We are young and immature and bad at love. Yet we are ready for marriage in the regard of signing up for this ludicrous idea of lifelong love anyway… because that’s the kind of commitment that I know marriage takes.

After watching married couples struggle and fight and divorce and mourn, I know that the ones who remain committed to each other must be crazy. And not crazy in love. They’re so crazy that they plot murder while somehow not acting on it. They’re wrapped up in a terrifying, almost-ridiculous commitment that watches love walk out the door again and again yet still hopes and still stands firm.

I’ve only begun making this commitment to Grant. It’s something you do with an officiant and some witnesses, but it’s also a decision you continue to make and live with for the rest of your life. And I want to take the next step.

Because I know this is one back-breaking, gut-wrenching commitment that will take me places I didn’t want to go and then carry me to places I never want to leave.

The reality is that relationships and marriages will face opposition and bring you some of the worst pain you’ve ever known all while being one of the greatest adventures you could ever ask to be on.

Because even though it’s far from perfect, it’s with him. And even though you will have thoughts of walking away during tough nights and loud fights, you will realize you wouldn’t want it any other way. Easier, maybe. But not if it means a different man at a different time in a different place. You see the beauty in where you are, the holy ground you both have been standing on.

And you realize that this desire to fight for just one chance with this one man is love.

Faithful, tried and true love with room to grow.

This is where Grant and I are at. I know we have so much left to learn. We’ve hardly even started figuring out this whole dating thing, let alone this permanent doing-life-together thing called marriage.

But we’ve figured out that it has to be done together. Join or die.

Are you in this with me?

Yes, I say.

Are you in this with me?

Yes, he replies.

It somehow becomes enough. When you know that you have a God beside you and going before you, you start to see things in a different way.

Thoughts of giving up become prayers of surrender. Signs of failure become opportunities for growth. A growing faithfulness to each other becomes an increased awareness of God’s faithfulness to us.

I’m sharing these things because I want you to know why I am marrying Grant, but I am also sharing these things because I want you to know what it might be like when you’re engaged. If you’re wishing to be in my shoes because you don’t yet have a ring on your finger, I want to emphasize one thing.

Having a ring on my finger has not made a single thing better. It’s just made things more real. 

And I don’t know about you, but I need more of reality. I need to see things as they really are so I can stop standing in one place and wishing for something to magically happen instead of doing the work that I know building a life together requires.

I need constant reminders that love isn’t magic. Love is a beautiful gift from God and of God that we’re still figuring out how to wield. That’s why we need to be on our knees, praying out of desperation for the things only God can do. That’s why we need to be alert, aware of the attacks of satan that have been trying to strangle Grant and I since day one.

When I first got a taste of this reality, I hated love. I hated Grant. I hated the promises I made. I hated this ring. Take it back! I wanted to scream. But after pushing through that hate and that bitterness and that fear and those doubts, I began to figure out that I do love being engaged to this man. Despite the harshness of reality and the lack of magic in this ring, I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s a conclusion I’ll have to keep coming back to for the rest of my life. That’s marriage.

If some of these things sound like dumb reasons to get married, then I guess we’re getting married for some dumb reasons. But regardless of whether we have the best of reasons or the absolute worst, I know we’ll stay married for beautiful, wise reasons.

Christ is in it for the long haul and so are we.

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The Dead Man’s Mother

Photo by ozgurcakir via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/6nWHbx)

Photo by ozgurcakir via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/6nWHbx)

Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

. . . . . .

I have been this dead man’s mother.

I have carried broken, dead dreams. I have cried alongside coffins containing my hopes and wishes and prayers. Sometimes my heart.

And Jesus has met me on my way to bury these things. He has stopped the funeral procession in progress. Moved with compassion, he has stepped out of the crowd, lifted my chin, and whispered words of relief.

Sometimes when he does this, I look first into his eyes and then back at the coffin and say, “but they’re still dead.” What I have been carrying with me is still unmoving, void of life. I continue on with the funeral procession, desperate to bury these things in the ground and bury myself in sorrow.

But he replies, “You don’t have to bury this at all.” And with one swift motion, he approaches the dead and reverses the damage. He breathes life into what I never thought I’d see breathing again.

And I am reunited with my beloved.

I am rejoiced, overcome with gratitude and awe.

. . . . . .

This is a beautiful story of a mother whose hope was revived as Jesus interrupted a funeral procession and brought her dead son back to life.

And this, too, is my story as Jesus revives my hope and brings my dead things back to life time and time again.

I have been this dead man’s mother, yet I have also often forgotten it.

I have witnessed Jesus interrupt my funeral processions and breathe life back into my hopes and dreams, and then I have thrown accusations at him. Why didn’t you come sooner?

I have seen him change my life. I was even once that dead man. Jesus saved me as crying, praying mothers walked alongside my coffin. And yet I live as though I’m still dead, unable to move or see a future ahead.

I have been given by God what no other could give: revived hopes and dreams, a healing heart that once felt irreparably broken. And then I have felt the call of death come again, rendering me forgetful of His healing hand.

I find myself crying out as if nothing has ever happened. As if I have never seen dead things rise. As if I never was this dead man and never was this dead man’s mother.

. . . . . .

The Spirit inside of me contains the power to move mountains, yet I have been staring at mountains without making a move.

I forget the power that raised this mother’s dead son lives in me. I forget the work that has been done and the promises that have been given.

Most of all, I forget that God is good.

I question his desire to move my mountains because I’ve been staring at nothing but these mountains all my life.

Of course they’re going to seem insurmountable when all I do is gape at their largeness and question God in His faithfulness.

How is He ever going to prove His faithfulness in my life if I’m so quick to forget my once-dead son?

In Scripture, we read of stories where God came to His children’s rescue and they then built an altar to declare and remember what God had done. So where are my altars? Why am I brushing past healing, victories, and resurrections in my life? No wonder I can’t remember. No wonder I’m quick to doubt and fear.

Where is my good Father? I’ve been demanding.

Where is He not? is the better question.

. . . . . .

My declaration over today: I once was dead and now I am alive. My broken heart is being tenderly mended. My hopes and dreams have been renewed.

What has taken place is worthy of remembrance.

So today, God, I remember you.

This is the Long, Arduous Walk of Faithfulness

Photo by Christian Robold on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisrsouthland/14689156225)

Photo by Christian Robold on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisrsouthland/14689156225)

We both had things to say as we sat in that corner booth of Waffle House, and I found divine questions dancing behind my tongue, eager for ears to listen.

How do I know what to keep praying boldly for and persevering in? How do I know what to remain faithful to if I can’t see where God wants to do the greatest work? I asked her.

Isaiah didn’t see a single convert as he did God’s will, but did that make him any less faithful? She asked me.

. . . . . .

I don’t know many things. I hardly know anything, I should say.

I know what I desire, what I wish God would do. But I don’t know for sure if those desires are His. I don’t know for sure if big results will be reaped from my big dreams.

All I know is I keep praying and hoping. I keep thinking that holding onto these dreams says something. Look, God. I’m not giving up. I want to be faithful with this.

Will you bless me if I remain faithful? Will you let these things come to pass if I don’t cease believing and praying?

I thought maybe she would bring me divine answers in that Waffle House, but I instead walked away with a question.

Isaiah didn’t see a single convert as he did God’s will, but did that make him any less faithful?

Any less faithful than the pastors of the largest church congregations in the world, she was referring to. Any less faithful than the person with the longest list of people brought to faith by their ministry.

No, Isaiah was not any less faithful. He was obedient and bold in prayer without seeing the numbers. He knew the numbers weren’t what mattered. He knew what he had to do, whether there were visible results or no results at all.

Can I say the same thing about myself?

. . . . . .

God is calling me to be faithful.

What am I going to do with that? With just this one piece of information, this one glimpse of His plan for my life?

I’m going to be faithful. I’m going to be faithful with where I’m at and with what I have.

My life isn’t meant to be a numbers-based journey comprised of me hopping around from one success to another, looking for the greatest product of my efforts.

I’m called to a faith-based journey comprised of me trusting in God’s sovereignty and grace over each decision I make and every step I take.

It doesn’t matter how many fights we have, how many obstacles and temptations we face, how many late nights of tearful miscommunications we have — I will remain faithful to the man I believe God has brought into my life, the man I have promised to love daily and intentionally.

It doesn’t matter how many kids raise their hands during the prayer of salvation, how many attendees we have at our church events, how many things I could complain about or find fault in — I will remain faithful to this ministry with middle schoolers that God has given me a passion for.

It doesn’t matter how few people read my writing or how many followers this blog has — I will remain faithful to the burdens God has placed on my heart and the gift He has given me to share them.

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been ignored by people, how many communities I’ve been hurt by — I will remain faithful to the pursuit of others, striving to show them the same love that Christ has for me.

It doesn’t matter how many things have not yet been healed, how many prayers have not yet been answered — I will remain faithful in prayer, faithful to God and trusting in His faithfulness to me.

How long will I remain faithful to these things? Until God shows me a different way.

This is the long, arduous walk of faithfulness that is bound to take me through thorns and thistles. And this is the long, arduous walk of faithfulness that God has revealed Himself in as I find His hand ever reaching for mine in the dark. 

Make me into an Isaiah, I pray. Let me be faithful, too.

You are, my child, He says. Persevere and walk on.

The Grey Area

This semester has been a wreck- not in an entirely bad way, but in such a way that there is still beauty in the broken pieces and perhaps this wreck will eventually become a monumental piece of art in Jessie history.

What is the true cause of this wreck, you may ask? Simple.

The answer is God.

Now hold up. I’m not blaming Him, accusing Him, or talking negatively about Him. He is to thank for this wreck because without it, I’d still be living in fear, relentless pressure, and maybe even twisted theology.

The truth that He has been revealing to me gradually over the past couple of months involves choices. Let’s face it- life is full of them. I can’t even get out of my bed in the morning without making at least one choice (which is usually choosing to even get out of bed at all). What I’m typing to you guys is so real to me and still very fresh. I don’t know everything and I’m sure that God can flip my thoughts entirely upside down in a matter of seconds. Just hear me out and see if maybe this is the answer you’ve been looking for but never were told.

Back story: I applied for an internship in January. More specifically, I applied for my dream internship. The job description, the environment, the organization was everything I had dreamt of. This internship was like my Disney World. I believed wholeheartedly that God was leading me to this internship so I planned my whole summer in faith that He would work this out and let me go. It made perfect sense for me to go and I knew my All-loving Daddy gives His children the desire of their hearts (Psalm 37:4). Why wouldn’t I be accepted? It looked like God literally planted this internship in my lap and there was nothing that could stop this (what I presumed to be His plan) from happening.

Long story short: I got rejected by the organization last night.

These past few months have almost looked like a cycle that has still not fully returned to the beginning. I began with wholehearted trust in God. Then waiting followed. More waiting. A little bit of doubting. Some crying here and there. Then A LOT of doubting, which turned into anger at Him. Then praising Him despite the doubt and finding joy in Him despite the confusion. Until last night’s news came, which was pretty much the despair portion of this cycle. And now I’m at the stage where I’m learning to trust Him again regardless but I know there is still quite a bit of doubt, confusion, and mixed feelings inside of me.

The thing that I’ve been learning through this, along with the other serious choices I’ve been faced with lately, is that not everything is black and white. I always thought that proper theology taught we need to follow God’s leading in obedience and that’s it. That was what I believed and held on to for dear life.

Now I’m realizing there’s a lot of grey area. A LOT. For example, where do both free will and predestination come into play? Now that I know I’m not doing the internship, I have to decide what I will do with my summer.

Do I get a job? Do I continue working at my church? Do I just relax and be lazy? Do I register for summer classes? Do I find a new ministry? Do I have a summer romance?

Even more important, why isn’t God revealing what I need to do? Why has he let me walk down this path of complete dedication to this internship I assumed I’d be accepted into? Why didn’t he intervene and let me sign up for summer classes earlier or start applying for jobs? Why didn’t he spare me the pain and confusion and the awful waiting?

If there’s a right path for me, then what is it? That’s the question I’ve been asking God.

And this is where the grey area comes in because maybe it all comes down to me just having to choose. That’s a scary thought because all my life, I just assumed God had the best plan picked out for me and everything I did had to align with that plan. But that sort of thinking is wrong because where’s the free will in that? We are not slaves; we are beings made with creativity and interests and passions. Yes, God does know best and He does lead us to where we need to be, but why does that mean we have to lose the power to choose?

Instead of seeing God as holding out two different options and asking me to pick the best one, the one that will make Him happy, I think God is really just holding out many different options and asking me to pick what I want to do. Granted, I’m not going to pick a life of stripping at the club because I know that’s definitely not His will for me. But I’m not going to just wait for the “right” thing to plop into my lap either.

I was reading Ezekiel 15 this morning where God is referring to the Israelites as a “useless vine” because they have fallen away from Him and have been unfaithful to Him. Instead of bearing righteousness, the fruit they were created to bear, they were running to all the wrong things. The last verse in that chapter really spoke to me.

I will make the land desolate because they have been unfaithful, declares the Sovereign Lord (v.8).

The Israelites were a community that contained just as much creativity, passion, and free will as we see people have today. Some people were craftsmen. Others were musicians. Some just simply grew food for their family day in and day out. The point is that they were called to bear righteousness, but they were called to do so in different ways. And my guess is that they chose how they wanted to do that. The reason why God was upset with the Israelites is because they were unfaithful and chose sin. If they had continued doing what they were doing instead of idolizing other gods and things, I know God would have been happy with His children. It was their faithfulness that mattered.

Look at Abraham. In Genesis 12, God told Abraham to leave his country and go to a land He will show him. He didn’t even reveal the destination! He just told him to walk in faith. Later on in Genesis 15, it says about Abraham that he “believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (v. 6).

Notice that it says Abraham’s belief in God was what bore that righteousness, not making all the right moves and knowing everything God had planned for him.

It’s the faithfulness that’s key. I might have all the choices in the world to make and none of the answers, and that’s okay. What matters is, am I being faithful to God? Am I trusting that He’ll open doors that need to be opened and shut doors that need to be closed? Am I going where He leads me but still maintaining a faith even if He doesn’t seem to be leading me anywhere?

Do I trust that He loves me enough to let me choose things for myself and make decisions, let me make mistakes, let me live out my passions and enjoy what I enjoy?

Sometimes we think He’s walking ahead of us on a path He has designed for us. What if He really is walking next to us on a path He is designing with us?

Yes, there’s a lot of grey area. We never truly will be able to comprehend this whole concept of free will mixed with predestination and a whole bunch of other theological terms. What we can grasp on to, however, is His love for us. And as we walk with Him, we must not forget how deep that love  goes and how far it is carried as we press on in this life. The decisions you make, the places you go will not change that.

He loves you just as much today as He ever has and ever will. Because of that, you can walk in freedom.

His Faithfulness Remains

A few days ago, I was reminded of something that still blows me away- God’s faithfulness despite our own unfaithfulness.

Take the book of Hosea for example. Back story: Hosea is a prophet who is told by God to marry a prostitute and have children with her, “for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord” (1:2).

First of all, if I was Hosea, I’d be a little confused as to why I needed to marry a prostitute to prove a point about God’s faithfulness. Would a simple message not do?

Then what happens next is the part that truly grabs my attention.

Hosea’s wife leaves him to continue being promiscuous.

And yet God commands Hosea, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods…” (3:1).

And there is something wedged between these two events- God pursues His unfaithful wife.

“… I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.’ (2:6-7)

“… she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,” declares the Lord. ‘Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her”… “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ ” (2:13-14,16)

Is this not a beautiful picture of God’s love for us?

I was particularly struck by this as I thought of all the ways I have abandoned Him due to distraction in this world. I was deeply convicted of being unfaithful by my actions and focus.

Through James 4, I was reminded:

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the Spirit he caused to dwell in us longs jealously? But he gives us more grace. (4:4-6)

Yes, I make mistakes. Yes, I allow myself to take my focus off of Jesus Christ, my true Husband and Love. Yet He never stops loving me. In fact, Scripture says He longs for me jealously, and despite all I’ve done, He gives me more grace.

And the same is true for you.

His faithfulness is so deep, your unfaithfulness cannot even taint it.

This brings me back to the story of Abraham and God making a covenant in Genesis 15. The story goes that God gives Abraham promises for himself and his descendants. To make this promise official, God makes a covenant with Abraham much like people in those days would normally make covenants together. Animal sacrifices are split into halves and arranged opposite each other. After this is done, both people making the covenant pass through these pieces, which is called “cutting the covenant.” After the covenant is made, any breaking of the covenant by either person results in them being subject to death.

But this is where God declares His faithfulness.

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram… (Genesis 15:17)

Did you notice that it didn’t say Abraham passed through? God alone participated in cutting the covenant, symbolizing that Abraham doesn’t have to keep his part of the covenant. Even if Abraham breaks it, God will still keep His promise and come through. He remains faithful.

No matter what you are facing and how far you have strayed from God, remember that He is still just as faithful as ever.

He is consistently pursuing you, even if you are brought into a wilderness where all is unknown and seemingly dark. Let Him speak tenderly to you and welcome you back into His embrace.

Although our unfaithfulness is nothing to boast of, it allows us to see God’s amazing faithfulness put into action. Where sin runs deep, His grace is more.