There are mornings I spend just wanting to climb back into bed. I want to start over and pretend like the past few hours of my life didn’t happen. Either I made a mistake or I wasted time, and instead of coping with it, I let it affect my attitude towards my whole day. Nothing seems redeemable in my eyes, like my morning is a casserole in the oven too far burnt to save.
The other day, I told my therapist about this problem of mine, and she naturally had some wise things to say.
“Perhaps you need to create a reset button for yourself, something that you physically do as a declaration that you are starting your day over. Instead of sitting in your failures and shame, you can “hit” the reset button and choose to start over instead of letting those things affect your whole day,” she told me.
I went home kind of excited after that, not because she told me how to solve all of my life problems, but because she gave me something to do. I now had something to work towards and aim for. My task-driven personality thrives off of these things.
So I did what she said.
I pondered what my reset button would be for a couple days and I settled on showering. Yes, I decided taking a shower will be my reset button. It will be my way of cleansing myself of all my morning impurities and mistakes. Any time I feel like I got off on the wrong foot, I’ll step into the tub as one person and step out of the tub completely different. Genius, right?
But then there are times that doesn’t work. The wiring in my brain won’t let me let go. I know I should be able to move on, but the perfectionist in me is screaming lies about my potential and my worth. How do you fight that? I’m twenty years old and still feel like a five-year-old cowering in the corner when they’ve done something wrong.
And this is when I need to cry out those pocket prayers, the four-letter sentences you reserve for times of desperation. Lord, I need you. Jesus, please help me. Save me from this.
Sometimes I feel God’s presence immediately, but more often than not, I have to wait for it. Because I have so many doubts and anxieties, it takes a minute for the reality of the supernatural to sink in. And every time, I’m surprised. Wow, God! You showed up! Of course He did. He does that, you know. But you can’t tell that to the girl sniffling on the couch who just got out of the shower and feels like she’s out of options.
I had the privilege of preaching to the middle schoolers at my church this past Sunday. After working with middle schoolers for over two years, I’ve seen my passion deepened and my gifts strengthened in ways I never expected. But when I’m given an opportunity to speak to them as more than that obnoxious girl who plays all the games on Sunday morning, I sometimes hesitate to take up that offer. I get scared of not having anything to say (as always, though, I find that I do have things to say. I’m a writer, for crying out loud!).
I gave a sermon on Sunday about being thankful and how thankfulness is preceded by hope and followed by worship (check out Hebrews 12:28). I went home pleased and exhausted. As soon as I reached my bed, I collapsed into it and didn’t wake up until two hours later.
But when I did wake up, something wasn’t right.
A storm was raging outside my window and something was raging inside my heart.
I was angry and upset with Grant (for reasons that don’t need to be discussed) and I called him to communicate these feelings to him. After an hour of arguing and whining and yelling and interrupting, we reached a point where the silence between the two of us was deafening. I’m holding my phone, fuming. He’s holding his phone, frantically trying. We’re miles apart in both distance and understanding.
And the shame washed over me.
Here I was, arguing with this man who loves me so much more than I give him credit for, and I just preached to a room-full of kids on thankfulness. I felt like the fakest faker in all the world. I preach God’s Word and can hardly live it out.
And even after realizing the fault in my attitude, pride was holding on too tight for me to just let it go. Four-letter sentences could probably fix this, but I could hardly muster one word.
So I thought one word instead. The smallest pocket prayer.
And as I was laying in my bed and holding my phone, still fuming, and he was laying in his bed and holding his phone, still frantically trying, something happened. Orange shone through my closed blinds. My room was glowing all around me. I turned over onto my stomach and peeked through the blinds behind my bed, and what I saw rendered me speechless. The storm that had been raging as we were arguing was gone, and what was left in its place was a beautiful sunset. And let me tell you, this sunset was beautiful but also eerie. Everything was tinted orange. I had never seen anything like it before.
“Grant, look out your window,” I whispered to him through the phone.
“Why? Are you there?” He asked.
“No, just look.”
I hear some fumbling and then silence. He’s speechless for a second, too.
“Everything’s orange,” he said.
And just like that, the cold exterior around my heart melted.
“I love you,” I whispered.
“I love you too,” he said back.
Tears started falling down my face as I again recognized the beauty of this man I have in my life.
And I again realized the beauty of God’s presence after what felt like a never-ending, raging storm.
That’s silly, Jessie, you might be tempted to say.
I know it is. I know it’s silly to put so much stock into one orange night. Just like it’s silly to put so much stock into showers and metaphors and reset buttons.
But when it comes to God, I don’t want to put anything past Him. I don’t want to say He can’t show up and change things.
I’m sharing this because it helps me. I write to process and I like to share what I write so I’m not alone. But I’m also sharing this because I know that things I write has helped people feel less alone, too.
So this one goes out to the perfectionists, the ones too hard on themselves, the ones wishing for reset buttons and life-sized erasers. Sometimes your reset buttons will work, but sometimes they won’t.
And when they don’t, I pray (literally praying right now) that you allow yourself to accept the grace only God can give. The grace to be yourself. The grace to move on from mistakes. The grace to let go after arguments. The grace to again set about practicing what you preach.
I need that grace. I know that come morning, I’ll probably need it just like I do many other mornings. I know that there will still be many days I leave my house feeling frazzled and disappointed. But there’s grace for when I’m feeling inside-out on those upside-down mornings.
And there’s grace for your mornings that are like that, too.
Confession: I do this thing where I end up looking to my boyfriend to fill me instead of looking to God.
I’m comfortable telling you that because I’m finally realizing that I’m not alone in this struggle. For the longest time, I’ve been afraid to show anything about my relationship with Grant that could be contrary to the good image of our relationship that people probably have in their minds.
But I know now that my failure to always put God first in my relationship with Grant is not the same as having a bad relationship or being a bad girlfriend/bad Christian. It just means I’m a normal human being who still has a lot left to learn.
For the past couple days, I’ve had to ask God to forgive me for letting Grant consume a majority of my time and energy and focus. As I was setting apart more and more time to build my relationship with him, I was neglecting to use my time to build my relationship with God. I justified it for some time by telling myself that if Grant and I are working towards marriage, then we must pour all of our efforts into this to make it the best and most godly marriage in the whole wide world.
I forgot that I’m already in a marriage, a beautiful union with Jesus. He is my first love and my Husband. My relationship with him is the reason I even get to enjoy such a great relationship with Grant.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Grant and I have been reading through Proverbs both together and on our own this past month. Never before have we realized so much wisdom is packed in this book! Proverbs is even where we found the passage we decided to adopt as our vision for our relationship.
By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.
The wise prevail through great power,
and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
Surely you need guidance to wage war,
and victory is won through many advisers (Proverbs 24:3-6)
We want to build a relationship that’s built and established by wisdom. We’ve made our fair share of unwise mistakes (before each other and with each other) and we know now more than ever how valuable wisdom is when you’re merging two lives together. Just like this passage says, we want our “house” to be “filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”
What made this passage even more meaningful to us is when I stumbled across this verse:
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).
By JESUS our house is built and established. Because of JESUS, our rooms can be filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
This is something we’re having to remind ourselves of again and again. It is too easy to neglect God when you’re madly in love. But let me tell you something truly amazing: God makes sure our relationship is not all rainbows and roses. I believe that stumbling blocks are put in our way and those stumbling blocks serve as reminders that God is the one we need above all else. These stumbling blocks may come from satan, but because God works all things for our good (Romans 8:28), He knows how to use our temptations and failings to pull us back to Him.
I’ve experienced this in the past couple of days. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Grant and not as much time with God, and I’ve been longing for Grant to be there for me in times of sadness and fear more than I’ve been longing for God.
Thankfully, Grant is also a human being who still has a lot left to learn because when he tries to fix everything and be my everything, he fails. This shows me just how insufficient his love is to satisfy my deep longings. That might sound sad to some, but it’s actually a very humbling, beautiful thing. It’s during these times when I’m pulled back to God (after sulking and wrongfully blaming Grant, of course).
I feel bad for putting Grant above God, but I know that the guilt or embarrassment I feel during these times do not come from God. Instead of guilt, there is abundant grace.
My relationship with Grant is not sinful against God or something to be condemned; it’s being shaped and molded by God, something to praise Him and look to Him for.
This morning as I was reading Proverbs, I found this passage that summed up the truth I’ve been needing to hear:
Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God (Proverbs 30:7-9).
I don’t need poverty or riches. I just need my daily bread.
In other words, I don’t need to break off my relationship with Grant because of my mistakes. I also don’t need to stay in this habit of being consumed and obsessed with him.
I need God’s all-sufficient grace.
When I have too much of Grant, I “disown” God and forget how good He is. I neglect to spend time with my first love, my Husband.
When I don’t have Grant at all, I end up stealing all of Grant’s time and attention and focus. I dishonor Grant’s relationship with God when my neediness results in greediness. I dishonor God himself, the One who’s been right there with me with arms wide open as I’ve chased after a man who can neither fill nor satisfy my heart.
Yes, I need God’s all-sufficient grace. I am so thankful that He pours such grace upon me every single time I turn my eyes back to Him. And what amazes me is how that grace carries over into my relationship with Grant. Only this time, our relationship is healthier and back on track. We are building that house again. Or rather, Jesus is building it and we’re finally letting him.
I love Grant, but I love God more. I need Grant, but I need God more. I want Grant, but I want God more.
This is where I’m at and this is where I’ll always be. I might forget for some time, but grace carries me back. What a beautiful life I have with my beautiful God — my first love, my Husband. And I’m so thankful that God has allowed Grant to come alongside me and share in this beautiful life with me. We get to spend our lives looking up to heaven together and I can’t think of a better way to enjoy this relationship with the man I love.
Grant and I have been together for a year and I’m still falling more in love with him all the time! This man pursues me, fights for me, and serves me like no other. Grant doesn’t like this picture very much because he’s used to only seeing serious pictures of himself, but I love this picture because he just looks so HAPPY. Not everyone gets to see him this way, and I am thankful that he’s chosen me to be the woman who gets to see him and know him better than anyone else. He’s my best friend! I can’t help but thank God for Grant — not just because of what he means to me, but because of the man he is.
Being in a relationship is hard, guys.
I’ve known this for years, yet I still feel like I’m punched in the gut with that truth again and again.
I have no idea how to be someone’s girlfriend.
It’s a daunting task: to be the person they run to, the person they want to pour their love into, the person they want to support and appreciate wholeheartedly.
Because when you are that person for someone, there’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, But I don’t deserve it. And there’s no way I could be that lovely, loving person for them in return. At least that’s how it is for me.
I’m too selfish, too emotional, too messy, too prideful, too insecure, too bitter… how could I rightfully treat this man with respect and love when I hardly know how to love myself? How can I support and encourage this man when I can hardly support and encourage myself?
And he claims he’s a mess, too. Everyone’s got issues, he says. Baggage. But often times, I can only see my flaws and his strengths (or in my prideful moments, it ends up the other way around). And sometimes that makes a relationship one of bitterness or insecurity.
You have it all together. And I’m just… me. Awful, messy me. You should find another woman to love. Someone who doesn’t cry when things don’t go her way, someone who doesn’t pick fights for no reason other than her stupid insecurities.
Someone who always says the right things and does the right things.
It’s hard to remember that that someone doesn’t exist.
The other night, my boyfriend and I had this realization that we call ourselves a team, but we haven’t been acting like one lately. And my first reaction was, It’s my fault, while his first reaction was, It’s MY fault.
Isn’t that so silly? We both were so quick to take the blame.
And we could’ve just left it there. We both could’ve silently come to the conclusion that we’re messy, stupid people who don’t know how to be a good boyfriend or a good girlfriend. Beat ourselves up further and resolve to be better.
But that’s not what I want for him and that’s not what he wants for me.
So what’s a couple to do? Baby steps, my friends.
I asked how he was doing and he shared– open, honest communication about his week, his fears, his struggles. And I listened. I tried offering advice, but didn’t know if it was what he needed. I do think he appreciated the effort. But our conversation didn’t really last long. He had to be up early for work and I was pretty tired myself, so we said goodnight and went our separate ways.
And despite how I felt at that moment– wanting to storm into every room of mess and misunderstanding to set everything bad on fire and leave only the good, perfect, lovely things– that small, honest conversation was a good start.
I’m realizing you don’t have to hash everything out overnight. Every single issue, weakness, and insecurity doesn’t have to be laid out there on the table from day one. You don’t have to fix, fix, fix until both parties are dead tired and there’s nothing left to say.
There’s always going to be something left to say. We’re always going to have bad days and stress. We’re always going to have secrets we hold onto until someone pries us open. We’re always going to have moments of utter weakness that we beat ourselves up over for days.
You’re not going to make a perfect team overnight. You’re not going to make a perfect team over A LIFETIME.
Relationships are hard for everyone. Even the loveliest, sweetest of seasons in dating/marriage are eventually followed by hardships and messes.
We are messy people.
I’ve heard it said that a perfect relationship is just two imperfect people who don’t give up on each other.
I think that’s only partially true. What should be taken out is the “perfect relationship” part because there’s simply no such thing.
No two people can have a perfect relationship because no two people are perfect. No commitment is perfect. Promises are not always perfectly kept. Support doesn’t always come at the perfect time and in the most perfect way.
There’s no such thing as perfection in relationships because there’s no such thing as perfection in life.
The only perfect thing we have is a perfect God, and He’s the only one who can make our relationships into the beautiful, supportive teams we desire.
And even then, they can only be so good. Never perfect. That’s just the burden we live with until we go home to heaven.
So here’s my take on relationships right now: you do what you can with what you have and rely on God to do the rest.
I can show love to my boyfriend in the ways I understand love– kind words, warm affection, gifts and sacrifices. But when I’m stuck in my pride or my foolishness and I don’t even WANT to be loving or kind, I can ask God to strengthen His love in me so I can see past myself and forego my selfish ways.
I can offer wisdom to him when he needs advice or counseling– wisdom I’ve gained from experience and study. But when I don’t know the answers and I’m just as lost as he is, I can lean on God to show us both the right thing to do and the right thing to say.
I can be a sweet, fun, caring girlfriend– when I’m in a great mood or things are going great in my life. But when I’m angry at God, depressed for no reason, and feeling insecure in every area of my life, I sure as heck know I need the grace of God and I can ask Him for that, too. Lord, help my boyfriend deal with me. Because I’m crazy.
Asking God for help in these areas doesn’t mean He’s going to mold me into the perfect girlfriend. What it means is that I recognize my inability to be that perfect somebody for my ever-so-forgiving boyfriend and his inability to be that perfect somebody for me. And in recognizing that, God has the opportunity to heal me of some of my fears and insecurities, offer grace in areas I so badly fail at, and show me how to love in difficult moments. It reminds me that I can’t do it all, and that’s okay.
All I can do is baby steps.
Particularly because I can only predict my mood at this very moment. I can only guarantee I’ll feel nice and loving for the next hour. I am messy and unpredictable. I don’t think that’ll ever change. So I must take just one baby step after another, and believe that it can be enough.
The other night, my baby step was just listening. His baby step was offering nuggets of his life.
Tomorrow, my baby step might be apologizing first. His baby step may be relying on God through prayer instead of trying to fix things himself.
This is what I think relationships are mostly about. Not who will do the right thing first or who will do the right thing better. Certainly not how to be that perfect partner.
Just simply: when will I take that next step, be it ever so seemingly small?
I still have a long way to go. I’ll never win that trophy for best girlfriend of the year. But I can win the heart of the man I love day after day as I become more of the woman– messy and imperfect as she may be– that God is shaping me into.
Relationships will still be hard, but I think I’m learning.
Oh, here’s a photo of me with my wonderful boyfriend, Grant, right before we went on our first Valentine’s Day date. This stud took me to Waffle House (yes, I shamelessly picked Waffle House over every other restaurant we had to choose from… jealous?). Grant is very sweet and understanding of my strange, crazy oh-my-gosh-is-she-even-sane ways. He calls it part of “my complexity”, which makes it sound rather romantic. Oh, and he loves nerdy things, God, and me. So obviously we’re just right for each other.
I don’t think I could leave Clarkston right now even if I tried.
It’s not because this place is better than home. It’s not because I enjoy my roommates’ company more than my family, boyfriend, and hometown friends. It’s not even because the food is better here (which it is).
I don’t think I could leave Clarkston because it feels like God has me here. Not in a forceful, “thou-shalt-forever-remain-stuck-under-my-command” kind of way, but in a loving, powerful “hey-you-know-that-I-have-you-here-for-a-reason” kind of way.
While reading Psalm 139 this afternoon, I was drawn to verse 5:
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Guys, God has hemmed me in. And it’s one of the most relieving feelings to know that in this moment I’m in the right place. I can’t speak for tomorrow or the day after that, but I can certainly speak for today.
His hand is upon me here. I can tell because I’ve been struggling against it. Some might take that as a sign that it is NOT God’s will for me to remain in Clarkston, but I know myself well enough to realize that the times I’ve fought the hardest against where I am are the times I’ve belonged the most in those places.
I think back to how badly I wanted to run away before starting my freshman year of college. I imagined hopping on a plane and spending the rest of my life sipping Arabian coffee with my new Henna-adorned Muslim friends in a land far away from suburbia.
And then I recall how much it hurt to be turned down from my dream internship a year later, the internship that would’ve taken me away from the most painful and eye-opening experience I have had in my almost-twenty years of living. The last thing I wanted was to spend a summer in my friend-forsaken town, but I did and it changed me.
And most overwhelming of all is the constant nostalgia-like longing for the future, to the days where I am no longer just an “I”, but a “we”– someone’s wife and mother. Never do I feel more of a calling on my life than when I think of the baby-nursing, diaper-changing, marriage-protecting days I believe are coming.
Time and time again, I have felt stuck, just longing, DYING, to leave my home and the life I’m currently living. God, please just let me fast-forward to a different time, a different place. I’d give anything.
But looking back, I can see now that God had purposefully hemmed me in. His hand had been upon me in the places I had felt forsaken. And though I wrestled against these many circumstances, I eventually found a way to surrender. Surrender doesn’t come easily to me, but freeing things in life rarely do.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been wrestling against being in Clarkston. For reasons I’m not even sure I understand fully, I often think of leaving. I picture myself spending these summer days at home, sipping coffee and writing meaningful blog posts as I rest against my pillow-filled chaise, my dog resting against me. That’s where I belong, I think.
But God thinks otherwise.
I know this because He’s been opening my eyes to Him and to beautiful things while I’ve been here. I’ve been so busy wrestling for the past month that I’m sure I’ve missed some of what He’s been trying to show me. But I’m starting to see more clearly.
His presence asks me to remain present, so I will dutifully stay.
There is a beauty in being hemmed in. It feels like maybe the place I am in is covered in grace. Even I am covered in grace. And I don’t want to miss these beautiful, grace-filled moments anymore.
These are my thoughts for right now on why I am here. It’s still going to be difficult to make this place my home, but where God leads I have committed to go. And right here is where I’ve been led.
I’m hemmed in.
P.S. I know I’ve been so vague on what exactly is going on here in Clarkston. I promise I am working on sharing more testimonies and stories with you. I have plans on writing more informative pieces in the next couple of weeks so perhaps the pieces will fall into place for my curious readers on what is happening here. To tell you the truth, I’m still a little lost myself.
But here’s some information I can offer for now: people are falling more in love with Jesus in Clarkston– missionaries and refugees alike. There’s still a lot of work to be done among these unreached people groups, but we’re witnessing how small moments of faith can result in great opportunities.
Keep an eye out for blog posts to come.
I’ve been in Clarkston (see previous post for details) for almost a month now, and it’s been hard.
Not so hard that I want to leave or I’m not enjoying my stay. It’s just the kind of hard where you know you could curl up on a bed and sleep for days if somebody would let you.
I miss my family. I miss having Tuesday night dinners with my grandparents. I miss watching Glee with my mom. I miss being able to talk to my boyfriend every day. I miss phone dates, television marathons, and ice cream outings with friends. I miss sleeping next to my dog every night. I miss my church and the middle schoolers I work with.
But I know I’m supposed to be here.
Well, I haven’t figured that part out yet.
And I have to keep telling myself that it’s okay to not know.
I’ve been beating myself up for being so clueless. Sometimes I have a lot to do; sometimes I’m free all day and just wander around aimlessly. Setting out lunches, making copies, and running errands are my specialty, but there are days when it feels like that’s not enough.
I keep trying and trying to not waste time, but sometimes that’s how time feels: wasted.
Like I could be doing something more, but I’m not sure what.
Here’s what I’m starting to think: God, in His sovereignty and by His grace, uses His people… even when they don’t feel like they’re being used.
I think about the people in my life who have impacted me, encouraged me, and challenged me in ordinary, non-exciting times. Many revelations have been had over coffee at Starbucks. Warm feelings have been exchanged over brief smiles.
An impactful, godly life sometimes looks a lot like an ordinary life.
Could it be that God is found in my own ordinary moments? That the things I am finding mundane are godly and important?
I pray that this is true.
Maybe as I set out lunch each day I am showing these interns I care. Maybe my offers to pray for the girls I live with will be received with more gratitude than I could ever know. Maybe the way I do the little things shows that I can be trusted with the bigger things.
The truth is, anyone could do a lot of the tasks I take care of. But for this summer, these tasks have been entrusted to me.
And no matter how ordinary or seemingly unimportant they are, I want to treat these things like they’re special.
I don’t HAVE to spend my summer serving here in Clarkston. I didn’t HAVE to commit to this and leave my family, friends, and home.
But I GET to.
What a privilege to be a part of something bigger than myself. I might just feel like a useless pinky right now in the grand scheme of the body working together, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be times I can be a helping hand, listening ear, and loving heart.
I hold on to the belief that God uses His people for His glory— in the highs, lows, and in-betweens of life.
When I’m wondering why I’m here, I’ll tell myself this.
I still don’t have answers, but I have faith.
We live in a culture obsessed with numbers.
We put too much stock into numbers, quantity, measures and units.
I’m talking about the dollar amount in our bank accounts, the numbers on the scale, our GPA, the number of likes our Facebook profile pictures receive, how old we are when we marry, how many months and years we can maintain a relationship, the amount of events we have planned in a given week, the number of calories in our food and followers of our blogs and compliments on our outfits… I could go on.
I realized this yesterday when I came to the conclusion that I myself often base the quality of my day off of the quantity of good versus bad things that happen to me.
I got a great parking spot and ran into a friend who made me smile. Oh, but then I found out about a homework assignment that’s due and I realized my coffee doesn’t taste that good. To make up for it, I’ll go to 2nd and Charles and buy some new CDs and then take a nice, long nap. And if no one invites me to do anything tonight and I find myself sorrowful because of my lack of social life, I will go to Starbucks and buy an iced lemon cake for myself and watch three episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess on Netflix. That’s enough “good” stuff to balance out the “bad”, right?
This is the worst perception of life that I could possibly have, yet I found myself judging my day (and many days before that) with this screwed-up method.
I am guilty of frequent retail therapy sessions. I keep recording movies to keep in my DVR for those nights when my calendar is empty. I find solace in forty-minute afternoon naps. Going to sleep before 11:00pm is not an option. I change my hairstyle any time I undergo a major change in my life. I try to have as many adventures as possible (that’s the thing that college students my age do, right?).
For a time, this method seems to work for me. I make sure that no matter what happens in a given day, I at least have enough money for a Starbucks purchase and one random friend I can call up to make plans with when everything else falls through. As long as the good outweighs the bad, I’m doing alright.
But here’s the problem: I am trying to fill my life with numbers and measures and I put more value into measurable things than I do the immeasurable. And the sad truth is that the immeasurable things, the stuff that never runs out, are the only things that can really fill me up.
These immeasurable things, the stuff that is outside limits and too great to be tagged with a number, are the things of the Kingdom of God. These things include joy, peace, protection, victory, healing, and so much more.
Now here is my cry of truth (or “rant”, if you must) for all of the people out there in the world who find themselves in the same boat as me:
Why, why, WHY are we counting and caring about numbers when God is offering us infinite joy, infinite peace, infinite grace, infinite love, infinite acceptance, infinite satisfaction?
Maybe the reason for this is because when he does hand us these amazing gifts of infinite quantity, we, out of habit and an unhealthy misperception of what meaningful life is, subconsciously put a cap on those things with our dumb numbers.
We subconsciously believe that joy comes from having more wonderful things happen to us than awful ones. So when he tries to offer us his joy, no matter what time of the day, we have to wait until those wonderful things happen to truly believe in it. Oh, I got an A on my test! I just got a Starbucks gift card right when I was running out of money! God is so good! No, God was always good and always wanted us to rejoice in that goodness, but it took us receiving a good grade or a kind word from a friend or finding $20 or hearing a Louie Giglio sermon to accept it. Sadly, it’s not even accepted in full. When we get home later that day and mom starts yelling or the laundry is piling up, we’re usually back to where we started- wondering why wonderful things never last, putting a number on things when those numbers don’t really mean anything. His joy is bountiful enough to cover ALL things, but we don’t let it.
We subconsciously believe that his forgiveness and grace is only applicable in our lives up until the moment we make a mistake again. If we make two or three mistakes, we maybe even wait a longer amount of time until running to him again. After all, there’s only so much forgiveness he wants to give us, right? We already made a mess of our day- better wait until morning to repent and start again. I honestly believe that this is one of the most crippling lies we could believe in, and I know it comes from satan himself. What better way to incapacitate a believer than make them believe for a time that the one thing that brings them salvation, Christ’s death on the cross that paid the penalty for ALL sins, is no longer true or valid?
We subconsciously believe that his promises for our life that pertain to marriage, careers, and ministry are more important than the promises he’s given us from the beginning- promises of his everlasting presence, his unfailing love, his protection and the victories he’s scored on our behalf. We know of these promises and we sometimes declare them in times of great difficulty after we’re hit over the head with them. But usually, we’re too busy looking for the other promises and insight into our lives to even remember those. God, what is your step-by-step plan for my life? Will I find the man of my dreams by the time I graduate college? How long will I be out in the mission field? When will I find my dream job? These things would be great to know, but again we see the fixation on numbers, age, and time when things of immeasurable importance, like his never-ending love and all-mighty power, are placed on the side until we have nothing else to grasp onto.
You see, we have a major problem on our hands. But numbers, my friends, are NOT, and never will be, valid solutions.
I will say it again, and shout it from the rooftops. Numbers will NEVER be solutions to the problems in our lives.
We care far too much about numbers when life, truly meaningful life that is found in Christ, has nothing to do with numbers at all.
We have to stop counting.
Something that I love about the Bible is how alive it is. Every time I open God’s Word, something jumps off the page and speaks to me in a new way. It wasn’t always like this for me, but lately I’ve just been more aware of how loud His voice can sometimes be.
For the past two years, I’ve been reading through Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah. Just about a month and a half ago I finally finished. What a journey! Last week, I began wondering what God would have me read next. For some reason, Lamentations kept sticking out to me. I didn’t know why. After all, my life has been so pleasant lately, you know? Why would a book about LAMENTING be relevant to me?
I finally decided to start reading Lamentations the other day. I’m now on the third chapter and this morning, God just kind of hit me with something that I never fully understood or believed in before.
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Surrounding these verses are accounts of how devastated the Israelites are. We are told of how women are eating their children, priests and prophets are being killed, and young and old are being slain (2:20-21). It’s not a pretty picture.
Yet these two verses explaining God’s love stand out. The phrase that I especially held onto was “we are not consumed.”
How could a people who are experiencing suffering and devastation and death say that they are not consumed?
The answer: their hope was in the Lord.
The Israelites experienced this time of pain and loss because of their sin against the Lord. The reason for this discipline was because God wanted His people to repent of what they’ve done and run back to Him. As their downfall is occurring, we see that they finally have put their hope back in their God. They are willing to be faithful once again.
And because of this renewed faith and hope in Him, it is as if they know they are truly free.
As I read this, it was as if God reached down and gently said to me, “YOU are not consumed either.”
It’s easy to think that the sin or anger or grief or bad habits in my life are all that I am. I am my sin. I am my hate. I am my perfectionism. I am my ignorance.
This is far from true! I am NOT consumed by any of those things. I am never too far gone from God that I cannot turn back. Like the verse says in Lamentations, His compassions are new every single morning. What an amazing God we have!
Something that I realized this morning is that satan does not have the upper-hand, although he likes for us to think otherwise. Even when satan is against me and I give in to temptation, I am not controlled. I have already surrendered to God’s unfailing love, and it covers me. Every day is another day to find rest and freedom in His arms.
This was news to me. Or rather, a wake-up call!
Likewise, you are not consumed when you put your hope in the Lord. His great love for you will keep you from straying. And if you do find yourself wandering away, His compassion and grace for you will never fail. Like the father of the prodigal son, He will RUN to you upon your return and celebrate.
You are more than your sin and your mistakes. You are more than your failures. They do not consume you or define who you are.
His love does.