When I write, I try not to get too personal. It’s not that I don’t have important things to share; there’s just things I’m afraid of. I hate the thought of people judging my life based off of my personal stories and experiences. I try to keep things vague for that very reason. Tonight, I just can’t be vague. I have to express what is going on because I know I’m not the only one hurting in this world.
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I was in a relationship for about a year and a half with an awesome guy while I was in high school. We were absolutely in love and we planned a future together. He was my best friend and I couldn’t imagine life without him. We fought and we got angry and we made mistakes and did dumb things, but at the end of the day, I knew that things just felt right and God was doing something in our hearts. When we graduated, I left our city for the summer to do missions work and while I was there, I started having doubts about our relationship. I did have doubts before, but things just escalated so much in such a short span of time. Questions like, “what if we’re doing it all wrong? What if God actually doesn’t bless this relationship? What if there’s someone else out there better for me?” just circulated in my head. That future I had planned in my head seemed so hazy. Long story short, I broke up with him.
A year went by and I still didn’t know how to cope with losing my first love. Even though I was the one who ended things and I was the one who pushed him out of my life, I couldn’t get over the fact that my best friend and this guy who I shared life with for almost two years was gone. During that year, I tried to stay away, but we did see each other every now and then when the loneliness and “homesickness” was too much, which just confused me even more. I wondered, if I had a future, what does it look like if not with him? I couldn’t figure it out even though I wanted to. I wanted to move on once and for all, but something in my heart and mind wouldn’t let me.
This past summer, I took a leap of faith and just felt the nudge from God and from my heart to try being with this man again. When we came back together, it was almost as if he never left. I can’t even begin to explain how much God moved this summer in our relationship. I could see that both him and I were growing and we were learning how to truly love- something that I know I certainly didn’t have a grasp of when we were dating previously. This time, when we planned our future, I didn’t have doubts or fears. I felt so confident about where things were going, and he once again became the man of my dreams. We were saving up to get married and we talked with our families about where things were going and we made promises to take care of each other for the rest of our lives. I thanked God each day that He let me have this amazing summer.
But some things just come to an end.
He left me last week- despite my tearful pleas and begging. I couldn’t understand why he’d want to go, why he was no longer happy in our relationship. He assured me that there’s someone out there who’s better for me, and he just didn’t know if he could fit into the future we had planned together. He told me he wants to be alone and move on so we could find people more suited for us. And as he told me this, I just stood there, stunned and dumbfounded. My heart was broken, and this time it was not I who had the doubts and fears about our relationship and our future. It was he.
I still don’t know the full story and I don’t know if I ever will, but I do know that I just lost someone and that sort of pain is something I have never felt, not even the first time we broke up.
I was so blindsided, and surely God could’ve given me some sort of sign that this was not going to turn out the way I thought. If anything, it appeared like God was blessing us and I had no reason to assume that one day all of it would just be gone. I’m not angry. I’m just really confused. I feel lost, like a big chunk of my life is gone and can never be replaced. Now I have to imagine a different future, not the one I thought I would have with the man I have loved for almost three years. This is not past tense, my friends. You’re reading a play-by-play of my life right now, every aching moment of it.
This past week I read a passage in Matthew which spoke to me at the beginning of this summer but I didn’t take very much time to dwell on at first. In Matthew 2, I read about Mary and Joseph’s life shortly after Jesus was born.
…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod (Matthew 2:13-15a).
When I read this, I thought about how scary it must’ve been for Joseph when he was told he would have to take his family to this new land. It is likely that the angel appeared a couple years after Jesus was born. Mary and Joseph probably had a life where they lived, filled with friends and work and a community they grew accustomed to being in. They had a home in which baby Jesus was being raised, and now this angel is telling Joseph to leave it all behind and just go. That very night, they obeyed.
The passage goes on.
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel (2:19-21)
Once again, we see that Joseph is told to take his family to a new land. After arriving to this new community and probably growing accustomed to their new home and new friends and new job, they were told again that they must leave. And that very night, they obeyed just the same.
When I read this a few months ago, I wrote in the margin of my Bible, “Would you leave it all behind again?” This was a question that was on my mind, and I know I subconsciously was asking myself if I would leave this relationship again if I was asked by God to go.
Even though things were going so well, if the time ever came to say goodbye, would I have the courage to walk away and just trust that God knows what He’s doing? I don’t remember if I ever answered the question at the time. I probably didn’t think I’d ever have to. Now when I read this, I see that I’m finding out my answer whether I wanted to or not.
I have two choices now- to walk away with hope in the Lord or keep begging in hope that the person who broke my heart will take me back. And I see that I’m leaning more towards the first choice. I’m still afraid and I still am in pain, but I just know that if I don’t trust God with my future, I’m going to go through one more year of pain and never receiving that closure I needed the first time. Even though I don’t understand why it must be this way, I am faced with having to say goodbye a second time and I know I just have to do it. It still hurts, but I’m taking it one step at a time.
And I know that it’s okay to miss the past even while trying to heal. I just can’t get stuck in it.
I’m sure Mary and Joseph had concerns about leaving their home both times. Twice they had to say goodbye, and even though there’s not enough detail in Scripture, I bet a part of them was sad about leaving it all behind. But their trust in the Lord was what kept them going, continuing to take those steps forward into the new land they were being called to.
Likewise, I have trust in the Lord and it’s what’s going to keep me going. I was asked to leave my place of comfort twice, much like Joseph, and now I just have to let God direct my path.
So would I leave it all behind again? Yes, I would. I know that there’s a future ahead of me and if it’s in the hands of my loving Father, it must be one worth going after. I know I’ll get through my second goodbye.
. . . . . .
I don’t know how to end this post. I feel like I shared so much of my personal life and I’m almost tempted to erase it all and pretend like nothing ever happened. But this is when the pain is fresh and very much real, and if I waited to publish something like this, it wouldn’t be the same.
So I’m just going to publish this post and say a prayer. If God wants to speak through this, I ask that He does. And if there’s no other reason for me to write this other than that I needed to get this off of my chest and into the open, then I’m okay with that too. I’m learning that fear is okay, and so is hurt, and both are universal feelings. I know I’m not the only one.
So to all of you out there who are scared and hurting and had to say goodbye one too many times to someone or something dear to your heart, I just want to say it’s okay. You’re really not alone.
I have a large mess of yarn. It’s terribly tangled and I’ve been struggling for days to restore the yarn to its previous perfectly rolled state. The more I pulled on the end, however, and weaved it around other parts of the yarn, the more tangled it became.
As I was working on this last night, I had a thought. What about the mess of yarn we sometimes call life?
Things can get so chaotic and tangled up that we often are just left helpless and exasperated. Sometimes we don’t even know how we got into this mess in the first place. It starts with an initial unraveling of the end of the yarn and then somehow it just worsens so bad we don’t know which way is up anymore.
The worst part is that the more we struggle against the tangle we are in, the easier it is for us to get even more tangled up. We think we can figure it out but we usually just find ourselves in an even bigger mess, needing even more repair.
But we can find peace.
When we give up our messes to God, He can untangle all of it for us. Some parts He may need to snip and sometimes the repair takes longer than we’d like because of the magnitude of what we’ve done, but it is possible for Him to undo the damage, bit by bit. We can be thankful that we have a loving Creator who cares for us so much that He not only takes the time to untangle our messes, but He also wants to use the end result for something great- something for His glory. Untangled yarn is not without use. And neither are we. Despite all the loops and twists and knots we’ve found ourselves in once before, God renews us and can use us, something that would not be able to happen if we decided to try to keep untangling our messes ourselves.
Whatever mess you’re in today, give it up to God. He’ll untangle it.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’” (Matthew 11:28-29)
This morning’s sermon in church was on serving others and to illustrate that, we took the example of Jesus in Matthew 20:29-34 where he healed two blind men.
“As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. ‘Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’ Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”
There were a couple of things that really stood out to me in this passage that I think we can all learn from as servants of the Lord.
Jesus put himself out there. In verse 32, he stopped for these two men. In the middle of a crowd on a hot day as he was walking with his closest friends, he stopped for these two men who had no sight and were not exactly popular among the crowd. The crowd “rebuked them and told them to be quiet”, as if their pleas were not worth much to anyone. But when Jesus came along, their worth was recognized as he asked them in the plainest form, “What do you want me to do for you?”
In our lives, we will come across people in need who we can serve. The question is, will you be ready to serve them when you cross their path? Will you, like Jesus, put yourself out there?
Jesus truly cared. He gave them more than pity or a meaningless donation. In verse 34, it says Jesus had compassion on them. The word “compassion” has been defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” That day, Jesus had compassion and acted with pure love towards those two men.
Do we have compassion on others around us or do we see them as merely inconveniences, a sight to pity, or even just not worth helping? Are we like the crowd, ignoring and looking down on others who don’t have much or anything at all?
Jesus didn’t have to. The Son of God, who was and is King, came down to earth to humble himself when he could have continued sitting on his throne in heaven. But the good news that we all preach is that he came down as man and died for us. He didn’t have to, but he wanted to. He truly cares for us, just like he cared for those blind men. Many of us are spiritually blind and Jesus put himself out there for us so that we may receive sight through him. It’s a love story, a story of compassion.
The verse before this passage says, “whoever wants to be first must be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (20:27-28) We, like Jesus, are not here to be served. We are here to serve, in respect of the two greatest commandments, love God above all things and love others as you love yourself.
When we humble ourselves to help others in need and show God’s love, we are not only loving people, but we are showing our love for Him. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “whatever you did for the one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” We should live humbly, recognizing that we are nothing without Christ and responding to the cross with love for Him and love for others. Placing others above yourself is what brings blessings and honor.
My church’s mission statement is something that I try to live by and I believe it sums up this passage perfectly:
We exist to show God’s love in such a way that people exchange ordinary living for an extraordinary life through the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
I can’t speak for the human race. I can’t speak for America. I can’t speak for my family. But speaking for myself, can I just say that it’s challenging to take the road less traveled by? I know this from experience, I know this from witnessing with my own eyes, I know this from the Word of God. We were NEVER promised it’d be easy to follow Jesus. In a world where it seems like everyone’s running in the opposite direction, where we’re constantly exposed to the evils of human nature, how could we ever believe that following Jesus is going to be easy? It’s far from it. How much greater, then, will our rewards be for actually doing just that? Beyond what we can imagine.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecute the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12)
“I tell you the truth,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10: 29-31)
From experience, I can understand why so many people are hesitant to drop everything and follow Jesus. The cost seems too high, the sacrifices just sound unbearable, and taking the road less traveled by sounds a lot more risky than just sticking with the crowd. Something we all fail to forget sometimes is that whatever we do for God, whatever we do for others to display His love and glory, whatever we do to serve with our time, money, and effort, is NOT in vain.
We are called to be set apart from this world. Anyone who loves Jesus and wants to spend the rest of their life with Him must take up the cross as He did for us. Believe me, it will not be easy. But is it impossible? No. If you sincerely ask for a change in your desires and desperately want to live your life for Christ, it will be done. It requires trust and dedication on your part, but God is with you every step of the way. He does not want to see his children stop yearning for Him. He wants you to take risks. He wants you to step outside of the box, break away from the crowd, and just start living entirely for Him. You will never find more happiness doing anything other than living for Him. That may sound unreasonable, but think about it. We were created to love God and worship Him with our lives. How could we ever begin to find true happiness apart from fulfilling our purpose?
Truthfully, how can we even claim to love God if our lives are filled with doubt and uncertainty, if we’re hesitant to take up the cross? The same cross which Jesus carried and died on for US. We did not deserve mercy, we did not deserve compassion. We never will. Yet we have it. And God, who deserves our worship, our time, our money, our love, and everything else that matters in this world, does not. He does not have our full devotion. When will we be able to look at God in all of his majesty and glory and truthfully say, “I am entirely Yours.”?
We have the ability to do so much for this world, if only we were willing. It is your turn to stop holding back. No more excuses, no more denial, no more throwing scraps at God as if that could possibly delight Him. It’s not easy to break away from a comfortable lifestyle, from the friends and life you’ve always known, but it is entirely possible. It’s what we were called to do. If you’re still not convinced, earnestly read through the Gospel and see if you can find one example where a follower of Jesus, who gave up his life for others and to serve God with all his heart, soul, and strength, did not gain so much more in return? Hint: you won’t find one.
It’s finally time for you to take the road less traveled by. After reading this, the answer is staring at you right in the face. After everything you’ve done for God, what is the one thing that’s still missing? This is it. Giving Him your life. It’s risky, it’ll cost you, but trust me, you won’t regret it.