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.
God is not enough for me.
He IS, but by the looks of my life and a true assessment of my heart, I live as though He’s not.
And It pains me to write that because I so badly want Him to be.
I know that the life I’m living and the life I’m seeking often demonstrates a hidden, subtle insecurity stemmed in the belief that God cannot fill me. He cannot provide me with my needs. He cannot and perhaps WILL not give me the life I desire when I desire it.
And that is a difficult place to be in because I know that’s not how things should be.
I’m a Christian. I’m supposed to love God more than anything (with all my heart, soul, and mind, to be exact). I’m supposed to desire His will above my own. I’m supposed to find fullness and joy in Him, not look to other things or people in this life to satisfy me.
But I’d be lying if I said I am doing any of those things.
There are times when I do love God more. But when I step off of that altar of surrender and worship, life goes on and I find myself whisked away again by love for myself. You wouldn’t know by looking at me, but I know my own heart. And I know that a lot of what I do is to fulfill MY wants and needs prior to God’s or anyone else’s.
There are times when I do desire His will first and foremost. I say it in my prayers, most definitely. But if I really did always desire His will first, then I’d stop trying to control my life. I’d stop resisting the work He’s doing in me, the little acts of obedience He has called me to do.
There are times when I am filled with the absolute joy of Christ. It’s like time stops and I’m just caught up in His love and wonderful embrace. But it never lasts. The song ends, the dance comes to a halt, and I’m left waiting for the next punch in the stomach. Or even worse: indifference washes over me.
Sometimes the hardest thing about being a Christ-follower is accepting that some things don’t last. Distractions, sorrow, and frustrations are always lurking around the corner, waiting for me to take my eyes off of Jesus. I feel like I just have to constantly look up at the sky and beg for more: more patience, more focus, more joy, more peace, more EVERYTHING.
What do I do, friends? How do I escape this life of constant longing?
I have no answers. I have a few theories, but I’m starting to think this is how life is. It’s hard, it’s slow. It cycles through various seasons, as do our emotions and relationship with God.
I can beg God to take my desires away, to strip me of all feeling and all longing for the future or for anything besides Him. I can ask Him to direct my eyes to be on Him and Him alone for the rest of my life.
But I don’t think He will.
Part of the reason we are given this life is to BE ALIVE. And being alive involves feeling, wanting, needing (and yes, hurting). The same goes for being alive in Him. These things don’t go away. I actually think they’re amplified. But it’s a good kind of amplification, the kind of volume that you know you want to live your life at forever. You don’t want to quiet the love you feel, the longing for Jesus that is suddenly stronger than anything you’d ever known.
I find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus was (and still is) alive. He walked this earth. He knew no sin, yet he knew pain. If he could walk this earth now, I’d like to think that he might find me and hug me. He’d hold me close, whisper into my ear and heart, “It’s okay. I know.” I’d stain his robe with my tears, all the tears of longing and wondering and confusion. And I think He’d cherish each of those tears that fell from my eye because He knows they come from a place of desire for HIM.
You see, I am pained by my lack of absolute dedication, focus, and love for God, but that in itself tells me I’m doing something right.
I WANT to want Him.
And sometimes I get that want. Not always. Not completely.
But when I behold His glory and His worthiness… boy, how I want to be with Him and follow Him more than anything else! The thought crosses my mind: He IS enough.
The thought leaves, but it was there. And I will find it again. And again.
That’s all I have to hold on to.
I can’t always fathom how God can be enough for me, but maybe for now that is enough for Him.
He wants me anyway. He beckons me anyway.
And if Jesus were physically here, I think he’d hold me anyway, too.
I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’ … my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16: 2,9-11)
I challenged myself today. I challenged myself to compose a list of 100 things I fear in life. At first, I was a bit skeptical of this proposition. How was I going to think of 100, let alone 20? Surprisingly, I completed the task.
I wasn’t quite sure what I’d get out of writing this list when I first started, but I ended up discovering something quite shocking about myself.
I concluded that I fear for my life.
All of my fears are based around putting my life at risk, whether it be my spiritual life, social life, emotional life, or physical life.
I have fears of straying away from my faith and disappointing God. I fear that I’ll give in to temptations and I’ll miss opportunities to bring others to Christ.
I’m afraid of other people and what they think of me. I fear that I’ll be judged and disliked. I’m scared of hurting others and losing the ones I love.
I fear that a part of me will always be discontent with life and that will hinder my relationship with God. I fear that I won’t fulfill God’s plan for me and my life won’t amount to something.
I’m scared of getting hurt, both emotionally and physically. I’m afraid that I’ll get cancer or I’ll die in a tragic death before I even do anything meaningful with my life. I fear that I’ll be killed or raped or abducted.
These are all pretty rational fears, but they’re not healthy. I know they’re not.
It’s okay to be afraid of losing someone, it’s okay to feel wary about the future, but when these fears start consuming thoughts and entire lives, it’s not okay anymore. Some of the things I listed are constantly on my mind. I’ve become obsessive over them, trying to figure out how to prevent my fears from coming true, trying to find a way to make things all better. It’s not okay. I’m finally telling myself that it’s not okay.
If I say I trust God, I do not need to fear for my life as I do now. I don’t need to worry about the future or what can happen to me. I need to remember that we all get hurt sometimes. We all lose people we love. We’re all judged. We’re all sinners. We all disappoint people. Nobody is perfect. I need to accept these facts and push away the fears that are holding me back from truly living the life God has called me to live. I need to surrender.
I don’t want to fear for my life anymore.
“Don’t worry about things… Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?… If God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you?… Live one day at a time.” (Matthew 6:24-34)
What are you afraid of? I dare you to make a list. You might just be surprised and discover something about yourself you never really realized before. Most importantly, when you finish writing and reflecting, give your fears up to God.
“Lord, I’m scared. Please take my fears. I don’t want to be afraid of the unknown anymore. I don’t want to worry anymore. I know that you love me and you’re taking care of me. Even when I can’t see the big picture, please help me put my complete trust in you. Thank you. Amen.”
What area of your life are you holding back from God?
A lot of us try our “best” to follow Jesus, sacrificing some of our money and time for His glory. Yet eventually we’re all going to stumble upon something in our treasure chest that we don’t want to surrender, whether that be your last penny, control of your life, or a sinful behavior you take part in.
When I first read the above question in The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren, I told myself that it doesn’t apply to me. After all, I’m actively seeking His kingdom, aren’t I? I’m surrendering bits and pieces of my life little by little for Him. But then it dawned on me, I’m skipping over the things that matter the most to me. I AM holding back from God. After realizing this, I want to make a list. I want to officially acknowledge these things instead of push them back into the crevices of my mind as if I never stumbled across them. So here goes…
I hold back my control. I love being in control. Though I do struggle with self-control a lot, I have no problem with controlling others. This stems from pride; I think that my way is best and that it’s up to me to fix other people’s lives so they fit my standards and are living how I want them to live. I get frustrated when I see people not doing things the way I want them to do them. I hate not having the ability to run their lives. Not only does this hinder my relationship with others, it also hinders my relationship with God. If I love Him and want to serve Him with my life, I have to surrender every part of my life. By desiring to control others, it’s like I’m saying, “Look God, I know you’re working in ____’s life right now, but I think I can speed along the process by just doing things my way. Hope you don’t think I’m stepping on your toes or anything.”
Lord, right now, I want to surrender my control of others. I want to let go of my prideful, selfish desires to run their lives. I am here on this earth to show Your glory and spread Your love, and if I’m stepping on your toes while you’re trying to work in peoples’ lives, I am not doing a good job at all at doing what I say I live to do. Please help me let go of the control I try to hold over others.
I hold back my insecurities. I think it’s safe to say that we all feel insecure from time to time, some more than others. When we choose to hold on to these insecurities and let them control a big part of our lives, however, then we have a problem. I can be very self-conscious sometimes. I care about what others think of me. Unfortunately, this holds me back from focusing entirely on God and living my life entirely for Him. When I see other people on the sidelines, I assume they’re judging me and I veer off the track, losing sight of the finish line, Jesus Christ. I know deep down that it doesn’t matter what people think of me, yet I get so caught up in the media, my appearance, comparisons to my friends and peers, I forget this concept. Because I hold back my insecurities from God, I am being held back from living for God.
Father, I know you wonderfully created me and you have a plan for me, but sometimes I get so distracted by others, I forget that I am supposed to be living for You. I can’t passionately pursue Your kingdom if I don’t accept my flaws or get rid of my insecurities that hold me back from my full potential. Please help me surrender these insecurities and remind me that no matter what people think of me, You always love me and that’s the only thing that matters.
I hold back my emotions. Emotions are a part of life. What would life be without feeling? Yet we are told to love God with all our heart, and this means we love God with our emotions. This is something I fail to do, a lot. I let my emotions get the best of me. When I’m sad, I don’t give it to God. I wallow in self-pity, lay on my bed and deny that God can help me. A few hours later, I’m back on my feet, rejoicing in Him. But that doesn’t make that one hour of turning away from God any better. When I’m angry, I usually act on it. I say things I don’t mean, I do things I wouldn’t normally do, and afterwards, I feel so ashamed. When I’m happy, sometimes I forget who gave me the things that made me happy. I become prideful and boast as if I did something on my own, when in reality, it was all Him. There’s nothing wrong with feeling, there’s nothing wrong with emotions. But when they hold you back from loving God and living for God, it’s time to surrender. I need to surrender my emotions.
Lord, I know that in times of distress or times of joyfulness, there is nothing wrong with feeling sad or extremely happy. Yet I am aware that I let my emotions get the best of me, and take my focus off of you. I need to surrender my life entirely to You and I can’t do that without first giving You my heart.
After writing out the things I held on to for so long, I feel relieved. I’ve admitted I have a problem, and with God’s help, I know I can surrender my entire life to Him. Taking one step at a time, I know I will overcome obstacles and my faith will grow stronger. For this, I am thankful. I encourage you to take a moment and ask yourself what you are holding back from God. Be honest with yourself. After acknowledging these things, don’t just stuff them back into the corner of your mind like so many of us do out of denial and fear of surrendering to God. Set about remedying these things, and don’t give up. With Christ, all things are possible.