I can find Jesus in a Wendy’s better than I can find him in the woods.
I told this to some of my roommates the other week and they thought it was quite funny. I am hilarious, am I not?
But I mean those words wholeheartedly.
I don’t find God in nature the way that others do. I just don’t.
That used to make me feel weird. Like why does everyone around me want to climb a mountain and watch the sunset together? That’s a lot of hiking. I’m not down for that.
Why do people get up at the crack of dawn to sit out on the patio and listen to birds while praying and reading? I don’t want to hear birds as I pray. I want to hear the sound of coffee brewing.
And I know now that that is okay.
Yes, nature is God’s creation. We are meant to appreciate it and see the beauty in it all. And there are times when I do. When I went to the beach this past April, I saw a porpoise dive above the water for the first time. It took my breath away. Never before had I seen anything so majestic.
But there aren’t any porpoises in suburban Georgia. There’s just trees and damp grass.
And I have found that I connect to Jesus a lot better indoors. It’s just the way I’m wired.
Up until a couple years ago, I didn’t understand that ALL people are wired differently.
Some of us connect to God through worship. I am one of those people. One of my favorite parts of my morning is when I have Jesus Culture praising God through my earbuds while I carefully fry eggs on the stove.
Then there are others who connect to God through studying. They’ll read commentaries upon commentaries, and sometimes they’ll have one of those Bibles with one translation on one side and a different translation on the other. They just want to soak in the Word and pour themselves into the studying of every phrase and punctuation mark. I admire their thirst for knowledge so much.
There are also people who connect to God through other people. They will sit down over tea and have meaningful conversations about faith and life. And when they leave, they feel like they caught a glimpse of the face of God through the well-spoken words of a well-intentioned friend.
Some connect to God through acts of service. In the lending of a hand to a brother or sister in need, they resonate with the sacrifices and selflessness Christ displayed toward themselves.
Then there are those who connect to God through prayer. They just pray and pray and pray. They are warriors of prayer, slaying the attacks of the enemy through declarations of God’s promises.
And there are, of course, those who connect to Him through nature.
And none of these methods of seeking the Lord are better than any other. It is a privilege to be able to seek God in our individual ways. He is not only inviting, but also personal.
I used to think it was strange when I would stand next to people during worship at church and they wouldn’t sing or raise their hands. We’re worshiping the one true God, dude! What’s your problem?
Maybe there was never a problem at all. People are just different. And the silent worshiper in church could turn out to be the most studious learner of the Bible or the most earnest prayer warrior. You never really know.
So that’s why I like to ASK people how they connect to God rather than just assume they’re exactly like me. And when they tell me they love nature and being out in God’s creation, I just smile, nod my head, and say, “That’s really cool. I like that… but still definitely not for me.”
I’ll go find Jesus in a Wendy’s and you can go find Jesus in the woods, and then we can come together and bring what we have found because we’re all on a pursuit together. How does that sound?
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 want to be blessed. I desire God’s favor upon my life. I don’t think that is a shameful desire in any way, and I believe God planted that desire in me.
But I have the hardest time figuring out how to get that blessing. A lot of the time I feel like I can earn it. Like maybe if I just do enough good things, God will grant me happiness and blessings. If I honor Him enough with my relationships, then maybe He’ll bless my relationships. If I do enough in my ministry, then maybe He’ll bless my ministry. If I seek him more and more, then maybe He’ll favor me.
Then there’s this passage in the book of Psalms that I can’t overlook.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel. (Psalm 89:15-18)
God, I want that to be me.
How do you learn to acclaim God? How do you walk in the light of His presence?
If this is what makes His children blessed, then I feel like these questions are worth finding an answer to.
I’ll just say here and now, though, that I don’t have the full answers.
What I know right now is this:
- Acclaiming God means to praise God
- Walking into the light implies walking out of darkness
Somehow we have to learn to praise God. Somehow we have to walk out of darkness and into His light.
Here’s what else I know:
- I have learned to praise God most through my difficulties and pain. I have learned to praise God in joyous times, as well. But it’s the dark times in my life and the overcoming of that darkness that has taught me what truly worshiping God and surrendering to God means.
- I have walked into the light most when I have finally bared my soul and let the darkness go. Not just to God, but to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I can walk in His light by releasing my innermost secrets and desires to God. But I have experienced many moments of shame-lifting, freeing intimacy with people, too. I have found light by first going through the darkest tunnels, whether hand-in-hand with a friend or alone with just the Spirit in my heart.
What I’m thinking is that perhaps blessings must come through difficulties and pain, through the hard stuff of life.
It takes trials to remind you of how powerful He is. It takes rock bottom to remind you that He is what you really need. Through our difficulties and pain we learn to acclaim and praise God.
It takes darkness to remind you that you need light. It takes painful soul-baring moments and conversations to assure you that you are not alone and living in light is a very real, freeing possibility. Through our difficulties and pain we learn to walk in His light.
First comes pain. Then comes gain.
Isn’t that a major concept of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? The Beatitudes, anyone?
Amidst the hard stuff of life, we receive blessing.
And what is this blessing we receive?
Maybe it’s the next part of that passage. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed our shield belongs to the Lord…
The blessings are:
- joy in His name
- celebration for His righteousness
- glory and strength of God
- our horn (our power and strength)
- our shield (our protection)
It all just sounds so wonderful. I can’t even comprehend what fully receiving those blessings would look like because here on earth everything just seems so pitiful compared to the beauty and glory in heaven.
The joy we feel now is not even close to the joy in heaven. The celebrations we have here are nothing like the celebrations in His kingdom. The glory and strength of God can only be glimpsed so much through our tiny human eyes and brains. And the horn and shield, Him being our power and protection, is a whole other concept I think we are far from fully comprehending.
These blessings of God are being unlocked here. I do know this to be true.
But there’s so much more we have yet to uncover. There’s still more praising and walking in light to be done.
And hard stuff must come.
So let’s get ready. Expect the suffering and the blessing because they’re both coming.
What common task could I start doing as if I were doing it directly for Jesus?
I read this question in The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and it really stuck out to me because truthfully, there are many things that come to mind concerning that question.
Most of us are familiar with the verse, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23).
But let me ask you, have you ever tried applying this to your life? Be honest with yourself.
You can’t think of many good examples, can you? Believe me, a lot of us can’t.
Below is an excerpt from this book, thoughts on living a life of worship.
“Worship is not a part of your life; it is your life. Worship is not just for church services. We are told to ‘worship him continually’ and to ‘praise him from sunrise to sunset.’ In the Bible people praised God at work, at home, in battle, in jail, and even in bed! Praise should be the first activity when you open your eyes in the morning and the last activity when you close them at night. David said, ‘I will thank the Lord at all times. My mouth will always praise him.’
Every activity can be transformed into an act of worship when you do it for the praise, glory, and pleasure of God…
This is the secret to a lifestyle of worship- doing everything as if you were doing it for Jesus. The Message paraphrase says, ‘Take your everyday, ordinary life- your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life- and place it before God as an offering.’ Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it with an awareness of his presence.”
God wants us to work with praise and cheerfulness, as if our everyday living is meant for Him and Him only. Which it should be. When we start to replace our laziness, our bad attitudes, and our grumbling with an eager desire to be in His presence and worship Him with our lives, our outlook and perspective on work and everyday activities will drastically change. Instead of working for money, instead of working for personal satisfaction, instead of working for other peoples’ satisfactions, we need to work for God.
This is something I definitely need to work on and with the power of Christ, I know I’ll be able to find an answer to these questions soon. I need to trade in my life for His and just trust. Trust that our lives of worship are never in vain. We experience our greatest satisfaction when we are fulfilling our purpose of worshiping and loving God with our lives. Worship is not a part of our lives, it is our life.