Tag Archives: relationship

I Used to Think God Wanted My Service #OutofSortsBook

17 Nov

Based on a recommendation from my friend Cathy, I started reading Sarah Bessey’s blog a little less than a year ago. She was pregnant with her fourth baby and I was pregnant with my second. Our due dates were a few months apart, but just being pregnant at the same time made me feel a bond with her. That’s what started me reading her blog, but I kept reading because Sarah’s blog is inspiring, well-written and thought-provoking.

I’m horrible at commenting – partly because I’m lazy, partly because I read while I’m nursing and let’s be honest, typing on a phone is a PITA. But I’m breaking the silence for a synchroblog in honor of Sarah’s second book (just out a few weeks ago) called Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith. (I haven’t read it yet, but it’s definitely on my to-read-soon list because it sounds right up my alley.) She has asked her blog readers to tell “our stories of transformation, of the ways we’ve changed and evolved and grown, the ways we’ve changed our minds or our hearts in response to the unchanging Christ.”

Here’s my story.

I used to think God wanted my service and now I know He just wants me.

I became a Christian the summer after my sophomore year of college. I went from living the typical party lifestyle to spending all my free time with other Christians involved with a campus ministry. I soaked up Truth like a sponge, learning things like the five points of Calvinism (TULIP), segues for cold evangelism and how God’s steadfast love was better than life.

Then I got married and moved to Colorado from Minnesota, and everything I had taken at face value about following Christ no longer made sense. I still believed that I needed a Savior, that Christ had died for me, and that I was going to heaven to spend eternity with Him. But I didn’t understand what practical impact those truths had on my current life.

Marriage was incredibly hard. Instead of the love I wanted to have for my husband, I felt anger and bitterness. I acted toward him in a way that made me hate myself and wonder what had happened to me. Instead of marriage being a sanctification tool, it just kept bringing out more and more sin. I knew that the Holy Spirit could help me change, but how did I tap into that power? How did I stop reacting out of my own power and instead react out of His?

Meanwhile, I was convicted through a handful of books and sermons that I needed to be living radically for Christ, that my life needed to be noticeably different. The only problem was, I didn’t know what that looked like specifically. I tried volunteering, serving at church, hosting get-togethers and dinners, sharing the gospel with neighbors and friends, fasting from shopping. No matter what or how much I did, I was consumed with guilt. Because I thought I should be doing more.

I was driving from Wheat Ridge to Boulder along the foothills covered in sagebrush when I finally realized that I had been so focused on my own contribution to God’s kingdom that I had taken my eyes off of Him. Instead of defining my life by what Christ had done for me, I had been defining it by what I was doing for Him and undertaken the responsibility of making my life eternally worthwhile, something only God and His glory could do.

I had been running after duties and activities to prove my heart was right, to show that I was living out my faith. But I had left out the idea of God wanting me to know Him and enjoy Him, to find joy and pleasure in life, and to become more like Christ on the inside through spending time with Him. He wanted my heart, my surrender, my devotion, my yielding, my rest. Living a selfless life would grow out of a deep, intimate relationship with the Father, not from some divine ability to be the Incredible Christian Superwoman.

At first sight it seems heroic to fling our lives away in the service of God and of our fellows. We feel it is bound to mean more to Him than our experience of Him. Service seems so unselfish, whereas concentrating on our walk with God seems selfish and self-centered. But it is the very reverse. The things that God is most concerned about are our coldness of heart towards Himself and our proud, unbroken natures. (from We Would See Jesus by Roy and Revel Hession, emphasis added)

It has been over five years since that day. In that time, I have birthed two babies, gone from working full-time to being a stay-at-home mom, and moved back to my home state. This truth has been re-proven hundreds of times, in every circumstance. When I focus on my relationship with God as an end in itself, instead of simply a means to growth in the Christian life, I not only get the joy of focusing on God, but the very things I desire to be done within me are accomplished by the Spirit. I get the joy; He gets the glory.

And now when I hear sermons on evangelism, missions, prayer, or service, instead of feeling like a failure for not doing more or being better, I take whatever emotions I have to God in prayer, saying, “God, I agree that this thing is good and I’m thankful for those who do it well. I admit that I’m not where I’d like to be in regards to this. I want to grow but I am incapable of changing on my own without a burden of legalistic guilt. So I ask You to do it for me and in me. Help me see what this looks like in my life. Give me eyes to see You at work and a heart of obedience that follows where You’re leading. I trust that You will accomplish Your purpose for me. Thank You for the relationship that I have with You through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Amen.”

I used to think God wanted my service…

But now I know He just wants me.

Resting in God for Life

15 Jan

God is so faithful.

I had a rough start to this past week. Being back from Mexico, I was confronted with all of the problems I had left behind: namely, my struggle with what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Again, I was stressed out. It felt like there was a heavy ball of anxiety sitting right on my chest. I felt paralyzed. I had nothing that I had to do and yet didn’t feel free to do anything. I felt like I had to be productive. Like that’s what a good model citizen does – they get stuff done. But I didn’t want to get stuff done. I wanted to relax and read.

Little by little, God has been inviting me to release the responsibility I feel for my life. At first, He showed me I could let go of being responsible for my sanctification. Instead of rifling through my own soul looking for sins that I needed to work on, I could trust God to convict me of the sins that He wanted me to work on.

He then showed me I could let go of being responsible for projects at work. Even though I don’t technically have a job right now, I am helping out at the church and as such, I feel involved enough to be held responsible for things succeeding or failing. But God says that I can release those projects to Him too. It’s not me accomplishing His work – it’s Him accomplishing His work through me. I wrote these points in my journal:

1. God knows what needs to be done and when.

2. I can trust God to guide my day and to provide the wisdom, inspiration, and motivation necessary. I can even trust Him to bring to mind things I need to remember.

3. I can leave unfinished projects in God’s care – this is His work after all. He will take care of it.

4. If and when I fail, I can run to God and He will help me fix the mess. He is a gracious, patient and loving God.

Finally, God showed me that I can let go of what I have perceived to be the things I needed to be doing to live the life I want to live. I had been creating my own religious rules about how to live but God had not empowered me to live those. I constantly felt like I should be doing more than I was doing. If I bought a coffee at Starbuck’s, I felt guilty that I didn’t donate that money to charity. If I spent time reading a book, I felt guilty that I was making myself happy instead of helping someone else in need. I was constantly questioning my motives and constantly feeling condemned by what I perceived to be the selfishness of everything I did. Even the good, thoughtful things I did for others were swallowed up in the notion that they were just drops in the ocean of my own patheticness.

But praise the Lord, He has revealed the truth to me! On Thursday morning, after feeling very discouraged and fed up with life on Wednesday night, God showed me that what had started out as a good desire – wanting to live above the status quo for Christ – I had turned into an end in itself. I was trying to make myself right with God by setting a high standard for my way of life. I only succeeded in making myself miserable. Because I can’t make myself right with God!

And I don’t have to. I don’t have to procure my own salvation because of Jesus and I don’t have to make my life count because of Jesus. For the longest time, I thought that surrendering control meant conceding defeat. Resting in Christ meant that I didn’t care if my life changed – it meant I was ok if I just kept on living the typical American lifestyle. But I did care! So I couldn’t, I wouldn’t surrender. I had to make my life what I thought it should be – because if I didn’t, who would?

I am in awe at God’s perfect timing. Just totally in awe. In the past month, I read 2 books that revolutionized the way I look at my relationship with God: Walking With God by John Eldredge and Soul Craving by Joel Warne. Both authors talk about listening to God, walking through situations with God, talking to God, communing with God. I had never before realized that such an intimate two-way interaction with God was possible!

Because of that new discovery, the idea of surrendering control of my life and my expectations and desires to God makes sense. Before, I didn’t understand how I could let go of control and expect things to still happen. I mean, after all, even though God is sovereign, He is not a puppeteer. I still have to act. So how would anything change if I gave up trying to change things?

I see now that change comes out of an intimate relationship with God. As I am walking with God, talking with Him, listening to Him, inviting Him in to every area and experience of my life, I am changed. I sense His Spirit’s leading. I see doors open that I would have missed before. I find courage to do what I couldn’t in the past. This is exactly what I wanted for my life and was so desperately striving after. But now, it is God leading me. It is God doing the hard work. Joel Warne writes in his book that our relationship with God is a responsive one. He leads; we respond.

Moreover, if there is something amiss in my life, something I should abstain from or do differently, I can trust God to reveal those things to me. I don’t have to obsess over everything and continually feel guilty. This has been the biggest relief of all. I can finally put in correct perspective all of the mundane, practical, trivial details of life. I don’t have to question everything anymore! I can live everyday life in faith that when God wants to change something, when He wants to move me, He will reveal that to me. And He provides the courage and grace for obedience on top! So now, instead of asking God to show me what He wants me to do with my life, I pray:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there by any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23).

I cannot undermine enough what a revolutionary shift in paradigm this is for me. I feel like I had been going through the motions of life in black and white but now I am rejuvenated with vigor and eagerness to engage in life in Technicolor! Because my life is what it is because of God. And I can rest in Him for wisdom, guidance, sanctification. I can trust Him to do in my life what I have been desiring – because He desires it even more than I do!!

GOD IS AWESOME!!

 

 

The big picture

31 Dec

Since it’s New Year’s Eve, I figured I might as well do the quintessential blog post: reminiscing about 2010 and looking forward to 2011.

2010 was a hard year for me but because of that, it was also life-changing. From March until last week, I had a job that constantly pushed me beyond my comfort zone, challenged me in ways I have never before been challenged, and forced me to run to God every day to maintain my sanity and character. I can look back on this past year and see God’s faithfulness and steadfast love everywhere.

I learned that I rely on my own ability to get things done instead of trusting in God and His timing and plan. I found that I often “feel responsible” for things and that prevents me from letting God be responsible. God showed me that my claiming responsibility is what stresses me out. I need to be faithful in what I can control but the overarching theme and thought of my life needs to be trust in God for all of the mundane, practical details, as well as the big picture items.

Work-wise, I learned that I do not do well working from home. I like an office. I like interaction with people. I like unexpected interruptions (self, remember this when they happen!). I also learned that I like change but only in the context of routine. I am much more happier doing tedious administrative tasks than I am managing big picture things. I am a details person. The job I am doing in the church office right now is exactly what I enjoy doing. (As such, I am really hoping that they hire me full-time! But more on that another time.)

Through numerous coffee dates with my good friend Cathy, I have also learned a lot about what it means to be victorious in Christ. I have made huge progress in my long struggle with loathing myself and constantly seeing sin. Through talking with Cathy, reading books, and insight from the Holy Spirit, I have seen that resting in the cross doesn’t mean I ignore my sin – it means the cross is bigger than my sin. Enjoying who God has made me to be doesn’t mean I enjoy the sins I commit – it means that I am able to trust God to conform me to Christ and unveil to me and others who I really am.

In short, as I look back on 2010, I praise God for His work in my life. I struggled, I failed, I didn’t believe, I didn’t trust, I handled situations poorly. But God brought me through it all. I honestly can say that I wouldn’t have made it without Him. The thing I love the most about going through struggles like this is very simple: when I have a good day, when I feel joyful and peaceful, I know that is from God. He is the source of that feeling. And I feel so immensely blessed by Him. I wouldn’t feel that way had I not gone through a very rough year of a lot of bad days.

As I look forward to 2011, I have to admit that I hope it is easier than 2010 was. But I also hope that God does just as much work in my life. So I will, with His help, joyfully accept whatever means God employs to bring about that sanctification.

I am hoping to find a job (whether at the church or elsewhere) that fits me well. After having a job that I pretty much hated in every aspect, I no longer underestimate what a job can do to your entire well-being. Right now, though, I am very content with working part-time at the church. I got a lot of things crossed off my To-Do List this week!

I am also hoping to write a lot. Being a writer is my dream. I just read in John Eldredge’s book Walking With God, “More often that not this awakening of desire is an invitation from God to seek what we’ve given up as lost, an invitation to try again.” So I’m going to respond to God’s invitation and try again.

Spiritually, I want to pursue an even deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ, as described in Eldredge’s book that I just read. I want to be so close to Christ that I can hear him speak to me. That I seek His opinion on every decision, that I walk with Him all day, every day. It’s a lofty goal. But a very rewarding one. And even a little progress is better than none! I also want to be more intentional about reading – I have averaged about 15 books a year for the past 3 years. I want to increase that to 25 or so. But I also don’t want to burn through books so fast that I don’t remember anything. Kind of defeats the point of reading. So 25 is a loose goal.

Emotionally, I want to be more open and vulnerable in my marriage. I just recently realized that a lot my spiritual battles this year I fought alone. I didn’t let Travis know that I was struggling so much. And when I think about why, I see pride everywhere. With God, I can admit that I’m weak and pathetic. With Travis, I can’t. I think this emotional withholding from Travis has bigger implications and effects than I can even recognize right now. So I want to grow in being vulnerable and humble with Travis.

And finally, blog-wise, I think I am going to change my blog title again. When I changed it from Learning and Loving It to Joy in Being Broken, I was in the midst of my struggle with hating myself because I was so focused on my sins and failures. I thought that God was teaching me to find joy in Him even despite hating myself. As I’ve grown and understood more truth this year, I believe that we don’t find joy in being broken – we find joy in God healing us. We are broken as sinners – we are healed as God’s beloved children. We find joy as we see the cross conquer our sinful natures, as we find freedom from the things that bind us, as we anticipate heaven and perfection.

I haven’t yet decided what my new blog title will be. I’ve thought about something like “More Than Ordinary” to reflect my desire to live a life that rises above the status quo to glorify God. I’ve also thought about something incorporating the idea of being healed through the cross or discovering truth. I’m totally open to suggestions!

All that to say, I’m excited for a new year! Happy New Year to all of you!

reminiscing