It’s been 17 days since I last posted.
I’ve become lazy. About fifteen days ago, I got my phone back, which has been so nice, because it’s been taken away since March. I’ve been constantly involved with social media, talking to people, taking pictures, watching vines, etc. And in time, I’ve become even more distracted than I was before.
Last night was a powerful night. Great, yet awful night. I’ve written about WITH so many times, but yet again, I’m going to bring it up. If you’re new here, scroll down a bit to past posts, I guarantee you’ll find me corroborating about it numerous times. Go read the book. I’ve also let you know how I fall into the FOR God category, which is something I’m not extremely proud of. The past fifteen days, though, I feel as though I’ve fallen into a new category, one not mentioned in the book directly. Over God is the closest thing I can relate. I’ve been living away from God. Like not even with, for, from, over, under.. but rather apart, separate, without. And I’ve been doubting.
I’m coming to the age where my decisions are going to start becoming my own. I’m going to be mostly independent soon. I can vote. I can overload my schedule, or I can take simple classes. I can play in a band, or I can work with kids. It’s a lot, especially since indecision may or may not be my problem. Okay, it is my problem. I have to decide how I’m going to manage my time. What I want to go into. Where I want to go. Who I want to hang out with, room with, remove from my life. It’s become real as I have an increasing say in my life. I love my parents, and I’m slowly becoming my own, while still under their wing. All these years, they decided for me. They decided when I was going to eat, what I was going to eat, where I was going to school, what sports I would be involved in, and so on. They decided I would go to church every Sunday. And for the past month or so, I’ve been questioning if it’s really what I want to do with my time.
And deep down, I feel it is. I’ve seen God move. I’ve seen the impact He has had in my life. I see adults around me who I look up to who are mighty reasonable and lovely who have given everything to love God. And yet, I’m doubting. I’m the kind of person who is hesitant to trust. I’m not going to throw all of me into a relationship until I’m sure it’s right. I’m not going to tell someone what’s going on in my life, unless I know they will keep it with them, they will direct me back to God, and they will listen, but not share with others. I’m hesitant to trust God, yet I want to. I find I tend to listen to other people’s advice before I seek God. I find I would rather put my faith in things seen, rather than the unseen. But yet, I know God is what I should strive for. I’ve been brought up in the church, I’ve seen the fruit of the Holy Spirit inside someone, I’ve always loved to spend time with Christians because they’re different than the other folks. They have a greater purpose. They are loving, kind, gracious, accepting. I’ve always thought of myself similarly, but recently, I don’t know if I really could.
Last week, I came to youth group about an hour early. I went into the sanctuary, and I fell on my knees. I wanted to seek God, alone, and I longed for Him to speak to me. I whispered prayers which I felt went nowhere, because they were empty. They were just words I have spoken in routine. I sang songs full of empty lyrics. I tried to seek God during the half and hour I knelt there. About half an hour later, I drove home after getting sick at church. I came home, tired, exhausted, and feeling more alone than ever.
Before I bring up some other stuff, I love my small group. I love you all. Bear with me. I’m the only senior girl. There’s nobody else my age who understands the stress of college combined with school and church and work and volunteering and sports and friends and sleep. I love all you junior girls, but there are some weeks when I feel you guys don’t get my stuff. Also, I recently hesitate to participate in small group. I love listening. I love listening. I’ll listen to all you guys share things, share your heart, your highs, your lows, and everything in between. And then it’s my turn to talk. And I feel like I have a reputation for saying not entirely serious stuff, making everyone laugh. Although I love how you find everything I say great, such as 29.6 and tattoo rants and jumping off cliffs after your friends, sometimes, I wish there wasn’t an expectation for me to be lighthearted. I feel as though my moods are generalized into tired or herself. And herself is the jovial girl, sitting, saying things to lighten the mood, yet searching, alone. Or when I’m serious and attentive, questions such as “you okay?” fly my way. I don’t really know who I really am, but I hate to break it, I’m not everything I wish I could be. I’m me. And even though I don’t really know who I am, she’s not the girl sitting on the couch, reluctant to contribute things.
Last night, I sat in my usual spot on the corner of the couch, listening to everyone contributing to the conversation. And T’s wife [again scroll down if you don’t know who T is] came up, and sat in perpendicular to me, listening also, but participating on occasion. I felt a longing to go tell her my current longing for God juxtaposed with my doubting He isn’t there. Towards the end, her daughter came upstairs, bleeding, and she rushed off. I immediately second guessed myself and was like, nah, this can wait until next week. I told myself if she asked if I needed to process something as we were standing downstairs, I would tell her everything going on beneath the surface. How I have a D- in AP Chemistry. How I feel violated. How I’m searching alone.
And she did. She asked me if there was something I needed to process with somebody.
At first, I searched for words. I sat there, wondering if the everything inside of me was going explode as I uncapped it and how messy it would be. As it turned out, it was messy, but freeing. I noticed her eyebrows rise as I told her I was failing classes. She listened, did not criticize. She didn’t interrupt, just kept prompting for me to uncap different areas of my life. The entire time, she was praying.
As for exploding, the majority of it exploded out of my eyes, and I was sure my face was red. I’m not usually a sappy kind of person. I’m pretty emotionally reserved, but I’ll let you know if I’m hungry, overly joyful [slap happy], or angry. It was different last night. Also, I don’t exactly appreciate physical touch unless I initiate it, but last night, she was the only one I wanted to hold on to.
As we walked out of the small room where we had been conversing, only the youth pastor, his kids, and another woman were left. The other woman also works for the church, and she is in charge of scheduling volunteers on Sundays. I’m part of her serving team, and we tend to think alike. She always asks me how I’m doing, and half the time, I see her more of a friend who’s a college student than an austere adult. She is so genuine and kind. Last night, as I exited the room, face red, emotionally drained, she handed me my bag, and gave me a hug. I covered my face with my hair, and kept my head down. The only thing I specifically remember her saying is:
“You don’t have to hide your face; you’re beautiful, even when you’re crying.”
You don’t have to hide your face, your struggle, your weakness, your downfall. You don’t have to hide in shame. You don’t have to hide. You don’t have to be emotionally reserved. You don’t have to pretend it’s okay.
As I drove home last night, I turned on the radio. This one line stuck out the most from “Courageous” by Casting Crowns: “Walk humbly with your God.” Me being me and God being God, somehow I heard it “walk closely with your God.” And in the moment, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be empty, alone, hiding. I wanted to walk WITH God. Closely, and humbly. But it’s funny because I’ve wanted it for a while now. I’ve tried to seek God on occasion, but the longing hasn’t resided enough for me to stop everything and seek God with overflowing passion, as I should.
I don’t want to say another empty prayer. I want to live for the God of the universe. I want His power and spirit inside me. I want to be filled. I want to serve. I want to want God more than anything else here on this earth. This life is so short, and potentially meaningless. I don’t want to trust humans before God. I want to be comfortable giving anything up for His will. [Anything is also a really good book okay]. I want to be firm.
This weekend, I had a fantastic conversation with some people about seeking God. First, scripture. Don’t just read through scripture and take it as advice FROM God (see what I did there?). Read it WITH (ayyye) God. Ask Him to guide you as you read. Learn about God’s character, His love, His discipline. Take the examples and mistakes and parables God gives us in His word. Take His words, His instruction, His peace, and His presence WITH you.
This summer, more than any other time, I found God spoke to me through the Bible. As I began to read more and more, I began to familiarize myself, and even read chapters I normally wouldn’t. After visiting Harraman [more details preciously aka in August 2015], I intentionally opened to Isaiah 41:10, but found Isaiah 41:30-31 to be exactly what I needed. Over a week at Jesus camp in WI, there were many instances where I opened my Bible and found peace in the presence of God. Friday of Jesus camp, I opened my Bible to 1 John. 1 John talks about loving people, and during the specific day, some person was laid on my heart who I needed to forgive. And it was God’s doing. A more lighthearted and honest example, Trinidadian food is really dense. And while there for twelve plus days, a lot can be accumulated inside of you. If you’re following, Isaiah 42:14 helped me more than medicine ever could:
“For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.
Laugh, but next time you find yourself in a similar situation, you know God’s got you even then. But seriously, it’s amazing how scripture can move within us. It is the living, breathing word. It’s a guidebook for life. It’s God’s personalized message to us. And He probably wants us to read it WITH Him and WITH His kingdom in mind. Don’t know where to start? Look at Proverbs, there’s about 30 chapters – one a day. The gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Learn about Jesus’ ministry. Feeling hopeless? Check out Ecclesiastes. Want to hear an incredible story about mercy and firm faith? Check out Jonah or Job. Looking for a down to earth, strong in diction, authoritative, powerful book about redemption and how we’ve messed up? Look at Romans. Okay, I’ll stop sounding like a salesman now. But seriously, the more you read, the more you want to read. Try one chapter a day. Try opening your Bible to a random verse tomorrow morning and try to listen for God. It’s a day changer.
Secondly, I find I am able to feel God when listening to slow, Christian music. Some of my favorites are Broken Vessels by Hillsong, Captivated by Shawn McDonald, Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin, Oceans by Hillsong, Forever Reign by Hillsong, You Won’t Relent by Jesus Culture, and many more. Reflection. Praise. Phrases bringing life and meaning.
Lastly, never forget to seek God throughout your everyday life. Some of you remember how my word of 2015 was INTENTIONAL. It’s 2016 now, and I don’t have a word of the year yet, but intentional is going to have to suffice until I find one. Every opportunity, conversation, meal, etc. can be used by God. Sometimes we forget we’re always a part of His plan whether we’re at the movies or studying in the school library. Actually [not so] funny story, but really more of a serious, fantastic story, okay. I was sitting in the library at school, at my own table, skyping my sister, halfway studying chemistry, and waiting to see if anyone wanted to sit in the two remaining chairs at the table. Some freshman flute came along and sat down, asked if I had anything she could do. I shrugged and got some post it notes and highlighters out of my backpack, inviting her to color if she had nothing better to do. As I went through my backpack once more, I realized I had a book with me. A book by the Bob Goff, called Love Does [WHICH IS ALSO A V GOOD BOOK]. I handed it over and was like, well I guess you could read this if you want. She took it, and twenty minutes later, we were in a deep conversation about the gospel and unconditional love. All because there were open chairs at my table. It probably didn’t have long term effects, but I hope one day she will remember.
God is good, all the time, and all the time, He is good.
SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD.
Isn’t mercy such a beautiful thing? It’s sometimes hard to see in our culture because we are based on cause effect kind of relationships. You forgive me, I forgive you. You throw insults at me, I throw insults at you. If you do this, I’ll do this. God’s not like humans. Everyday, His mercies are new. Each day, no matter how many times we mess up, we are forgiven, made new, redeemed. Regardless, we are called son, daughter, beloved, enough. We don’t have to hide our face from God. Instead, we should come with an attitude of humility and gratitude. With knowledge of our sins and a longing for purity and righteousness. We’re going to mess up, but it’s important to know how to return to our loving father when roads become to steep to climb on our own.
And sometimes the roads are going to be steep. Steep, rocky, uncomfortable, hard, exhausting, painful, etc. But it’s part of His plan. We as humans fail to see the purpose in a lot of trials and situations until after they have been resolved. Bad stuff happens sometimes. A lot of times. satan [goin’ Bob Goff mode] is a dirty, thirsty thief, who will do anything and everything he can to make us stray from God. I mentioned Job above. We talked this weekend about how God allowed satan to act in Job’s life just to prove Job wouldn’t deny Him. satan took away Job’s family, house, animals, health, basically everything. And still yet, Job rejoiced in God. Trials stretch us. If we were able to get through them alone, would there even be a need for an almighty God? Probably not. If we could understand why certain things were happening, would we ever turn to God amidst pain? Nah.
Let’s be INTENTIONAL.
I’m sorry I basically just wrote a chapter of a book here. You made it!