Thursday, November 28, 2013


I got on Facebook today to post the obligatory "Thanksgiving" Facebook post, expressing the typical gratitude for family, friends, and food. I started typing, the words flowing from my fingers with barely a thought,

"Today I'm thankful for so many incredible friends and an amazing, supportive family, for a God who loves me far more than I deserve or can ever imagine, and for the amazing things He has done in my life."

Pretty decent words of gratitude, right? I mean I listed thanks for the wonderful people in my life and then gave the glory to God! What more could you want? Sure to get plenty of Likes (I'm at 18 right now...if anyone would like to make me a little more popular feel free. Just kidding). But then I realized something, I don't just have amazing family and friends and an indescribably incredible God one turkey-infested-Thursday a year. I have those people, and far more, every single day.

Feeling rather convicted, but still obligated to post a Thanksgiving-thanks status (which is probably a whole 'nother issue of how much I look for validation from social media), I added this to the end of my thankful post,
"I'm also reminded that I don't give thanks enough, because these are things I should be joyful for every day!"

But I realized. I don't want to stop at at fifty-nine silly words posted on a social media site that a few people will see and (probably) no one will remember, because it's Facebook and it doesn't shouldn't matter. 

I want to be giving thanks everyday, and more than once a day. 

But not only do I want to be doing this, I should be doing this. The fact that I fail to give thanks frequently is a massive problem. Everyone has something to be thankful for, and I especially know I have much for which to be grateful. I have been so blessed in my life, God has done so much for me, and He has used my family and friends to bless me incredibly as well. 

Me not observing and giving thanks and praise for the blessings and wonders in my life points to a greater problem: my own concern with and focus on myself. Such selfishness will only bring me to even more focus on myself, and even less wonder in the glorious world surrounding me. I aim to wonder at the world and the gifts of God more often, thus taking the focus off myself and putting it back on God, where it should never have left. 

Because the world is beautiful, full of breathtaking, incredulous sights and moments. People are fascinating, full of quirks and stories and love. And God is indescribable in His mercy, justice, power, and love. And when these are the things of which I think and speak, life will be so much sweeter.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Peter Doubted and I'm Afraid

Irrational, adj: illogical, senseless.

A few synonyms include preposterous, unreasonable, unsound, invalid, silly, brainless, unwise, disconnected, and disjointed. Though I feel as though "illogical" and "senseless" pretty efficiently sum up the meaning of the word.

Recently I've been struck by a bout of highly irrational stress and fear, which has taught me quite a great deal.

In the course of my life I've watched God move and act in my own life and in the lives of others. I've seen Him provide for friends, family, and myself in incredible ways. I've truly seen Him act in line with Ephesians 3:20, doing "immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine." Yet somehow I'm still afraid.

I trust God. I know He can do incredible, miraculous things. I know this truth so fully, I believe it with all my heart.

But when I'm really honest, when I truly look past the facades and walls, I'm still afraid. Despite knowing that God is our Provider and Protector, that He is loving, just, and merciful, I'm afraid He won't act, I'm afraid He won't provide. Not that He can't, that He won't. Like I'm so afraid He will choose not to provide that I can't fully trust Him to provide. Preposterous, unreasonable, unsound.

I have watched God work to bring me to the places in life I am now. I have watched Him provide finances, housing, support, love, care, through Himself and through others. Yet I'm still afraid He won't provide. But at the same time I process these fears, I recognize how irrational and illogical they are! I know in my heart and mind that God provides, that He will provide, yet there's this other part of me that's so afraid He won't that I'm still trying to work it all out on my own. And I'm frustrated with myself because I know how senseless and silly these thoughts are. I know they're illogical, I know they're invalid, I know they're brainless and unwise. But my mind still goes there, I still run along the trail of "what if?" and the "what if" is, "What if God doesn't work, what if God doesn't provide?"

The result of this frustration is that I have been so angry with myself. I can lay out all the facts and feelings and know full well that I am being irrational. Yet the feelings of fear don't subside and the facts of who God truly is, a Provider and Protector, don't diminish, and I'm still left in this place of confusion.

Because here's what I've begun to teach myself, a teaching I must unlearn. Somehow I've convinced myself it isn't okay to have fears or doubts. That if I'm struggling or fearful, I'm doing "badly," and when life is unicorns and rainbows and I'm dancing through the streets with stars strapped to my ankles I'm doing "well" and everything is fine and dandy. And so I start to feel guilty. I feel like I'm unworthy of approaching God because I'm doubting His goodness and that He'll provide. And when I'm feeling guilty and unworthy I retreat. And so I draw farther from God by my own doing, not His (because He doesn't change how He feels about us, we change how we feel about Him), and then I start not having as close of a relationship with Him, because I've pulled away. But instead of recognizing this I start to tell myself the untruth that He's stepping away from me because of my doubt and fear and doing "badly," when in reality, it's of my own creation.

And so I'm slowly learning that it is okay for me to fear. It is okay for me to question. It is even okay for me to doubt. And when these things happen it does not mean I am doing "badly." Faith isn't a straight track up to Heaven with no stops, turns, bumps, or bends. It's actually a roller-coaster, full of ups and downs and round-abouts and that is okay.

The "greats" in the Bible all doubted. Peter denied Christ three times. Paul was murdering Christians before He saw the light on the road to Damascus. We all doubt, deny, fear, and question. These ups and downs do not define our faith or how "well" we are doing in our Christian walk. They mean we are living, we are not stagnant and complacent, we are seeking and searching and so sometimes fear and doubt are okay. The key, however, is to not remain in these places of questioning, but to take those fears and questions to God and place them before His throne. Because His throne is one of beauty and grace. This grace means my relationship with God, how "well" I am doing is not determined by what I do, but by what Christ has done! Ups and downs do not change the way God sees me. I may be pulling away from Him because of my own fear of unworthiness. He does not pull away from me, because I am completely worthy I His eyes, no matter what. Not because of who I am or anything I have or have not done, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

When Peter thrice denied Jesus, Jesus did not see Peter any differently. This huge low for Peter did not change the love Christ felt for him. Jesus still looked him in the eye and said, "I love you, more than you can ever imagine or comprehend. I'm dying for you. That's how much I love you." And the beauty is that He says that to each and every one of us. When I am afraid, He doesn't look at me with disdain or disappointment, regardless of how irrational or illogical these fears may be. He gently reminds me of all He has done, and invites me to watch Him provide again, to make more memories with Him.

And so, once more, I learn about grace, and experience it's beauty as Jesus walks beside me as I face my fears.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fighting My Fearful Fist

I think as human beings we want closure. We like to know what's going on, we enjoy answered and questions without open-ended answers. We want problems to be solved and broken things to be fixed. We desire wholeness and sense.

There's a kid in my writing class who loves to write stories with frustratingly open endings that leave the reader wondering, questioning, unsure and desperately wishing to be provided with more details and a neat gift-wrapped box of closure. His writing is full of unanswered questions and vague information, yet when he reads other writing he always wants more closure, more cohesion, more information, more detail. His writing lends itself to chaos and ambiguity, yet he still seems to want finality and answers.

And I find that to be a fascinating indication of the human nature. We want answers, and we want closure, and most of all we want control. We want to write the story and keep the story and determine who reads it, how they read it, what they think, and maintain the power to change the ending and main characters as we please. We want to be the puppetmasters, yet we're insanely terrified of being our own puppetmaster because then what if we mess it up and the strings get all tangled and there's no one to fix the mess we've created.

So we write plays without answers yet we keep a tight grip on our desire for control and conclusion.

And I am the greatest culprit of this.

If I could pick one underlying theme for the narrative of my life I think it would be my constant pursuit of freedom. I so long to just be free, to spread wings and fly without a care, soaring on the breath of the Wind. To just be free in the knowledge that I am deeply loved. But here's the conflict to this desperate desire. I also like to be in control. I tether myself with my lack of surrender because I'm so afraid of falling I don't trust the wings I've been given. So I can't live with the joyous abandon I'm meant to embrace.

That is my other narrative, a need to trust and surrender. Which is actually tied up in the desire for freedom because I can only have freedom when I trust and my fear of surrender keeps me from freedom. It's a mess, really.

My whole life I've been learning about these things, but especially intensely in the past six months or so. I have learned so much about trusting God, and so much about His love for me and the freedom that it brings. And I've learned how much I like to be in control of my life, and how greatly that inhibits my ability to surrender to God. Because when I surrender to God I must relinquish control of my life and hand my story to Him, ask Him to write it for me, because I trust that His ending is far better than any ending I could ever imagine for myself.

And honestly I've begun to learn to do this. I truly believe God has worked in my heart to bring to a place of greater trust than I've ever experienced before. I've had an immense amount of doubt and uncertainty about what my future would look like, where God wanted me, what He wanted me doing, why things weren't working out, why He didn't seem to want me where I thought He wanted me, it was intense. And I spent months being in this place of saying, "God, I'll do whatever you want me to do, go wherever you want me to go, be whoever you want me to be...just tell me what you want, just tell me please, please, please." I was so willing to do anything, as long as I knew what it was.

And God did not tell me. Finally, after months of praying and learning and hearing God brought me to a place of being able to say, "God I'll do whatever you want me to do, go wherever you want me to go, be whoever you want me to be." And end it with that. No "but just tell me," or "I just need to know," and so on. I had to actually be willing to not know and trust that He would work and provide as necessary and my job was just to take it one day at a time, one step at a time, and moment by moment sacrifice and surrender.

God brought me to a place that the song Oceans describes perfectly, "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders...take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, that my faith could be made stronger."

And when I was finally legitimately completely okay with a completely unknown and fully surrendered future, I saw God work in incredible ways. And at pretty much the last minute, I watched Him provide and work in ways I'd barely even imagined but never thought I'd actually see happen.

Ephesians talks about God as one who can do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. Habakkuk talks about God doing things we wouldn't believe even if we were told. I saw God do more than I could ask or imagine, I saw God do works I never expected.

But the minute I finally surrendered and then saw God work and was handed an answer and a "plan" and some sort of hazy picture of my future...I decided the best thing to do would be take control again. I mean God's insanely powerful and all, but obviously I'm the one who should be in control, right?

And so my fingers started to curl in, my hands no longer open and holding out my surrendered life.

So here's what I'm realizing is the problem with just having open hands - I can still close them. What I am beginning to understand (and will absolutely have to be re-taught again, and again, and again) is that I cannot simply hold my hands out, fingers spread wide, palms open, and let my life rest there held up to Christ. I have to let go.

I have to turn my hands over, unclench my fingers, and let my life fall.

Because when I hold my hands up, my hands are still the ones fighting gravity. So I haven't surrendered because I'm still the one doing the work, I'm still in the way, I'm still keeping control. And I'm allowing for a backup, for a Plan B, because if I don't like where God is taking my life or I don't think He's moving quickly enough, I can close my fingers and grasp my life in my own two hands again.

But letting go, actually releasing my life and seeing it fall - that is actually surrendering. At that point I've actually given up and let go. I have to trust that something will happen. God may stick out His own hand and catch my life in His, or He may let it fall to the floor. Either way, I have to trust that whatever He does with my life - flying or falling - it is good, because God is good, and all He does is good and for His glory.

It's not about where my life goes, it's about who my life belongs to. If I'm actually letting to and truly surrendering, then I have to be okay with my life going any direction with the knowledge that whatever God does with it is the absolutely best way my life could ever have possibly gone.

So now I'm faced yet again with uncertainty, doubt, insecurity, fear, and the overwhelming haze of the unknown. And to be honest part of me just wants to clench my fists, because I haven't yet fully let go. I keep holding on to something so I can maintain some control. But deeper than that desire is my longing to truly surrender.

I want to let go. Turn my fists over, uncurl my fingers.

I want to be free of the cage of my controlling fist and fall free.