Today in the store, I saw an older lady with an ashen cross on her forehead. I had already been mulling over my purchases for a good twenty minutes when she passed me in the aisle. Do I get this size or that size, this shade or that shade? Immediately, I felt the pangs of guilt. At the beginning of the year, I had committed to participate in Hannah Brencher’s 90 Day Contentment Challenge. I had vowed to give up soda. I planned to spend less time on social networking sites and more time reading scripture. 41 days into 2016, and I am feeling like a miserable failure. The things I deeply desire to resist continue to consume my habits.
Allow me to clarify: I don’t think that God’s intention for me is that I walk around feeling like a failure. I’m learning that his thoughts toward me are tender. I’m learning that he sees the things I do in secret: the draft I never posted, the decision I made even though I knew no one would applaud, and the even simpler parts of my day like making sure my husband’s favorite shirt did not sour in the wash. I know that, yes, he wants me to understand that material things will never fill me up — but I am learning that when I desire him with my whole heart, he promises to be found. He wants to fill me up with his spirit.
I’ve been reading a book by Henri Nouwen called Life of the Beloved. Beloved is my word for 2016, and when Henri Nouwen writes a whole book about your word, you cannot not by it and splurge on the rush shipping option. He writes about the Christian’s struggle to believe what God says about us: that we are beloved, that we are chosen by God. I also recently listened to a keynote given by Sara Hagerty that talked about that same struggle. She also talked about the places we take our cups, in hopes of getting filled. Facebook likes, Twitter followers, blog comments, friends who text back, approval at my job, my marriage, sex, food, shopping. I am guilty of expecting all of these things to hand me my worth. I’m guilty of giving into the temptation to indulge, which inevitably leads to feelings of self-loathing.
The enemy has footholds in my life that I want to take back. And God has words to speak over me, if I would just sit still long enough to listen to him.
I am fully aware of how cliché it is to give up social networking for Lent. But this year, I want my cup to be emptied of that which does not satisfy. I want to really be intentional about how I choose to spend my time and my energy and my money over these next days, and hopefully build habits that will overflow beyond the end of this short season.
Most of all, I want to know his thoughts about me. I want to get close enough to hear the truth he sings over me. Because for a long time, I have relied solely on what I know intellectually — the accumulation of 20 years worth of Sundays, youth camps, Bible studies, college classes, chapel services, Christian podcasts, blog posts, and an online community comprised primarily of believers.
None of those things are bad. I’m grateful for them. But none of those things are God, and his is the voice that I want to hear. Henri Nouwen said that when we listen to the voice that calls us beloved, we want to hear it more and more. “It is like discovering a well in the desert.”
May it be so, Lord. May it be so.