Last night, we sat with a group of middle and high school students and talked about what it meant to truly be a disciple of Christ, especially in a time when there are so many varying interpretations of the word "Christian." So often, Christians are characterized by judgmental, holier than thou attitudes and actions, and I have to say: sometimes that description is entirely fitting.
I've claimed the name of Christ for nearly my entire life. I have sat through countless sermons, volunteered to lead Vacation Bible School, fill in for Sunday school teachers, speak or sing for youth events, and just about everything else that a good Christian girl would do. I avoided parties, alcohol, drugs, premarital sex. I obeyed my parents.
I did (or didn't do, as the case may be) all of these things happily, understanding that whatever rule or guideline I came across was put in place for my benefit. To this day, I don't regret being the good girl.
Never for a moment have I doubted my salvation or considered renouncing my faith. But as I sat in the church foyer, surrounded by students who were genuinely searching for answers and some semblance of solace in their lives, I found myself speaking words that I'm not sure I have ever taken to heart in my own life. My gut quivers even to write that.
Recently, I purchased a black leather bound journal, with the intention of filling it up with prayers. Sadly, I haven't gotten very far. The eighth page bears my familiar lines and loops, but there is something different about these words. There is an ocean inside of them.
I realize that as I've gotten older and started to form my own ideas about what my life should look like, I've been leaving bread crumbs for God, and now I'm afraid of having nothing left. I've been leaving bread crumbs, as if to say you follow me now.
For the past two months, I have driven all over the county, praying and searching for a sign that bore the words "For Rent." Sometimes, C and I would go together. Sometimes, I went alone. I usually cried regardless. We called every phone number we found in the classifieds, only to find that the houses or apartments listed were either vastly out of our price range, or ought to be condemned.
This season of life is bittersweet. Bitter, because we are not where we want to be, and sweet, because we still find that God is faithful to open up doors where we are. Three Saturdays ago, we stumbled upon the yellow apartment building. Within forty-eight hours of us finding it, we had met the landlord and signed a lease. Apartment #205 will be ours for a year. A year of prolonged waiting, of searching for glimpses of God's goodness in what often feels like wilderness.
I remember begging God to provide a home in the neighboring town -- the town where we met six years ago, the town where we found brothers and sisters that we have come to love dearly. Please God, find us a house there. There is nothing for us here. For the longest time, I felt as though he was on vacation, or worse, screening my calls.
Sometimes my heart is filled with fear. Is it fear that he will not show up, or that he won't be the gracious, loving Savior I've always believed him to be? Perhaps.
For the first time in my life, I found myself at a crossroad. There were two very distinct options laid out in front of me: simply trust God, or don't. Allow him to overwhelm my fear, or don't.
The storm swells within my spirit as I finally hear him. I often find myself becoming frustrated by the fact that sometimes, he whispers. He waits until we finally tire from the endless striving, the wild searching for his presence in the wind and the fire and the quake. He is the God who comes close, the God whose very breath is essential to the continuation of all manner of life. He looks longingly down the dusty path as he waits for us to return, to finally admit that we cannot do it on our own.
Sometimes you wonder if I can truly use your circumstances to expand the kingdom. It seems as though your days are filled with monotony, rather than grandeur. I know you are not where you want to be today, but if you trust me, I will use this time to make my name great in your life right where you're at.
I set my prayer journal aside, secretly ashamed by the realization that I'm holding back, and at the same time, desperate to let it go. Desperate just to let him love me.
It must be hard to hold someone who is constantly thrashing.
In scripture, we meet a man whose son has been possessed by an evil spirit. We don't have the luxury of a backstory with which to fill in the gaps -- we don't know how old his son is or how long he has carried the burden of this evil spirit. We only know that he has been possessed "since childhood." The father pleads with Jesus, help me if you can.
Perhaps I have adopted this attitude of prayer unconsciously. Please, God, if you're really powerful enough, and you're not too busy dealing with other things, could you help me? Could you remind me that you love me?
I flip through the pages hurriedly, until I reach that old familiar passage in Romans about all things working together, and I consider the names given to Christ in the book of Isaiah. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Can he really be all of those things to me, if he is not truly for me? Could he be bothered to work even one thing out for my good if he were not unequivocally on my side? Surely, he has been more faithful than my imagination could fathom.
My mind wanders back to the church foyer, chairs circled up haphazardly.
"How do you become a disciple?" she asked. She had never been to our church's youth group before.
The youth pastor explained the importance of the sinner's prayer -- how in order to become a Christian, you have to invite God to change your life. I added that the heart of discipleship was to not stop at praying this prayer one time. We must continually ask Christ to invade our lives and change us from the inside out.
Deep down, I want to delight in him simply because of who he is. So here I am, finally asking again. Whispering that I'll leave the light on, and hopefully there won't be any strings attached this time.