On reflection, rest, and looking forward.

A local pastor cuts deep in a radio commercial heard during my morning commute: did you do everything you could in 2013? I doubt my preparedness to answer.

Because I did a lot -- became a lot -- of new things in the past twelve months: a fiancee, a college graduate, a wife, a daughter and sister-in-law, a licensed driver (for the first time, at 22 years old,) and a social worker. I joined communities of bloggers who not only inspired me, but got down in the nitty gritty to do life with me. I also got baptized, over ten years after my parents and a pastor held an intervention and used guilt to try to motivate me to obey. Those were the highs. The lows saw me become anxious, angry, bitter, rebellious, and exhausted.

Did I do everything I could to be better? I ask it frequently of myself, and often I'm reminded of how short I have fallen -- how many opportunities I had to trust the Lord, and instead tried like hell to control things myself. At times, I became physically sick from the tension.

Timothy Keller's words resound: "anxiety is the result of a collapsing false god."

How much of my time has been consumed by the god of control? The god of perfectionism and guilt? Time that I can never get back.

But as I look back over the past year, what overwhelms it all is how faithful the Lord is, despite my not always giving Him my best.

An old roommate and I had a falling out a couple years back, but she left me this letter:

I see you struggling. I know you are fighting some major battles in your life. You have dealt with far more than I can even see. You aren't giving in and you aren't giving up. You are fighting against what you know should not be there. In this, I see hope.

I hearken back to her words at the end of this year, as I read over the past year of journaling -- of pouring my heart out to the Lord, regardless of its contents. I pray her words are still true, wherever she may be today.

Because at the end of the day, the essence of journaling is that it provides evidence of the journey. Throughout this year, I have been more intentional about being in tune with the Lord than ever before, because perhaps more than ever before, I realize my need for Him. 

....

Many bloggers I know begin their new year by choosing a word -- one word to focus their writing on during the year. As a lover of all things semantic, it has been particularly difficult to land on a single word. It is also difficult, given that my posts throughout 2013 are jam packed with words like joy, holy, faithfulness, thankfulness, trust, and grace. But there has been one word to breach my conscience again and again, and that word is rest. 

Rest: 

1. Cessation after exertion or labor. 2. Freedom from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs. 3. Calm, tranquility, ease, relief.

In the midst of the whirlwind that was 2013, I struggled to find rest. I thought about and desired rest constantly, even writing about it a few times on this blog. But what I learned more and more as the year progressed is that rest is a choice. The Holy Spirit was so faithful to convict me and bring to my attention the choices I was making when anxiety rose up in my heart. More often than not, my choices were not favorable.

My friend Andy says that the whole of life is about reacting well to the gospel. Could there be a better reaction than the cessation of my striving? At the cross, with his dying breath, Christ gave me victory. He put an end to my striving for perfection -- my striving to somehow earn grace -- so why do I insist on dragging it out?

Perhaps you find yourself in the same boat? One of the most powerful things we can do in our journey towards healing is to realize that we're not alone. Back in September, I wrote a bit about perseverance -- things that must be born in a person. Birth is an incredibly messy and painful experience. We have to push, and sometimes we come apart at the seams. But it is also beautiful.

The Word says "He has made everything beautiful in its time."

He knows what we need. He is molding us.

These are promises that we can rest in.

Hey, friend! Whether you're new here or find my small space familiar, I am so thankful that you've taken the time to visit. This post closes the chapter of 2013, but with every ending also comes a beginning! Join me in 2014 in my pursuit of rest? And let me know how I can partner with you in your own journey towards all things joyful and promising. 

You, me, and everyone we know.

Somebody tell me where God lives because if God is truth, God doesn't live here. -- Andrea Gibson

I am slowly learning how to live a quiet life. That said, words are truly the only way that I know how to meet with the Good One, and so this is my altar. This is how I reach up, and one of the ways that I know to reach out. Sometimes, I cannot come in peace, so I come in the only other way I know how, which is in pieces. It takes strength to be weak. I write because I believe in the Bride. I write because what I want to do, I cannot muster the courage to do, but what mindsets and behaviors I don’t want, I find myself addicted to. We could all be so much better. Things can be different, if we choose.

I realize that the Truth is divisive. Some have manipulated this mindset to excuse their malice towards others that they deem less. But the table turning Jesus was far more concerned about the people on the outside of the temple than he was about those who thought better of themselves on the inside. He came for the sick. He left the ninety-nine for the one. To use Christ's actions in the temple as justification for our own hatred of others not only displays a gross misunderstanding of the scriptures, but a gross misrepresentation of the gospel.

We have so many lofty theological discussions, and can recite our dogma forwards and backwards, but I wonder if we really understand. I wonder if when we look at the living and active Word we can really say that we know Father God's heart and character well enough to understand that His ways are not our own. Hallelujah, His ways are not my own.

Again and again, we have chosen the lie that leads to our fall. Moreover, we have become the liars. We tell homosexuals, Muslims, people of other political affiliations, that they are not worthy of what Jesus did for them. We have created the culture of "us four and no more," and have clung to it out of fear of what we don't understand. We are prideful and rebellious, labeling our own sin, our lies, our lust, our adultery, our idolatry, as somehow less shameful than others. Christ met with the foreign woman at the well,  he allowed the bloodied woman to touch him, and he reached for the leper. Our lights are off, and we like it better that way. We don’t like seeing ourselves, don’t like others seeing our broken parts. We are both the prodigal, and the older son, who feels as though he has been forgotten and allows himself to become bitter. Yet the Father says “everything I have is yours.” The book of James says that we do not have because we do not ask. Scripture is beautiful that way. It is convicting that way.

From the fall, humanity has had in mind that God is somehow holding out on us. Why then, are we not satisfied with all that we have here on this earth? Why do we not answer the knock on the door and allow the Lord to come in and eat with us? This craving to experience glory has been rooted in our souls since the beginning of time. Knowing this, how could every breath not be worship? We have been called out of the darkness and depravity of the grave, and yet we still wear our grave clothes around like security blankets. We live by a law that emphasizes our shame over his grace, condemning both ourselves and our brothers and sisters. We don’t want to know who we are, because that would mean realizing our responsibility to live in light of his gracious response to our depravity.

We do not act justly, and we do not love mercy. We have become like the pharisees whom Jesus himself rebuked. We know the law, and we debate it down to the punctuation in order to prove ourselves wise and others wrong. There is a vast difference in calling out sin in someone’s life in order to prove that you are right, and bringing something to their attention for the sole purpose of becoming holy. Somewhere along the way, that got blurry. So we end up obsessing over sins that we do not struggle with, pointing them out in others, saying to ourselves “well at least I’m not that person.”  We walk around like we don’t have the answers, as if we are not the best representation of love that people have to go on. We still don’t know what love is.

As we approach Easter, I think of what has become known as the Triumphal Entry. Israel was looking for a king who could defeat Rome and put the nation back on top of the political chain. But Jesus didn't come to agree with anybody's politics. He was a king who came to be a servant. He offered himself, he met people's needs before he ever offered his opinion. As he entered Jerusalem on a donkey, he was met with scores of people who expected him to save them from Caesar, instead of saving them from their sin. He wept over the city, knowing that he would soon be viewing them from the tree that he had been nailed to, beckoning them to come and take up their own crosses as well.

Recently, I read a friend's Facebook post about an aunt who recently passed away from cancer. She wanted the comfort that her aunt was in heaven, as she did know the Lord, but her aunt was a lesbian, and because of this, my friend was unsure. My friend was met with people quoting scripture about how the unrighteous will never inherit the kingdom of God.  My fiance and I are currently looking for a church for our wedding that is geographically favorable for both of our families, who live four hours apart. As we have contacted pastors, many of them have told us point blank that they only allow members of their church to get married there. One even said that "they can't let just anyone in their church."

Nine out of ten young people walk away from their faith in college. It is a staggering statistic, one that I have heard many times in my four years at a Christian college. I finally understand why the number is so high. Why would anyone want to become part of this?

So to you, me, and everyone we know, I am so sorry. I'm sorry for the lies I have believed that have made me less of a person. There have been too many to count, and they sneak into my soul looking for what they may destroy. They never deliver on their promises. They have planted fear in my heart that only Christ has the power to uproot. Lies about my body, lies about the world and love and sex and how to reach the top. Lies about how close I should get to you. I believed them all. I swear I didn't want to, but I drank the poison because it brought the numbness. The poison was easy.

I'm sorry for repeating these lies to you. Perhaps not in words, but in ever more powerful actions.

I am sorry for treating your dreams and hopes and fears and troubles as if they are somehow less than my own. I'm sorry for my graceless inability to rejoice when you rejoice and mourn when you mourn. I'm sorry for my lack of humility, and what things I have said out of my own unstable understanding. I attempted to offer silver and gold, but had none but cheap counterfeits. Lies about holiness and grace and standards, and how close you can get to me.

My friend Andy once told me that everyday is an opportunity to react well to the gospel. If sin is not responding well, not believing the truth, then living according to these lies would certainly more than qualify.

The outrageous thing about grace is that it destroys our economy. I want my walls to be torn down.

I want a fire strong enough to burn down every bricked building, every pew and pulpit, until all that remains is the Church. We could be so much more.