all of me.

 

the last week of high school group for the school year. a sweet time of worship. tears. an impromptu dance party. all things that last wednesday night was composed of. but most important was the reminder that Jesus is worth every part of me.

i was trying to focus during worship,  and i kept giving God the things i’m concerned with (so, everything). granted it was all bits and pieces; kind of one thing at a time, as i thought of each thing individually. but it didn’t feel like it was enough. i kept asking “What more is there to do? How do i get rid of feeling like i’m consumed with so much stuff and so much of myself all the time??” …

the thing is, I keep praying about the same THINGS – circumstances, people, thoughts, fears, worries, desires, all of these PARTS of my life. which is okay, because I think God definitely wants to hear the specifics, but i think i’ve been missing it. and He’s been waiting for me to hear Him say “just lay your SELF down at My feet.” as a person, i want to be filled with Him, not just in a place where i let Him have control of the things that are heavy on my mind.

the only way to be rid of myself is to be filled with Jesus. the only way to be filled with Jesus is to come before Him, desiring that & willingly sacrificing all of me, and that is a sweet exchange that i believe takes constant effort on my part. because who am i to withhold any part of myself from God? I  {b e l o n g}  to Him. i know this in my head, yet i still struggle to understand it in my heart and to know how to act on it consistently.

i was asking God over and over during worship to clothe me with His humility, because for some reason i feel so aware of the pride and selfishness and conceit inside of me, and i would venture to say it’s probably one of the grossest feelings ever. i know God wants to abolish that, and i know that to do that i have to first become aware of it.

He definitely gave me another taste of that humility. i fell apart during our last small group time of the school year. it was probably one of the best nights we’ve had all year – a really raw time of sharing with each other the areas of difficulty that are most prevalent in life right now. aside from being heartbroken over some of the things that were said, even more than that i was brought to tears by the fact that i get to hear these girls’ stories. how blessed i am to have insight into their precious lives, and to be someone who can walk alongside them, speak truth to them and learn from them, at the same that i am learning things in my own life. it is a privilege i do not feel like i deserve. i am still learning so much, myself, how am i the one God chose and fully equipped to encourage and lead these girls alongside Deanna? needless to say, i was reminded once again that i don’t have to have it all together to be in this position, and i clearly do not, by any means. it is so easy to feel like i don’t or won’t have the right things to say; i fear i am not enough in that sense, but i have also learned the importance of simply listening, and trusting God to bring the words right when they are needed. i have been so encouraged, hearing how well these girls listen to Jesus. they know exactly where His Holy Spirit is bringing conviction to their hearts, and seeing how sensitive they are to His voice is something God has used time and again to encourage me this year. i actually look up to them in a lot of ways.

i randomly came across Ecclesiastes 5 that night. i opened my Bible during small groups just to have something to look at while i attempted (and seriously failed) to fight back tears, and literally turned straight to “The vanity of selfish toil.”

“Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few… For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is vanity. But fear God.” i don’t like how difficult it is to not be caught up in myself and to instead continually yield to God, but i love that He does not relent. so much to be gleaned here. it put me at a loss for words to even express in prayer. especially those last two sentences…

“For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is vanity. But fear God.”

so many desires, and so many words used to express them to God that i lose track of how to simply fear Him in the midst of it all. i lose track of the importance of surrendering all of me, not just fragments of my life.

i am convicted to give Him not only control of these areas, but the authority to consume me, as a person. whatever that means. and i’m scared to.

i am learning how to say “God, here is everything. Here am I. Take me.”

“I Will Look Up” by Elevation Worship

All the worries of this world
I will lay them at your feet
Surrender every anxious thought
For perfect peace
Your perfect peace

All the loved ones I hold dear
All my hopes and dreams and all my fears
I will choose to trust your name
In everything
With everything

I will look up for there is none above you
I will bow down to tell you that I need you
Jesus, Lord of all
Jesus, Lord of all

I will take you at your word
Jesus you have taken hold of me
All my life is in your hands
You’re my strength
You’re my strength

I will look up for there is none above you
I will bow down to tell you that I need you
Jesus, Lord of all
Jesus, Lord of all
I will look back and see that you are faithful
I look ahead believing you are able
Jesus, Lord of all
Jesus, Lord of All

Prince of Peace
Perfect Healer
All my life, all my cares on you
King of Kings
Mighty Savior
All my life, all my cares on you

 

“Allegiance” by The Procession

 

I confess of the ways i’ve turned from you

creating idols my heart could bow unto

from time to time i believed the lie

they would satisfy, they would give me life

but all these counterfeits will never do

 

so i pledge my heart to you

all my love my life to you

take an oath devoted to you alone

my allegiance to you

my allegiance to you

 

guide my heart to desire the love you’ve shown

light my path, may i see your present hope

create in me a heart so clean

that my soul would sing of your victory

in liberty, Father, i say yes to you

 

so i pledge my heart to you

all my love my life to you

take an oath devoted to you alone

my allegiance to you

my allegiance to you

 

you’ve taken away my shame

in return you pour out your grace

i thank you, Lord

the cross as your proof of love

your pledge to each one of us

we thank you, Lord

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wait, i like school?

8 am class was canceled, two assignment deadlines were extended, and I had a cinnamon roll for breakfast. That is a rare Monday morning, folks. There is a God in heaven! (*insert praise hands emoji*)

The first thing I did this morning (besides eat a cinnamon roll, drink a cup of coffee, and relish in the joy of no class) was bring this whole upcoming homework-infested and anxiety-ridden week to the feet of Jesus. I was overwhelmed. I told God that my academics belong to Him; that I want to do well in all of my classes and on all of my assignments, but if I try to carry alone the burden of everything that is required of me this week, I won’t be able to do it. So I gave it to Him, committed myself to working diligently, and thanked Him for the opportunity to be in school.

Even I have to read that last part twice because it’s hard to believe that I finally feel thankful for school. This has not always been my attitude. Heck to the no.

I regret that up until this point I have seriously taken for granted my time as a college student. Sure, I’ve passed my classes, but for the most part, since the fall of 2013 I have neglected to see that the responsibility of achieving and maintaining my own academic success is a unique one, and it was given to me as an opportunity to practice good stewardship. I think it’s safe to say that problem number one is that at first I did not view my college education this way. I tried to see it as something that God has called me to, and eventually I was able to believe that in time He would reveal to me the direction He wants me to take in a career, but seeing it as a gift was a whole different story during my first few semesters of college. And reaching a point where I was okay with going to school, even though I felt like I was wandering aimlessly, was difficult. I hated life as a freshman. In high school you think you’ll be able to jump right into all the things you want to study (if you even have subjects you actually want to keep studying), but all of those general ed classes really put a damper on those hopes. At least for me… but maybe being an undeclared major had more to do with that than I think.

It was one of the most challenging things to keep reminding myself of how strongly I knew God wanted me in school, despite how much I did not want to apply myself to certain subjects that I literally could not care any less about.

Being a student is a privilege, a gift, and something that I want to continually be better at. I get to make my own decisions about what I want to study and what career I hope to pursue. On one hand I feel like I haven’t appreciated that free will. But on the other, I’ll give myself a little bit of grace because, especially as a freshman, it was hard to be motivated when I had no flipping clue what I wanted to study except, like, anything but the textbooks that I had to purchase.

My point is this: Now that I am enjoying school, I am realizing how much I didn’t at first, and how much God has brought me through and taught me in the process. I have learned that doing my best in school is actually a form of worship, and He was patient with me when I wasn’t keeping that mindset and fully immersing myself in what He has called me to. Yeah, looking back I totally wish I had been just as motivated back when I knew so much less about what I wanted to do. Yeah, I wish I had been joyful just to be able to get an education at all, and I regret taking that for granted for the first couple of years. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do, but that’s not the point. I think I’m just really excited to finally feel like I’m headed somewhere. I’m finally studying what interests me, and it’s still challenging, but it’s a good feeling to have figured that out after so many moments of feeling clueless, doubtful and unmotivated. And it’s all thanks to my Savior.

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” -Isaiah 26:3

“Into Your hand I commit my spirit, You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” -Psalm 31:5

“The soul of the lazy man desires and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” -Proverbs 13:4

“Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.” -Ephesians 6:5

full surrender –> perfect peace

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

This is a pretty sweet promise that has been coming back to my mind every time it goes from being at rest one moment, and in the next begins to think “But, God…”

~

Until now I don’t know that I have ever repeatedly given something back to God so many times before in my life. So, until now I guess I never really knew what full surrender feels like. And it feels like a lot when one of the things I want the most is the very thing God asks me to place at His feet. At a certain point, holding onto my own desires stopped being an option because I realized that gets me nowhere. The key part of this journey is that God has not only given me the strength to surrender what I want for myself, but also the desire to do so in the first place. And He truly has kept me at perfect peace in the process.

~

“Make a map of my desires; all roads lead to You.” -Jillian Edwards

~

As I’ve become more aware of the desires of my own heart, finding the balance between wanting fulfillment of those desires and wanting Christ has been a struggle and a constant prayer request. For awhile I wrestled with understanding that it’s okay to want things in life that aren’t God Himself.. a degree, a stable job, a relationship, a family, a home (preferably by the beach). For awhile I shoved them away and denied myself the ability to want them because I was unsure of the extent to which I was “allowed” to want them. I figured that if I didn’t already have them, clearly I shouldn’t want them because God gives us everything we need, right? I thought it was “automatic idolatry” or something because I didn’t know how to not want any of those things more than I want Jesus. I was afraid to even let myself go there and find out because I thought that they would immediately consume me. I quickly learned, however, that ignoring them is not the remedy. I learned to instead invite Jesus to be part of them, acknowledging that He knows they’re there, that they’re from Him, and that there is a time and a place for each one.

So, then my most fervent prayer became “God, help me to want you more than I want anything else.” And in my naivety I forgot that when God answers prayers like this, it’s not a quick fix; He leads us through the valley; He walks with us through the process. And it is definitely a process involving obedience on our part. He brought just the right circumstances to teach me exactly what I wanted to learn (and then maybe temporarily forgot that I wanted to learn during the process because it was so frustrating).

This isn’t the first time God’s teaching method was to keep me in a constant state of not knowing. And not only not knowing, but also not knowing how long I won’t know. That was the part that bothered me the most. If that makes any sense. It’s kind of comical. There came a point when I realized I’m helpless; that there’s not a single thing I can do except WAIT on the Lord to reveal what He wants when He wants. And I realize I’m being pretty vague here, but the details around all of this don’t matter as much as the lesson itself, and that is the part I want to highlight. By the way, I think this theme of “the unknown” has been a reoccurring one in my posts. It’s just a constant theme in life in general, and always will be. It amazes me how creative God gets with it, too, because I feel like I’ve learned how He wants me to deal with and approach different aspects of an unknown future in so many ways. There’s always a different lesson and always something new to learn, but all of it ends up pointing back to the same command to not worry about the future.

Anyway, I prayed and prayed for specific answers that I thought would benefit me at this point in my life, but the only one I got was the very one I didn’t want: “not yet”. While I kept asking Him for the answers that I wanted, I also continued to ask that He would make Himself my greatest desire in the midst of it, and that’s exactly what He did.

It took me awhile to realize that in denying me one of the things I was asking for, He was also giving me the other: more of Him. He taught my heart to be content with Him as my answer.

He taught me to be obedient and to actually want to do what He was asking of me: to repeatedly give back to Him the desires of my heart, not knowing what will come of them.

He gave me the ability to make surrender a habit during this particular waiting season, something which I seriously doubted would ever be possible for me. And it wouldn’t have, had He not helped.

He let me taste the fruit of obedience as well because I found myself being strangely at peace with my circumstances, to the point where I was thinking “I should be upset right now.” And I would have been, but He was gracious.

Every time God teaches me something new I am reminded that 1) there still is (and always will be) much work to be done in my heart, and 2) that I serve a God who is worth giving everything to. That’s another thing He wants me to believe with my whole heart. I want to stop doubting. In my selfishness I so easily forget that He is worth literally everything I am and have. I’m nothing without Him, and I want to believe that. Even saying that right now I know it to be true in my head, but I’m honestly not sure if I believe it in my heart. If I did I feel like learning to surrender wouldn’t be such a difficult (and not to mention frequent) lesson! But God is gracious and relentless and patient. He continues to pursue me and teach me, even if He is teaching me the same thing over and over again.

On that note, here are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs ever by one of my favorite bands ever:

Shepherd of My Soul by Rivers & Robots

“Lord of the mountains and sea
You are treading a path set for me
God of the seasons and sky
You have always been holding my life

And Lord, You are the shepherd of my soul
So I lay down my plans, I give up my rights
And let You take control of this surrendered life

So I put my trust in the one
Who created the stars and the sun
You are eternally kind
Always faithful and endlessly wise

You comfort, You sustain
In shaking You remain
Unmoved and unafraid
Forever and always
You lead me by still waters
Lead me through the valleys
Lead me in Your wisdom
Shepherd of my soul

Through valleys of shadow and death I am not afraid
By my Father’s breath every star in the sky was made
And who can I fear when You’re standing right here by my side?
Always leading, protecting and guarding my left and my right

Father You make all things new
Great God of creation
Father You will always be my rock and salvation”

Psalm 94

“O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs – O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render punishment to the proud. Lord, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph?  They utter speech, and speak insolent things; all the workers of iniquity boast in themselves. They break in pieces Your people, O Lord, and afflict Your heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, ‘The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand.’

Understand, you senseless among the people; and you fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see? He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct, He who teaches man knowledge? The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile.

Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance. But judgement will return to righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity? Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul would soon have settled in silence. If I say, ‘My foot slips,” your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, your comforts delight my soul.

Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood. But the Lord has been my defense, and my God the rock of my refuge. He has brought on them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; the Lord our God shall cut them off.”

Psalm 94

// A world that is literally falling apart in every way could easily be (and for some people, is) a reason to doubt the very nature or even existence of God. But I choose to believe that a world falling apart is the very thing that He will use to reveal the fullness of His glory; that nothing happens that is outside of His perfect plan; that even the worst of all evil can and will be used to ultimately bring honor to the Name that is above every name. I seriously do not understand a lot of things, but I also don’t have to understand everything in order to still put my faith in The God who does. He sees it all, knows it all, is heartbroken by it all, but in the midst of it all, I know that He is present, He is enough, and He will bring justice when He so desires. //

undone

Psalm 65:4 “Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house.”

I came across this verse a couple days ago. A couple days ago, that is, when life felt pretty good; when, even in the midst of so much uncertainty and what feels like an endless season of waiting, I felt at peace & good & excited about life in general. {Quick side note: I’ve been learning recently that those feelings that come from God Himself, by His grace, have to be actively sought after and received anew each day. His mercies really are new every morning because they are needed every morning. They are SO there for the taking and I have come to learn that it is my responsibility to do just that – to accept what is offered to me as a gift every single day, without fail. More than once I have succumbed to the belief that I can experience God one day and that the “high” will then last me for a few more days. Realizing that this is actually how I have lived freaked me out, so I began asking God to show me how much I need Him; to expose me to the person that I am without Jesus so that I will want Him and therefore pursue Him that much more. And He listened. I’ve started feeling much more aware of my sinful human nature and the things that I become so easily entangled in that He has called & continues to call me to be free from. And how beautiful that when my anxious thoughts, discontentment, worry, self-focus, selfishness, laziness, jealousy, and whatever else meet me in my waking moments, so does His mercy.}

Anyways, where I was going with that is here: one day I came across this verse at a nice high point in life, and a couple days later I referred back to it because somehow, in the span of only a couple days, I had gone from “Yay, it’s so fun and exciting to have absolutely no clue what the heck will happen next because I trust Jesus and that’s all that matters!” to “holy crap, what if I end up going to college in Turlock, California and working the same exact job for literally the rest of my life because I never finalize a major or decide on a career and then I’ll never move out or get married or have kids or have the opportunity to live somewhere else??” Leave it to my brain to spiral completely out of control and freak myself out, imagining all the worst-case scenarios. All this to say, emotions are unpredictable. One day I was fine, the next, part of me was hating life and questioning the will of God. Story of my life. Back and forth. I am being reminded of my need for Jesus, and not just my need for Him, but also to what extent that need exists within me, if that makes sense… And let me tell you: it is all the time. I can trust nothing but His promises.

Psalm 65:4 convicts me of letting my heart dwell in a state of discontentment and thus completely overlooking a gift (another gift) I have been given, undeservedly, and am only now just figuring out how to actually receive. This gift? The season I am in. There is an extensive amount of stillness & waiting & fighting against discontentment and thinking too far into the future happening right now, and it’s a fight because it’s easy to go there, but I desperately do not want to miss out on what is right in front of me. I choose to believe that it is a gift. Although I can only see so far ahead before the view gets hazy, I trust that there is much to be gained.

Psalm 65:4 “Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house.”

Here’s why I love this verse; why it brings me to my knees in both humility and weakness because I am completely undone by the reassurance that I don’t have to worry about a single thing: I see this season of my life as God choosing me. He’s causing me to approach Him constantly because when I’m forced to wait for so many things that I want but am not getting at this moment, the only thing I can do or even want to do is come before Him, where He then turns all other desires that I have into one single desire for more of Him. He chose me and continues to choose me every day. He invites me to approach Him with boldness, to cast my cares on Him, to dwell in His courts with Him. And I shall be satisfied with His goodness, the one thing that is always certain.

ocean analogy

a little piece of me & the deep blue sea

IMG_9014

“no other place would i rather be, but for now i’ll seek earnestly and find, undoubtedly, contentment with reality.”

today i was thinking about how much i miss the beach (what’s new?), and then i remembered this photo i took awhile back when my family went together for a few days… and then i thought of this cute little caption that rhymes and i wanted to post it on instagram… and then somehow a simple caption turned into a little poem, which is weird because i’m totally not a poet. ever. and it was supposed to just be about the beach! because from a surface level perspective of this “poem”, it really is an honest expression of how there is no other place i would rather be right now than at the beach. but i’m not, and i can’t be, so instead i’ll try to be okay with staying home in an air-conditioned house in drought-stricken Turlock. then i read it a couple more times and realized how, beneath the surface, it speaks of a lot more than just going through beach withdrawals; often times i do struggle with contentment and totally would rather be anywhere other than where God has me, but i’m learning that no matter what stage of life i am in, no matter what the reality of my circumstances is and whether i like it or not, if i choose to seek Him earnestly, i will undoubtedly find Him; and when i find Him, i find rest and “contentment with reality”. even if the harsh reality is that i’m not at the beach. 😉

a few months ago, as most everyone knows, i was discontent with the idea of staying home and working this summer; i wanted to leave the country again on mission with Royal Servants, but felt a conviction i couldn’t ignore to stay. not once since the moment i complied and officially decided i would stay home have i felt like that was the wrong decision. on the contrary, i have felt nothing but consistent peace and reassurance. so far, it has been a restful summer, like i thought it would be. small trips here and there, but mostly working, and on my days off, actually resting, reading a lot, or meeting with friends for coffee here and there. all of this to say, in this brief quiet season, God has shown such faithfulness. in the past couple months 1) i have experienced conviction about truly pursuing righteousness for His name’s sake; i have learned that doing this means being obedient to His Word, and that obedience only happens if it stems from love, not my own feelings of wanting to obey or not. 2) after wrestling with my own anxious heart, some honest conversations with important people in my life, and some time to refocus, i realized contentment has still been lacking in me, and i ran, helpless, back to the feet of Jesus.

1) At the beginning of the summer, God placed in me a deeper awareness of the importance of living like Christ in every way, and i began to desire for Him to show me specifically how i can live more righteously. i remember Him convicting me about my language; how i often let myself slip up and then just blow it off and say that i’ll be better the next time i get angry, startled or frustrated. so there i was, in a very incongruent state of being because i wanted two very different things: i want to be like Jesus; oh, but i also want the freedom to say whatever i want on occasion. and every time i would ask God to work in my heart and make me more like Him, over and over again, He would bring to mind James 3:8-10 : “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” i finally took the hint that maybe God wanted me to work harder on thinking before i speak, and in my angry or startled or frustrated state, not to sin. however ridiculous it is to say that that lesson was kind of hard because it’s something i didn’t want to give up, it’s true. “sometimes it’s just really fun to say a bad word and it feels like there’s no other way to really express how you feel inside, okay!!? besides, i only say certain things around people who really know me and know where my heart is.” umm what does that even mean? clearly, even i was wrong about “where my heart is”. so once i was fully aware that this needed to change, i asked God to just help me be better and to not let me say words that dishonor Him. i asked Him to help me actually want to speak differently, and then, once i had the desire to change, obviously it would be so much easier to do so, and i would! and that’s when i realized what love is. God basically said “I don’t care if you want to do this or not; if you want to be my disciple, first and foremost, you have to be obedient and that means forsaking your own “wants” and doing what I ask.” that was my first lesson. forever convicted to be more careful in this area of my life, and by no means am i perfect. but i will say that practicing obedience yields a desire to actually continue in obedience. “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” Philippians 2:13.

2) a few weeks ago i had a conversation with my dad and he basically called me out in my anxiety. he’s only known me since day one for twenty years… i guess that’s enough time to know that i so often struggle with having an anxious heart. i’m always wanting to speed up the plan, whether it’s someone else’s plan, my plan, or God’s plan. i am always wanting things to happen faster. he reminded me of God’s call to keep me home this summer; reminded me that He has a purpose for that, even if it seems so simple or not even apparent right now; reminded me of the importance of seeking Him, and encouraged me to do just that: to sit before God, to rest in Him, to wait on Him, and to seek Him. He was right, i had lost sight of the path God had me on. i got tired of waiting, tired of the quiet. but i quickly realized that’s exactly what He wants from me right now, and forging my own path in an attempt to speed up any part of His plan is a bad idea. God also reenforced His truth to me through a conversation with my best friend, whose purity of heart i so deeply admire. we concluded our talk having decided that the most important thing to do is to run the race God has set before us, eyes fully focused on Him, and to let the pieces of our lives come together the way God desires them to, not as a result of any of our own efforts to make things happen the way we want. at the end of the day, our lives should have His name written all over. so, praise God for speaking truth into my life through other people when it’s seemingly the only way to get through to me.

all that said, i’ve recently reached a place of stillness, and the most fascinating part about it to me is that it’s not something i really sought God for. it’s a state of mind and heart that He Himself has led me to, and it’s something i didn’t even know i needed until He brought me to it, like the Good Shepherd that He is, taking care of my needs before i even realize what they are. my circumstances haven’t been chaotic, but what i did need rest from was the chaos within my own heart that God has made me aware of. i’m thankful for this season of life, now that i see how necessary it is, and i’m reminded daily how much i need Jesus, every moment, even when things are calm. the need never goes away, but neither does God’s desire and willingness to be the only source of true satisfaction for us.

“‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.'” Isaiah 30:15

w a l l s .

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If you ever doubt that God speaks when we seek Him, doubt no more. And I’m totally saying that for my own sake just as much (if not more) as I am for anybody else who may need to be reminded of that. Because I say that, and I experience it firsthand like I’m about to share, and I still doubt Him, all the time. Go figure.

I remember sitting at the Western Wall in Jerusalem last summer, praying alongside my teammates and the Jewish people. I remember what I prayed, too: 1) for God to please show me how big He is, and 2) how and why am I even here right now? First of all, I was in complete awe of that fact, and then I was humbled, realizing the freedom that I have in Christ, and the access that I have to Him at all times because His Spirit lives in me, no longer in a temple, behind a wall. I watched the Jewish people around me praying so fervently at the Wall and I was amazed. These people have a reverence for God and a dedication to Him that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and it is something I deeply admire about them. But I remember thinking so often how they are missing out on the truth that God has already forgiven them, and that He offers a life of freedom through the blood of His Son, right now, independent of anything they do to try and earn it. I remember it didn’t take long for God to respond to my pleas to know how big He is, and to know what He wanted with me being there… I think at one point I was just staring at the Wall and looking at the people in front of me, listening to them praying and hearing them weeping. I thought of how these are His people, how He is the God of this city, the God of this nation, the God of this world, the God of this universe, and then He said (not audibly, but… audibly. You know?) “I am the God of all of this and all of these people, and yet I still desire to be YOUR God.” My only response was to join everyone else who was crying. This verified to me what He told me while in Haifa, Israel, during our first week: that He wanted (and still wants) to transform my relationship with Him and make it more personal. He showed me that I had unknowingly turned it into something that was about how I appeared to other people and essentially lost sight of it just being about me walking with Him, and Him leading me (for more details about that, check out my post titled “Refine(ME)nt”). He wanted to become more to me than I have ever known Him to be before. In essence, He wanted (and still wants) to tear down the walls that I have put up between Him and I, including expectations that I put on myself of how my life should look from the outside, and making that a priority instead of my personal walk with Him, alone. He wanted (and still wants) to tear down the walls that I have put up between Him and I because I’m afraid to fully listen to Him; I’m afraid that He will ask something of me that I won’t want to be obedient about, and that’s hard.

In a nutshell, I define a “wall” in my life as anything that in some way drives a wedge between God and I; anything that somehow makes it difficult for me to hear or want to hear His voice; anything that becomes more important to me than His council. I put up walls  subconsciously. And yet, once I realize what I’ve done, I am reluctant to tear them down myself, and almost more reluctant to let God tear them down for me. I really can’t do it for myself, I know this. I can so easily put up these walls on my own, between myself and God, and myself and other people, no problem. But only He can demolish the false protection I attempt to guard myself with, thinking it’s actually a safe place to be.  About the same time (several weeks ago) that I became aware of these barriers in my life is when God started bringing back to my mind these memories from last summer. And they have been specific memories of extremely pivotal moments that I experienced, such as the one I just described. God began to bring back these memories, asking me if I remember all that He showed me last summer, and telling me that He still desires to fulfill these plans in my heart and life, if I would just let Him.

At a Bible study a few weeks ago, I came across Ephesians 2:14, which says “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation”. Paul is referring to the fact that Christ, through His death and resurrection, has demolished the “wall” that set apart God’s chosen people from the Gentiles. He died for one and all, and regardless of any and all characteristics that make people diverse, we all have one thing in common and that is that we are human, which means we all sin, which means we all need Jesus. I get that, and it’s wonderful. And what else is wonderful is this awesome parallel that I see in my own life. God Himself is my peace, and therefore I have no reason to be afraid, no reason to want to hide in my little shell of complacency. And He can and does break down these walls of separation that I, often unknowingly, put up around my heart.

So, why the walls? Heck if I know. That’s what frustrates me. I don’t know why I feel like I should be timid or somehow guarded; as if my heart belongs entirely to me; as if there isn’t a God infinitely greater than me, infinitely more powerful, all-knowing, who gently holds my heart in His own hands, who desires to be my everything and to fulfill His plans in and through me, if I let Him. Actually, I do have a very valid theory about this. And it’s pretty obvious: Fear. Just fear in general. Let’s be real, God terrifies me. In the most admirable and beautiful and lovely way, He is pretty intimidating. And, in light of that, I can be certain that inviting Him to be part of every aspect of my life means I can expect to experience some heart-wrenching convictions. It means I get to learn His heart, what He wants to accomplish and how He wants to accomplish it, and what my role is in that process – all really exciting, but also really scary things. Letting God have full access to my heart means there will be no toleration for self-constructed walls that I put up to block out other people, experiences, and convictions simply because I’m afraid of the potential pain and difficulty that could arise, even though I KNOW God would use it for good and for growth. But why now? Why am I suddenly so acutely aware of these walls? Because I have this feeling that God has something to say right now, at this time in my life, that is probably going to scare the crap out of me once I hear it. Pardon, once I listen. And I’ll admit I haven’t been ready to hear it yet. I haven’t been listening very well lately. I’ve been talking a lot, definitely. Trust me, I have a lot to take up with God these days, but when it comes to letting Him have His turn talking, sometimes I have selective hearing. He is persistent though. And I think slowly I’m starting to feel like I can’t hold onto these fears any longer. He brings me to a place where I start to feel like I’m really missing out because I let fear hold me back from surrendering entirely and finally choosing to listen. Today I was thinking about how challenging some situations in life can be, but then I realized that I really wouldn’t want it any other way. If I felt capable all the time, I wouldn’t be inclined to lean on Him for strength. So on that note, I’m still afraid. But I’m trying to step out in faith and not let fear hold me back, but instead let it propel me further, into a deeper understanding of His love.

On another note, this is a great song:

Called Me Higher, by All Sons & Daughters

I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness
Hope to feel Your presence
And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel You
Hope to feel something again

And I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You
Change me from the inside
And I could be safe
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down

But You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord
You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I’ll go where You lead me Lord
Where You lead me
Where You lead me Lord

And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy light the path before me
Cause You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord