Wandering

I can’t get over this song.

Growing up isn’t easy. We all know the usual things like paying bills and learning to take responsibility. I think we all have a lot more in common than that though. Some soul issues.

So, let’s start again. Growing up isn’t easy. No one told us that one day we’d find out our parents aren’t just who/what we thought they were. Dreaming big isn’t as simple as it used to be. We now have to figure logic into the desires of our hearts. Or the desires of our hearts into logic…who really knows? Does anyone know? When all of our dreams and expectations of the future were forming in our heads, being a grown up was not what it has come to be.

I guess I’m wondering how this fits in with anything I’m trying to write. The truth is, I don’t understand it completely. I don’t think any of us do. That’s kind of the point. Being a grown up feels like wandering. Until we find a place to stop and stay for a while. Then we wander again. If you were to ask people if they felt they had it all together, I would be surprised if many said yes, and of the ones who did, I’d be surprised if any of them could have an honest introspective or philosophical conversation with you.

Sometimes I think I’ve had this amazing revelation that is going to set everything right. Like next time God reveals something to me will be the last of my wandering. But my extensive experience in failing seems to prove otherwise. So, I’m just kind of at this point like, okay, enough with all this surface-y crap, I want to be real all the time.

So, no, I don’t want to talk about how busy life is. I don’t want to talk about the weather, or a circumstance, or a story you heard about this kid from this guy one time. I just want to see how you are doing. Are you tired? Why? Are you sad? Bored? Angry? Delighted? Excited? Why? Do you feel hopeful that things will change? Do you want them to stay the same? Where does your hope come from?

Here’s the huge thing that I think no body wants to say, and I think that’s because we are all afraid that it’s true: Being real, being an adult, having a meaningful relationship with God, isn’t just going to happen. You’re not just going to work really hard for a week or a month or a year or a few years and then have everything be great. In fact, every day brings struggles and delights. Though sometimes it’s hard to see one or the other. So every day is going to require some sort of conscious decision to do the right thing and to focus on truth.

When we are growing up I think a lot of us view our selves going to college, getting a job, and having a family. Or some variation of that. No matter what our ideas of the future look like, at some point we probably have all just pictured it falling into place. And it’s a real punch to the gut when we find out that isn’t how the world works.

And our relationships with God aren’t any different. They will not just miraculously fall into place. We will never be perfectly aligned on the straight and narrow. Just as the lyrics in this song say “again,” it will take pursuit, every day, over and over, to live a life fulfilled by God. He is the only one Who can make being an adult any simpler. I think He is worth the struggle to give up things that in our souls, aren’t what we really want anyways.

Penance (noun): 1. voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong. 2. doesn’t matter because I’m not Catholic and it’s not the idea I hope to express in this blog entry.

To be human, or not to be human? That is the question. But do any of us really have a choice?

I had a couple of semi-interesting conversations with a some friends this week. I say semi-interesting because they were at the very least interesting to me, maybe to them, and I have no idea how you would feel about them. I’m going to tell you anyway.

1. My friend and I were on our way home from a city that is about 50 miles from our homes-so there is time to talk. What else could we do then but dig into the deep stuff. Which really, these are the only conversations I like having. Small talk sucks. If we both have at least one of the five senses, I think there’s no point to comment on what the weather is doing. Anywho, on to the conversation. This friend of mine has been struggling with the need to be perfect, and with the idea of that need interfering with her faith in God. You know, trust is kind of a big deal when it comes to faith. Sort of can’t have one without the other. So I think we all can see the dilemma. I on the other hand am so keenly aware of the fact that I will NEVER be perfect, that perfection in itself has become a transcendent dream. Something I always feel aware of the desire to have, but can never actually grasp. By the end of this conversation, I realized that I have subconsciously, consciously, unconsciously, purposefully, accidentally reached the conclusion in my heart and mind that if I can’t be perfect, then I’m not even going to try. This brings me to conversation number two. Aren’t you excited?

2. A friend and I had some time to kill before heading to a late movie. We were at her house and she was finishing up some chores she had been meaning to get done. I, being the generous, selfless giver that I am, sat on her bed while she cleaned up. We’ve got an hour or two, what else to do but open my trap and pour out all my “problems.” In my defense, we were talking about self-betterment and what has been keeping us from pursuing things we know will set us in a better place. So, I told her this conclusion that I had come to when talking to my other friend (I know! I have two!) the night before. With this I included the fact that I had been shamelessly mad at God for the consequences of my own decisions. I asked her how this can be Christianity. If I am constantly struggling with sin, the same sin, how can I call myself a Christian? Not just call myself one, but BE a Christian? That cannot be Christianity. In my mind, if THAT was how “Christianity” would be for me, then I wasn’t really a Christian, and therefore Christian things, morals, teachings, responsibilities didn’t apply to me. I am not going to lie, this wasn’t freeing. I panicked! Everything that I have known, felt, experience, and loved my entire life was being pulled out from under me. By me!

Then she spoke, and things started to make just a little tiny bit more sense. She wasn’t easy on me either, but the truth was like a spring of fresh water in my dried up heart. First things first, she told me the fact that is was a struggle at all for me to live my life the way I have been, is Christianity. I am convicted, I do care. The fact that I keep coming back to God matters! In response to my whole ‘being mad at God and not caring thing’ she laughed! She laughed in my face! “Like I have never been mad at God?! Like I don’t get jealous and sit there and ask God why on earth He could give to others what He never can seem to give to me,” she said. Then added: she comes back. She realizes moments of weakness in her human nature provide avenues for sin. And this is inescapable this side of Heaven. But repentance is where it’s at. She recognizes her folly and asks forgiveness and thanks God that He made such an enormous sacrifice in order for her to do so!

Let me tell you, this is not new information. I go back and forth with the same ideas all the time, because I just can’t seem to get it right and keep it right. I told the friend in conversation number one, that I just need consistency. In all honesty my point in these two conversations was that it is easier to be consistently wrong than consistently pursuing righteousness. And that is very true. It is easier, but at the same time it isn’t. It is immediately easier. However, the consequences of easy sin are by no means easier than the blessings that follow the trying path of obedience. For some reason this has been so hard to get through my mind. I have let Satan tell me that I will never be good enough, and while that’s true, his lie that because of my sin I don’t deserve to be in the presence of God, is not. And guess what? That righteousness that I am so adamant about pursuing and achieving doesn’t exist! The only righteousness is that which come from Christ through His free gift of Salvation. We ain’t gonna have any righteousness if we don’t have Christ! I can’t make myself perfect and righteous and then come to God, because I can not be righteous (nor perfect) without God! All of this was brought to my attention during conversation number two. As well as the fact that we will never be able to understand God sacrificing His Son for us fickle creatures. While we would be able to give our own lives willingly for those we love, would we ever be willing to sacrifice one of our loved ones for the other? It’s incomprehensible, but that’s what God did. One Man paid the price for the lot of us, and I’m just here wallowing in my own made-up grief.

Then I heard this poem. That I have heard plenty of times before, but have never understood. And maybe that is because I didn’t know before a few years ago what it was like to truly be completely and honestly devastated with myself and with the action Jesus took on the cross so that I wouldn’t have to be.

But believe me when I say I understand it now. Shine down the light of comprehension because I want to dance in it, and bow in it, and revel in it. I want to repent. I want to laugh in the face of penance and shove it in the mud. I want Satan to know his dirty lies and tricks have no power against the truth and authority of God. And guess what? All of this is in my life. God is in my life even though I was among the scoffers at His son’s brutal death. I was there whispering lies that I had come to believe, and ignoring the pain of the Son and the Father. I say was there because I might as well have been. I mean how dare I give up on life when He gave up so much for me to have it! So, yes how dare I, now instead of willingly getting myself into more trouble because I am such a terrible human being, I need to go seek Jesus, repent, and let Him fill up my brain with truth and mercies. Because even after all I have done and failed to do, He wants me to be on the right path even more that I want to be. Now that is unconditional love.

Devotions

“Wherever there is any element of pride or of conceit, Jesus cannot expound a thing. He will take us through the disappointment of a wounded pride of intellect, through disappointment of heart. He will reveal inordinate affections–things over which we never thought He would have to get us alone. We listen to many things in classes, but they are not an exposition to us yet. They will be when God gets us alone over them.” -Oswald Chambers

“…things over which we never though He would have..”

Out of the entire devotion that day (I am going through ‘My Utmost For His Highest’) this is the phrase that caught me. It captivated me. I was in an empty room at work with the door open. I kind of wanted to cry, or maybe just jump up and down and yell thanks to God. That is how this entire devotion has affected me. It seems that each day as I read I feel relief mixed with…I am not really sure of the word for the other sentiment…I wanted and didn’t want to say obligation…no. No. It’s gratitude. Relief, gratitude. The feeling that somehow for this wonderful revelation, one right after the other, I need to give thanks. I need to show how thankful I am to God for revealing these things to me.

This is thought in one breath, but in the next are the words of a pastor, which were first the words of Jesus: “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her,'” Luke 10:41-42. Mary was simply sitting at Jesus’ feet, while Martha was hurrying and scuttling about to make sure everything was perfect for Him.

I used to sort of despise Mary. I wanted to come to Martha’s defense. She was only showing her love and gratitude for God. She wanted to do great things for Him. Who, that knows and loves God, hasn’t had that thought cross their own minds? While Mary just sat there. She did nothing. She offered no help, no meal, no drink. She just sat there at His feet.

She just sat. Still. Waiting. Listening.

I still want to defend Martha, but I realize that part of me is the part that could never truly see what Jesus wants. He wants us. It’s that simple. It stops there. He doesn’t want us “to” or “there” or “here” or “then”. He wants us.

She just sat. He just wants her.

She offered herself.

Not by doing anything. Not by cleaning, not by preparing a meal. Not by giving something up, nor by trying to be something. She just sat. Still. Waiting. Listening. And guess what? Jesus spoke. He taught. He cherished.

He defended. But this story isn’t about who was right and who was wrong. This story is about Jesus wanting us. We are enough for Him. As we are. All bloodied with guilt and lust and murder. Isn’t that crazy? The man went to His death willingly, so that He could know us. So that we could know Him. Just so that we could have the opportunity to just sit at his feet and breathe and listen and be still. To let Him cover us, love on us. How in the world do we have that kind of impact on the Word of God? How do we even begin to impact what He chooses to do?

To me, it’s a paradox. We are meaningless without Him, but with or without Him, we mean a great deal to Him. God, the love of God, the God of love, is a great big huge gigantic mystery. How can we ever fathom? So in each moment, in each devotion when something is revealed, how do I not crave more? How can I possibly let an idea, a curiosity rest? But He doesn’t ask me to understand. In fact He tells us that there are some things we will never understand until we are finally with Him. So what do I do with this knowledge He has revealed to me? In Matthew 10:27 He tells us to shout it from the rooftops. But besides that…He doesn’t want me to be consumed by it…? He just wants me to sit in His presence? Not even to relish the fact that He has revealed anything, but to simply sit with Him, hear from Him, absorb His instruction and His love.

I believe I have written about it before: I am in a place in my life I “never thought” I would be. And I have struggled with things I thought I “never would have.” I have even considered the pain I have put myself through to be unnecessary–consequences that could have been avoided if I had only been obedient.

Trust me when I say that in no way do I think God would ever want us to be disobedient. He gives us instruction through His word and convictions that are meant for our good and for the good of our union with Him. However, also trust me when I say that God can and will use every.single.thing. for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His good purpose (Romans 8:28). Even if those things made us feel the furthest away from God that we have ever been, trust me when I say He noticed. He was wanting you with Him during that time as much as He wanted you with Him when the worship songs at church were your life. Haha. And those terrible things may have involved a “disappointment of a wounded pride of intellect, through a disappointment of heart,” but they can all be used to draw you near to Him.

Without these things, that I thought I would never know (as in partake in), I may never have learned to be still.

Life is but a dream.

Some days, like today, make me think that what I’m living currently just can’t actually be my life. I’m not sure what it is about days like these (probably my state of sin or state of grace) that makes me ultra reflective about the life I have lived, super-conscious of the life I am living, and really afraid of the life I might lead; but I do know that today, and all of these days past and future, makes me wishful for a state of coma. Like, ‘It’s alright. Any second now I’ll wake up and this regretful life would have been a hopeless dream, but only a dream.’

Then, kid you not, I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to wake up. I’m sure most coma patients are not excited when they hear they’ve missed out on days, months, or years of their lives, but I imagine the relief I would feel. And then, in anticipation of this relief and with a little heavier of breathing, I open my eyes. There I am.

In my room, in my car gazing up at the stars, on a swing in the park. I’m alive. This is real. My life, as it is.

I have to say this (because everyone feels they must when pouring out their thoughts) I know there is real suffering in the world, I’m not blind to it. In fact the little of the old me that still exists is dying to do something about it. I know I am blessed to be even where I am now with a home, loving parents, and an able body. I know that not everyone has this.

Maybe in my last blog and perhaps the one before that, I said this would take on a more hopeful direction. It would be more about big dreams, and less about the pessimistic realities of life. Well, I changed my mind. I’m not going to label this as a blog for school, a blog for big dreams, a blog on how to pursue those dreams. I will simply let it be what it is.

It’s been a while.

Yeah, it’s been a while. I’m not even sure what I want to write about now. I just feel like I want to get back into this. :) So, I’ll just dive right in with what’s on my mind. I’ll be the first to say that my blogs haven’t exactly been optimistic or exactly encouraging…or like at all anything shiny and positive whatsoever. It’s a little contradictory to the name and title of this blog: “Abundant Infinity: Dream Big.” Yeah. So. About that.

Dreaming big used to be my thing, I guess. As I grew up though, I came to see my ‘anything is possible’ mindset as more of an innate naivety. To me this was a hindrance rather than an asset to my future. So I set out to not be naive. That didn’t end well for me, but what I learned from the experience has helped me look at life in an entirely different way: neither naively, nor rationally.

My faith is something that is just always going to be a part of my life…thankfully. So, I can’t help but mention it here. In the Bible, John 10:10, Jesus tells us that He came so that we could have life, and not only that, but life abundantly. With this in mind, regardless of circumstances, why should any of us refuse to dream? And dream big at that? We all have a story and if you are to assume anything about mine just because I say big dreams should be made, then I would have to assume something about yours as well. So let’s just agree to disagree, if you disagree.

I know there isn’t a whole lot to this written word, but it’s just some thoughts. In other news, I have finalllllly graduated with a bachelor of science in business, accounting emphasis. What got me through was the realization that accomplishing the goal of this degree was important to me and it was important that it was important to me. And that is what had to give. I had to let myself and my dreams be a priority. I had to give myself grace by acknowledging that even though I screwed up, I wasn’t a worthless cause.

Speaking of grace, boy, has it been a journey to even glimpse an understanding of that word. God has really been working on me and bringing me to it though! I joined a Bible study that I have gone to every now and then and it has just been exactly, perfectly, what I needed. I am not even sure of all the the steps and things that lead me to this place where I can finally feel the Holy Spirit again, but I’m definitely here, with hope. I might write more about this journey back to peace later.

Let’s see what else? …..I have not been able to find a job in line with my degree. Shocker there. Yawwwwn….Hmmm…I am going to take more time to discover what my big dreams were before other people’s views of reality nudged them out of my mind’s eye. And I’m thinking maybe I was meant to be something other than an accountant. I’m searching for my passions, which I will hopefully reignite and make something of. It will take bravery to try, but I think I’ll do it. We’ll see what the future holds.

Something. Has got to. Give.

So from my previous ramblings about hope you can probably tell it’s an up and down thing with me. More recently I have come to view hope as a double edged sword. If you have hope, that means you are in a state of hoping; meaning you do not yet have that which you hope for…ha. On the other hand if you don’t have hope, you basically have no motivation, nothing to work towards, and nothing to pick you up when you inevitably fall down.

Falling down.

Sigh. This I understand oh so thoroughly. Honestly, over the last three years it is all that I have been doing. I made a decision three years ago that wrecked my view of my life. In the big scheme of things it seems inconsequential: I moved 1,300 miles back home to switch colleges. So, I feel like I need to explain myself a little bit when I use a word like “wrecked”.

God was my all. I delighted in Him, delighted in the innocence and purity He gave me, was comforted by His peace in a way that passes understanding. I was so wrapped in His presence that I saw His love and pursuit for me in the way leaves danced in circles around me in the fall. I was so aware of Him that He spoke to me through nature, through strangers, music, class assignments, books, and His Word. I wanted everything I did in my life to be because of Him, to be in pursuit of Him, to glorify Him. Then I disobeyed Him.

I turned my back on the great adventure Jesus had set before me. I chose to leave this amazing place where I had discovered so much about God, myself, and the people I left back home. I chose to leave the place that I had looked forward to going to for at least five months. That I had for over a year felt the calling on my heart again and again to go to. That my family had spent time and hundreds of dollars preparing me for, traveling with me to, and worrying and praying over me for months to be well at. All over a minor inconvenience in class type and scheduling. Very minor. I hit a bump in the road and I bailed. I just left.

I didn’t realize how wrong I was until I was crying in my car, trying in vain to hide my face from my dad who was driving (he insisted I shouldn’t make the trip on my own). But I think deep inside, I knew before then. As my dad came to the airport to pick me up, he was ecstatic to see me, I could barely fake a smile. Before that I went to turn in my room key, they were always closed and I was beyond irritated: somehow it felt like my heart was breaking. And earlier as I was packing I did so sluggishly. All I could think was that I failed. I was sad. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I just wanted to sulk. So I did. On the car-ride home.

And for at least a year after that.

Then on and off for another year and a half.

That catches us up to the present. Again, I feel I have to say this is a seemingly inconsequential action in the big scheme of things. Switching colleges. Changing locations. What’s the big deal? Well…to me everything. While I didn’t know what I was going to do after my time at that college, everyday I felt closer to God and closer to knowing His plan for me. It was there that I embraced the idea of using my business/accounting degree for Him, in ministry to women who were rescued out of abuse, slavery, hopelessness… When I came home I no longer had a direction. I didn’t know anymore what I wanted to do. Of course the idea of working with women has been explored and planned and thought on. But I figured that would be in the future.

So I spent (or wasted) time wandering. Dropping classes (something I hadn’t done yet in 2 1/2 years of community college and the university). Begging forgiveness for financial aid that was given for those classes (again, new to me). Failing classes. Switching majors not once, not twice, but three times. Switching back to my school, but online (which was part of my original problem). And personally allowing myself to be drawn further and further (and further still) into a world of sin. Failing myself. Failing God (right? I failed Him, right).

And now here I am. Two months away from graduating. Three gen-ed/gen-busn classes to go and I am writing this blog instead of doing the really easy homework I have to do. That was due last week. That for one of the classes would be the first thing turned in (I’m three weeks in). Graduation is so close. Yet I have no ambition. No willingness to do the work to get there. I went from a 3.6 GPA and failure not being an option, to a 2.7 GPA and failure being…eh, what’s new? I have developed more than a few bad habits sense being home (btw, I feel the need to say that I have had jobs for most of my time being back, so it’s not like I was sitting around doing nothing…all the time…). I admit I’m lazy. I am physically drained because I have not taken care of myself at all. I have Spiritually gotten to a place I never imagined I would be in (it’s not a good one). I guess all of this is to say that I don’t know how to get back on my feet. I’m making it through each day, going to work. Sometimes doing the schoolwork I need to. But I literally have no ambition. I do not want to work for the things I want.

To me they feel unattainable. Maybe I feel that whatever I do, it won’t matter. Because I have already failed. In my head, I know that’s not true. I know that what happened in the past can’t be changed. I know that what I do today and tomorrow is what matters. I know that I can still make my life what I want it to be. I’m not sure what that is, and I’m not sure what God wants it to be either. I know that the change has to come from within me though. That is one thing I know for sure. I know that my heart can’t stay broken like it is or I’ll never move on. I also can’t wish and long and hope for change and be heartbroken when it doesn’t come about because I didn’t do anything to get there. But how do I work hard with an already broken heart? Something inside me has to give. Something has to stop fighting against everything that is true and good and just do right.

I’m not one who likes to complain without offering a solution, so if you have one, please, comment. Let me know. I’ll try it and then we will see. What happens next? I’ll write again when I find out. But really, something has got to give.

Deciding not to hope.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/rtv/originals/where-your-hope-lies

 

The above is a link to a video that goes along to an audio of words on the subject of hope. What the speaker says makes some sense, but it also brought a couple of other thoughts to mind. One thought was the memory of once asking God to take away my hope…and this lead to the second thought: that people decide not to hope when they are certain they know their future. See, the reason I asked God to take away my hope years ago was because I believed that hope brought me nothing but discontentment. In that moment of asking I felt that I knew exactly what my future held, and that hope was just the presence of naive dreams.

Then God took away my hope. Instead of feeling relief at His answer to my petition, I felt even more discontentment. (It’s a really weird circumstance to describe and I’m not sure I can do so accurately, but I’ll try.) I couldn’t believe that how I had decided my life would go (outside of ‘naive dreams’) was such a devastating let down. I did not have hope and because I didn’t have it there was no reason to dream. There was no reason to want more out of life, or to try and do more for others, I had decided my life would never amount to more than a narrow box-like a tunnel with no light except the distant eternity I knew I was promised.

Needless to say, I asked God to give me hope again. Since then I have discovered that hope in itself is a promise from and fulfilled by God. I have also learned something about those naive dreams (and I continue to learn…hashtag just keep growing ;) ). The dreams weren’t necessarily naive, in fact they were very realistic (though the majority of them have yet to come true…), but they were still narrow, sort of like that hopeless tunnel. God has shown me that even my dreams can limit the power I give Him in my life. His dreams for me, and for you too, are so much greater and more detailed, good, and lovely than our own dreams.

All this is to say, I guess, that we shouldn’t limit God with our hope and with our dreams or with deciding not to hope at all. The intricacies of His plans are playing out in life right now. As the speaker in the video said, we need only to trust Him and surrender our hopes and dreams to Him. Not that we don’t have them, but that we acknowledge that they are in His hands. Much easier said than done, but surrender is a daily and even momentary decision. It takes work. I also want to note that dreams take hard work, and even though we surrender the outcomes and current circumstances to God, we should do our absolute best at the work we put our hands to. The rest is in God’s hands. We should always remember that we don’t have it all figured out, and there’s no way we ever will.

“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Romans 8:24-25 (NASB)