Why does God have me around all the people-pleasers?

Since I have moved about a month ago, I have met the overwhelming power and presence of God over my life. Through a series of events and daily encouragements, I am so convinced that the Lord is with me, and it is certainly his will that I am here, learning to be a teacher. Overwhelming, nearly inexplicable strength has come over me despite having moved to a new city, making new friends, setting new habits, etc. I have found a wonderful church. I have people I am supposed to care for. I am being groomed for ministry through working with children and other people (and their parents). If ever God lays something so thick on your heart about the direction you should go but doesn’t explain it, listen. I would have never expected that the best training I could receive for ministry would be in a Master’s degree program for Early Childhood Education. The Lord knows all the details. I don’t yet, but it’s so obvious that this is his will that it’s hard to worry about all that.

For the past year or so, the Lord has brought friendships in my life with people who instinctively try to make everybody happy. Which to me, is madness. I am direct. I am decisive. I don’t mince words but I’ll go miles out of my way for a friend. I get the feeling that I’m supposed to learn something through all these people, and I have. I get the feeling also that I’m meant to strengthen people somehow, and model/teach about what healing is and the freedom available in Christ. It isn’t always easy.

When you are made aware of people’s needs by the Holy Spirit, that can be a heavy burden. It’s hard watching my friends struggle to parse out how to meet what they need. I often watch people pursue all sorts of paths that I can tell you from my own experience won’t serve you for nothing. I can often tell you why those paths are false, both from scripture and personal experience. I can even tell you what it feels like to be in that specific situation, because I remember. It’s maddening to know what people are going through and only be able to tell them what I know about the truth: That Jesus came and rose again so that we would not just have life, but have it to the full. That Christ is strong enough. That literally the only thing that is going to fill that hole is Jesus. It sounds crazy. It is crazy. It’s also true.

When people see where God has brought me but weren’t witness to where I’ve been, they just have to take my word for it. If you already have a hard time believing, that may be a stretch. I’m just trying to keep the same steadfast behavior and even become more kind. Shifting your heart attitude to a place to where you’re willing to believe that there could be a God takes time. You can’t rush it.

Which is maddening. I know what could heal you TODAY, but most people aren’t ready. I have to patiently wait and continue to show grace until the day comes (if it comes) where you’d be curious or desperate enough to seek Jesus. That’s hard. My soul mourns and cries out watching all of these people killing themselves for a grace that can’t be found where they’re seeking it.

God has honored me by teaching me these things while I am still young, but that’s also difficult. So few people have found God at this age. So few people of my generation believe that Christianity could be genuine. We are scattered in 1000 different directions because of the lack of integrity in the generations before us. We are desperately pursuing authenticity wherever we believe it might be, despite all of these bitter old people who want to act like we’re the most shallow generation that’s ever lived. When you criticize Millennials, you basically admit that you aren’t willing to help us, and you aren’t actually invested in growing the next generation of the kingdom of God. That’s selfish.

Lord, please teach us to bear with one another, ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. We are a people in need of healing. We believe that you are powerful. That you’re strong enough. Please come and heal us through your own name. Amen.

Less satisfied with just myself (not strong)

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that most people crave a sense of who they are. Whether we define ourselves by individual differences, our place within our communities, or the things that are much easier seen than articulated, we all have a desire to be fully and intimately known.

The longer I believe, the less I feel satisfied in the specific conflicts I normally invest in. I believe that so many contemporary divisions are important to understand, but not to idealize. I’m tired of holding onto my own identity so tightly that it keeps me from enjoy the company of others who I am not like. Even if it’s common, past a point of recognition, investing in personal identity can be vanity. After a certain point, needing to define oneself becomes useless.

Past the point where I understand, as I try to let go of the things that limit me from just being kind, a deeper recognition of grace is out there. Past the ways the Church is able to demonstrate Christ without a little risk and way past our comfort, there are people who need healing and absolutely will not receive it otherwise. I’ve been blessed to have to move on a lot already in life, and I call that blessing. More often than not, if I just receive the goodness of God, there is no good reason to become defensive. The Lord fights for us. It’s possible to be willing to simply accept good things.

Sometimes when I pray with friends, I have a hard time simply listening when they pray for me. I try to intercede for them as they lift me up in prayer, almost like payment. The Christ who died for them also died for me; there can be no repayment, because Christ already died. Without realizing it, I become Martha trying to run around and make sure there is enough to go around for everyone. It is really hard to surrender up the people I love to God, and trust that his love is going to have to be good enough in times where mine is not. I understand the desire to give more away, but truth be told, I don’t have it. I have only so much to give, and sometimes, I get tired. Foolishly, I run around thinking more serving is going to be what is necessary, when in rest is there a sense of trust that scurrying cant buy.

God is changing my family. I see the reason he kept me living, to know how to walk that walk that several of my family members have just started walking. Maybe they don’t know that they’re beginning to believe yet, but I see them opening up to the possibility. Who would have ever known that God would be good to his word, and not just give me life for me, but for my family. Even years later, I see resurrection in these scars.

I believe in giving grace to the ones who withhold it from others. I believe that the biggest sins out there right now are the Church’s sins.

Past the brink of safety and fake “permission” to share grace, there are people who still need the peace that comes from the free payment in Jesus. I can’t be sorry for wanting to share the gospel. The Lord can provide my justification, and I will just do my best to serve. More often than not, I have no vindication, apart from love. If that’s really all I have, that’s probably all I need.

Instead of mustering up all my strength, and trying to be something more for the people who still need Christ, maybe I can just accept his provision. I can’t do this alone, but maybe so long as I’m willing, I wont have to. My plans are coming up to nonsense. I need God’s strength just to fail beautifully, let alone actually succeed.

Remaining innocent (and Valentine’s day)

I work often, I go to school full time, I am involved with my church, and I have a variety of friends, but I swear, I feel most innocent when I hang out with children.

I love the simple way that kids give. I love the fact that so much of what they do is genuine. I love how they speak honestly. I love that children are unique and special, and they remind us of our most fundamental needs, even needs we feel too old for.

I am more healthy when I spend time playing with a child. I make better decisions because I want to be a leader. I don’t want them to have to do life alone. Even more than church, when I’m in that place of sharing and innocence, I am reminded of the simple love we all desperately desire but lose sight of. Especially with Valentines day tomorrow, the simple love of children gives me hope.

As a young woman, I regularly feel like I am considered in a way that disrespects me on a personal level by the men around me. I don’t want to be considered in a sexual sense. I don’t want to have assumptions or nasty expectations placed on me. With sincerity, I want to remain young. I may grow old, but that doesn’t mean I should feel comfortable when the creepy men in my air space make nasty comments or look to me to fulfill their lack of satiety.

Jesus fills every need. You shouldn’t need me. You shouldn’t be telling Facebook sagas about how you want a wife or a girlfriend. To be honest, I’m not super young but in my heart, I’m still a child. It freaks me out to realize that you are thinking of me in a way that is dishonest and disrespectful. I would rather be your little sister in Christ.

As with any relationship, you aren’t going to be satisfied without Christ. Stop assuming a girlfriend/wife is going to solve that. It won’t. Try Jesus. Stop spending year after year moping about what you don’t feel blessed enough to have. Christ is a better alternative.

I don’t expect any partner of mine to be able to satisfy all of my needs, and that is exactly what I have Christ for. I know God as my creator, my present help, and my friend. He doesn’t exact taxes out of me. He doesn’t want to mold me into the perfect girlfriend. When I spend time with God, it feels like freedom. I come away with a greater sense of hope. I no longer hunger. I am well in my soul. I have joy.

No woman can fill the place in your heart God is meant to fill. When you create unrealistic expectations for a woman who is supposed to fill the place of God, you turn off nearly everyone who would consider getting close to you. It’s not fair.

I just want to remain a kid a little longer. We are all a lot better off when our lives are filled with that childlike love. It’s a much better way of living.

When it rains, it rains

Why is water so consistently used in the Bible to symbolize purification?

I wonder if after the Flood and the rain let up from those forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:12), the rain smell is the name as you can find now. Slightly sweet. A little musty. It feels a little bit like forgiveness. Like baptism.

When I sense that God is moving me past some painful seasons, it feels a little like that rain smell. Like the quiet, peaceful sense you get after a big storm, and the thoughtful quality it brings to your days. Like other natural cycles that ebb and flow, it reminds me of how much God cares for me. There is a season and an order to everything. It makes sense that God would “rain down” blessings from Heaven, as a way to describe how he blesses us. There is a kind of rhythm to it.

I feel like I’m in the next articulation of a place I was in two years ago, when I first came to Christ. I’m thinking about a lot of the same questions, and I suppose the main difference is that this time around, I’m a lot more at peace. When you can honestly come before God, and you don’t disguise yourself before you come before him, it’s like this freshness in the air. It’s relief. Like new growth after a season of having to cut things off. When you can walk into a room and there is palpable honesty, you know something good is going to happen there. You get this expectancy. It’s less about who you are supposed to be, and more about how you love God. You are free to just love him. Maybe that’s all that has to be required of you.

Whenever I get really stressed, I have this one dream where I’m trying to come home from abroad, but I get lost in 1000 other directions on my way. That dream has come to symbolize the inability to find my way back. I’m always too far away from the city that I fly out of, or somehow my luggage is somewhere else, or I need to go back to my school to say goodbye to people, and I’m constantly stressed because there is this sense of leaving something behind. It is interesting to me that before February 19th, 2014, almost two years ago now, I had never been abroad. It’s like I’m coming back to the questions I had before I left, and consequently, before I really found Jesus. I’m spending a lot of my time of late answering questions I didn’t even know I had.

Doesn’t “self-reflection” also connote water? Like, you are trying to understand something greater by discerning your own reflection? I don’t know.

Has anyone else ever felt like Christians are often in a rush to answer questions that God will get to in his own sweet time? I think part of the reason we rush to cut and dry explanations and avoid the hard topics like death, mourning, and suffering, is because nobody has the patience to just let God do his thing and let us know when we need to know. Maybe this isn’t a happy thought for most, but God isn’t the perfect explanation for my questions, he’s just the peace that surpasses them. I still don’t understand so many things. I keep plugging along and staying beneath this faith umbrella because I love God and believe in Christ. Does faith make sense sometimes? Hell no. But it’s still a better place to be.

I think it’s better to trust God, and know that when/if he wants me to understand something, he will provide the circumstances for that to happen. I think it comes down to trusting in the fact that God knows what he’s doing. If I run from my questions and don’t acknowledge that there are answers I’m still seeking, how can God triumph over my doubt? How can I receive closure, when the only difference between now and then is that maybe for the time being, it just isn’t convenient? I don’t really care. The way I see it, Christ paid for my salvation, and he is more than enough even on a bad day. Any extra explanations coming my way are just optional and convenient.

 

Please include women (and gut the politics)

Today was a day for coming to terms with my ambition. Instead of filing anything I care about away under “selfishness”, I’d rather engage with the thought that God may want me to indulge in those dreams. It isn’t selfish to have hope. As selfish as I can be, I refuse to believe that the gifts God gave me will inevitably devote me to destruction just because they can’t be diminished. If you’ve ever had one of those moments where you have to believe that God gave you a gift for a reason and maybe other people don’t know as well as they think they do, you’ve had a day like this.

Ironically, this is how I felt every time I decided not to commit suicide or to hold on a bit longer, in the midst of my depression. I turned out to be right then by the grace of God, and this feels like another one of those times. I don’t want to be so afraid of who I might become that I forget that God is the one who would teach me to steward leadership, to have the endurance to pursue my dreams, and to give him credit in the end. Just because I want something doesn’t make me selfish. Welcome to being a woman.

When guys look at me, they should see someone who is not easily bought, if not almost unavailable. I’m proud of that. My heart is guarded, and a man would have to work hard for the right reasons. My faith is full by Christ and I want to be someone who is strong as she is. I’m not looking for a boyfriend, which ironically makes me feel more noticed. When I’m in my classes and I focus more on learning the material than the men who are sitting next to me, it feels like a victory. I don’t hate men, but I need to grow up a little more before I can invest in a relationship. It means a lot to me to do things right, and I like that I’m not seeking someone else to subdue and micromanage my life for me. I don’t need constant correction, I need love. I just want to live my life. Faith is the center of any good marriage, not controlling your wife. I just want to be happy.

Women’s hearts are not little treasure chests and sandboxes to be opened, fiddled with, described by crap poetry and then deserted. I’m not “guarded” by mistake or by some misquotation of Freud. For most intents and purposes, remaining guarded can be holy. Men have a lot fewer consequences of stringing women along than the women who in cant help but let them. For the most part, it’s hard enough to be a woman in this world than to tolerate the immature dabbling of good guys who still need some time yet. If you mean business, say it and act like a man. It’s hard to pick yourself up over and over again because some poor fool can’t decide what he wants. This is cyclical.

I don’t want to be the mystical nymph who taught some poor schmuck how to feel in approximately 150 pages. Ironically, the most attractive guys in my opinion aren’t very academic, but they know how to fix things, they are strong, and here and there, they know how to listen. That seems so much more helpful than young men who describe themselves as academics. I know that isn’t particularly kind, but it is important to know how to work and how to commit to something. Sometimes I feel like the college I go to is in separate universe.

It’s hard to be a young woman and feel like all your importance in the body of Christ comes from being a potential spouse. My church doesn’t often make me feel like that, but this is the larger US culture of what churches are known for. We have sermons on all sorts of things, but we have to create special organizations and divisions of ministry to make sure women are remembered. As a young woman, I feel preyed upon sometimes inside church (the entire body of Christ) because of my age and it doesn’t always feel any different than talking to creepy professors. This is the environment we have in place. I heard a story of a friend’s middle school classmate who got raped on a mission trip (at another church). I hate to say that I’m not surprised.

These are the results of excluding women from most forms of leadership. How would you know about gaps of ministry that you aren’t meeting if you don’t ask, and if you don’t include? Oh, I have a hard time with this. We as the body of Christ are not as strong as we could be. This is not the best we can do. If we don’t include women as equal members of the body of Christ, they will find places they can lead and leave. It’s happened so many times in history, with different alternative faiths popping up and previously Christian women abandoning these institutions to find some sort of validity in their faith. If all women are called to be is mothers, as this century stretches on, you will see more and more women leave because they assume the church never had the meaning they needed for their lives. They will abandon all of this for a place that gives them opportunity. This isn’t a threat, it’s a promise. If we make church a pissing contest and a boys club, you will distract everyone from the actual spirit and life of Jesus. Inserting politics into this love story is cause for rebuke, and it seems like so many leaders are competing with one another. We continue to poorly steward the earth. We exclude.

Loving God and loving others is easier without as much striving. Gutting the politics, it is easier to love your neighbor. Loving like Jesus becomes more about Christ than replacing him. We can finally get some peace. From what I can tell, the world is tired. If purity in religion is to love widows and orphans and keep oneself unstained by the world, we need to remember Christ when we claim him. Loving God first and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves is intuitively a lot more simple.

 

 

My self-righteousness and possessiveness of the truth

Having a little extra time this morning, I read an article about the Lord’s prayer about purity as being a designation under Christ, instead of narrowly defined by sexual activity alone (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/purity-more-saving-sex-marriage). These two articles helped me focus in on something that has been bothering me lately: my own self-righteousness.

I really love being right. It is possibly my greatest distraction from the glory of God as of this point. I love the truth and the sense of justice that has been made available to me under God, but that often takes the form of my own selfishness and trying to take possession of the truth. Being stubborn, I don’t often allow other people the ability to be concurrently right, though God has humbled me in small doses. Because his work is still not complete in me, maybe I can use my sin as an opportunity to grow closer.

The issue with self-righteousness is not the love of the truth, which in itself is holy. The issue here is tying the truth explicitly to oneself, and ignore that God alone is the one who make the difference. Combined with some issues with authority, self-righteousness can be a fiercely isolating force in my life, but if I ask God in prayer how to respond to a situation instead of resting on my laurels, I’d be a lot better off, and so would others. The proof that righteousness is not up to me comes at the point where I am willing to condemn other people who I perceive as a threat to my ability to remain comfortable. This is a trait that being rooted in the flesh, is not glorifying to God.

None of us receive grace on our own, so the solution for this is probably to turn to God as the solution, and ask for help. Asking him for guidance to love the truth but not take possession of it is probably more helpful than insisting in my own way and being surprised when I’m dealing with more unforgiveness over time, as my sin multiplies. Selfish as I am, I’m still framing this question as what it offers for my own personal good, but the fact of the matter is that loving God and seeking his fruit instead myself is for my own good (which loops back to me, but is also about him). If I keep going like I’m going, even with un-exposed sin still brewing in my heart, I’m just going to set myself up to hurt and estrange loved ones, strangers, and family. This kind of selfishness is a threat to God’s kingdom. Sounds like it’s time to pray.

If you follow this blog, expect that I will be talking more about this process in the following days and weeks. I’m going to be looking to God to help me see outside of myself.

Being hard to love, and glaring selfishness in feeling alone with “enough”

It’s been a long day, and I came home to pass out Halloween candy already rather tired. It was one of those days were you don’t really want to be rebellious and complaining in your heart, but you are. With extra work that I haven’t yet gotten to, it is easy for me to forget what is really important.

I really like the song “Hard to Love” by Lee Brice (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtFwuPnzidE). Although he sings it to whom I assume is his wife, I can easily imagine singing this to God on a day like today. When I’m not exhausted, the line where he says that his wife is “like a Sunday morning / Full of grace, and full of Jesus” usually makes me smile. I really love this song because on days were my authority issues and complaining reach critical mass, taking a step back to recognize that God hasn’t given up on me yet is a game-changer. It is so continuously mind blowing to me how much he would arrange on my behalf even though as a human, I really don’t have much to offer him. God loves us as if he needs us, but he totally doesn’t. What does that mean about love? About need in the first place? Maybe the presence of God is one of those cravings that runs so deep in us that it transcends simple definitions of “need”. I certainly think so.

When I get tired, I think less and less that other people understand what I’m going through. As humans, I don’t think we actually get to know other people all that well. In college, you meet so many people who will never become a permanent fixture in your life. Sometimes the fleeting nature of this life feels like vanity because there is no real resting place. You can’t decide who you are once or what you care about, but you constantly have to keep cycling through the same processes, and the pressure to live up to all that changes makes you inevitably pretty vain. It is really hard to break outside of oneself. You have to actually try. I am so grateful that God is mighty enough to be the sense of understanding that each of us is seeking in tandem isolation. Even if many daily interactions are somewhat shallow, humans are more like the frosting on a God-is-good cupcake. All of creation really isn’t about us. Given all that is good in this life, the vast majority is him. What a waste to miss out on all that.

What if the lives we as individuals are meant to live is not like the lives that so many of us want? What if the place that God can most use us is to reveal his goodness from the depths of suffering? What if we aren’t the ones who get pleasant company? What if investing in matters of expanding your own personal influence really isn’t for us? What if the path most traveled even among Christians isn’t what God wants for you in particular? What if you’d actually be more blessed having to work hard and being taken for granted by those around you than the fame and the fortune and whatever else everyone seems to think of as blessing? What if God needs some people to live absolutely un-glamorous lives? Would you still want that, knowing it came from God, even if it didn’t appeal to you? What if Christianity as it was meant to be in your experience was kind of repulsive, hard, and somewhat hard to understand? Would you do the work God asked of you if no one else thought it was a valuable use of your time? Would you let literally all of your pride and worldly acknowledgement come from God? If there was no status associated with ministry, would you do it?

When we say that we need God, do we mean it? Part of what is making me tired this week is feeling like I alone am carrying around this sense of “enough”. I don’t care if I get married. I don’t care if I have kids. I don’t care if I’m famous, although my ego flirts with the thought. I couldn’t buy the peace I’ve been given with anything I would ever otherwise run into, scrambling across the face of the earth. What I have in Jesus is more meaningful and valuable than anything else I will ever find on this earth. What exactly can that job, relationship, income, or prestige afford me that would be as helpful to buy? I’m looking out nearing graduation over a sea of frivolous and fleeting possibilities that pale in comparison to the peace and Holy Spirit I have inside. The glamour is worthless. Picking a direction seems shallow in comparison to all that has been freely given to me. I have nothing to prove. I could die this way.

Following Jesus is either to come to terms with how much you’ve always needed, or to give yourself permission to need all that you’d ever wanted and be surprised when those things aren’t what you expected. Out of my selfish desire to be understood, I wish more people understood being satisfied in who God is. Truth be told, I don’t even know that I want the freedom for them, I just don’t want to be alone. It’s like inviting people to church not for their salvation, but so you don’t have to walk in and out of those doors alone. Ironically, I think God can use even that blatant scrap of selfishness, because it’s true that his goodness is so much beyond even the most selfish of our intentions. Now is a good time to check my heart.