Christian discovery, Self-awareness

There is no neutral

“Please tell me you’re having a boy.”

I read concern and maybe a little disgust on the waitress’s face as she surveyed by belly, 9 months ripe.

My husband quickly met my eyes, doing a quick read on my reaction. Our three daughters continued coloring happily on their kids menus. I was buried deeply in the booth, smushed on all sides by the beloved people with whom I get to do everyday life.

Although it was far from the first time I had been addressed this way, it still caught me off guard and a laugh escaped my lips.

“Nope!” I replied with a smile.

She proceeded to turn to my husband. “Man, I feel sorry for you.”

“Don’t!” he immediately responded.

She shrugged and walked away to fill our drink orders.

____________

I wonder why comments like these are so commonplace. Is there a cultural understanding that a ‘successful’ or ‘good’ life must include children of both genders? Should there ever be a lack of gratitude for an amazing gift?

“Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks.” 1 Timothy 4:4

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

“And whatever you do or say, do it was a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

Our waitress obviously did not grasp the magnitude of the miraculous blessing growing in my womb. She was unaware of the journey I have been on and how undeserving I am of the life I am every day gifted to live.

Discontentment is contagious. So is gratitude. Let’s be careful which we are spreading.

“In every encounter, we either give life or we drain it. There is no neutral exchange.” Brennan Manning

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Christian discovery, Digging deeper, Faith building, Self-awareness

Prone to Wander

A revelation came to me a few weeks ago as we sang the ending to one of my favorite hymns: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above”.

The revelation was this: I am a wanderer.

As I reflect back, I can see I’ve wandered many times in my 30 years. But one time I wandered farther than I ever had before. Far into the darkness. And then I stayed there.

I was in college the first time I ran from my faith. Though I’d been to church nearly every Sunday since I was born, I did not have a deep foundation nor a relationship with God. Without this connection, church and all it demanded became nothing more than a boring hobby, and it was all too easy for me to walk (or run) away from something my heart wasn’t invested in. I began searching elsewhere for false comfort and answers. In hindsight I can now see how this decision started to darken all areas of my life, in school, in relationships, and in my heart. I became used to the darkness, and it was filled with bitterness, anger, alcohol, and depression.

After years of running aimlessly, a non-Christian friend of mine took me out to dinner, looked me in the eyes, and said, “I think you need Jesus back in your life.” The best way I can describe this experience was like driving a car at full speed and crashing head-on into a barricade. For the first time in years my world came to a screeching stop, and I was finally still enough to look at my life and realize how deep into the darkness I had wandered.

I wish I could tell you that next day I was a new person who rededicated my life and never looked back. The reality is this was a slow process and just one step of many to start transforming my heart and bringing me back to my Almighty Father. I graduated and started seeking God with the urgency of someone who’d been caught on fire. Though I had this new passion, I was still overwhelmed with guilt and shame for my season of running.  As I began to dig into the bible, I was surprised and relieved to see that several of the influential people God chose to grow His kingdom were wanderers too. Look at Jacob, Moses, Jonah, Paul, and even Peter, to name a few. But one of my favorite bible stories about wandering is Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a son who selfishly runs away from his father to worship the god’s of idolatry with his “wild living”. In this story we often focus on the sins of the son who left, or the jealousy of the son who stayed and was unaware of all the gifts he already possessed. But what about the response of the Father in the story?  What about the overwhelming joy and open arms of his Father that are given before the son even explains why he left or why he returned; before he even asks for forgiveness? What amazing news this is, and what an overwhelming love!

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”

Brennan Manning explains, “The gospel of grace announces, Forgiveness precedes repentance. The sinner is accepted before he pleads for mercy. It is already granted. He need only receive it. Total amnesty. Gratuitous pardon. What a word of encouragement, consolation, and comfort! We don’t have to sift our hearts and analyze our intentions before returning home. Abba just wants us to show up.”

Matt Chandler puts it this way, “The marker of those who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ is that, when they stumble and fall, when they screw up, they run to God and not from Him, because they clearly understand that their acceptance before God is not predicated upon their behavior but on the righteous life of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death.”

I feel compelled to share how easy it can be to fall into the trap of saying you are “saved” when in reality there’s no depth to your faith, nor a living relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s taken me several years to realize church attendance does not equate to spiritual growth and maturity. What came through my wandering was a yearning for a deeper love, which required me to learn how to become more honest and self-aware of my intentions and my sins. The result has been a more genuine faith than I ever had before I strayed.

  • Have you ever run and felt stuck in the darkness? Are you there right now?
  • Do you believe in your heart that He has not forgotten about you? Why or why not?
  • What scares you about returning to your Father?
  • Do you know you can never go too far that He will not accept you, that He will stop searching for you?
  • What does it mean to you to have a living relationship with God, and what step(s) do you need to take to start or deepen that relationship?

When I was once in the darkness, I felt so alone. I see now that I have never been alone, and I never will be. I have taped up bible verses like Romans 8 around my house to help remind me that “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love”. As my love and understanding for God grows, the less I wander. Though I doubt the darkness will never call again, I now know God will never give up fighting to bring me back to Him. He sings over the other voices:   

“Even if you run away from me,
over the mountains through the valleys
I will not rest but search east and west
to bring you back with me
Even if you stomp and scream and huff,
tell me that I’m not good enough
I’ll take every swing and every blow,
until you know my love.
Even if you beat upon my chest,
tell me that you don’t understand,
I will love you and teach you to love me again,
I’m gonna love you and teach you to love me again”

Jess Ray “Runaway”

Christian discovery, Digging deeper, Faith building, Self-awareness

My Identity “Untangled”

Suddenly it was more than just a movie night. 

I looked down from the screen with tear filled eyes. Despite my lack of golden locks, I felt a strong connection to Rapunzel. I had forgotten my true identity. The enemy had lured me away and used fear to convince me to stay in captivity. He spoke lies that he had my best interest at heart. My God-given powers and gifts were wasted for years serving his demands.

But something in me had always been a bit unsettled. I was curious, wondering when my life would really begin. I performed the usual routine activities on repeat as days turned into years. In attempts to go deeper, I served at church, read Scripture, and participated in small groups, but all without getting too vulnerable. 

While I was guardedly seeking, God was also pursuing me. In His creation, in songs, in my unquenchable thirst for purpose, He was launching His light into the sky to beckon me home.

In what felt like a hopeful impulse, I finally took a small leap out of security. “Search me and know me, Lord,” I prayed. “Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me in the path of everlasting life.”

He answered with an adventure I could never have imagined. 

In the movie, Rapunzel’s journey to the kingdom also took an unexpected turn. She eventually rejoined her mother in their tower, betrayed and heartbroken. She believed her original fears of the outside world had been confirmed. “I tried to warn you,” her mother cooly and confidently affirmed, satisfied that this would quell any future attempts at escape.

Lying on her bed Rapunzel gazed up at the ceiling she had spent her life painting. This time something caught her attention- the royal crest of the kingdom scattered all throughout her work. Her reality began to unravel as she realized she had been subconsciously painting the symbol of her true identity all over the walls of the prison she called home. She was not simply a girl living with a mother who was trying to protect her. She was the lost princess!tumblr_inline_oxh0dlbol11sg8asc_1280

Much like Rapunzel, it took deep, personal heartbreak for God to begin to open my eyes. Now I saw the unquestionable evidence all around me. It had leaked out in the voids of my own efforts, my own attempts at painting the walls of my heart searching for significance and worthiness and loveliness. I put up more strokes of paint every time I tried to earn love and acceptance from sources that could never really provide it. There in my works was a Christ-shaped hole that I had never noticed before. I wondered now how I could have ever missed it.

One thing I did know was that I couldn’t go back to the old way of living.

In the fairy tale movie, it took 18 years for Rapunzel to realize she was actually royalty living in captivity. It took me 31 years! It takes some soul searching to assess.

  • Have you ever wondered when your life will really take off?
  • Is there a longing in you to be part of something bigger? 
  • Have you dreamed of an “if only”, completely fresh start? 
  • Are you worried you might be missing your real purpose?

What if these longings are lights in your heart from the Kingdom, hoping you won’t settle for a false life of captivity?

  • Do you know you have an enemy?
  • Have you heard his subtle lies whispered in your ear? They are often disguised as rational half-truths that confirm your fears. 
  • “Look at you, fragile and unqualified. Maybe soon, but not yet. Something will probably go wrong. Skip the drama and stay where you are.”

Your discovery that you are secretly royalty is a threat to him. 

  • Do you spend time painting your tower?
  • Are you happy with how well you fit in the “right” crowd?
  • Do your actions and choices reveal your needs for certain clothing, makeup, body shape, houses, cars, vacations, relationships, manicured nails and front lawns, resumes and connections? 
  • When you’re disappointed and fear or pain rise to the surface, do you expect one of these “needs” to comfort the cross-shaped hole in your life?

As scary as it may be, honest answers to these questions can be the first step on our adventure toward the King who is calling us home!

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” (Romans 8:15-17)

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)