Living at the end of Psalm 13

I got an email from a dear friend in January. I had been voicing to her that though my internship had ended early that I was really okay and that God had a plan and that everything was going to work out the way it was supposed to. She had told me that she was glad I knew this, but also warned me to feel what I needed to feel–to handle the disappointment for what it was–disappointment.

It has taken me a couple months to get there.
A couple weeks ago, there was a particularly bad day at work. I work at a university making copies and running errands–basically gophering all over campus. My job can be rather mindless but is quite helpful with paying bills. A co-worker was recently promoted to another department and a lot of her responsibility has fallen to me. That paired with many other stressors and the ‘tude of a student (“Yes, you do have to pay for color copies. I’m sorry if the twenty cents this will cost will do you in.”) and everything that had been brewing in my heart came to a head. There were four distinct times I daydreamed of simply walking out the door.
It was, well, a Bad. Day.
I got into the car and began to drive home. And I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I began yelling at God, crying through it.
“Why am I here? What is the point of this season if nothing is happening? Why give me that internship just to take it away? What do you expect me to get from this? Why the hell aren’t you doing anything?”
I’ll be honest, that’s the clean version.
I was mad. I was heartbroken. I was disappointed.
And then, when I was all cried out, I felt Him.
You done?
I only nodded–if someone had seen me, they would have thought me a raving lunatic.
Alright. Now we begin again.
And that was it. I was ready to start new. Repent and restart.
I read Psalm 13 and realized I had been so intent on skipping to the end. That wasn’t was David did. He didn’t start out with ‘God is great; God is good; Now we thank him for our food.’ That’s not how the Psalms work… I mean sometimes…not about food, but you know what I mean.
He begins:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

David is not stuffing the emotion or putting on a happy face. He’s not avoiding confrontation with God because he knows God is right. Even though that is completely true, he still approaches the Father with his genuine feelings.

How long will this keep going on? How long until I can have a challenge at work again? How long will I have to keep waiting for an interview? Have you forgotten I’m down here?

He wrestles through his hurt and confusion.

How long will my enemy triumph over me?Look on me and answer, Lord my God.Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

I love his boldness. “Look on me and answer.”  There is tension there. There is a desire to be with God, a desire to know what He is doing. I love that we can come to God like this and he is gracious enough to allow it. He is gracious enough to put up with my screaming and cursing in my minivan like a crazy woman. And he is gracious enough to pick up my heart afterward.

David does not get an answer. He arrives to a good place, but he does not necessarily get a divine reply.

But I trust in your unfailing love;    my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

“I trust your love,” “He has been good to me.” That’s what I came to at the end of my one-sided screaming match with God. I trust you; you’ve been good to me. This is hard, but you know best.

I don’t think I would really have gotten there if I had continued to live like I was at the end of the Psalm. You can’t fake-it-till-you-make-it with God. He knows what is in the heart and he wants to wade through that with you.

I am so thankful for his grace and his desire to be in relationship with me. So we move forward. Repent and restart.

That Awkward Moment When Faithful Sounds Like Failure…

God does not want you to be successful — he wants you to be faithful.

I heard a speaker say this a few weeks ago and the thought made me stop in my tracks. How contrary is this message to everything else we hear from the world?
At this point in my life, I feel anything but successful. I almost have a degree. I work at the same entry-level job I’ve had for the last three years. I have no concrete plans outside of the fact that I will probably eat dinner at home tonight. I share a mini-van with my mom. I live with my parents in my childhood bedroom. As I sit here, looking at my teddy bear and baby blanket sitting on the bed, I can’t exactly say I’m living the dream.
What do I think success looks like for someone in my stage of life? An apartment, perhaps. Not in my parent’s basement. A car might be nice. A job. One that pays for the above. One I enjoy and have the potential to advance. The teddy bear might still be sitting on the bed…
Today, we measure success in any way we can. As soon as I post something on Facebook, I find myself refreshing the page to see how many likes it has received, as if this measures what sort of friend I am or how funny I can be. We compare schedules to see who is the busiest, therefore the most wanted and important. We buy certain brands, wear certain styles, do our hair certain ways because how we present our appearance will exude the message that we are put together and up on everything in the world of style. All this for the sake of feeling more experienced or more connected. All for the sake of—even in the smallest sense—feeling successful.
Well I’m throwing in the towel on this one, folks:
I am not successful. I’ve got nothing. I try and try and still come up unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and exhausted. Ultimately, I feel as if I have failed.
Ultimately because I have.
And not because I don’t have 700 likes on my status, or I have nowhere to go on a Thursday night, or because my hair only does one of two things: frizz or flop.
Thing is, my calling is not to be successful. It is not to post the most witty comments on the human condition at all times. It is not to fill every blasted second with people and places and commitments. It is not to look my best at every second. I cannot do any of these things.
What I can do is be faithful.
I have been given a portion in this stage of life. The fact that I have the job I do, the home I do, and lack the things I do is not without a reason. I have been placed in this stage of life for a reason. I am in a place where so much is unknown and I feel so aimless at points that I just want to scream. From where I am sitting in life, I don’t see any change coming and that is extremely discouraging. It feels like failure.
Faithfulness sometimes looks like failure. Faithfulness is not usually flashy or glamorous. Faithfulness does not look like a twenty-one year old rookie author on the New York Times Bestseller List. Faithfulness is quiet. It is patient. It looks like praying when the day gets long or monotonous or stressful. It looks like investing hours to master a craft or gaining experience. It looks like taking the time to get to know the people around you rather for dreaming of those who may be around the corner. It looks like giving up an evening to invest in students in the youth group or people in need. It looks like trusting in something bigger than yourself. Most of the time, it does not look like success.
And yet, it is what we are called to. God has called me to be a writer. If I am to trust him with not only that calling, but also my life, I have to trust his plan. I am not going to be a published author right out the gate. In fact, ‘published author’ may never be part of my title. All I have right now is ‘writer’ and if that’s what I am called to be, then I must put in the time and effort to become the best I can.
It is the same with my relationship with God. I cannot expect faithfulness to be an easy calling. I have to put in the time, as with any friendship. A relationship does not deepen because I met someone once. It grows as time is spent and intimacy is built. Trust does not develop without time, attention, love, and patience. The same with God. As I spend time in his word and in prayer, the deeper understanding I am given of his love, his will, and his glory. As that time is spent, I learn to trust little by little. And I fail at this daily, but that is alright. That is part of learning to be faithful. No one said anything worth doing would be easy.
My success in the eyes of my maker does not lie in likes, or busy-ness, or my hair—amen. I am not striving to one day be told “Well done good and successful servant.” Those words ring empty. I want to live a life that is fulfilling and pleasing to him. And that requires faithfulness. In that, He is well pleased.