Love Vs. Loneliness

When once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely, we never need sympathy, we can pour out all the time without being pathetic.
—Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Reading Joy Beth Smith’s book on singleness, Party of One, I was pleasantly surprised when she slammed on the brakes after quoting this passage from Chambers that oft gets thrown at singles. “On this point, Mr. Chambers, I humbly disagree,” she writes. I didn’t even know we were allowed to disagree with Chambers!

It is easy to assume that because one is single, one also must be lonely. And that is true. But I do not think it is true because a person is single. I know plenty of married people that woke up one morning to find themselves lonelier than they ever were on their own. It would be so easy for me in moments of great longing to believe that if I were only in a relationship, this longing within me would be gone. But I know that’s a lie.

I think we get lonely because we are broken people in a broken world and loneliness is part of that bag.

I have been so fascinated by a thought from Mike Cosper’s latest, Recapturing the Wonder. He says, “We long for wonder, and we long for communion with God.” Building off a commentary of the fall from Matthew Myer Bolton’s God Against Religion, Cosper continues, “Genesis 3 isn’t fundamentally a story about broken rules but broken communion.”

How powerfully does that change our perspective of the Biblical narrative if we understand that the first sin was mankind deciding we were better off without communion—our relationship—with God? We see throughout scripture a God uncompromisingly after restored relationship with his children—his covenant with Abraham about the nation of Israel—a people of God and for God. God introducing himself to Israel on Mt. Sinai, giving them ground rules in order to have a semblance of relationship with him and a chance to pursue holiness. The ultimate coming of Jesus giving us a taste of what that unbroken communion with God is supposed to be like. Even his last supper—a picture of what he was about to do on the cross—what we now commemorate through communion—was a gathering of people around a table to relate and bear-witness with one another.

God has been after relationship with us from the beginning. He is relentless in his pursuit of that. But in order to save his people from broken communion for eternity, Jesus had to do something drastic and amazing. He had to come as a man and die in our place. And what did that mean? Complete separation from God on the cross.

Smith builds her rebuttal to the Chambers quote, “If nothing else, my singleness has taught me that you can be lonely and exhausted and in need of sympathy— even with God. Even Jesus felt this way, and in the days and moments leading to his crucifixion, we see this played out. I can think of no greater loneliness than hanging on a cross, dying for a world that despises you, and then feeling forsaken by the Father who sent you, but— glory be!— loneliness and exhaustion did not cause Jesus to crumble.”

On this side of heaven, we cannot escape loneliness. Single, married, parent, friend, child, elder—I don’t care what relationship you are a participant in, there will be moments, sometimes seasons, of loneliness. It’s part of our humanity. But how shall we respond to such deep and nagging longings?

Having an earthly relationship with Jesus does not mean I will never be lonely. (In fact, in some of my circles, I feel a loneliness because of my relationship with Jesus.)

Instead, I have come to learn that when I come to Jesus with my relational longings, he does not always meet the need relationally.  When I have come to Jesus longing for human relationship, I have found that I am more in need of an invitation. Time in prayer and meditation in the word has become a sweet invitation to behold who he is and what he’s done in love. Loneliness is often an invitation into trust promise of the perfect communion to come.

The voice that rings from the Bible is the voice of the one we long to hear from, long to know, long to find our rest in.
—Mike Cosper, Recapturing the Wonder

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The Holding Pattern

Last week, I wrote about contentment. This week, I want to talk about waiting.

All summer, it has seemed I have been in this season of waiting. There is a fabulous job opportunity that may or may not come to fruition and I am waiting. It seems like I will always be waiting.

If you’re like me, your brain just doesn’t shut off. I have played out so many scenarios in my mind. How will I react if I get it? How will I react if I do not? Will I cry? What will I do if it is full time? Will that effect my freelance work? What if I don’t get the job and will never make enough to get out of my parents basement? Does that mean I have to take up video games? What if they thought my outfit was awful in the interview? Did the color of my resume paper offend the interviewer? What if? How will I?Hmm? Hmm? Hmm?

The other day I received a call from a number I didn’t recognize and nearly had a heart attack. Could this be the call at last?

… It was just a wrong number.

I wondered if the guy on the other end had been calling ‘Teresa’ to tell her she got a job. Congrats Teresa! I hate you.

Okay, not really.

But it’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. It sometimes feels like I’m going crazy! And I don’t mean the phone call.

I am in a holding pattern in which I have no control. So where do I go with that?

God is so much more patient than I. And he actually is in control.

When the buzzing monologue of what-ifs overwhelm my thoughts, I have found taking time to pray has been essential in this season. I am not going to get an answer in that time with Him. I am not really looking for an answer. That will come when the hiring folks make their decision in their time.

When we want something so badly, it is easy to get swept away with worries and what-ifs and miss what God may be up to. That’s usually what I do with my waiting periods. I worry. Until I figure out what’s going on. Then I’m usually disappointed when things don’t go my way or unfulfilled if they do.

The waiting is just as valuable as the thing you are waiting for.

I don’t care if it is for a job, a spouse, enough savings for a new car, dinner, cats to go extinct: the waiting is where God does some of his best work. It is a playground to experience gratitude, examine motives, and encounter the character of the Father.

And, yeah, sometimes it sucks! This summer has crawled by for me. I have a hard time scheduling things over a week in advance because I’m not really sure what life will look like in that short amount of time. I feel my phone vibrating in my pocket like phantom limb, having to remind myself it’s in my purse. I want this so badly, but I am not getting it right now and I have to learn to be alright with that.

I’ll tell you this though: God has met me in this holding pattern. He is sitting beside me while I wait to land. The moments when he invites me to into silence, to ‘Be still and know that he is God’ are what keep me sane. He offers peace. I find that I just have to trust that his way is best. Waiting and all.

I hope that if you are finding yourself in a holding pattern as well, that you find God beside you. Take some time today to enjoy the silence with him. Please enjoy as you loosen your grasp on the thing you are waiting for and offer it to Him with open hands.

The waiting is just as valuable as the thing you are waiting for.

I promise.

What is Contentment?

I’ve been living in a state of limbo for some time now.

In previous posts, I’ve talked through job loss and the struggle in waiting for that next something to come along. I have the prospect of an opportunity that I’m supposed to get an definitive answer on any day now. It has been a long waiting process that has given me a chance to wrestle through some things with God.

Like contentment.

At the start of this year, I told you guys that was what I wanted to seek this year; godliness and contentment. Shortly after that, I was laid off from my dream internship, turned down for a couple promotions, and left in this state of waiting and hoping.

So how is one supposed to be content when nothing seems to be right. When you’re not happy. When you’re not satisfied. For some reason, this is what I believed contentment to be. Happiness. Satisfaction. And if not those things, fooling yourself into believing you were those things.

What on earth is contentment if not satisfaction and happiness?

This was the question on my heart. If I was supposed to be content, why wasn’t I able to make myself comfortable with where God had placed me?

I ran across a quote from Sinclair Ferguson that helped me wade through my confusion.

Christian contentment…is the direct fruit of having no higher ambition than to belong to the Lord and to be totally at his disposal in the place He appoints, at the time He chooses, with the provision He is pleased to make.

That was it. Contentment was my calling. Contentment was what was supposed to come from trusting where God had me for the length he had me there. It wasn’t happiness. It wasn’t satisfaction. It was trust. Trust that this was the destination for now. Trusting that it was the best place for me in this season.

It is so hard when we are not in the place we thought we would be at this point in life. There is so much ambiguity in this post-grad, pre-whatever stage. I have a hunch that there is a whole lot of ambiguity in live in general.

And it’s not fun and it’s not easy, but it it good. It is good to realize you are not in control. It is good to realize that you must rely on something bigger than yourself. It is good to seek contentment when it seems like the farthest thing from your grasp.

So it’s been two months of waiting to see if this job opportunity will come to fruition. And yes, I want it to come to fruition. But I know I will be okay if it does not. God has a plan. He will place me where I need to be and not a moment before I need to be there.

And I am surprised to say that that is something I can be content with.

Is there an area of your life where you haven’t been seeking contentment? Have you been struggling with the meaning of that word?

Joy and the Shepherd

I accompanied a friend and her wonderful family to a wedding a couple weeks ago and had such a splendid time. Everything was so beautiful and the reception was such a blast. I love dancing like a weirdo with great friends. I had not seen many of her family members in a while, so there was plenty of catching up over dinner.

While describing to her mother where I am at in life, I found myself feeling like a cheese-ball. All I could talk about was even though this season was pretty ambiguous, things were actually really great and God had been so faithful. I kept repeating how great God was in this midst of the unknown. If I was hearing me talk, I would probably have rolled my eyes. (Inwardly, of course.)

Except that I was being totally honest.

 Which was a shock to me. I was happy. No, not happy–Joyful. God has been so wonderful in the midst of all my I -don’t-know-where-my-life-is-headed-this-is-so-confusing meltdowns. He has allowed me to be angry with him and to pray through that to a place of peace and trust.

I’m not going to lie, this has been one of the most difficult seasons. It has been–and continues to be–an inward struggle. What will I choose today? Contentment or worry? Trust or control? I don’t often choose correctly. But it’s a moment by moment choice. I am always welcomed to choose to turn.

The pastor at my church spoke this week, using his grandchildren as an illustration. Last year he challenged them all to memorize Psalm 23 and to reflect on the question ‘Who are you tempted to follow as your false shepherd?’ And this wasn’t just a question they had to answer once, but think on for the entire year.

I’ve been thinking on it for the past week as I meditate on the Psalm. Who am I tempted to follow as my false shepherd?

As God and I have been wrestling for the past couple weeks, it has become very apparent that I demand control. I want things my way and in my timing. If I cannot manipulate to make that happen, I fret about all the possible outcomes and dream up ways to compensate. I become consumed by what I cannot control or have or make yield to me.

I hold a death-grip over what is not mine.

But the Lord is my shepherd! I am just a sheep. It is the shepherd’s job to provide for his sheep. To lead them beside quiet waters, to make them rest in green pastures.

He is making me rest in green pastures in this stage of limbo. To slow down and rest in what he provides and nothing more. And it’s hard. I want to get up and go and make my way. But I am just a little sheep.

I must hand over my want for control and rest up. To take in God’s grace and the wisdom from his people and his word and prepare for the unknown next. So I have begun to open up my fists and let go of what I have wrongly grasped.

And what have I found in the handing over?

Joy.

I wish and pray for the same thing for you, my friend.

So what about you? Who are you tempted to follow as your false shepherd? I would love to hear in the comments or by email! Tell me your story!

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.

The Monday After Graduation

So I officially graduated this past weekend.

I’ve been done with school for a year–save a left over class this past fall–so it felt a little weird. Throughout the weekend I was asked by friends “Can you believe this is really happening?” and I wasn’t really sure how to respond. It didn’t feel like my graduation. It felt like I was there to support my friends and I had to wear are really weird hat as I did so.

Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to get some closure and walk with the people I started school with. As the provost announced “I present to you the class of spring 2014” I could only feel a little saddened because that wasn’t me. It was odd and detached, but still emotional and I really haven’t processed through that if you can tell from my rambling…

But as I was thinking yesterday afternoon, I realized that there are now hundreds of people in that class who now don’t know what’s next. They reached the point of the map I did last year and realized they have to chart the rest of the journey.

That all said, this is a open letter to those who woke up this morning realizing that they have no idea what to do with the rest of their lives.

Hi, friend.

This post is going live at noon. I’m not sure if you were up before then… probably not. Good for you.

Now you probably aren’t sure what to do now that you’re at your parents house. With no job. No money. No idea. I hope this doesn’t bring on too much panic. If so, go get a paper bag. Breathe into it.

Alright. You good? Good.

Know that even though you don’t know what’s next, God does. This season is going to require a LOT of trust. And trust is hard. It means you’re not in control anymore. It means that you recognize that your way is not the best way, but that the will of someone else is greater. It means you’ll probably walk down some hard roads, take some rough spills, have to look around and wonder where on earth you are in life.

There will be plenty of rejection letters and interviews that lead no where. Plenty of bills coming and not a lot of cash. Plenty of pressure felt but the question of ‘What are you doing now that you’re done with college?’ I hate that question. I think it’s safe for you to hate it to.

Know that it will take time to get your feet under you and get established. Know that it’s okay that you’re not using your degree as you act as a barista, a sales person, a factory worker, a whatever-you-need-to-be-to-pay-back-the-loans.

Also find a way to do what you love. Spend your nights doing that thing. Pay the bills and live with passion. Don’t waste this season because despite the confusion, the sense of being lost, there can be great beauty. Find community, talk with a mentor, be known. Learn who you are and spend time in the word.

Live big, feel small, and keep your hands open for what God may bring your way.

This is a hard place to be, but you can thrive here. I know it.

Praying for you, friend.

Congratulations on your accomplishment! Here’s to the hope of your next one.

–Lex

Postcards from Camichines Part V: Trust Exercises

I don’t know if you’ve ever flown Aero Mexico before, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you absolutely have to.

We arrived at the airport with very little time to spare, waited in line for about an hour, and at last got our boarding passes. I needed three. Only one of mine printed. And my ticket was changed to stand by.

Waiting in line in Guadalajara

I looked to the man at the desk, trying not to look panicked.

“It’s fine,” he told me, crossing out the STB with a Sharpie. “You will get your seat assigned at the gate.”

I nodded lamely and turned to rush through security.

Our team arrived at the gate to find they were holding the plane for us… since the ten of us made up nearly a third of the flight. We were handing over our passes one by one. When the woman at the counter got to me she stopped me.

“You’re standby. You have to wait. We have a flight at 10, one at 4:30 and another at 8:00 tonight.”

I looked wide-eyed between her and our trip leader, a faint roaring in the back of my mind. I didn’t want to be stuck in a Mexican airport alone! Good grief, my Spanish is terrible and I didn’t know what I would do by myself in a foreign country.

The leader explained to her that the printer at the check-out counter had broken and that my ticket wasn’t supposed to have been changed. He told me that he and I would switch if we had to. I nodded, trying to blink back tears. (I cry. It’s annoying and happens at the drop of a hat due to any strong emotion such as HOLY-CRAP-I-COULD-GET-LEFT-HERE-IN-A-MEXICAN-AIRPORT scared. Not thrilled  by it, but it’s what I do.)

With a minute to spare before take-off, I was given a seat on a plane the size of a test tube in front of and beside some of our team members.

We flew from Guadalajara to Monterrey and found we had to go through security again. This time, the woman checking our boarding passes did not speak English. She was very disgruntled that my pass was for Monterrey and no further. I showed her the bar code for my luggage was labeled for Grand Rapids, but wasn’t sure how to explain that I needed other passes.

After a rather tragic attempt of a few of us to mime this, she begrudgingly motioned for me to follow her to who-knows-where. I looked to the rest of the team, disapointed that this was not going to be simple and once again frightened.

I followed the security woman silently through strange hallways. I tried once more not to cry. The lump in my throat bulged as I realized that this walk was awkward, but I could barely make small talk with her if I tried. Not unless we wanted to talk about her favorite color or the time or how much something costs or where the bathroom was. I felt so helpless and confused. Desperate, even. Not to mention, I really had to pee.

Saying goodbye to Mexico

I looked to the woman in her stiff grey suit and her stern expression as she looked straight ahead of us. She was probably in no mood to take a bathroom stop on our way to wherever.

We emerged at the front of the Monterrey airport. She motioned for me to stay put in the check in line as she brought my one and only boarding pass up to the man working there. They talked back-and-fort in rapidly whirring Spanish of which I only got snippets.

I looked up at the giant Delta logo mounted to the marble wall behind the desk.

God, just get me back in that terminal and home. Get me out of this country, I pleaded.

Do you trust me? The words felt like a small echo in my chest. I had felt them there all week.

I am in no mood to play trust exercises, God, I just want to get back to the team and home!

I took deep breaths, trying not to sob in front of the line of spring-breakers behind me.

This is what travelling alone would be like, I realized. I want to travel, I have to get used to this. I began to take inventory of myself.

I am okay. Things are getting worked out, I will be with everyone again shortly. I have plenty of time to get to the gate and visit a bathroom before I would have to board. Everything was fine. Not what I would have planned, but fine.

I looked upward and nodded. Alright, I trust you.

The security woman came to where I was in line. Handing me my boarding pass, she told me in heavily accented English, “You wait. He help.”

“Gracias.” I nodded, feeling relieved.

My first sight of snow upon returning
to Michigan

Upon getting to the check-in counter, I was able to get the rest of my boarding passes and was even upgraded to an emergency exit row for my trouble.

I was fine. I was safe. I was headed home.

It struck me how simple the morning was, but how quick I was to jump to the worst possible scenario. I am becoming more and more aware of how badly I am at taking things in stride. God has taken care of me thus far and he has promised to continue to do so.

I arrived back in Grand Rapids without any trouble and have begun adjusting back to life at home and at work.

My week in Mexico was a beautiful experience that I will forever cherish. God was at work and it was wonderful to experience that with his people in his creation.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. Your intercession on our behalf was so necessary and I know I speak for the rest of the team when I say thank you.

Here’s to the next adventure,
                 –Lex

Postcards from Camichines Part III: Flexibility

Plans are nice. I really like plans and to-do lists and knowing what’s up before it happens.

That’s not how things work down here.
So these posts are not going to be live. The wireless is not as plentiful here as previously described. Which is actually become one of my favorite parts of the week so far–being unplugged and off the grid. Everyone on our team is focused on our tasks and each other and our time with God rather than what may or may not be going on at home. (Although there are three of us down here that have missed the Bachelor finale and I’m dying to know if Juan Pabs chose Crazy or Clueless to be his awfully wedded wife!)
Actually, a lot of things have not been a previously expected.
Turns out, there is a dress code down here which has limited my limited wardrobe significantly. Also, even though there is a lot of work to be done here, it is not plentiful as I expected.
So we’ve all had to learned to adjust. 
And it is so good! Seriously, the slower pace, the lack of distraction over my wardrobe–I am learning a ton through this week and we’re barely at the half-way point.
Taking a break for drinks and shade
I have written previously about my struggle with clothing and significance. This week has just revealed to me more how much stock I put into that still. There have been few moments in which I have felt ‘lovely’ or smelled like something resembling that this week as we work in the heat and dust and chaff. I showered last night only to discover dust still in my ears and the fact that I forgot q-tips.

This grimy shirt and these sweaty jeans and this unexpected down-time are teaching me a lot about my brokenness and the way I have been living my life as of late. These things are all manifestations of my desire for more. My desire to serve myself.
Down here, I am learning not to care what I look like because honestly, it has not changed this experience at all. In fact, I can tell you that I’ve probably had a better time without the distraction of ‘being cute’. I’m more useful in these re-worn clothes then I would have been in the running shorts and tank-tops I had planned to wear. I have been able to dive into any messy task–hefting bricks, sifting corn, working in dust and not being concerned for the safety of my skin or the state of my clothing. I just am. It’s nice. Freeing, actually.
As far as the work goes, I came down here geared up for non-stop work all week long. In reality, it’s been a lot of hurry up and wait. Not because there isn’t work to be done, but because there are somethings here that are more important. When a task is finished, there may not be supplies for the next one yet, or someone else must complete their task before we can start the next thing. 
There is also more of an emphasis on relationships rather than getting things done a quickly as possibly. Earlier, the guys went to pick up some equipment from a man in the village. The director of the home began talking with a man from the village that was loaning said equipment. Before the guys knew it, the director left to buy a bottle of Pepsi for their small little group to enjoy as they chatted.

I finished with a task this morning and was approached by a couple of the little guys to read a book. We spent yesterday afternoon playing with the kids on the swing-set rather than continuing with the corn (so much corn!!!)

Story-time with a couple new buddies
It’s weird. And beautiful. Everything has been getting done quickly, but we have also been given time to enjoy one another and relax. I’ve been exhausted at the end of the day, but never stressed. I feel really healthy down here and that’s been nice.
I need to be more flexible and this week has been a wonderful exercise in that. I’ve been thinking of ways to incorporate some of this feeling into my regular life. If any of you have been able to do this, please let me know. I am loving this simplicity!

God has been so good and we’ve barely reached that half-way mark. I am loving this place. Also, tomorrow I’m teaching a writing class–super pumped for this!

xo,
          –Lex

The Obstacles to My Enjoyment

The weekend after I was laid off from the internship, I led on a youth retreat. Not exactly how I wanted to spend that weekend. I would have preferred to spend those couple days wrapped in self-pity and a blanket in bed with kleenex and what was left of my chocolate supply.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my girls! But I felt like I had just come off of one of the more hellish weeks of my life. Not only had I been laid off, but I was denied a promotion at my second job. 

And I felt lost.

The speaker for the weekend presented us with a quote from Larry Crabb that put it all in perspective for me:

We cannot count on God to arrange what happens in our lives in ways that will makes us feel good. We can, however, count on God to patiently remove all the obstacles to our enjoyment of Him. He is committed to our joy, and we can depend on Him to give us enough of a taste of that joy and enough hope that the best is still ahead to keep us going in spite of how much pain continues to plague our hearts.

Let that sink in. Read it again.

God does not want me to feel good. He is not out to make my life happy. He desires so much more for us!

God has taken captive the events of our lives, even those that were meant to be broken and twisted, and is bending them to his glory! He is a passionate father, seeking to remove every obstacle in order to be in right relationship with us.

His plan cannot be foiled! His love can only be ignored for so long before we are aching for it again. He is committed to our joy. He desires us to take joy in the plan he has laid out for us. They way is going to be hard. It is not always going to be the most comfortable or even bearable at points. But it is the end goal that gives us hope.

This does not mean He expects us to be happy all the time. To be honest, I am not happy right now. I still feel lost and a little sad. But there is joy in this season. There is a quiet moment each day when I am asked to come and be still with my father. A moment to refresh myself in the joy He has given me–a moment to realize that life is not about my comfort, but my enjoyment of the father.

God is not an ego maniac, forcing us to mindlessly worship him with happy faces even when life sucks. He is a father who yearns to be in relationship with us where we are–happy, sad, downright pissed. His desire is to be enjoyed by his children through their trust in His way, even when that way gets hard and uncomfortable. His desire is to be relied on in those moments. To be given a chance to comfort and guide his children through the dark and show them the light that is ahead for them.

Therefore, since we have been justified<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”> through faith,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”> we have peace<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”> with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(E)”> by faith into this grace in which we now stand.<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(F)”> And we boast in the hope<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(G)”> of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(H)”> because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(J)”> does not put us to shame, because God’s love<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(K)”> has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(L)”> who has been given to us. –Romans 5:1-5

Friend, I encourage you to sit down with the father today. Remove the obstacles that are keeping you from enjoying him. Find peace and a taste of joy in that quiet moment with Him. 

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.
xo,
                  –Lex