It’s (Almost) All Temporary

I hate being afraid of stuff. Fear makes me ugly, like a terrible monster, desperately and ferociously trying to grasp onto my last shreds of hope that I’m actually in control of things. And I hate how fear sneaks up and cripples me from out of nowhere.

It’s probably just the bittersweet feeling of another school year passing, but tonight, even as I was surrounded by so many people I love, the taste in my mouth was a whole lot more bitter than sweet. It was as if all the weight of this year finally fell onto my heart and instead of being able to fully celebrate these closing chapters to my full capacity, I was mourning.

My heart was aching. This is not what I wanted Lord. This is not how I planned for things to go. 

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I’m such a person of habit. It’s almost to a fault how much I love for things to remain the way they are. Because we all love that right? We feel safe when we feel that our relationships and situations are secure and unshakable. But in reality, that’s not really life. Instead of remaining safe and secure, life’s always throwing us curve balls, sending us on a different path just when we have sure footing on the previous one.

And it stinks, to be honest. This year has been a year marked by things not going the way I planned for them to go. Relationships changed, huge sections of my life and my identity changed. I was stripped raw and forced to taste many bitter moments along with the sweet.

And even though it’s been hard and I’ve struggled a ton, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I have to go to Jesus. I have to lean into him. He’s the only sure thing in my life. He’s the only thing that’s never changing.

I got home tonight and crawled into bed, grabbing my journal and pen because it was the only thing I knew to do. I have friends who are really great about processing through stuff with Jesus first before bringing it to others, but that’s a discipline I usually lack. It’s hard for me to go to Jesus when I have tangible people who can hear me out and love on me. When I’m dealing with something and should go to Jesus it’s usually a “thanks Jesus but I’m going to go talk to my friends about this first” or “I’m going to numb this with pinterest or instagram or anything else besides you” type conversation I have with him. But tonight my heart was aching and the only think I could think to do was to crawl into bed and talk to Jesus.

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What I hate most about fear is that it makes me start to doubt everything else around me, too. Just one off encounter sends me spiraling into doubting every relationship, every situation, and suddenly I’m afraid that everything I love will disappear and I will be left alone.

And in the midst of realizing this was the root of my fear, I cried all this out to God. My heart was practically screaming, “I’m SCARED Jesus! I don’t want to be alone! Why does everything have to change?! And why do I feel this loss so deeply?!”And the response I got was one that I know will bring me to my knees over and over again for seasons to come.

“Beloved, I am for you in and out of every season. Though friendships, relationships, and seasons change, THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT YOU DOES NOT CHANGE… MY LOVE FOR YOU IS UNWAVERING. My Character is unwavering. I do not give up on you. I do not replace you. I do not leave you behind.”

Friends, that might be some of the deepest truth I’ve ever encountered. Things are always changing all around us. We’re always moving in and out of seasons. People are always coming and going, in and out of our lives. But you know what? THAT’S OKAY! In fact, that’s normal, because that’s just how life is! And I don’t mean that in a “well that’s just how life is, better suck it up” type of way, but in a way that it’s just the truth, and that’s okay!! And the crazy thing is that we can actually have peace in the fact that life is fleeting. Although it makes no sense to the world and even my own heart at times, I can trust that even when the people I love today are no longer walking closely with me in life, it’s okay because there is One who will never leave my side.

See, if we focus on the fact that things are always changing, we’re always going to be monsters. We’re either going to desperately cling to people in an unhealthy dependence for fear that they will leave us or we will isolate ourselves and push others away for the same fear. But the truth is, that fear comes from us trying to get our needs met in someone other than God.

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Here’s the realest truth I know: God’s character does not change. His word holds fast. So if he says he will not leave us or forsake us. If he says he is our rescuer, our safe place, our shelter, He means it! He’s so FOR us! He’s never against us, no matter what we’ve done. He never turns his back on us. He’s never even distracted. So instead of hoping to fulfill our longings to be loved, seen, and known in other people, let’s learn to first go to him. He’s the only one who will always be there (and we’re talking here for eternity people)

And if we’re walking closely with Jesus, we can experience his Peace no matter what circumstances come our way. But even though we hold most tightly to Him, we can’t be afraid to love other people and let others love us back. God is good but he did not design us to make it through this world alone. We need each other. We need to experience community and love and life with others. We were made for it.

So, here I am once again. Naming my fears and my mess and learning to lean into Jesus. It’s messy. It’s frustrating and embarrassing but so incredibly humbling and life-giving. And in these changing seasons, as one more chapter of these college years comes to a close, I will again choose joy. I will one again rejoice. I will choose to go to Jesus first and I will choose to invest in relationships with others. Even if things change. Even if things don’t turn out the way I planned. No longer will I be afraid, no longer will the bitterness rule my life. Because even short seasons with other people are gifts. It’s worth it to let them in. And as things change, and people come and go, I will celebrate those around me and choose to stare at Jesus. We have the power to be people of grace and peace. So let’s let the punches roll. It’s all okay. We have the King of Kings holding our right hand.

 

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The Very Great Reward

I love the word of God. And for the first time in my life, I can actually say that statement with confidence.

Don’t get me wrong, I thought I loved it long before, and in part I did, but this year there’s been a radical shift in what I think about this Great Book. Maybe it was the mountain air, or the “Greystone bubble” I was living in; it even could have been out of sheer dependance to make it through the day, but this past summer during my time as a camp counselor at the happiest place on earth, I found myself, for the very first time, falling in love with the word of God. And that’s coming from a girl who grew up in church all my life.

It’s like I couldn’t get enough. I devoured scripture. Things I’d read one hundred times before now seemed alive, real and rich and true. And I ate it up.

But like all mountain top experiences, what goes up must come down. And I started slacking. I got busy, I got complacent. Heck, it just stopped being a priority. I started living out of my own strength instead of feasting on the word of God.

And I know I’ve learned a ton this year. It’s been the most stretching and rich (key word for incredibly hard yet incredibly worth it) year of my life. That’s actually been my favorite question to ask lately, “What have you learned this year?” Seriously, you should try it. Whether we realize it or not, we’ve all grown and changed. We’re not exactly who we were this time last year. We’ve learned something, experienced something new. And we all have stories to tell. So ask those you’ve loved most what they’ve learned. It’s worth it.

But I digress. My time with Jesus has always ebbed and flowed. Like anything, there have been lush, life-giving, mountain top seasons as well as seasons filled with valleys of dry, dead bones. And while this Lentant season was one of incredible life as I committed to meeting with Jesus every morning for forty days (I skipped a few days, so please don’t see that as any sort of “holier than thou” type mess), this week after Easter, I might have met with Jesus once. Other days, it’s been a half-hearted attempt or nothing at all.Image

And I know there’s grace. I’m not downing myself or making myself look good. I’m just trying to lay the cards out on the table, show you my mess, and share what I’m learning.

So in this week of skipping out on Jesus, this is what I’ve learned: IT’S A TERRIBLE IDEA.

Seriously though. What good came out of my hours of instagram, facebook, and pinterest, or my rationalizing? Not much.

Now please note that I think social media is cool. I love instagram, am addicted to facebook just like everyone else, have about 25,000 pins (I’m sorry I just love it), so I am not saying we should delete everything and only sit in our rooms and read our Bibles.

But what I am saying is that this week (and every season where I’ve stopped meeting with Jesus for whatever reason) has only left me anxious and hungry. And instead of turning around to the only true Life source I know, I try to get filled up on the world and the desires of my flesh.

Even today, I found myself rationalizing with myself. “I don’t really have to have Jesus time. I can just read a Christian book or something. I’ll just listen to worship music while I’m on pinterest and call it a day.” And all of the sudden, in a very clear feeling in my heart, I heard these words: There is no substitute for time with me.

There is no substitute.

There’s not even a substitute for his Word.

In Genesis chapter 15, the LORD came to Abram in a vision and said,

“Do not be afraid Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (15:1)

And then, even as Abram continues to doubt and look for tangible symbols of God’s favor, God STILL blesses him above and beyond as he promises him the great inheritance of a son and offspring to number the stars of the heavens.

And that’s the crazy thing. Before the gifts, before even the good feelings and peace that come with spending time with God, HE is the reward. The very great reward. He’s the reason why I do it. He’s the reason why I read my Bible, He’s the reason I wake up at the crack of dawn (much to the dismay of my roommate), He’s the reason I have to keep going. Because when it becomes about me, it becomes a mess.

I think so often whenever I stop getting the feel-good feelings of spending time with God, my heart is so quick to just turn away and stop. Because if I’m not getting my needs met, what’s the point? If God isn’t speaking or isn’t answering my prayers, isn’t it kind of silly to wait around until it starts happening?

But the truth is, as hard as it sometimes is to swallow, is that none of it was ever really about me. It wasn’t about me at all! All the glory belongs to him. And he’s worthy of so much more than I give him, even in my best moments. He’s worthy of all of my heart, all of my time, all of my attention, all of my affection. He’s WORTHY.

So what do we do when we get to the dry seasons? What do we do if we haven’t read our Bible or whispered a prayer in days, weeks, or even years? What if God doesn’t show up? What if it’s all just a facade?

Wanna know something I love about the most about God? He always shows up. Even when we can’t see the fruit of time with him in our tangible now, He’s still working, still showing up and creating for us an inheritance that’s far beyond all we could ever ask or imagine. And the inheritance is himself!

More than anything in the world, I want to know him more. It’s like two people in love. And not the temporary, hot and heavy movie love, but the kind of love that gets your heart racing. The kind where you never want to leave, because there’s so much more to learn about the other person. It’s like the kind of love we can’t even really dream about. But He’s the real deal. God is. Jesus is. Holy Spirit is. That relationship is the truest, most life-giving, identity-fulfilling, joy-breathing relationship. And He’s just waiting on us.

I don’t want to wait anymore. My souls has tasted of the sweetest love and I just can’t walk away. It isn’t worth it to walk away, even when it doesn’t feel worth it. Trust me, spending time with Jesus is always worth it. And all it takes is us making space for him to show up.

So maybe you get thirty less minutes of sleep a night. Maybe you miss out on what’s happening on social media for an hour. Maybe you have to say no to watching netflix or hulu for hours on end. Really though, what are we missing when were filling our minds and hearts with those things.

We can do it guys. We can do it. We can meet with the living God.

It’s about relationship. It’s about Him.

He is our very great reward.

He is the greatest love of all.

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On Being Real

Tuesday night, I sat on the floor of my friend’s living room and ate pretzels and carrots and drank coffee (broke college kid meals, good times, don’t judge) with three of the people I love the most. These friends. The people I walk most closely through life with. It was one of those moments where you feel infinite, ethereal, like everything is right in the world just because you’re belly laughing and sharing a meal with people you love. It’s these moments that I cherish most about college.

And while I was sitting there, sharing and listening as we discussed what’s been going on in our lives, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with gratefulness. Because these friends know me. They know my mess. They know I’m so incredibly flawed, and yet they continue to love me over and over again with more care and encouragement than I could ever imagine.

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I don’t write this to brag on my friends (which I could do for days and days) or to make life look perfect (because we all know deep down it definitely is not), but the thing that struck me about this time with my friends is that it is so worth it to be known. It’s so worth it to let people in.

There were so many times over the past two years of friendship when I could have run. I could have hidden my junk (which I did for a long time). I could have hidden and pretended and kept my friends at arms length for the sake of appearing to have it all together. But really, who wants that? I would just have ended up alone. And that’s not where I want to be.

If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that we’re all a little broken. We’re all a little frayed around the edges, carrying the wear and tear of our own stories. And I kind of love that. I think when we allow ourselves to be broken in the face of others, when we finally let go of pretense and take off our masks, everyone else around us is free to stop holding their breath too. Our realness makes space for others to be real. By sharing our struggles and freedom, we allow others to get real and get free. Often times we forget that everyone else is dealing with their own mess, just like we are dealing with ours. We’re under the impression that no one else could possibly understand our pain, and that if we were to really share what we’re dealing with, everyone would turn and run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. But do we know that for certain? Have we even tried to be honest and real with the people we love most? Have we fought for connection or have we bought into the lie that people won’t really care and don’t want to know?

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I mean, of course there will always be people who don’t understand, who don’t want to be let in or who don’t want to let you in. But so often, I think we’re all waiting around for someone to open up, someone to step into realness, so that we can let our guard down and experience realness too. Since college, I’ve seen the power of being real. And, honestly, it’s changed everything.

One of my favorite quotes about friendship is by C.S. Lewis. He says in his book The Four Loves, “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .””  Isn’t that delightful? And so deeply true? There’s power in people. And there’s power in telling our stories, getting real, and letting others love us.

So what’s stopping us?

What if we became people who were not afraid to stare shame or fear in the face? What if we were brave enough to admit and even celebrate the realization that we are a mess? What if our willingness to be real became a way for others to experience freedom and the love of Jesus?

It’s worth it to be real. It’s worth it to let others in and enter into the lives of others too.

May our love and lives be messy; full of celebration, tears, dinners on the floor, and freedom through the love of Christ.