I’ve always wanted a story, something to invoke emotion and that people could connect with. I think it’s a desire to feel validated in some way: to show proof that God is with me. You see, the truth is, I’ve always felt like I was standing outside the fire (thank you Garth).
For a while I envied others, assuming God had given them something far more valuable because they had stories of struggle and salvation that allowed them to live more fully than I could. They had the gift of engaging people because of what they had experienced and I so desperately wanted to be like that. Compassion for others gripped them because they had needed it and felt it for themselves.
Some people have walked through the flames and lived to tell about it. I have cautiously stood clear to avoid getting singed.
I can be introspective, but it wasn’t until recently that I felt the need to reflect on the experiences, relationships and feelings of my life so far. I guess you have to live a bit to gain significant content and perspective to make the exercise worthwhile. As I began, I hoped a gorgeous shiny thread would appear and bring to life a story I’d never realized I was living. And. It. Did. But not exactly as I anticipated. It was subtle and I love it even more than I ever dreamed I would. It’s unique and universal, kind of like our God.
Here’s a little glimpse into what I learned from the exercise…
- I’m an Idiot
Growing up in a Christian Home (as a preacher’s kid), I always felt loved and cared for and safe. In fact, I’m pretty sure I valued that security above all. I also knew it all (I know, so annoying). The rules of living a Christian life were solidified from an early age and I threw my focus into being good because that was immediately gratified. Manners, attendance and correct answers were the secret to success. And if you were really good, you even mastered the art of acting like the “rules” didn’t matter while following each one to a T.
The downfall here is that I developed a judgmental attitude (obvi) toward those who didn’t know or follow the rules. And that pretty much negates God’s central message of love and grace. God gave us rules to protect us and we should be obedient, not because of the praise we receive for it, but as a response for His unconditional love for us.
The worst part is, I was acutely aware of how bad I was missing the mark. So aware that the only way to feel better about myself was through comparison. If you glorify good, you quickly realize that you will never be good enough. Never pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough, liked enough. In fact, striving for goodness is a complete disaster.
- God is faithful
The Lord revealed Himself little by little over extended periods of time in my life. A flame sparked in Middle School for Him. While sitting in a cabin, singing “All in All” with other teens, I first understood my sinful nature and deep need for Christ as my savior.
Later on, I became infatuated with the freedom found in Christ to the extent of rebelling against most of the rules I had historically followed. But this wasn’t the golden ticket either. The other end of the pendulum led to the exact same false sense of pride. I had this thing figured out. I don’t have to go to church 3 times a week, have a daily quiet time or check anything off my list: it’s not about rules. Except that looked a lot like an excuse for becoming disengaged, and I wasn’t any closer to living like Jesus.
The amazing thing is, I never felt incredibly distant from God. He’s not a helicopter parent and I am so thankful that he stayed near but gave me space to sort it out.
- New Beginnings Abound
Even when I was most distant from God’s word, prayer and true community, He was constant and I felt Him in places like a west Texas sunset. It felt like hope. Hope that there was work being done, even when I couldn’t see it at the time. But now, looking back, there was always a purpose. Like the book you can’t put down, each chapter builds, drawing us into a story that’s bigger and more breathtaking than we ever imagined. The opportunity to course correct comes often as new characters and challenges are introduced. We discover ourselves, and our Creator reveals Himself as long as we continue in the journey.
- Showing Up is a Must
God’s ways aren’t mine. I’m learning that I don’t always have to have the plan mapped out, but I do have to show up! If I come and allow God to transform me into who He made me to be, He is always faithful to complete that work. Just like getting out of bed is the hardest part of sticking to a morning workout routine, approaching the throne over and over again takes stamina. Following Christ and living fully is not for the faint of heart. I’m learning that it takes guts to get over myself and relinquish control. But when I do, when I chose to show up, He takes over and that’s when the magic happens. You see, sanctification is a difficult process to endure but that’s where all the beauty is.
I’m learning to be OK with a story sans drama. It’s no teen saga or Real Housewives episode but it is the story God included me in. It’s a journey that is still unfolding and I will continue to show up because while I’m sure I will never be enough, He most definitely is.