I am humbled.
I began to write out my journey of faith just for myself, and I wrestled with the idea of making it public on my blog. (If you haven’t read it yet, this post won’t make sense. Read Tarnished first.) On the one hand, it felt good to write it all out and recognize how far I’ve come from my intense hatred toward God just 5+ years ago. It encouraged me to see how He’s been working in me, all the puzzle pieces lined up and fitting together, rather than each piece floating around in my mind disconnected from the rest. I was writing it for me. But then I thought that maybe it would be good for others to see, too – to encourage those that have prayed so faithfully for us and those that God has used to speak to us, to grow and stretch us during the past year.
On the other hand, posting this journey meant admitting to the world that I don’t have it all together. (I know. Shocking.) It meant confessing to people I know, love, and respect that my faith couldn’t withstand heartache. (Hmmm… a bit of pride creeping in here? I think so.) It’s humbling – and to some extent humiliating – to know other people have grown in their faith in the midst of a tragedy, while I completely crumbled. Waves crashed, and I jumped ship. Shouldn’t I have been stronger? Why did it take me over 5 years to get to the point where I can trust God and accept that His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8), and that is a good thing? After all, He sees the big picture. And not just my big picture. He sees everyone’s big picture, how they are interlinked, and for all of time. Why was I so stubborn in accepting that He knows best? I don’t want everyone to know about this major fault of mine!
Ah, yes. Pride. Guilt. Slowly creeping in like the ocean’s tide. I could soon be swamped.
I decided to write out my journey and think on it for a while before posting. I read it probably a dozen times (and missed all those typos/errors each and every time. Oops.) I didn’t want to post it if it was only for my benefit, but I would make it public if it could encourage someone else. I decided to post it. I prayed it would reach someone. I prayed that God would be glorified. I prayed that I could redeem some of the lost time I spent hating God, and that maybe, maybe some good would come of it.
The day after posting, I regretted it. First, the waves of pride came again, washing over me as I saw the number of people reading it increase. Then came the even more intense guilt. I failed. I threw my faith out the window. I completely jumped ship. I tried reminding myself that this isn’t about me. It’s about bringing glory to the One who made me and loves me as I am, despite my faults.
I had the opportunity to have a conversation with my pastor about it. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it once or twice before, but he’s pretty awesome. Seriously. (Oh yes, I did already say that. Here, here, and multiple times on various dates here.) But it’s worth saying again. How blessed we are to be a part of a church where we get to hear him preach nearly every week. He is so real. So transparent. And he speaks Truth. And since writing the last blog post, I have heard from more and more people who also feel – every week – like the preaching is just for them. Clearly, Pastor Phil is being used by God. I am constantly learning from him.
During our conversation, I told him about my guilt for hating God. I told him how bad I felt for jumping ship the second strong waves crashed. Pastor Phil cupped his hands like a bowl. “In your eyes, you jumped ship. But in His, you were always right here.”
What an amazing picture. No matter how much I give up on Him, no matter how far I try to run from His presence, I can’t ever escape the palm of His hands. Even when I jump ship, I still land right there, right where He is holding me.
You’d think that would be good enough for me to get past the whole guilt/pride thing. Um, no. (I may have also mentioned once or twice that I am a bit stubborn.) So while I was greatly encouraged by my conversation with my pastor, the very next day I allowed myself to feel guilty once again. I had lunch with a friend who experienced the loss of a baby similar to our situation. She rejoices at the gift God gave her. She is thankful for a treasure she has in Heaven. She didn’t hate like I did. More guilt as I wish I would have had her faith. Ugh.
Do you ever have one of those nights where you can’t keep your eyes open when you’re in the living room, but the second you hit the bed, you’re wide awake? Do you ever have an argument with yourself or with God? As I lay on my pillow that night, frustrated about not falling asleep, a thought crept into my mind…
Read Jesus Calling.
No. I left it in the living room. I’m not getting up.
Read Jesus Calling.
No. I’m cozy. I’m going to sleep now!
Get up. Read Jesus Calling.
No! Thank you. I think I’ll lay here in my misery and guilt until I fall asleep. I just missed one day. I’ll read two tomorrow.
You missed two days. Go read yesterday’s today.
Maybe I’m not making myself clear here. I’m. Not. Getting. Up. I will read two – no, THREE - devotionals tomorrow. Promise.
Get up. Read Jesus Calling. Read yesterday’s entry. Read it now, before you sleep.
It was at this point I realized I was even more awake than when the argument in my head started. I reluctantly – and with irritation – jolted up and into the living room, hoping to quiet my thoughts and allow myself to go back to sleep. My movement was sudden and startled Matt, so he followed me out to see what was going on. Embarrassed for sounding a bit crazy, I thumbed through the book while explaining to him that I just needed to read the devotional from yesterday so I could shut up my mind and get to sleep in peace, that really I didn’t think it was going to be helpful, but at least I wouldn’t be having stupid arguments in my head.
Here is where the story gets funny. I turned to the day’s devotion that I had skipped. The one I was apparently going to have to read if I wanted a chance at going to sleep. As I began to read, I couldn’t help but laugh. I read it aloud to Matt. We were both laughing.
From Jesus Calling by Sarah Young:
Don’t be so hard on yourself. I can bring good even out of your mistakes. Your finite mind tends to look backward, longing to undo decisions you have come to regret. This is a waste of time and energy, leading only to frustration. Instead of floundering in the past, release your mistakes to Me. Look to Me in trust, anticipating that My infinite creativity can weave both good choices and bad into a lovely design.
Because you are human, you will continue to make mistakes. Thinking that you should live an error-free life is symptomatic of pride. Your failures can be a source of blessing, humbling you and giving you empathy for other people in their weaknesses. Best of all, failure highlights your dependence on Me. I am able to bring beauty out of the morass of your mistakes. Trust Me, and watch to see what I will do.
Romans 8:28; Micah 7:7
If you have that book and read the devotional for May 9 and didn’t get much out of it, sorry. That one was written just for me.
So what now? What comes of the girl who hated God, now loves Him, and is on a majorly steep learning curve to reflect His image? (We’re talking straight up-and-down cliffs, here.)
This is the part where I work on choosing and remembering. Waking up each morning and choosing to remember that I am human, and I will continue to make mistakes. Yet, He still LOVES ME. He made me, and He does all things well.
Remembering that He is God, and He knows best. For me, for you, and for all of eternity. Oh boy, that one’s a toughy. I have to choose that often. (Yes, I know, stubborn me. Sheesh.) But I do. I have to decide each and every day – sometimes multiple times a day – that GOD is GOD, and I am not.
Remembering that no matter how far I run, jump, or hide, I can never escape the palm of His hands.
Remembering that He – God – the Creator of the Universe has lavished His Amazing Grace upon me. (Ephesians 1:7-8)
Grace lavished. Upon me. Stubborn. Prideful. Tantrum-ing, hateful me.
I am humbled. I am in awe. I am so incredibly grateful.
When I started this blog, I was purposeful in my intent: to focus on joy and the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. I was excited as I started the process. It felt good.
In her book One Thousand Gifts, (which I am super-slow at reading. Sorry, Rach. Still haven’t finished chapter 4), Ann Voskamp embraces joy in gratitude for the many Gifts from God. At the women’s retreat I attended, Sandi challenged us to do the same, to write down 1,000 gifts. 1,000 “pops of joy” from our Creator, God. Our Heavenly Father. More excitement from me for a challenge that aligned with what God was doing in my heart already.
Even having started this process on my own, I am a slow learner. Even having multiple reminders in various ways, I stumble as many times as I attempt.
But I am lavished in His grace. Each day. Each moment. Each time I stumble. Each time I get back up. Grace lavished.
Like Ann Voskamp, Sandi, and many other women, I am looking for it in 1,000 ways. How He shows His love for me. Each gift an example of His unending love, His amazing grace. With no disrespect to a friend who coined the term “pop of joy,” I’m recording my gifts of grace. It helps me remember. Since I don’t seem to be so good at that…
Here are a few of my Gifts of Grace from this week:
- Two hands, cupped together, reminding me I can not escape His love.
- Encouraging messages from people I don’t know who read my journey. May God be glorified – answered prayer.
- Jesus Calling May 9 entry. It was written for me, for this moment.
- A text from a friend that simply said, “You are worth it.”
I think that last one was another reminder of God’s love for me. When the guilt creeps in, when I feel overwhelmed and discouraged and ashamed and in awe that He – GOD – could forgive and love me, He quietly whispers, “You are worth it.”
And I am lavished in His Grace.
Ephesians 1:7-8 ~ “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”
Romans 8:28 ~ “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Micah 7:7 (ESV) ~ “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”