On His Love for Me (1 Year sans Purity Ring)

Fourteen year old me went through a pure freedom class (like oh so many others) and at the end did what everyone else did and chose to get a purity ring and make the commitment to go along with it. Sixteen year old me recommitted to the promise and bought a new prettier ring.

Eight years of wearing a ring later, 22 year old me decided to take it off.

I don’t hate my purity ring. In fact, I really don’t hold much resentment towards anything I was taught about it all when I was younger – I don’t feel as though I’ve been hurt because of the popular teachings of the day (though I recognize many were). I’m also not going back on the commitment I made, nor am I necessarily saying other people should stop wearing theirs. The literal only reason I took it off is because I was tired of waiting. Tired of the physical reminder of my single-ness, tired of weighing life decisions by “what if I meet someone?”, and tired of feeling like I was watching my life go by as I sat around.

So I’m still waiting but I’m not waiting. Which has got me to thinking – if I go through my whole life single (which we know can’t be a BAD thing because Paul says so in 1 Corinthians 7), am I missing out? Is God depriving me of something that would make me more complete?

No, I can’t believe that. First, because God is good and has set good plans for me to walk in that will bring him glory (Ephesian 2) – if me being married will bring him more glory, then that’s what will happen. Second, because marriage doesn’t make us more complete as humans – we are still the same messy incomplete humans who are unfulfilled and incomplete without God. So if that is true, then I can I not experience all the fullness and love I need to from God? God IS love after all, so don’t all forms of it come from him?

And so I come to this fall, ruminating on a year without a purity ring, and I find myself pondering the love God has for me. All my married friends tell me about how God uses their marriages to draw them closer to him and experience his love in new ways, So I’ve found myself listening to love songs (because lets be honest, like 95% of all songs ever are about this, and somehow they all ended up on my fall playlist…), and instead of lamenting my life (don’t lie, you know what I’m talking about), I’m trying to see if and how they relate to God and my relationship with him.

It’s been wildly different than doing this with worship songs because I find the secular songs sing about slightly more tangible aspects while worship ones stay really abstract. It’s odd – you would think it makes it easier to put God in a box with the tangible, but singing so abstract-ly sometimes makes him seem so much farther off, rather than close.

It sounds a little unorthodox until you realize that generally what people are singing about and looking for is a missing part of them, a person who understands them, a person who loves all of them, someone who encourages them to be a better person…and last I checked God fills all of those boxes. In fact, he does more. He loves with a passionate love, an endless love, a perfect love, he casts out fear, he is a rock when storms come. His love is fierce and it is tender.

I read a book by Greg Paul called Close Enough to Hear God Breath when I was university (he also wrote God in the Alley, both of which I would recommend). In it, he explores the aspects of “divine intimacy”, and one of the pictures I still remember him describing is God holding us close to him as a father holds his child to his chest and we can hear the softness of his breathing and his whispers to us over the noise of the world. (I would quote him here but my friend has had the book for over 3 years and “doesn’t know where it is”).

One of my standout songs from the last month has been Everywhere by Michelle Branch. It challenges me to think about how God is everywhere around me and in everything I see, but it’s the bridge brings it together for me:

And when I touch your hand
It’s then I understand the beauty that’s within
It’s now that we begin
You always light my way
I hope there never comes a day
No matter where I go
I always feel you so

Is there anything more beautiful than the love God has for us? I am thankful to see the reflection of it in relationships here on earth, but everything is only that – a reflection. A still from picture that lacks the vibrancy, nuances, and life that the real thing has. Seeing the glimpses reminds me that there is more to come. That his love is deeper still. It reminds me that the most important thing to do is to live for him and with him beside me everywhere I go.

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Facades & Nail Polish

I did my nails in a French manicure the other day for an industry event. Now it’s half falling off but I keep forgetting to grab the nail polish remover. However ugly I think it might look to see the pretty (and fake) nails juxtaposed to the original (and slightly dirty – how do people keep their nails clean? I just don’t get it) got me thinking though.

French Manicure

I painted an picture of what I wish my hands looked like overtop of what they actually are. This is similar to the image I try to paint around myself sometimes (who am I kidding, a lot of the time) when I’m talking to someone or getting to know people. “You don’t like country? K me neither……”

But is that really ok? Do I want people to know me, or a fake version of me?

I’m not saying we should be hanging out dirty laundry out for everyone to see it (please don’t), but I do think that we can be avoiding the joy of having someone know who we really are and still liking us. We forget that we can be pretty awesome people just by ourselves. I dared myself this fall to not text one of my friends unless what I was saying was legitimately what I would have said in real life if I wasn’t afraid of being judged for what I really thought. It’s really hard. But they’re still my friend (I think?) and it encourages me to continue to have the same vulnerability and honesty with other people in my life.

But I think this needs to be taken a step farther.

As hard as I try, I know I still slip up and cover up parts of me I’m ashamed of or think would be best left unseen (bear in mind there are still some things you probably shouldn’t share with everyone). But I know still that there is one who does see behind my facades, Every. Single. Time. The fact that God can see everything about me and still chooses to love me is just astounding sometimes.

I read Lamentations this morning, and I was reflecting on the acknowledgement of our sins. We can put up walls and masks that other people never see through, but God can still see through them. He can still see the ugliness inside, and he loves anyway. He sent his son to earth to die for me. He came to die for the sinner, not the righteous (Mark 2:17).

If having a person know things about me encourages being me, then knowing that God loves me even still is more so.There is such freedom in knowing that you are loved for who you really are. It goes beyond loving yourself and moves to the desire to be better and strive for godliness. We are loved when we succeed, and loved when we fail. And we can rest in knowing this as we try to do what we are called to do.

I hope that this realization empowers you to be you today; and to be a better you, relying on his strength, tomorrow.

Setting up the Essay (Romans 1-2)

Whenever I read Romans, I feel like I’m reading a long, well written essay. He makes his points and backs them up and weaves all his arguments so that he gets to say the gospel about a million times (figuratively speaking, that is).

I like how Paul begins his whole letter off with … the gospel! Go figure. However, I like how it is related to his “status” and not just for funsies. Every word he writes has purpose to drive a point. He then moves on and focuses on the judgement of God and how we all will be judged on our hearts. Our hearts. The heart is a reoccurring motif in the entire Bible, which is kind of fun since it wasn’t all written at once. The heart is, in this case, where God looks to judge a man. It speaks beyond our outwardly actions and the things we say. It goes deeper than the earthly justifications we may have for salvation. It purely takes man himself into consideration. Is the heart circumcised or not? This is a radical message for many people who think that through the law they are justified. But, luckily, we aren’t. We are only justified through Christ.

For reflection: If God looked into my heart (or yours?) what would he find there?

 

Heart Matters (Luke 13-14)

Whenever I think of the instances that I “sat in the lower seat”, I don’t recall being asked to be moved up very often, nor do I recall doing it with a very wholesome heart most times. I always get in my own way when I try to do things. Selflessness is something I wish I had more of…but when I try and put it to use, I know in my heart I’m being more selfish than selfless. Matters of the heart always seem to be the hardest to deal with, and yet they also seem to be some of the more important issues. How do you live a humble life inwardly and outwardly? We ask for a change of heart. It never comes easy, but in the end it’s worth it. It’s sort of like when we would pray for patience at camp and proceed to have the worst week ever. But in the end, we sure did have more patience the next week. Asking for a humble heart is hard because we have to be broken to be humble. Being broken can hurt, but having faith that God knows what he’s doing and is in control of everything is the important part. Our hearts? Our hearts matter.

Side note: back then it seemed that a majority of the illnesses and disabilities were blamed on unclean spirits … does that hold true today or not? Interesting concept … can demons change your genetic make-up? Question to ask once I get to heaven since it probably won’t be addressed in my lifetime.

Grieve to Repent (2 Corinthians 7-8)

“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting.” – 2 Corinthians 7:9a

Isn’t that crazy? Paul goes on to talk about the difference between godly grief and worldly grief, where one leads us to repenting and the other to death, respectively. I have to stop and think about how many times in my life I’ve been moved in some way, but not all the way to the point of repentance and life changing. And yet, this is what needs to be happening as I discover parts of my life that need to be realigned to Christ. I cannot just let things slide to deal with them later. But you know what? I’m probably going to do just that as soon as I finish this blog post. My heart isn’t in it, but I can pray for a change of heart. Not exactly the easiest thing to ask for, let alone want (who knows what radical ridiculousness I would get into?), but I’m asking to be willing to want to change.

The Overflow (Matthew 17-18)

Whenever I try and imagine what the transfiguration looked like, I always end up imagining something like in the “reveal” scenes from Touched By and Angel. However, I’m 98% sure none of you know that show since its 10 years old, so here’s a picture.

touched by an angelBasically they suddenly have light shinning around them….I couldn’t find a really good picture 😦

 Anyhow, back to the Bible

It is interesting that the disciples that didn’t go up with Jesus to the mountain don’t have faith enough to cast out a demon. They too were traveling with Jesus and seeing his miracles, why couldn’t they do it? I heard a sermon once that used the two “camps” of disciples as an illustration of people who were either A. filled with God’s presence and worshiping, and B. not filling up on God’s presence and relying on themselves.

The disciples who went with Jesus, while they tried to build tents (not so sure why), were spending time with him in God’s presence. I would be willing to bet that they had more faith after that than the ones who stayed behind, and probably could have been able to cast out the demon (they had already been told they could earlier in Matthew). It’s so easy to think we can do things on our own, especially in this culture, when we should be relying on God to do things so that the actions we do point to him.

I have to wonder though, why did he only bring three?

I’m not 100% sure what the implications are for verses 24-27 with the sons/others thing, so ……moving on

Chapter 18 covers a few aspects of Christian living:
1. Humility
2. Avoiding being tempted to sin
3. Taking care of “little ones”
4. Forgiving

All of these actions can be sort-of done on our own strength, trying to be “good” ourselves, or they can come from an overflowing heart. The latter is better.

Just like how the disciples who spent time filling up on God had more faith etc., if we spend more time with God and seeking after a heart like his, it becomes easier to take care of others. When we come to deeper understandings of the gospel and how much we are forgiven, forgiving others comes easier (unlike the man in the parable who clearly has some issues).

Over and over again in scripture (both OT and NT), God calls into question our hearts, or comments on the status of our hearts. David is king because he is a man after God’s own heart. in Hosea, God asks for “steadfast love”  instead of sacrifice (6:6), and wants people to call to him from the heart (7:14a).

I’m left at the end of this passage wondering “Where is my heart today? Has it begun to drift away from the fulfilling presence of God? How can I continue to go deeper in my relationship with God”

As a note to my fellow Bootcamp-ers, I will be away this weekend and catching up on the posts when I get back, so either Monday night or Tuesday. Looking forward to see what you learn while I’m away!