In the Midst of it All

I so often find myself sinking into what I like to call the “now what” trap. I sit down and think about my life (what’s happened, where I’m at now, etc.)  and then I turn around to God and say “ok buddy (we’re tight) – I see all this stuff we’ve done but….now what are we doing? Where are we going? I’ve done all these things and come this far – what do I do NOW?”

I keep expecting that because I follow God I will be led onto new things or have new opportunities on a regular basis or that my life in general will have this divine direction given to it (which, I know, sounds pretty silly as I type it). I find myself constantly shocked that I’m still in the exact same place as I was a few months ago (talk about a short time frame). I know that part of why I feel like this is because I am a goal oriented person – I really like to know where I’m going and why I’m doing what I’m doing. I can do pretty much any menial task over and over again as long as I can see where it’s getting me. (In fact, I LOVE “chipper” workouts – the obscenely long ones where you just “chip away” at it until you’re done).

However, I’ve come to realize that when I’m impatiently asking the “now what?” question, I’m really saying “Hey God, I don’t think you’re doing anything in my life and I’m kinda feeling like you forgot about me so….if you could like, do something cool that would be great. Even better, if you could do this thing that I think should be the next thing to work out in my life that would be super great.” I am constantly wanting another new thing, another sign, another step. I don’t believe that he could possibly want me to stay here longer – haven’t I done enough, yet? Haven’t I given enough yet? Don’t I deserve a new vision yet?

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
– Psalm 13:1-2a

Fortunately, God doesn’t get swayed by my (probably super annoying) questions because he doesn’t really work that way. In fact, he did a complete 180 last time I was asking these questions (more on that later). I think that instead of being focussed on what we think of as the “next steps” or what we think qualifies as the “next thing” we are supposed to be doing (i.e. all those big things we expect from people’s lives – getting engaged/married, buying a house, having a kid, getting your masters, buying another house, moving, having another kid, renovating, going on a big trip, retiring, etc.), God is focussed on the next piece of us that needs transforming. That could be through one of those things I mentioned, but that can also be through sleepless nights, a stressful job, living at home, staying single, not having a kid yet, etc. He waits for the perfect timing for these things because his end goal isn’t that we have huge things-oriented monumental lives – he wants us to be further shaped into Christ-likeness.

If we could only see what we’re becoming
To the Dreamers, For King & Country

In the summer I consistently expressed to people (and I even wrote about it on my church’s blog) that I felt like I was just sitting around waiting – as if I was dangling on the precipice of my life’s next step but something was holding me back from moving on. It felt like there were loose ends in my life everywhere I looked, but none of them seemed to be being tied up or even wiggled around a bit. I was desperately asking God what was next – and could he just hurry up about it? I would have accepted pretty much ANYTHING other than “wait” (which was all I kept getting, ironically).

The tail end of 2017 was not the best time of my life. I ended up overcommitted, stressed out in my personal life, and overwhelmed on so many levels – I felt (and still do feel, in a way) broken and incomplete and confused and less than – and for so much of the time I felt like God had just abandoned me because I failed some sort of test. That my failure to do what he wanted/be who he wanted meant that I was suddenly unworthy of his presence and the fact that I was having difficulty understanding and grasping the Bible passages I was reading in my personal studying

I’m a huge journal-er, and one of the things I really like to do (when I’m not so overcommitted that I have time to actually do it properly) is bullet journal. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, it’s basically a journal/planner hybrid system. One of the key things you do, number all the pages to create an index – something I carried over into my actual journal. (Yes, I have multiple journals I carry around on a regular basis. I don’t I have a problem…) While I love the index system, sometimes I forgot to fill in the index after I write. And then I put off filling it in for 2 weeks (or um….3 months) and then I have to go back and fill in the index so my future self can find what I’m looking for later.

As I read back through the last four months (oops) of entries to fill in my index, do you know what I found? I found a woman who was falling apart in many ways. I found a skeptic. I found tears. I found confusion. I found frustration. I found some really hard questions. But through every entry and the Bible passages I was struggling through I started to see a story. My prayer for so long had been that as I wandered and drifted and tried to figure things out that God would never let me go – literally had written the words “hold on to me”.

And in the midst of turmoil and heartbreak and feelings of worthlessness and being overwhelmed and a lot more heartbreak…I saw in the pages of my journal the continual presence of God. In a song lyric I jotted down or a story I reflected on or in poetry as I processed my feelings, there were glimmers of a God guiding me and holding my hand, trying to show me something. And he did. Not only did he remind me that he has never once let me go, he reminded me of who I am.

Part of me wonders if all of this was for a reason – if I had to go through all of this to become the person he wanted me to be. I had been so focussed on the what and the why that I had forgotten the who. As in the “Who does God want me to be?” question – in fact I think I lost myself being so wrapped up in everything else!

I don’t know who I will end up being, but I do know that the person I am now is different than the person I was a year ago, or even 4 months ago. And I am filled with hope that even though the what and the why and the where aren’t being answered quite as timely as I would like, in the midst of it all God is still working and shaping me into who he wants me to be. Trusting that as I am formed he will put me where he wants me to be.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
– Ephesians 2:10

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Called Me Higher

Recently I was talking with one of my friends and they challenged me on the way I had acted earlier. It devastated me because I hadn’t thought there was anything wrong.

I’ve thought it fairly common to think there are things wrong with you. In particular, for me, I noted that I was extremely different from a lot of people I hung out with. There are so many talks that I would hear online or in youth group or in school about self confidence that you almost felt like you needed to feel bad so you could overcome it later. Long story short (and skipping over about 20.5 years of my life…) I had a few things (read: a lot of things) that I did not like about who I was. I sort of forgot the whole “made in God’s image part” and instead felt as though the parts of my personality I had were wrong, and that I would never be able to change them.

It was around this time that I went away to camp for the last summer as a counsellor and found healing from those things I never thought I would. I wasn’t expecting it, but for the first time in a long time I felt loved and accepted for who I was and not for who I was not.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14

I was reminded that God had made me – and so that I must be good. It sounds like it was a magical time and I was perfect after that – but it wasn’t. It took over a year from that point to really accept different parts of me and be ok with them. To think that maybe, just maybe, I was good the way I was made. Everything was just fine!

Nope.

Everything came crashing down. My friend challenged me on an action I had done, but that action related to a huge part of how I had identified myself, and something that I had always thought was good. Could it be wrong? Could it really be that I wasn’t good? It took me a while to process, but then I remembered:

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15-16 (cf. Leviticus 11:44-45)

I am called to be more than who I am. Yes, who I am is good, but I am also called to continue to grow and become more of who he wants me to be. And that very well may be changing how I react to things so that others are less likely to be hurt. It very well may be changing and paying more attention to what I say and not just passing it off as “who I am”.

Part of what made this revelation easier to swallow and process was that it was made in the context of someone seeing me as God sees me. God sees me as a beautiful daughter through Christ, and he does want me to grow and learn. I like to think of the times my parents have corrected me – they love me for who I am, but they saw things I could improve on and chose to acknowledge them and push me to work on them. So taking in the things that I need to improve is through the lens of growing – not that I am any less worthy or loved.

I am not called to be stagnant in my development or my faith. I am called deeper. I should examine my life and my actions and continue to hand them over to be consecrated and used for His will. I am called higher.