Some days, I wake up and feel on top of the world. I feel more sure of myself than usual (not completely sure, but closer than I’ve been in a while), and I feel beautiful and loved and soulful.
Today was one of those days. On top of the world. Beautiful. Inspired. Loved. Soulful.
I wake up and I think about my Heavenly Father and my gifts that He’s given me and it causes me to focus more on His face. The days that I’m able to focus on His face, those are the greatest days. Over-the-moon joy because I accept His grace and new mercies in the morning on these days. I recognize them. These are the thin places (I once heard the thin places described as nearness with God, and I love that phrase for it). The thin places or Kairos moments or whatever they are for you, that’s where the nearness is. I find the nearness in thankfulness, in unending gratitude for my Creator and Life-Giver.
I’ve been reading this incredible book by a woman named Carolyn Custis James. When Life and Beliefs Collide. My boss gave it to me to read for the summer (I only take it in small chunks because it’s got some pretty heavy stuff in it). She told me she started this book thinking it was going to be about women & theology and it ended up being the best book on suffering she’s ever read. I have to agree with her on that one.
James talks about knowing God, like really knowing Him in all the deep, dark places. She brings in stories about Mary & Martha and stories from her own personal life and Scripture and C.S. Lewis quotes and experience as a woman in the church and time spent in Oxford while her husband got his doctorate. It’s just this culmination of words by a powerhouse of a woman who hits it home with Truth every freaking time.
“But there is something more we need to do to discard unbelief. We must affirm God’s plan in the present moment–say yes to God and what he is doing in our lives today. ‘Trusting God in the midst of our pain and heartache means that we accept it from Him….To truly accept our pain and heartache has the connotation of willingness. An attitude of acceptance says that we trust God, that He loves us, and knows what is best for us.’ This is not to wave a white flag of surrender, resigning ourselves to the inevitable because we are helpless to do anything else. Trusting God means we embrace his goodness in this part of the race and determine, by his grace, to run.”
“Our goal is to bring knowing God out of the ivory tower and into the ordinary moments of our lives.”
“A woman’s theology can make all the difference in how well she fights the battles that are part of God’s plan for her. Sometimes theology is all we have in the war zone. When faith is stripped to the bone and all our props and crutches are gone, our knowledge of God — that he is good and still on his throne — is the only thing that keeps us going.”
Yes. Yes. Yes. I can’t rave about this book enough and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on the couch in our office and cried my eyes out because of the weight of Truth I never allowed to crush me until now. Let the gospel crush you and don’t look back. Let it cripple you so you can gain a new view of God, a new facet to understand His grace and goodness.
Throw off what hinders you. Throw it off and run towards God. That’s all I’ve felt burning with everything in me since I really got into this book.
I find a nearness with Him in early morning hours and small sips of coffee and being outside in the burning heat and writing and little things that bring me joy: making coffee for people, light pink manicures, Steffany Gretzinger’s voice, heart to hearts, planning for small group, among hundreds of other things. I’m beginning to recognize Him in a lot more things.
In-all-honesty #1: I’ve been interested in the idea of suffering a lot more lately. I went back the past couple nights and looked at journals from January-February of this year. That was the rough stuff.So when I came across James’ book, well, it sort of just made sense. I wasn’t sure when I was going to talk about it, looking in hindsight now, but here we go. We’re doing this. In-all-honesty #2: this blog has made me more vulnerable, in the best way possible. It’s made it easier to be vulnerable. I used to hate being vulnerable because it’s always seemed to me that vulnerability equals weakness, but I’m coming to find that isn’t true. God speaks through our weaknesses and our vulnerability, but not to confuse the 2 as one in the same.
weakness [week-nis] noun.;
vulnerable [vuhl-ner-uh-buh l] adjective.
Vulnerable doesn’t mean to be in the hurt, it means to be open or capable of being hurt, but not necessarily weak from being hurt already. By definition, they are not the same. They do not equal each other.
But back to in-all-honesty #1: So the journals. I see a shift from joyful to desperate. Clear as day, there it is, literally in writing.
12/31/14: This year was a victorious one…Holy wow. God is so freakin’ faithful.
***1/14/15: But I am allowed to feel this way. I am…I cried today. Brutal tears. All unleashed by, “How was your day?”…I want to be numb & unexposed.
1/20/15: I have people who love me from the depths of my soul & in the darkest parts of my heart & I don’t know what I did to deserve them.
1/28/15: Mornings are better. No more desperate pleas in the morning.
2/2/15: I want to relearn what being a child of God means. I want to read the job description, please. God, meet me over coffee; I need you. I need to hear Your voice.
And there are messier, more personal ones. There are hundreds of pages of pleading and whys and this is how I’m thinking in these moments and it’s not good. And then, as the months go on, the entries get less and less desperate and then they get more desperate and then less again.
I counted the number of days I cried, and then when things got better, I would count the days I could go without crying. I had nights where 3 hours of sleep was the most that could happen. I had days where I didn’t eat, not because I tried not to, but because I couldn’t. People suggested counseling. I had friends tell me they were going to drive me there and not tell me until we got there because I needed to go. Nights were the worst. I questioned every single decision I made in those 2-3 months and every decision leading up to those months. But there was honesty in the writing, oh boy, was there honesty. Wilderness. I’m still there, but my God, was I lost in those months. It was like a deep, dark forest, no moon illuminating the way. Just black and fear and darkness with no trail or footprints. And now it’s more of a clearing. Now there’s a little bit of lost with light and a clearing.
I thought the suffering was for nothing. Everything was burning around me, usually from the inside out, and any wrong sidestep, I might’ve exploded. Just like walking through a minefield. I’m not saying I’ve felt all of the suffering there is to feel, but I had my fair share, but definitely not the worst pain anyone has ever been in. Rather than recognizing that I was tasting Jesus in those months, I felt like I was drinking myself drunk in tasting suffering. I refused to believe that God tasted like this. If it wasn’t self-inflicted inner turmoil or destruction of self-worth or convincing myself that lies were truth, then it was things outside my control like the death of a friend’s family or arguments or the repercussions that my going-into-hiding had on my relationships. That’s what January and February felt like to me: a minefield. It only took me 6 months to figure that out though.
James writes, “Most of us are better theologians in hindsight.” That keeps proving to be true. I think it’s easy to believe God isn’t in the mess with you because He’s so perfect so why would He ever get caught in your mess that you single-handedly created? And then hindsight is 20/20 and we recognize His goodness and His sovereignty in all the crap we had to plow through to get to this field of wildflowers where we hear Him calling us, “Child. Daughter. Worthy.”
And now I’m beginning to find Him in all things again. In house church and in coffee dates and in bed time routines. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here. He’s always been here. Pouring over me. Wrapped around me. In & through me. Surely, the Savior has made a way. He is enough. He is more than enough. He is faithful in all things.
He is victorious.
I will look up, for there is none above You. I will bow down to tell You that I need You. Jesus Lord of all. I will look back and see that You are faithful. I look ahead believing You are able. Jesus Lord of all, Jesus Lord of all. Prince of Peace, Perfect Healer. All my life, all my cares on You. King of Kings, Mighty Savior. All my life, all my cares on You.