I sat in my parents’ bed, Nalgene full, journals open, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve show playing in the background, and reflected on God’s faithfulness in the past year (surprise). His steadfastness never fails to astound me, but really to flip through journals and lay out this timeline of my thoughts and emotions and decisions this year, I really see His hand orchestrating all of it, but of course, hindsight’s 20/20 . From extremely depressed to hopeful to faithless to soaking in how sweet He is to getting caught up in planning to dipping my toes in the deep end (almost falling off, but not quite) to letting go to tasting the depression from January and February (but not fully entering that door) to remembering all the time to feeling completely surrounded by fear on all sides to sitting in my bed from high school over this winter break and having trust click with me in a totally new way. I haven’t felt that naked in front of God in such a long time. And I see Him in every moment from this past year, realizing He didn’t once leave my side, which feels cliche to write but also feels like a milestone for me because it’s been a long time coming.
You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.
God, you did everything you promised,
and I’m thanking you with all my heart.
You pulled me from the brink of death,
my feet from the cliff-edge of doom.
Now I stroll at leisure with God
in the sunlit fields of life.
I can trust You or I can drown myself in anxiety. You know I struggle. You haven’t turned a blind eye. You have been here. You have kept track of my tossings. You know my tears. You don’t just write them off. You are with me, Father. Let me lean into that truth, live out of it. You have let me walk with You, and You have called me into something deeper than myself. Your provisions are bigger and greater than me. Here’s to accepting that these fears and anxieties and debilitating burdens are not from You. There is no room for them in You, in love.
I read something on this break that has really stuck with me. I read a blog post about how our mind is a space meant for us and God. I usually think of my crazy mind just being a long string of thoughts or things that consume me or ongoing lists or fears and obsessions and school and work and God only knows what else (literally). But what if this space was a place where we made a conscious effort to hand these thoughts over to God? Literally, me and God are the only two people who know every single one of my thoughts. It’s the most intimate setting for us. I CAN TELL HIM ANYTHING. What a thought. And not only that, but He’s listening. Ever since I read about this, I just think about me and God chilling in my mind, sipping coffee, and feeling comfortable telling Him about every single thought I ever obsessed over or held captive because I thought I could fix/control/handle everything alone. There is comfort and love and fulfillment in knowing that we are COMPLETELY KNOWN & STILL LOVED. Wait, He knows my mess and disgust and filth and He still looks at me like a bride walking down an aisle? Excuse me, but HELL YES. His love is so freaking wide that we cannot even fathom it. And even as I type these words, I am filled with that “can’t-eat, can’t-sleep, reach-for-the-stars, over- the-fence, World Series kind of stuff.” He is so dang good that I can’t even grasp it, but I know that’s exactly the way He planned it.
I’m a planner. I used to embrace this and think it was so fantastic, and it definitely has it perks, but it also runs some things straight into the ground because EXPECTATIONS are party-ruiners sometimes, am I right? There’s so much joy in handing over our burdens and anxieties over to God, there’s such freedom in that. The minute I start “planning” out my life, I think God chuckles and throws my plans out the window of the car going 120 miles an hour. He’s so much bigger than logistics, which was incredibly hard for me to type out considering I thrive in environments packed with logistics and small details and things I can control.
And I don’t want to go all New-Year’s-Resolution-and-bigger-and-better-things on you, but when is a better time to try new things? So lets throw our resolutions and expectations right out the window of that car going 120 miles an hour and see what God does when we hand ourselves over to Him.
- When the pressure of showing people how happy and confident and successful we are falls off, we get to run toward God without hindrance. And I have got to believe that this is the freedom Christ invites us into when He calls us His children. So let’s shift the focus off of how other people perceive us and trying to convince them of our happiness and focus more on the actual joy Jesus brings us when we step out from behind the Instagram filters. I get so caught up in it, way too caught up in it, and I’ll be the first to admit that. I want to look good, who doesn’t? But when that image becomes more important than my calling or my mind is cluttered up by perceptions and not the words that my Father lavishes upon me, that’s when we hit the brick wall of problems. We can’t do it all, and I don’t want to convince people that’s what I’m doing anymore. There’s a fine line between “I feel hot today” and “Everyone needs to know that I feel good about myself.” There’s a fine line between “This is my intimate time with my Father” and “Everyone needs to know that I spent quiet time with my Bible and coffee on my white down comforter.” There’s a fine line between “I love spending this sweet time with my family” and “I’m going to interrupt this sweet time with my family to make sure other people know that I have this rock of a fam behind me.” Honestly, these should all be #latergrams. After you’ve conquered the day, said your prayers, talked to God, pulled your ish together, and made sure you were posting for the right reason, then by all means, post the kissing your boyfriend on the cheek picture or your coffee shop aerial shot or the candids from times with the fam or even the quiet time on your white sheets. Do it. Post it. Because I gotta love for aesthetically pleasing pictures. But the minute my worth and fulfillment comes from constantly refreshing notifications and feeding off of how “liked” I am, then it’s time to put the tech down.
- Trusting. Trusting. Trusting. Remember how I said that the trust in my relationship with God clicked in a new way as I sat in my high school bed over this break? I sat there, pleading with God, to take away irrational fears and anxieties and burdens because they have no place in Him. His provisions are greater and bigger than me. I started asking Him to lead me to a place where my only choice would be to trust Him, and then I was just hit with this realization that that’s exactly where I was sitting already. I had begged Him for this for so long and sang “Oceans” for two years now, but this was it. I was sitting in a place where I could trust Him or I could drown myself in anxiety, only to find out later that it wasn’t worth it. He knows my struggle, He has kept count of my every tossing, every tear shed, every awful thought process I went off on. He has always been there in the midst of struggle, it just takes me shifting my perspective to know that He is still good. And if I’m living to glorify Him, then that’s it. That’s what I’m here for. I keep wondering when I’ll have intimacy with my Heavenly Father, but how in the world is that supposed to happen when I can’t trust Him except with trivial little prayers and a grocery list of things I struggle with. Intimacy is handing everything completely to Him and saying, “Hey, I trust You. I don’t know what this road looks like, but I’m in it for the long haul. Let’s do this.” And that takes waking up every day and reminding myself of that trust and truth that God gives. You are nearer than I could ever imagine.
- Courage. That’s the final thing God will be helping me navigate this year. Heaps of courage and confronting fear with Him. One thing I found myself talking about for the past few weeks is my thought life and how fear dictates a lot of it. And then I sat in an arena filled with 20,000 people thinking and talking about fear with a professor and a new friend, and God broke me. I sat there wishing He would speak directly into fear, but I didn’t have the courage to ask Him to do that because it seemed like one of those crazy wishes you didn’t think would come true. But I’m standing there, front row of the 3rd story balcony, a couple worship songs in, and I hear these words: You unravel me with a melody, You surround me with a song of deliverance from my enemies till all my fears are gone. And I started to weep, uncontrollably actually. My professor leaned over to me and said, “I think God’s trying to tell you something.” And if you know the rest of the song, you know the bridge says, “You split the sea so I could walk right through it, my fears were drowned in perfect love. You rescued me so I could stand and sing, I am a child of God.” I just felt my heart being ripped and pieced back together one piece and one fear dealt with at a time. I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God. What a proclamation and what a PROMISE. Fear cannot be found in Him. And if that wasn’t already enough to hear from Him, Brad Jones got on stage and said he felt like someone in this room needed that, needed the burden and the heaviness of fear to be lifted from their heart. AND THEN Christine Caine proceeded to preach out of Joshua 1, which says: “5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” She talked about how we are a generation of individualists. You know, we always think, “What is God calling me to do? What does God have for my life? What is He going to use me for?” And that’s so messed up because it was never just about one person, this is about all of us. And I can’t help but think what if I didn’t always think about myself and maybe I wouldn’t be suffocating myself in fear. We are well able to do what God has called us to do, we just have to step outside of ourselves and do something because with this freedom that Christ has given us, we have the responsibility to set other people free. And when she said that, I was floored by my selfishness. We can’t hoard His love because He is bigger and better than that. We can’t develop this intimacy and then not share it with other people. The Lord is good and steadfast and mighty to save, but if we don’t tell people that, then how will they know? How will they taste the freedom? The freedom of relinquishing control to God and allowing fears to subside and peace to set in.