Slipping backward and inward.

You know when there’s writing, or painting or taking photographs or whatever your creative outlet is, that is about to boil over onto everything you’ve currently got going on and all the composure you’ve mustered up? The best feeling in the world. Right on the edge of greatness. That was me, yesterday morning, super distracted, sitting in the back of our first Christmas service I was photographing, and I had to slip out to find literally anything to write on because I couldn’t find my phone and it felt like tornado sirens were going off in my mind. Write this down. Write this down. Write this down. Which is how I ended up in the back of the auditorium, crouched down, and thinking faster than I could write on the back of a spare giving envelope.

Have you ever walked through mud?

He was just saying all these words to me, and I slowly felt myself slipping backward and inward, sort of stopping myself from listening to what he was saying. I wanted to not be there, I wanted to not be feeling, I wanted to step away from myself and leave my body sitting in the passenger seat. Compartmentalize. Structure. Predictability. Unfeeling. Everything I was ready to not feel rose to the surface, and I know he could tell I was shutting down. But he called me a child of God. You have a Father who has spoken over you the words that you long to hear. I was being confronted with my longing and my self-assuredness crashing together right in front of me, and I’m quite confident there’s nothing scarier than not knowing how to react in the close confines of a car. This was the first moment in I don’t even know how long that I truly did not know what I was feeling. And there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to articulate how you’re feeling when you’re usually so good at it.

I should’ve been over the moon that God would use such a person to speak so much truth into the darkest parts of my heart that I had never intended on letting him into. And I’m not trying to Taylor Swift this guy at all, but dang. What a weird place to be in, to hear the truth of God spoken over you from someone who, from your perspective, actually doesn’t act like he even believes those truths about himself or anyone else. And maybe that’s how I’ve navigated most of my days lately. It was like God was using him as a megaphone to rouse a deaf world, my world.

When’s the last time you looked at someone as a child of God? And not just used the words to make yourself feel better, but you actually looked at the world through that lens.

The mud though, that’s a bit what life feels like right now, and that’s the distinct image I keep having come to mind, as cliche as it may sound. It feels cliche, believe me. I know I’m not the first person to ever walk the earth feeling this way. I feel like I know the truth of God and the words He speaks over my life, but I’m having to walk through mud to believe them and the resistance is unbelievably tangible. It’s that feeling when you’re on the verge of some sort of breakthrough or genius, but you just keep trudging and trudging and trudging, and your legs are burning and mentally you’re ready to give in and lay in the mud instead of crossing the finish line.

And I’m convinced that I’m more alive now than I’ve been, and what a threat that is to the enemy. Or that I am literally right on the edge of being the most alive I’ve ever been. And that’s an even weirder spot to be in, like if I can pull my feet from the mud and take off into a sprint, all wouldn’t be so lost.

Scripture that keeps coming to mind is: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” His promises will literally always be fulfilled, even when they don’t look like we think they ought to and when we get angry and when we act like children who haven’t gotten their way. God’s promises prevail. His Word will not return void. He will bring His Kingdom here through you if you let him no matter your current circumstances or distractions or if didn’t get enough sleep last night or if you didn’t show yourself enough grace or or if you didn’t say enough is enough soon enough or if you communicated something entirely wrong. He will accomplish what He wants to in and through you, despite you.

Being that it’s the end of the year, I took some time to sift through some of the old blogs and one came to mind that I hadn’t looked at since I published it. I had a cool conversation with one of my mentors a couple weeks ago, and she reminded me of a season of my life where I was in so much pain and so much of an inability to process grief that I was probably the most selfish I’ve ever been. I was my pain. That pain was my identity. And this post I’m referencing was probably the first time I was able to step outside of that selfishness and realize that the voice of God speaks so much louder than the lies of the enemy. It was tragedy that pulled me outside of myself, and it hurt like hell, but it was good. I just listed all of these truths, like I was publishing this amazing, groundbreaking thing when I was actually just preaching to myself, so desperate to believe it. I am free. I am free. I am free. I was bought with a price & I am free.

I mention this because it’s humbling and comforting to see how far God has literally picked me up and carried me. If you go back and look at the posts before that one, you see me hoarding pain and investing in it and digging deeper and deeper, walking myself into the darkest places I’ve ever been in my life. And somehow I made my way back out with a guiding light. I did not get here by my own will but by grace and grace alone. And every year looks like this, where I look back and think, I thought I was never going to get through that, and then God pulls me closer and says, “But you did.”

And right now, in this very moment, I feel more cared for than I think I ever have before, in so many different ways. But how kind is God that he would allow those feelings? Those were never promised to me. I was driving this morning, and I felt more self-assured than I had in a very long time. I was confident in what God said about me and in who He was calling me to be. I have been cared for in conversations and in prayers and in shoulder squeezes and in people’s generosity and in cups of coffee and in confetti and in empathy tears and in notes and in hand holding and in books and in poems and in songs that beat against the sleeping parts of my own heart and in more ways than I can even begin to list here.

On a different note, and on a new-beginnings/2019/breaking-through-in-some-ways sort of note: what’s really exciting about this is that this blog is a small fraction of the writing I’m doing right now, and that has rarely been the case. I usually bring all I have and dump it on this page, but this time it’s a little different. This is the filtered overview of what’s going down right now and all the richness of the glory of God I see woven into all my days. And that is the most exciting thing. For the first time in forever, this is an overflow.

So I hope you’re walking into 2019 knowing that you can be freer than you’ve ever been.

Hope you’re in it for the long haul because this feels like some sort of just getting started.

JBJ.

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