Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The God Who Suffers With Us

I'm learning more each day that I am not called to live the American Dream. For most of my life I have wanted nothing more to get married, have kids, build a house with a picket fence, and go through life as a nice little Christian girl. I want to have a good reputation. I want to be looked up to. I want to be needed. And I want to throw Jesus in, although He won't really need to save me because I'll be perfect.

This is probably why I am so devastated when things don't go on perfectly. This is why I have been trying to avoid real life and stay in my little bubble. Yet God is popping my bubble and throwing struggle and suffering right in my face till I run away terrified because this is movie material, not my life.

As I flea, blinded by tears, I bump into my Father "It is scary isn't it?" He asks, "But this is life. This is what real people go through and I didn't call you to hide from it, I called you to meet it head on." Jesus' life wasn't behind a picket fence, it was on the front lines fighting for souls-- this is how He calls us to live.

This life is a struggle. There is a battle going on between the flesh and the spirit. Christ secured victory in the cross and we are experiencing His grace daily in His peace, however, this world is still in turmoil and will be until Christ returns to re-create it. We need to stop running away from affliction. During His time on earth, Christ willingly took on the suffering of others, meeting with those in the poorest conditions physically, emotionally, and spiritually. People who many of us would just ignore because they are "too much" and make us uncomfortable. But Jesus loved them and took on their pain and sin, bearing it on the cross. Christ suffered more than any of us, as imitators of Him we must not expect anything less than suffering. This starts when we stop beautifying the cross and understand it as the agony that it was. Jesus was beaten and slain by His countrymen, He was denied and abandoned by friends, He had His legitimacy questioned,  and His Father rejected Him. He suffered these things in love.

It would be easy for me to just avoid the human struggle I am witnessing. It would be easy to relax in the comfort of my happy home. To tuck myself away to build my good little image that is free of scars and weathering. But if I do, I can't confess to Christ that I really, really need Him and that, in actuality, I am doing a horrible job of being perfect. And if I hide away, I will miss an opportunity to join my Savior in loving hard people who need Him just as much as I do.

The picket fence looks nice, I really do love to hear those cheery kids giggle, and my husband kissing my cheek as I bake a pie sounds perfect. But I would much rather be where Jesus is.

"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For His sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ."-- Philippians 3:7-8

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


A year and a half ago, my family went on a trip for spring break before my sister left for South Africa for nine months.

It was pretty much a week long goodbye.

A lot has happened since those days by the sea. I acknowledged half-way through Mal's absence that neither of us would ever be the same after she came back.

In a way, I was right. God did a lot of molding in our hearts in very different ways. It took weeks just to figure out how to live together again and months to reclaim the honesty we had as sisters.  I'm not going to lie, it hurt to be shaped. I am thankful, but He ripped a lot of things away from me in those months and I have never been so lonely.

Lonely:: Alone, or in want of company; forsaken. 

Forsaken. Mallory was not the only thing I lost during those months. Several other people close to me also seemed to drift away and, for the first time in my life, I was forced to define myself by something other than the people around me.

One person did not forsake me however. His name was Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, He drew ever so close when I called out in loneliness. He offered me His love as an identifier and His presence as a refuge. 

For nine months I was pounded down with aloneness, yet I have felt no sweeter companionship. God showed me who He was and who I was in Him. 
My sister is home now and lovingly sharing her life with me, but not everything lost has been returned. Some things God took away and kept. When they retreat it hurts, but God remains my lover in loneliness and is pleased to fill my emptiness with a passion for Him.

"For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'"-- Isaiah 41:13

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Mundane

I never thought it would happen to me. "Senioritis?" I thought, "Never! I am much to passionate to just live my life without any emotion poured into it!”

I spoke too soon.

This year has given me an overall "blah" feeling. Stress and life have stripped me of a lot of my enthusiasm. I have learned so much and I would not trade the last year for anything. Through it I have grown up  and acquired a new perspective on who I am and who God is. Also, a lot of really great things have happened and I have had moments of pure bliss! But, part of being a grown up is being rational. It is learning to go through every day without a burning desire to study or go to work or reach out to others.

These days, I go through the motions but I am never fulfilled.

Yet a couple weeks ago, I did some research for a school project and came across this quote by John Piper, “Our lives are shot through with longings. Fasting is an expression of our conviction that it is sin to be satisfied with ourselves as we are.”

Shot through with longings. Shot through with realizing nothing on this earth will ever fulfill me. Shot through with the awareness that I don’t fit here. 

This world, even at its best, fails to fulfill me. Thankfully, it is not supposed to.

On this earth, I am separated from my Creator. I can experience the little blessings of catching fireflies, finishing a journal, holding my nephew's hand, listening to Philip Philips, gazing at the stars, experiencing a live concert, riding a bike at sunset, laughing till my stomach hurts, drinking a chai latte, running in the pouring rain, eating a really good piece of cheesecake, and feeling the first snowflake of winter on my tongue. In these things, we often say we “get a taste of heaven.” But a taste can’t fulfill our desire. Our bridegroom has not yet come. To be satisfied in these things would be like showing a bride a picture of her husband-to-be and saying, “Okay. You got a taste of him. Can we cancel the wedding and the rest of your lives together?” The poor girl would say, “Heck, no! I'm marrying this man!”

Life can be beautiful. But sometimes it is unappealing (Notice that reading about quantum mechanics wasn’t on my list of blessings!). But, in these times, we know that we are engaged to be married. We know, before long, we will finally be able to have a relationship with God that has no restrictions. We will be with Him, really with Him, for eternity.

In this we find joy to face the mundane. We find a gleam of hope to set our eyes on, a reason to smile-- to beam!—because our bride groom is coming.

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” – John 16:22