Is Jesus Your Sidepiece?

The sidepiece.

We all know what that is, either because we’ve had one or we’ve been one at one time of our life. The sidepiece is man or woman in your life you keep around in addition to your main relationship. They’re the one that you hit up after the big fight you have with your “real” significant other. The one you go see when it’s convenient to you. The one you give just enough attention to, to keep them around, but not enough attention to create a serious relationship. The sidepiece is never your main priority, let alone your only priority. And to be honest, most people keep a sidepiece in their back pocket to fall back on just in case their main relationship doesn’t work out. The sidepiece always, and I mean always, gets the short end of the stick. Often times the sidepiece gives all their love and devotes so much of their time and energy to the cheater, who doesn’t do half as much for them. They spend time relentlessly pursuing and pining away for the one who doesn’t care enough about them to make them their main focus.

In short, it sucks to be the sidepiece!

Unfortunately, I know from personal experience. But as I look back over all my relationships, I have to confess that I’ve only had one sidepiece of my own and His name was Jesus.

Wait, what?! Yep, I said it. Jesus was my sidepiece.

The thing is that I’ve always loved Jesus (or so I said). It was just that I had to get some things together before I could fully commit myself to Him. I mean, I really wanted to be with Him, but I always gave the relationships I had with men take precedent over my relationship with Him. It was hard making Him my main priority when I focused so much on other relationships. I spent time with Him when I could. In between the phone calls that lasted for hours, the dates, and the time spent getting to know whoever my bae was at the time. I would squeeze in a prayer before I fell asleep or read the Bible occasionally. I spent just enough time with Him so that He would know I was still interested in Him, but not enough time to really form a strong bond with Him. However, whenever I got into a big fight or things didn’t work out with said bae, I would run to Him praying that He would fix things. If He didn’t, then and only then, would I pull Him out of my back pocket and fall back on Him. I would promise to commit myself to Him and really spend time with Him, only to push Him back to the side whenever my relationship was mended or a new relationship came along. I hate to say it, but my relationship with Christ was that of the typical cheater with their sidepiece.

The crazy thing is, though, no matter how many times I gave Jesus the short end of the stick when it came to our relationship, He never gave up on me. I’m sure He knew that my heart wasn’t fully invested in Him. He had to know that I was only using Him as a backup plan. Despite all of that, He gave me His unconditional love to me at the very times that I would barely pay attention to Him. On the days that I barely thought of Him because I was so wrapped up in a relationship, He was relentlessly pursuing me and pining away for me. Me. The one who didn’t care enough to make Him my main focus. The cheater. The sinner. He loved me, even when I made Him my sidepiece.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I’m not the only one that has ever made Jesus their sidepiece. So many of us have. We’ve treated Him like an option rather than our main priority. We’ve brushed him to the side when relationships, or work, or other endeavors have become our first love instead of Him. We’ve run into His arms only to ask for help or to have something to fall back on when things didn’t work out with what we were pursuing. But yet and still, He still loved us and pursued us passionately and relentlessly. He has given His all to be with us, even when we cheated on Him with whatever our main focus was at the time.

Some of us have changed our ways and left the life of infidelity to commit ourselves fully to Him, but many of us still are treating Jesus like our sidepiece. Putting Him on the back burner. Spending time with Him only in the stolen moments we have away from whatever we’ve put before Him. Barely paying attention to the one that constantly and consistently gives His all to us. Forgetting that He should be our first love. But if you’ve made Him your sidepiece, it’s time to change. As Christians, we’re required to make Him our first love. Revelations 2:4-5 says, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first …”

That means that if we’ve somehow made Him our sidepiece instead of our first love, we have to change. We have to repent for giving Him the cold shoulder and then change our ways so that He becomes our main priority and focus again. And isn’t He worth it? He’s the one who loved so much that He gave up His life for you. He’s the one who loves you enough to sit at the right side of the Father constantly interceding on your behalf. No man or woman, no job, no other endeavor or pursuit can give you that type of love. So is Jesus your sidepiece or your first love? Does He hold the place in your life that He should? Do you make Him compete for a spot in your life or is He your main priority? If you’re not sure about how you would answer those questions or if you know good and well that Jesus is currently your sidepiece, it might be time to take some time and reprioritize the place that give Him in your life. He’s worth way more than being your sidepiece. It’s time to make Him your first love again.

Dear Love: He Knows Better

Dear Love,

You hear Him speaking but in arrogance and pride you don’t listen. You think that somehow you know better than He does. That you know more than He knows and that you’re a greater judge of life and all its intricacies than He is. You snatch the very destiny out of the hands that have carefully created it and cradled it since before you were born, and take fate into your own hands. Then you push Him back to the corridors of your mind and relegate Him to your subconscious where you can ignore Him. You hear Him speaking but don’t listen. In a fit of grandiose confidence in your own human capabilities you do what you think is right rather than what He requires of you. Like a rebellious teenager, you think you know it all. You think you know better than your loving and caring Father, but you don’t.

You forget that His ways and thoughts are higher . That He sees and knows all. That the formula for the universe is in His back pocket. Of course He knows what’s best for You. He knows everything! Yet you hear Him, but you don’t listen. You hear His directions and go bolting the opposite way. You run away from His guidance so warm and loving like home, out into the cold streets of life on your own terms. But it’s hard to navigate life all alone, without His direction and the provision that comes with it.

You find yourself like the Prodigal Son, coming back home in shame after trying to manage life on your own. You heard Him but you didn’t listen. But today, return to Him just like the Prodigal Son did. Sullied and soiled by the mistakes, bad habits and hurts that came from what you thought at the time were good decisions. Return to Him covered in the consequences of your selfish choices. See that He was really right all along. Come back home to Him. Reopen the corridors of your mind and let Him slip back in to your consciousness. This time when you hear Him listen. Hear His voice now and follow. Where He tells you to go, go. The pride and arrogance that once stood in the way of adhering to His directions have now been eroded by time and the consequences of all those mistakes and now He can fill those empty spaces with humility.

See that He does know better than you do. That He knows more than you know and that He’s a greater judge of life and all its intricacies than you are. Hand back your tattered and crumbling destiny into the hands that carefully created it and cradled it since before your birth, and put your fate back into the hands that shape and restore all the things, including you very life.



Losing It All

What if I told you that in less than a year, I walked away from what I initially thought was my dream job. I lost several friends that I thought would always have my back and an ex boyfriend, who I thought I was going to marry. Would you feel sorry for me? Would you say I was down on my luck? Would you encourage me and tell me that things will get better? Now what if I told you that I’m happier now, then I was when I had all those things and people in my life. Let me explain.

After I graduated from college, I headed to the Mississippi Delta to start a teaching career with Teach for America. I had the perfect job on paper. I would be making close to $30k a year, which is more than I’ve ever made in my life. I was making new friends, adjusting to life as a teacher, and things appeared to be falling into place. There was only one problem: I felt miserable. Not homesick miserable. Not adjusting-to-change miserable. But something-is-terribly-wrong-with-me-being-here miserable. I just couldn’t shake the feeling, but I tried to push through it. I turned to going out every weekend and drinking way more than my 5’2” body could handle just to numb myself to how I was feeling, but I still felt miserable. I told myself to suck it up because this was an opportunity that others would die for and it would look so good on my resume. I still felt miserable. I desperately tried to focus on the fact that I loved working with kids and that I could do so much to help the community I was going into. I still felt miserable. So after Institute (training and summer school for new corps members) was over, I left feeling lower than I’ve ever felt in my life. I decided to take a break from TFA and figured it would help me sort things out and regroup. I had the option of returning within the next two years, so I planned to return to the Delta the following year. However, the weeks and then months started to roll by, and I still felt miserable.

Meanwhile, I was looking for support from those around me, including several of my closest friends from college. I’d met them at different points throughout my collegiate journey but we all hung together as a group. We laughed together. We cried together. We fought together, but through it all we stuck together. Surely, I could count on them to be by my side throughout such a difficult transition in my life, or so I thought. Turns out, they weren’t. At a time when I was looking to them for support and encouragement, I got judgment and rejection. Not having them during such a tough time in my life, made me feel hurt and lonely.

Hey, but at least I still had my boyfriend, even if I didn’t have the job or the friends. I’ve always dreamed of having a husband and a “perfect family” since I was a little girl, especially since I didn’t have that growing up. I’ve always wanting to give my future children the two-parent home that I wished I could have had. And I think in a lot of ways, I looked to men to fill the void that my dad left when my parents got divorced (We’ve been working on our relationship over the past few years, though). So when my ex brought up marriage and kids and eternal, everlasting love, I was down for the cause. Having someone there to love me through thick and thin, better or worse, richer or poorer, is all I’ve ever wanted. So when we broke up, I was broken hearted. I just knew he was “the one”.

In less than a year, it felt like I had lost more than I ever had in all 23 years of my life. However, the Lord used everything that I lost to allow me to gain some valuable lessons about life.

It was hard to walk away from a “dream job” to come back to your hometown unemployed and starting from scratch, but I did it. God used that situation to show what an incredibly resilient person He created me to be. He showed me without a shadow of a doubt, that I can start over even when I’m scared and unsure. I learned to step out on faith and take the path that God had for me, instead of sticking with the path that others, and even I, thought I should have been on. I learned that I don’t need a certain job, with a certain amount of prestige, making a certain amount of money to succeed in life. As long as I am obedient to His will, I can go anywhere in this world and prosper.

I thought I needed friends to fulfill me. I relied on them to encourage me, offer me guidance, and make decisions for me. Before all of this, I didn’t realize the power I gave to others to dictate the direction my life was going in. I look back over my friendships and I realize how many times I’ve let friends’ opinions decide whether or not I pursue something or say something or wear something. I gave my friends the power to control me. Losing them was painful, but God used it to show me to see that I am perfectly capable of making each and every decision for my life on my own. I don’t need anyone’s approval to do anything. As long as I pray about it and seek wise counsel, when God leads me to, I’m entitled to make the decisions that I feel are best for my life.

I thought I needed the boyfried, but losing him has allowed me to discover a love far deeper than a wedding and sex. In losing him, I ending up finding The One who has loved me since time began and will love me forever. The One who has never abandoned me, never given up on me, and refuses to give up on me no matter how many times I turn away from Him, fail Him or break His heart. I found an everlasting love and joy that makes me whole and fills every void in my heart that has ever been there. I’ve seen over these past months of singleness, that I don’t need a boyfriend to be alright. I can stand on my own, even when it’s lonely and painful.

So in the end, I lost it all, only to find out that I had everything I ever needed in God and in myself. That time was one of the most painful ones in my life, but I’m at a place where I can look back and see that the pain I was feeling were just growing pains. For the longest time I thought that happiness would come when I had the “perfect” job, friends, and relationship, but I had all of those things and felt absolutely miserable. God showed me that “perfect” on paper does not always equal His perfect will for our lives. You can have the prestigious job, with a decent pay check and paid vacation days, but what does that mean if you wake up every morning dreading to go to work? Are the likes on Facebook when you post pictures of your “awesome” job and the pats on the back you receive from others who approve of your career path going to sustain you for the next 2 or 5 or 20 years? You can have the friends who you can laugh and kick it with. The ones who went to a nice school like you, who dress nicely, and have equally “perfect” jobs like you, but what does all of that mean if you can’t count on them to have your back when you need it the most? Are those things more important than having people who won’t judge you when you are having a hard time or laugh and gossip about your failures behind your back? You can have the “perfect” boyfriend who promises you a diamond ring and a happy life, but is it worth it if you have to compromise who you really are to be with them? Is it more important to put your dreams on hold to have a family or is it more important to go out and live your purpose with or without somebody by your side?

I’ve learned that my joy, peace and well-being are not bound by who and what is in my life at any given point and time. As long as I have God, I have all that I need and sooooo much more. I’m blossoming in ways, that I could have only dreamed of before (including working on my M.Div, building new relationships centered around Christ, and starting this blog) and I know that I wouldn’t be at this point if God didn’t force me to let go of what I so desperately thought I had to cling to. I’m a living witness that “everything works for the good of those called according to His purpose”. With or with out the nice job, friends, or man that I once thought I needed, I’m okay. Matter of fact, I’m more than okay. It’s definitely been a journey, but I’m so grateful that God allowed me to lose it all, so that I could gain a trust in Him that sustains me no matter what my circumstances look like.

So Near, Yet So Far Away

Lord, I feel so near, yet so far away from you. I think it’s because I’m scared to submit to you because I’m afraid of intimacy with you. Submitting to you means completely opening myself up to you and that scares me. Submitting to you means I give you the power to possibly hurt me. And although my mind knows better, my heart still has reservations. I allow you to get close to me but not too close. Not so close that you could hurt me. I allow you to get just close enough so that I can feel your presence but not close enough to be wrapped in your loving embrace. And that’s an issue. Because my heart longs to be captured by the love of Your Son Jesus. My soul aches to be touched by Your Holy Spirit. And my mind needs to be molded and directed by you, oh Lord. I need you so terribly. I can’t find peace without you surrounding me. But with my guards up, I keep you arm length’s away. You’re so near yet so far away.

The peace I constantly seek but can’t seem to find. So near yet so far away.

The elusive joy that slips out of the grasp of my finger tips just as I desperately try to cling to it. So near yet so far away.

The hope that I can see clearly but can never seem to touch. So near yet so far away.

But Father! I’m so tired of keeping a safe distance from you. I tired of letting you in, but not letting you in fully. I want more of you. I need more of you and I think it’s finally time to let these Jericho walls around my heart come tumbling down. When I first was getting to know you this was okay. This was comfortable. I was just encountering you for myself and feeling you out. I was discovering if you were who so many others have said you are. I was seeing for myself that you were trustworthy, loving, dependable, and giving. But now I want more. I want a deeper level of intimacy with You. And arm length intimacy is just not enough. I don’t know how to tear these walls down, but if I tell You that I’m ready, will You step in and do the demolition for me? Will you penetrate into the depths of my being? Will you knock down every single doubt, fear and reservation that keeps us from forming a closer, more intimate relationship? Will you show me that you love me and break through all the things that I’ve been allowing to hold me back from You?

Just knowing You is not enough anymore. Just being in Your presence at church or when I find the time to pray is not enough anymore. I want to be enamored by You. I want You to be so close to me that I can’t escape You no matter where I go. I want Our connection to be so strong that I’ll never build up another wall to separate us again. My heart, mind and soul is hungry for you. And that hunger for you outweighs any fear of intimacy with you. I’m tired of being so near yet so far away. I’m ready to go deeper. Ready to grow closer. Ready to give you my all. Lord, I’m ready to submit to you.

Crazy Love and Obedience

God is the creator of the universe. He keeps the cosmos in order and all things in His perfect balance. He is the ruler of much but still knows the numbers of hairs on your head. In all that He is and all that He does, He still loves you enough to know all the intimate, insignificant, seemingly random details about your life.

Remember that.

Sit in awe of that.

Meditate on that.

The Creator of all things loves You enough to be involved with every detail of your life. He loves you enough to want to handcraft the plans of your life. He loves you enough to want to direct your path. Remember that whenever He speaks to You. Whether it’s through a word from someone else or through your own time in prayer and meditation. Sit in awe of the fact that the One who sits in charge of all creation cares enough about You to speak and pour into your life daily. Bask in the incomprehensible expanse of His love. Follow the directions that He has laid out for you. React to His amazing love with your complete obedience. Do His will, regardless of what your busy schedule, other people or your own selfish desires may say.

Listen to Him.

Truly listen to Him in all of the love and awe that He’s placed inside of you. Listen to the One who is in charge of every star, every solar system, every galaxy in the cosmos, yet listens to every prayer, hears every cry and cares enough to want to give you the desires of your heart. And He does it all just because He loves you. Can you do the same and love Him with all your heart, mind and soul? Can you give up your tiny and insignificant plans for your life to listen whenever He speaks, hear when He cries out to you to serve Him, and care just enough to live out the life He desires you to have? Can you lay down the life you think you should have for the life that He’s planned out for you to have since He cradled the universe in His arms in its infancy? Can you trust that the ruler of all things would never misguide you or lead you astray? That His plans and thoughts are truly higher than yours? Can you decrease so that He may increase?

Well, can you?

Sit with that this week. Meditate and pray on it. Ask God to keep you in awe of all that He is, especially when it come to decisions about your life. Ask that you be reminded of His infinite power, yet infinite concern about your wellbeing whenever you are tempted to abandon his perfectly crafted will for your life for your own reckless and insignificant plans. Ask that He brings to remembrance the incomprehensible expanse of who He is anytime you are tempted to place the fallible and short-sighted advice of others over His all-knowing direction. This week I pray that you are in absolute and complete awe of Him and that through that awe you fall into absolute and complete obedience.

Married by 23?

Almost a year ago, I was in a relationship with a guy and we were headed towards marriage (or so I thought). He came along at the “perfect” time. We’d met in college and dated off and on before finally getting together at the end of my senior year of college. I’d always hoped and prayed that I would get married by 23 or 24, so he’d come along just in time. Plus he was just as excited about marriage as I was. He was heaven sent and I just knew he had to be my Boaz, Adam or whatever Biblical figure we’re using to describe husbands these days. The only problem was, I was focused on marriage for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to be married for me and me alone. I wanted the wedding for me. I wanted the beautiful ring for me. I wanted the husband and kids for me. Me, me, me, me, me! And I was so busy focusing on my own selfish desires that I couldn’t see that the relationship that I thought was heaven sent was really a counterfeit.

But the one thing that kept me from walking down the aisle with him, was my relationship with Christ. The closer I got to God, the further away I grew from my ex. The more I sought out God’s wisdom and counsel for leading my life and my relationship, the more red flags started popping up left and right. All of a sudden, I started discovering things that weren’t compatible with the purpose that God had for me. Though he was a Christian, we didn’t hold a lot of the same views about our relationship with Christ. One of our biggest arguments actually stemmed from a disagreement about tithes. Yes, chile, tithes! I started noticing how I was too dependent on him when it came to making decisions about my life. I realized that I didn’t like the involvement that his family had in our relationship. He realized he didn’t really like the fact that I preferred being homebody over going out. And the biggest kicker was the fact that we were having sex outside of marriage; we weren’t even building our relationship on a Godly foundation to prepare for marriage. That’s not to say that he was a bad guy, but looking back on it, it was clear that we were not meant for each other. In the haste of trying to make a major life decision, based on my own selfish desires, I could have made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I could have gotten what I wanted at the time. I could have ignored the signs that the Lord was giving me and kept focusing on my selfish wants. I could have ended up married by the age of 23. But you know what, I probably would have ended up miserable. I would have ended up in a marriage that wasn’t build on a solid foundation, which would have caused chaos and confusion for my ex, myself, and any children we may have had.

I prayed so hard to have a husband by 23, but less than a month away from being 24, I can say I’m so grateful that this was one prayer He did not answer. That’s not to knock marriage or getting married young, but if God had allowed me to get married so young I would have missed the whole point of what marriage (and life) is really about. Marriage is not about me. It’s not about what I want, when I want it, and how I want it. Yes, marriage comes with its perks and I know there are few things that are more fulfilling then living and growing with the spouse that God set aside for you. But ultimately marriage is about God. Marriage is a ministry. It is supposed to be an earthly example of the love that Christ has for the church. Marriage is about giving up self, to serve your spouse and to serve God. And to be honest, I was far too committed to myself and my selfish desires to make that type of commitment to God and to someone else.

God has really been showing me over this past year, that marriage is not just another task that I check off my to-do list or another accomplishment I can add to my resume. It’s a serious undertaking that I need to wait on His perfect timing to take on. As a woman, it can be so easy to get caught up in the marriage frenzy and to fall into the trap that your ultimate purpose in life is to get wifed up, but God has been really showing me that marriage is only part of my purpose. My ultimate purpose, and anyone’s ultimate purpose, is to serve God and to give Him all the glory with your life. Right now, that means I’m serving God by working on my Master’s degree, healing and becoming whole in this period of singleness. One day, my purpose will include getting married, but until that day comes, I am content with where I’m at. I’m growing to a place where I want what God wants for me at any given point in my life, even if it isn’t what I planned out for my life. I’m thankful God said no to marriage at 23, so I could say yes to building my relationship with Him and preparing for marriage at the age He wants me to.

On the Rock or Sand?

I really think our generation struggles with wanting to fit in and be accepted. So many of us live to get over 100 likes on an Instagram picture. We’ll take it down and repost it if we don’t get enough likes the 1st time around. We love seeing our tweets retweeted and favorited. Some of us long to be the next YouTube makeup guru while others vie to be the next Vine comedian. We spend countless moments of our days taking and re-taking selfies, usies, crafting the perfectly worded tweets, and finding just the right lighting for that next video upload. All in the name of catching the attention of other people. We’re in the constant pursuit of being liked, retweeted and subscribed to because we place so much value in what other’s think of us. We love the status that comes with having over 1000 followers on a social media site. We feel good when others seem to like us and approve of us. And slowly but surely, many of us have become so caught up in the pursuit of creating social content to gain people’s approval that we’ve forgotten to pursue the One who created us.

It reminds me of the passage in Matthew 7:24-27, where one man builds a house on sand, while the other builds a house upon the rock. I’m sure you know how the story goes. The man with the house on the sand ends up in ruins when the storm rolls in and washes away the unstable and weak foundation. The man who builds his house on the rock, however, is able to withstand the storm. Now there’s nothing wrong with social media, in and of itself, but when we use it to feed our obsession with being liked and validated by others, we become just like the man who built his house on the sand. We get so caught with trying to become mini-celebs that we lose sight of the fact that what we’re chasing after isn’t stable or reliable. When we let our self-worth become based on people’s opinions and not on God’s opinions of us, we’re destined to end up in ruins just like the house built on sand. People’s opinions sway back and worth just like the waves of the ocean and their criticism can come crashing down on you just like a high tide. When you base your life on gaining the approval of and being liked by people, you will forever be at the whim and mercy of public opinion. If your self-worth is caught up with how well-received the image of yourself that your portray on social media is received, you’re bound to be crushed time and time again when the tides change and you aren’t receiving the validation that you used to.

That’s why as believers we are called to build our life on the rock that is Christ. God knew we needed something solid and strong to base our life and self-worth on. And what better source to find approval and validation from, then from the One who’s opinion about us never changes. He’s the One who still thinks we’re fearfully and wonderfully made even when we only get 5 likes on that selfie we posted 2 hours ago. He’s the One who still values us even when nobody retweets that tweet we took 10 minutes to phase perfectly into 180 characters. He’s the One who loves us whether or not we ever become that YouTube or Vine sensation. Even when people don’t give us the approval we hoped for. Even when they don’t seem to like us or subscribe to us. Even when their opinions of us crash down on us in a negative subtweet or comment under our video. His opinion of us always remains the same. We are His precious children and nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love He has for us. Not death or life or having less than 100 friends on Facebook. Nothing.

So what are you building your house on? What are you building you self-worth on? What are you crafting your image around? What are you pursuing daily? Is it on the shaky sands of posts, popularity and people’s opinions? Or is it on the solid foundation of a relationship with Christ and His opinion? (Which, by the way, is the only one that really matters.)