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.

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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.)

A Lion on the Prowl

Watch a documentary on the Discovery Channel and you’ll see this time and time again. A lion is prowling the savannah looking at a heard of unsuspecting antelope. The lion doesn’t just run out and chase every single antelope. No, he sits back and observes the heard for a bit. He looks for an antelope that is injured, that is sick, that is very old or very young. He looks for the weakest link in the heard and then he pounces. He wants a meal that isn’t going to fight back. He knows that when he goes after the weakest one in the heard, he has a better chance of catching and killing his prey. He wants something that he can easily devour.

We’re not out on the savannah, but we definitely face the same threat. The Bible says the devil is like a ravenous lion, seeking whom he can devour and just like a lion he always attacks the weak. He looks for those injured by the pains and troubles of life. He searches to find those sick with bitterness, hatred, and resentment. He loves seeking out those new in their faith or those who have grown complacent and stagnent in their faith. Now, of course, the devil isn’t walking around in a red suit with a pitch fork making himself apparent in his attacks on us. Just like a lion hides among the tall grass and tries to blend in to the terrain of the Serengeti, the enemy often blends in to the everyday situations in our lives. He often comes subtly through people and situations in life. I notice that when I’m at my weakest spiritually, emotionally and mentally that I get bombarded with attacks. When I’m already having a bad day, I’ll overhear someone talking about me. When I’m stressed out, I’ll end up having a fight with a loved one. When I’m worried about money, I’ll face an unexpected financial hardship. Trust me, it’s not happening by mistake. The enemy sits back and observes. When he sees you at your weakest, he knows it’s time to pounce on you by sending people and situations to further discourage you, depress you and break you down.

Now there’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is, there is absolutely nothing you can do about your weakness, but the good news is it doesn’t matter because you don’t have to be strong if you serve a God who can be strong for you. The Bible says in our weakness, He’s made strong. Not only that, but He will fight for you every time you’re attacked if you allow Him into you life. You’re not like the poor antelope, left without a protector to defend it when it’s attacked. You have the ultimate protector in Him and He will not allow any attack to destroy you. Now let me give a disclaimer: this doesn’t mean that you won’t face attacks and that they won’t hurt when they happen. They will happen over and over again throughout your life and often they will hurt you in ways the feel to hard to bear. However, God will allow those attacks to strengthen you and increase your faith in Him. Remember, all things work for the good of those called according to His purpose. Those attacks may shake your confidence, scare you, and they may even scar you but they will never take you out, as long as you have God on your side.

The Struggle with Forgiveness

forgiveness

Forgiveness is something that I really struggle with. And when I say struggle, I mean STRUGGLE. I am a queen of holding grudges and not letting stuff go. I could give you a wrap sheet of people who I have cut off and cut out of my life for hurting me or doing me wrong. That list includes colleagues, friends and even family. (No, I don’t discriminate) And I’m the type that will cut you off and never speak to you again in life. The type that will see you in the street, at the store, or at your mama’s house and won’t speak. The type that would keep riding if I saw your car broke down on the side of the road. Okay, maybe I’m not that bad, but you get my point. My struggle with forgiveness is so real. But God has really been working with me on this issue lately and forcing me to face my issues with forgiveness head on.

I’ve been seeing that my issues with forgiveness come from the fact that I heavily value justice. I hate when things aren’t even and fair. I feel like if you do something wrong then you should make it right. If you hurt someone, then you should do everything in your power to make it up to them. It’s a standard that I hold myself and others to, and it’s that way of thinking that’s made it so easy to hold grudges and bitterness in my heart against others. Whenever people have wronged me in the past my automatic response has been, “They did something to hurt me, so if they want my forgiveness then they should come to me and make it up to me by apologizing. That’s only me being fair.” I felt that if I forgive them without them taking the steps to make it “right”, then I was letting them off the hook. I thought that if I didn’t hold a grudge then what they did had no consequences.

While it may sound fair and even sound right on the surface, the way I was thinking, and the way many of us think about forgiveness, isn’t based on truth. I think what’s at the core of our unforgiveness is the lie that our healing has to come from the same place that our hurt came from. We feel that since a particular person was responsible for hurting us, then by default, they are responsible for healing us. We hold on tightly to anger and pain from past hurts because we falsely believe that the people who hurt us are the only ones capable of setting us free. Forgiveness frees us from that way of thinking. It allows us to realize that even though someone hurt us, we don’t have to wait around for them to heal us. We don’t have to walk around day after day holding onto grudges, waiting around for an apology that may or may not ever come. Forgiveness allows us to see that our healing is not dependent on the person that hurt us. It opens our eyes to the fact that it doesn’t matter where our hurt came from because our healing ultimately comes through Christ. That’s what makes forgiveness so freeing. It turns our attention away from the ones who hurts us, and sets our eyes on the One who heals us. He is the only One capable of tending to the wounds from our past. He is the only One that can take the sting out of the slights we’ve felt. He is the only One who can piece our heart back together after it’s been broken by others.

And realizing that forgiveness hinges on Him and not on human beings, reminds me of why Christ died on the cross for us. His death was the ultimate act of forgiveness. It was the recognition that no human being would ever be capable of apologizing, sacrificing or paying God back enough to cover the wrongs of our sins. It was the ultimate recognition that there was no way a human being could heal the agonizing hurt we cause God whenever we disobey Him through our sin. Christ’s death was the realization that human beings were incapable of undoing the damage our sinful ways cause. I hurt the very heart of God every single time I sin. We hurt the very heart of God every single time we sin. Every single time. Yet He doesn’t hold grudges until I make it “right”. He doesn’t make me, or any of us, pay Him back for wronging Him. He forgave each of us and tangibly showed us that forgiveness by sending His only begotten Son. Looking at His incredible forgiveness of all of my sins, makes my unforgiveness seem really petty, childish, trivial, insignificant…well you get the point.

So maybe you’re like me and struggle with forgiveness. Maybe you’ve been holding grudges with the false hope that the people that hurt you were the only ones capable of healing you. Maybe somewhere along the way you forgot that the same forgiveness God extended to us over 2000 years ago on an old, rugged cross is the same forgiveness we’re called to extend to others. But as you go into the new year, start off by taking your eyes off of the ones that hurt you and fix them on the only One who has ever been capable of healing you. Go into this new year letting go of pain and bitterness that unforgiveness causes, so you’ll be able to fully embrace the healing and comfort that God’s forgiveness brings. Pick up that phone, send that text, write that e-mail or letter (Shoutout to you if you still write letters) and let someone who hurt you know that you forgive them because you know the One who has forgiven you.

I Know Depression

I know depression.

I know what it feels like to hurt and hurt so deeply that it reaches the depths of your soul.

I know what it feels like to have that nagging pain that won’t seem to go away.

I know what it feels like to lay in the bed at night crying your heart out.

I know what it feels like to pray to God, begging Him not to let you wake up in the morning because you can’t stand the sadness anymore.

I know what it feels like to smile and pretend that everything is okay, even though you’re dying inside.

I know what it feels like to try to hide what you’re going through from classmates, coworkers, family and friends.

I know what it feels like.

I know depression.

I’ve dealt with depression since I was 13 years old. And over the past 10 years, I’ve struggled with it in silence, for the most part. I struggled with it alone, silently drowning in pain and soaking in tears for a lot of reasons.

I was afraid of the stigma that comes with depression. Afraid of being judged by others and being called “crazy”.

I didn’t want people to think I was weak or could not handle everything on my own. And a lot of times, I honestly did think I could handle it on my own.

I thought that depression meant that I was ungrateful. I mean, my life hasn’t been picture perfect, but I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a lot to be happy about, so why couldn’t I be? Why couldn’t I just snap myself out of it and be “normal” like everyone else?

I also always placed extremely high expectations on myself and felt that I had to be perfect. Depression got in the way of me being perfect and reaching the incredibly high standards I set for myself. Admitting that I was battling depression, felt like having to admit that I didn’t always have it together and perfect, and that was something I wasn’t ready to do for the longest.

But over this past year, as I’ve grown in my relationship with Christ, I’ve started to realize that depression is not my destiny. John 10:10 tells us that the enemy came to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came so that we could have life and have it abundantly. Depression isn’t a life of abundance. It steals your hope. It kills your joy. It destroys your peace. That’s not the life any of us are meant to live. We’re meant to live an abundant life. Occasional sadness is a natural and necessary part of life, but when sadness lingers for too long and starts turning into depression, it’s okay to reach out and get help. I know that I’ve spent the past ten years of my life, suffering with depression and struggling to hide it from others, because of fear and shame. But, I’m finally in a place where I’m ready to heal from my depression. And I’m starting that healing process with a caring professional and deciding to share what has been an incredibly painful part of my life with others.

So if you’re going through depression and you’re reading this, know that you are not alone. The sadness, emptiness and hopelessness that you’re dealing with is something that I’ve dealt with, and so many others have, too. It’s okay that you’re hurting but know that you don’t have to continue hurting for the rest of your life and God doesn’t want you to hurt for the rest of your life. Please don’t let the fear of being judged or the shame about the pain that you’re feeling keep you from getting the help and the healing God so desperately wants you to have. No matter how it feels right now, understand that He sees the pain that you’re going through, just like He saw all the pain I’ve gone through over the past ten years. He sees your broken heart and He’s close to you. He sees how depression has crushed your spirit and He’s more than willing to rescue you. (Psalm 34:18) He loves you so much and He wants you to heal and be whole. Some of your healing will come from praying and crying out to Him, but often times healing will also come through the help of a trained counselor or therapist. That healing may also include taking medication until you start feeling better. And if it does, that’s perfectly okay. It took me an entire decade to realize that, but it doesn’t have to take you that long. I know that it’s so hard to deal with depression, especially when you’re hiding your pain in the darkness of fear and shame. But you don’t have to deal with depression alone. You can reach out to get the help that you need, so you can start living your life, and live it more abundantly.