I remember years ago going to early morning prayer at the church I was attending at the time, and absolutely loving the time first thing in the morning with other believers who were desperate to deepen their relationships with God. It was the most “spiritually mature” thing I had ever done, and I was so proud of myself for participating in something outside my comfort zone. At that point, I had been a mom for about 7 years and knew I needed something other than myself to keep me encouraged, and really learn how to seek the Holy Spirit because I had little kids who were looking up to me. Unfortunately, circumstances changed and the group stopped meeting, but it’s stuck with me all these years and I find myself talking about it to people when I think about the time I was closest to God.
Fast forward to today and let me tell you, when you ask God to take you deeper into His word, it will likely look different than anything you could ever picture. At least that’s been my experience thus far. And, to be honest, it’s what led me to write this post. I’ve been thinking about something I’ve been dealing with in my life and realizing that God is using it to train me, to teach me how to fully rely on Him, not my own strength or will. I actually can’t believe I didn’t realize it until now. When we ask God to take us deeper in our walk, to grow us spiritually, He knows the best way to make that happen. If you know me, you know I like to figure things out, to really know what it is I’m “supposed” to do. And not an arrogant, “I need to know where God is taking me”, because it’s not about the destination in my mind. I just like to know what’s expected of me and what steps I need to take…if you know anything about God, that’s typically not how He rolls. The more I focused on the “steps”, the more frustrated I became. Complaining and being tired of the not knowing what He wanted from me, the more sad and confused I felt. I was beginning to run out of strength and desire to do anything, I was feeling defeated.
Several weeks ago I was so desperate for God to just give me a sign, something that would help me understand what He was doing. I put on some worship music and literally laid flat on my face, crying and laying it all at His feet. If you’ve ever done this you know how liberating it can be. I can honestly say from that moment, looking back over the few days that followed, I see how He slowly took the burden from my heart. I think the biggest problem we face as a society is the elusive desire to control our lives because it makes us feel powerful. For me, it’s not been so much about controlling my life, it’s about wanting a clear path, steps laid out so I can make sure I’m doing the “right” thing. As a recovering self-proclaimed, “people pleaser”, it’s hard for me to not feel like I’m failing in my daily walk. That I’m somehow not pleasing God because I don’t know what He wants from me. But therein lies my problem, all He wants is my heart seeking His, loving people the way He does-which can be a difficult task if you’re trying to do it on your own. I suppose I over complicate it because it just seems so simple, which is what I’ve heard over the course of my life as to why some people can’t comprehend Christianity. I guess our nature is to assume that it has to be task-oriented, or harder than just accepting that our works will never impress God, or change His mind about the sacrifice He offered for our salvation. He simply loves us and wants us to love Him and His people. I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with that, for many reasons I’m sure, but something that has stuck with me over the years is that we naturally relate to our Heavenly Father the way we do our earthly father. If you’ve ever read my previous posts, you’ll know that I don’t have a relationship with my earthly father. I can only speculate it’s what causes me to struggle to accept that God truly, fully, unconditionally, loves me. My mind knows it the way I know that when you’re hungry you eat, that it’s logical, but I feel like my heart has a hard time accepting it. I want to, I just don’t know how. I often forget that it’s something I struggle with until someone mentions something and it reminds me. I was talking with a friend a while back who said she feels I don’t value myself, that I don’t see my worth and struggle with rejection. I don’t think she realized the effect it would have on me, she was just stating her observation. And I wouldn’t have guessed the involuntary emotion it stirred in me, especially walking through my happy place, Target! I’ve thought about the reality of her statement and the truth it’s brought to the forefront of my mind. Here I thought I had dealt with that pain, that I had realized my value wasn’t based on anyone’s view of me. That I had found my worth in whose I was, but when those words came out of her mouth it was like being slapped with a truth I wasn’t aware I needed to hear.
I’ve been a firm believer my entire life that things happen for a reason (and what that actually means when you’re a Christ follower), and I have no doubts that since I pray over every aspect of my life, especially my friendships, that God uses the people in my life to speak to me, and I to them. I know He needed me to hear that because you can’t heal from what you don’t know is causing you pain. I think I was more surprised than anything to realize that my heart still was holding onto something I was convinced had been resolved. But that’s my most favorite thing about God, He knows our hearts better than we do and reveals things to us in His timing. This same friend asked if I used a prayer journal, which I do, because I heard someone several years talk about how she would pray about things and then forget about it, often making her feel that God wasn’t listening. So she started keeping a journal of everything she prayed for as a way to really see the things He does so she could grow a thankful heart. That really hit me because I was feeling the same way, and decided I wanted to be able to thank God for everything He’s done. Plus, it’s a really awesome thing to look at specific things you’ve asked for and see in what way He did it-which is typically not when or how I would expect.
It’s interesting because if you ever watch little kids, you see how quickly they forget something you just told them not to do, or how easily they let things go when someone offends them. As adults we think we have it all together, and certainly don’t need to be reminded not to touch a hot stove, or walk in front of a moving car. I’m surprised at how quickly I forget the things God shows me. Maybe it’s because like scripture says, we’re like sheep and prone to wander. Maybe my problem is that I become so focused on the circumstances and don’t see the whole picture. I become preoccupied with the little details, the particular steps that need to be taken to accomplish a goal or task. And even though I’ve grown in my patience and ability to not stress out quickly, there are circumstances I find myself asking God, “what do you want me to do next”. I can’t recall the many times I’ve felt Him simply say, “nothing”. To which I think to myself, “how can He not want me to do anything”?? Then I remind myself I’m not in control, and know that He’s never failed me yet. I know I can trust Him to make my life what He wants it to be and there isn’t anything He needs me to do. If I can focus on whose I am, it sets everything else in the right order because then my identity isn’t tied to anyone or anything outside of the One who chose me, the One who thought the world needed my gifts and talents, the One who calls me to live in in His perfect love and grace. It frees me from trying to figure out what He’s doing, what I should be doing, and liberates me from guilt and shame when I fall short. Following God isn’t always easy, or fun, but in my experience it’s been worth it. I’ve made a mess of my life thinking I knew what He wanted, but thankfully He has a knack for setting things right again and restoring what was lost. When I lose my way, when I feel frustrated that I’m missing the point, He reminds me the point is I’m His and sometimes, that’s all I need to know.