I'm currently reading The Shack, by William P. Young. If you haven't read this book, READ IT. I'm not completely finished with it yet, but I can't put it down. Here is what part of the back of the book says: In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant, The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers [the main character] gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.
Even if you're not in a place where you're struggling with where God is in the middle of the pain we see all around us, you should still read this book. It's not written in a sermon or intellectual-type style. It's a story about one man's struggle to reconnect with God after he has been wounded by unspeakable pain and heartache. It's the story of his encounter and subsequent dialogue with God.
I'm telling you, read this book. You won't regret it. In fact, you'll be recommending it to everyone you know.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
One of the things that I've been sort of praying about, as late as today even, and for at least the past few weeks, is that I would be shown how/where to tell my story.
Well, today one of the elders from our church called my cell phone and said that someone had recommended that I share my story on Sunday at church. He asked if I would be willing to. What could I do, honestly, other than say yes? I didn't think I could have been more sure of what God wanted me to do in that situation.
I got off the phone, and started realizing the magnitude of what I had just agreed to do. I had agreed to be "messy" in front of a church body, twice (at both services). I had been willing to show my scars to a group of people that I don't know all that well, but that I'd like to know better. I had chosen to be vulnerable in front of people I babysit for, people I serve alongside, etc. What was I thinking? I'm not even sure I can fully articulate on paper or in my heart what God has done in my life, much less make it coherent for three hundred people.
I turned the ignition in my car, all the while chastising myself for not just declining. And this (no joke) is what I heard when the radio came on: ...It's knowing You and what You've done in me.
Okay, God. I get it. Thanks for hammering the message home.
Friday, June 13, 2008
I've been challenged to think about my story lately. I guess it's also my testimony. And, as it is with everyone's story, mine is constantly evolving into something and the ways I grow and change become a part of it and the ways I see God work become a part of it. I've come to a few realizations, that may not be all that earth-shattering for anyone else... but they are for me.
My little "s" story is just a part of the greater big "S" story. That does not mean that my story is not important or significant, and it especially should be for me, but it is just a small part of the Story.
Often we cannot even tell parts of our own story, whether for shame or fear or brokenness, and our closest friends sometimes have to tell us our own stories. I've seen this recently in my life as some of the people closest to me spell out for me what I am currently going through, both because I cannot see the light at the end and because I cannot fully grasp from the inside what is happening to me. This is a crucial part of Christian community. It is also important to be reminded that our individual stories are just parts of the great and good Story.
God calls us to own our stories and to embrace who we are and what we've been through. Jacob, in the OT, is a great example. He first tricks his father into giving him the birthright, by pretending to be his brother Esau. Then, years later, he wrestles with something that is often portrayed to be like an angel. (Okay, serious paraphrasing is about to happen...) The angel says to Jacob, "Let me go." And Jacob says, "First, bless me." And the angel says, "Who are you?" And Jacob says, "I am Jacob." Jacob has owned up to the sins he committed when he tricked his father, and has embraced who he is--- an imperfect, deceitful person. And God makes Jacob into someone new: Israel, the father of many nations. I can hear God saying something like: "Are you finally ready to be you? Good. We've got a lot of work to do." When we embrace who God made us to be, He can begin to use us fully for what He created us for.
There's a second part to the whole "own your story," thing. I've realized that I have only told my entire story once in my life: to my current pastor. I've realized something else: regardless of what part of my story I tell or who I tell it to, I talk about it like I'm reading a text book of information. There is no emotion connected to what I've been through and who I am. That's not owning my story or my emotion. Removing myself emotionally from all that's happened doesn't make it okay and it doesn't allow me to truly embrace who I am.
I've realized after moving home for the summer that I don't live in the freedom offered by Christ. I allow myself to get mangled in the traps of worldliness; I care far too much what everyone around me thinks; I take people's criticism, tirades and screaming far too seriously; and I beat myself up for stupid things.
There is freedom in the grace of Jesus Christ, an offering that I am called to live under. And until I can live in the knowledge that who I am depends not on my mistakes and failings, nor on the way other people see me, but on who I am in Christ.
I heard these song lyrics the other day:
I'm the one with big mistakes,
Big regrets, and bigger breaks
Than I'd ever care to confess.
Oh, but You're the one who looks at me
And sees what I was meant to be,
More than just a beautiful mess.
The more I try desperately to find satisfaction in the things the world can offer, the more I find disappointment. And the more evident the void in my heart becomes evident. The more I try to fill myself up with the emptiness around me, the more I am frustrated, and the farther I feel from God.
I feel like this all stems from the fact that I don't understand the character of God nor the concept of perfect grace enough to live in the freedom He so willingly gives.
I truly feel like I am living a life of quiet desperation as I try to earn the approval of those around me, and please everyone, and be everything. And I think now's the time to stop. And let God be my focal point, instead. (You'd think I'd have figured all of this out once... about eight years ago)
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
On Sunday, I was at church, and during musical worship, I was singing and this lady that I don't know, though I recognize her face, came up behind me, and hugged me (awkward #1) and then said, "I just love watching you worship. It's beautiful." Call me self-conscious. Call me radically self-consumed. Call me neurotic. I'm probably all of those things, but suddenly worship felt different to me. I've never felt like people watched me worship... there's a difference (to me, at least) between people seeing me worship and people watching me worship.
So I've spent the past few days trying to take her comment as a means of encouragement, not as something to make me that much more neurotic. I've been praying about how worship for me can still be only about me and God and not about the hundred or so people around me. It's hard.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
So, when mom moved in with Jennie when I was eight and a half or so, I was afraid (and I'm talking terrified, won't go anywhere near...) dogs. And Jennie had two-- an English setter, which is a medium sized dog, named Finney and a Yorkie (a small, yappy dog) named Max. Max and I quickly became inseparable. He followed me around, slept in my bed, lay with me while I did homework, etc.
I loved Max... he was small and he couldn't jump up on me. By the time we moved out when I was fifteen, Max was what I finally understood to be my "childhood dog." All my friends talked about their childhood pets, pets that had endured their many life stages with them. Max had seen me off to prom my freshman year of high school, had licked away my tears (sorry if that grosses you out), had been a faithful companion who never chose anyone over me, so when we moved out, it was especially hard because Max, who was originally Jennie's dog, stayed with Jennie. Granted, I now have three dogs that live at my mom's house, but I always go visit Max.
We put Max to sleep today. I've dealt with the deaths of three cats and a hamster, but it is both helpful and heartbreaking to make a conscious choice that the animal's suffering is just too much. I've never put an animal to sleep before, and today was really hard and strangel
y comforting too-- because I knew that Max had been a wonderful pet and friend, but that I didn't want to remember him in the condition he is in. The final decision to put him down was made while I was in Greensboro this afternoon, and the time frame wasn't going to make it possible for me to be there. Granted, that made my decision about whether or not I wanted to be present an easy one-- in that
it was made for me. And I am still getting through the emotions of not having said goodbye or having been truly given the option to.
Sorry if this post was more sad than anything. I promise to have something of substance or something uplifting next time.