Worth It.

Lately, I have been reflecting on my sense of worth and where it comes from.  When I first started my blog, I wrote a similar post entitled, “Not Enough.”  Since then, I feel God has continued to speak to me, bringing me to deeper levels of wisdom and understanding about the topic.

I think everyone is born with an innate desire to be picked to do something of importance, to be someone of importance.  We desire to be chosen out from among the crowd.  We want to be someone’s first choice.  We long to be seen, to be known and to be loved for who we are, even with all of our flaws and imperfections.  We want to know that we are worth sticking around for.

I think everyone has been let down, at some point or another, in this regard.  We all know what it feels like to be passed over and overlooked.  We have all encountered people who have caused us to question our worth and our significance.  We have stood in the crowd while others around us got picked.  We know what it’s like to be the plan b, to be kept around as an option, but never get chosen.  We have all faced the fear that if we were truly seen and truly known, we would remain unloved and nobody would stick around.  I know this all seems a little depressing, but haven’t we all faced these emotions before?

I would be lying if I said that from time to time, those ugly thoughts did not pop into my mind.  The difference between now and other times of my life is that I am learning to shut those bad boys down, before they have any opportunity to wreck havoc on my heart and my mind.  The truth is that your worth, my worth, comes from God and God alone.  If we allow our sense of value and significance to come from people, we will earn ourselves a permanent front row seat on an unending emotional rollercoaster.  People’s feelings towards you and opinions of you can change by the day.  What people think of us is most often based on factors that are conditional.  A person’s attitude towards you can vary depending on what kind of day they are having or what kind of day you are having!  It can be dependent on circumstances that are also subject to change.  To allow our sense of worth to be controlled by people or circumstances is to place an important piece of our identity into things that are unsteady and unstable.  No wonder why so many of us struggle with insecurity!

The truth is that each one of us has a God given identity and purpose.  God does not see us in light of our imperfections, our circumstances, or our present state of being.  Rather, God sees us in light of the identity and purpose that He pre-ordained for us, before we were ever born!  God is revealing to me that He is using each day that I live, each step that I take, and even each failure and mistake to mold me and to shape me into my true identity.  His hammer and chisel have been present in every stage of the journey, preparing me for my calling and the future he has planned for me.  If I were to travel back in time, my high school self would not recognize me.  I am not the same girl I was then.  Ten years from now, I don’t believe I’ll be the same person I am today.  God is continually doing a work in my life.

Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  God has made me in His image.  He has given me a true identity that never changes.  I get closer and closer to finding my true self, as I go deeper and deeper in Him.  As it says in Colossians 3:3, “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  Notice the word “hidden”…Our identity will not be made plain, until we start searching out who Christ is.

There will be times in life that we face rejection and hurt at the hands of others.  We live in a fallen world.  Some of this we can avoid by making wise choices, but some of it we will not be able to avoid.  What we can control is the lessons we choose to learn from these types of experiences.  I will admit that in the past, I have allowed the enemy to use these types of scenarios to deceive me and to teach me false truths.  At times, I have allowed circumstances to teach me that I am not good enough, that I am unlovable and that I am not worth sticking around for.  These were always lies.  What God has taught me since is that I can put my full trust and confidence in His love for me.  I am enough for Him.  His love for me is perfect and everlasting.  And that He will always stick around.

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Something is brewing in my heart these days and I am excited to share it with all of you lovely ladies and gents. I have found my determination. Not that I haven’t been determined in the past, but I’m at a whole other level with it now. It’s difficult to explain but I’m going to try.

Not too long ago, I prayed a prayer like this: “God, I trust you, but you are killing me.” I heard a response in the quiet of my mind, “That’s the point.” If you consider yourself a follower of Jesus and have spent any time in a Christian context, you have probably heard this verse: “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). I feel like we trivialize the impact and significance of this statement. I feel like most of the time we don’t truly get it. It catches us off guard when we face difficult decisions and circumstances that cause us to actually make sacrifices. Take up your cross…the cross was an instrument of death. It serves the same purpose in our lives. It causes us to die to our flesh. It causes us to die to our own natural inclinations and desires. It causes us at times to sacrifice our hopes and dreams at the altar of the Lord, trusting and being confident that, ultimately, He is going to have His way and His purposes in our lives. And guess what? Dying hurts.

Back to the subject of determination. It has become crystal clear to me that in order to obtain all that God has promised me, I will first need to push through the pain. I think about the miracle of life itself. In order to see a baby delivered, mom first needs to push through the pain of labor. I don’t have any children of my own, but from what I hear, it is no picnic. However, I have not spoken to one mother who would not say that all the pain they endured was worth it to obtain the gift of a precious son or daughter. I think too many of us, including myself, have tried to avoid necessary pain for too long. We have relied on bandages and crutches to mask our pain, but have never fully allowed our wounds to be exposed long enough for God to do the surgery required to bring total wholeness and restoration to our lives.

How many of us would say that our biggest fear is getting hurt? To what lengths would we go to, in order to avoid it? What if the shortest path between where we are now and a destiny of promise actually requires us to embrace our pain? What if there are lessons so valuable that they can only be learned by facing and confronting our pain head on? Are you up for the challenge?

I am. I am determined to use this season to delve deeper into the heart of Jesus than ever before. I am determined to be aware of every gift that God has placed in my hands, even if pain is the wrapping paper that I must tear through to get at the prize. I am determined to grow and to learn. I am throwing aside every false sense of comfort and stability that I have relied on in the past and am choosing to lean on Jesus with my full weight. I am determined to trust Him with every step along the way, even with the steps that don’t make sense. Even with the ones I don’t understand. Even with the ones that seem to lead me further away from my end goal. I am determined to trust His process.

It has finally hit me that although many of the twists and curves and windy roads of this journey may seem like detours and delays to me, they are actually apart of God’s design to get me to His intended destination faster than I would have otherwise. Sometimes the highway isn’t the fastest route. Sometimes the highway can be more like a parking lot. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is to get off at the nearest exit and take the backroads. Sometimes taking a route that seems unconventional and off course will get you to where you are going faster than what “seems” to be a more direct road.

When I consider the fact that I have no idea where the road will end up, many emotions come into play: fear, excitement, anticipation, to list a few. But underneath all of that, I feel a deep well of peace in my soul. With each yes I say to Jesus, with each move I make to posture my heart towads Him, with each act of obedience, I feel that peace grow. It’s the kind of peace that allows me to experience joy despite what my circumstances may look like. It’s the kind of peace that allows me to be hopeful even when things may appear hopeless to the untrained eye. I sense His goodness all around me. I know His faithfulness surrounds me. And although I can’t say I know where I am heading, I can say that I know who is going with me, my heavenly daddy. He is leading me to something far brighter and more beautiful than I ever would have planned or dreamed up for myself. My determination doesn’t come from my circumstances. It comes from wanting more of Him.

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I’ll Keep My Eyes above the Waves

This week I have been reflecting on the passage in scripture where Peter walks on the water.  For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it goes like this.  Jesus sends His disciples ahead to their next destination, while Jesus goes up to a mountainside to pray.  Later that night, Jesus goes to meet up with His disciples.  Jesus starts walking on the water towards the boat.  The disciples freak out thinking it’s a ghost.  Jesus is all, “Relax. Calm down.  It’s just me.”  Peter speaks up and says, “Jesus, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus encourages Peter to come.  The unthinkable happens.  Peter steps out of the boat and begins to walk on the water towards Jesus.  Then, he sees the wind and the waves.  He becomes fearful.  He takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins to sink.  He cries out, “Lord, save me!”  Jesus reaches out to catch Him and says, “You of little faith.  Why did you doubt?”  Now of course, I paraphrased that story, but you can check it out in Matt. 14:22-23.

I am realizing that I am often just like Peter.  There are situations I encounter in life that require me to step out of the boat.  Instead of fixing my gaze on Jesus, all too often I allow fear to creep into my heart, as I become aware of the waves and the wind all around me.  It’s happened many times in my life.  There are also times when memories of sinking in the past have kept me from wanting to step out of the boat at all.  I have been more concerned with my safety than I have been with stepping out in faith.  

God is teaching me that sometimes stepping out in faith, involves a simple change of mind.  For me, it involves lying down at the altar my belief that stepping out will always result in me getting caught up in the waves.  The truth is that when I step out, I may sink.  I may sink a million times.  But Jesus will always reach out to catch me.  What’s more, He uses those moments to teach me how to navigate the waves.  He uses those moments to train my eyes to stay fixed on Him.  Like a child taking his first steps, bit by bit He helps me to gain steady footing and enables me to walk on the water.

I am done cowering in the corner of the boat.  I am done with allowing my focus to be the wind and the waves.  I lay my past, my present and my future in His hands.  I am choosing to view the pain of the past as an opportunity for growth, rather than a setback.  There is nothing I have experienced in this life that can keep me from the love of Jesus.  There is nothing that can keep me from experiencing the fullness and joy of all that He has planned, purposed and prepared for my life.  It is time for me to believe that, even when it’s messy, even when it’s hard, and even when the path is unclear.  It is time for me to embrace each moment and each blessing as they come.  It is time for me to be fully engaged in the moment that I am in, rather than allowing myself to be consumed with the fear of the future.

This the goal: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).  He is the end goal.  He is the prize.  He is enough.

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You See Me, You Know Me

Recently, my pastor did an exercise with our youth group and the youth leaders. He had us all close our eyes and listen as he read Psalm 139 out loud. He asked us to raise our hand when we felt something jump out at us. Reading it again today, I have to say that it is this passage that stands out to me:

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me attain (Ps. 139:1-6).

Once in a while somebody will ask me what the topic of my blog is. If I had to sum up the content, how would I do that? I once joked with somebody that I would call it “The Diary of a Hot Mess.” I was kidding but it isn’t far from the truth, much of the time. I have heard it said before that men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti. I have heard that men keep their thoughts and feelings in neat and tidy compartments. I would like to know what it would feel like to be able to compartmentalize my thoughts and emotions like that. I definitely get the spaghetti analogy. My thought life and emotional life can be quite chaotic at times. Thoughts run into one another. I can’t seem to separate or distinguish where one thought or idea ends and another begins. My feelings on one subject can influence my thoughts on three other subjects at any given time. Just figuring out how I feel or what I think can be a daunting task. At times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy and definitely prayer for me to figure myself out. It occurs to me, if this is so difficult for me, how can I expect anyone else to understand me?

That’s why I find the words of this Psalm so comforting and reassuring. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to know that the very God that breathed the stars into existence has taken the time to search out my heart. He knows me. Even typing those words, a sense of peace overtakes me. He understands every thought and feeling. He knows why I do what I do. It says He knows every word I say, before I even say it. He knows all the inner-workings of the heart of this hot mess and He is committed to sticking it out with me for the long haul and helping me to figure out this adventure called life.

I am so aware of my flaws and imperfections. I am well-acquainted with every place in my life where brokenness and disappointment have left their scars. God is aware of this too. He is familiar with all of my ways, both good and bad. However, He assures me that His hand is upon my life. He is at work in my circumstances in ways I couldn’t possibly perceive or understand. He will be faithful to complete the work He started the very day when I delivered my heart into His capable hands.

I struggle with feeling open, vulnerable and exposed more than I would care to admit. I have tried for too long to assume the occupation of defending myself against risk and potential disaster. The Lord whispers into my ear that He is my fortress. He desires to be my protector and my defender. As I navigate risk and tricky situations, He goes before me leading the way. He follows behind me, watching for my blind spots. He keeps me safe.
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Perfect Love

Caring about people can be really tricky sometimes, because people are messy. People are imperfect. They mess up. They say and do things that hurt you sometimes. We say and do things that hurt other people. We let one another down and disappoint each other at times. It’s life.

Can I be real honest for a moment? I wish I could control people, in a good way, if that makes sense. I wish I could make decisions for people. There have been so many times in my life that people I care about have poured out their hearts to me, telling me about changes they were making, positive things they would start doing, negative things they would let go of. Unfortunately, time and time again, I have watched people fall into the same patterns and destructive behaviors. Each time it cuts into my heart like a knife. These scenarios have created in me the desire to do life for people. If only I could force someone into doing the right thing. If only I could make someone think or see things the way that I do.

I was reflecting on all of this earlier and I started thinking about where God comes into play in all of this. As I presented to the Lord my jumbled web of emotions and my bruised heart, I began to ponder His immense love for us. If anyone has the right to want to control people, it would be God. And He has the power to do so, if He wanted to! If I had that kind of power, I would have created a family of robots, because I don’t know that I would have it in me to watch my children walk away from me time and time again. But God doesn’t control us. He gives us free will. He does that because He loves us. He does that because He desires to give us the choice to love Him freely. I also believe He does this because He is more interested in our story of growth and our journey with Him than He is with immediate outcomes and forced obedience. He loves us so much that He allows us to fall. He allows us to experience brokenness. He allows us to experience pain, because He understands that all of these things strengthen us and draw us closer to Him. I can’t say that I have ever really thought about this before in this way, that it is actually God’s goodness that allows us to experience suffering.

Meditating on all of this, I heard these words echo in my mind, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” (John 4:18). I have alot to learn about fear, especially in my relationships with other people. There are times when other people’s actions make me fearful. I get fearful sometimes that people won’t change or that they will change for the worst. I get fearful that people will run away and leave. I get fearful that I will get hurt in the process. Anyone else ever feel this way? Lately, I have been learning to let people in despite my fears. The walls have been coming down and that is scary in and of itself. God reminds me in all of this that it will never be my love that changes people. It is His perfect love that brings redemption and transformation to broken hearts and lives. Even when people get it wrong and mess it up, He is there to pick them up and set their feet on solid ground. God wants me to let down the reigns of control. He wants me to trust Him with my loved ones. He wants me to allow His perfect love to expel every fear lurking in my heart. He wants me to know that His is a good Father. He wants me to know that He can be trusted, not only with my own life, but the lives of those I care about.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)

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The Problem with American Dream Christianity

Recently, I watched the documentaries Father of Lights and Holy Ghost directed by Darren Wilson. Both films are incredibly faith boosting, as they highlight what happens when an individual totally surrenders themselves to the agenda and purposes of God. In these films, they interview people who have been heavily persecuted for their faith. They go to places that are resistant to the Gospel, places where one could be arrested, or killed, for trying to share the gospel. I see such fire and passion in these individuals. It is clear that the gospel to them is everything. I can’t say I always see this same level of passion and intensity in the American Church. I wonder sometimes if we have been lulled into a sense of complacency and even apathy by the comforts and luxuries of the American life.

In his book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, David Platt describes how we have in many ways traded the call of the Great Commission for the American Dream. He writes, “We desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the gospel is American and how much is biblical. And in the process we need to examine whether we have miscontrued a proper response to the gospel and maybe even missed the primary reward of the gospel, which is God Himself.” I think that as American Christians we assume that God’s number one objective is to make us happy. Our grid for happiness is usually wrapped up in financial success, relationships and careers. We want the beautiful home with the white picket fence. None of these things are bad things, but they are not the purpose of a relationship with Jesus. I love how Platt makes it clear that Jesus Himself is our reward. He is the prize. He wants us to share in His mission, which is to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). This mission is echoed in the Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19).

Jesus encourages us to count the cost before we make the decision to follow Him. We can be sure that following Him will cost us something. He says in Luke 14:27-33,

And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able , he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Are we willing to give up everything that we have to follow Jesus? Are we willing to sacrifice the comforts of the American dream to see His purposes fulfilled in the earth? Are we willing to follow Him even if it means we lose friends and loved ones? Are we willing to serve Him even if it means persecution? Are we willing to share in His sufferings or only in His joys? David Platt puts it this way, “Surely more than praying a prayer is involved. Surely more than religious attendance is warranted. Surely this gospel evokes unconditional surrender of all that we are and all that we have to all that He is.”

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