“Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children.”
Today’s morning devotional led me to this scripture in Ephesians 5:1. The Holy Spirit suspended my heart within the words as he painted a picture of a young girl playing dress up in her mother’s closet. I still remember being a child, awkwardly stumbling around in my mother’s high heels trying to emanate her femininity. I never got farther than two or three steps without losing my balance and my feet spent more time outside of the pumps as my size fours struggled to remain grounded in a size I won’t mention. As I think back to those glorious days of exploration in my mom’s closet, I’m drawn to the absence of the one emotion that seems most befitting to the experience. Fear.
In a closet completely packed with things too big for me, I never once felt swallowed. The thought never crossed my mind that I should be afraid of putting on things that weren’t my size. Why? Well, there’s a few reasons.
One: my mother was my safe place. My trust in her far outweighed my own inabilities. If she wore these things, how could they be harmful to me? Two: more than anyone in the world, I wanted to be like my mother and the force of that drive blocked out any would be fears from stopping me. And finally three: running pretty concurrently with my previous reason, I simply wanted to be like my mom and in my childish head, the best way to do that was to imitate her.
God is ushering us to step into His closet: put on the patience you have to hold up as you trip over its length, slip into the selflessness that seems to slow your pace, and try on the kindness that overwhelms your own will. Christ has invited us to put on His attributes as our own and in that invitation lies trust, fearlessness and the grace to don the character of the savior. And hear this, you don’t have to feel capable of being like Christ in order to be like Christ. You just have to trust Christ and take Him at His word. You have been redeemed. There have been many times in my walk with God that I’ve wanted to throw in the towel because being patient, kind, and putting others before myself felt too difficult. That’s because I was trying to wear my own version of God’s character. I felt overtaken by my inability to mirror Christ. Yet, I never left His closet. I never stopped putting on His clothes, no matter how much they hung. I played dress up until the dress fit. I stayed, seeking God and drawing closer to Him as I matured into (some of ) the garments. Just as the little girl in her mother’s closet will one day walk confidently in the shoes she once stumbled in, so can we mature into the articles of Christ’s love.
A final note…
In order to be like someone, we have to know them. When actors take on roles where they have to portray real people, they delve deep into the life of that person. In preparation for biopics, actors will study the way a person speaks, their mannerisms, and they even try to get a grasp on the proclivities of their mind. If people trying to portray other people go to such great lengths for the sake of a believable work of art, how much more should we draw closer to our creator, so that we may imitate Him in all holiness, righteousness, truth, and love?
An idol, simply put, is a false god. Although scripture warns us time and time again not to fall prey to idolatrous behavior, it’s one of the most prevalent sins. Over time, the meaning of the word has evolved, allowing its true denotation to be hidden. For instance, in the old testament of the bible, we see the original meaning of the word in action through carved idols, such as Israel’s golden calf. In the new testament, however, we find a world a bit more paralleled to our own where idolatry takes the form of physical pleasures and worldly pursuits. Still, today’s iteration of the word proves itself more cunning through shows like, “American Idol,” where we are encouraged to idolize others for their talents and abilities.
The connotative evolution of the word has made the act of idolization difficult to spot. While the church has gotten comfortable with the lie that idolatry exists only in worldly behavior, satan has weaved this sin into the body of Christ in ways undetected. To be clear, anything we put before God in our life is an idol. This includes, but is not limited to: marriage, spouses, children, careers, obsessions, entertainment that doesn’t glorify God, and… fear. Yes, fear. That’s what I want to talk about.
As I was having QT with God a week or so ago, I was mulling over some ideas He had inspired within me. I tried to tip toe around addressing why I’d been dragging my feet in pursuing them but before I could deflect into more pleasant conversation, God outed me: you have made an idol of fear. It took me a moment to grasp that reality because I’d never thought of negative emotions as idolatry. I viewed them as struggles to overcome, not idols to strike down. But as I pondered God’s revelation, I began to understand that idolatry is not limited. Anything outside of God has the potential to be an idol; anything we place over God IS an idol. Even things of God. Hear me. Marriage, for instance was created by God as something good. However, If I were to obsess over a desire to be married, I would then be worshiping the creation (of marriage in this instance) and not the creator Himself. In my case, God didn’t even create the fear I had, and yet I bowed to it. I allowed it to dictate my decisions, define my abilities, and appraise my worth. I was living in light of my fear, not my faith.
My faith will not be belittled by my fear. I don’t want that for you, I don’t want it for myself, and it’s not what God has for either of us. But it’s important that we keep our spirits alert and our armor fastened tightly about us because satan will enter in through whatever door is open.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
I wanted to shed light on fear as an idol, specifically, because I think Christians accept it too easily. Yet God has called us to war against the spirit of fear through His Word, prayer, and worship. Take heart in knowing that, God has already defeated the enemy, we are simply at war with his lies.
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
In the midst of the urgent call to stay put, I’m moving— literally. Shoes, folded curtains, and notebooks lay strewn about my apartment floor awaiting their temporary cardboard homes. Although exhausting and chaotic, relocating brings about a freedom rarely found in the comfort of familiarity. It’s a fresh start that paves the way for me to decide what stays and what goes.
With packing, comes purging.
Tonight was movie night. I eighty-sixed the popcorn—in my case, kettle corn—and cozy blanket and grabbed a cute cuddly brown box instead. I pulled in a deep breath as I plopped down in front of my t.v. stand. Faux fireplace ablaze, I popped open the entertainment door and grabbed the first handful of DVD’s, of which only a few made it into the box. I didn’t linger on the titles that were placed into the toss pile for fear that I’d lose my nerve to really throw them away. Both my favorite movie and show found themselves among the discards and to be honest, I was pretty sad about it.
As I scanned the covers of my newly departed, a question was breathed into my spirit: Are these movies worth separation from me?
I firmly placed the remainder of the gotta go DVD’s into the pile in which they belonged. I couldn’t trade intimacy with God for a few carnal laughs and a fight in the back of a limousine. Every single day, I pray for God to purge my heart of everything that separates me from Him, and almost everyday, I feel like I’m being told to let go of something else. My eyes are welling as I write this because sometimes, I feel like I’m losing myself to God. With His righteousness living on the inside of me, at times I’m barely recognizable to myself. And on the brink of 30, having to choose a new favorite movie has me a little unglued.
Though I sometimes feel lost, I know that I am never more found than when I am lost in the savior’s love. This move isn’t just about a physical relocation, God is calling me to a deeper level in Him. But there are things I’m holding onto currently that will have no place in this next phase. So just as I am getting rid of all the items in my home that don’t serve a purpose to the person I am in Christ, God is ridding me of carnal ways that don’t serve a purpose in His kingdom.
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
The year is 1850 and the town is Bucktown, Maryland. After escaping slavery and fleeing to Philadelphia one year earlier, Harriet Tubman returns to Dorchester County to guide her family through the same wilderness that led her to freedom. Both her life and liberty are at stake as she risks being discovered on her trek back into the place that had long imprisoned her freedom. Upon her arrival to Bucktown, Harriet is greeted by a grim reality: Her husband has remarried, is expecting a child, and has no desire to return to Philadelphia with her. In her anguish, Harriet questioned why God would allow her safe passage all the way to Maryland for a husband who no longer wanted her. Her plans shattered and heart bewildered, Harriet beseeched her savior:
Why, Lord, did you bring me all this way to rub mud in my face?
Have you ever ended up in a desert when you thought God was leading you to a promised land?
Desert: Any area in which few forms of life can exist because of lack of water, permanent frost, or absence of soil.
Believe it or not, there are many creatures who have adapted to the desert’s environment and are able to withstand its harsh conditions. According to San Diego Zoo, desert critters rest in burrows during the heat of the day and some creatures get the moisture they need from the foods they eat, so they don’t need to drink much water. How does all this desert mumbo jumbo apply to you and me, and what did it mean for Harriet Tubman at a time when her own plans had come to an abrupt standstill?
Let’s see if we can piece this together.
The total collapse of Harriet’s plans gave way to momentary stillness. It was an opportunity for God to interject and reveal to her his purpose, despite her plans; a way for Him to redirect her course. Sometimes, we become so headstrong in contriving our own paths, that the guidance of the Holy Spirit is muted by our desires. However, Romans 8:28 tells us that all things (even our missteps) work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose. God used the fuel of Harriet’s desires to reposition her onto the course He’d carved out for her. When her husband declined her invitation to return to Philadelphia with her, although heart broken, she instead gathered many other slaves and helped them escape to their freedom. This act (according to the movie, “Harriet.”) was her unofficial inauguration to the underground railroad. And thus, by way of the desert, the heartbreak, the struggle, and the devastation, Harriet stepped into the plan God had predestined for her all along.
So, what about you and me?
As the insect burrows itself beneath the ground during the heat of the day, has God not called His children to take refuge in the shade of His love and protection when our spirits are exhausted? Psalm 46:1 declares that God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. Likewise, John 4:14 tells us that he who drinks the water given by Christ will never thirst. The desert creature is not at all dependent upon the desert’s conditions for its water, for its thirst is met by the food it eats. As Christians, we must learn not to look to our circumstances to clothe, feed, or provide shelter to us. All that we need will come from the hand of our Father and His bounty is not dependent on our surroundings. In all seasons of life, have faith that God is working on something far more eternal than our temporary discomfort and pain. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.
In writing this post, I did some research on the desert and what benefits (if any) lie in its perceived wastelands. I can’t lie, it took me more than a few google searches to find the desert’s advantageous side, but I was able to gather a little somethin’ somethin’ for us. According to Science.com, “The dry condition of deserts helps promote the formation and concentration of important minerals.” Furthermore, “Minimal vegetation has also made it easier to extract important minerals from desert regions.”
Any particular Bible verse coming to mind?
Okay, there’s a few, but I’m going to go with Romans 5:3-4.
Ya’ll. There are jewels in the desert!!! My lowest moments have produced my greatest faith. My relationship with God has grown far more during my seasons of drought than when I am replete in all my needs. I’m telling you, it’s something about the trenches that extracts the gold. It’s the testing. It’s the stark realization that what we think we are capable of obtaining on our own, will be lost at our hands. It’s the straight up desperation. Stripped of a job, a home, a husband, a wife, or our health, we come to realize that what we are left with is all we need. Don’t worry, that sentence got stuck in my throat too. God, His will, and the fruits of His spirit are all we NEED to survive and receive the crown of a faithful servant. Everything else, and I mean everything else is gravy.
Let’s not circumvent the desert in order to swim in empty seas, because sometimes it’s the desert road we’ll have to take if it’s the promised land we wish to see. And really, an ocean is just a desert in disguise.
Gird your loins, and get to digging, for there are jewels in the desert!
What’s the difference between a dream and a purpose?
Dictionary.com defines the word dream as “An aspiration; goal; aim.” Also, “A wild or vain fancy.” It defines the word purpose as, “The reason for which something exists, or is done, made, used, etc.”
Dreams are centered around what we want out of life, while purpose seeks what humanity needs out of us. The thorn in the side of human existence has forever been that we are a tragically self-serving race. We get so consumed by our ambitions and dreams that rarely do we stop to consider whether our goals are in alignment with our purpose. It’s not in the genetic construction of our souls to contemplate whether what we want is actually what we were created to be. Our dreams are spun into gold from the ideals, desires, and innate passions that fuel our notion of what it means to be happy. Purpose however, exists outside of what we want; it lives in the space of who God created us to be.
Why choose your purpose over your dream?
Dreams are man-made and temporary. No matter how long they last, we eventually wake up. For example, a successful vocalist may one day realize that her voice can no longer carry notes—smooth and effortless— the way it once had. And if said singer had made this vocal career her entire world and depended upon herself to nurture it, what would remain of her life once she awakened from her dream? Dreams fashioned, pursued, and purposed by human intentions will always have a shorter life expectancy than a God given destiny. As Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 informs us, the entire human experience is fleeting when under self-direction.
10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; And this was my reward from all my labor. 11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.
Another incentive for choosing God’s purpose over our dreams is that we have more freedom in His plan. When we hand over our raw materials to Christ, he can make us into anything in this whole wide world. After all, Moses tells us in Genesis 2:7, that “…The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” Could we have done more with that dust than God himself? Perhaps we would’ve fancied ourselves cooks and made mud pies or sculptors and created elaborate sand castles. Though, our most feeble nor our greatest hypothetical use of the sand can be acknowledged, because without the breath of life filling a heaping pile of dirt, we don’t exist.
Are our talents worthless?
Absolutely not. God gifts us with all manner of talent and skill and He certainly intends for us to use them. However, it is our choice to decide how we wield these gifts. God created all things to glorify Him: If you sing, sing unto the Lord. If you dance, dance unto the Lord. It took me a long time to admit that I was passionate about writing because I was afraid of loving something I wouldn’t be good at. And even when I finally mustered up the guts to create this blog, I was in it for my own benefit. I wanted to prove to myself that I was good at writing by being validated by others. My pride and need for approval made me overly critical of my writing. It became more of a burden than a joy or gift, and I’d go stretches of weeks, often months without writing a single word. I was misusing my gift by allowing it and not God to define me and eventually, it made me miserable.
Only up until a few weeks ago did God deliver me from that mindset. He told me to stop thinking that I had to achieve man- made merits and putting undue stress on something He gave me to enjoy. Whatever His will is for my gift will be accomplished through Him, not me. So, I let go. I gave my gift to God and ever since that day, I feel more free than I’ve ever been in regards to my writing. I traded in a gift; a talent; a dream, for a purpose. No, I don’t know the details and my purpose may not bear any resemblance to the dream I thought I needed, but it will be everything I never knew was waiting for me. It may not be bright and shiny, with flashing lights like I had dreamed, but it will be eternally fulfilling, spiritually satisfying, and a life that was hand chosen for me before I ever thought to dream my own dream.
I choose God’s purpose for my life over my dream(s).
Are You Willing to Give up Your Dreams for God’s Purpose?
Instead of attending church and licking the plate of a home cooked meal, I spent Easter Sunday in Rochester, New York, held up in a hotel room binge-watching the first season of “Gilmore Girls.” As usual, I’m late to the amazing television series party.
Relax. It’s not like I’ve never heard of the show. A few of my friends watch the reruns on Netflix. I’m a, “Law and Order: SVU” kinda girl myself, so the idea of romance and drama in a small town named Stars Hollow was never all that riveting to me in the first place.
Anyhow, I digress.
During a discussion with my two flying partners the day before, the topic of mother-daughter relationships came up and the less than perfect bond between Emily and Lorelai Gilmore was referenced. The flight attendant who had seen,”Gilmore Girls” raved about how great it was and assured me that it was “clean” and “You could watch it with a five year old.” A wholesome show at least in part about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship? Now the Gilmores had my attention. I figured, what the heck? I’ve got thirty hours to kill in Rochester, why not give it a try. So I committed to watching at least one episode of, “Gilmore Girls” on my layover.
Then I watched eight.
In the days following my newfound obsession, I found myself being constantly lulled to sleep by the heart warming banter between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Night after night, I was peeling my body from the sofa and dragging myself to bed. One morning, after one of those nights, I commenced my quiet time with God. Propped up against the chaise at the end of my bed, I bowed my head and began with thanksgiving. As my prayers transitioned from one topic to the next, the Holy Spirit began to interrupt my thoughts. I stopped talking and listened. Then, I heard. Per the command of God, I had to stop watching, “Gilmore Girls.”
Yes, fully involved and several episodes into the second season, God said no. Completely crushed, I told God, Okay. I’ll give it up…next week. What I heard next was as clear as the cloudless blue sky currently hiding behind my living room curtains: “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” I knew then that I had to decide in that moment whether I was going to heed the voice of God or give in to my own desires. And so, my short lived affair with, “Gilmore Girls” came to an abrupt halt.
It may seem silly that God would ask me to give up something as seemingly harmless as a t.v. show, but it didn’t come as a complete surprise to me. My spirit had already been stirred by some of the minor themes in the show. I’d simply chosen to overlook them because they weren’t that bad. Two things in particular that bothered me about, “Gilmore Girls,” was the promotion of sex outside of marriage and promiscuity.
Because of it’s prevalence, fornication (among many other “little” sins) is sort of…expected these days. Not a big deal, even. Yet God is reminding me that we don’t answer to the culture or times, we answer to His word. And if there is anything we watch, read, listen to, participate in, or entertain that is not in line with His word, then we are out of line. Period, no exceptions. We as Christians should not be entertained by the same things as the non-believing world. We cry out for more of God as we continue to embed ourselves deeper into the heart of this world. Then we wonder why He feels so distant…
I believe that God is challenging his people. Calling our bluff, if you will. Are we really willing to lay it ALL out on the line to follow him? Are we willing to give up all the things that keep us grounded in this world? The answers to our prayers to forge a deeper relationship with God lie in our obedience to him. We fall into step with the spirit of God when we learn to trust and believe him the first time. In his time, not our own, for he is our commander in chief.
War movies are my favorite to watch because I love the art and organization of war and seeing how tactical skill and knowledge lead to victory…and sometimes defeat. One of the most vital rules of battle is to follow the orders of the commander. A Lieutenant/Colonel is not given rank over a group of soldiers, but rather, earns their title by proving that they are capable of leading in battle. They have more knowledge and insight than the majors they reside over, which makes it imperative that their subordinates heed their guidance.
If a Lieutenant/Colonel yells to his platoon, “Take Cover!” and one of his/her majors asks why, exclaiming, “I don’t see the enemy!” it’s likely that that individual will either lose his/her life or become severely injured.
Likewise, if God tells us to stop, go, yes or no, we need to be in a position to act immediately.Christians are taking unnecessary fire from enemy lines because we are disobedient to our commander, which is ultimately an indication that we don’t trust Him. If God tells us to move out of the line of fire today and we don’t move until tomorrow, we will have already been burnt. But grace. Even in our disobedience, He is a good God, for He allows us to get burned without being incinerated. Still, why waste time nursing wounds that can be been avoided through obedience. We can say all the prayers, read the Bible in every translation, go to church three times a week, and still not get any closer to God because we don’t listen.
Before God can transition us to the next level, He has to trust us to trust Him. We cannot sustain ourselves in the place He has purposed for us. Giving up, “Gilmore Girls” wasn’t easy at first, but I’m glad I did it. I’ve given up a lot of worldly pleasures (some things I’m still working on letting go) this year in obedience to God. And I’ll be honest, it’s hard and it hurts. It sometimes feels like I’m being stripped of everything that makes me, me. But I guess that’s the point. The Christian journey isn’t about becoming more ourselves, but becoming less like us and more like Jesus.
When I first started working on this post, I typed up some questions related to obedience to get my writing juices flowing. Feel free to answer them in the context of your own life and walk with God.Share or not, but ponder please.
Why is it important to obey the Holy Spirit at the time of prompting?
What are the consequences of being disobedient to the Holy Spirit?
Should God entrust us with inside information if we can’t follow His instructions?
Is it possible that we wait as long as we do for our desires because God is waiting on us to show that we are capable of being obedient?
I slept for over twelve hours last night. I didn’t get up until noon today. I want to go back to sleep but I can’t. I’m awake and being plagued by all the bizarre dreams I had last night. The most frightening one: I got fired. Dreams sometimes feel like an extension of reality. Dream emotions don’t feel any different than those of reality. I woke up to my heart drumming the beat of fear. It took me a few minutes to realign myself back to the dim room in New Jersey. And even once I convinced myself that it was just a dream, I still couldn’t completely shake what had seemed real just a few moments before. The dream was a replay of the year 2014 for me. A new job, a new place, and a wrecking ball.
I want to go back to sleep, but I don’t want to dream. My friend thinks I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I only wish it was that simple. Go back to bed, wake up, feel better. No this is much more. Today my burdens have mounted to the apex of my soul, and have nowhere to go but out. That’s made obvious by my melodramatic writing and bitter attitude. Truth is, I don’t have any real burdens. None worth mentioning in light of real atrocities.
I am my burden. Stubborn and strong willed about things I never do. I read my Bible. I read spiritually enlightening books. I think. Sometimes I hear from God. I do…I do nothing. I told my best friend today, God himself could stand before me and point out the direction I’m to take and I would remain another throw pillow on this couch. Given clear and direct instructions and still doing nothing.
I am my burden. “90 Days of Reign,” is my burden. A book God gave me that I only talk about because I’m too afraid to write it. Everyday, blank pages haunt me. I fill those pages with sleep, useless conversations, and thinning oxygen. Where does confidence come from? How do people know they can do something? Why aren’t they afraid to go for their dreams and I am. Is there a secret store that sells confidence and self assurance? Did I miss something growing up? Was I not pushed hard enough? Or am I just a coward. I know that God says our confidence should be in him, not ourselves, but why doesn’t that feel like enough? I thought I trusted God, but now I don’t know. My actions don’t reflect that I do. It’s not my book, this is not my blog, the vlog I want to start will not be my vlog. It’s all in his name and to his glory, right? Then, why am I still afraid to do any of it?
This post is obviously more questions than answers and maybe I’m just having a bad day. I’ve been in an apartment by myself for a day and a half, plans unknown. I’ve run out of distractions. If I hadn’t chewed my nails off, maybe I would’ve painted them. I cooked last night. I washed last night. I just discovered, “Gilmore Girls,” maybe I could watch that. No, today calls for bigger distractions than nail painting and television shows. I guess it calls for poor grammar writing.
I’m also reading this book. “Driven by Eternity,” by John Bevere. It’s freaking me out. It’s not at all for the faint of heart, let me tell you. It’s all about purpose. Well heaven and hell…and purpose. I’m not concerned about heaven and hell, but I do worry about what my life will look like when I stand before God. I want to have fulfilled his plan for my life here on Earth. The thought of watching some holograph of me sleeping my life away or travelling, or getting married and buying a house, and never answering the call of God is such a dread filled and terrifying prospect. What’s the point of being in this beautiful revolving hell if we don’t douse it with heaven?
And still, why am I so petrified? God’s influence in my life is growing but my body is floating in quick sand. Maybe, I just have never been exposed to hard work and I’m afraid of getting my hands dirty. Maybe I really am a coward. But should it matter if I am? Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord. I mean, right? What am I missing? I sense the key all around me, but never tactile. I don’t trust God or do I? For he has not given me a spirit of fear but…of power, love, and a sound mind. I had to look the last part up. What exactly is power?
According to Dictionary.com, power is: ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something.
Did I just grasp the truth that’s been surrounding me all along? He has given me the spirit of power…of action. I feel lifted, so much lighter. Better. I’m going to call my friend and apologize for being crabby earlier today.
If you’re reading, thanks for joining me in this nonsensical climb out of the enemy’s cave. I don’t know a lot. In truth, I don’t know most things. Though there are two things I’m quite certain of: God is perfect and everything makes sense in written form. Even if I’m bad at it, I’m accepting that writing is my super power. I know it’s an oxymoron, but it’s very befitting of my day so I’m sticking with it.
Six years ago, I was sitting eagerly beside my Dad in a Ford Dealership showroom. “I’m impressed that your credit score is this good at your age,” the car salesman inquired from the opposite side of the round table. Beneath his surprise, respect and confidence lingered in his voice. I was a fervid twenty-two-year-old desperate to kick down the doors of my adolescence and strut into adulthood.
It was my first major solo purchase and as pathetic as it sounds, I needed the validation of a well informed stranger to tell me, yes you’re doing it right. Though it was likely a part of the car salesman’s pitch, he’d made me feel like I was on the right track. My newfound surety soon ushered me into a season of skipping merrily down the road to my downfall.
Fast forward to 2014. I’d gone through three jobs, (one of which I was fired from) and was surviving off of what was left of my two credit cards, the aid of my parents, and meager unemployment funds. I had a car payment, an apartment and no income or savings. Adulthood had really taken me through the wringer. Eventually, my credit cards went into default and I stood idly by as my credit plummeted to a new low.
Here, in 2018, I’m still picking up the pieces from one hellish year. Working to improve my credit this year has been a constant reminder of my shortcomings in 2014. A few months ago, I set a goal to have my own apartment by the top of next year and purchase a home within the next few years. I knew my credit would be a major factor in reaching those goals, so time after time, I made plans to pay off the bills that had gone into collections. Every time I was close to saving the amount I needed, something else came up. It was difficult to save rainy day money, put away for retirement, pay current bills and save extra money for the debts that were ruining my credit.
I felt stuck. What’s worse, the more research I did, the more discouraged I became. From what I read, even if I paid my debt in full, the stains would remain on my credit for the next seven years, so why bother? Still, I was frustrated with the bill collector calls and constantly being reminded of past errors.
Eventually, I saved enough money to pay off my smaller debts. I then decided to take out a loan from my 401k to pay off the rest of my credit card bills that had gone into default. I didn’t expect to see any immediate changes to my credit score, I was just tired of that cloud of debt looming over my life. By this point, I’d reached the end of all of my resources and had done all I could to right my wrongs. I surrendered to patience and accepted the reality that I had to allow time to heal my credit score.
Much to my surprise, over the next couple of months, my credit score rocketed. It had gone from the red zone to the yellow zone, poor to fair. I was shocked, to say the least. To top it off, not only were my debts showing paid in full, they were removed entirely from my report! My past mishaps no longer had a place in my future!
What I find most interesting, is that out of all the worrying, researching, and effort, my breakthrough took place when I became still. It happened when I reached the end of myself. In doing so, I gave God the opportunity to work on my behalf in a way that only he could.
Sometimes, we don’t know when to stop. And by stop, I mean rest. And by rest, I mean turning over our situations to God completely. This is not an invitation to give up, but a call to recognize the power of the God we serve. We wait too long to come to God for the answer. Yes, be active in working toward whatever your goal is, but remember that we should be in tandem with the Lord, not passing off our problems to him like a baton at a relay race.
If we put God at the center of what we are trying to accomplish, we’ll get there a lot easier. I understand that there are times when it is beneficial for us to go through the storm but there are also times when God wants to bless us and we create unnecessary storms by trying to bless ourselves.
We put too much effort into trying to fix our problems, rather than resting in the panacea that is Christ. God has already given us everything we need to succeed in fulfilling his glory in our lives, it’s simply a matter of activating those resources through him. Stop exhausting and worrying yourself over not having the answers and put that energy into prayer and faith in the one who does.
Doesn’t it seem like every year goes by faster than the last? 2019 is encroaching upon us and I can hardly remember what went on in the last eleven months. The most memorable part of this year for me was the beginning. At midnight on January 1st of 2018, I was in the shower. I got out, fell asleep on the couch and I swear, it feels like I’m just now waking up.
Seriously, where did the time go? I remember opting out of making any resolutions because I didn’t want to look failure in the face when (due to lack of effort) my “life goals” didn’t materialize. I figured I’d just do my best to be better. But if I’m being honest, I could’ve tried harder. Nonetheless, here I am.
That being said, if you’re reading this: congratulations, you’re still here too! We’ve still got time. How much, I can’t be certain, but carpe diem! I think sometimes we get too involved in our long-term goals. Truth is, we don’t know if we will ever get to kiss the brow of what we hope will one day be. Lately, death feels imminent. The axiom tomorrow isn’t promised has become more real than ever. There used to be a time when I couldn’t imagine death happening to me but those days have drifted away like a sweet aroma carried by the breeze.
Normally, a topic so morbid would evoke a sense of sadness, but in this season of my life, it has awakened an urgency: an awareness, that my purpose can’t wait. It simply does not have the time. Every part of me recognizes the fragility of life and more than I fear not being successful in the eyes of the world (or myself), I panic at the thought of not completing the earthly assignment given to me by God.
This panic has prompted me to make a true effort to put my wants and dreams in perspective. I have to ask myself, do the things I want most align with the purpose God has given me? Not always. I’m currently fixated on moving out at the beginning of next year. The search for somewhere to live consumes a good portion of my day and when I’m not searching for places to stay, I’m busy making photo collages of home decor. It’s pretty bad. All the while, I’ve been given an assignment that I’ve been steadily neglecting.
Next year, I’ll be making one resolution: Everyday make a conscious choice to take the next step toward my purpose. Whether it’s something as simple as a prayer, reading a novel, or writing the first sentence of my book, I want to step into my future, not leap. There’s invaluable worth in the baby steps. We get so caught up in dreaming “big” that we forget big was once small. So chill.
In no way am I encouraging small aspirations. We serve a God who is not limited by any human notion and he has great plans for each of us. I just don’t want us to forget that great doesn’t necessarily mean big or famous, or wealthy, or a partner. It simply means surrendering to God’s plan for our lives and taking whatever step is next to fulfill it. That’s greatness. I think we’ll find that if we do this, we’ll gain more than we could’ve ever attained on our own.
So let’s forget about New Year’s resolutions: what can we do right now (and before the year is up) that would be a step in the direction of our God-given purpose?
I’ll go first. For me, it’s writing this entry. I didn’t feel like it and I’m not confident that it’s any good, but I’m going to post it anyway. Beside me are two notebooks, which contain outline drafts for my book, “90 Days of Reign.” I want to open them and work on my story but I can’t promise. Though it is, in fact, my next step and I don’t have forever…
When it comes to inconsequential matters like ordering food or making minor reservations, I never give my real name. Celestial just seems nine letters too troublesome for a box of pizza. Besides, why put people through the bother of fumbling around the spelling and pronunciation? So to avoid any unnecessary confusion, when asked for my name, I respond: “Sure. It’s Ashley.”
In the first place, Ashley is a far simpler name than Celestial. But beyond that, it’s familiarity gives people a sense of comfort, however wrong or right they may be. Still, no matter my reasons for providing an alias to passing strangers, my name isn’t Ashley: it’s Celestial. And were I to develop a real relationship with one of these strangers, they could no longer go on calling me Ashley. To do so would be an indication that they still don’t know me, regardless of how familiar I may seem.
Familiarity: the thief of intimacy. Indeed, I am familiar with quantum physics, but I couldn’t begin to tell you even the most major concept of that theory. (Although, I probably could now because I just looked it up.) Likewise, just because we hear about or see someone often doesn’t mean that we know them deeply. For example, you know that friend of a friend who you occasionally see at gatherings? You always mistake her name for Brenda, when really it’s Shannon. Yes, that girl: take a moment to consider why you always forget her name. Could it be because you have no real relationship or ties to her and therefore her name could be Kjgwqeoigesokgn and she would still just be a friend of a friend, better known as Brenda?
Yet, isn’t that what many of us have done to God? We’ve put him in the friend of a friend zone, and as a result, we often forget his name. So instead of God, we call him The Universe today, Good Vibes tomorrow, and Positive Energy the next day. I admit these names are easier to digest than the mystifying name of God, but they hold no true value. They’re simply titles we use to circumvent the name of God because we’ve decided that his is far too difficult a name for us to be concerned with.
What’s interesting though, is that we still want the benefits of God’s nature. We send positive vibes to The Universe in hopes of receiving the grace, love, and hope that is solely God’s to give. We don’t want to submit to his ways that are in place purely for our benefit, yet we want to reap the rewards that come through obedience. In any other iteration of life, this line of thinking would be illogical.
It’d be like asking me to help you come up with a budget even though you know I’m imprudent with money. Tiffany, however, is an accountant and frugal, but you don’t like her. So instead, you choose me and my likeability to help you budget, while somehow expecting the money conscious rewards Tiffany has to offer.
Life doesn’t work that way. At all. We don’t get to cherry-pick the characteristics of God we like, and with them, create our own deity.
It’s easy to call God anything but God when we don’t really know him. I’m not talking about being religious, I’m speaking of relationship and spirituality. For Christians, we shouldn’t be reading the Bible and praying strictly because it’s our “religious duty,” we should be doing these things to forge a deeper relationship with God. I’m not saying it happens overnight, and yes, sometimes we will have to force ourselves to pray and read our Bible. Discipline is required, but the reward of our faithfulness is being one with our creator and thirsting no more.
Running from God to false names may provide a temporary balm to our plight, but ultimately, it will lead to further confusion. I know that living in this world can make it hard to believe in an all-powerful God who is allegedly good. I won’t pretend to have all the answers.
If I may, however, offer my advice: call God by his name even in your uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to confront him with your questions. But be ready for the answers. God is not daunted by your inquiries. He wants to show you who he is, and the wonderful plans he has for you.