"Your true love didn't wait..."
One day a couple weeks ago, I had a momentary lapse in reasoning while cooking dinner, I burnt the last two fingers on my left hand pretty badly. As a result, I had to take off my purity ring so the burn could heal and not scar or blister. As soon as it no longer hurt to wear it, I put the ring back on. It was the longest few days of my life. I felt naked and vulnerable without it. Which is 100% silly because my commitment to the Lord hadn't changed even though I didn't have the ring on. Those few days I didn't have the ring, the Lord took me on a walk down memory lane.
A few years ago, I read a popular article about why this 20-something Jesus-loving girl stopped wearing her ring. Her main point was that she was no longer going to sit around and wait for the Lord to bring her the man of her dreams. She was going to pursue Christ with all her heart in this time of singleness and not let the fact that she didn't have a man stop her. I got it. I was in the same place a few years ago, too. I was tired of the question, "When are you going to bring a boy home?" I had a lot of really gutsy strangers ask me if I was married and when I told them I wasn't, more questions about the ring followed. Instead of looking at those situations as opportunities to share what Christ has done in my life and what the ring means to me, I got frustrated and acted like these people were throwing it in my face, once again, that I am single. (I had a not-so-attractive attitude about the whole thing.) I was so frustrated, Quietly and spitefully, I took it off and every single day I made the decision to not wear my ring the Lord was convicting me big time.
At first I thought, "Well maybe the Lord wants there to be an outward sign that I love Jesus." This wasn't entirely true because people thought I was married and a ring doesn't scream "I LOVE JESUS," your countenance and the way you present yourself and carry yourself does. The next thought was, "Well...the Lord will still love me, even if I don't wear my ring." So I didn't really have a good excuse to no longer wear the ring even though it didn't change anything about my commitment to the promise behind the ring.
It seems like just yesterday I decided I wanted a ring but really it was eight years ago... I had just gotten out of my first "relationship" that lasts a whopping three weeks. I thought I knew what I wanted at the beginning of those three weeks: a boyfriend and a future with said boyfriend. At the end, my fourteen year old heart was broken and all I knew for sure about my future was I wanted Jesus to be my future. I bumped into my ex in the hallway at school and the hurt that flooded my heart and eyes was followed by the comforting whisper of Jesus leaning down from heaven, taking my hand, and promising me He would never hurt me. I went home and asked my parents if I could by a purity ring. They were, of course, supportive and didn't look at me weird when I bought two just in case something happened to the other one (Type A personality, right here).
I chose the silver ring with the words "True Love Waits" engraved and I was so excited when I got it in the mail. Before I put the ring on, I wrote a letter to the Lord with my commitment to Him. I wasn't as sentimental then so I didn't keep the letter but the promise has remained the same. Eight years ago, my broken fourteen year old heart promised to love the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I was an empty vessel ready to be filled with Him until I was overflowing. I moved from the driver's seat of my life to the passenger seat. My promise to Jesus wasn't (and isn't) so much about being pure until I'm married, although that is part of it. It's about being faithful to the Lord and seeking His will in my life in all things, including marriage. Until the Lord shows me the man I'm supposed to marry, HE is my husband, my best friend, my confidant, my everything. Now to some people that sounds stupid (and there are plenty of blogs that will try to convince you it's stupid) but before you judge that line of thought, you are not me and you do not have the same relationship with the Lord that I do. In Isaiah, He tells us He is all we need and more. To the friendless, He's a friend. To the widow (and single), He's a husband. To those in mourning, He is the Comforter. I could go on and on but I think you get the point.
About the same time, all of my Jesus-loving friends were going on Daddy-Daughter dates and their dad's were giving them their rings. At the time, it didn't bug me but a few years later, it started to eat at me. I asked my dad why he didn't take me out and give me the ring when I asked for a ring. I can still see his grin and hear his laugh as he answered my question, "Allison, would it have made a difference?" "No..." "You wanted that ring because you were making a commitment to Jesus. You were making a promise to Jesus, not to me. I didn't take you out and give you the ring because it was between you and Jesus." He pointed at my hand and said five words that have guided me all eight years since I put the ring on my finger, "Your true love didn't wait."
And I am so glad He didn't. Jesus didn't wait until He was ready to come down to earth and bear my sins on the cross. Jesus didn't wait to rise from the dead until all the people who wanted Him dead had long forgotten about Him. Jesus didn't wait until I got my mess together to tell me He loved me. Jesus didn't wait until I was less insecure, less anxious, less or more whatever to be my Savior. He has never waited to be my God, my Savior, my King. I still wear my ring because at 22 years old, He is still my true love, my God, my Savior, my King, my everything.
So when the burns healed, I placed the ring back in it's rightful place where, Lord willing, it will stay until I'm dressed in white and looking love in the face. That may be on earth with a earthly husband or when we're all dressed in white and the Bridegroom has come to make us His for all of eternity. Until then, I'll follow my Jesus wherever He takes me.
"Umbrellas up! ...And that's enough pear juggling."
If you don't know this quote as soon as you see it, you need to stop right here and go watch Princess Diaries right now. You'll thank me later.
"'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me."
2 Corinthians 12:9
Most of my life, I have lived with an "umbrellas up," mentality. The umbrella has been the wall around my heart to protect myself from hurt, disappointment, and pretty much any other uncomfortable human emotion. My umbrella pretty much stayed up and it would take me a long time to move the umbrella down just an inch to let you into my heart. It took a lot for me to be vulnerable and to be open and honest about how I'm feeling. All the while, juggling too many pears like worship positions, quiet time, school (a HUGE school pear), family, friends, and a private life. I would hold that umbrella up high with one hand and juggle with the other hand- but that's another discussion for another time.
I keep using past tense but honestly I still do all of these things. Maybe not to the same degree as I did them before but I still have my umbrella up. Why is all of this important? Because, honestly, I'm terrified of two things:
1. Dropping my umbrella and being completely vulnerable.
2. Dropping my umbrella, being completely vulnerable, and no one wanting me or wanting to know me because they see me. Just me. Umbrella-less Allison.
One thing I've learned in just the few short weeks of the beginning of my senior year, is the umbrella isn't all it has cracked up to be. Over the years, I've noticed the umbrella come down just a little bit. A centimeter at a time. Little by little, the big, heavy duty wall that I held with a firm hand over my head and my heart, has come down. I've noticed that the further down I let my umbrella, the more God uses me.
This summer, the umbrella went completely down. I was my truest self: messed up, flawed, insecure in myself and yet confident in Christ in me (most of the time. Sometimes I get it right...sometimes), and 100% loved by my King and Lord. It's not that I wasn't those things before (especially the loved part). Rather, it was that I didn't recognize those things as much because my umbrella had been keeping out the most important person I needed to let in: the Lord. I knew I was flawed, believe me. This summer, I began to see those flaws as beautiful because instead of beating myself up about the fact that I still wasn't perfect, I could see where God had brought me (where He had redeemed me and healed me) and begin to see where He was taking me. He took me by the hand, told me I was beautiful (flaws and all), and took me on a walk down memory lane.
Now, camp will make you put down that umbrella. If you've ever been to a camp before, you know this to be true. At camp, I laid my umbrella down but I was sure to pick it back up before I left. A terrible decision, really. Why?
Pros to having my umbrella up:
1. I might not get hurt - but it doesn't guarantee that I won't.
2. I won't cry - but crying isn't a sign of weakness.
3. No one will see my face as I cry - it isn't the picture of sophistication and grace.
4. I get to pick what people know about me and I can pick all the good stuff - doesn't make the bad stuff go away, it just makes it a secret.
Cons to having my umbrella up:
1. No one is helping me carry my burdens. I'm carrying them on my own.
2. No one is encouraging me or building me up because I'm too scared to let them that close to know my struggles.
3. I have to constantly maintain the perfect picture the umbrella presents about me.
4. Do I even truly grasp what I'm struggling with or do I reason it away?
Over the years, I had turned myself into an island while telling other people, "It's okay that you're not okay. You can be vulnerable and share those things with someone," and not taking my own advice.
I'm not at all saying that we should be vulnerable 100% of the time because I don't think that's what God has called us to do. Scripture even tells us to guard our hearts because everything we do flows from it- it is the wellspring of life. I think God has called us to selective in whom we choose to be completely vulnerable towards and guard ourselves in other relationships. We shouldn't be an island. Instead, we're supposed to be like a small community. I was an island. I was Tom Hanks, stranded. Instead of talking to a beach ball, I was talking to an umbrella.
The umbrella doesn't keep you safe from getting hurt. You're still going to get hurt one way or another. The umbrella keeps you from loving others as Christ loved the church, completely and sacrificially (and sometimes that means sacrificing your pride and sharing your intimate struggles with someone). The umbrella does keep you from crying. Sometimes tears are exactly what you need and tears of joy are even better. The umbrella does allow you to pick and choose what information people know about you but is it really you? The umbrella doesn't keep you safe. It hurts you because it keeps you from being vulnerable before the Lord who will keep you safe. The Lord is a mighty Warrior and our Refuge. He already knows our struggles so why do we try to hide underneath our umbrellas like He can't already see through it?!
The umbrella also holds you back from experiencing all that God has planned for you. 2 Corinthians 12:9 demonstrates that perfectly. When we put our umbrella down and surrender to Him and His will fully, His power is made perfect in our weakness. Not almost good enough, not kinda okay...perfect. Our surrendered hearts and spirits to the will of God is the closest we will get this side of heaven to being the perfect human being God created us to be (and we consistently mess up).
We may think those flaws that we hide so well under our umbrella are ugly and not worth loving or showing to the world. Jesus thinks otherwise. Where we see weakness, He sees His power, love, and might. Where we see ugliness, He sees beauty. Where we see frustration, He sees His grace.
So, dear one, put down your umbrella. You are chose, holy, and dearly loved. It's time we both started acting like it.
Where the healing begins
"As we were being taken away, she screamed that she couldn't live without us but all she did was live to hurt us."
My heart broke into a million tiny pieces as I sat on the floor next to this precious thirteen year old girl and rubbed her back as she wept. Tears welled up in my eyes and I fought to keep it together. You could hear the pain and hurt in her voice. This sweet girl had endured more in her thirteen years than any child should have to.
"...I just wanted to let you know that I forgive you. I love you and I want you to know that Jesus loves you, too."
Her nine year old sister wrote a letter to their stepdad, just one of their abusers. I only knew these girls for three short days but they have forever changed my life. Their strength, their faith, their vulnerability, and their ability to forgive has challenged me.
The details of these sweet sisters lives is not an anomaly. According to statics, there are approximately half a million children living in similar situations. Half a million children. Half a million children that are too afraid to say anything because they know at the end of the day, they have to sleep in the house as their abuser. Half a million children broken and bearing more than anyone should ever have to bear in their lifetime. Half a million children like Anna and Grace.
When I met Anna, I met a girl that was just beginning to heal. Just the week before, she had surrendered her life to Christ and was beginning to walk with Him and growing. When I met Grace, I met a sweet, quiet girl who didn't say much and bottled up her emotions. In those three days, I was privileged enough to watch healing begin in both of those girl's lives.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
-Matthew 11:28, NIV
At the camp where I work, we have a beautiful outdoor chapel. A cross sits on the mountain and a cross paints the stunning landscape. Anytime I'm out there and just looking in awe of God's creation, I can almost hear the wind whisper this verse to me, "Come to me. I will give you rest."
In that outdoor chapel, I watched both Anna and Grace bring their burdens, leave them at the feet of Jesus, and receive rest instead. Y'all they are thirteen and nine. At twenty-one years old, I hold on tight to my burdens, hoping that one day I'll be able to change them or make them lighter. I carry them until it makes me sick and I can't carry them anymore. Then, I finally leave them at the feet of Jesus and in an instant receive healing and rest. I do it every single time and get the same result. I'm completely broken and I need Jesus to come in and save me. We all do.
Maybe we're afraid of getting hurt. Maybe since so many people in our lives have used our burdens to hurt us, we're afraid that Jesus will do the same thing. We're afraid that it's too good to be true and that instead of receiving rest, we'll get grief and heartache instead when in reality, holding onto our burdens is what gives us grief and heartache. If there was ever a person to not trust Jesus (or anyone for that matter) with their burdens, their heartache, their brokenness, it is Anna and Grace. Jesus revealed Himself to them and instead of fighting Him tooth and nail, they surrendered with child-like faith and innocence. They gave up their burdens in exchange for healing, rest, and peace.
He'll do that for us too, every single time.
Our King didn't pick up a cross and the sins of the world for us to fight Him with our petty struggles or control of a situation (that we don't actually have control of). Our King, Savior, Redeemer picked up a cross to have a trust-filled relationship that gives us rest.
"For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
-Matthew 11:30, NIV
I want to have the same child-like faith as Anna and Grace. I want to take Jesus at His word the first time and not keep laying down (and picking right back up) the same stupid burdens and struggles. I want freedom from the same things I struggle with over and over again. I want His yoke, not mine. I can't handle mine. It's too heavy and too hard on my own. At the cross, where we ought to leave our burdens and struggles, is where the healing begins. At the nail-pierced feet of Jesus is where we receive rest and healing from the struggle of carrying our burdens.
Hello, people I love! I feel like all that I've talked about lately is relationships and singleness but I've learned a lot since the last time we talked about it. I wish I could promise that this is the last time we'll talk about it but I won't make a promise I can't keep!
I cannot tell you how many times someone has told me, "You just need to be content with Jesus during your singleness." I don't know how many times I've told friends to be content with Jesus during his/her season singleness. But that's usually as far as the conversation goes. Normally when I'm told to be content with no practical tools to help me be content, I'm overwhelmed. I think, "Great. Here is yet another vague and general concept that feels 100% impossible to achieve." Can anyone else relate?
What's ironic about this situation is that usually the person telling you to be content with Jesus is usually struggling with something that they really, really long for and they don't have it at the moment. But aren't we all? Really, contentment is something that should go beyond singleness and should last until the day we are united with Christ forever.
Here's the reality of contentment in singleness: You should find your value, worth, and identity in Christ when you're single. You should find your value, worth, and identity in Christ when you're in a relationship. You should find your value, worth, and identity in Christ when you're married. You should find your value, worth, and identity in Christ when you're widowed or widowered. You should find your value, worth, and identity in Christ when you're rich, poor, healthy, sick, weak, strong, angry, happy, or any other situation you may find yourself in.
Everyone tells you that you should be content when you're single. What no one tells you that you should be content with the Lord in any season of life and any situation. Our contentment and unity with the Lord should not be contingent on whether or not there's a ring on our finger.
So the next thought that pops in my brain is: What exactly is contentment?
Over delicious waffles the other day, a friend and I were discussing contentment in singleness. I had been asking the Lord to show me what it looks like to be content specifically in my singleness and show me other areas of my life where I should be content. The Lord just sweetly whispered to my spirit in that moment, "Would you trade your relationship with Me for your husband?" Would I 100% give up my relationship with the Creator of the Universe to be united with my future husband?
Would you give up your relationship with God, your only hope, your salvation for a husband or wife? Would you give Him up for money? Would you give Him up (and ultimately give up joy) for happiness as the world defines it? Would you give Him up for knowledge? Would you give Him up for health?
Our answer should be no. We should be so in love with Him and honestly desire Him more than anything else in the world. But do we? Do you? Do I? Thankfully, most days I can honestly say I desire Him over all else. Some days, the devil is pushing all the right buttons and he convinces me that I would be happy with a boyfriend than with Jesus.
When it comes to singleness, most days I would rather have my relationship with Christ than a man. I don't want to give up my relationship with Him, I want to go deeper. Why? Because I know that at the end of the day, my Lord will never leave me, disappoint me, hurt me, or keep me from His best for me. A human, flawed, imperfect human man will even if he is the most amazing person I've ever met. If God's best for me is Himself in this season, I'll take it. Something the Lord taught me a few months ago is that my relationship with Him is training for marriage. In order to have a healthy relationship with Him, I have to communicate with Him, be completely honest with Him, and spend time with Him. I have to die to self and follow what the Lord wants for me instead of what I want for me. Marriage is the same way: Communication and honesty are the foundation of a healthy marriage. You have to spend time with someone you're married to and sometimes I'll have to give up being right or the best piece of cake for my future husband.
Every single day I have to ask myself, "Do I want a boyfriend more than I want Jesus?" I have to remind myself that as badly as I want my future husband to be here, I want Jesus more. He's the only thing that can truly make me happy and give me joy. On those days when I physically ache with longing for "the one," the Lord reminds me that "the joy of the Lord is my strength" and He is the source of true joy.
Honestly, when we all meet and fall in love with our future spouses, there will be something else that rises to the surface of our hearts that we will have to remind ourselves to be content in Him and where He has placed us. We're human and imperfect. It stinks but on the day where we get to kneel at His feet and worship Him in His physical presence forever, it will all be worth it.
So sweet girl, sweet man (Do boys like being called sweet?), "Wait on the Lord and be of good courage and He will strengthen your heart." Hold onto Him. Pursue Him. Allow Him to take you deeper and deeper into His love and it won't be so hard to remind yourself to be content. Keep your eyes on Him and you won't be as distracted by that aching in your heart when you're not-so-gently reminded that you're single. Wait for His best for you. Don't settle. You're worth so much more than mediocre that the Son of God left His throne and gave His life for you. He has more love for you in His pinky toe than any boyfriend or girlfriend could have for you in their entire life.
There is not a single day that goes by where I do not hear someone talking about how they're not "good enough." It doesn't matter if the person is male or female or if the voice is coming from my own mouth. I hear it every single day and I say it every single day.
Allow me to be blunt. Those days where you hear others talking about how they are good enough, pretty enough, strong enough, smart enough, or anything where they don't measure up, those are lies of Satan. Most days, I am okay with it. I have believed what the devil has told me and if he can convince me that I'm not enough and that God will not equip me to do what He has called me to, then I am utterly useless to the kingdom of God. Some days, like today, I'm not okay with it. I am fed-up with Satan and his stupid lies. I know what God has said about me, about you, about us in Scripture and in my time with Him and yet here I am believing that the snake crawling around of his belly looking to steal, kill, and destroy knows me and my situation better than the Creator of the Universe and my Maker.
Today, I'm fed up and I am sick of it.
This week has been a full-on attack and it has taken literally every ounce of strength within me to stand up under it. But like Scripture tells us, the Lord will (and has) provided a way out.
Open your Bibles to Isaiah 61. Better yet, print it out.
Read it all the way through before you mark, underline, highlight anything.
We'll go through it together but first, here's a few things I want you to do:
1. Highlight every single action God is doing in this chapter.
2. Circle every single gift God gives to His people.
3. Underline everything God removes from His people.
Before we dive head first into this chapter allow me to be blunt once again: This is who you are in Christ Jesus and nothing less. This is what we are promised and so much more.
First, let's look at verses 1-3.
In these verses, here is what I have highlighted:
"...Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me..."
"...has anointed me..."
"...proclaim good news to the poor..."
"....bind up the broken hearted..."
"...proclaim freedom for the captives..."
"...release from darkness the prisoners..."
"...comfort all who mourn...."
"...provide for those who grieve..."
"...bestow on them a crown of beauty..."
Let's break this little bit down, friends. In just three short verses, look at all that God has done/will do/is doing in our lives. The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon you. If you love the Lord, everything that follows that brief statement in verse one, is for you. Dear one, if you have strayed from the Lord, come back to Him and you can experience all that we are about to talk about.
"...the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor..."
The Lord has given us His Spirit so that we can go out, represent Him, and tell others about Him. We have no other greater calling in our lives than this. Sure, being a wife, husband, mother, father, doctor, lawyer, teacher, musician, whatever is a great and beautiful calling and blessing but this is our primary goal in life as Christians: the proclaim the good news to the poor and glorify God with all that we say, do, read, listen to, watch, or any other aspect of our lives.
"...bind up the broken hearted..."
In this verse it actually says that the Lord has sent "me" to bind up the broken hearted. It may not exactly be the Lord doing the action (in a subject, verb, grammar Nazi-sense) but in reality, it is. We cannot go out and bind up the broken hearted because of two things: 1. The Lord came to us and bound our broken hearts. We did nothing to earn it or deserve it. He came to use simply because He loves us. 2. In our own power we are completely useless. Because of the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives, God has chosen us to be a vessel to proclaim good news and, in turn, He will heal the broken hearted with His good news and His son. Not because we're all that and a bag of chips but because He is just that good. And, quite frankly, He doesn't need us to bind up anything. He chooses to use us to point to Him and glorify Him more.
"...proclaim freedom for the captives..." AND "...release from darkness the prisoners..."
This is what God's glory and Spirit in our lives does. We were once slaves to sin, darkness, insecurities, addictions, bad thoughts, prideful thoughts, lying, adultery, homosexuality, murder, or anything else that you can name that held you captive. Maybe murder or homosexuality isn't on your list of baggage that you once carried but it is on someone's list. Then Jesus came in, like a knight in shining armor, with a crown of thorns and pierced hands and feet and saved us from all of our sin and released us from the bondage that Satan had put in our lives. He released us from our own prisons; some of them, we made ourselves or threw ourselves into them. Some prisons, we were born into and we feel like it is part of our identity and we'll never be "good enough" because of it. Jesus has released you from that prison and from that darkness. You are no longer a slave to whatever held you captive before and you are child of God, chosen, holy, and dearly loved.
"...comfort all who mourn..." AND "...provide for those who grieve..."
I don't know what you're going through. I don't know what prisons you come from and I don't know what God has asked you to walk through. But what I do know is this: Whatever God has brought you to, He will provide and way through it. He would never ask you to do something that you thought was too tough if He did not intend to walk with you every single step of the way. The question then becomes this: Do you trust Him enough to walk through it? This is a question I have to ask myself every single day. Do I trust Him to provide for me? Do I trust Him to comfort me and strengthen me? Some days, my heart says yes but my actions say, "HECK NO. Stressing and taking control of the situation will totally make it better." Does it ever? HECK NO. So stop fighting Him, controlling the situation, worrying, pointing fingers, and walking away. He will walk you through it and you will be so much better because of it.
"...bestow on them a crown of beauty...."
In this verse, there is also a lot of things that I have underlined.
He gives us BEAUTY instead of ASHES: Some days we feel like our lives are doing nothing but falling apart. We look back on our day or week and can't name any single situation where we've done the right thing. We grieve the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives because we know we messed up and we sometimes think that things would be so much easier fi we didn't love Jesus. We sit back and look at our ashes for the week but that's not what the Lord sees. He sees that we recognize where we went wrong and that we can do so much better. He comes in and turns those ashes to beauty because in those moments where we chose the wrong thing, we deserved death and hell. But God gave us grace in every single moment and poured out His blood for every single moment. Our beauty doesn't come from the things we do but from what He has done in our lives.
He gives us oil of GLADNESS instead of MOURNING/He gives us a garment of PRAISE instead of DESPAIR: We can rejoice in the Lord because of our beauty. We could spend all of days mourning and grieving over our sin (and we should be grieved by our sin) but the Lord wants us to be glad because of His gift. We don't have to be ashamed of our past prisons and our past sins because the Lord has delivered us from those prisons and sins to eternity with Him and peace and gladness that only His presence can explain.
The last part of the verse says, "They will be called oaks of righteousness, planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." We ought to be deeply rooted and planted in the Lord and His righteousness. The only way that happens is by doing what you are doing now: reading the Scripture for yourself and then meditating on it. Commentaries are good and useful tools but they aren't a substitute for the voice of the Lord speaking through Scripture. Also, commentaries aren't also completely true. Test everything you read with Scripture. Hey, even test what I am saying with Scripture. I'm just human and I definitely don't have everything figured out.
Now let's look at verses 4-7.
Verse 4 says, "They will rebuild ancient ruins and restore places long devastated; they will renew ruined cities that have been devastated for generations." For me, when I read this, I think about what we said earlier about releasing prisoners. We can do nothing apart from Christ active and working in our own lives. There is no way the Lord will use us as a guide or mentor to other people if He is not actively working and changing your life. You are never too old to learn something from the Lord. You are never too smart to learn something new about Scripture. Honey, you will never have it all figured out. So grow and change as the Lord molds you and breathes new life into you, even when you're 85. He will restore parts of your heart that you never thought anyone could heal or revive. As you change in Him, He will use your experiences to bring others to Him so that He can do the same work in them.
Skipping ahead to verse 7, it says, "Instead of your shame, you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace, you will rejoice in inheritance. And so, you will receive a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours." If that verse doesn't make you want to jump up and down for joy, I don't know what will! Every single day of our lives we deserve death, hell, and the grave but King Jesus faced those things for us so that we could have everlasting joy in Him. Every single day we out to be ashamed of our sin but instead, God gives us a double portion of joy. We ought to die in disgrace to the Lord because of our sin but instead He gives us a double portion of our inheritance, which is heaven. How great and marvelous is the Lord and His grace! He is so so good, y'all! Because of the Lord's grace and mercy, we receive a double portion of joy instead of shame. Put that on a mug!
Finally, let's look at the rest of the chapter, verses 8-11.
In verse 8, it tells us what the Lord hates and understand that apart from Him and His grace, we are everything He hates. We are robbery and wrongdoing, we are injustice, and I think it is easy to point those things out about the world but it's harder to recognize those things in ourselves. We know the world doesn't love Jesus but we try hard to glorify Him and His Word. It almost feels like we're being unfair to people who are trying, people like us. It's hard to hear that we are everything that the Lord hates but verse 9 gives us so much hope. "...they are a people the Lord has blessed." Yes, without Christ and His sacrifice, there is nothing about us that is attractive to the Lord that He would love us and want us. Absolutely nothing. BUT Christ has bridged the gap and has turned our ashes to beauty, released us from our prisons, given us a double portion of joy and our inheritance, and on top of all of that, He has blessed us. We are so unworthy.
What is our response to those incredible gifts the Lord has given us?
Verse 10 says, "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me with a robe of righteousness..."
We are the so-loved and adored bride of Christ and the only thing we can do that properly honors Him is praise Him and rejoice in Him and our relationship with Him. We get to keep Him forever and one day, we will be in His sweet, sweet presence forever.
Verse 11 is our hope for our lives and the hope for our world: "For as the soil makes the sprout to come up, and the garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations."
So next time you find your sweet, precious self doubting who you are and how you are useful to the kingdom of God, reread Isaiah 61 and see that this short chapter is who you ARE and what you have been promised. He has given us so much already. Brace yourselves, it's about to get even better.
Will you join me by putting your print out of Isaiah 61 somewhere where you will see it every single day and meditate on it for the rest of April? Together we change how we think about ourselves and, in turn, how we see those around us. Together, we can put out the lies of Satan by focusing on the truth of Scripture found in just eleven short verses. The Lord spoke the entire world into being with fewer words than what is found in these eleven verses. That's how powerful His words are in our lives.
Hesitantly, she took a deep breath. She wasn’t sure if the pain that had consumed her swollen belly was really over. Relief swept over her when the searing pain did not return, and she laughed to herself as she realized that everything her mother said about childbirth was true. In the same moment, she was overcome with grief that her mother and the rest of her family couldn’t be there for the birth of her son. Her soon-to-be-husband, Joseph, slept soundly on a makeshift bed made out of bundles of hay with one hand in the manger holding their baby boy’s little hand. She smiled to herself and took a mental picture. This was a moment she wanted to remember forever.
When her father told her of the betrothal she wasn’t sure if she could ever really love this man but on the journey here, he revealed his heart to her. The journey here was long and tiring, especially for a young girl who was extremely pregnant. Joseph took care of her every step of the way. He helped her get on and off the small mule they had brought with them, he sacrificed his own food for her and the baby, and he stayed awake most nights protecting her and keeping her comfortable which wasn’t an easy job. Even though her new life with this man was unfamiliar, she was learning to love him and she knew that he loved her too. Their future together seemed uncertain after the news of the baby on the way but God had His hand in that. She knew that this was what God had already planned for her before she was even born. It wasn’t at all what she had hoped for or what she expected but it was going to be okay and it was good because her God was good.
It was late and the animals had gone to sleep now that the excitement was over. She was finally alone with her thoughts and her prayers. Needing some fresh air and to look at something other than barn animals in a cramped stable, she gently lifted her baby out of the manger, went outside and gazed at the stars. It seemed as if they twinkled and danced with great joy at his arrival. She gazed into his sleepy eyes and whispered, “Hello, my King. Its your mommy.” She gently kissed his head, sat down, and leaned against the stable. Resting her head against the wall and the baby against her legs, they gazed at the sky greeting him in the night. She was exhausted and full of joy and anticipation. Yet, at the same time, she was filled with anxiety and worry. She vaguely knew what the future would hold for her sweet baby boy and she knew that her and Joseph were responsible for raising the Savior of the world. Her eyes brimming with tears at the thought she looked at her baby. “I love you,” she said. “Will you love me too?” All of sudden, every question she wanted to ask him came spilling out of her. “Why did this happen to me? What do I do next? I don’t know how to be a mother! What will people say about us once we’re home? I don’t know that I can do this by myself but there’s nothing that anyone could say that will make me stop loving you. Oh, if only you knew how much we love you.” He cooed and wiggled his little legs in response to his mother’s voice. Her heart leapt for joy and tears began to roll down her cheeks. She whispered to her baby boy, “This is not at all what I expected. Honestly, this is not what I wanted. But now that you’re here, I have hope that this will be far more wonderful than anything I could have ever dreamed. But at the same time, this will be so much harder than the worst thing I could’ve imagined. But to know you forever, sweet boy, it will all be worth it.”
She dried her eyes, tried to compose herself, and looked back up at the stars. “Yahweh, my God, how are we going to do this? How are we going to raise Your son? We’re not perfect, God! Why did You choose us? Why did You choose me to carry this sweet burden? I am just a girl!” She opened her mouth to speak again but she heard the stable door open. Joseph had heard her from inside the stable and had stepped outside to see what was going on. Hearing her words and seeing the tears that had found their way down her cheeks, he looked up at the sky and began to speak.
“We can’t do this alone, God. We can’t. But You are good and You are faithful. You have provided for us so far and I know You will provide for us again. Lord, You know our hearts and You hear our prayers. Give Mary strength, Lord. She has sacrificed so much. Give me grace and peace, Father. You know I need it.” He got on his knees beside her and reached for her hand. Without hesitation, she interlocked her fingers with his and their eyes met. She was relieved when she saw both joy and sorrow in his eyes. It was a great honor that their God had chosen them for this but it also cost them both a lot. It hurt their reputation. It hurt their relationships with their friends and family. The only person in the world who knew exactly how she was feeling right this moment was kneeling beside her holding her hand.
Joseph shifted from his knees to sitting with his legs crossed beside her and he gently kissed her forehead. As he leaned up against the stable, he began to think about all that had happened ever since he agreed to marry Mary. He knew he loved her fiercely and his cheeks turned red with shame and embarrassment when he remembered the anger he felt when he almost divorced the sweet girl sitting next to him. He began to pray silently for continued grace and peace and strength. As he was praying, a name came to mind. He knew that it was to be the name of their son. His eyes welled up with tears and he wasn’t sure if it was from happiness or sorrow or exhaustion. He could feel Mary watching him intently and knew exactly was she was about to ask him. Squeezing his hand tightly, Mary asked, “Joseph, are you okay? What’s wrong?” He looked up at the sky and took a deep breath. He didn’t want her to hear his voice tremble.
“His name is Jesus,” Joseph replied softly. He took another deep breath and looked at Mary. Tears were quietly streaming down her face. Jesus. There was just something about that name. Jesus. They both knew that he had come to save the world from its sins but what that looked like, they weren’t sure. In the lap of a young girl laid the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Holding her hand was a man who was not the father of this King but would love him fiercely and protect him like a father should. They were both exhausted and filled with mixed emotions but they knew one thing was for sure: God was good and He would provide not only their physical needs but also their emotional and spiritual needs.
Mary leaned her head back against the stable and closed her eyes. She needed to rest but didn’t want to leave this moment with her baby and the man promised to her. A few moments passed and her breathing deepened as she dosed off. Joseph smiled and gently lifted Jesus off of her legs. He took him back inside and laid him in the manger. He came back outside where Mary was sleeping and carefully lifted her and carried her inside. He laid her on the bed where he was sleeping before. He sat down beside Mary and watched her sleep. As he watched her sleep, he was in awe of her beauty. He hadn’t really noticed it before. He loved Mary because he knew her heart and knew that she was exactly what he had prayed for in a wife. He wanted to be the man that she had prayed for and then put his hand softly on her shoulder. He began to pray over her intensely, “Lord God, I have prayed for this woman for my whole life. I have cried, I have searched, and I have begged. When You gave her to me, I did not know what You had planned for us. When You revealed Your plan to her, I was embarrassed and ashamed and wanted nothing to do with her. For that, I am sorry. Now, God, we’re here and I couldn’t be more happy and scared at the same time. If I’m scared, I can’t even begin to imagine the fear that is in her. Lord, right now, I ask You to remove all fear and uncertainty from her mind. I ask that You give her peace, strength, and joy. This was the easy part. Things are about to get interesting and I want her to be strong, have faith and joy unspeakable, even on the disheartening days.” He paused and listened carefully to her breathing. His voice had elevated as he prayed and was worried that he had woken her up. Not wanting to risk waking her, he continued to pray silently and moved to the wall closest to the entrance of the stable. He took a deep breath, leaned his head against the wall, closed his eyes, and tried to get some rest.
A Year in the Psalms
On December 30, 2014 I began a journey prompted by the Lord that would carry me all the way to November 21, 2015. When I turned the last page of Psalms, ending my journey, I wasn't sure how I felt. I had spent almost a year in what read like a journal. The words leapt off of the page and directly into my life. The pages that spanned the 150 Psalms were marked up and worn. If you turn my Bible to the side, you can see right where those precious Scriptures begin and end in my Bible. Sticky notes of all shapes, sizes, and colors litter the pages with sweet reminders from Jesus and hard truths that I constantly need reminding of. It was a long year and each day, it seemed as if the Psalm for the day was directly ordained for that specific day.
I wasn't always consistent in reading a Psalm every single day (and if you look in my Bible, you'll see that there were sometimes weeks that I didn't even glance at a Psalm) but God was consistent in showing me what I needed, not wanted, to hear that day.
Looking back on who I was on December 30, 2014, I wouldn't trade the world to go back there. It's not so much that I'm a different person but I've grown into the person God designed me to be. It's hard to explain. There's only a few people in the universe that know the insides and outs of this year and how things have changed. You know who you are and I love you so much for walking this long, hard journey alongside me.
This year, I had to learn to fight for myself. I've spent most of my life putting myself on the back burner and doing for others. In and of itself, helping is not a bad thing but when your mental and physical health suffers because of it, doing for others has become an idol. That was a tough pill to swallow. I hadn't realized that my love for others and making things easier or better for them had come into my heart, built a throne, and called itself god. It was hard work tearing down that throne and I had to reevaluated everything: how I viewed myself, how I viewed my relationships with others, my relationship with God. Ultimately, my relationship with God had to come first. I had to find my rest, my hope, my sanity in Him alone and not outside relationships because they did not give me salvation and hope. Jesus did.
This year, God redefined my definition of worship. He got rid of the rules that religion had put into my mind that had been called truth and replaced with the gospel and my personal relationship with Him. It's not that my definition had been wrong but it had been misguided by years of following religion's rules and not His rules. King David danced before the Lord in his underwear and the Lord was pleased. Why? Because David's heart was in the right place. I may not dance before the Lord in my underwear (because no one wants to see me in my underwear and definitely no one wants to see me dance) but my heart has to be in the right place before my actions can be pleasing to the Lord. I also learned that worship is a lifestyle and not an activity for Sundays and Wednesdays. Worship is what you do when you're showering and you have some alone time with Jesus. Worship is talking to the Lord while you're printing out your English paper. Worship is taking time out of your day to spend time in His Word and in prayer. Worship is intentional daily activities having a heavenly and God-honoring purpose. Wash your dishes for Jesus. Vacuum for Jesus. Get dressed for Jesus. Drive for Jesus. If you start worshipping during the little things throughout your day, it will change your live forever. Trust me.
This year, I've been learning to grieve. I have never truly experienced loss like this. I have friends and church members that have and I have walked with them through it. But it is so so different when you are grieving and your friends come alongside you. For those of you that came alongside me and my family, I am so so thankful for you. Your gifts (the sweet girl who left a gift under my dorm door), your prayers, your hugs, your kisses, your tears, and your kind words have meant the whole world to me. We're so blessed to have you. So, so blessed.
The Psalms have taught me that it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to be angry and frustrated with God and it is absolutely okay to tell Him. He already knows how you feel. Communicating those feelings with Him is part of having a relationship with Him and not just some dude in the sky you pray and sing to. The Psalms have taught me that I am absolutely unworthy of grace, compassion, mercy, healing, and the list goes on and on. The Psalms taught me that God gives us grace, compassion, mercy, and healing because He is grace, compassion, mercy, and healing.
Going through the Psalms was not a walk in the park. It was hard and some days I wanted to quit and move onto something else more comfortable. It was convicting and sometimes David was just getting on my last nerve. But it brought so much healing and redemption and growth in my life that I'm so glad I persevered through the tough days. If you were to ask me which Psalm is my favorite, I would have to say Psalm 103. To me, it is a perfect reminder of what God has done for me and who I am without Him -- a hot mess.
"Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise His holy name."
"Single" is Not a Bad Word
Dear everyone who has recently asked me when I'm going to bring a boy home,
I love you. Seriously, your love and support is amazing and I am so thankful for you. But I HATE that question. I hate it so much because you guys know me well and know exactly why I haven't brought a boy home.
Can I just say this? I'll be 21 in December. My biological time clock is still ticking, I'm still young, and there's really no rational reason why I should be in a hurry to be barefoot and pregnant. Most importantly, I'm waiting on God's timing, not my own.
In high school after a failed attempted at dating, I promised myself, my family, and my God that I was going to wait on Him to move in my next relationship. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made and also one of the hardest. It has been a long wait and I'm still waiting but I believe that God will give me what I most desire on this earth: a husband and a family. These years of waiting have been incredibly hard. For those of you who married your high school sweet hearts, you have no idea what it feels like to be in your 20's without a boyfriend when everyone around you is telling you you need one. As hard as it has been to wait, it has been even more rewarding. I have learned so much about myself and about my Savior, the Love of my life. I have learned to find my worth and security in Him and not other people. If I had dated in high school, I don't know that I would have learned how to see myself the way God sees me. I have learned that there is nothing sweeter on this earth (including a husband and a family) than daily experiencing the presence of the Lord. Absolutely nothing sweeter.
This season of singleness has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. One of the things I have strived to do during this time is change the way I view singleness and the way those around me view it. "Single" is not a bad word. It is not something that needs to be avoided at all costs. It's not a curse and NOT something to be looked down upon. 9 times out of 10, if you meet a girl or guy pursuing Jesus that is single, it is because they are very specifically waiting for the one God created for them. I promise you, we know we're single at x age and we are literally reminded of it every single day. We're waiting because we think dating just to date is a waste of time that belongs to God and our husband/wife. We're waiting because being emotionally involved with someone is just as deadly as being physically involved (you can have your heart broken without ever going out on a date). We're waiting because during this season, we want to bring God glory and when Jesus brings the right person, we'll get to bring Him even more glory...together.
I'm not single and miserable because my value is found in the cross of Christ, not in a boyfriend/husband, That doesn't mean that I'm not looking for someone. I'm looking but I'm also waiting on God's timing. It also doesn't mean you have to ask when it's going to happen because I literally have no idea. Guys have come close but God made it clear and He has saved me from a lot of junk.
The truth is, I get ahead of myself and even worse, I get ahead of God. I start planning my wedding and all sorts of crazy stuff like that (you know you did it too). But now I'm older and just a little bit wiser, my goals and desires are different. I don't want to get ahead of myself and God. I have to trust that He knows what's best and if something is supposed to happen, He'll make it happen. I want to rest fully in the Lord and trust Him to take care of me and bring the one in His timing, not mine.
"But you have to put yourself out there," is something I hear a lot too. I have put myself out there. I have friends that are guys, I just don't look at every single friendship as a potential marriage. But when I meet someone, I don't want my head to be clouded with my ideas and dreams for a relationship that I don't hear God telling me "yes" or "no" and question what He's doing. I want to be so aligned with Jesus that when I meet "the one" I can hear Jesus when He tells me, "I had this the whole time. Don't you wish you trusted me from the beginning?" It doesn't matter whether that moment will be this year, this month, or years from now. It doesn't matter that I'm 20 and still single. It doesn't matter that I'm not rushing to get married and start a family. What does matter is that Jesus is always good and always faithful and He has the whole world in His hands: including my relationship status.
You're awesome and I love you but please, stop asking me and other single people when they're bringing a significant other home. When I know, you'll know because you'll be able to meet him. Until then, help me pray for him. Pray that he's happy and healthy and that he is head over heels in love with the Lord. Lord willing, we'll soon be able to put a face to a prayer.
I love the wind...
Now to any normal person this love of an inanimate and intangible item may seem odd. I totally understand their confusion and concern for my mental well being. Maybe you feel the same way and if you do, that’s totally okay. When I was a little girl, I loved the wind simple because Pocahontas did. I am obsessed with Disney and my favorite Disney princess is Pocahontas and I’ve always had a crush on animated John Smith. Inside the deepest parts of my soul I have always had the desire to paint with all the colors of the wind while my hair wisps in the air with the same perfection Pocahontas’s hair does. As I’ve gotten older and my perspective has shifted, my reason for loving the wind has changed. Now, I love the wind because I think it is the perfect representation of God’s presence and His power.
The wind demonstrates God’s presence through its existence and consistency. The wind is something that we cannot physically grasp. In the same way, we cannot fully grasp God’s presence or even the concept of His omnipresence. Even though we do not fully understand it, how beautiful it is! Even when the wind is still, we know that the abilities of the wind has neither gone away nor diminished. In the same way, when we feel like we can’t feel God or hear His voice, it doesn’t mean He has gone away or that He is any less powerful. All it means is that He’s not moving in the way you want Him to right that moment. The problem is not with God’s ability to move or speak in our lives but it has everything to do with our own perspective. We feel like the wind is not blowing because it’s really hot or it’s raining. We believe the wind isn’t moving because everything around us is telling us that it’s still and nonexistent. We feel like God isn’t moving in our lives because we’re going through a really tough time that’s keeping us from feeling His presence; it’s hot or raining in our lives. We believe that God isn’t moving because everyone around us is telling us that God is dead because all of these bad things are happening. God is always moving and always speaking but we don’t always hear it or see it because our human perspectives and sinfulness are getting in the way.
The funny thing about the wind and God is that you know where it’s coming from but you don’t know where it’s going. If you follow the wind, you don’t know how far it will take you. Following God is the same way; you know where you’ve been and what your past looks like but you don’t know what your future holds because it’s all in God’s hands. You don’t know where He’ll call you to or what He will ask you to do. My favorite part of being outside when it’s windy is just standing still and letting the wind envelope me. I close my eyes, my heart stills, my mind becomes quiet, and I just let the wind wash over me. Every single day, I stand still, close my eyes, command my heart to be still and my mind to be quiet, and let the love and grace of God wash over me. In those moments of quiet worship, He shows me His heart and leads me to where He wants me to go. Sometimes it can seem like I’m just following the wind to nowhere but really I’m following my Christ into His presence and wherever He leads me.
The wind demonstrates God’s power because the wind can be great and mighty and other times, the wind is gentle and comforting. Because of it’s power the wind can destroy homes, towns, and blow down trees and power lines. In the same way, God has raised up mighty nations and brought them down. He has sent wind and rains to flood the earth. He is powerful in and of Himself. But the wind is also gentle. It can provide enough coolness on a hot summer day to sustain a worker in the fields. It keeps our flag waving proudly in the sky. It allows birds to soar through the air with ease and beauty. His voice is not in the mighty rushing winds but in the gentle breezes that just barely brush our hair back. A single breath from the mouth of God brought man and woman to life. With a single word, the wind existed and with a single word from the mouth of our Savior, the wind and the waves are stilled. With one breath, He commands the dead to live again and demons and illnesses to leave. With one final breath, Christ said, “It is finished,” and death, hell, and the grave were defeated forever. The very breath of God is not just “hot air” but wind that is powerful in its gentleness.
I love the wind not because it makes me feel like Pocahontas but because it reminds me of my Lord and Savior. It reminds me that God is moving in my life even when I can’t feel Him and that He is guiding me even when I can’t hear His voice. I love gentle breezes because it reminds me of God’s love and power that comes from a single word. I love strong winds because it reminds me that He has defeated Satan, He is great and mighty, and He was enveloped me with His love, His grace, and His mercy. My God is my strength and my song and when I cannot find the words to describe everything I love about Him, I just close my eyes, command my heart to be still and my mind to be quiet, and let the wind and love of God wash over me in quiet worship.
Because He Is...
Half-empty and frustrated.
That's how I felt a few days ago. I was struggling to see the good when it seemed like everything was going wrong. My head hurt, I had a lot to do, and nothing was lining up like I had planned. It was a rough day and one that I would not like to repeat. The next day, I just felt defeated. I felt like I had let down my family, my friends, and my God. I just kept thinking, "Wow, Allison. You are such a mess." This is not necessarily a false statement but the attitude behind it was wrong. My pity-party was not at all motivated by the Gospel, Christ teaching me something, and doing better next time. It was motivated by my insecurities and my never-ending quest for the all-elusive perfection.
I was right, I am such a mess. However, I was just seeing the mess and not the beautiful mess that I am and that you are. We are a crazy mess but God chose our mess before we existed, created our mess, and intends to redeem us and perfect us in our mess through the blood of His son.
Once I realized that my thoughts and my attitude was heading in the wrong direction, I decided that I needed some me and Jesus time. I retreated to my room with my iPod, my Bible, and my journal. My devotion for the day was Psalm 103 and it rocked my heart, my attitude, and my outlook.
"Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord's love is with those who fear him;
and his righteousness with their children's children -
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, O my soul."
(Psalm 103; NIV)
After I read this and meditated on it a few minutes, all of my feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and bitterness just melted away.
Here's what I wrote in my journal after I read this:
"There are moments, days, times (like right this moment) when praising the Lord is something we don't "feel like" doing because we feel so inadequate and unworthy to come into His presence and praise Him. Whether we feel like it or not, we ought to praise Him. In those moments, we need to command our hearts and souls (and sometimes tell our brain to shut-up) to praise Him. Why? Because He forgives our sins (past, present, future), He heals us, He redeems us from the pit, He crown us with love and compassion, He is righteousness and justice, He is compassionate and gracious, He is slow to anger, He is abounding in love, He does not treat us as our sins deserve, He has removed our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west, He remembers we are just dust, His loves goes on from everlasting to everlasting, and He rules over heaven and earth.
Praise the Lord, O my soul."
As I was writing this down, I just felt overwhelmed with all the love and graciousness that God has given to us freely even when we mess up. Then a question popped in my head: How can God so freely and abundantly give us all of those things that are in the Psalm and all throughout Scripture knowing that we will mess up, throw it away, stomp on it, and throw a tantrum and demand something else?
Because He is all of those things.
The reason why God can give us love, grace, compassion, mercy, healing, every good and perfect thing, redemption, righteousness, justice, strength, and hope is because HE IS love, grace, compassion, mercy, healing, every good and perfect thing, redemption, righteousness, justice, strength, and hope. Every time He shares His love with us or forgives us, He reveals to us His character and He shows us His heart. Every single time He gives us hope and strength, He is vulnerable before us. And how do we respond? We close ourselves off because we feel like we're not good enough to be in His presence.
News flash: WE'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. We never have been and we never will. Not on our own, at least. That's why God sent His Son to die for our sins. We couldn't make the atonement for ourselves to be "clean enough" to enter the Holy of Holies. He had to send an offering for us to be our atonement and to "cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Christ came and died to cleanse us, to heal us, and perfect us through His blood. He also came so that we may have intimacy with Him. Every time God shows us His love, He is inviting us to come closer to Him because He's already forgiven us and He loves us infinitely more than we can understand. He wants us to draw closer to Him so we can get to know Him and His ways. It may seem weird or uncomfortable at first, but it's okay.
That discomfort you're feeling is Him changing your heart to look more like His. That weirdness or awkwardness will eventually go away because the closer you get to Him, the deeper and deeper you'll fall in love with the Creator of the Universe. You'll long for the day when your earthly body is no longer keeping you from enjoying eternal, intimate fellowship with Him.
He is romancing you and beckoning you to come closer, to put your hand in His side, and know how much He loves you - imperfections, quirks, and all. He longs for you to know Him as well as He knows you. Don't close yourself off. Be vulnerable before Him.
On my own, my days are half-empty, frustrating messes but in the presence of Jehovah, my days are filled with peace that indescribable, hope that's all-surpassing, and full of the greatest love I've ever know. In my sinful, humanness, a negative outlook is all that I have. Resting in the love and grace of Jesus Christ, I can see the positive in all the junk and I can know that there's a reason that all of this happened/is happening.
Without Him, we are nothing. Without Him, we are sinful creatures in desperate need of a Savior. But because HE IS love, grace, compassion, mercy, healing, every good and perfect thing, redemption, righteousness, justice, strength, and hope, we don't ever have to know a day without Him.
Praise the Lord, O my soul.
Be still, my heart, when I need reminding that resting in Christ is where my salvation comes.
Run wild, my heart, when God restores my soul and I'm seeing Him move in great and mighty ways.
Jump up and down, my heart, when I can't contain the absolute joy of knowing Him and His goodness and grace.
Love Him always, my heart, because without Him, I am nothing.
I am currently a teacher and life-long student of Scripture learning more about life and Jesus's marvelous love and boundless grace.