Not because I don't have anything to say. Not because I haven't had the time. Not because I haven't had the urge.
Quite frankly, it is because I have been too stressed and exhausted. Doing anything outside of eating and sleeping seems to be on par with running a marathon....I simply haven't had the energy. (By the way, to catch you up, after a Echo, Stress Test and Coronary CT, I got the clear to run again, my heart is fine....well, physically at least.)
Life has been going along swimmingly the past few years. Yes, I've had crappy weeks here and there when things were a bit more gloomy than usual, but I always seemed to get through them pretty quickly.
But this time, this time has been different. I can pinpoint the day that it all kind of came crumbling down, (Saturday, November 2nd) the day I realized that I couldn't ignore a prompting that God had been whispering to me for the past couple of years. My heart finally caught up to the place that He has been preparing it for....my head, that seems to be taking a little bit longer.
The difficult thing is that the place he has been asking me to go isn't just about going. It is never that simple. To go someplace new requires that you leave where you are, and, for a time, requires you to be someplace in between. It is this space in between where things get uncomfortable, where we are pushed beyond our strengths and forced to lean on His. It is the space in between where we grow.
The truth is, sometimes when we follow God's plan, sometimes when we do exactly what he asks us to do, it can be lonely, it can be hard and it can be painful. The space in between where we are and where God calls us to be is filled with tears, pain, prayer and a whole lot of faith.
The most confusing thing about feeling this way is that I have never in my life felt so connected with God. I have no doubts, whatsoever, in my heart, that I'm doing exactly what he wants me to be doing, but yet, I am struggling.
I think, sometimes, as Christians, there is this assumption that if you have enough faith, that if you do all the "right" things, you won't have any struggles. I think, sometimes, this belief is enforced by teachings in the church. We frequently get formulas for success. We get directions for the steps you need to take to have a "good" life. Sure, they always include saying "Yes" to Jesus, but that part always seems so small. Sometimes I wonder if we're actually trying to get after Jesus' heart, or if we're just looking for all the good things that come with it.
I spent so much of my life stuck in that place. Get rid of all your debt, and then you will be able to live the life that God wants you to live. Don't live together or sleep together before you are married and you will have a great marriage. Do X, so that Y. Sounds great, right? Except that it isn't that easy and it doesn't always work that way. When it doesn't, it can create a whole lot of bondage and guilt if it is too late for X. It can also create a lot of pride when we take credit for our greatness instead of giving the credit to God.
The truth is, none of us can ever do anything good enough to make up for the sinful things that we do. The minute we start to take credit for the good in our lives is the minute we loose sight of the grace that has been poured out for us, grace that was given to us, that we did and can do NOTHING to earn.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10
God has been pounding this into my head lately, trying to get me to understand it. He has been urging me to let go of the guilt and shame. To get rid of the expectations that the world has set for a "good" life. Managing behavior doesn't bring freedom, God desires so much more for us than to simply make wise choices. God desires for us to be fully known, he knows and wants us to share the good, bad and ugly. When we are fully known and yet delighted in by the one who created us, we can come to a very beautiful place. (If this is at all a struggle for you, I so strongly recommend checking out the Recovering Redemption series by The Village Church. It is a long series, but so well done, I found a lot of healing and freedom in it.)
As I've been studying the book of Nehemiah with my small group, I have been praying for God to help show me what he has made me for, what specifically He has broken my heart for. I have a very tender heart and my heart breaks for a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons, so it is easy for me to loose focus. However, God has been so clearly refining this for me. He has made it so clear to me lately that my heart breaks the most for people who struggle with mental health issues and/or addiction. I think the church is easy to dismiss so many of these people as too broken, too unhealthy and too imperfect to be part of the body of Christ. There is some belief that a person couldn't possibly struggle with these kinds of things if they loved Jesus enough. So instead of walking beside them, loving them in spite of and because of their struggles, we shove them out the door and wait for them to figure it out on their own.
I believe so much that God uses our struggles to help heal someone else going through the same things, and this area has always been a struggle for me and for many people I love. I visited my dad in the behavioral health unit of the hospital when I was 8. I watched my mom go through many dark times when she couldn't even get out of bed. I lived with crippling anxiety and depression in my teenage years through mid 20's which lead to some horrible choices regarding the "men" I dated the complete lack of self worth that I had. When I look back, it is so completely obvious that God had his hand of protection on my life. I never gave up my search for him and he never gave up calling for me, it just took me a little bit longer to find my way into HIS arms than it takes some other people and I stumbled a lot along the way. Now I want to show others the grace that He showed me, I want to be there to build others up as they struggle.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16
There is a church, just a few blocks from our house, that we have passed by every time we have gone to the church we have called home for the last 8 years. A church that is in our physical community, but, where we know no one. A church who's goal is "to tear down walls between social classes, genders, races, and most of all, between people and their Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ." A church that James and I have both felt God calling us to for quite some time, but have chosen to ignore because it would mean leaving a church filled with people that we love.
So we find ourselves in that space in between. Where we have decided to leave so many people that we love, and a mission that is VERY important, to go someplace that God has asked us to go, to be a little bit more of who he made us to be and for that to be ok.
As we watch and see what he is doing here, I would appreciate all of your prayers. As settled as I feel in our decision, it has been a very lonely place to be. I pray so much that we would be able to keep relationships that we have formed over the years and that we would be able to cheer each other on, knowing, understanding and celebrating that we are all ONE body.
As I think about being in this place, I can't help but think about this season of Advent, where we do find ourselves in between the birth of Christ and His second coming. As we wait expectantly, we wait with hope for the day where we can be reunited with Him. I was remind of the word, Sehnsucht, this weekend. This is a word that C.S. Lewis used frequently and describes it as the "inconsolable longing" in the human heart for "we know not what." So during this season, I will wait in this space in between and find my hope in the promise of the future.
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— (1 Corinthians 2:9)