Since then…or “The Luckiest Girl”

…that’s me…the luckiest girl…God has done so much in my heart and life in the past year, I couldn’t even begin to spell it all out.  But I’d like to try.

The biggest earthly change in my world is that I got married last August.  For any of you who previously followed this blog, I married the former boyfriend, whom, last you heard, I was no longer dating.  I say “earthly change” because, there have also been (and continue to be) a lot of spiritual changes, and for the better.

The restoration of my child-like faith is one…I can’t really explain what I mean by that, except to say that I had slowly had been descending into a very “grown-up” cynicism and simply resolved to the way life was/is instead of being able to live day-to-day in the joy that God promises us even while we are still here on this earth.  I guess I still felt His peace, but had lost His joy.  And as it says in Nehemiah 8, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  I believe that is why, in large part, as you could read in my former post, I had very little perseverance…I had let the joy die, and therefore my strength was faltering.  My prayer was as David says in Psalm 51:  “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”

God has done that, and I can hardly impress on you how much!  I guess for one, I will say that the “joy of my salvation” is never so strong in me as when I recognize my need for it most.  When I am sorely aware of my failures is when I am most greatly in awe of my salvation, most grateful for it, and most amazed at its power.  That (as opposed to when I am feeling self-satisfied) is when I truly feel the joy and wonder of Jesus sacrifice, when I am less obstructed by thinking of myself, when I am resting wholly on Him.  And it brings a joy I cannot describe!  When I am most aware of my lack of deserving His grace, is when I am able to most revel in His love!

And this has restored to me, not only the joy of my salvation, but the ability to feel wonder, to feel love, and, I hope, to reflect those same things to others.  In this, I do feel like “the luckiest girl,” but I know that God offers it to each of us to feel like “the luckiest;” to live so deeply in His presence that circumstances are most aligned with this particular definition: “an unessential or secondary accompaniment of any fact or event; minor detail.”  The FACT is based in our relationship with Christ and our eternity with Him, and that is the thing determining our outlook, not the secondary events of this fallen world, though they may be disabling, disheartening, disjointed.  We are never promised comfort on this earth, and to live expecting it is to live in disappointment.  Romans 8:23-25 says, “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”  Hoping for what we do not see, but have been assured of!

What does this have to do with getting married?  I don’t really know how they’re intertwined exactly, to be honest.  Very poor writing, to jumble them up if I don’t plan to connect them, I know.  But somehow it doesn’t matter to me.  I’ll just let you readers analyze as you like.

I’ll tell you a little about our life…God really worked a miracle in our relationship, completely eradicating the past hurts and bringing out the best that it could be.  I can honestly say that I could not imagine a better husband or a person I would rather go through life with.  I have never known someone who, when confronted with truth, is more willing to commit their whole being to following it.  Chris is a learner, a diligent seeker, and, as such, when God shows him the way something should be, he diligently chases after it.  And, in so doing, inspires me to do the same.  He is exactly what God knew I needed.  When we started dating, a lot of people had reservations…he was an alcoholic in a rock band with not a lot of apparent commendations.  Now, he is a tireless evangelist, and the best spiritual leader I could hope for.

It’s hard to explain what Chris does when asked, but a friend of mine summed it up for her family when we were asked last week, “He answers really big questions about God.”  That’s in summary, but it’s basically it.  Through the internet, he releases videos and podcasts that answer big questions about God, and thereby receives many personal e-mails with more big questions about God, which he is then able to answer one on one.  He probably spends between 3-6 hours a day answering these e-mails, and the rest of his work-time studying for new projects or creating them.  Less than a year ago, he was still doing all of this part-time, and received no earthly compensation for it.  He was feeling the Holy Spirit compel him to spend more time on it, but needed also to have an income, as we were planning to get married soon.  Around the same time, his part-time job flooded, so a change was going to have to be made regarding his employment.  I called him soon after this happened, and he told me he was doing a job interview with God.  He had looked up job interview questions, and was answering them as if God were asking them.  I talked to him later, and he said he felt like he got the job…and that is when the current adventure began, somewhere in June of 2010.  He went full-time in his ministry, and added a donation button to his websites, believing it was God’s will for him to dedicate all of his time to it instead of just the leftover time.  God has provided faithfully ever since.  We have always had enough, and often had excess.  Being in the position of constantly relying on God for our collective income has put us in a position of active faith that we, as Americans, rarely experience, being so well-prepared, and unaccustomed to risk.  We are trained to live in such a way that we are prepared for everything, financially and physically…so that disaster is averted through our preparation and earthly assurances.  I would not, in contrast, say that we should live frivolously with no preparatory thought whatsoever, but I would assert that where God calls us to depend on Him, we should be willing to live in uncertainty from an earthly perspective.  Chris has no worldly assurance of a next “paycheck,” but we have God’s promises.  And every time things start to run a little thin, God hits us with a big present, as if to say, “Trust me!”  He is able, as it says in Philippians 4, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Living in constant awareness of not only our spiritual, but our physical need for God’s provision is one of the biggest blessings I can imagine.  It builds your faith like you wouldn’t believe, because He DOES provide.  If we would only give Him the chance more often, and trust Him long enough to see it before scrambling to do so through our earthly methods.  I will close with words from Ephesians 3: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

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Love?

I read a book called “The Shack” by William P. Young over the last couple of days.  I think it’s one of those books that everyone in “civilized” Christendom will end up reading, like “A Purpose-Filled Life” by Rick Warren was.  I usually shy away from those books, because of my proclivity towards thinking that anything popular must be stupid.  However, I have been humbled in this position before (you can read about this in my “Literary Arrogance” post), and therefore have learned not to judge a book by its popularity.  A friend of mine read it, and it changed her world so much that she bought it and had it shipped to every friend she could think of, including me.  So, then I really didn’t have an excuse not to read the book. 

It is a fictional allegory about the nature of God and how He relates to us, and it gives amazing illustrations on what love really is and what it looks like.  I really needed a refresher course on that.

I told you in my first post of yesterday (sitting around doing nothing has a tendency to make one very prolific) that my boyfriend and I are broken up, and have been since April.  But that we also still have a non-defined relationship and neither of us are clear on where God has planned for us to end up.  And that for the moment, due to circumstances also outlined in yesterday’s first post, I am staying in the apartment off of his mom’s house.  However, the hurts that caused us to break up have continued and the relationship has become more and more strained, with bits of good moments scattered in.

As I read “The Shack”, I realized that my “love”, especially towards him, lately has been very flawed, and I became more and more aware of the damage my demands and requirements have done to him and our relationship.  Many (not all) of the things I was asking of him were and are justified from most people’s standpoints, but that does not justify the harshness, disapproval and anger I have shown to him in trying to get him to meet my expectations.  I felt compelled this morning to apologize for hurting him, because in many ways he has been trying very hard and he has received, in return, my complete unresponsiveness.  God knew I needed to do it today.  Yesterday things were OK; but this morning he had put this wall up against me…it was like he didn’t even want to look at me.  I feel that if I had been in the same place I was yesterday, that would have been it, because I would have seen him today in the same light I have been, and would have treated him in the same way.  But I went in to talk to him under God’s orders and in God’s strength because I still feel I have nothing to give, and I really was humbled at how my “love” was hurting him.  We talked through some more things.  I still don’t know what the future holds, but I think that this was all very necessary.  He apologized as well for his part in everything, and it was the first time both of us have said, “I forgive you.”

What healing words those are!

Lesson 2 from “Captivating”

I told you I would dedicate other blogs to more lessons I learned from the book I didn’t want to read to begin with, “Captivating,” by John & Stasi Eldredge.    So, this blog is actually about the first lesson I learned.  (My “Literary Arrogance” having been second, thereby allowing me to recognize the first as it is associated with this book.) This lesson has to do with my relationship with my boyfriend. 

The first thing that I want to say is that I have the most amazing boyfriend in the world.  He does not ever belittle me or criticize petty things or ask me to do things his way instead of my way.  He often encourages me, compliments me, and just, in general, loves me.  Actively.  Not as in the state of love, but as in the action.  Any criticism I ever receive from him is for the purpose of instruction, growth or perspective.  He likes to get me to see things in a different way than I have been seeing it, to look at the other person’s side of a story and stretches me when I am being rigid.  I honestly cannot remember a time he has ever told me a negative thing over something petty.  My point here is that the emotional place I had come to was not his doing.  But you don’t know what that emotional place is yet, so I’ll tell you now, and then wrap it all up in a neat little package. 

Somehow, I had come to a point in our relationship where I was constantly despairing over the fact that I believed I was not good enough for him.  Let me state that this was not always the case in our relationship.  I have been, in this same relationship, one of the most secure girlfriends I’ve ever known, completely relaxed in his love.  I didn’t stress out about losing him; I didn’t worry that I wasn’t doing enough to keep him.  You get the picture.  This despair did not come about because of any change in his behavior…unless it was a change in his behavior for the better.  See, when we started dating, my boyfriend was an alcoholic.  I knew it, and we talked about the fact that he knew I wouldn’t be OK with it long term on our first date.  We can get into the wisdom or foolishness of this from my side on another day perhaps, but I will just state that I prayed much over it, and never felt God saying that I should not date him.  Quite the opposite in fact.  But, moving on….  Let me state that he was also a Christian, and ten months into our relationship (we’re at 2 1/2 years now), he quit drinking.  Since that point, I have seen him grow and mature more than I can possibly explain to you.  He’s become a passionate spiritual leader.  And it’s not that he was immature before.  It was just the fact that he had this barrier of alcohol blocking him from being in constant communication with God, as well as keeping him from spending his time learning or studying.  I guess I thought that since I was confident in our relationship, I would always be confident in our relationship.  I now realize that when circumstances change, emotions are quite ready to follow.  Looking back now, I can see that my insecurities probably began to surface when I saw how well he was doing, how mature he was becoming and how meaningfully he was spending his time and pouring out his energy.  My heart thought it meant that he would not need me anymore.  He had sort of eclipsed me spiritually, so what use was I?  The main problem here was that I did not even realize my thought process had changed.  However long it had been since the insecurity crept in there, by the time I recognized it through the grace of God and the reading of this book, it was bad.  To the point that my heart would twist everything he said.  If he said, “You did well on that,” it meant to me, “You must continue doing that well or he will not love you anymore.”  I didn’t consciously have these thoughts, or I would’ve known I was being stupid.  It was more the attitude I took things in.  I was always scrambling to feel like I had something to offer that he would value.  If I was drained emotionally, I tried really hard to look pretty.  I would go through my day in my mind before I called him, hoping I could think of stories to tell him in which I did something worthwhile, learned something meaningful, improved myself in some way so he wouldn’t think I was a loser.  And if he said something negative in the way of instruction, well, it did its own work.  That meant he knew there was something wrong with me; I was selfish or lazy or not smart enough.  I was not perfect, therefore he would stop loving me. 

I know, you’re thinking, how could I do all of this and not recognize it?  I’m wondering myself, but I have a feeling it was something Satan knew I cared pretty deeply about, and stuck his big toe into the crevice of my fear…got a good foothold and just kept digging it in.  Keep her scared and ignorant of the fact that she’s even scared.  She won’t know what’s wrong with her.  Good strategy.  Thank God (literally) for showing me this.  It was taking its toll.  I was tired.  And I really didn’t know why. 

The great thing about this is that it really is something that I can turn off, like a switch.  My awareness of it was all I needed.  I know it is a silly attitude, and a pointless one.  First of all, attempting to be what you think someone else wants you to be will almost inevitably make you exactly what they wish you were not; insecure and wishy-washy because you’re constantly second guessing what your idea of what they might want is along with a host of other really annoying qualities.  I know that my boyfriend, most of all, wants me to be who God wants me to be and to do what God wants me to do.  So, it’s a re-focus.  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all of these things will be added unto you.”  God is what I need in order for everything else in my life to be what He’s designed it to be.  And I had taken my eyes off of that truth. 

So, as to me thinking I was so great at not being a “silly girl,” as I mentioned in my Literary Arrogance blog, I think I had definitely adopted what I would coin a very common, prominent and detrimental “silly girl” attitude.  I recommend this book if you find yourself trying to be the woman you think someone else wants you to be.

Lesson 3 from “Captivating” coming soon.