The Distance

 

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“And when I feel a million miles away, still you connect me in all your ways, and create in me something I would never have seen.”

We’re taught that He is closer than our skin, ever present, never ignoring our pleas and questions. We learn to feel His nearness, know His presence, and hear His voice. And these feelings, these earthly sensations, ideas, and concepts shape our reality of who He is.

But sometimes these things we learned and once felt so confidently, feel far away and unattainable. We wait in silence, feeling the the distance imposed void in our souls. We read with no understanding, we speak with no connection, we listen but hear no response. We feel empty, though we haven’t poured into. We feel empty, but can’t be refilled. No words can be found, and our tears run dry. Only a silent distance between us and our Maker, the Lover of our souls.

We ask ourselves what we are doing wrong, we ask ourselves what we need to change, add, fix, or sacrifice. We work. We strive. We get tired. We cry. We loose heart. We feel the burden of the world without His presence near enough to lay the burden down.

When did we forget that our God is a God of reality greater than feelings, greater than fears, greater than earthly ideas and concepts. He has not left us, He has not abandoned us. Though He may be silent now, He will speak again. We will not miss a thing as long as our ears remain attentive through the silence. Though He may feel far, He isn’t. He is not a God to run when we fall short or find ourselves in crises. But instead, He chooses to draw nearer in these times. We often just don’t know how to perceive Him in bigger and more abstract ways. But He is here.

He is a God of freedom and a God of grace. Not avoidance and abandonment. He wants us to run freely, knowing His presence is near, and bigger than our own understanding. Run in freedom, your Father is near, and He loves you.

 

…..

“Well I’m embarrassed to admit, the distance I’ve been feeling, has all been self imposed.”

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Letting You Love Me

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“But if I refuse to feel, I’ll never bleed, but I’ll never heal.” ~JJ Heller ‘Sound of a Living Heart.’

I was a master of camouflage. Learning how to hide away, deep inside myself. Eyes down, head down, behind layers of skepticism, doubt, and bitterness, I hid.  Away from humanity. Hiding from the potential of community. Because my experiences had always taught me that that community comes at the cost of vulnerability, and vulnerability results in betrayal. So I did’t seek you out, and when you sought me out, I approached you quickly through the eyes of a skeptic. Doubting you, resisting you, and making sure the wall between us was not compromised.

This wasn’t always conscious. I became so accustomed to doubting people, their intentions, and their sincerity, that I didn’t even realize what was happening, nor did I realize the extent to which it was happening.

The condition of my heart progressively transformed my interactions. Not only did I begin to doubt the sincerity of those around me, but I also began doubting the importance of what I had to say, what I had to offer; therefore, constantly redirecting the conversation back to you, for fear of loosing both your interest and your validation. I didn’t realize how much I needed you, how much you could offer me. So I never sought more than surface level encounters, because that was all I believed in.

Then, the loneliness crept in. The isolation became too strong. Suddenly, I was not protecting myself anymore, I was only hurting myself by trying to suffocate this essential human need for community. In broken surrender I had to learn to forgive in order that I could learn to love and be loved. I did this the only way I knew how, by following Jesus’ example of love. We love because He first loved us. This love is not circumstantial. This love is not a response to good deeds. This love is not a attempt to gain some kind of mutuality.

That truth was all I could hold on to as I bridged the gap from my island of insecurity and skepticism to the land of the living.

But it was enough.

As I surrendered, He broke down my walls of bitterness, and I learned to forgive. He broke down the walls of doubt, and taught me to trust again. He broke down my walls of defense, and reminded me I was not dependent on the love of other’s. And he broke down my my stubborn independence, and taught me of a community stronger than my self.

God changed my perspective of who He was, and therefore redefined my expectations of people. I learned God’s desire is to flow through all my empty places, leaving me with no voids left for others to fill. Because of this, I could let them into my life, not dependent on the outcome of these relationships. 

Cause that was never the goal of community anyway, for us to get what only God can provide from others. Community is a gift, but not a replacement for God. Bring to Him your broken pieces, painful memories, and empty places. Let Him invade these places. Then, and only then, can you can take a hold of the hands around you, allowing them to be your support.

Sometimes I still forget this though. Sometimes, I still forget that God wants me to let people in, and I realize yet another layer of my doubt and skepticism. And in this, I instinctually flee towards the old, skeptical version of myself, and remain hidden, using my instinctual quiet personality as an excuse to shut the world out of my heart. I have to be reminded, by both God and others, that this idea of community is part of God’s plan for us, and it is well worth the risk.

Be My Strength


We all want to be the strong ones. The ones who have it figured out. The ones with all the answers. The ones to overcome temptation. The ones who encourage and uplift. We want to be the ones who don’t cower down in moments of fear, or run and hide. We all want to be the strong ones.

But sometimes we aren’t, and that’s ok.

You don’t always have to be the strong one. You don’t always have to have it all together. It’s ok to not have the answers this time. It’s ok that you your still fighting off that temptation. It’s ok that you have no encouragement left to offer. It’s ok that you don’t wanna stay and fight. And it’s ok that you feel unbearably weak. It’s ok to let someone hold you up and be your strength.

But it’s hard. We would rather fight the current, struggling to just keep our heads above the water than reach out and let someone take hold of our hand. At least I would…

I’m scared to show you my weakness. I’m scared to admit that the strength I once extended towards you, is slowly fleeing from myself. I’m scared to let you in to see the parts of me that don’t quite measure up.

So instead I hide my weakness. I hide my struggles and my temptation. I hide my failures and I hide my fears. I put on my mask of strength, and tell you that I am good. I tell you about my life, filtering out the things that don’t reflect the deep, inner strength I so long for.

But the truth is, sometimes I am weak. And I need you. I need you to be the strength that I am so desperately fighting to find. I need you to throw me that life vest that you hold, and help me get back to the shore. I need you to remind me of the things I know, the things I believe, and the things I am still fighting to hold out hope for.

But I have to let you in first. I have to let you see the parts of me that aren’t as pretty as I’d like. I have to be honest, vulnerable, and transparent with you. If I want you to love me, I have to let you love me. I have to break down these walls that surround my heart, and take hold of your hand. I have to be willing to lay aside my pride, my unrealistic expectations, and my skepticism and let you love me. Because I need you, and that’s ok. 

Following to Lead

IMG_1115“Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be. Ask the former generations, and find out what their ancestors learned, for we were only born yesterday and know nothing.” Job 8:7-9

I go to a Christian University that has intertwined leadership into every aspect of our campus life, both spiritual and academic; their goal is to raise up leadership that will raise up more leadership. A goal they surely live up to.

I came into this school year, my freshman year, as a shy, timid, insecure, girl who didn’t understand what this kind leadership actually meant, and what it looked like in the life of a Believer. The Lord placed this verse from Job on my heart back at the beginning of the fall semester. He then began revealing to me the multitude of individuals He had placed above me in order for me to learn from their experience and wisdom. As I watched these individuals love God and love people, I learned, 1.) Love is key in building community. 2.) Service is anywhere where genuine love is. 3.) And as Christians, we are all entitled as leaders through Jesus Christ

I spent the entire year watching as the individuals around me poured out love to everyone. This is not a selective love. This is love like Jesus, loving the most exposed of sinners, the formerly rejected, and those who thought they were beyond being lovable, those like myself. Love was never the result of a friendship with these individuals, rather love was what initiated these relationships. This is what truly stood out to me. In the past, I always had to earn my way into people’s lives. But this kind of love taught me that you love regardless and you always love first. Through this kind of love, I built relationships and friendships with people just because we ran into each other in the halls and around campus, and they chose to remember my face and learn my name. Their love made me realize I was not overlooked, and that I mattered to them. It is such a joy to realize you matter to a stranger.

These individuals taught me that service is the overflow of a heart full of sincere love. These individuals live selflessly. They don’t just talk a nice talk, but their actions are bigger than even the great love they speak. They do it with the purest of humility. Through their service, they mirrored the image of servanthood Jesus left for us, and drove me straight toward the Bible to undercover more of that image.

But what left the most lasting impact on me was that through their leadership, they truly fulfilled the passion of our school by revealing to me the leadership potential in myself. They highlighted who God designed me to be, not the person I so feared I was. They did this by calling out attributes in me that I had overshadowed, overlooked, and underestimated. They called out the potential, the goodness, and the strength in these things. They believed in me when I did not believe in myself. Because of this, I see now, that regardless of the titles and positions I may or may not have, I was born to be a leader long before these positions, and will be long after they fade. I am entitled because of the Lord, not because of a physical Earthly title.

What fills my heart with such joy, is that the leaders I speak of, many of them did not even hold a leadership position above me. They were simply individuals who already understood what I had yet to learn, that through God’s call on our lives, we are all leaders. We have a calling. A calling to love, to serve, and to bring out the leaders in those around us who are hesitant to bring it out in themselves.

We recently had a ceremony to recognize the graduating leaders of our University. It filled my heart with such gratitude as each one of them got up to share a final word with their fellow classmates. It was sad to know they were leaving, because even in this short time span, each one of them has touched my life in inspiring ways, they encouraged my heart and contributed to my own passion and visions for this school. Not only that, but they taught me I can make these dreams realities through the God-given leadership inside of me.

I realized as they said their goodbyes, that those of us who are staying behind have some big shoes to fill. I am honored to have encountered such amazing individuals who touched my life in such powerful ways, and am privileged to have such high standards to fulfill.

It Wasn’t Just About Shakespeare

“I always knew after all these years there’d be laughter, there’d be tears, but I never knew I’d walk away with so much joy but so much pain. “

Report cards, math test, science projects, english papers, group work, and embarrassing P.E. moments. We learned all these subjects, and participated in all of these activities during our high school careers. But lets be real, high school teaches us so much more than just how some crazy guy decided to put letters in math, high school teaches us about life, and the people that make it up. At least I know it sure did for me.

Graduation is in less than a month, and I have been doing a lot of reflecting over the past four years and how they have shaped me. As I have been reflecting, I’ve realized the most important thing I learned wasn’t the birth place of Shakespeare. Rather, the more important lessons I learned were the ones that taught me about the deeper aspects of life: that life wasn’t always fair, but it was always good, life is unpredictable and sometimes very scary, but you can’t live in fear, friends will turn their backs on you, but don’t let that keep you bitter and hard hearted, and lastly, high school taught me that I was a lot stronger than I ever believed I could be.

I didn’t learn these things because everything went the way I planned, and nothing bad ever happened to me. I learned these lessons in my darkest hours.  Walking into high school my freshman year, I don’t think my fourteen year old self could imagine all that the next four years would hold. I think I was naive to many of the heartaches I would face, and also unaware of the blessing in disguise that I would find through these times. I had these ideas in my head of what high school would be like. I always knew I would have  such a feeling of joy and pride when I finally walked across the stage, but I had no idea of the things that would happen to get me to that point of accomplishment.

Going into high school I had a large circle of like-minded friends. For the most, part this group seemed to remain constant through freshman year. However, people move away, peer pressure hits, people change, and people turn their backs on you. I learned that friendship wasn’t always a forever thing, sometimes it was a very short lived thing. In high school, girls don’t need a reason to quite being your friend, and you don’t have to do them any harm for them to treat you wrong. For awhile, this made me pretty bitter. I became so hurt by what people had done to me, and how they treated me, that I decided it was better to just lock people out of my life. I didn’t let people get close because I didn’t want to be hurt again. At that point, I didn’t think the risk was worth what I might gain. I soon learned I was wrong. As hard as forgiveness was, I learned it was harder to stay bitter. I had to forgive and let people into my life. My circumstance never seemed to change, but when I decided to forgive, I felt joy again. I was able to enjoy time with people without anticipating their betrayal. I learned to enjoy people for who they were, not who I wanted them to be, who I thought they should be, or even who they used to be.

Junior year my school lost three classmates. This was a devastating event that hit like some kind of nightmare. I don’t think I actually came to terms with the reality of this until a year after it happened. I have lost relatives, close relatives even. But somehow this was completely different. It was unexpected, it wasn’t fair, and it didn’t make since. Our classmate were suppose to be walking across the stage with us in June to receive their diploma, but God had a different plan. One that still doesn’t make since. I can’t speak for all my classmates, but I know God taught me a lot about life through that time. Its one of those things that you either fall apart in confusion, or you just let go and let God. I wanted hope and healing for my entire school; their were so many devastated people who had no hope in God to fall back on, and that broke my heart. But instead of becoming mad at God I decided to trust he had a plan, and open myself up to be used however he willed. I didn’t know why he chose to let this happen, but I learned God is so much bigger than me, my circumstance, or even my school. His glory would be reveled in this sometime, somewhere, someway.

High school also taught me a lot about myself. I have always been labeled “the shy girl”. I’ve realized that I don’t have to be that person, I can be whoever I wanna be. When I first started high school, the thought of public speaking terrified me. Since then, I have presented countless presentations. Through the terror of facing my fear, I learned I am more than capable of public speaking. I actually look forward to it now. Yes, I still get terrified when I have to, but its something I know I can do, so I push through the fear. Afterwards, comes such a great since of accomplishment. Along with this, I have gained so much confidence in who I am. I have faced insecurity off an on during my life. Not insecurity about my appearance, but about who I am as a person. I put way too much stock into weather or not other people like or approve of me. I have learned insecurity is just a mask of fear that I hide behind, and it isn’t necessary.

High school was nothing like I imagined. The things about the high school experience that I thought would mean so much to me, came and passed without me acknowledging them.  It was not as easy as I thought it would be, because there were so many more problems than my algebra problems, (but those were hard too…). And honestly, at times, all I wanted was for high school to be over. I was ready to surrender it all and give up on any of it being good. Now that I’ve made it to the other side, I am so glad I didn’t give up on high school, that I decided it could be a great thing, even though it wasn’t like I expected. I am thankful for the heartaches, without those I wouldn’t have learned many of the things that taught me to enjoy life the way it is. I am so thankful that no matter what my circumstance, God always provided what I needed. Whether that be, support, courage, or a friend, He never left me hanging. I can honestly say, I wouldn’t rewrite any of it given the chance.

I am ready to walk across that stage in June, and because of what I have lived in high school, I know I am ready for whatever my next chapter holds.