There’s a point in time when God checks you, when you pray for Him to shift your heart and He answers, and it’s hard, and it’s uncomfortable. And yet, if you’re really desirous of Him, the result of this discomfort is absolute joy, because you’re closer to Him than you were before.
God used my trip to Washington D.C. to knock me down a few levels, to reveal distrust, selfishness, cynicism, and bitterness living within my heart that I might not have seen otherwise. And growing in this way is never easy, especially when these nasty things are rooted so deep.
When I woke up on Friday morning after a day of touring from Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr., and from the Washington Monument to Iwo Jima, from trolleying to walking to driving to running, the seven hours of sleep in a span of three days hit me hard. I’d slept on a couch in a sectioned off area of the hotel room while the girls for whom I was responsible slept in the beds. Four in the morning, I pulled my Bible over to myself, and went to read God’s word, to be refreshed. And yet I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I became frustrated and I started crying, because I so desperately needed Him, wanted Him, but my own humanity was getting in the way.
Throughout the day, as we maneuvered Arlington Cemetery, standing beneath the sun as we witnessed the solemn Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I prayed, I talked to God, even though I didn’t feel like He was listening to me.
When I finally got home on Friday night, I’d been hit with several realizations, sins and habits and understandings in my own character that God didn’t want there, that He aimed to sift right out of me because they’d been hindering me from being closer to Him. So Saturday, I’d slept most of the day, waking up only to cry to Him and talk to Him and spend time with Him, opening my heartache and revealing my uncertainties, admitting that no, I don’t trust Him entirely with the future, with Jacob, with my family, with what’s going on at Pratt, with my classmates, with my heart. And as I did, I struggled to feel loved by Him, fought with a nagging doubt of whether or not He really even cared about what I was saying. I was struggling with feeling like my feelings didn’t matter, with feeling like what I wanted, what I was afraid of, what I didn’t understand just didn’t matter to Him, because I’m just a tool used by Him in this big game of life.
Dark, I know.
There came a time in the day when I was talking to my mom and my sister over skype, and my sister was struggling with a particular thing and the discussion of guys and idolizing guys came up. She couldn’t understand “how you (me) and Mom do it,” referring to our relationships with Christ. She couldn’t understand how we could exist in such a state of growth, in such a state of desperate desire and do it consistently. And I looked at her, talking to her about how it came not from a sense of duty, or a desire to do what’s right, or a simple obedient understanding of “this is what I should do,” which is what she talked about, but rather a solid and awe-inspiring understanding of the fact that God knows me.
As a woman, it’s very natural to have a great desire to be loved and needed and known by someone, but especially by a man that’s dependable, understanding, strong, powerful, and sensitive. It took me a very hard fall, took my going, willingly, to a very dark place, to put myself and allow myself to be chained down by this desire to be loved and to have it be tainted and cursed by depending on a man to do that for me. When things hit rock bottom, when, yeah, the only direction to look was up, it was the fact that God knew me, and that, despite what I’d done, what had been done to me, how hurt I’d been, and how much I’d hurt Him and others, what He’d done for me, how He’d rescued me, how He’d gone to such lengths to save me from myself so that I could be full and filled by Him, it overwhelmed me. There were so many holes in my heart, and He was the Living Water that came in and filled up this empty vessel. It was His grace and His word that healed up the wounds and bound the scars and put my heart back together.
When I forget this, when I forget that His love and desire for me, that His knowledge of me and the way He sees me and continues to see me was what saved me to begin with, when I forget that Christ is in fact the original and the one true Knight in shining armor, when I forget that He is the perfect man, the One who saved, holds, and protects my heart with such impenetrable fierceness, and when my relationship with Him becomes more like a job to be done, a duty to be carried out, a check list of disciplines, all that I do is for naught. What’s the point of having Bible Study, of going to church, of reading God’s word, if I’m only doing it because it’s the right thing to do and not because God loves me? It’s because He loves me that I can even begin to learn how to love Him, to get to know Him. This is so much more than being religious, and while there’s discipline involved certainly, the discipline is useless if I’m not doing it out of love for Christ. If my relationship with Christ is suffering for the sake of ministry or for the sake of anything else, then what’s the point?
And so going back to what Christ has done for me, in me, and through me, remembering that it was first and foremost His love, and His knowledge of me, and His desire for me, and His cherishing me that transformed my heart and life and soul and mind so completely, this protects me from so many things I’ve been fighting with. Yes, talking to people about Him is important. Being kind is important. Praying for others is important. But if the relationship you have with God is not soaked with an understanding of how completely God knows and understands all of who you are, what you’ve done, what you will do, the good and the bad, more of which will be bad, then I’m convinced ministry will suffer.
Oswald Chambers said, “There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfill His purpose through your life.”
And remembering this, remembering that, regardless of what happens at Pratt, regardless of how successful my ministry is, regardless of how many people know about God’s word, it will come down to me and God and the relationship I had with Him and how I let it fuel my actions and change my heart, makes life so much sweeter, obstacles so much smaller, and relationships so much more intimate and meaningful.
“We love because He first loved us.” —1 John 4:19, ESV