A Holy Week

For those of you don’t know me personally, I have a knack for meeting people where they’re at spiritually. Some would say I have the gift of evangelism but I’ve always said that evangelism is a discipline, not a gift, but we can agree to disagree on that.

At my absolute worst (or best, depending on how you look at it), I have literally risked my job(s) on numerous occasions for the sake of the leading of the Holy Spirit. From passing out bibles to struggling clients, to leading a bible study in the kids club of a gym, I have tried my best to be a good and faithful servant. This isn’t for me to boast or brag about. I give in to the Spirit out of my gratitude that God has allowed me to fail at life and yet still love me.

As Christians, we talk a lot about how our religion is more about having a relationship with God, rather than adhering to a set of rules or customs. (I’d argue that there is beauty in the traditions of Christianity, though.) When we talk about our relationship with God, it’s all very serious. We discuss prayer and suffering, walking through the tough times with God at our side. It’s rare that we talk about God as friend, what that looks like, what that means.

But God is my dearest friend. I didn’t grow up in a family where relationships with God were modeled appropriately and for the first few years of my new life in Christ, I didn’t have much in the way of Christian fellowship or mentorship. I had to teach myself what it meant to be a new creation in Christ. It meant taking long walks alone, chatting with God about my day or what boy I liked that week. It meant reading my bible and asking God a lot of questions about why He allowed this or that to happen. I look back and smile at those times. While many have lamented about how hard it must have been to walk alone in Christ during that time, I treasure those years. If I could develop a relationship with God independent of others, until such a time came that I needed community to grow, anyone can find Christ buried deep within themselves.

If I could describe my relationship with God to anyone, I would explain a week like this. A holy week.

I should backtrack. For the last nine years, I’ve been practicing the discipline of mediation. Christian mediation is about removing distractions so that you can hear the voice of God. It’s weird at first and kind of awkward but I’ve found that it renews clarity for me when I can’t see the forest for the trees. I was meditating yesterday and through the muddle of my brain, I heard very clearly that this week is a holy week.

I’ve only have two holy weeks before. Stay with me here-it’s not actually that charismatic. It always involves good, free food. I won’t go into too much detail but God usually provides me with copious amounts of my favorite foods…right before He takes something away. The first time I had one of these weeks, He fed me well that week and by the end of that week, He had taken away my home and my job. And I remember what He said while I sat in my apartment, sobbing over my now jobless and homeless existence:

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I remember how angry I got over everything I had just lost. God had told me that this was a holy week, this was the week my life was going to change directions for the better and here I was, empty-handed. And of course, it was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. My life is infinitely better because of that week.

So today, I am thinking of these things as I sit here eating ice cream I did not pay for, drinking coffee that I didn’t ask for, thinking of the dinner I ate for free. Just waiting for what God will take away from me to make room for something better.

This is how I would describe what having a relationship with God is like. To be in union with someone who knows you better than you know yourself, who knows exactly what will bring a smile to your face and what will calm your spirit in the midst of chaos. For someone to love you so much that He would allow truly awful things to happen in your life so that new life can come in.

Do you not know what I am trying to accomplish? Do you not see what I am trying to do? I am making you right for each other. Do you not see it?

You’ll get there. This life with God is so worth it.

Streams in the Desert

I spent the morning crying in my car, wondering if I had done something wrong. The day before, I had made the decision to release a huge desire in my heart and let go of the control I had been fighting for. I experienced a great deal of peace in doing that but I also struggled with a deep sadness. It hit me like a tidal wave. Every hurt, every cutting word I had thrown at me last year by men who I trusted to care for me.  I ugly cried driving down the freeway this morning.

It’ll be a year in 11 days. A year since the day I checked myself into the hospital because I was a danger to myself. A year of getting better, being healthy, making friends. A year without tears or depression. Sometimes, I wish I could go back in time and tell the girl who curled up on the floor that day, May 7, stuffing Cheetos down her throat and avoiding social media, that things would get better. That she would be okay. And a week later, when I made my way to the front desk of the emergency room and told the nurse I was going to hurt myself and could she please help me, I wish I could tell that girl this was the game changer she had been waiting for.

Suicide is still a taboo topic. I’m pretty upfront about what I’ve gone through but no one asks me what being in the hospital was like. Nobody asks what led me to consider suicide. It was the year from hell. I can’t fully explain what it’s like to feel so stuck in your head and no matter how much you try to dig yourself out, you can’t. You’re just stuck in this chemical imbalance and your “friends” are screaming at you to get your act together and then there’s the pastor who emails you to say that no matter how many times you apologize, you will never be enough for forgiveness.

But you get better. You go to the hospital where they feed you to the max with graham crackers and pudding, which you appreciate because for the last two weeks, you’ve eaten nothing but handfuls of Cheetos.

I was sitting at this prayer meeting last week, reflecting on where I am at this point in my life. I could not imagine loving God any more than I do right now. There’s something really beautiful about what happens when you suffer. For three years, I was trapped inside a brain that could not reason or make sense of the world around me. I struggled to form meaningful relationships with people and follow through with long-term plans. At its absolute worse, I quit a job I deeply cared about because I believed a coworker was conspiring to have me fired. This led to struggling to meet my basic needs, including staying in my home and providing food for myself. I’m grateful to be so far removed from that life but I have a deeper intimacy with God because of that desert.

Someone once told me that the deserts we go through in life are meant to prepare us for what’s ahead. Even the really good things in life can destroy us if we’re not prepared.

I let go this week of the control I was striving for in relational conflict. The tears I shed this morning was me challenging God’s goodness, struggling to believe that God will restore this without my input or help. I have to believe that things will be okay, that God is for everyone involved, that He will reward my faithfulness. There is not a single instance in my life where God left things a mess forever. Some things took twenty years to resolve but they were eventually resolved.

It’s been a year of healing. For that, I’m grateful.