Faith

I knew a woman once who told me this amazing story upon our first meeting.

She and her husband had two children and were living in California when they heard of a ministry opportunity to serve in a Muslim country. In order to pay for this opportunity, they would have to sell everything they owned and relocate to this country. So they walked in obedience. They had a plan; they were sure of what God would do.

It was not until they had sold everything they owned that they discovered that the ministry organization only wanted the husband for the first year of ministry. So he went to this country and the wife, along with her two children moved in with family in Arizona. The plan became that they would join the husband in a year. It was during this waiting period that I met this woman.

She was a breath of fresh air as she told me this story. She was sure that God wanted her family to serve in this ministry. She did not mention until years later that she was struggling financially, was without the support of her husband and sleeping on couches with her children. Her family never made it to this country and her husband eventually returned back to the States.

It was years later that she told me she would never make a mistake like that again. She had acted in faith and put her family and marriage in jeopardy. She projected this fear on me repeatedly, as I struggled to make decisions. And I fought her every step of the way. Something was off, it seemed wrong.

She hadn’t acted in faith by selling her possessions for this ministry. There was nothing faithful about what she had done. She had done something with the expectation that she knew what would happen and when it turned out she was wrong, she concluded that she had been misguided. And she was right. By assuming she knew what God would do, she placed her faith in her understanding of the situation, not God. If she had sold her possessions without expectations of a particular return, she would have been acting in humility.

*On a side note for my readers, it is never biblical to sell all your possessions without first making sure you have enough to live on. God does not ask foolish things of us.*

I’ve been thinking about that story a lot lately. As I’ve been learning more about faith, I’ve been contemplating what it means to look at the assurance of things unseen. What it means to act in faith.

It means saying you’re sorry without expecting forgiveness.

It looks like forgiving even when reconciliation isn’t a possibility.

It might be joining a church in spite of the fear that you’ll just get hurt again.

It means opening up to a guy when you’re not sure it’s going to go anywhere.

It looks like taking a job that’s out of your comfort zone.

I’ve tried not to judge that woman. She went through a lot in a short amount of time but I don’t agree with the conclusions she made about what she should have learned about faith through the choices she made. It was really sad. She trusted more in her logic and reasoning to protect her than understanding that what she lacked was humility. I have walked in faith and had horrible things happen but I don’t regret doing so. God doesn’t have to give me what I want in order for me to trust Him. I don’t stop following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If I only walked in faith when I was sure that I wouldn’t get hurt, well, that’s no faith at all. That’s just me and self-preservation.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret the choices I didn’t make. I have rarely regretted the pain I’ve gone through because of choices I made in faith but I have regretted all the times I told God no.

I don’t talk to that woman anymore but I hope she’s learning what faith really is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Me Too

I don’t ever talk about it.

I woke up this morning to a social meeting campaign, where people were sharing their sexual abuse/assault cases with the hashtag #metoo.

And by people, I mean women, because the narrative has effectively excluded men. It’s also portrayed men as the sole predators.

If you knew my story, you’d understand why I’m angry.

I thought about sharing my story in some heartfelt post but couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Because social media cheapens my experiences.

I’ve often thought about what would happen if people knew about my experiences. Typically, when I talk about my history of sexual abuse, I don’t talk specifics. I don’t talk about my grandfather. I don’t talk about staring at his hands or the red shirt he wore with a white stripe. I don’t talk about the massive amounts of porn he exposed me to. And until two years ago, no one knew I had spent most of my life struggling with a porn addiction.

Because girls don’t struggle with that. And while I knew early exposure denied me any opportunity to see sex in a healthy way, I blamed myself for my addiction. It was not until I was sitting in front of another woman who also struggled with porn addiction that I was able to find freedom.

My story doesn’t end there, because it happened again. This time at a church by an older girl. It went on for months. I struggled with sexual identity until I was in my late teens, because once again, I thought it was my fault.

Recently, I sat in my foster care class and we were talking about the feelings associated with sexual abuse. And I blurted out that guilt is a common emotion you experience. Because you think it’s your fault. It takes a lot of counseling to understand that it’s not your fault.

I have no judgments for women using the #metoo campaign today. I just want you to remember two things:

  1. Men are not the enemy. They are not the sole predators. The prolonged sexual abuse I experienced was at the hands of an older girl.
  2. Men are also survivors of sexual abuse. They need to feel safe enough to talk about it.

So that’s my story. I don’t talk about it often but I’m starting to understand I should. I read somewhere recently that when you share your story, you open up another person to get healing.

You, me and the dog

I heard a pastor once say that the best sermons are the ones that convict the speaker as much as the listener. So this blog post is as much for me as it is for you. Bear with me while I process out loud.

A few years ago, I asked God to remove the temptation away from me to date anyone other than my husband. This wasn’t a ploy to manipulate what I wanted from God or even protect myself from unnecessary heartbreak. This was a desperate attempt to rid myself of some awful sin in my heart that was destroying my relationship with God.

And He responded. I haven’t been asked out since. Oh, but I have pursued many a man. I have prayed over every man I have ever had an interest in. And with every freaking man, I thought God had told me this man was the one. I found signs everywhere I looked that confirmed this prophecy. Each time, my heart grew sick with waiting and analyzing and hoping and honestly, pretending I had given it to God when in reality, I was holding on to my logic and reasoning. Especially because my spiritual gift is prophecy, I was convinced God had told me who I would marry.

God was patient with me, right up until the third time, when in the middle of my obsession God firmly told me, This isn’t your job.  As a woman, it’s not my place to pursue and while I am a firm believer that a woman should make a move if she wants, God doesn’t want that for me. He just doesn’t. I’m a raging control freak and if I didn’t get it under control, I could never honor my husband in submission.

So I started to let go and experienced a lot of freedom. I prayed for my husband and myself. Most recently, I asked God to remove the desire of other people from both of us. I wanted freedom for myself but I also wanted to be safe with my husband. I don’t compete for a man, not anymore. The hardest thing about this prayer is watching my desire for someone I have wanted forever slowly go away. There’s still a part of me that wants that man but each day, it becomes a little less.

I’ve fought with God over this man probably more than anyone else. I’ve asked God why I can’t have my choice. I would choose him a million times over. Shouldn’t that matter? Shouldn’t my choice matter? But God has been very clear with me. The second I asked God to take away the temptation of other men was the moment I relinquished my choice. I surrendered that to God and He honored that sacrifice.

I have fought that and even at times, regretted it. I questioned how God could love me and let me leave the choice with him. But I realized I had already done that with my job.

Two years ago, I had been struggling to find employment. I had applied for job after job, getting close but not getting hired. There were jobs I interviewed for that I thought was my dream job. They were everything I thought I wanted and I grieved not getting those jobs. I got to this place where I asked God to bring the right job into my life. I was done searching, done looking. I clearly didn’t know what God wanted. And He brought the job into my lap. I didn’t even apply for it. I actually remember not wanting to interview for the job. It was in the same line of work I had done before, where I had gotten burned, and I was wary of going back. But I trusted God through this and I got the job. This job has blessed me more than I could have ever imagined and I’m ultimately grateful I left the choice with Him.

It has only been recently that I have begun to see the treasures in letting God take my choice from me. Not everyone would agree with me. Love is a choice and we honor God through that choice. But for me, I would rather choose God a million times over and have Him give me His best rather than be ordinary by either choosing my spouse on my own or by allowing my emotions to dictate how I make decisions about my spouse.

God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him – Jim Elliot

The best advice I could give you is to let go of how you think your life should go and let God direct your path. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What if it’s messy?

A few years ago, I knew this girl that everyone kind of stayed leery of.

She was of the messy grace variety.

She made a lot of mistakes. She would take one step forward, three steps back. There came a point when people started questioning her salvation.

No joke. I distinctly remember the chill I felt down my spine one night when an onlooker whispered in my ear, “I just don’t think the packaging matches the inside.”

I was quick to retort that she was wrong. I had known this girl for ten years, much longer than anybody that dared to judge her, and knew that, despite her mess, she was indeed growing in her faith.

It broke my heart to hear the judgments from people who sinned differently than she did. Flash forward five years and now I’m of the messy grace variety. I’ve had just as many people question my salvation, throw stones, cover me in shame, refuse to speak or socialize with me. I have often on the fringe of the church. Unwanted, tolerated, patronized. And when I am wrestling with shame and guilt, it is the people who have known me the longest who are quick to remind me that, despite my mess, I am indeed growing in my faith.

I used to believe that I had my life all together, that I didn’t sin too much. I went to church every Sunday, joined a community group, showed up to all the churchy events. I was a model Christian, lukewarm in faith. My life was boring but safe.

But God doesn’t call us to a boring but safe life. Every person of God I have looked up to has been of the messy grace variety. They’re always the ones with the most grace, the most outspoken, the strongest advocate. They have a fierocity for God and His church that religious people just don’t have.

Because I just don’t see how you can be moved by the fact that you are covered by the blood of Christ until you understand your own depravity.

How can you truly extend grace to another person until you have experienced that grace from God first?

I’ve been working through my perfectionist attitude, the side of me that falls apart every time I fail. It’s been through reading through the biblical heroes that I’ve started to question how we as Christians perceive salvation. Because there’s not a single person in the bible that wasn’t of the messy grace variety. So why do we expect perfection out of each other?! Why is there condemnation when you produce some fruit of the Spirit and fail to produce others?

What if it’s messy? What if your walk with Jesus is littered with mistakes and failures and God still sees the finished work in you? He still sees you covered in the righteousness of Christ.

I don’t know what happened to that girl. We lost touch but I’m sure she is still as in love with Jesus as she was five years ago. I hope she found people who pointed her to Christ and not her messiness. It’s the same thing I hope for myself.

The Comparison Game

I have a confession to make.

I struggle with comparison.

And not in the traditional sense. Not in the way you imagine, by comparing myself to any woman that crosses my path.

No, there’s really just one woman I compare myself to. You know the type. She’s whimiscal, girly. Her photos get more likes on FB. Our mutual friends respond to her blog more than mine. She’s seen more of the world than I have. She makes more money than I do. She’s almost too perfect. Too put-together.

Let’s be honest: I am of the hodgepodge variety of women. If you saw my outfit today, you would think I got dressed in the dark. (I took a calculated risk. I’ve gotten a few double-takes today and not in the “Hey, Girl” way.) I rarely wear makeup and I’m in the awkward phase of growing out a pixie cut. If you read my blog, you know I am not even slightly perfect or put-together. My life reads like one big messy response to the Gospel and while I’m slowly getting my crap together, I still find myself stumbling over almost too raw authenticity.

Myself and this mystery woman are nowhere near alike but yet, I find myself irked when I’m reminded of her. If women were really honest with themselves, we all have that one person whose life we wish we had. The things we would do with the platform they have or the resources they have at their disposal.

But we don’t have their lives.

A few years ago, I was at this training for this summer camp I was staffing when the trainer was talking about identifying what resources and experiences you bring to the table to help others. He opened it up to the group by asking us what we thought we brought to the table.

And of course, in true me-fashion, I blurted out that I knew what it was like to self-harm and attempt suicide.

In a room full of people that I barely knew, I demonstrated the first spiritual gift God gave me that not everyone has: the gift of vulnerability.

Vulnerability’s messy. I’ve actually tried to stop myself from being vulnerable because it would make my life so much easier. But I can’t stop. Not without suppressing the Holy Spirit at the same time. And that makes it not worth it.

When I think about fighting the comparison game, it’s more about celebrating the differences in gifts and backgrounds we have than in trying to remind ourselves of our value. Like with this woman I am always envious of? She speaks volumes into the lives of people that I can’t relate to. Just like I (aspire to) do with people who share my background. The world needs both of us. I can get down with celebrating her.

So while she’s speaking truth to the ladylike bunch, I’ll be over here being a hot mess of grace and hodgepodge-ness.