God is Faithful, and Singleness is Good

Y’all! I seriously thought it would take at least another month or two before I had something to write about again, but in fact I have TWO things! And one kinda leads into the other, so here we go!

Okay, so if y’all have read a couple of my other posts, one (which I posted in Feb of 2016) was all about Jamie Grace. A large portion of that post was about how she was very upfront and real about how she desired marriage but was still single and how that was okay.

Semi-side-note: Now, to me, that was just a little bit shocking. In theory it sounds perfectly fine, right? But what do we tell people who say they might never get married? Why do we doubt them if they say they’re fine with that? The reality is that everyone -not just society, but almost literally everyone – tells us that marriage and relationships are desirable and being single is bad. When put that way, many people would argue against it, but in every-day life that’s the way we all act. It’s in the people who tell us our time will come, it’s in all the people we look at, it’s in the news, and it’s even in the people who tell us to wait until we’re older. That last one sounds good! Wait until later, right? And that is good! Except…it’s still all about marriage. And in this way – I know it’s shocking – marriage has become a god. We’re all waiting for and longing for marriage. Marriage is good, but only in it’s proper place. I’ll explain more in a minute.

Back to Jamie Grace. She, very recently, got engaged! Woohoo! Go, Jamie! But here’s where I really want to explain some things. A year or two ago, I felt like God was telling/showing me that marriage was in his plan for me. To be honest, I was kinda excited! To put this in perspective a little, I haven’t “dated” anyone since the 5th grade (if that counts, hence the quotation marks around “dated”). I haven’t been asked out since 8th (I’m a freshman in college now), and honestly I’ve really never experienced romance AT ALL. But I’ve daydreamed about it! And, when I felt like God was telling me that that was in His plan, I was so excited! Of course, I had no prospects AT ALL (still don’t), but whatever! Now, I kinda doubt that feeling. It may have been a product of my overactive imagination. But all that to say that, at the time and since then, listening to Jamie Grace talk about being single but wanting marriage made me feel less alone. Honestly, she probably played a significant role in my current thoughts about marriage (which I’ll get to in a bit). It made me feel a little less alone, a little less hopeless, and a little less pitiful. Jamie Grace is the one who introduced the idea to me that it’s perfectly okay to be single, and it’s perfectly okay to want marriage. It’s all okay! But, it does need to be put in it’s proper place. Marriage in not the end-all be-all. Our lives do not start when we get married. Being single is valuable, and just as important as marriage. It’s not just okay to be single, it’s even desirable. Jamie Grace introduced this idea to me, and Stephanie May Wilson (who I’ve also talked about in a previous post) has expanded further on this idea in some of her podcasts (seriously, go check them out). Marriage is NOT more important or more desirable than being single. As I was listening to a video song that Jamie Grace wrote about her engagement, I clearly felt something from the Lord. And when I say clearly felt, I’m going to borrow an explanation from Stephanie May Wilson: it’s like a stone being thrown in a pond. It’s a disruption in my flow of thinking. It isn’t really sudden, and it’s actually very quiet, but it’s just a though that’s thought (or thought in a way) that I wouldn’t have thought on my own. And what I felt from the Lord was  this: that now is NOT my time to get married, and that is GOOD. Let me repeat that. That is GOOD!

God’s plan for me right now is to be single. And despite what society says (and to be honest, what many many many christians unintentionally say), marriage is not the goal. What is the goal, then? The goal is  to chase after God. The goal is to grow closer to Him. The goal is to become more like Christ. Even in marriage! I’ve heard it before, and you probably have two: that when two people (in this case, spouses) draw closer to God, then they also draw closer to each other. Even in marriage the goal is not to draw closer to your partner! The goal is always, always, ALWAYS to follow God and become more like Christ. So when God tells me that His plan for me right now is to be single, then I should WANT to be single. And in that moment, when God spoke to me unasked for, it was nice. And it was nice because it was peace. It was not jealousy towards Jamie Grace (although to be honest, I am kinda jealous). It was also not fear – because within the past few months, I thought to stop just daydreaming about being in a relationship and actually think about what it would actually be like. Which is kinda terrifying, because I am NOT ready for that. I can barely talk to the majority of my peers, I’m just beginning to really grow in God – I am an absolute MESS. Realistically, a relationship would be horrible and not even fun right now. So it has become a little scary (although I still daydream, because daydreaming is fun). But I wasn’t jealous and I wasn’t scared. It was the thought that yeah, one day I might get married, but today God wants me to be single. And that’s okay. And it’s not just okay, but it’s desirable and even exciting! I don’t have to worry about anyone else. I can focus on making friends and growing in God and growing as a person. And that – which is where God wants me, where I should be – that is good and it is desirable and it is better than marriage. It’s a powerful thought, isn’t it?

 

It also leads me to my second point, which is that God is good, and absolutely trustworthy. Of course, to many people that’s a “given”. To me too, actually. If someone told me that God is completely, absolutely, 100% trustworthy, I’d probably give them an odd look and say “of course”. What’s so special about that thought? Having grow up in the church, I’ve heard that spiel more times than I can count. I’ve probably heard more variations of that spiel than are existent. But – like all messages I’ve heard a hundred million quadrillion to-infinity-and-beyond times – as I begin to grow towards God and make my faith in Him my own, it begins to draw my intention. And so I want to draw attention to it as well. Now, I’ve actually been extremely blessed my whole life. I’ve never had a close family member die, my parents have raised me beautifully (if I do say so myself), and I don’t have any traumatic tales or anything. But still, as I step out on my own, I find that God has been pretty faithful, pretty good, and undeniably trustworthy in the little things.

Starting with just recently: He has and is helping me with a major fight with my best friend. He totally blessed me unexpectedly when I had to “consolidate” for college – aka my roommate moved out so mid-year I had to attend a meeting to see if one of the other roommate-less girls wanted to move in with me because otherwise we’d be charged for a private room. Not as recent: When I first came to college, I got involved with a campus Christian ministry and got the best LifeGroup leaders (aka small group leaders) a girl could have asked for. I think I wrote a post about this, too, a couple months ago; He removed my identity as being socially awkward and replaced that with my identity in Him (no, I’m not talking about being saved, that happened when I was like four). When I went to my residential high school, I was blessed to meet an amazing and inspiring Christian friend who has become one of my best friends today. When I just recently went on a missions trip to Texas I grew much closer with the girls from my BCM that I was down there with. As a college student, I have yet to run out of coffee because my mom works at Starbucks and my grandfather knows how essential coffee is to life (don’t laugh, it’s true)! As a freshman, I managed to gain a paid research position with one of my professors. At home I have a well-paying job at my dad’s workplace that probably pays too much for what I actually do (which is almost literally just copying and filing). I’ve been an absolute brat sometimes, and I’ve failed God so much too (hello masturbation my old friend), but he has continued to work on me, and bless me, and love me, and guide me. God is SO good, SO trustworthy, and SO reliable. Also, I passed both AP Calc and Chinese (no joke, through a tutor, my  AP Calc grade went from a 68% to getting an A on the final and a 4 on the AP exams in the last half a semester. Did I mention that if I’d gotten a tutor any earlier it wouldn’t have been the same tutor? Yeah. If that isn’t God, I don’t know what is). Isn’t He great?

It sounds cliche. But if I can trust God to save my grade and help me make friends and bless me as I look for a roommate, how in the world can I not trust Him with bigger stuff? If He blesses me when I have done absolutely nothing to deserve it, and even when I do something to NOT deserve it (hello masturbation my old friend), how can I not trust Him? It’s actually surprised me. I’m the type of person who likes to give gifts but hates to receive them. Not like Christmas gifts or birthday gifts! But if someone just buys me a gift, or especially for things like if someone wants to buy me a coffee. It makes me uncomfortable! I didn’t do anything to deserve it, and then I feel like I owe them, and I just really don’t like it. But God…It makes God sad when I disobey, I know it does. But it doesn’t change His love for me one bit. He doesn’t say “Oh, she disobeyed, now I’m not gonna bless her”. No! Every time this happens (which is more than I’d like to admit), He continues to bless me GREATLY, and it always reminds me of the Psalm that says “my cup runneth over”. Which, by the way, brings me to another point.

It’s okay to fail. If you’re anything like me, then every time I can’t seem to focus on God and every time I get lured away by something worldly, I feel terrible. Even now, I’ve been going through a period where I can’t seem to want to chase after God. In fact, I struggle with wanting to disobey Him! And…that’s okay. It’s okay. God still loves me, and He isn’t giving up on me. He isn’t growing angry with me. He loves me, and He’s even continuing to work in me! And what proof do I have of this? Well, the past. Just this past year I really struggled with feeling close to God. And yet, that time passed and yielded to a period of great growth and blessing. God wasn’t angry. He was glad that I was where He could work on me, and He squeezed love into me. Until now, I’m in a place where I can choose to allow myself my failures and decide to believe that God is not mad. I can choose to cling to the truth – which is that God loves me, and is waiting for me not with a hammer but with a hug. I can choose that – even when I fail, even when I succumb to sin, and even when I enjoy it when I know I shouldn’t – God still loves me. He still loves me, and He’s still working on me, and I’m not somehow evil and out of reach and hopeless. Instead, whatever temporary victories my sinful flesh and treacherous heart revel in, God is still chasing me and still working in me. He hasn’t given up. He hasn’t been surprised or set back. He isn’t stalled. He is still working, even if I can’t see or feel it. He is perfect. He is Holy. And He isn’t stopped by me or my sin. (This is not to say that I should not be worried about my sin, because I should be and I should do everything in my power to stop sinning. However, when I fail, I shouldn’t wallow in the shame. I should just stand up and try again, setting my eyes on God and asking Him for help).

Alright! I’m sorry for the long post, guys, but I think this was important to share. God loves you guys, even when you fail to meet the standard! Just keep trying! Ciao!

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” Romans 4:7-8 *also look at pretty much all of Romans 4 and 5

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

“…But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.” Nehemiah 9:17

“…being confidant of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

 

P.S. If you need more similar verses from the bible, look up verses about forgiveness and verses about the fruit of the spirit. God makes a lot of promises that give us hope. Of course, they aren’t to be used as excuses, but we were not made to wallow in shame or hopelessness either. We must persevere to conquer our sin, even if it takes years, and keep chasing God. Alright, ciao for real!

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Real Talk Part 3

Yay! Last part! (After this y’all get to wait a couple of months before my next post again, probably :P)

Here’s something else I’ve been struggling with. I have a very active, very powerful imagination. I can make myself cry for two hours over something that hasn’t even happened. I can also send myself into fits of giggles over something equally fictional. I firmly believe that this is a blessing from God, but it also presents some challenges. All of the things listed above can be, and sometimes are, exacerbated by my imagination (I also struggle with pride, which I won’t go into but is also affected by this). I imagine a boyfriend to hug me, I imagine people awkwardly talking to me out of pity, I imagine stuff I really shouldn’t be imagining. It all gets thrown into the pot. And all of this? I can make this about my future too. I never get a boyfriend…I feel lonely my whole life…etc. etc. (This, by the way, speaks to my pride as well). This separates me from God. I won’t go on, because as I write this I’m getting as tired of myself as you all probably are. But guess what? I need to surrender this to God. I need to give my gift to Him for His uses and His purposes.
Almost done! This struggle is purely between me, myself, and I. All of these are, to an extent, but this one is extra personal. I have a God-given gift to spot problems, and then to problem-solve. Sounds good, right? Except…that means that I very easily spot all of MY problems (hello – this is the third post about a number of my problems). And unfortunately, heart problems (which all of these have been) aren’t good for problem-solving. I can’t find a way around them, I just have to deal with them. And this can become very negative when directed towards myself. I see the problem, and I recognize that it’s a problem, but I can’t just magically fix it. And then, every time I act on a problem, I get frustrated with myself and experience shame. Now, don’t get me wrong. Shame is a tool, and it’s used to draw attention to problems that exist. It’s one of the ways the Holy Spirit communicates. However, like any tool, it can also be turned away from it’s original purpose. Satan would like nothing more than to see us wallowing in our shame, and unfortunately I oblige him far too often. Think about this for a moment though – when we talk about sin and various struggles, how often do we hear the mantra that God has already won the war? I don’t know about you, but most of the time I ignore it. I’ve heard it far too often. But, if you’ll follow this line of thought with me for a moment – if God has already won the war, what does that mean? What does winning a war here on Earth mean? I can’t help but be reminded of David, returning from the battlefield. What did the people do? They cheered for him! This made Saul jealous, but why was he jealous? What did he really want, and what was he really feeling? Saul felt shame, and he wanted the pride that David had. He wanted to be able to lift his head and smile. He wanted to be the victor! Now, he could have done that. He was not not a victor. He’d won too! His shame is a whole ‘nother issue. But, you ask, how does this contribute to your point? God made us to hold our heads high with pride as his sons and daughters, and as coheirs with Christ. Think about that for a moment. Shame is used to warn us when we depart from the behavior we should have and do something that, ultimately, is dangerous. But we were made to hold our heads high with pride! So, then, this results is something else I struggle with, and yet another thing that I need to turn over to God.
Now. Finally, we’re done. I have one last thought I want to leave you with, however. I’ve been talking and talking about surrendering all these things to God, but there’s something important to remember. Surrendering all of these to God is not a one-time deal. I don’t get to say, “Oh, I surrendered my lust to God! Guess I never have to deal with that again!” (Believe me, if I could do that I would have a long time ago). This is a continual process. I mentioned at the beginning of part 1 that I met with my Life Group today (all 3 parts were written on Nov. 9, they’re just getting published at different times because of the length). One member of my Life Group mentioned something she’d been told recently: “The more you stand for what you believe, the less you’ll feel like you’re falling” (that may or may not be verbatim, I’ve been writing for about 2 hours now). This reminds me of something we all know: the more you practice something the better you get at it. This works for sports, or learning a language, or learning a skill, or other exercise. The more you do it the easier it gets. It works the same way for this too. The more I surrender to God, the easier it’ll get. The challenge is in making myself surrender and not giving myself a break. If I surrender once, and then don’t surrender the next time because I DID surrender last time, that’s probably not going to work. I have to surrender…and surrender…and surrender again. I’ll have to keep surrendering throughout my life. Thankfully, God is willing to help me with that. And before I go, here’s another couple verses that are taped up around my room:

“So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” Hebrews 12:12-13

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:5

“…for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

“And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.” Romans 5:3-4

 

Real Talk Part 2

Woohoo! Part 2 is out! (So exciting, right? Now you get to hear more about my problems!)

The next one in one you’ll know about if you’ve read any previous posts. I struggle with masturbation. Now, several things have been happening here. Number one, I’ve been growing better at fighting this (yay!). Quite a bit of this has been because of God. I get some pretty annoying cramps for multiple days after performing the act, and I’m pretty sure it gives me less pleasure than it used to. Which is good – I do it less – but that leaves me with another problem. Because masturbation is a physical problem, but cramps and less pleasure don’t fix the heart problem behind it.
Let me share with you something that happened just today (November 9, I wrote this all in one sitting but am publishing it in pieces because it was super long). I was trying to write a post (which was taking a COMPLETELY different path that this one) and I started talking about my masturbation. Unfortunately, this left me with some sinful desires. I have a certain type of material that I like to read when I have these, and I struggled for a few minutes not to look them up. Thanks to some bible verses written on notecards I’ve taped all over my half of the dorm room, I reluctantly (and frustratedly) sighed at God (which reveals a completely different heart problem, by the way) and gave in. I still needed a distraction, though, so I went to a site that has quite a few comic-like stories on it. Except for one thing – this site has a mobile app that I used to have but deleted. Why did I delete it? Because it had certain stories that were giving me issues with this particular sin. I’m sure you can see the problem here. Anyways, I’m scrolling through selecting safe stories to read and successfully (barely) avoiding the unsafe ones. Until, wham! I see the picture for a story I know from when I had the app. A story that I know has gorgeous illustrations, very good grammar (although not quite perfect), and an amazing energy (think of stories that completely suck you in to the world; that kind of energy). It’s also hilarious! And sinful. So what’d I do, having just “successfully” resisted my urges? I opened up the story, of course! For your information, I did not masturbate. I did enjoy the story. And that reveals my “new” problem: lust. Masturbation was the action attached to the heart problem. And I am having issues with the heart problem.
Why, you ask? Why are these becoming separated, and why is the heart problem becoming more problematic? It’s simple. I don’t like saying it, but I don’t hate my sin like God does. Lust is my guilty pleasure, only instead of a relatively harmless piece of chocolate I like gorging on a sin. Let me repeat this another way: I like gorging on something God abhors. Doesn’t that make you want to cringe? God – the perfect creator of the universe and my loving heavenly Father – absolutely despises sin. He can’t stand to be in the presence of it, and I like gorging on it!? It hurts. I’m trying to be more like God, but I enjoy something He hates. I don’t want to stop! When it came today, I didn’t want to resist! Guess what? I need to turn it over to God. I need to repent – not just say sorry, but truly repent – and ask God to take over my heart and change my desires. I need to surrender this sin to Him, and then I need to turn and run away from it. And not just run away from it, but also run towards Him.

 

I’ll end this part of the post here, but let me share some more verses I have taped up in my room (they relate to this struggle).

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?” Hebrews 12:3-5

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galations 2:20

Real Talk Part 1

Okay y’all. I’m just gonna jump  right in ’cause I need to get some stuff off my chest.

Also this is becoming a really long post so I’m going to split this into sections.

I met up with my Life Group today. That’s what my bible study small group is called. We talked about the book of Ruth, specifically chapter 2 verses 15-23, and at some point my Life Group leader asked us: How do we feel called to take the heart knowledge we’d been talking about and apply it – make it become hand knowledge, so to speak. I thought about it, but there have been so many things I’ve been struggling with! As I thought about all of these things, however, I boiled it down to one overall theme.

I need to surrender everything.

Let me explain, and I’m going to go through these things I’ve been struggling with one by one to do so.

First, I’ve been wrestling with my desire to have a boyfriend. I haven’t “dated” since 5th grade (if you could call that dating), I’ve never been asked on a date, and the last time I was asked out was in 8th grade – by the same guy who’d been asking me out since 6th and told me once when I turned him down that he had multiple girlfriends. So not the greatest track record! And recently, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this (and my imagination isn’t helping – I’ll get into that later). I’ve doubted my desirability (hello, self-pity) and worried about whether or I’ll ever get a boyfriend and, eventually, get married. Logically, I know that I’d be a horrible girlfriend right now (see this entire list of doubts, insecurities, and immaturities), but that hasn’t helped and sometimes makes it all worse. Can I share with you? There was a moment two years ago where I felt like God had showed me a feeling, if you will, of his plan for a guy in my life sometime in the future and how great it would be. Me, with my tendency to doubt myself and my logical thinking and etc. etc. now wonders if I wasn’t imagining it (did I mention I have a very strong imagination?). I don’t know. Here’s what I do know; this dream may (or may not) have come from God. But right now, it’s turned into something completely different. Right now, I don’t want a significant other because it’s in God’s plan. Right now, I want a significant other because the world tells me I should have one. Because I’ve just entered college and I know of several couples who are engaged, and a few of those are getting married this spring/summer. Because everywhere I turn I see couples on Facebook and on the street and literally everywhere. So, I’ve become stuck worrying if I’m “doomed” to spend my life without a significant other. You know what? Even if God did plan for me to never have a significant other, or for me to never get married, that would still be okay. In fact, it would be better than okay! It would be perfect, because God is perfect and his plans are perfect. And if that’s his will for me, then I should be rejoicing! Because his plans always turn out 100x better than I could ever imagine, and 1000x better than my plans would have turned out. So. I understand this, but how do I apply it? It boils down to this: I need to surrender this dream to God. I need to not only be able to say, but actually say “Lord, it’s okay if this doesn’t happen. I trust you. If singleness is what you have planned, then that plan is so perfect and so much better than whatever I could imagine, dream about, or wish for that I should be rejoicing and eager to be single because that’s your plan.” I need to completely, 100% surrender this desire that’s been taking my attention from the Lord and his Will and I need to turn it over and let it go.

 

Next. Just a bit of backstory: I’ve always been the shy awkward girl who’s left out. Much of that is my own fault for pushing people away. I’ve gotten better some, but I still struggle with it a lot. It’s super difficult for me to talk with my peers. My brain kicks into overdrive and begins to hyperanalyze EVERYTHING. What’s this person’s tone saying? What is their body language? What is their facial expression? What does this sentence structure imply? What is MY facial expression doing? What about my tone of voice and my body language? What about my sentence structure? What about my content? Am I being too loud? Am I talking too much? Am I interrupting? Are my pauses too short? Are they too long? Am I sharing too little or too much? What is their response to this? Pay attention to every word, every glance, every gesture. What’s it say? What’s it say? What’s it say? Then – no surprise – I have a hard time processing. I make mistakes, and even the small ones will nag at my overactive brain for far too long. Oh no! That pause was a hair too long! That’s so awkward! or Shoot! I froze for a split second! What was that look on my face? Crud, I missed my chance to laugh it off and make fun of it! Can I apologize? No, I’ve already apologized three times in the last five minutes! You get the idea. This used to define me. This was the majority of who I was. A couple of months ago, thankfully, that was removed from me. I can’t describe it well, but one second that was my identity and the next my identity was in the Lord (I know it had been before, but I had created another identity for myself over the years without realizing it. Or at least I had allowed myself to be defined by that). It was very peaceful and surprisingly matter-of-fact. However, that didn’t permanently destroy these thoughts. It quieted them for a couple blessed weeks, and now they’re back. That does NOT mean that they are my identity again – they’re not. They don’t dictate my every move like they used to. However, they are hard to control and they are often small feelings in my subconscious. It takes Truth for me to combat them, and for the past few days I have struggled with them far more than I should be. So guess what?? I need to surrender them to the Lord. Scripture says to bring our doubts and worries to the altar, and while that’s cliché that is exactly what I need to do. I need to fully surrender these to God, letting Him and his Truth come and take their place in my heart. And no, this isn’t a one-time occurrence. I’ll explain more about that later.

 

I’m going to stop here for today. I’m sure some of this sounded like whining, and I apologize for that. I’m probably going to split this whole thing into three portions, and the next two will NOT be coming out months from now, I promise. I’ll try to post them within the next week or two.

As I finish, I want to share a couple of the bible verses posted on note cards all over my half of the dorm room. Also, please remember: you guys aren’t alone. Whatever you’re going through. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you have to choose to believe what you know – that God is with you and that He loves you dearly. He’s not yelling at you for your shortcomings. He’s not frowning at you. He’s walking beside you, ready to help. He’s arranging things for your good that you will never even realize was Him until you join him in heaven. He is cradling you, and his heart hurts for you more than you will ever know. His love isn’t the only thing unfathomable; his compassion is too.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, …looking to Jesus, …who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,  and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

 

Abba

Hey, y’all. I’ll warn you ahead of time: I did NOT plan what I was going to say going into this. So let’s get started!

I wanted to talk to y’all about a familiar term associated with God. In case you couldn’t tell, this term is “abba”. And if you’ve had a similar experience to me, you’ve always (or almost always) heard it joined to another word: father. Abba-father. Sound familiar now? But, what does abba mean? Why is it always connected to father? Call me crazy, but I had never really thought much of it until recently. But then I was reading a book which defined the abba in abba-father for me, and I have to say I like I better as a stand-alone term than as connected to father.

Abba means Daddy

It means daddy. So when people say “Abba-father”, they’re really saying “Daddy-father”. But do people say it like they mean it? And this is why I like abba better on it’s own. When we call God Abba, we are calling him Daddy. Think about the connotations the term daddy carries for a moment. And you don’t even necessarily have to think about your earthly father (I understand that some people’s fathers don’t inspire warm fuzzy feelings; if that’s the case, DON’T think of your earthly father). I am lucky enough to have a God-fearing father that I CAN think about. I still call him daddy sometimes, and I’m in college and have been living away from home in dorms during the school year for two years before this (remember, I went to a residential high school). When I hear the term ‘daddy’, I think about a little kid, girl or boy, running to their daddy for comfort or shrieking in delight when he walks in the front door. I picture this picture-perfect image of unconditional pure love. Now, my dad does a great job at unconditional love, but he isn’t perfect. He messes up. So he can’t actually live up to this image in my head. But you know what the cool thing is? God can! God IS perfect, so he is the only one who can not only live up to this image in my head but SURPASS it! Isn’t that amazing?

Now, you may be saying that you still don’t understand why I prefer abba on its own. Let me present another image to you. Instead of just shrieking daddy, imagine if the child I pictured in the scene above shrieked daddy-father! If anybody else was there they’d probably get a lot of weird looks. Why? Because the two terms are necessarily different. Here’s how bing defined them: Abba – an intimate term for God as father. Father – A man in relation to his natural child or children. Do you see the difference? Father isn’t an intimate term at all. I don’t call my dad father unless I do so sarcastically. In fact, the most likely image to pop into my head is that of a sad lonely rich kid desperate for his dad’s attention but who has to be strict and formal with his father instead. God, of course, is not like that at all. And there is use in the term father too; we are God’s children and since we have been covered in the blood of Christ we can be considered natural children, heirs to the throne WITH Jesus. However, I think putting the two terms together dilutes the image of both terms. Recalling God as Abba makes me think of someone I can go to when I’m excited, or hurt, or scared or even just want comfort and peace. Recalling God as Father makes me think of someone ready to fight, a stalwart protector but not necessarily the person to go to to play wrestle or cuddle. Neither term is bad, and using both together isn’t bad. I prefer to use them separately because of the two different images. And quite frankly, right now I am wrestling far more with myself than with outside forces. Right now, I need my abba more than my protector.

However! I have gone on far too long about my preference in terms. What I really wanted to focus on today (even though I have done a poor job of it) is the character revealed of God that we get to call him daddy. Calling God daddy reveals his unconditional love. It reveals his desire to protect (if you’ve ever seen a dad leap into action to protect his child you’ll understand my meaning behind that). It also reveals his closeness, which is something I struggle with. I find it difficult to feel as though God is right there with me in the warm, caring roles the bible says he is. Envisioning God as daddy, though, helps me see him as the caring daddy/dad/father he is. And understanding just how close he is, and just how much he loves you, is so very, very important in fighting lies and temptations.

I’ll leave off here. But please – think about God in his role as daddy. Think about what that means, and what that reveals about his character. Think about what that means in how he thinks of you!

Shame, Jealousy, and Judgement

Hey, all. Long time no see. Today I want to talk to you about something that’s been heavy on my heart…kinda. Really, it’s just something I’ve been struggling with a lot recently. Something that’s been heavy on my heart? Pshhhh. Please, that kind of talk is for someone other than me.

I texted a friend today. As recent high school graduates looking at moving forward in our lives, she chose to take a gap year. However, she did move down to the state she’d be in for college (Texas) at the end of June. I hadn’t talked to her in a week or two, so I texted her to see how she was doing and how she liked Texas. The story I got back was nothing short of amazing. I’ll shorten it a little, for the sake of the post: once she was down to Texas, she heard that the local library was a place where homeless people hung out. So she went to pay them a visit. When I texted her today, it was the third time she’d gone to the library. She cut up some watermelon to take with her to share, an headed down. Lo and behold, passing out watermelon turned into an hour-long discussion with five homeless men about their lives and faith. This resulted in her being invited to go to the local church these guys went to, and she and a friend are going there tomorrow. How cool! Amazing how God works stuff out! But there, not only with but overpowering my joy for my sister in Christ and my awe at God’s handiwork, was a deep-seated, black, intense, poisoning, controlling jealousy. I regret what I texted next. It doesn’t seem too bad…but I texted her “You really don’t know how to live quietly…although that’s a good thing lol”. Really? Is my jealousy as obvious to you guys as it is to me? It’s true, that is a good thing. We, as Christians, are not called to live quietly. Quite the opposite, in fact. “You really don’t know how to live quietly…”. I regret texting that, but at this moment in time, if I could do over, I’m not sure I’d be able to change anything. Remember how I described my jealousy as controlling earlier? Yeah. Like a monster in my own skin, my jealousy looked me in the eye and spoke out of my own mouth. The bible says that what pours out of the mouth comes from the heart. Apparently, my heart is a monster. Which brings me to my next item: shame. I know perfectly well that any jealousy at all is bad. Really, really bad. Because even if it seems small, it can turn into something so much bigger. I just made a comment to my friend that could have really hurt her. She replied with a smiley face, but…I can’t know anything for sure. Or maybe it doesn’t hurt her now but will later. If I’m lucky…or really, if God is protecting her from the consequences of my jealousy – she won’t have noticed. I don’t know for sure. But what I do know is that now I am riddled with an equally deep-seated, equally black, equally intense, equally poisoning, and equally controlling shame. Perhaps more so, because we’re all tougher on ourselves, aren’t we? Shame over what I said. Shame over what I felt, and am feeling. Shame over many, many more things.

“I know better. I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember. Why am I so stupid? How could I say something so blatantly piercing? And trying to cover it up with light-heartedness made it seem FLIPPANT! I sounded like a non-Christian friend who secretly dislikes her. I sound like the type of friend that slowly poisons a relationship. How could I do this? Why am I always so slow? Why am I always so far behind everyone else, spiritually and maturity-wise? They’re all doing great things, like going on missions trips and helping the homeless and connecting with people and talking to them about their faith and.. and.. I’m doing NOTHING! Why don’t these opportunities come my way? I love people, even if I find it hard to talk to them. Why can’t I do something? Why am I so much worse than they are? They have themselves together, and I’m over here acting like a child!”

On and on and on it goes. Intense, raging jealousy. Violent, piercing shame. And, just as equal as the others: Silent, deadly judgement. About their faith, their attitude, their actions. Who is they? Everyone is they. My parents are they. My best friend is they. My other friends are they. My acquaintances are they. Strangers are they. Social media is they. Everyone, everywhere, and everything they do is subject to inspection and judgement, in so little time as the fleeting half-seconds between other thoughts. I feel dirty. I feel used. And it’s an intense, unbreakable cycle. I judge and get jealous. I feel shame. And so I judge and get jealous even more, trying to automatically shield myself from my own ugliness. Trying to ignore the monsters inside? Maybe. Trying to make myself feel better? Definitely. Succeeding? No, not really. So what do I do?

I’m sorry to say, I don’t know. Yeah, that’s right. I don’t know. I don’t have an answer. Or the answer. Who knows? My brain, of course, dutiful from-a-Christian-family grew-up-in-the-church-my-whole-life brain, says the answer is in Christ and his word. Not that I’ve been reading my bible…or regularly praying… Really, though, that’s my brain. Yeah, I know that God is the answer. I also know that jealousy is bad. It gets me about as far. If I really want to abolish these monsters, I need to act. I need to stay vigilant. Proverbs 4: 23 says “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” It’s exhausting work. I don’t even do it well and it’s exhausting! Looking at my heart and stabbing myself with a sword!? That’s painful, too. The very beginning of fixing this problem begins/  at the Bible. At the feet of Jesus. It takes diligence, and leaning on God. And guess what? That’s not all! I don’t know what all it will take, but that’s all I know to do. I’m sure there’s so much more to say, and I’m sure there’s so many more answers to give, but here’s something I need to do today. I need to stop. I need to get real. And I need to lay down any pretense of being put together. Because the truth is I am desperately, desperately broken. And if I want to do anything with this blog, anything at all, I want to be real. Even when I fail so often. And it sounds impressive (at least to me). But right now, I’m just broken and hurting. And I wanted to share this with you guys, because writing stuff out helps me think sometimes. And if it helps one of you (I hope it does), thank I can praise God for bringing beauty out of pain. But he will anyway, won’t he? I need to stop overthinking things and go, so…ciao.

 

Blessings and Comparisons

Okay, so all y’all should be used to my extremely sporadic posting by now. Sorry, but I don’t think that’s gonna change. But! I’m back with another post.

I  don’t know about you, but for a long time I’ve struggled with comparing myself to other Christians. There’s one group of girls in particular at my home church that I’ve struggled with comparisons. There’s three of them, two years ahead of me in school, and for so long I’ve looked at them and felt inferior. “They’re better Christians than me, better people than me. Look at how outgoing she is. Look at how people depend on her. Look at how nice and calm she is. Look at how popular she is.” We all know the tune, right? Someone who’s better at whatever we’re weak at. Well, I have a secret for you – most of the time, a weakness is just a strength taken too far.

For example. I am NOT a social person. I’ve gotten a LOT better since being at this residential high school, but I’ve always been the girl who sits outside the flow. I’m the one who is always alone, or if not, I’m certainly never part of a group. I’m the one always picked last in gym (still true, although I was picked not last a couple of weeks ago!), always the last to be chosen for group projects, and always sitting by herself for anything and everything if I could help it. And pushing people away when they tried to include me. I’ve always been scared of people, for no reason. For those who don’t know, I take after my dad a lot. I can’t say he’s ever been scared of people – I suspect maybe not – but he shared his introverted personality with me (I’m just more introverted). However, if you walked into our church and started talking with him, you’d never believe it. He seeks out people to talk to. He asks them how their day is going, how they are and how they feel. And they tell him. So many people tell him what is honestly going on because they know he cares. He makes sure they know. Now, this goes back to intentionality – I’ve written a lot about this, so go check out my other posts – but I think it would be fair to say that this is one of his strengths. He sees people, and not just the people in plain view. He sees the people who are hiding away, as well. I’m not as good at conversing with people (duh). But I know that I want to get to that point. I don’t have to be outgoing, just intentional. Because one day, I want to turn my weakness – how introverted I am – into a strength that allows me to see everyone, care with intentionality, and be a steady force and a steady person because these are skills I’ve had to learn.

On a similar note, one of many outgoing people’s weaknesses is seeing everyone and choosing to interact with everyone. This may seem counter-intuitive, but being on the opposite side of the spectrum, I’ve seen it in action. Outgoing people are so energetic, and they flit from person to person. While this means they do talk with a lot of people, often times they don’t even see the introvert in the corner. As someone who’s been so introverted she’d cry when forced to talk to someone for years, I developed my own little air about me. For some people (*ahem* extroverts), this draws the room’s attention to them. Some of it is because they have no problem talking and making noise, but some of it is because they just have this air that attracts attention. I, on the other hand, developed (fostered?) the exact opposite – an air that makes me invisible in many situations. I can be standing right by someone, off to the side, and they’ll ask “Where’s [my name]?” – or, if it’s someone I need something from, they might not even know I’m there unless I knock on their door or say something. I can be in a line or a crowded room and have people bump into me because my presence didn’t even register with them. This has (sadly) dispersed somewhat as I’ve grown more comfortable with people, but it still happens sometimes. And these are the people the extrovert does not see. They are so busy talking to everyone and moving on to the next person or activity or place, that they don’t see the people standing off to the side watching them and everyone else in the room. If they approach, they carry on a brief conversation and forget to come back once they’ve moved on. They don’t check to see if they need help, and even among their friends they are often so ready to move on that they miss when something is wrong and they need to slow down. As an extrovert, that is one of their weaknesses. As an introvert (with exceptions when I’m flustered from trying to socialize), that is one of my strengths. I’ve been that girl in the corner, so I see that girl in the corner.

Well. Back to the main point. Knowing that weaknesses are just strengths taken too far only helps so much, right? I mean, you can see that they have so many strengths, so they must be better at seeing and working on these things than you…not so. Here’s something that I realized recently, and it’s what really prompted me to write this. I am different from them. This seems so obvious, but it isn’t! I am different. I was looking at our personalities – she is more outgoing and I am more introverted, but hah! She sees her friend group and the other major groups, but she isn’t looking around. She sees what is put in front of her, but I look at what isn’t put in front of me! This, by the way is not 100% true – I’m sure she does look around sometimes, and I know that I don’t all the time, but I looked at her and I looked at me and I saw that I am better at something. And then I looked at her and I looked at me and I saw that our upbringings were different – she with her ultra-involved mother and outgoing personality and childhood friends and clean sun-lit home and desire to try new things and involvement in so much, and me with my introverted but intentional father who made me try new things when I didn’t want to and was willing to help but didn’t necessarily want to lead but could if he had to and my special-needs brother that restricted where we could go and my distinct lack of friends for a long time and my introverted personality and I saw that we were different. I was different from her and she was different from me, so why was I comparing us? Our personalities are different. Our upbringings were and are different. Our parents are different. Our support is different. So, if we are so extremely different, why wouldn’t our strengths and weaknesses and growth be different to?

For the first time, I thought that we each had our own strengths – that her strengths that I saw were not my strengths and they weren’t supposed to be. I wasn’t – I’m NOT – supposed to grow into a carbon copy of her. I’m not supposed to have her strengths, I’m supposed to have my own! If I chase after her strengths, I won’t have time to focus on my own. When God uses me, he doesn’t want her strengths – if he did, he would use her! When God uses me, he wants MY strengths (and sometimes, MY weaknesses). When he uses me, he chose me for a reason. There are things that she can do that I can’t – talking to people, for example. BUT! There are just as many things that I can do that she can’t! And the best part is, I don’t even see all of them yet! I don’t know how I will develop in the future, but I know that I will be different from her (I say her because my ladder of comparison, if you will, went youth group -> group of three girls -> one girl in particular). Even my growth! It’s common knowledge that guys mature slower than girls – it’s why girls sprout up in middle school and guys sprout up in high school. They aren’t worse than girls, they just have different timing. Well, so de we! God’s timing for me, even my timing for me, is going to be different from her timing (ignore the fact that she is two years older than me, please). I’m going to sprout at a different time from her, and she’s going to sprout at a different time from me. And whatever that looks like, that’s okay! If it looks like she socializes better, that’s okay. I can go build up that girl in the corner who’s sad because no one is talking to her. She hangs out in a group, great! I can hang out with people one-on-one. It looks like she sprouted first, that’s fine. I didn’t need to sprout right then, I needed to sprout later. Think about, for example, a rose and a tulip – tulips bloom early in the spring, roses in the summer or fall. Does that mean either flower is better or worse? No! It just means God designed them with different timelines in mind.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, but I recently found out about The Bagel Theory (from an email letter from Stephanie May Wilson, who’s letter series she wrote to her single younger self I signed up for, and she heard it from her friend Hanna). Here’s the excerpt that explains this:

“When I was in high school, a musical theater director of mine introduced me to his personal theory I like to call The Bagel Theory.

Hear me out.

All of us musical theater kids, we were all bagels. My friend Chloe was a chocolate chip bagel; My friend Anna was a sesame bagel; I was a blueberry bagel.  You get the idea.  We were all great bagels, but we were each a different kind of bagel.

When auditioning for a certain role, Chloe, Anna, and I could all be up for the same part.  We would all be uniquely great for the role, but at the end of the day, the casting director was looking for a certain type of bagel.  Chloe may get the gig because they were looking for a chocolate chip bagel.  It didn’t mean that Anna or I weren’t amazing bagels. We just weren’t the bagels they were looking for.

Suddenly, getting rejected for a part wasn’t a judgement of our talent or abilities, it was just a reflection of someone else’s preferences.”

These comparisons that I’ve been struggling with are the same thing! In one situation, God might be looking for a sweet bagel, and so he might choose her chocolate chip bagel-ness. That doesn’t mean I’m an inferior bagel. It just means he the sweet bagel was better for the situation than the sour one (I wanna be a cranberry bagel). But, by the same token, sometime later he might want a sour bagel – in which case I would fit the bill better than her. Not because I’m better, but because He needed a cranberry bagel. I could go on and on, but the basic fact is that we’re all different and we all need to be ourselves, because there will always be a task that only we can do or a strength that when needed only we have or even a weakness that is exclusively ours. It would be like comparing a squirrel and a stingray – why would you ever compare them? You don’t judge a stingray on it’s ability to climb trees, or a squirrel on it’s ability to glide smoothly through the water.

She has a group of friends.

I have a best friend who’s so close my whole family calls her my sister/their daughter/their granddaughter.

She’s called upon to lead a lot.

I know how to follow because if I led I’d probably mess up and actually don’t want the job at all.

She’s way ahead of you.

You need to be back further to help out someone else.

She’s smart.

You have a big heart.

She’s confident, but bossy.

You cringe but are careful not to hurt those around you.

In conclusion…sorry this took so long. That’s all, Bye.

 

Pshh! I’m kidding! Kinda. It’s easy to compare ourselves, but we all need to be different. We don’t want to equal up, because if we did we’d lose those specific strengths that we’ll need for where we’ll be. Don’t compare the squirrel to the stingray. It doesn’t work like that. Adios for real this time!

P.S. Go check out Stephanie May Wilson at http://stephaniemaywilson.com/ – she’s an amazing Christian writer who has lots of good stuff to say, and her emails feel like sitting down with a friend over a cup of coffee. Okay, ciao!