My Humanity

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It seems more of my days could be categorized as messy than not. I easily give in to stress and work and distractions. As a result, I wander from truth, and life, and peace. My time is spent on good activities, but activities which are not driven by purpose. And although I spend time with God, I give him the leftovers of my struggle against the twenty-four hours in each day.

Today, the struggle was especially grueling.

After an exhausting week of back-to-school madness, I traveled to work around eleven this morning, and faced fast-food fury. I left forty minutes after the inferred end of my shift. I hurried home, ate a late lunch, and left again, only to work (for pay) in flower beds for another two hours. I was especially fatigued due to a small sinus infection.

As I traveled from place to place, Rend Collective played in my stereo.

With a weary mind, I listened to the joyful songs. And I asked God if it was possible to be bright when I did not feel like smiling. Is it possible, God, to rise like an angel when I feel so exhausted? Is it possible to be radiant for you everyday? Although I wasn’t sure how, I had to believe He wanted to use the days in which I felt so disabled to make His light shine all the more in me. 

As I said good night at the end of this day, He met me.

I read today’s entry of Jesus Calling (which is a great devotional, by the way). And it said,

“Doing countless unnecessary activities will dissipate your energy. When you spend time with Me, I restore your sense of direction. As you look to Me for guidance, I enable you to do less, but accomplish more.

With these words, I realized God’s peace–much like His joy–lives outside the limits of circumstance. Instead, it is found in Him and in His presence alone. There is no way to attain the necessary energy–capacity to do work–outside of Him. And so as I struggle through each day, His presence is what will give me life, and strength, and purpose. This purpose will give me direction, and I will work with joy–and peace–through and in and for Christ.

My place of employment came to mind tonight.

I do not particularly like the fast food industry for many reasons, especially because it fosters a stressful environment. In order to pursue a job better suited to me, I recently handed in my two-week notice. It was made evident by a few people that I would be greatly missed.

I do not think this is insignificant.

In a place I did not want to be, God shined in me. I’m thankful that perhaps He was able to reveal something of Himself to those I worked with, not through my strength, but through His presence in me.

And so I trust Him. I trust Him to give purpose to my messy days. I trust Him to make something of me when I don’t feel like shining. I trust Him to be bigger than my humanity.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Psalm 37:3-6

So Have Faith.

Big Idea #3: Normal embryonic development is a process that involves timing and coordination of several events that are regulated by multiple mechanisms, including genes.

I could watch YouTube videos detailing embryology for hours. Butter the popcorn. Grab a fleece blanket. Hunker down with a laptop. And watch. After fertilization of the female egg (from which I will spare you the juicy details), the single cell divides multiple times without gaining mass. In the resulting small ball of individual cells, the germ layers protrude. Eventually, these layers differentiate into specialized, life-containing units. Out of the organized layers, organogenesis ushers in cells and tissues and organs. And all these things occur under the careful direction of gene regulation by which genes containing DNA are turned on or off as needed.

I love it. All of it.

Because life is beautiful.

When I watch the embryo develop and grow, I see the Maker’s hand busy at work, weaving together his intricate design for a new life. It is precious and it is profound, mostly because there is purpose in the haphazard. And it all unfolds gently within his hand. As specified by my biology teacher’s syllabus, embryonic development involves extensive timing and coordination by the One and Only.

Recently, this changed my perspective.

Just as God defined the sequential stages in a human embryo’s young life, so also has he organized my emotional and spiritual maturity. Previously, he has coordinated the events and progression of my life which lead to complete development–and everything is heavily regulated by his hand. Each season of life he gives me is timed carefully and specifically to grow me into maturity. The rate of my development is not too fast, nor too slow; it is controlled in perfection. And each stage prepares me for the next as it gently unfolds.

This realization is significant.

Because you know what? This particular season– this particular year–in my life is for stretching. And stretching inevitably includes breaking through comfort zones–comfort zones which have hemmed me in and kept me from growth. These fences were–and are–strong and tall. And so it has taken three hundred and sixty-five days to tear them down. I’m not even finished yet.

But, I have discovered this is not a problem; rather, it is an opportunity for continual growth. Because God has everything prepared.When he planned my life, he had my proper and complete development in mind. And like each stage of embryonic development, he has directed my past, my present, and my future. Accordingly, I have nothing to fear.

And neither do you.

The progression of every life is coordinated by the Giver of Life. And we can be sure that he is fully capable. He is all knowing, all seeing, all creating. The works of his hands are perfect–and he calls them good. Although you are not perfect, as none of us are, he does have marvelous dreams for you. And he has planned them perfectly, which means he is perfectly preparing you for them.

He has this under control; so have faith.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6.

rejoicing Everyday.

We were encouraged to give of ourselves. We were told to forget the world and follow Christ instead. We were urged to place our self-made lives on the altar of God and never look back.

We were told and we failed.

Again. And again. And again.

Day, after day, after day.

Repentance became a daily ritual. Forgiveness was a gift in the past. Life became bitter.

We asked.
We asked.

We asked.

And we came back empty.

Defeated. Hurt. Disappointed.

On we walked, thinking our own thoughts, asking what went so wrong.

Wandering and wondering.

Aimless and pointless.

What had been the point, anyway, and where had we missed it?

And then we see it. Flashing across the bright blue sky. Driving away all the clouds of our rainy days.

It was called grace.

It was called Christ.

We failed. We fell. We folded. But He hugged us anyway. He held us, dirty, nude, and empty. No makeup. No face. No name. Writhing and dying in the pig stie of our own sin — this is what we were.

But you know what? We were. That is the point. We were, but now we aren’t; no, He is! His grace is! On the cross, He put away our shame, making us God’s children.

Holy. Free. Blameless.

And I am humbled.

In this fortunate turn of events, you ask me to be your friend.

You ask me to be your friend.

And so I worship again.

You, you are my first. You are my last. You are my future and my past.

I throw up my hands. I feel like dancing. And after a few days of tears, I find a smile in this thing called grace.

This thing called grace.

It keeps me humble. It keeps me moving and growing and learning. It keeps me focused, because I’d be so ADD about my life if it didn’t hang so close. And I am grateful.

It is the reason I can leave everyday rejoicing, worshipping the One who holds me.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 NASB

Happy Rain.

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Anxiety and fear are hard feelings to penetrate. We believe that we can stay in God’s Word and say enough prayers to capture that peace which is beyond human understanding. But we can’t cultivate a mindset of serenity. Only God can do that.

Truthfully, I’ve been anxious. Everyday, I return to all the questions which surround uncertainties. And the pressure is overwhelming. I’ve prayed, but I find no release. I go and I search and I stumble through life-giving words, clinging to them for a handful of peace.

“Don’t worry about anything…”

“You keep him in perfect peace whose thoughts are fixed on you…”

“…Draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

“…He will give you everything you need. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself…”

But I can’t recite these words enough. The questions don’t subside and the pressure isn’t emancipated. I can’t seem to feel, or think, or believe what I should. I say the right things and pray the right prayers, but I’m still wandering through the mist of my own mind.

This week, I realized something. And it has given me the freedom to breathe.

There is no magic prayer to relieve distress. There’s no verse I can say to make me smile, or formula I can follow to liberate my fears. There is only God, and I can only cling tightly to his victorious right hand.

He did say that in his word.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

To shake the distress, all we have to do is come to Jesus.

We boldly approach the throne of grace. We abide in his vine. We quietly sit on his lap. We wait, we pray, we listen.

And then we find he is enough. Simply entering his presence means peace. He’ll provide the words when we need them, and he’ll make known his promises as we need them. The questions won’t stop coming and the pressure won’t always ebb away. But we’ll find that peace which is unexplainable.

When life gets overwhelming, and the pressure is surmounting, he rests on us like a happy rain.

Verses are from:

1. Philippians 4:6
2. Isaiah 26:3
3. Hebrews 4:16
4. Matthew 6:33, 34
5. Isaiah 41:10

All the Way.

In the midst of all my questions, I remember what you said two days ago. As I rubbed my sleepy eyes that morning, wondering why on earth you had to pick this time to meet with me, you spoke, and you haven’t closed your mouth yet. Then, you said I needed to trust you, but the hecticness of my life rose up and I forgot. But yesterday morning, when I was in the middle of a crowd and trying not to breakdown, you spoke again. You said “Trust me, I’ve got this.” I replied with a simple ‘okay,’ somewhat doubting you.

But then, I found myself before you this morning. I tried to run away, but you caught me before I could. And what did you tell me, almost as soon as I sat down before you? ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged; I’ve got you.’ You were emphatic enough. In fact, it was as if I could feel you grasping my shoulders and shaking me up in order to get this point through my dense skull.

‘I’ve got you.’

I looked at my week ahead and let out a little sigh. And I wondered, why? But it didn’t matter. If there was a lesson to be learned through it, you were faithful enough to teach it. Knowing that you weren’t going to leave is what gave me the chance to breathe and to believe. You showed up in a quiet, massive way this morning,  leading me to trust once more. I would get through this week, and I would have a God beside me all the way.