In Constant Need

Right after I came back from Thailand, I had moved into a new house with new and old roommates and jumped back into my life in Gainesville, GA.  But something was different.  I felt as though I had gained some much needed perspective in Thailand, and because of that I was internally processing a lot.  (not a normal practice for me)

When I do get into that mode of internally processing, I tend to shut out everyone around me that doesn’t understand what’s inside my head.  That meant my roommates, who are also my friends and co-workers. This went on for two weeks.  I began to feel isolated and alone.  Rejection and bitterness were hanging around like long lost friends. I felt very misunderstood and irritated at everyone around me. I was distant and short with people. I had extreme mood swings that I hadn’t experienced since I was in college, and finally I broke.

I felt defeated, embarrassed, frustrated.  And all I could do was talk to God and make decisions with my head, completely void of emotion, hoping my heart would follow.  Decisions like forgiveness and repentance.

One day I woke up and the day was different.  I had clarity and I wasn’t irritable and I wasn’t rejecting out of fear of being rejected. I walked into Monday morning worship feeling alive and free. I had somehow wrestled some nasty demons down with the grace of God.  And I realized during worship that sometimes, that’s what life looks like.  An exhausting, frustrating wresting match with the demons that seem to feed off your misery.

I was about to share this revelation with the group, when someone else went up.  They started talking about victory and how the battle is finished and we have already won and we’re already free. And so I sat back down…not out of condemnation or fear, i just pondered the paradox that I was hearing.

Do we already have victory?  Are all our demons already defeated?  Do we still wrestle down demons like I had just experienced? Does the enemy sometimes prevail over us for a time?

I think the answer is yes. Yes to all of these questions at the same time.

In his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning says, “The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me.”

That is definitely me…the one who is often unloving, irritable, angry and resentful toward those closest to me. And then I am shocked and embarrassed when they see that I’m not perfect all the time. Only those closest to me actually see the clearest picture of the real me. The flawed, imperfect, incredibly desperate follower of Jesus in constant need of him.

I can find it hard give myself grace when my heart and my actions do not match up.  I put such high standards on myself. And I get broken as I can’t live up to them, because as a ‘new creation’ who walks in victory, I should be able to. right?

But if I could just live in the broken and humble place, daily recognizing my need of Him and his grace…maybe I wouldn’t get so upset over my shortcomings and mood swings.

Thank you God for taking me just as I am: prideful, irritable and all.  Thank you for giving me victory 2000 years ago when you defeated death once and for all.  And thank you that I still wrestle down demons.  Thank you that I am not perfect.  Thank you for my need.

“The good man is sorry for the sins which have increased his need. He is not entirely sorry for the fresh need they have produced.” -C. S. Lewis

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Reignite HOPE

Hope and pain are not meant to be separated.  It is in the most painful, seemingly hopeless places that true hope is found. In America, we are so hopeless because we avoid pain. At all costs, we run away from the slightest chance of discomfort. We then find comfort in the hopelessness because we have sheltered ourselves from all suffering. And when suffering is thrust upon us, we blame god thinking that he couldn’t let this pain happen if he really loved us.  That just sounds and smells like the serpent.
A girl on H squad made this comment when praying about worship and feeling other people’s burdens…God told me, ‘I love you like I love my Son, but look how I use my Son.’
Jesus was a man of sorrows. He ONLY did what he saw the Father doing and ONLY said what he heard him saying. Yet, he encountered insurmountable pain and suffering.
What if the hope that you are searching for isn’t found in ease or comfort? What if its not found in a husband? Or in success and money and ‘security’? But maybe it’s found in the pain. Maybe it flourishes in the real life and death circumstances.
Bill Johnson says this, “Our culture is designed to avoid pain. In the kingdom, instead of avoiding pain you move to it because you live with the need to be exposed to human need.  I can’t afford to be insulated from pain, pain is where greatness is drawn from.”
And so I hear the stories of boys who have been abandoned and live on the streets in Honduras, and something stirs.  I watch a movie about the reality of sex trafficking of CHILDREN in Cambodia, and I feel it again. This pang. This aching.
I have to be honest, there is a temptation to push those feelings away. Because they are not nice feelings.  Sometimes I do ignore the pain; I just don’t know if I can bear it. But I’m realizing more and more that I can’t afford to be ignorant or indifferent.
The power of HOPE and greatness are birthed in pain. So I am asking The Lord to draw me to the pain and to give me the strength to see and feel the suffering of this world. I live in a kingdom that goes against the grain of this world, but its a strong current. And in that kingdom, the ones who mourn are comforted, the ones who hunger are satisfied, those who are meek (defined as tame obedience) will inherit the earth.
Come one, come all into the right side up, forward thinking Kingdom, leaving behind this backwards way of life.   We were made to live this way. Press into the pain. Discover true life. Experience this unwavering hope.