Happy New Year, everyone! (Can you say that almost 20 days in? Hope so.) Part of me is still trying to adjust to the fact that the lovely time that is the holidays has already come and gone, and a new, refreshing chapter of life is awaiting as we move into 2016. This is a big year for me: I’ll marry my best friend, learn to live with a boy (all advice welcome, folks), move into a new place, and begin this very scary, very exciting time in my life that they call marriage.
As many of you can imagine, these past few months have been filled with a lot of planning — from touring venues to building registry lists and so on, it’s amazing how much planning can go into
marriage your wedding day. Every once in a while, though, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to step back and look at what all of this means in light of my time on earth. I’ve felt defeated, to be quite honest — and that has nothing to do with my wedding day, and everything to do with the lack of engagement I’ve had with God recently. I see how much time I devote to the superficial desires of my heart, but can’t seem to make time for what my heart was designed to seek after: the Lord Himself.
This reality continued to weigh me down increasingly more as I tried to calculate out how I had become the person that put my relationship with God on auto-pilot. It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I realized something that is transforming the way I see my relationship with the Lord, and I want to share it with you, because I hope that if you’re in a rut like me, you’ll feel freed by what the Lord is teaching me during this time.
All throughout the Bible, we see stories of people who were far from perfect — liars, cheaters, murderers and the list goes on — and they were still used abundantly by the Lord to do great things for His kingdom. And for the longest time, even though scripture tells me differently, I’ve assumed that once God plucked these sinners from their defiant lifestyles, they followed His will and never turned back to their old ways — this is where I felt I had fallen short of God’s plan for my life. You see, when I went to college and began to truly understand what it means to be a Christ-follower, I spent the next four years enamored by the Lord and what He was doing in my life. My relationship with Him grew exponentially, and I got to a point in my life where I genuinely knew that if something that I wanted wasn’t in God’s plan, it wasn’t worth going after. If we pause the story here for a moment, it’s here that I thought I would stay. It’s here that I’ve always looked at others and said, “wow, they are truly on fire for God 24-7” and believed that they could never lose their spark. It’s here that most of us as believers want to live, but sometimes (or, a lot of times) we fall short.
But God’s Word tells us differently. Remember when Jesus was arrested, and on His way to hang on a cross to die for all of OUR sins? Enter His disciple Peter:
“Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in.
‘You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’
…Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, ‘You also are not one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’
One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.”
– John 18:15-18, 25-27
One of the many things I love about the Lord is that He is not random. He doesn’t put events in our lives on a whim, and He didn’t orchestrate the events that led to His Son’s crucifixion without a divine level of purpose and intent for the world and the people that would follow. And what He is teaching me right now is this: my journey to becoming reunited with the Lord is just that: a journey. I will mess up, and the road to sanctification will be messy. I’ll learn just how terrible my heart is, and just as the Lord is redeeming that part of me, my sinful nature may bring me right back to square one again. But God sent His very own Son to die on a cross so that the penalty for all of my brokenness, all of my apathy, all of my sins would be paid in full. If I don’t go through this time in my life where I see just how far I’ve fallen, does the fact that Jesus died to save me from it really hold weight in my heart?
It’s hard to get real with God sometimes, especially in ruts like these. I haven’t done a great job of it recently, and that mistake is what I speak from now. Being apart from God changes us — it makes us selfish and empty, it makes us live for ourselves instead of living for what we were created to be — and it happens so slowly that we can’t see it unless we take a step back and remember who we are when we’re following the Lord. I’m so glad that I wrote tirelessly about the work that God was doing in my life throughout my time in college, because even now I revisit those words as encouragement for how my relationship with Him is supposed to look. And the best part? It can look that way again.
For those of you who may be in a similar stage of life, I hope you’ll join me in holding fast to the promises of the Lord, and genuinely pray that He’ll tear you apart so He can make you new again. Let’s shift our hearts to the One who gave it all, and pray that we never settle for less.