Friday, April 15, 2011

walking away from God

i've walked away from God before. told Him i was done. told Him to leave me alone. i asked Him to go stand on the other side of the room. to not look my way. that when and if i was ready to talk to Him again, i'd let Him know. it was a bold moment for me. to look in the face of my Creator and let Him see my anger. my sadness. my disappointment. i had come to a moment when i thought my faith couldn't save me. when everything i ever believed was questioned and shaken and destroyed.

one of my best friends had killed herself. she had taken a gun and shot herself. in the head. in the front seat of her father's car. while he was inside the store buying drinks for them, she decided to end it all. in some strange parking lot, all by herself, my friend's life ended. and from that moment on, mine was never the same.

when they called with the news i didn't believe it. it's impossible to believe such a thing about someone you love. someone you've prayed with. someone you've shared your passion for Christ with. you can't possibly believe something like this. you can't wrap your mind around something that makes no sense. you can't allow yourself to think that such a tragedy could touch someone you know. someone you're close to. someone you believed you'd be friends with forever. but the story was true. the rumors were real. she was gone. she had left. and somehow i was still here.

it shouldn't have been her. it couldn't have been her. she was the one who always showed up first for babies being born, and people needing help. she was the one who sent cards "just because" and brought food for people in pain. she was the source that everyone came to, the one that everyone knew they could count on. she made sure people knew that they mattered, that they were loved, that they were taken care of. and yet it wasn't enough. she gave everything she had to this life and yet this life took the very life out of her.

i blamed God for it. i blamed Him for her death. i never came right out and said it, but He knew. i wondered where He was while she sat in that car. i wondered where He was when she found that gun. and i wondered where He was when she pulled that trigger. she had spent her life believing in Him and in her darkest moment it wasn't enough. and if it wasn't enough for her, i wondered how it would ever be enough for me.

and so i walked away from God. i was so grieved at heart that i couldn't focus. i couldn't breathe. i couldn't see past the pain. i cried a million tears and yet they still kept falling. i talked to God from a distance like a friend who had betrayed me. i was suddenly the girl who had lived her life telling others about her faith and now i was questioning if it was even real.

i'd always been the one to tell others to be ready. to get the Word of God down so deep inside you that when the world tries to get you down it wouldn't stand a chance. i'd always say you can't start flipping through your Bible in the middle of a storm. there's no time to find the hope you need when you're in the middle of the fire. by then it's too late. you have to have it. you have to know it. and even though i turned my back on God, His Word was still alive. His promises were still real. His life still breathed in me even when i couldn't breathe on my own. in the middle of the worst fire of my life, His Word found me. it sheltered me. it saved me.

"the joy of the Lord is your strength". that's the scripture that saved me from myself. i kept hearing it over and over in the days following her death. despite the tears and the sadness and the pain. despite the fact that i tried to walk away. despite everything in me that said i was done with God, i still heard His voice. and because i heard His voice, i knew He still heard mine. and somehow just knowing that He heard me helped me. because i knew He was listening. and that He cared. and that He loved me despite it all.

though almost two years have passed, i still struggle with my friend's death. i still cry when i think of her. i still wish she was here. i still have more questions than answers. more sadness than peace. but i never stop talking about her. i never stop telling people about her. and i never stop loving her. and though nothing about it makes sense, this one thing i do know...even when we choose to walk away from God, He never...ever...walks away from us.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

i'll never be oprah

for years i wanted to be oprah winfrey. well, not really her, but just like her. i love that she brings people together. she reunites families. she makes people feel good about themselves. i love that she makes people believe in dreaming big dreams. with her it seems like nothing is impossible. barriers are crossed. walls come down. people listen. for years i would dream of us meeting. of us becoming friends. of us saving the world. and then God woke me up. because i was dreaming of something that was more about me than it was about Him.

it wasn't a slow waking up either. it was a quick, water splashed in my face moment. i even wrote it down so that i wouldn't ever forget. "God doesn't need you to be oprah. that's what He made her for. He needs you to be you. that's what He made you for." 

"God needs you to be you." what a revelation. to think that God created me to be me. that He created me to dream my own dreams. to make my own path. that He doesn't expect or want me to be like someone else. that He put inside of me my own gifts. that He gave me my own voice.

but sometimes that seems overwhelming. and hard. and scary. and i'm not a big fan of overwhelming. or hard. or scary. it's so much easier to just follow in someone's footsteps. to take the path well traveled. to take the road everyone else is taking. 

because following a path is easy. but forging a path means work. forging means a lot of clearing out. a lot of rocks to move. a lot of weeds to pull. and i don't mind work but i like to know the outcome. i like to know what the results of my efforts will be. 

the truth is i like to know where i'm going. i like to have a map. heck, i like to hold the map! i'm the one who likes to have a plan. to look up ahead. to see what i'm doing. and God knows that about me. He knows i like to know the rules of a game before i play. and because He knows that about me He forces me to step out of my comfort zone. on purpose. to get me to grow. to get me to stretch my faith. to get me to trust Him.

i'm not always happy about this stretching of faith. i'm not always thrilled to be growing. i'm not always comfortable not getting to hold the map. but the moments when i let go and allow myself to be happy and thrilled and comfortable with where God has put me always seem to be the best moments of my life.

though i used to wish i was just like oprah, i've realized i'll never be her. and that's a good thing. God needs oprah to do her own stretching. so now i'm keeping my eyes on Him. and i'm letting go of the map. and i'm letting Him stretch me into who He needs me to be. because God needs me to be me...and only me...for Him.

Monday, April 11, 2011

finding forgiveness

i think i was born without it. the gene that makes you hold onto anger and resentment. not that i don't get angry because i do. but it never stays. no matter what someone does to me, i can't hold onto being mad. i can't hold onto the pain. i call it my "15 minutes of madness" because that's all it seems to last. i never wake up the next day angry. a little sad maybe, but never angry.

i think it's my dad's fault. when my sister and i were growing up he would tell us we couldn't go to bed mad. he would remind us that the Bible said to "not let the sun go down on your wrath." and so i've never gone to bed angry. ever. sometimes i've joked that "i guess i won't be going to bed tonight" but i've always forgiven before i closed my eyes.

i think it's my mom's fault too. she died when i was six. she was 37 and she died in her sleep. something like that will change you for the rest of your life. i knew then that tomorrow wasn't promised. that there are no guarantees you'll see someone again. and i always think of that when i'm mad. that the very person i'm mad at i may never see again. and i ask myself if it's worth it. if what happened would be worth spending the rest of my life regretting the anger after they were gone. and it never is.

i've told my boys that too. i've tried to teach them to not get so caught up in the little things that they miss the bigger picture. people will make us mad. people will hurt our feelings. people will betray us. but the same it true for us. we will make people mad. we will hurt others. we will betray. we're all human. we all make mistakes. we all need forgiveness. and if we want people to forgive us we should be willing to do the same.

that's why i love The Lord's Prayer. it was the first prayer i ever learned. recently it made me stop in my tracks. it was like i finally heard it for what it was. "and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." the key word is "as".  forgive me my trespasses as i forgive others. dear God, please forgive me my mistakes in the same way i'm willing to forgive others who make mistakes towards me. WOW. seriously? to be bold enough to ask God to use our way of forgiving others as a measuring tool to use in our life? that's some serious stuff.

but forgiveness is serious. and hard. and sometimes we think impossible. but i serve a God of the impossible. somehow when i give Him my worries, when i give Him my concerns, when i give Him my pain, He gives me something better. He gives me peace. i can't explain it. it doesn't make sense. it's not even logical. but it's true. 

i'm only missing the anger gene because i've found the one who made each part of me. and when i'm hurt, i ask Him to help. because He can. and He will. and He does. Jesus, in excruciating pain up on the Cross, asked God to forgive those who had meant Him harm. He's never asked us to do what He hasn't already done. He's forgiven the unforgivable. and He's forgiven me. i find forgiveness in Him. and i pray that i always do.

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