God's been teaching me a lot lately, he's been refining me and using me to help refine others. Being a Christian is a really daunting task, and if I'm being honest I fail far more than I succeed, but I know about grace and so I know its okay. Grace isn't an excuse I use to behave badly and then get redemption, I'm smart enough to know God won't be mocked, but I know grace covers all my mistakes and I find so much healing from that. This past year there has been an issue in my life that has left a lot of anger, resentment, irritation, frustration, a sense of injustice, a sense of isolation, a hurt so deep that I've had to really explore the recesses of my mind to find the real root and not the obvious. This has been a hard thing, but I'm starting to see some of the good in the hard. Several people who are close to me know of what I'm referring but you don't need to know the ins and outs to get the good stuff, the "meat" if you will. I think a lot of the Christian life is striving to be better, not in the cheesy "we always smile and life is always okay and we love Jesus" crap that makes me crazy, but in the -the more we know Jesus and we engage in true discipleship, and practice life the way he intended, the more our instincts become like His, with minimal thought or effort. I had a hard conversation with one of my long time friends recently, and maybe at some point I'll share some of the good stuff that came from that "hard" but I read her a quote from my pastor in Waco that I carry with me on my phone because it speaks to the person I want to be:
"Following Jesus is about learning how to be like Jesus so that you move through the world like Jesus would. Discipleship then is rehearsing Jesus' thoughts, words, and actions over and over until they become your instinct and your character." ~ Josh Carney
Man, I want that -I want to be like Jesus to the point where its effortless, I want to live in a way that others can't help but see there is more to this hard, earthly life that so many people merely survive because the pain they live with is beyond what many of us can even imagine.
Recently I received a text from someone who knows about my "hard thing" -it came out of the blue and it simply said "Today I prayed for you to receive the freedom of forgiveness." This caused me pause and I replied and thanked her, confessed I wasn't "there" yet, but that I could see progress in this department. She then replied and said "I'm praying it will be given to you as a gift. Because I know you love Jesus and he gives good gifts." I've let this marinate in my soul for a while now, it has been admittedly hard for me to even want to forgive, I'm someone who is passionate about justice and when you forgive someone who has wronged you without them asking, that sense of justice doesn't (necessarily) get righted. Man, I hate that. Some of the most profound stories are of those who have suffered egregious injustices and have forgiven their persecutors without being asked ...right? Those are the stories that stick with you, those are the people we all think "Man, I don't know if I could do that." But, don't we all want to do that? Isn't that really, at our core who we want to be? Don't we all want to be better? Better people, better friends, better spouses, better aunts/uncles/cousins? Don't you want to just.be.better?
I was listening to a sermon online from my Waco pastor and he said something to the effect of (and I'm paraphrasing here) "if you are going to a church and you aren't being challenged and you leave the same as when you came week after week, then you may as well just go to the rotary club instead." Amen. If you aren't growing into a better person, into someone who looks more like Jesus, why not? And why wouldn't you want that? If we actually lived in a world where we prayed for those who persecuted us and where we actually loved our enemies, would that not be so life changing? My Waco pastor often talks about how in this day and age, we don't really have "enemies" so much as there are people in our lives who are often just really annoying, and really, aren't those the ones that are really hard to love? I can't tell you how many times this has played over and over and over in my mind through the years. I'm not very good at loving the annoying, let alone praying for them...that's the hard stuff right there.
If I'm being honest I kinda hate these posts, sometimes I don't want to be refined or to be held accountable to the process or what that means for my relationships with others. But I also shared here years ago that I think this little blog is meant for more than pretty pictures and life updates, and so, these posts come sometimes and I often feel like I'm not even the one writing. Like I said, God's been teaching me a lot this summer and as we just completed our first year of life in CA and we started the second, I have no doubt lots more lessons are in store. This has been a hard year, lots of it good hard, some of it just plain hard, but we made it! One year down. I'm reading a book with some girlfriends of mine and this quote really struck me yesterday:
God may be leading you away without a clear final destination yet. As maddening as that is, could it be that He needs you to release what was before you can appropriately grasp what will be? Could it be that you might accidentally squash the lovely vision if you obtain it too soon? There is a horrid beauty in following God slightly blind. The victory later is sweeter, the prize more valuable than breath."
-Jen Hatmaker from Interrupted
I feel like she was talking directly to me here, I'm not sure what the final destination is (in several regards), and that makes me nuts (understatement), but clearly, I'm not meant to know just yet, but I take comfort in that when I do, it will be worth the wait. (And I can also see how this relates to Adam getting his job, it is undoubtedly sweeter because of the journey). xo