Tuesday, April 3, 2018

He Goes Before Me

"Then I {Moses} said to you, 'Do not be in dread 
or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes 
before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for 
you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, 
where you have seen how the Lord your God carried 
you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you 
went until you came to this place.'"
Deuteronomy 1:29-30, ESV

 If God went before Israel and marked their way and prepared for them a place and made it clear what direction they should go, how much more so will God do that for me when I have Him- the Holy Spirit- dwelling inside of me?

 I need not fear my uncertain future; it is certain to God.

 I need not worry about what decision to make; God will make it clear to me in His time.

 I need not live my life without hope; God has prepared a permanent place for me in heaven no matter what He will or will not do for me in this life. 

 For what He did for Israel He has done for me ten thousand fold by sending Christ to take away all fear, all uncertainty, and to die for me to secure my place with Him in heaven forever.  

Lord, help me trust in You, not only with my written words but with my heart and my feelings and my actions. Help me to live the way I should when my future is certain to You, when You will lead me in Your timing, and when You have prepared a place for me by your side in heaven. Help me see You as the ultimate joy and let that joy be unshakable. Help me not so easily forget, like Israel, all that You have done for me. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Closing Doors and Clear Windows

I have a thing for windows.

Not stained glass windows, though I do find them beautiful. I love plain windows. Big windows with clear glass that I can see through and that let in the sunshine. 

 During my college years, my bed was usually in front of the one window. I would spend countless hours sitting there and looking out onto the campus observing, thinking, and daydreaming. Especially my freshman year, I was always by our window.

 My roommates found it odd, I think. Their quiet and timid third roommate who was often too complying and reserved became a forceful and commanding hurricane only once- when they threatened to block her window with a mini fridge as a temporary logistical fix. 

 I couldn't explain it then. I just needed my window. Maybe it was the sunlight my body craved during the long winter. Maybe it was my curiosity as I people watched. Maybe it was the beautiful tree whose branches grazed the glass. Maybe looking out the window felt safer than walking out the door. 

Maybe it was all of those things. But now, I find window watching to be a visible action that portrays my longing. 

 I long for spring again, with sunshine and flowers. I long for hiking trails with my dad again. I long to have an endless amount of time to work on my novel and have the words flow freely. I long to see new places and explore new countries. I long for marriage and children.

But there comes a time when I have to stop looking out the window and focus on the doors that lead to places.

So I've been knocking.

There is a door called marriage that feels permanently locked. With a dead bolt. For the longest time I have been sitting at the window waiting to hear the chains being lifted off the door. But lately with God's help, I have been shifting away from the window and toward new doors. Doors that would combine my love for writing and my desire to travel. Doors that are completely opposite of marriage, but more toward where God seems to be directing me. 

Lately, those same doors have been closing.

I find myself at the window again.

I recently read These Strange Ashes by Elisabeth Elliot where she shares her story of her first year as a missionary in the jungles of Ecuador. Elisabeth's goal was working toward creating a written language for the people so they could read the Bible. She worked hard that year, going through many trials, but she made progress- only for all of her notes and pages of language study and creation to be lost at the end of the year.

 Can you imagine? This is what God had called her to do. And it was clearly His will for the gospel to go forth. So why would He allow all of her good work to be destroyed?

 Elisabeth says, "I felt like a son who had asked for a fish and had been given a scorpion. I had honestly (surely it was honestly?) desired God. I wanted to do His will... It was a long time before I came to the realization that it is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself. Even the Son of God had to learn obedience by the things He suffered... Each separate experience of individual stripping we may learn to accept as a fragment of the suffering Christ bore when He took it all" (These Strange Ashes).

My new doors made sense, at least to my small and limited mind. If marriage wasn't in my future, surely this opportunity where only my singleness would allow me to go would be in His plan?

 But it doesn't have to make sense to me. Often, it doesn't make sense to me and maybe never will. 

So I sit at my window again, looking out and wondering what I will do, what I will be. Yes, there is longing. There always will be until every longing is fulfilled in heaven. And there are closed doors I wish would open. 

 But for now they are closed. And it is a stripping, as Elisabeth says. "Each separate experience of individual stripping we may learn to accept as a fragment of the suffering Christ bore when He took it all" (These Strange Ashes). 

 This is life sometimes. Maybe often. We go to Ecuador and lose a year's worth of language work. We don't go overseas even though we long to travel and write stories and serve. We don't get married or have families. Our writing doesn't get published.

 But it is for our good, our sanctification, and His glory. 

"Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God's 
story never ends with ashes" 
(These Strange Ashes).

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

How God Uses My Brokenness for His Glory

Forty hours a week, you can find me hand wrapping chocolate in foils, tying bows, counting stickers, and packaging sweet chocolate shapes. 

 It's tedious and far away from my dream job or even my college major, but I am thankful. 

 Almost six months ago, my boss asked to see me in his office at the end of the day. Hours later, I fearfully entered his office and closed the door at his request, trying to figure out what I had done wrong and what I would say.

 Instead, he offered me a promotion, a small leadership role in my department. The job was almost exactly the same as what I had been doing before, but I would be the coordinator of the room, making sure products were wrapped on time and acting as liaison between different departments we work with directly. 

 I sat in the chair across from him stunned. Because I am not a leader. I am the one who works behind the scenes. I am the one who forces others to make decisions. I am the one who will avoid confrontation and avoid anything that puts me in the spot light on any level. 

 Yet I now find myself the wrapping coordinator. 

 And I picture God sweetly laughing.

 The position is small, but it has been a stretch for me. Some days it is easy and I forget I am "in charge". Other days I regret saying yes. A few Mondays ago it was one of those regretful days. 

My job is unique in that as long as our hands are busy, we can talk. This is a huge blessing as our tasks can quickly get tedious and boring. But sometimes we can get more caught up in our conversations than our work.

 We can all do this, but I have one coworker who tends to do it more often. She is an easygoing and delightful woman who talks with her hands and I noticed as soon as she started working that she would stop wrapping when she got involved in a conversation.

 But I said nothing. I hoped that as time passed and she learned more about how we do things it would naturally stop. Mostly, I didn't want to tell her. And she did get better. Mostly.

 Which brings me to that one Monday.

 We are working at different tables and I ask this woman about a book she had finished. She summarizes the book for me and as she speaks her chair turns around until she is facing me and not the table where she is working. She is so excited about this book, telling me plot and character details. 

 Then our boss enters the room. And he sees her facing away from her work.

 He says little, but he doesn't have to say anything. I see on his face that though he isn't mad, he is annoyed, and has every right to be.

 When he leaves we silently go back to our work, and shame and horror settles over me. Some might not be bothered by what happened. We all work hard and do our best there, and what does a loss of maybe three minutes at the most matter? 

 But it gnaws at me. As the coordinator, it is my job to make sure things like this don't happen. And today, I failed to do my job.

 I am quiet the rest of the day brooding in my failure. But I can't focus just on this failure. All of my failures come back into my head, parading in front of me and taunting me. I try so hard to be perfect and it never works. 

 And I want to laugh at myself. If I was perfect, Jesus wouldn't have had to die!  This is so simple and stupid. I have accepted the truth of my sin and Christ's payment for my sin since I was four years old. Yet I live my life trying to be perfect.

 Though still sobered by the previous events, I feel peace, and I know what I must do.

 First, I write a quick note to my boss since I write better than I can speak. I apologize for what happened, tell him that it was my fault, and that I will try my best to not let it happen again. I slip it onto his desk with other papers.

Then I stay late to talk to this woman when everyone else has gone. 

 "I have been avoiding telling you something for a while," I begin carefully. 

 She listens, and I try to gently explain how easily she can lose focus and stop wrapping.

 And she is gracious, agreeing that she does that and even tells me to just give her a look the next time that happens. I have been stupidly avoiding this conversation for months for no reason. We talk about it more. We even talk about my leadership position and how I never wanted to be in charge of anything. 

 Then I see an opening and sense a push. 

 "But this leadership role has been good for me," I say.

 "How so?" she asks. Her eyes find mine. 

 "This job has helped me see that I try to live my life perfectly. I try to hide my flaws from the world. But in this job, I mess up all the time in tangible ways people outside of my family can see. And it is so stupid since the foundation of my faith is that I am not perfect and I'm a sinner, so Jesus died on the cross for my sin."

 We don't linger on the subject, but this is the most I have ever been able to share the gospel with her. All because I messed up. 

 And this is how God uses my brokenness for His glory.