Another post from Soma Spokane.
Someone asked me last week if I was having a hard time making ends meet. The question puzzled me. I’m not sure how to respond, I told them, because sometimes the ends meet, and sometimes they don’t, but I never feel like I’m having a “hard time.” Thankfully they understood my faith and took me for mature rather than naive.
I have had times during which I was more consistently worried about money. I can tell you that I had a lot more money than I do now, and from where I stand, I just don’t get it anymore. God is so faithful to provide when I lean on him.
Money is stressful when you covet financial “security.” You will never be financially secure. And the larger your bank account, the more you will have to protect it and maintain it. Don’t you know your heavenly father cares for you? That his power is made perfect in your weakness? You’d never know it, but I am more financially secure than most people will ever be. My Daddy (I mean God) has everything, and I will never stop living in the freedom of his care.
If you were God wouldn’t you want all of your creation pointing at you and saying, “Look, look how he cares for me. Isn’t it beautiful?” It’s not about you. It’s about him getting to be your hero.
If it were about you, you would have to provide for yourself, prove yourself, maybe save a few of the “lesser” kinds of people (and you would have to label them as lesser first), make sure you have your bases covered financially (just in case), and, when that failed, you would have to pretend that it didn’t, even believe wholeheartedly that it didn’t. And once you start lying to yourself about your failures, you begin to build up residual dissociated stress. You are alienated because no one can know what is really in your heart. I’m not that bad. It’s not that bad. This is normal. Well, as for me, I am that bad. It is worse that I could ever know, I will own that. My situation is normal, but it is also the worst. How are we all so broken? Could we really forget the intense love with which he loved us and continues to love us every day?
I want you all to know that beauty is knowing God, trusting him fully. Beauty is being in love with one who will never let you down, and holding all other loves (even your money) as merely the fruit (and gracious providence) of the one.
Do not worry. That is a command, not just a phrase of comfort. I don’t know what we think that means nowadays, but clearly we do not have ears to hear. When Jesus says that, he isn’t offering his condolences for your desperate situation. He’s saying your worry is sin because your situation is not desperate with him, but you refuse, time after time, to acknowledge him!
Have you ever told someone not to worry? Rebuked them for their worry? It’s a weird thing to do. We tend to pity those who have something to worry about, to empathize with their need, see it as justified. When you know God, you know that worry is never justified.
Do not worry! It is absolutely uncalled for. Worry perpetuates lies about God, false pictures of his care, his sovereignty, his great wealth and prodigal generosity.
Meet my Jesus. He is my love, my righteousness, my security, my listening ear, my clarity, my joy. He walks with me, even through my pain, and me makes me into a person I am not good enough to become on my own. When I am brought low, I am humbled; when I am lifted up, I am humbled even more. There is nothing I have that wasn’t given to me.
When I first took hold of Jesus and promised myself I would never let go, I realized that everything would have to be different. I didn’t know how, but I had to run toward him forever. From my perspective at the time, I felt that I had to trust my grip on him. I had to pursue Jesus, and the only way I knew how was through service. It was a very intentional turn from satisfying my own needs to meeting the needs of others. As a result, when I couldn’t see a need, I was anxious. If I didn’t pick up a piece of trash I saw, I felt it meant I was running away from him. I had to do everything right because the slope is slippery.
Somehow, I moved beyond that into a season of wanting to see the salvation of my high school, revival. I preached the gospel everywhere, led a prayer group every morning, fasted every Thursday. God did nothing. It was his grace to me. I was enthusiastic, moved, passionate, even joyful, but I am not convinced that I loved him yet. The joy, the wisdom, the fervor, the way I was able to lead my peers to Christ in that time, those were gifts and I didn’t deserve them. I still believed that if I sacrificed enough for God, he would come. I would see the mighty works of his hand. I loved those works more than I loved God.
One day after youth group, I found myself sitting in my car in the church parking lot, praying. I was listening to a worship CD. I had never gotten to the end of the last track. There was a lot of blank space and some piano background music, then, finally, a mini sermon. I will never forget it said: “Jesus didn’t say ‘Blessed are those who do really cool things in my name,’ or ‘Blessed are those who seek the works of God,’ he said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.’” Having been so directly called out, I saw that this was the revival I desperately longed for. Revival wasn’t and isn’t the Holy Spirit bringing about spiritual craziness. Revival is one heart after learning that God himself is more captivating than all other things.
I have changed so much since Jesus found me. I found freedom from my religious fumbling. I found freedom from my need for worthy young men to validate me. I have found freedom from my pride. I didn’t do a thing. Not one single fucking thing.
My prayers feel more and more to me like poking a hole in my heart and letting the blood spill out along with everything else I hold dear, asking him to please pick out the evil things, asking for the pain that brings life. My prayers look like standing naked, saying, “what now?” with confidence that he will continue to lead me.
I didn’t change myself. I have been on a journey since God first took hold of my life and promised that it would be for good. And the times I grew the most were the times when I rested.
Several months ago, there were some things going on in my life that were painfully tearing at my idols, making me very aware of how uncertain my future is.
I know these seasons are not rare. I suppose many of you can relate. In the place of pain, where deep faith met deep fear, this was my prayer:
Please give me peace.
My fears can only send roots into a soil that has been tilled by lies of Jesus’ insufficiency.
I hate pain. I feel so done with these tears. You purge me of things I still love and hold to, and if you weren’t the one being with whom I know I need to be in relationship, I would hate you for it. Why are you destroying me? Why is it my long, slow death that brings you most to life in me?
I know that gratitude is coming because it always does, but I am angry.
Gratitude came. Deep faith conquered deep fear. I still rejoice in what was won for me in that season. The time expressed in this prayer was the walk in the desert that led to the promised land. Whatever you are going through, fight to believe the truth. Ask for the faith that is beyond what you can muster.
Jesus is enough, and the path you are on is a path to wholeness and healing.
I am awake late waiting for my roommate to get home, and I just remembered that sometimes when I type up my thoughts and post them online, people actually read them. Thank you.
Life is difficult to figure out. It’s even harder to figure out when sometimes it feels like you could be happy doing anything, but other times it seems like you won’t be happy no matter what you choose. Overall, I am hopeful. Overall, I choose Jesus. No matter how many times I fail or how badly, this story is a comedy. It ends happily ever after. When I remember that, I feel swallowed up in a wave of beauty that will soon overtake the entire earth. And then of course, I feel compelled to express it. I feel compelled to tell you here that life is rich, so don’t forget to taste it, to taste and see that the Lord is good.
I got stuck trying to explain what I do and am trying to do for a living today to my lovely acquaintances, the coffee gurus at Coeur Coffeehouse (a place which ranked #1 Coffee Shop in Spokane on SpoCOOL’s annual poll).
“You heading out?”
“Did you get lots of work done?”
“Yeah. I applied for two jobs, actually.”
“Oh yeah, what jobs?”
“Graphic design and editing for a publishing company in North Idaho.” (Their acronym is RIP!)
“So is that what you do now?”
“Umm. Not really. I only sort of have a job, running the social media sites for EJ’s…”
I then get to go on to try to explain that—while I am applying for jobs in multiple fields—I am also trying to start a freelance business for which I copyedit, social media market, design, and format books—but my website is under construction because I can’t afford to buy the domain or figure out how to organize my portfolios in all of those areas (because I totally have them—not exactly…). Oh, and I am actively pursuing an art career through my current studio practice—would you ever be interested in hanging any of my work here, by the way (they said, yes!). And forget trying to mention that I am also involved with Commonspace Arts, Neighborhood Council Executive Committee, Browne’s Addition Summer Concerts, and Missional Community Leadership at Soma Communities Spokane.
Some days this makes me feel very accomplished, like I am leading a full life, but today it makes me feel quite a bit like a crazy person who has so far to go in too many different directions. A poser in a few too many fields. The center cannot hold! And I cannot choose! I keep choosing one…and then all the others all over again. Am I doomed to be pulled into a thousand little pieces?
God must have a plan.
It’s days like today that make me thankful that my center is Christ. His relentless pursuit of me is more than enough to show me my worth. I cost him everything. I am his, so I don’t need to belong to art or publishing or community life. Sorry, other masters! I’ve been claimed.
I first knew I wanted to know Jesus in eighth grade, but I was too selfish and vain to let him be anything more than one of many compartmentalized facets of my life. I distinctly remember writing in my diary next to a list of girls I thought were annoying and other people I hated that I wanted to get closer to God. The sheer duality embodied in that sparkly gel pen, those smiley faces and exclamation points, still haunts me. I cared most about having the perfect school year, loyal best friends, and the attention of all the boys.
After two years of existing on the roller coaster of vanity and attention-getting, I committed myself to knowing Jesus and letting him into all of my life at camp before sophomore year of high school. I loved that good feeling that came from feeling like I was drawing near to Jesus after camps—the camp high—but it was so fleeting that I wanted something lasting. I was willing to fight for that. I committed myself to pursuing Jesus, to chasing down true redemption and transformation. I didn’t yet know that it was his pursuit of me, not mine of him.
The metaphor that saved me was waterskiing. The youth pastor said that following Jesus was like waterskiing. All we had to do was say, “Go boat!” and focus all our energy on holding on. Don’t worry about where you are going or how you are going to get there. Just stay in his hands. I don’t remember being “gospel fluent,” knowing how to apply the reality of Christ’s sacrifice to everything in my life, but through holding on and letting my connection to him drive my life, I saw him change me in authentic, gospel-centered ways.
It wasn’t long after I said “Go boat!” that I realized I didn’t know what God was pulling me out of. I was a sinner beginning to partake of my salvation, but it lacked the sweetness that comes from knowing true helplessness. “I’m not doing that badly,” I thought. “Will you show me?” I prayed. Within the next year, I saw myself, no longer as “not that bad,” but as a person so depraved that God couldn’t possibly love me. I knew better. But at the very least, I couldn’t bring myself to feel loved. Again, I asked him to show me. “How can you look at me and see righteousness? How could you look at David and say that he was a man after your heart?” There was a specific sermon about David that led me to ask that question. Within a week the Holy Spirit answered it.
At that time in my life, it was a firm reality for me that catastrophe was just God warming up the clay before he made something beautiful. I had a hard time understanding tragedy because of the intensity of that belief in me. Devastation was so closely tied to redemption that I couldn’t even see the devastation, just the open door for his good work. Thus, when I broke my collarbone skiing (a week after I asked him to show me his love and let me feel it), still laying in the snow, I was full of the delighted conviction that he must be moving. It was through that experience that he showed me that he could take anything away from me, even the sport I loved most and it didn’t matter in the slightest. My heart was unmoved, because he was so precious to me. As I lay in bed in pain and unable to sleep, he showed me, that his delight in me was like the delight I felt him, “See, you are a girl after my own heart,” I heard him say.
By the time I was a senior in high school, I had spent a year getting involved with ministry to my high school with a handful of my best friends. I helped lead a worship session before school on Wednesday mornings, and my best friends and I met every morning to pray for our campus. Prayer walks around the school were not an abnormal weekend activity, and I fasted every Thursday for the sake of seeing my school “revived.” I was passionate and full of bold faith, but a bit confused. To me, revival meant crazy things happening, not Jesus winning hearts in mundane day-to-day ways. This seeking after the works of God, his signs and not his face, was a huge distraction for me, but I wrestled hard with my desires and God responded by telling me that the only the pure in heart see God. Desiring works over relationship is the epitome of impurity.
During this time, I also saw an increasing need for community to make the gospel real, but I couldn’t find it. I made an announcement in my church youth group, where hundreds of students from several local schools gathered to worship, and I pleaded with them to be on mission with me to our schools. I saw that we needed a network that extended beyond the church building and I asked them to join us in prayer and community, but the group remained the same five of us that we started with. Despite my conviction that decades of prayers were behind our mission and the exhortation of several adults in my community, I left high school without seeing a single soul won.
At Whitworth, I spent a semester reverting to my distractions with friends and boys and having the “perfect” life, until I started reading Irresistible Revolution, which reawakened my strong desire to see Christ transform the culture and people around me. I struggled to find people at Whitworth that shared my passion. I thought we just need a group of committed people to get some money together and start making decisions with those resources to bless the city. I wanted to be like a monastic group, sharing our lives together, praying and seeking the spirit together. I was alone.
What I had tried so hard to cultivate, God gave to me when I sought it least. It was my sophomore year and time to take the next step toward getting involved at Vintage: missional community life. A special brunch and an invitation to rake leaves in Browne’s and I was ready to call it my neighborhood.