I have been a devoted follower of Christ for seventeen years now. I guess you could call me a spiritual teenager. My spiritual upbringing occurred in a wonderful church where I had several beautiful, godly women as mentors. Eleven years into my journey, God did something incredible that I am still processing. He ripped me away from my wonderful church, and my beautiful mentors and friends, and dropped me in the middle of the desert. Well, central Texas, to be exact, but it may as well have been the Mojave to me. It's actually amazing to me how much insight He gave me beforehand, and yet how shocked I was when it all actually happened. I knew God wanted to do a new thing in me, and He wanted to take me to the next level with Him. I also knew that I would be following Him into the desert, and that there would be trials. Knowing something in your head, however, is a far cry from the actual experience of it. I really had no idea what I was in for.
The list of things that I have experienced in my six years of "exile" is extensive. Things I never could have imagined and can't really begin to list here. Partially because it would take a novel to fill it all and partially because a lot of it would just bore you. I will say this though, every area of my life has been shaken and rearranged. Everything I believed has been questioned. The very essence of who I am as a person has been dissected and examined under a microscope. Some of the trials have come directly from God and some have been a result of my response to what God was doing. Needless to say, I didn't always respond positively. What I want to share with you today is a sort of epiphany I had this morning about being who God made me to be. A result of the microscopic exam, perhaps.
Let me provide a little insight first. I spent a lot of my life being very insecure and intent on doing things "right". I grew up under a very critical dad and was heavily influenced by a perfectionist grandmother. So, when it came time to be a Christian I looked around for someone to model. I guess out of habit, I looked for "perfection". I looked to people who looked perfect on the outside. Fortunately, most of them were also beautiful (I have come to learn that no one is perfect) on the inside. My insecure little brain, however, associated the outer appearance with doing it "right". I decided that being a good Christian meant dressing well, perfect hair and makeup, and perfectly manicured nails. After all, that was how my grandma always presented herself and that was how I was taught to present myself as well, even before becoming a Christian. It was a perfect fit. Don't get me wrong, I did understand the gospel and actually submerged myself in Bible study. I also thought being a Biblical scholar was the way to superior spirituality. I needed to be the perfect package, remember. My trip to the desert changed all of that.
In spite of my superficial perspective on Christianity the Lord managed to lay a strong foundation, through those beautiful mentors I mentioned, that I was able to rely on while being buffeted by the enemy in the desert. I really can't begin to tell you how badly I was shaken by what God was doing, and that was the point. Unfortunately, the enemy used all the questions and doubts that arose as a virtual playground. I will be very transparent here and tell you that I have not grown like I could have these past six years. I have doubted God. I have disobeyed God. I have been angry with God. I was in a tailspin and couldn't seem to stop it! All the weaknesses in myself that I thought God and I had worked through, resurfaced. I cannot remember ever being more confused and frustrated than I have been since being uprooted, and I don't think I have ever cried so much in my life. I have always known that God was in control and I have always chosen to believe that He has a plan for my life. I have had to remind myself so many times of all the truths I know about God because there was such a strong pull to stop believing. Yes, stop believing. There were times when I thought it must be so much easier to just stop reminding myself and do something to change my circumstances on my own. God was just not working fast enough and He was not relieving my pain, confusion, and frustration. I have reached the end of my rope several times in the past several years. If I had a dime for every time I said, "I can't stand this anymore!", I would be buried in dimes. Somehow, all of the inner turmoil magnified my need to do it "right". Probably because everything seemed so "wrong" to me. The ironic thing is, the more I tried to do it "right", the more I had to try to do it "right". I could NEVER seem to do it right. I couldn't do marriage right, motherhood, Christianity, myself......nothing. The battle between spirit and flesh has never been more apparent to me than it has been these past few years. My spirit knows that I can do nothing in and of myself and yet my flesh is determined to make everything "perfect". I know that God's plan and timing are perfect, but my flesh wants to do it in her time and according to her plan. The battle raged in every area of my life. It has been..........tiring! Then this morning, the epiphany. Seven simple little words that came out of nowhere; "What if you're not doing it wrong?" What?!
Could it be possible that God didn't create me with a cookie cutter? Is it possible that there are more important things than having your house spotless and being perfectly coiffed? Could it be, just maybe, that not making your bed every morning is not a sin?! What?! Maybe this whole thing with God - this Christianity - is really and truly about relationship and outer appearance has nothing to do with it, not even a little? It shocks me to know how shallow I've been, how self-reliant while thinking I was relying on God. A wonderful pastor friend of mine once used the term, "glory seeker" to actually describe himself. That phrase struck a chord with me because I am guilty of the same. I have always wanted to be important and well loved. I have sought the approval of man more than the approval of God and thought that doing everything "right" was the way to obtain it. Knowing that I was already important to and approved of by God was head knowledge. My heart hadn't bought it yet. I think my heart is just now starting to really believe it. Being a Christian is not about looking the part. It's about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength regardless of what anything looks like. It's about being sold out to the One who deserves all you have because He gave His all for you.
All those years I tried to fit myself into a mold that I thought was "right". I was not being completely true to myself or to my Heavenly Father. I wasn't trying to discover who He made ME to be and what HE wanted me to look like. Don't get me wrong, I like my share of "cute", but I put way too much stock in it in the past. So, with you as my witness, as of today I am breaking the mold. I will no longer try to fit myself into someone else's shape. I must let go of of pre-conceived ideas about everything and embark on a new journey with God - discovering what He has for me now and who He intended me to be all along. "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead", - Philippians 3:13 It is imperative that I keep moving forward and leave the past behind - every today as soon as it becomes yesterday.
Walking with God is an amazing journey....all of it. The mountaintops, the valleys, the dusty roads, and the lush meadows. It all goes together. One cannot be appreciated without the other. God never promised me a rose garden, but He did promise to always be with me and He has been. The reason I could come to the end of my rope several times is because He kept giving me new rope - a lifeline - and here I still am. More hopeful than I have probably ever been, and possessing a deeper understanding of who He is and what He's really all about. We still have a lot of work to do, but a major hurdle has been jumped with the destruction of the mold of "rightness". Hallelujah! Onward to further discovery!