Life is funny. One minute you can be knee-deep in worship and your spirit is stirred and you feel vulnerable and excited and invested and the next, you can be self-analyzing and overthinking everything while mentally and emotionally withdrawing from all of the stimulus. Then you can go home and throw on some sweats and headphones and dance like a fool while cleaning and trying to sort through what is trash and what is worth keeping.
And just when it seems like the music is the escape from having to feel any more emotions – just when it seems like you are emotionally detached enough to revert back to the closed off person that you used to be – God breaks through the noise, because He’s sovereign and doesn’t care how loud our noise is – and shatters your heart.
Maybe that has never happened to you. But that has been my night.
I’m currently sitting on a comforter, on the floor, in the middle of boxes and shredded paper in an attempt to get rid of everything that I won’t need when I move to Africa. And in the middle of my hardened shell that builds when fear convinces me that I’ve been too vulnerable and that vulnerability is dangerous, God just split the shell right down the middle with a bunch of reminders of what has been.
God is gentle with me in ways that I don’t get. Because I feel like sometimes I just deserve a slap across the face since I know better than to withdraw from the God who rescued and redeemed me and continues to rescue me daily. But no, God is so tender and careful with me.
So I’m sitting here shredding old bank statements when I come across all of these papers and letters and folders that just blow my mind.
I’m moving to another country on the other side of the world in January – which is usually the month when I journal a ton and reflect on the past year – and in the middle of my cleaning frenzy, God tossed all of these reminders into my lap of what this past year has held.
So here is just a snapshot of the year in review…
I wrote a full-length play, procrastinated and revised a million times, defended my thesis, and graduated from the University Honors College at MTSU with a double-major and a minor. Took a one-week songwriting class and wrote a song about the prostitutes that I met in the Red Light District of Amsterdam last summer.
I fell in love, trusted God through a hard end to a relationship, learned that I have a ton of room for growth when it comes to depending on others. I confessed a major sin struggle to a few people and God freed me from the shackles that seemed to bind me to shame and self-condemnation. Broke my wrist, had surgery, had pins, plates, and screws permanently set into my right arm. I went through physical therapy for three months and learned that healing takes a lot of time.
I’ve continued to build a relationship with my biological dad, whom I didn’t have contact with for a long time, and God has continued to honor that in neat ways. I’ve been to the weddings of really close friends, wondered if I will ever have a wedding of my own, wrestled with my sense of purpose and self-worth as a college grad, and learned more about identity in Christ vs. identity in self.
And now I’m getting ready to move to Africa for at least 6 months. And I’m remembering that Africa is not the goal, the pinnacle, or my purpose for being alive. God is always the goal. Jesus has walked with me through every step of this journey and moving to the other side of the world is just another step in that journey. It’s just another part of this life of trusting and obeying and believing that God’s plans are so much higher than mine – which is hard to do.
When I stare at a flashing cursor on a white, blank page a year from now, I’m sure the experiences that have yet to come will be in this list of mind-blowing markers in my life. But no person, no place, no event can ever take the place of Jesus in my heart. I could mistakenly idolize Africa and crown it king in my life, but that would be hypocrisy, blasphemy, and idolatry. The experience isn’t what defines us. The experience shapes us. But God – who is constant in and through every experience – defines us.
So God, when you find me alone in my room with my music blaring, the doors of my heart ready to close, and my emotions on the verge of retirement for the week, I trust that you are sovereign. And that it is safe to surrender to You time and time again, even if the safety of surrender means a dangerous existence of trusting and obeying, come what may.
Here I am. Samuel spoke those words to you. Take and use me. Surely Daniel spoke the same.
Here am I. Designed for your glory. Molded for your glory. If there is no other purpose to my life than that, then it is with great purpose that I continue to walk into the next day.
A lot of days I feel like it’s just you and me, Jesus. I feel the weight of my solitude at so many different points. And you are kind to surround me with people who are amazing and who love and care for me. And you are kind to take me into the wilderness, alone, to test my heart and see if I will be fully surrendered to you even if it is a lonely journey. And you are kind to fill me when I feel completely empty. So thank you, Lord.
And thank you for the gentle reminders of the journey that you have brought me on, even in the past year. Please continue to hold me accountable, speaking your truth, your grace, your mercy, your discipline. And even when this journey of surrender seems like more than I can bear, show me my scar again and remind me that you died so I could live and my life is of no value if I don’t live like I am dead to myself because now, I am crucified with Christ.