This Person: Advice to Myself

Don't stand at the horizon and look back -- look forward.
Don’t stand at the horizon and look back — look forward.

There’s comes a time when you realize you aren’t sure what happened to your old habits, old characteristics — and you miss them.  The good ones, anyway.
You miss…YOU.

I used to think everyone was inherently good.  I used to never tell secrets because I grew up realizing that people are never as trustworthy was you want them to be.  I used to want to help people no matter if they were rude to me, nice to me, or seemingly worthless individuals.  I used to guard my heart so well that I could never get broken — but that came with a price.  I used to say what I thought because I had innocent, naïve, loving thoughts.  I used to welcome anyone and everyone as a new friend.  I used to go after whatever I loved, whether I was good at it or not.  I used to chase joy instead of reputation.

When did I become someone who forgot these things?  Someone who lives differently, and loves selectively.
I’ve become vulnerable, but for the wrong reasons and to the wrong people.  I forgot how much I know that trusting someone wholeheartedly is a great risk, reserved only for ones I know are worth the risk.  I became someone who doesn’t always use words kindly.  I have become a person who is no longer all inclusive to others; someone who runs from others as soon as they offend or hurt me.  I’ve become someone who chases a “good reputation” and lives in fear of doing anything that might “look bad,” rather than chasing joy and delighting in my freedom.

My advice to myself?
Love inclusively.
Trust carefully.
Search for the good in someone until you find it.
Forgive always.
Help whenever you see a need.
Use your words kindly.
Never fear.
Chase after joy.
Be bold enough to embrace failure.
Be true to God.
Dream big.  And bigger.
Be free.
Pray harder.
Never give up hope.

The truth is, sometimes I just don’t know what kind of person I’m becoming.  The person my parents are proud of?  The person my friends are entertained by?  The person chasing after success?  The person afraid of truly going after her dreams?  The person who looks good on paper?  Or the person doing all she can to become who she wants to be — not who her world and the people in it are trying to make her into?
For now, I’m going to take my own advice and see what happens.  After all, the one person you know you can trust is yourself.


Make Your Trade: Completeness or Self-Worship

The goal of your faith should produce joy.
The goal of your faith should produce joy.


Joy.  There’s something different in joy than in happiness.  In the words of my favorite pastor (Dan, Journey Campus), “Happiness is self-worship.  The trouble with happiness is that it depends on what’s happening.  But joy is built on the foundation of knowing someOne, not having something.  Joy is completeness in Christ.”  Joy, true unabated joy in the Lord, is something that cannot be substituted for.  Why?  Because there simply isn’t anything else like it.  Happiness is a temporary, cheap knock-off.  Happiness fades and wears with time, but joy grows with time — if you let it. 

I was thinking, “what do I so often trade in my joy from the Lord for?”  My answer: temporary happiness because of someone who isn’t the Lord.  I am confident I am not the only one who does this.  To be completely, transparently honest, I decieve myself into thinking if I start hinging my happiness on “Christian people” and let that become more important than the joy of the Lord, it’s still okay —- you know, because those people love God, too.  No, it’s not okay.

I have been guilty of letting that text message from that “oh so sweet Christian boy” bring me happiness in place of the joy of the Lord through prayer.  I have been guilty of substituting my quiet time with God for “hanging out” with God’s people — or just ONE person who loves God.  I have been guilty of letting the compliment from “that special person” mean more to me than God’s Word telling me “Mary, I -the Creator of Life- love YOU.  I made you.  I say you are wonderfully made.  I love you more than the sun and the stars.  I chose you to be Mine.  I whisper good morning to you every single day.  I let you rest in My arms every single night.  I show how much I care about you with every breath you breathe.”   Really, is there even a comparison?  No, not at all.

There’s a certain pang of remorse that I feel with the realization that I trade my joy from the completeness in the Lord for temporary, always-failing happiness from the acceptance of someone else (even if that someone else is a God-fearing Christian person).  To accompany remorse is guilt, shame, sadness, and anger with myself.  But as it always is with my merciful and loving God, there is redemption:  He is still here, holding joy out to clothe me in.  No more wearing around happiness like a tattered, weather-worn jacket.  God is clothing me in a cozy, withstanding coat of joy.  He is offering me the joy I was so eager to dismiss.  He is dismissing my shame, guilt, remorse, self-anger, and sadness of knowing I have given up joy.  Why?  Because He loves me.  Because He is faithful .  Because He knows what I want even when I am confused.  Because He is merciful.  Because He is forgiving.  Because He is Yaweh.

I invite and challenge YOU to find what you trade in your joy for.  What do you allow to bring you temporary happiness?  Get rid of it.  Ask the Lord for His joy to fill you.  Ask for Him to remove what thing or person you let dictate your happiness and your degree of joy.  (I’m not saying that if someone makes you happy to get rid of them.  But if you rely on them making you happy instead of having joy from God, then yes — make some changes.)  Seek joy in Him alone, and I can promise you:  it will stand every test and every trial.  It’s a hard thing to do, given that we are selfish beings by nature and would rather have happiness (remember, it’s self-worship) than joy (completeness in Christ).  But wouldn’t you rather be complete in your Savior than bowing down to yourself? 

Let me be clear:  I think it is acceptable and encouraged to find joy in Christian fellowship.  I am NOT saying that being joyful or happy because of or with other Christians (or non-Christians) is a bad thing.   I am simply saying that the core of your joy….it should be from Christ.   I am saying that at your core should be joy in Christ above happiness.   But is all happiness bad?  No, I think not. 

It is my goal to lay aside the things and/or people that I have sought happiness in and seek only the Lord further, to seek to grasp the joy of the Lord and live on that.  Let His whispers and His displays of love bring me more joy than anything else.  Let His Word touch my heart more than the words of anyone else.  Let my worship be His and not my own.  Let my joy be in Jesus.  Let my life be joyful. 

Joy: the beauty of pain

Recognize the beauty in everything.

I am learning more and more the beauty in feeling pain.  No, I am not a sadist or anything like that.  I am simply talking about the pain of feeling like someone took your heart and beat it like a pinata.  I used to ask God “why?” over and over again.  I couldn’t understand why he would let His child go through such pain when I know He could prevent it if He wanted.  I have realized that things are working in accordance to His perfect, beautiful plan and I am just a part of it.  Not only am I part, but I am blessed to be so.  I am blessed to feel the pain of heartbreak.  I am blessed to feel that sinking feeling you get when someone tells you that you aren’t good enough or simply enough.

I am blessed.

Why?  Because in every blow to my heart that knocks me to my knees, I am already in the perfect position to pray.  Because every piercing word or mocking insult are just offenses I toss at the feet of my Creator.  Because with every person telling me “you’re not good enough”, I have a Savior who says, “Listen to Me: you are worth dying for.”  Because when I am knocked down, unable to pull myself up — that is when God scoops me up not just to my feet but in His arms.  That’s just a beautiful feeling to be high on God’s love.

God loves me enough to scoop me up.  God loves me enough to protect me with His power and might.  God loves me enough to let me feel heartbreak so that I can learn, then experience the joy of resting securely in Him.

I don’t go around asking God to allow others to break me, but I try not to question Him when it happens.  Only a God of love can turn a beaten down heart into a place of joy and praise.  Only Yahweh can do that.

So even in the days when people (especially people who I care about most) intentionally hurt me, I can only find joy that I am a child of God who loves me, defends me, and who wants the best for His children.  When other people try to tell me who and what I am, I simply remember:   I am a sinner who has been saved by a gracious, loving God.  I am a child of God.  I am a co-heir with Christ.  I am a part of a greater purpose, a bigger plan.