Fullness of God

“Live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won’t find yourself begging others for scraps of love.” -Lysa TerKeurst

I recently read the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. She writes about the fear of rejection and the danger of basing our lives on the approval of others. As someone who cares deeply about what people think of me, this book resonated with me.

I’m realizing just how many of my decisions are based on a fear of rejection. I waste so much energy analyzing people to figure out what will please them or make them approve of me. I only share certain parts of myself with others, carefully selecting the parts that I know will be acceptable to them. This is such an exhausting way to live. And it often leaves me feeling unknown and misunderstood.

It is so freeing to rest in the love of a perfect God whom I don’t have to strive to please. He knows everything about me and loves me unconditionally. He accepts me as I am, in full knowledge of my faults and the less attractive parts of my personality.

I want to learn how to live from the abundant place that I am loved by God. I want to enter situations with a fullness of God that isn’t dependent on whether or not people accept me or love me.

God loves and accepts me.

And that’s enough.

 

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Running on Empty

On Monday I almost ran out of gas. It had been a long, exhausting day and I was feeling pretty scatterbrained. I was running errands after school when I suddenly looked down and noticed that my gas gauge was on empty. I quickly looked up the nearest gas station and put it into my GPS. I prayed the whole way there. I was exhausted both emotionally and physically and just knew I could not handle getting stranded on the side of the road. Somehow I made it to the gas station and the attendant started filling my car. When he handed me my receipt, I looked at it in shock.

I have a 12 gallon tank and he had filled it with 11.999 gallons of gas. 

If that is not a miracle, then I don’t know what is!

As I shared this story with my mom, she jokingly suggested that this experience might be a metaphor for my life. This has been a very exhausting season for me. As the teacher of a challenging class, I’m dealing with a lot of intense student behaviors along with the normal stress that comes with the end of the school year. In my personal life, the Lord has been stripping away a lot of negative thought patterns that have become ingrained in my mind. Although this work is important, it’s exhausting and has caused me to have to re-evaluate my identity and how I view myself. And as an introvert that desperately needs alone time, I have recently felt pushed to the max with the extroverted demands of my life and job.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I agree with my mom. I feel like my gas tank is on empty and I’m just running on fumes.

But through this experience, the Lord reminded me that He is more than enough for me. I may feel like I have only 0.001 gallons left in my tank. But He promises to get me through.

Times of refreshing are coming.

 

 

Hiding

“Come out of hiding, you’re safe here with me. There’s no need to cover what I already see. You’ve got your reasons, but I hold your peace. You’ve been on lock down, and I hold the key. Cause I loved you before you knew it was love. And I saw it all, still I chose the cross. And you were the one I was thinking of when I rose from the grave. Now rid of your shackles, my victory’s yours. I tore the veil for you to come close. There’s no reason to stand at a distance anymore. You’re not far from home.” -Steffany Gretzinger, “Out of Hiding”

The first time I heard this song it made me cry. Something about these lyrics resonated so deeply with me. I often find myself living in hiding. Sometimes I hide from people, afraid to be vulnerable and open about the things in my life that are less than desirable. Sometimes I hide from myself. I pretend like things are better than they are so that I don’t have to deal with the messy and broken parts of my life. And sometimes I even try to hide from God. I allow myself to get caught up in busyness and distraction, pretending like I don’t need God and that I can manage life on my own.

I think that a natural part of being human is to live in hiding. Our inclination to cover ourselves and self-protect goes back to the garden of Eden. When sin entered the world, Adam and Eve immediately hid from God. They were ashamed of their nakedness and they questioned if God really loved them. In my opinion, shame is what causes us to live in hiding. Only God’s unconditional, gracious love has the power to bring us out of hiding.

Lately, I’ve been deeply struck by the way God lovingly pursues people in hiding. He sought out Adam and Eve in the garden and graciously provided clothes for them to wear. He never gave up on the people of Israel even though their hearts were so fickle and they repeatedly turned to other gods. When he came to earth, he regularly sought out lepers, prostitutes, and tax collectors- the people that were despised and shamed by society. He is the Father who runs out to meet the prodigal son when he is still far off in the distance. He is the Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to find the one that is lost.

I’m realizing that God dearly loves me even when I’m living in hiding. He doesn’t want me to stay there. But He loves me unconditionally right where I’m at.

And He will never stop pursuing me.

 

Mistakes

A couple of weeks ago, I had such a sweet moment with my students. I was showing them how to do a paint by number art project. However, I soon I realized that I’d made a mistake. I’d told them to write the numbers on their artwork in the wrong places, a mistake that would take several minutes for them to fix. To my surprise, instead of groaning or complaining, my students were quick to encourage me. Several shouted out, “It’s ok, we all make mistakes.” And another student quickly assured me that “just like students make mistakes, teachers are allowed to make mistakes too”. I was touched by the grace that my students were so quick to extend to me.

Sometimes I think that God has a sense of humor. He put an immense perfectionist like myself into a profession that is so imperfect. In the last couple of years I’ve realized that teaching is a job that is impossible to get just right. There are so many complex pieces and factors that are completely out of my control. Students can exhibit challenging and unpredictable behaviors. What worked with one class may not work with the next class. Curriculum and expectations are constantly changing. And it’s impossible to perfectly plan for everything.

I’ve made so many mistakes as a teacher. However, I’m realizing that most of what I’ve learned about teaching has actually come through making mistakes. Sometimes you have to do something the wrong way in order to discover what actually works.

I’m realizing that growth and mistakes go hand in hand. When I try to keep everything under my control and avoid mistakes, I am actually stunting my own growth. Perfectionism keeps me stuck in the same place. However, a willingness to make mistakes allows me to grow and move forward.

I love how God is using teaching to chip away at my perfectionism. And sometimes he even uses my dear students to remind me that it’s ok to mistakes.

Comparison

“Stay in your own lane.”

Recently I had coffee with a dear friend and mentor and this was her advice for me. It’s such a simple phrase, but so incredibly hard to live out.

I’ve always struggled with comparison. Rather than focusing on the individual journey God has for me, I often find myself looking to the left and right to see what everyone else is doing. This causes me to constantly re-evaluate myself. My identity becomes based on how I measure up to others, rather than on how God sees me.

Sometimes I wish that social media had never been invented. In my opinion, social media is what most strongly fuels comparison in our society today. And it is such an inauthentic representation of reality. On social media we present a collection of all of our best, most polished moments. We showcase our vacations, adventures, and our best moments with friends and family. While none of these are inherently wrong, they don’t accurately represent day to day life. As a result, we end up comparing the mundane, ordinary aspects of our daily life to brief, seemingly perfect snapshots of other people’s lives. It’s no wonder that social media sparks comparison and competition.

Although I appreciate the way that social media lets me connect with people who live far away, I’ve recently become profoundly aware of it’s negative impact my life. There is a direct correlation between my sense of contentment and the amount of time I spend online.

For example, as a definite introvert, I deeply value my alone time. My introversion is a key part of how God has wired me and something I actually really enjoy about myself. However, when I get online and see people appearing to be so social and outgoing, I tend to question this aspect of myself and wish that I had a greater capacity for people. I start to view my introversion as a flaw in my personality rather than as a gift.

The same is true about my singleness. Although I am enjoying this season of my life and don’t feel in a big rush to get married or have my own family, that can change when I get online and see so many people getting married and having kids. I start to wonder if I’m missing out and fear that I’m falling behind.

My problem is that I’m not staying in my own lane. Instead, I’m meandering into other people’s lanes and analyzing how my progress in the journey measures up to theirs. And this is such a deadly trap. I’m learning that comparison is a game I will never win. There will always be someone more connected, more adventurous, more attractive, and more successful.

However, when I stay in my own lane and fix my eyes on Jesus, everything changes. I realize that I’m exactly where I need to be and that God is pleased with me. I remember my identity as daughter, friend, and beloved of God. And I feel a sense of deep contentment about where I’m at in my journey.

It’s the joy that comes from staying in my own lane.

Present

The other day I encountered the present moment in an unexpected and beautiful way. I woke up too late and rushed around to get ready for the day. I hurriedly got in my car and started driving to work. I began to think about all of the things I needed to get done that day. I have this bad habit of using my 20 minute commute to obsess about all that was unfinished from the day before and worry about what the upcoming day will hold. This day was no different. However suddenly, I looked up and saw the most beautiful sunrise I had seen in a long time. The sky literally looked like it was on fire with gorgeous pink and orange hues. At the same time, one of my favorite songs started playing on my Spotify playlist. I immediately forgot about my anxieties and was acutely aware of the sacredness of that present moment with the Lord. It was such a sweet moment and I almost missed it.

I struggle to live in the present. This may be because I am an INFJ personality which I’ve learned is one of the most future-focused personality types. I also struggle with anxiety and am therefore constantly playing out “what if” scenarios in my mind. Additionally, I’m a bit of an idealist and spend a lot of time in my head dreaming about the future. Whatever the reason, I find it very difficult to embrace the present.

Sometimes I wonder just how many sacred moments I miss because I’m so caught up in my head. I think that some of God’s best gifts are only discovered by being fully engaged in the present.

I’m learning that it takes discipline to live in the present moment. I’ve found that certain activities help me in this area. For example, I most readily embrace the present moment when I’m hiking, running, playing music, or spending one-on-one time with people I care about. Each of these activities help me to live in the moment and fully engage with what’s happening around me.

I’ve also been learning the danger of multitasking. In my opinion, multitasking is one of the greatest hindrances to living in the present moment. It’s hard to be fully present when I’m cooking, watching tv, checking my phone, and trying to have a conversation all at the same time! I find that when I focus on one task, conversation, or activity at a time, I’m more likely to be aware of what God’s doing in that moment.

This goes so against my natural inclination. However, I want to learn how to more regularly engage in the present moment and find God there.

Thoughts on Loneliness

“However most of us our reluctant to admit our loneliness even to ourselves. All of us tend to have a congenital need to deny that we experience loneliness and that it is, in some way, responsible for many of our feelings, actions, and pursuits… We admit that we are lonely only with feelings of shame and weakness. Also, most of us feel that loneliness is not something that should affect normal, healthy persons… Unfortunately, too, the cost of our self deception is high. We pay a heavy price for not admitting our loneliness, facing it squarely, and grappling with it honestly.” -Ronald Rolheiser

This quote comes from the book “The Restless Heart” by Ronald Rolheiser. This is easily one of the best books I’ve ever read and one that I’ve read more times than I can count. I love Rolheiser’s nuanced, thoughtful perspective on loneliness. He identifies many types of loneliness. Some examples are…

… the loneliness that comes from being alienated from others (what we normally think of when we hear the word “loneliness”).

… the loneliness of being in relationship with others, but not being fully known.

…the loneliness that comes from our culture’s mobility. People, places, and organizations are constantly changing or moving away.

…the loneliness of rootlessness. With our culture’s breakdown of the nuclear family, people are losing their sense of belonging.

…the loneliness that comes from losing touch with our spiritual heritage and history.

…the loneliness caused by media and advertising. The media constantly presents us with ideal people, relationships, and things that we can never quite attain.

…the loneliness of living “as in a glass darkly”. Until we reach heaven, our relationships with God and with others are imperfect and only partially satisfying.

I’m realizing that loneliness is a universal human experience. Even the most social, extroverted people probably experience feelings of loneliness from time to time. I also find it interesting that we tend to be so private about this completely normal human experience. I wonder how much more fulfilling our relationships with others could be if we felt the freedom to admit our loneliness rather than hiding it from others.

In “The Restless Heart”, Rolheiser quotes psychologist Carl Rogers. The quote reads as follows:

“I have most invariably found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal, and hence, most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many people. It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared and expressed, speak most deeply to others.”

I have found this to be true in my own life. The seasons of loneliness that I have experienced have actually resulted in some unexpected gifts. I think that sometimes God allows us to go through times of loneliness because it increases our sensitivity and empathy for others. Only by being lonely ourselves, do we understand the loneliness that others experience. I also think that seasons of loneliness cause us to be more thankful for deep and meaningful relationships when we do experience them. Most importantly, though, I’ve found that loneliness has the potential to draw us closer to the Lord and the intimacy that he offers.

And that is by far the greatest gift.