What begins, must end.

May 15, 2010

Well fellow bloggers....I have some news.

Nothing too exciting, really. Just barely worthy to share, really.



Okay...next subject. No, I'm kidding. I suppose it's a pretty big deal. I decided to skip the entire graduation ceremony at my school, even though the infamous Glenn Beck will be the guest speaker of the event. At the point during my busy semester in which I had to make announcement decisions, buy a cap and gown, and think about sitting in a ceremony for hours just to walk across the stage amid people I don't know, it just got overwhelming - and I decided to skip out. I'm not regretting my decision. I am however, somewhat regretting the attitude with which I approached this whole graduating process. I think it spread to everyone else in my life. Don't get me wrong - I wasn't expecting some big party or anything (that's happening later this summer). I just wanted some verbal affirmation I suppose. I got it from a few people, but I guess I've just had a sensitive, stressful week - so I'm taking it extra hard. That sounds so silly once I read it all typed out, but hey. It's the honest truth.

When I think about my undergraduate career, I definitely have some great memories. My freshman year was spent in Cleveland, TN at Lee University as a Music Ed. Major with Piano. Although I hardly ever practiced, I LOVED all of my classes. I found it amazing that I got to learn music theory and sing in a choir as part of my classes! I made an amazing group of friends there and have some really great memories. Aside from a few minor details, it was everything that a freshman year should be. After my first year, I decided to transfer to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va, about an hour and a half from where my parents live. Near the ending of my second freshman semester, I just felt uneasy about returning. I prayed about it and didn't know exactly why, but I just kind of was led to go to LU. Standing where I am today, I can totally see God's hand in that. Amazing. Anyways, I spent two years at LU with my first semester still as a Music Ed. major. THEN.......that semester made me really dislike doing music as my life. I then went through several major changes as result of a minor freak out. I had NO idea what I wanted to do. For a solid week I was absolutely sure I wanted to teach History. I then went into a school setting to observe as part of an assignment for an education class. Boy, was I wrong. Long story short, I changed to Psychology (which I LOVE) and took 21 credits last summer in order to graduate early. And here I am. It DOES feel good to say that I actually accomplished what I set out to do. Since last summer, I have also been working (mostly part-time) as an ID/DD Clinician. I've been particularly busy. This past semester I also took my GRE, applied for Graduate School, and got accepted to each school I was interested in. It's been SUCH a blessing for all of those things to happen in my life. I have definitely not given my complete 100% academically, spiritually, socially....they've all fallen SO SO short. If I could go back, I'd retain more knowledge, get out of my selfish shell, reach out to others more, study more, stand up for myself more, get better grades, be more faithful to God and be more dedicated to seeking His will, etc. But the thing is...I'm learning now. I'm learning SO much and I'm ready to move forward knowing what I want and need to change, and knowing how I'm going to do that. I do feel regret about my undergraduate degree...a bit more than I'm letting on. All I can do, however, is move forward and make changes.

Aside from this week being the week of my graduation (that I'm not participating in), it was my last week working with my client of one year. It was rough leaving his house today. His family was home and I was trying to hold back the tears until I got into my car. That didn't go so well. I went to tell him goodbye in his room and came back out looking like a leaky faucet. Although I will share no details, I can say that it has been a wonderful process to be involved in. I consider it a privilege to have the job that I do.

This post is really sounding a lot like a post about things coming to an end......but really, it's only the beginning.

Not a word...

May 5, 2010

but many, many words. 

This past week, there have been so many stressful things that have reared their ugly head. Those are not what I'm led to write about, however. What I do want to write about is a truly remarkable thing that is rarely seen among people my age - correction - Christians in general. 

It began with something that a friend needed to be confronted about. That is biblical. Don't get me wrong, confrontation is not the same as judging. God commands us NOT to judge each other. This particular confrontation was done humbly, in complete love and concern for that friend. It was preceded by a week of prayer asking God to soften hearts and give us strength in what we were about to do. What began as a confrontation that went almost precisely as we asked God it would, turned into a time of confession, completely honesty and openness, and a bonding of hearts. Not only did our friend get honest with us and honest before God, but the things she had been holding on to were revealed and she was able to feel free for the first time in a very long time. God is faithful, He really, truly is. 

What we weren't expecting was just like sprinkles on top of a cupcake. (And I love cupcakes.) Actually, it was way better than that. 

After assuring our friend that our love was not based on what she did and that we did not look at her any different, we also assured her that we all struggle with so many things, as well. The youth pastor with us asked us to be transparent about things that we struggle with.

And we were......Boy, were we ever. 

Each of us learned things about each other that we never knew. And many of us found we had so many things in common that we struggled with. We all just kind of felt like throwing our hands up in the air and saying, "WHY didn't we talk about this before!" Our friend expressed that she hadn't been able to come to us about her situation, or anyone else in the church for that matter, because she saw us as not struggling with anything. She was afraid that we would look down on her because she was having a problem in a certain area of her life. I honestly wanted to crawl in a hole and cry to God.

It broke my heart. 

We all wondered out loud how many times other people in our lives had felt the same way. How many times had they seen our facade of "having it all together" and felt like they could not talk to us about what was going on in their lives. How many times had we openly expressed our disgust about someone and their sin, while we turned right around and resorted to our own sin?  It's a vicious circle! We want to pretend like we don't struggle and that we are doing great, and people who ARE struggling feel like they have to put up a facade so they aren't the only ones who are struggling. ALL THIS DOES is create an atmosphere of fake. THAT, people, is what unbelievers are SICK of. Don't think they don't see it walking in to church. We wonder why people call us hypocrites. We wonder why the body of Christ isn't being effective. We want to pretend like we have it all together. We beckon to unbelievers to come and trust the Christ we call the King of our lives. What we don't realize is that we are not showing them Christ at all. All we do is smother each other by not being open about our sin and asking for help. Imagine if we knew someone else was struggling with the same thing, or had in the past? What an untapped resource! What are we here for, Christians, if not to reach out and help each other? What is the body of Christ if we can't first help and disciple each other? Instead, we let our pride get in the way and don't want anyone to know that we are having problems.

I can't help but think that if someone who had yet to put their faith in Christ walked into a body of believers and instead of seeing cookie-cutter, put-on-a-show hypocrites, saw open and honest Christians who still may struggle with some of the same sins that unbelievers do yet are trusting their lives to Christ and trying their best to follow Christ - what a difference it would make in Christian evangelism! Being saved does not mean that our sin goes away. All it means is that our sin nature has been forgiven. It means that we now have the Power to fight our sin. It means that we have seen the unconditional, perfect, passionate love of Christ shown to us and our only response is to worship Him and live a life free of things that enslave us to our old life.We are called righteous before God, but it is not because of ANYTHING we have done. It is simply the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives through the grace of God. Will Christians still struggle? Yes. Will Christians still battle sin and their sin nature? Absolutely. Why pretend that we don't? Why put up a facade?Why not show each other the love and understanding that Christ showed us? Why not confront in love, willingly admit that we don't have it all together, help each other, lean on each other, and give grace. 

     My friends and I spent the next four hours talking about our own struggles, being honest emotionally and spiritually, and basically apologizing for putting up facades to one another. We expressed our frustrations with the church and talked a lot about what we see a Christian life truly looking like. It was an eye-opening moment for all of us that we wished that others could have shared. Lest I come off as prideful in any way, or sounding like I have it all figured out, this is only the beginning of what God is revealing to me, and us. All it takes is putting away pride, being honest and open, and ASKING God to speak. He will every single time. When it feels like He isn't, it is because we aren't truly open to what He may show us, or we have so many things blocking our intimacy with Him.  He is so good. There are literally no words to describe the awesomeness of my God. And who am I to try to use human expression to convey GOD, anyways? They all fall short.

I didn't want to write about this moment in my life to try and make myself seem like something I'm not. We're called to give GOD glory, not each other or ourselves. Recently, I truly have tried to put aside things that have prevented me from knowing God more intimately, and I have found that as soon as I have surrendered those things to Him, He has shown me more and more of who He truly is and what He wants for my life. The point is this - let's take our eyes off of each other as our standard. Every Christian at some point or another will be a hypocrite. Everyone around us will eventually let us down in some way simply due to our sin nature. Our standard is Christ and his Word, not a person, an organization, or rules set forth that are man-made measures of holiness. When we fail, let's give each other grace. It's what we have been shown time after time. Why should we, who have been shown grace from God, withhold grace from someone else?

As a disclaimer - there are some truly amazing churches out there. There are churches that reach out to the hurting, who show no judgment but truly want people to come to know the true Christ, change their lives, and who practice exactly what they preach. I really have been dealing with bitterness recently concerning Christian hypocrites. It's something I've really been trying to let go of because I know I do the same exact thing sometimes. The point is, we all are hypocrites at some time in our lives. My whole blog post would be pointless if I'm getting mad at others for judging, while I'm judging them for their judging. My main goal is to express what I've come to understand and to possibly help others to understand what true Christianity is all about. I have in no way "arrived". I simply want to encourage others with what God can do and encourage Christians to be open and honest with each other. 

Galatians 5:1 - It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.