Before School Starts…

Well, it’s official. School starts this week, on Tuesday in fact. Today, as I was sitting in church, I realized today would be the perfect time to sit down and write a blog post, before so many changes start to take place. This may be more for my sake than for anyone else’s, as I feel the need to let some things out and get them down on “paper”, so to speak. This post allows me to get out a few thoughts I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, and it also will serve as a sort of mile-marker for me to look back at this snapshot of my life and hopefully see how I’ve grown in the next few weeks or months.I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I look back at my journal entries from a few years ago it’s sort of depressing. I wonder why I’m still struggling with the same things. Why am I not growing?! I can definitely see growth over the last few years of my life, but many of the areas I was hoping to see some change in, I’m not. I’m really hoping that changes over the next while. I know that God doesn’t often work in the ways or on the things that we hope He will, but nevertheless, I’m hoping for some old issues to finally be dealt with once and for all. I want to emerge from this season free from lifelong battles and ready to triumph in the next season! So, without further ado, here we go…

Note: I don’t really expect everyone to read all of this. After writing it and seeing how long it is, I realized that I’m pretty sure I’ve read books shorter than this! It’s long and drawn out. Like I said, this is probably more for my own good than everyone else’s. But if you’re at all curious about my journey, dive on in!
Another Important Note: I’m not at all proposing that what I’ve written here is correct theology. It’s just part of my process. Please forgive the things that aren’t right yet. Hopefully, one day, they will be. Thanks!

You might be wondering why I chose the image for this post that I did. Quite frankly, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but it will have to do. The image in my mind is of a man, me, sitting in a jail cell with a door that is wide open. I’m free to leave at any time, but yet, I remain. This image hit me a couple weeks ago in church. Cami and I attended the evening service and were listening to a message, after which the speaker started addressing specific issues that he believed God wanted to deal with in people’s lives that night. The main issue was shame. He asked everyone who was feeling bound by shame to please stand up. Inside, I have felt shame most of my life. Not to get into specifics, but I’ve struggled most of my life with not being good enough (whatever that means…), not being smart enough, good looking enough, rich enough, and well – just plain enough. I have never been enough – at least not in my own opinion. With that view of yourself, you cannot help but live in shame, quite simply because in every way that you are not enough, you are shamed. There is no other option but to be ashamed of everything you are, or aren’t. Anyways, too much on that so back to my story. I was sitting there and thinking how much I would love to not live in shame, but I could not bring myself to stand. He commented to the people who did stand, that by standing, they already started to break the hold of shame in their life. He also stated that there were still people sitting because of shame, and invited them to stand as well. “That’s me!” I thought to myself. Yet, I still could not bring myself to stand. I knew what I wanted, which was to be free from shame. I had the option of walking away from it right there, but I still just sat there. That’s when I got the picture of me willingly sitting in my open jail cell. I wondered, what would make a man do that? Why would I willingly stay bound up by something I hated so much. I longed to be free, yet I would not take it. I think there are a couple contributing factors. One is that I believe I deserve my shame. I should be ashamed because of everything that I’ve done, everything I don’t do, and everything I struggle with. The other is that my shame is comfortable. I’m used to it. I don’t know what it’s like to not live in shame. Therefore, I stay seated in my cell with my head bowed. I don’t even deserve to look out the barred window at what my life could be like without it. I need to sit here and feel every once of the weight of it all. Here’s the irony. I know better. I know the right answers of how Jesus bore all my shame and guilt on the cross. I know that by me not accepting that, I’m essentially saying what He did wasn’t good enough (which, by the way, produces more shame). Obviously, those are not good reasons to stay where I am. I’m getting ready, working up the courage, to walk out that door and into the light. I’m excited for that in this next season.

Now, for a little snapshot into my life right now. Today, at church was especially hard – which neither Cami or I expected at all. It strangely reminded us of our time at school in Canada. Everything from the building layout and carpet pattern to the way people spoke and acted. It was weird. And painful. Canada was one of the hardest times in my life. God did some deep surgery in us there and, unfortunately, He didn’t use an anesthesiologist. Some of the pain was caused by outside influences, from which I thought we had healed. Apparently not! All of this is exactly why I’ve struggled with my answer when people ask me if I’m excited for school. Sure, I’m excited for God to move in my life. On the other hand, the measure with which God has moved in my life is also the same measure of pain that has come along with it. So, when I think of going to school, inwardly I cringe at the thought of all the pain I anticipate from this season. I know it’s not quite the right equation, but in my mind God = pain. Why should I expect anything different? Look at what Jesus had to endure in His time on this earth. And that’s to say nothing of the Garden experience, being betrayed by those closest to Him, and being crucified by there very ones He lovingly created. If I am truly a Christ follower, why should I expect anything different than what He experienced. And here lies another of my deepest wrestles. Is God ever happy? (And even deeper still, is God ever happy with me? But, we’ll leave that one alone for another time.) People tell me He is happy. I honestly just don’t believe it. I want to, but I cannot. How could God be happy when so many of His children are caught up in sin and deception the way that we are? People try to paint a happy Jesus. When I read the Gospels, I don’t see it. I’m pretty sure I could pull out a ton of different references in God’s word to refute the “Happy God” promoters. But why would I? I actually really want to believe that God is happy, or even could be happy. (Or what about happy with me?! Whoa! That would be insane, if only it were true.) If God were happy, how much joy that would bring to my soul! It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. But I quickly come back to reality and realize that God hates sin. How can God hate something I’m so prone to, something that is so rampant in our world, and still be happy? Doesn’t really sound possible. So, all of that being said, I want to know the truth. I know that will set me free. If I am seeing God wrong, I want the blinders removed and to see Him for who He really is, not something that man has tried to make in their own image but the real thing. If God is happy, great! If He’s angry, sad, or something else altogether, so be it. I just want to know the truth so that I can move forward in my relationship with Him, and in growing in my understanding of how to reach other people with His love. So now, you can see why I struggle with a sense of excitement for this season. I expect and deserve pain. I know that there is so much in me that needs to be dealt with, areas of my life that need to be removed and other areas that need to grow immensely. And somewhere in the midst of it all, I want to learn how to have joy. Regardless of God’s emotions or mine, I want to know what it is to have joy. Supposedly, it is supposed to be our strength. I just don’t know what it is, how to get it, or how to walk in it. It seems like my walk with God has been pure grit. Slowly and wearily putting one foot in front of the other. And that being only by the amazing grace of God. I just can’t help but think that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. There seems to be something hidden in the words of my Bible that I can’t quite grasp that points to a much more fulfilled and wholesome life.

One last spiritual thing I need to address here. This by far is the most difficult to be transparent about, and one of the main reasons for shame in my life, I’m sure. The biggest spiritual battle of my life has been purity. While there are seasons where I do “good”, it seems that I have not been able to fully gain freedom in this area. What’s weird is, after moving down here, but struggle intensified tenfold. I’m not trying to make it sound like it’s worse than it is, but I also don’t want to smooth it over. I really want this area of my life dealt with. I can’t stand it. I abhor it. And I know God does too. I cannot truly love His kids the way He wants me to if I struggle in this area. And I desperately want to love others the way that He does. Lust is the polar opposite of love. (Along with pride, I think.) Lust takes, love gives. I want to give. I’m truly looking forward to being free in this area once and for all. That’s not to say I expect to be free of temptation, but temptation plays on the desires of my heart otherwise it’s pull would have no strength or validity in my life. Therefore, I want the desires of my heart dealt with so that temptation cannot find a foothold in my life.

Finally, a little snapshot on my physical life. I’m still overweight. Not making much headway there. I really need to get on that some more. Thankfully, I have a job that I really enjoy. I get to fix computers and work for a Christian boss. I’m learning a lot and getting to meet new people through it. We live in a comfortable home, albeit a little on the small side which makes us be creative with the layout since it’s hard to fit all of our stuff. Maybe we need to learn to let go of more things. We got a new car recently. A Toyota Camry that we’ve been praying for, for about a year. That’s super cool. Cami has a job that she really enjoys as well. She’s studying for her real estate agent license. Then, she will get another raise! God has really taken care of us while we’ve been here. He’s been providing for our every need. He’s blessed us beyond anything I could have ever imagined. For some strange reason, I struggle to get any joy out of it though. Which makes me mad. I really need to and want to learn to be more thankful. I need to learn to see God’s hand at work in my life more. Overall, things are pretty good in the natural realm. Far better than I expected. Thank you Jesus!

If you read all of this, I’m sorry! Ha ha. You probably got more than you bargained for or found out more than you would have liked to have known. Nonetheless, this is my journey. I want to invite you along with me. That’s community. Doing life together. For some important people in my life, the internet is the only way I can do that. I hope that somewhere in my story, you find Jesus speaking to you. In this post, I don’t know how that could possibly happen. But, hopefully in the future, as I write to address the things written here among others, you will see Jesus at work. And may you find Him at work in your life too.

Blessings!

P.S. If this speaks to you at all, please leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.