God Told Me I Needed to Get to Know Jesus

Have you ever sat down and thought about the Trinity?

If your upbringing was anything like mine you probably remember sitting through Sunday School lessons on the Trinity, complete with weird analogies (the Trinity is like an egg…) that attempted to simplify one of the most complex and mysterious elements of our faith. But have you ever taken the time to reflect on the unique role each part of the Trinity plays in your life?

Up until a few weeks ago I know I hadn’t.


Lately God’s been in the business of interrupting me.

For months He’s been gently telling me to reevaluate where I’m placing my identity, let go of the vice grip I have on my future, and get rid of strongholds of fear and insecurity in my mind. But here’s my confession: I haven’t been listening. So God has gotten much louder and more persistent, no longer allowing me to skirt my issues, and leaving me feeling like I’ve been run over by a train.

However, in the midst of this process, God has been working to the heart of issues that have been present in my life for years. One of these issues is the place I’ve not given Jesus in my life.

A few weeks ago, God told me I needed to get to know Jesus. For a churchgoing, Bible-reading, God-loving Christian, this came as a bit of a shock. “But God, don’t I already know Jesus,” I asked. He replied, “Well yes, on a theological level you know Jesus, and you have a relationship with Him in the Christian sense of the word, but I want you to give Him space and a specific role in your life.”

Upon reflection I’ve realized that there are two reasons why Jesus doesn’t already have a prominent role in my life. The first is a simple matter of circumstance. I grew up in a church family that talked a whole lot about God the Father, and hardly at all about the other two members of the Trinity. In addition, I have a very good relationship with my Dad, so seeing God as a Father has always had positive connotations for me. As a result of these two things, I find it most natural to connect (especially in prayer) with God the Father.

Due to my upbringing in a Christian home, I came to faith slowly and steadily over the course of many years, but it wasn’t until a summer camp before my junior year of high school that I hit the point of reckless abandon in my relationship with God, and this spiritual awakening came as a result of an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Ever since that summer, the Spirit has occupied a prominent place in my life.

In my journey of faith, I grew up with God the Father, and in recent years I have frequently experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, but somehow Jesus has never taken on any distinct significance in my life.

While the first reason Jesus hasn’t had a role in my life is a matter of circumstance, the second reason is a matter of choice. To be completely honest, I haven’t allowed Jesus space in my heart. One of my deepest sin issues is a flawed belief that I can somehow save myself, and with that mindset comes an often subconscious resistance to the saving power of Jesus. Some of you are probably wondering why in the world I would try and do something that Jesus desperately wants to do for me, and the truth is that in order for Jesus to save me, I have to give up my control.

I like control.

I like knowing what’s going to happen, when and how, and although I know that control is ultimately an illusion, I love to pretend it’s something I possess. However, I’m hitting a point in my life where my ability to save myself is falling short, big time. But, in the midst of my failings, I’m discovering the freedom that comes with surrendering my control to Jesus, and as an added bonus, I’m getting to develop a relationship with a completely different part of our incredible, triune God!

lay-it-all-down-laptop*Photo credit goes to Tiffany Yeh.

 

In the Middle

Today I’m going to go out on a limb and say something that often gets left unsaid.

Life sucks sometimes.

And I’m not saying that to be pessimistic or garner your pity. No, I’m saying that because I’m in a hard season of life right now, and I’m done pretending to be ok because I know that some of you reading this are also in a hard season of life, and you probably need someone to gently remind you that it’s ok to not be ok.

Have you ever noticed that people are reluctant to share a story unless they know how it ends? They say “I dealt with depression for four months, but I went to counseling and I’m better now,” or “we knew that God was calling us to move to a different state, and we didn’t yet have a house or know a soul, but now that we’re settled in, we can totally see God’s provision in this move.”

Don’t get me wrong, stories like these are incredible testaments of God’s faithfulness and absolutely should be shared! But what about the stories that don’t yet have neat or tidy endings? And what about the ones that may never have a resolution on this side of heaven?

The danger in only telling our glossy, polished stories is that when our story isn’t pretty, we feel like we’re the only ones not living in a fairytale.

When I only hear the completed stories, my sense of aloneness even extends to what I read in the Bible. I begin to see David, and Paul, and Noah’s stories as flawless, forgetting that they lived messy, imperfect lives. I forget that Abraham, a man known for his faith, doubted God’s promise of children, and even slept with his wife’s servant to produce an heir and regain control of his story.

Here’s what I like to imagine. Abraham has been given a promise from God that he will have descendants too numerous to count, but as the days of waiting for the fulfillment of this promise turn into weeks, months, years, Abraham has mornings when he wakes up and says, “No, God, I can’t. What’s the point in believing in your promises when my daily reality doesn’t match what you’ve told me? Can I just be a bear today and hibernate until this is all over?”

Ok, maybe the bear part is more how I think than how Abraham would’ve thought, but I’m sure Abraham had days of doubt, confusion, frustration, even despair.

And that’s ok.

God does not call us to pursue perfection. He knows we can never be perfect, because if we were, we’d be God. But while God does not call us to be perfect, He calls us to be brave.

So here’s my challenge to you today – step out in courage and share your unfinished story with a trusted friend.

It takes bravery to look at your life and admit that “what now?” lies much closer to the surface than “happily ever after.” But who knows – maybe your brave act of vulnerability will grant someone else the permission they need to be raw and honest about the unresolved stories in their life.

And maybe, just maybe, by sharing from the middle of the story instead of only from the end, you’ll find some freedom to live your life as it is, instead of how you think it should be.

 

Gritty Hope

Hope, to me, has always been elusive, an enigma, so difficult to comprehend and nearly impossible to put into practice. Other concepts such as joy, peace, faith, or love feel within my grasp, but hope has always seemed to be just beyond my reach.

For many years my attitude towards hope (especially in situations where I have previously experienced disappointment or rejection) has been “What’s the point?” In my mind I justified this attitude with the beginning of Proverbs 13:12 which reads, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” No matter how many other verses I read about the beauty and significance of hope, this verse became my default, a protective armor of sorts against the risks involved in choosing to hope.

In the past few months, however God has been using a combination of blog posts and life circumstances to help me see hope in a different light. He’s pushed past my tough exterior of faked indifference to get to the root of my aversion to hope.

Here’s the uncomfortable truth He’s uncovered – I am afraid to hope.

In many ways this fear feels justifiable. Hope is risky. It demands that I trust that God is good, all the time, and that He loves me. It calls me to put stock in things I cannot yet see or know. And it forces me to surrender my lust for control and certainty.

Even writing about hope makes me want to crawl under a safe, stable rock, only venturing out when I feel some measure of security in how the journey will end. But deep down I know that security is an illusion, and certainty isn’t promised.

In all the times I’ve used Proverbs 13:12 as an excuse to avoid hope, I have completely missed the second part of the verse which reads, “but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” How did I miss that? Yes, hope is risky, but the risk increases the value of the reward, as well as adding to the richness and joy of the journey.

In the words of my wise friend Chloe, “Hope is the anchor for our souls, holding us perfectly in the balance of a Kingdom daily recognized and not yet eternally realized.” (Practicing the Presence of Hope)

So today I’m going to choose hope – risky, gritty hope that doesn’t yet make sense to me, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that God is faithful to keep His promises. With my hope rooted in Christ, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)

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Picture credit goes to my wonderful and talented mom! 

Classic Kelly

Written on 6/3/15

Today I started the process of packing for Nepal, and Classic Kelly showed up with a vengeance. Classic Kelly is Type A to the extreme. Organized and constantly running every possible scenario through her brain. For example, tonight I spent a solid ten minutes agonizing over which blank journal I should bring to Nepal. One is sturdier, but as such, heavier, and neither are quite perfect because the pages can’t tear out, but there’s no reason to go buy a new one if I have two options that will really work fine. I finally decided on bringing the one from my good friend Lauren because she was the one who gave me the journal I used in Romania and Moldova. But do you see what I mean? A journal is just one item on my extensive, detailed, way-too-organized packing list.

On one hand I’m marveling at the fact that I actually have enough time to pack the way I want to. As I’m sure you can tell, my version of packing is incredibly time-consuming, and I love that I’m in a season of life that allows me to take my time on this process.

But on the other hand, I feel this nagging itch of, “really Kelly?” Am I spending more time packing and preparing than I am on my knees in prayer? Truthfully… yes. And there’s something wrong with that picture.

When I went to the prayer room at my church right after the first earthquake in Nepal, the man who prayed for me told me that the single best way to prepare for this trip is to intercede on behalf of everyone involved – my team, the Tiny Hands staff, my support community, and the Nepalis we will meet. While that deeply resonates with me, I haven’t been living it out.

So this is a promise, that I’m making public for accountability purposes, to change my ways. More than anything I want to be a woman of prayer, but I’m not going to magically become that woman without putting forth any effort. There’s a new song out by Hillsong United that says, “I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.” What a beautiful picture of the power of our prayers!

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Written on 6/4/15

I’ve been reflecting on what I wrote yesterday, and there’s one critical point I wish to add. Lately I’ve been incredibly frustrated with my seeming inability to pray, so today I finally decided to just sit and listen to God. And in the space I gave Him, my Father whispered “be.” How fitting! Here I am striving and struggling to pray more, which is what God wants, right? No! He wants me to be still and increase my awareness of His presence, goodness, and voice. At its heart, prayer is turning our attention to God, and ultimately, prayer is not about my ability to pray (or lack thereof.) So instead of trying to force myself to pray, I’m going to give myself space to be still and know that He is God, and I am not!

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In Need Of Encouragement

Stories are powerful. They linger, they challenge, but above all else, they encourage.

It’s no secret that the past two weeks have been brutal. For whatever reason my transition back to school after Christmas break has felt so much harder than my initial transition to school in the fall. It doesn’t make any sense, but some combination of factors has left me in a very rough spot.

Last night, however, I felt like my soul could breathe. God has blessed me with an amazing small group connected to my church, and this group has welcomed me with open arms. In the few months I’ve known them, they’ve become family. For our gathering last night we made breakfast for dinner and talked about life. Somehow Mandee, Maddy, and I started telling each other stories of difficult times in our lives when God has come through in amazing ways. Their stories were exactly the encouragement I needed.

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Shauna Niequist has a quote that addresses the power of stories perfectly. She says, “When we, any of us who have been transformed by Christ, tell our own stories, we’re telling the story of who God is.”

One of my biggest struggles is having faith that God has a plan that is better than mine. Wholeheartedly trusting him is a battle I fight every single day, but when I hear people’s stories it helps me surrender control of my life to him. A story is typically told from beginning to end, and when I can see how someone’s difficult situation worked out far better than any solution they could’ve orchestrated, it reminds me that God will do the same in my life. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28) is a verse that is frequently quoted. While that verse does carry power by itself, it takes on new meaning when I can see it play out through people’s stories. So today I would encourage you to share your stories. You never know when they will be exactly what someone needs to hear.

Sweetly Broken

This summer has been challenging. Unlike previous summers, it hasn’t felt carefree or relaxing. Some of the difficulty has come from being in the middle of a transition period. In 28 days I’m moving away from all I’ve known to go to college. Most people can’t believe that it’s already August because that means summer is coming to a close. I can’t believe it’s already August because that means I’m leaving this month! But although I leave so soon, I can’t leave yet. Waiting is hard. I’ve been working towards going to college all year long, and yet I’m still stuck in the bittersweet in-between. Transition seasons are always messy and tough. This one is no exception.

I’ve also encountered other difficulties this summer. My family is still waiting for our adoption to move forward, (See Mountains) and I’ve been working 4-5 days a week on staff at a camp. My job is a huge blessing, but I feel like I’m missing out on so much valuable time with my family and friends. I know having a job is part of being an adult, but it has definitely made me realize that my childhood is over, and that is hard to process. Individually, these struggles might be manageable, but put together they’ve left me feeling incredibly worn.

Through all these trials, I’ve been trying so hard to trust God. I’ve been striving and straining, and working as hard as I can, yet I’ve been failing at every turn. Last night, however, God met me right where I was, and helped me back onto my feet.

For the past two years I’ve attended a life-changing summer camp called Collide. This year I was too old to be a camper, but last night I had the privilege of going to camp for the evening worship service. Let’s just say I’m coming to a fuller understanding of the beauty of being sweetly broken.

For the first hour of the service I worshipped, and listened, and prayed, but nothing life-altering happened. Then, towards the end of his message, the speaker talked about how much God loves us. His words hit me full force. God’s love is at the core of everything good, yet I so easily forget how much he loves me. When the worship band began to play How He Loves, tears streamed down my face. I feel like I’ve been holding in my emotions all summer. I’ve been trying so hard to be strong. I’ve been searching for a formula that would enable me to make it through this season. Do this every day, don’t eat that, sleep for this long, just say that, don’t forget to pray about this, and then you’ll be ok. It’s exhausting! When I mess up, my self-confidence takes a hit. When I succeed, I become prideful. God never intended for me to live this way. He wants me to be confident, yet humble. My strength will fail, but his won’t. My plans won’t succeed, but his will. On my own, I’ll never make it, but I am not alone. He has broken through my tough exterior with his radical grace and love, and I am free. None of my struggles have gone away, but God loves me, and that is enough.

You Are Loved