I’m an incredibly nostalgic person. Songs about growing up, going home, and time passing leave a lump in my throat and my heart sore. I spent the majority of my growing up years wishing I lived in another decade -- when things were simpler and I finished my days by drinking lemonade on my porch while watching the sun kiss the world goodnight. Sometimes, when I think about how I used to ride my bike around the neighborhood until the fireflies came out and then scrub the dirt off of my feet with soap that smelled like green apples before I climbed into bed, there are parts of me that wish I could snap my fingers and go back. Mama would read us books until our eyelids sat at half mast and then after two kisses on my forehead I would fall asleep to the buzz of locusts and the cry of a train rolling through town.
There is an underlying theme in the desires I have for life -- my heart longs for simplicity. I have always told myself that I’ll get to that point someday. Someday when I am well established, married, and have a gaggle of mini-me’s chasing each other in the front yard.
Then one day it hit me. My goodness, it hit me hard. I didn’t need to wait for a wrap around porch with a porch swing for my best life to start. My best life could start now. Me, in my messy, not what imagined life to be spot that the Lord has placed me in. My best life only needs to revolve around Jesus, and I have that with or without a him, a white house on an acreage, and a porch swing that points west and creaks at the same spot every time I push off. I realized that if circumstances are changing the place from which I live my life, I am discrediting the abundance from which God has created me to live.
Things changed after this realization. I stopped running around trying to soak every part of life up and I began to drink deeper from the parts of life that I had. I started taking steps towards looking like the person I am in in my nostalgia for a time I never lived in daydreams. I took friends on picnics, invited roommates into my room to sprawl out and study on a blanket spread across my floor, I played ridiculous games with children, laughed way too loud with people I barely knew, and cried with people whose hearts I knew well. I became a partaker in dance parties, a gym goer, an out of the tub ice cream eater, a meal maker, a learner.
I began to discover what living from a simple, contented fullness really looks like. I have started to challenge myself to be the woman that I know the Lord has created me to be, today. The kind of woman who invites people into my oasis of slowness, sits and listens, sends them away feeling loved, and coaxes them back with a promise of honest conversation and a freedom to be themselves.
This all started from a realization that my life was happening now and if I kept waiting for it to start I would die without ever having become who I was created to be.
I lived chained to what was invisible,
Defining myself by the circumstances life wrapped me in.
It was when I learned that I am not the lies that I tell myself,
I am not what my circumstances tell me I am,
But I am who Jesus says I am; redeemed
That’s when I found freedom.
Freedom to learn from mistakes that do not define me
Freedom to laugh loudly
Freedom to be me, completely and totally me.
God does not need my faithfulness to be faithful to me. He does not need any part of me to be who He is but I like to trick myself into thinking that He needs me. I think that if I do not get my act together God will stop being faithful. I forget that He is faithful despite who I am, not because of who I am.
I run around in a frenzy, thinking that I am in control of God choosing to be faithful to me. I was stopped cold in my tracks this week when I was graciously reminded that I am not the one in control over here.
Jesus says in John 10:29, “My Father, who has given them [my sheep] to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand (NIV).”
Oh, Love that will not let me go!
Jesus is talking about us. We are His sheep, gifted to Him by God. We were given to Jesus, and not in a roll my eyes “do I have to?” way, but in a precious gift type of way. Jesus delights in His sheep so much that He vows that we will not be snatched out of His hands. Nothing is going to take us away from God and this is not because of who we are but because we are the most precious gift that could possibly be given to Him by His Father.
We have God’s faithful, dependable, protection and nothing is going to take this from us because nothing can take us from God. These things are ours because God loves us, not because we do things right or because we are faithful to Him. We do not have to fear being snatched from safety because we are not adding up or being annoying to Him.
It’s crazy, by putting our faith in Jesus and believing He is who He says He is, we don’t have to fear being left behind! All Jesus wants is to have the hearts of and to fully know his sheep.
It’s a comfort to know that we will never fall away from the faithful love of God because of what we do. No part of me can control the reckless, pursuant love of my Savior.
I have this vision of myself soaked in my own tears, sobs wracking my sides, and red rimmed eyes that burn.
I’m hunched in a dark corner bruised, dirty, and beaten down by my own sin.
My sin grows like vines that that never stop twisting around me -- it feeds off of me and I off of it.
I am miserable and cannot not save myself from the things that are slowly killing me.
I look at myself in this vision and I cringe. How truly unloveable I am!
Then, looking up from my own filth I see someone hacking through the thick brambles.
My Savior kneels before me with cuts bleeding on his forearms and face.
My heart grounds itself in hope; maybe I will get to leave this place!
He smiles at me and pulls me into His arms.
He tells me that I am not the defeated person who sits in this corner and weeps, He tells me I am no longer bound to the never ending cycle of trying to get rid of my sin and failing, He tells me that I was not created for this. He tells me He loves me.
I struggle to believe His statements.
These vines of sin are as much a part of me as my own heartbeat.
I begin to explain how many times I have tried to put myself back together and how every time it has not worked.
He lifts my face with His hands and I have no choice but to look at Him.
“Don’t you see?,” tears wet his eyes. “You are mine. You have my heartbeat and my breath in your lungs; these vines are not a part of you. I have bought you with my blood, I have fought for you, I have come to suffer the punishment that your time here as earned you, I have come to take you away from this place. You will no longer be bound to your sin, you will live free.”
“But I have nothing to give you,” I cry out.
“I look at you and I love you,” He says, “I do not want anything in return. I came so that we can be together forever, can you trust that I am the only way to safety and that there is nothing you must do to earn this?”
“I don’t think you understand how terrible I am,” my words sting the air around me, “you don’t want me!”
“I do understand,” He says gently, “I delight in you and all I have ever wanted is to have you with me.”
I had a hard time understanding what He meant but more than anything I wanted to believe that I could be loved exactly as I am.
“I trust you,” I whispered and he lifted me out of my corner and carried me to safety.
I am starting to see myself as Jesus does. I am clothed in the finest clothing I have ever worn, I stand tall, I am without blemish. I am beautiful and blameless.
I always find reasons to run back to my dirty little corner though -- sometimes because it is comfortable and other times I convince myself that it is where I belong.
But every time Jesus chases after me to remind me of who I really am and bring me back home.
He promises me that someday I will never be tempted to go back to my corner and we will spend an eternity together.
He tells me that someday He will take me to paradise but until He comes I must cling to His promises and trust that what He says is true.
I still cannot understand why my perfect Savior fights so relentlessly for me, especially when I think of who I used to be, but I cannot help but be drawn to His gracious love.