Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When the Treasure Becomes Terrifying

It was just a fun night at the lake. It was just me and my friends filling the Chicago air with laughter.

Laughter. Fun. Happiness. We were carefree.

I looked out into the dark lake, as I have done so many times over this past year and a half.

But I was the only one looking. And as I stared out into the lake, a glowing circle fell from the sky. "Was that the moon?" I asked my friends. My answer came when an electric explosion rose from the lake. I knew that it was the moon the instant everything grew the blackest of black that I had ever seen.

Chaos ensued. I noticed for the first time the crowds of people that surrounded me. My friends and I were not alone. There were cries of desperation and devastation as the crowds had no idea what was going on. I became frantic. I knew.

I knew that Jesus was returning soon - at any moment. I knew that I was going to be with Him soon. I also knew that this crowd of people around me did not know where they were going because they were frantically searching for answers in the dark. I cried out to my friends, "We have to tell them! We have to tell them where they're going! We have to tell them that there is hope. This is our last and only chance!" I cried out in desperation.

And then I woke up.

I was thankful that this dream wasn't a reality. It was vivid. It felt real. But I woke up in my room, in my dorm at school, just like any other day. What did this mean? I didn't think too much of it that day.

Then I went out into the city. As I began to walk across the crosswalk, I flippantly commented to my roommate, "Sometimes I forget that these cars have people in them." I didn't think much of it until she looked back at me and said, "Wow, that was deep." I didn't mean for it to be deep. Actually, I didn't mean anything profound by it at all. But she got me thinking. I have forgotten. I have forgotten that this city is filled with real people with real needs and a real eternity ahead of them.

Then I rode on a city bus. I looked around at all of the faces before me who have so easily just blended together as I mind my own business, go where I need to go, and hardly acknowledge their presence. That night was different. The Lord brought back my dream. He brought back the flippant remark I had made about forgetting that the hundreds of cars around me are filled with people. And my heart broke. I have become numb. I study at Moody Bible Institute. Every day, I am being prepared for more ministry. Every day, I have conversations with friends about the Lord and His work in our lives and where He is leading us. Every single day.

And, yet, I have lost myself in theology. I have lost myself in my pile of books, in my twelve page papers, in my hours of classes and work. I have lost myself in the petty controversial issues that ensnare the Church. Although I believe it is good to talk about these issues and although I am thoroughly enjoying and learning from my time here at Moody and although I feel extremely blessed because I know that I am, I have forgotten.

I have forgotten about the moment a year and a half ago when I looked out over the city from the hotel window when I was visiting Chicago for the first time. I have forgotten the brokenness that my heart felt for the hundreds of people that I saw walking in crowds. I saw them as individuals then, as individual hearts in need of a Savior.

Now I just see crowds. Crowds and cars and faces without souls. I am thankful that my dream was not a reality. I am thankful that I can take it as a wake-up call. I am not sure what to do about it now. I don't even know what my next step is yet... but I know that the Lord has not placed me here in this great city to study at this great college to selfishly hoard my faith. It is a treasure that must be shared.

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." -2 Corinthians 4:6-7

It is a treasure not meant to be hoarded or stashed away. If it were meant to be, Jesus would have never come. There is no joy in selfishly hoarding our faith. Actually, it becomes terrifying when I hoard it. Images of my dream, of the people frantically searching in the dark for hope, flood back to me and it haunts me. Some of those people in that crowd are people that I know. Others are strangers whom I have never met. All of them are people that Christ has died for.

It is a treasure meant to give away, for to us it has been given. Eternity is before us and we must not forget the reality we are living in that we will enter His presence at any moment.

Let's not forget or become numb. May I give my life away for the King and His Kingdom, for it is my desire that when He returns, I will not be found hoarding this Treasure.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Poisonous Perfection

I had it all together. I was the youth group student leader, Bible Study teacher, AWANA Cubbies helper, missions committee member, once-a-year-every-year short-term missions trip participant, Jr. Church teacher, small group leader, advice giver, counseler, devotional writer, Christian website administrator, campaign coordinator, twice-a-week church going girl. This was me. I was "perfect." No, really, those around me used the word to describe me more than once. I "had it all together." My family life was one of encouragement, support, and joy. My friendships were deep, loving, and wonderful. I never made a mistake - or, at least, that was the impression of those around me. Life was good. I was serving the King. My days were bliss.

And then I came to the end of myself. This "perfect" life had become a poison. I cringe when I think of how easily others considered me to be this perfect girl who led a perfect life. How disgusting. How fake. How unloving and pious and ugly and ungenuine. How Pharaisaical. How displeasing to the Lord. It was an oxymoron of a life, really; I was striving so hard to please the Lord so perfectly that, in the process, I was really only displeasing Him.

Why do I say that? Because the Lord desires a relationship with us - a pure, humble, genuine relationship. He desires that we live in unity and love with one another. This includes serving, yes; it also sometimes includes letting our guards down, admitting that we truly are not perfect, and in humility considering others better than ourselves. This wasn't me. I was the girl with all of her walls up, never admitting any failures with anyone, and always (even if subconsciously) considering herself to be leading a much better, pure life than those around her.

How disgusting. How fake and unloving and pious and ugly and displeasing to the Lord.

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

Ouch. Those words are like a piercing arrow to my heart. Really. It hurts. Again, it's an oxymoron, but although this verse hurts my heart because I know that I am prideful, it also just plain hurts my pride. God opposes me? No way. That is impossible. And in my stubborn pride I once again go back to my pharaisaical, Martha way of living.

How disgusting. How fake and unloving and pious and ugly and displeasing to the Lord.

How untruthful. In putting on the facade of "having it all together" and "never making a mistake" and "living a perfect life," I was living a complete and flat-out lie.

The truth is, I am not perfect. In bringing me to Moody Bible Institute, the Lord has been bringing me to terms with that fact. Here, I am broken. I am so, so imperfect. I thought that I knew everything there was to know about the Bible; every day, I am continuing to learn more and as a result, realizing just how much I do not know. I thought that I was a brilliant teacher; I have taken Studying and Teaching the Bible and Message Preparation for Women and have been brought to some of my lowest points in realizing how ineloquent I am. I thought that I was a wonderful leader; I am continually humbled every day by the amazing men and women of the Lord around me who lead in a way that I have never seen, let alone have been able to do myself. I thought that I was strong and unable to be broken by anyone or anything; thank the Lord, that isn't true either.

The truth is, I am more broken now than I ever have been in my life. The Lord has stripped me down of everything that I ever was or thought I was and is continually, slowly building me back up into who He wants me to be. It's beautiful. It's painful. It's lovely and it's hard and it's necessary. I do not want to enter the Lord's presence one day having lived my life as a lie before others - having put on the facade that somehow I am the only one on the planet who truly has it together. Because the truth is, only the Lord Jesus Christ truly had it all together. We are broken people in need of a Savior to make us whole. Thank the Lord, He has sent us that Savior.

In my brokenness, I am free. In my shortcomings and failures and mistakes, I am human. In my desperation and repentance to the Lord, I am healed. In my admittance to those around me that I am imperfect, I am free - free to love others and to be loved in return. What a burden has been lifted off of my shoulders - and only because it has been placed on the One who walked to Calvary for me. Praise Jesus. Thank you, Lord.

It brings tears to my eyes and a heaviness to my heart to think of this oxymoron of a life that I have lived. Pride is dangerous and subtle and directly of the Enemy of our souls, who desires to see us living these pent-up lives of poisonous perfection. Why? Because he is a liar and he desires to see us live our lives as liars. But why would anyone ever want to be like the pious, judgmental, perfect Christians that they see? It only offers more shame - just what the Enemy wants. This is why I call it a poison. It permeates the Church and leaves the rest of the world in resistance of ever wanting to follow the Christ that all of these unloving, lieing, perfect Christians claim to love and follow.

It pains me. May I live my days in the freedom and love of the Lord who makes this imperfect, shallow, unloving, prideful heart whole. As a result, the walls around my heart will be knocked down, giving room for the Lord to enter as King and others to enter my life. I will be more free and able to love and be loved by others and by my Savior.

I thought that I was too strong, too "put together," too tough to ever be broken. Today, I am thanking God that that isn't so.