So far my entries here have been something like I imagine newlyweds to be during their first week of marriage: overwhelming joyful, full of excitement at the newness of it all and maybe even slightly obnoxious in their naivety. It’s only natural and it’s an enjoyable way to begin a lifelong commitment to someone…before you realize they have bad breath in the morning, and that they’ll watch you put on your makeup and burn your toast sometimes and hurt your feelings on occasion, and that you might throw dishes at them on a bad day (or whatever). Things get real, really fast, especially when you’re constantly in someone’s presence and are unable to run away (my normal response) and hide from the issue at hand.
I originally wrote out a very long and very dramatic post detailing all my inadequacies, failures, biases, bad attitudes, hang ups, etc. to fully convince you all that I’m not always the cheery Pollyanna-esque girl I appear to be on social media. It became a bit more of a pity party and more self-indulgent than I meant it to, and so beginning again I’ll be more concise when I try to explain myself. I look at my instagrams, photos, status updates that are just small flickers of light into what my life currently is, but it’s enough to receive kind words, encouragements, compliments or even occasionally a good-natured “I’m so jealous of your life!” comment. My desire to be fully known, with all my mistakes and issues laid bare, before I accept kind words is crippling sometimes and makes me the queen of TMI, as most of you have come to know. So I’ll refrain from going overboard and just say this as directly as I can.
I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t deserve to be a missionary. I don’t deserve to have people financially supporting me. I don’t deserve all the opportunities that I’ve been so, so graciously given. Everyone can only see my 160 character twitter updates and it must be easy to think about how great it must be to have my life, exploring and experiencing all these new, fun things. I cringe when I think of all they don’t know. This has been one of the hardest years of my life, and mostly because I’ve made selfish choices. I’ve taken advantage of people who wanted to care for me while holding them at arms length and not allowing them to fully know me because I don’t like who I am.
No one got to see me in all my glory this summer, running around doing what I felt like, when I felt like it; I have a few relationships I severed and I’m left with a sick feeling in my stomach because I know I was selfish, and I know I hurt people who never offered me anything but their best. I was the jerk I used to be so quick to denounce…all I have is ‘I’m so so sorry’ and it never feels like enough. My guilt and shame is crippling. No one got to see me hyperventilating my first day in my host home, crying to my mom on skype, regretting my decision to come here. No one got to see my hipbones jutting out the first week because I could barely gag down food or see me up late at night because my heartbeat was irregular and I couldn’t breathe (just a few side effects of the self-induced anxiety I’ve struggled with). No one gets to see me sitting during prayer being so exhausted I can’t even keep my eyes open. No one knows the doubts that creep into my mind, even ones I should have long ago gotten over, like “Is God even real? What the heck am I doing with my life here?”
I am the least deserving to be here and yet, here I am.
Part of our curriculum this week has been numerous intensive inner healing classes that forced me to look at myself, and it’s been rough. It’s a really embarrassing and humbling experience to realize that my entire existence has been blindly grasping at verbal validation from any and every source for the past few years, even during my time at Southeastern. Finding it all ultimately unfulfilling only made me reach further, grab quicker, pick up and put down relationships, activities, commitments…
Essentially, this is my posture in life now: I find myself sitting on my knees before God Almighty, covering my face in shame, tears running down my cheeks as He says, “Let me fight for you. Let me love you. Let me believe in you still.” I shake my head back and forth, my mind on fire with thoughts and accusations and the loudest of them says:
“You have nothing to give. Nothing to give means unworthy to receive.”
But this is my position. It’s always been my position, whether I do much or do little, whether I choose God or choose me. He has never wavered in His stance towards me. Not for a millisecond. I can’t handle that. I don’t understand it. “Why me? Why would you want me? Can’t you see me? Don’t you know me?”
Jeremiah 3 talks about God’s stance towards backslidden Israel. Right from the get-go in verse 1 He calls things as they are. He doesn’t make any effort to hide the reality of Israel’s unworthiness or indicate He doesn’t realize what’s happened. Take heart though, there’s the glorious “yet”, which is one of my favorite things about God. If a YET from God Almighty doesn’t excite us, we’ll never get excited about anything again.
You’ve played the harlot with many lovers; YET return again to me,” says the Lord.
(v.7) And I said AFTER she had done all these things, “Turn unto me.”
(v.22) “Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding.”
I think sometimes we think–or maybe this is just me–that God loves because He can’t actually see what we’ve done. We use the blood of Jesus like we think it’s an optical illusion that tricks God into somehow not seeing us as we fully are, sin and all. “Oh, it’s under the blood,” we say, “He can’t see it.”
When I looked again and saw what he was doing,
I decided to heal him, lead him, and comfort him,
creating a new language of praise for the mourners.
Peace to the far-off, peace to the near-at-hand,” says God—
“and yes, I will heal them.”
– Isaiah 57:20 – 21
I assure you, He can see you. Before, during and after all your less than shining moments, in all your best kept secrets. And miracles of miracles, He doesn’t look away, but steadily, kindly looks into our eyes and impossibly says, “I will heal you ANYWAY. I will satisfy you with my Presence”. I can’t possibly hope to understand this enough to feel comfortable accepting it, so I must learn to just accept it for what it is. I have nothing to say for myself. I have nothing to give. I have no accolades that make me worthy. There is nothing left for me to do but take this grace that is too wonderful for me to comprehend or condense into five steps; this is the joy of our salvation. This is the gospel that I’m supposed to be laboring to bring to the nations, to Tanzania. That God, in all His awareness and personal knowledge of exactly who I was and who I could be, looked at me and said, “I want her. She’s valuable to me. I cherish her. She’s small and frail and fallen and weak, but this is my glory: choosing the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the earthen pots with humble beginnings and endings, so that all men will look, know there is nothing to them when they stand alone and that all the world would see who I am and come back to Me.“
Don’t think I haven’t been bombarded by my own thoughts day in and day out. I know all my failings and hypocrisies all too well and they nearly devour me with guilt and shame if I let them. I know myself. God knows me. Now that I’m fully known, I can take what I know I don’t deserve.
This may seem incredibly basic of me to post, but this is the paradox of our lives as Christians. We are unworthy children made worthy, through no means of our own. We are the fully known, and still deeply cherished. We are ordinary and small, but have fellowship with an extraordinary God who is bigger than life. We are nothing, but have everything simply because of the Presence of God. It is no sacrifice to spend my life on my Redeemer. What else is there for me?
44 days until Tanzania.