Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How I (almost) Died on the Mountaintop

When you climb up something really high ... there's a phrase that is familiar that we find some kind of faux comfort in.  "Don't look down!"  And more often than not ... we look down.  I was in the "not" part of that statement for a LONG time.  I didn't look down.  I refused to look down.  I kept looking up.  It all sounds well and good.  It sounds so positive and ambitious.  I kept climbing the mountain!  Look at me!  I'm gonna keep going up, im gonna keep climbing while all you other fools are down there ... in the valley.  I almost died up there.

I didn't want to climb the mountain so that way i could survey my next piece of land from a more grandieose view.  I climbed the mountain because who in their right mind desires to walk in a valley? 
"Though I walk through the VALLEY of death..."  Surely only those who have chosen to settle, who don't have the strength to make the climb, make their home in the valley.  Only those who have strong faith and determination decide to risk it all and climb that mountain!  But I almost died up there.

If this all sounds backwards from here on out, then healing must take our messed up ending and walk us back through our pain till we get back to the beginning and then we are able to make a different choice. 

I finally made it back to my beginning ... about 12 months later.  That's what grace is ... it walks you through your pain, allows you to see the places where your choices nearly cost you your life and opens your eyes to the valley.  There have been many painful times in my walk with God where I felt like I was walking through the valley.  Grace has allowed me to look back and see that I spent too much time without air on the mountain.  All the while, despising the valley down below.  Watching those close to me walk, camp, live, find sustaining life in the valley. 

I'm not actually a climber ... but i know enough about mountains to know that the higher you climb, the less oxygen there is to breathe.  The air becomes thin, your breathing labors and plantlife decreases.  I almost died up there.  That's how high I was.  My desent from the mountain was just as painful as the climb up the other side. 

I climbed up the mountain of my talents and worshipped the gods of my comfort.  My intelligence swallowed up my humility.  My sarcasm stopped up the love in my heart for my friends.  My mountaintop adventure fogged up my vision of Jesus ... down in the valley.  The mountain hardened my heart and melted my relationships.  I almost died up there.

I began to make an 8-month journey down this mountain.  And it started when God asked me to do something that I actually decided I should do.  I stepped down from doing things that i loved.  Because i was doing things.  Things.  I lost the art of being ... and i started doing.  I was doing things to gain others' attention, affection, appreciation.  I did very little to gain His attention.  But He did everything necessary in order to gain mine.  He took away the 'stuff ' and i was stripped down to near nothing.  Until i face planted into the deepest part of the valley ... where the most air is, where the most life lives, where the grass is lush and green.  I plummeted into the valley ... willingly. 

Joshua was the successor to one of the greatest leaders in time ... Moses.  Joshua spent time with Moses, learned from him, walked with him, saw the things he saw.  Then Moses died.  And Joshua was faced with a challenge from God.  But He was encouraged beforehand to be strong and courageous.  I've lived long enough to know that courage is only needed when fear stands in front of you.  Certainly, Joshua needed courage because something awaited him beyond that encouragement from His Creator.  So Joshua went.  God told him that He had already delivered the land into his hands, but that he and the Israelites had to go get it. 

"That night, Joshua went into the valley."  {Battle at Ai}  (Joshua 8:13) 

He went willingly into the night and down into the valley ... in order that he might experience the victory.  Moses knew just what his successor would inherit.  Because God showed him on the top of a mountain called Mount Horeb.  Moses died on that mountaintop right after God showed him the Promised Land.  And Joshua saw victory in the valley.       

I almost died on the mountaintop.  But now i live in victory as i walk in the valley. 


Monday, September 22, 2014

Why I'm (still) Single

I have spent most of my so-far adult life devastated about who I am.  Devastated because I gave myself the permission to believe that i was missing out on another life.  That there was this whole "other" life, this big, unwrapped package called marriage.  And my value, worth, identity and entire being was wrapped up in what i did not have ... what i may NEVER have.  I wanted to be married SO badly that i chose to look past what God was doing in my life at that very moment ... maybe even missing some things along the way.  Simply because I wasn't looking for them. 

In life, i believe that the voice of the enemy of our souls loves nothing more than to create confusion and cause us to focus on maybe even something that is GOOD!  Marriage ... is good.  I don't even have to be married to know that.  I know that marriage is good because God instituted it and called it good.  Nearly 10 years ago, I let something good become something confusing.  A mentor asked me "what would you rather die than not be able to do on this earth?"  She was speaking of passion.  I answered without hesitation ... "I want to be a mom." 

Desiring to be a mom, to have a God-centered, God-honoring marriage are good things.  However, that seed that was planted in my heart nearly a decade ago was only watered with the watering can of misunderstanding, confusion, disappointment and false expectations.  I could write out a list as long as both my arms of the weddings i've attended, been invited to and some i've even missed because of my own pain.  They play back in my mind like a reel of film.  The kiss at the altar, the coordinated wedding party, the nosy photographer with the huge lens, the themed dances at the reception, the cake smearing, open bars, exchanged vows, the newlyweds walking out hand in hand.  I've always left each wedding alone.  It gets old after a few dozen weddings. 

And after a few dozen weddings, my hope was devastated.  Then soon, the circle of my friends even seemed like it mocked my current season of life.  Most are older than me, married, children, established in their lives.  And then there's me. 

But the story doesn't end quite so miserably as that last paragraph.  In the past couple months, as I approach 28 in a couple weeks, I have made the conscious decision, even daily at times, to lay that desire down.  To surrender it to where it came from in the first place.  My desire to be married, to "be fruitful and multiply" didn't just come from a fleeting thought i had.  It came from God.  And so i'm just giving it back, palms up and asking for His timing.  That's why I'm (still) single. 

More importantly, I'm single because it's the season that God has me in right now.  Is there anything stopping me from hitting the bars on the weekends and leaving with some random guy and getting pregnant? 
Absolutely not.  I can do whatever I want.  But a long while ago, I decided I wanted to do whatever God wanted for my life.  It is sometimes a constant struggle to question myself when I see that "so and so" are getting engaged, "so and so" are wedding planning, "so and so" are now pregnant."  I check my thinking ... is it pity, victim mentality, bitterness?  Sadly, sometimes it is.  But I'm human ... I'm a 27-year old single young woman that has desires to be married and have children one day.  OF COURSE I struggle with believing that I am walking out God's absolute best for my life!

And for the rest of my life, God's best could very well be ... singleness.  And I struggle with that because in my small human brain, I contemplate whether or not God REALLY knows what is best for me.  Am I somehow not good enough for someone else?  Am i somehow missing something because of who I am?  Do i need to change everything about who i am?  Do my friends in the relationships i have think that something is wrong with me?  Would they love me more if i had a husband and a few kids? 

I can finally say with all certainty ... no.  The friends that I have right now in my life, love me because I am me.  I'm funny, witty, snarky, kind, big-hearted.  They know that I care for them and about them.  The God that made me ... loves me because I am me.  He gave me all the qualities that make me who I am.  He gives me the ability and opportunity to reflect the character of His son, Jesus.  THATS what draws others ... not my marital status.  And now, after almost 10 years ... i believe that. 

Do I still have the desire to have a husband, to have a marriage that reflects Jesus and our relationship with Him?  HECK YES!  Does my heart still long for children of my own?  ABSOLUTELY!  Does my relationship with God teeter on the balance of my expectations?  Not anymore.  I may never kiss a single man, hold his hand, yank the covers over to my side of the bed, hold my own baby and send him off to college.  But ... my God is ALWAYS for me.  I still have hope for those things.  But they do not knock the knees of my faith out from underneath me every time i experience disappointment. 

I hope that one day, I can know what it's like to kiss one man for the rest of my life.  I hope that one day, I can know what it's like to have the ministry of "mom".  But even if i never do, I know I will always have Him.  Even if i never know the bliss of having those hopes fulfilled, He will never leave me.  Jesus is my hope, anchor, cornerstone.  He is always for me.