A few nights ago I went to a Saturday service for middle schoolers through college kids called Youth Alive. The worship there is great: people skilled in music and worshiping with it themselves. It creates such a great atmosphere for just talking to God through the songs and however else you get led to. I hadn't been in this kind of worship service since I left Williamsburg for the summer, so when I showed up at Youth Alive it was a pleasant surprise to get to worship with them in an awesome way. When the worship is done that way, God never fails to speak something to my heart- sometimes bigger or smaller things, but there's something. This time was no different... and given that it was in the middle of a very tough time for me, God decided to deal with something huge that night.
I started talking to God a few songs into the worship set. Especially after the frustrations of that day, I felt gross and disgusted with myself. I felt dysfunctional, hurt, broken, unworthy, failed... I felt like a clay pot that had been thrown to the ground, and the pieces had scattered far and wide and all that was left in the immediate area was a few incomplete shards that would never be a whole jar again. I felt beat-up and torn. There was pain from my parents and frustration with myself for wasting my summer time fooling around and messing up when I could have been pursuing God.
Something my friend Ian said the other day came to me, and God filled my heart with the thought and truth of it; Ian said he would subconsciously slip into the mindset of doing things and fighting fights under his own power, without meaning to. He said, as a piece of advice, that it is something to watch out for in my walk.
In my pain and brokenness that night, God showed me just how much I'd been trying to do on my own. I had started to attribute (without realizing it) the great season of growth and joy I'd had in the spring to things I had been doing- like daily devotions, praying often, and spending time with the people at the church I was attending. Reflecting on it, this is a habit that's been part of me for a long time. In high school I was an overachiever, "hard working" and earning good grades. Even when my relationship with God was renewed last October and it became intensely personal and wonderful, I still applied my work ethic to it: work hard and earn good spiritual grades. For the first few months, I was blinded to what I was doing because of all the spiritual blessings that were pouring out- that's when I started this blog about all the good things God had his hand in. God was just waiting until the right time to fix my mindset.
That right time was this summer of my vulnerability.
My situation brings to mind a verse in Job I read recently, 35:6-8...
"If you sin, how does that affect him [God]? If your sins are many, what does that do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects only a man like yourself, and your righteousness only the sons of men."
One cannot earn things from God... they're given. Which is a blessing, if you think about it: sure, there are some times when we feel pious, but we're all sinful and we know it! If we earned things from God it would just make our failures more despairing, and we could never conquer sin on our own anyways, as we are sinful by nature.
So when the metaphorical storm hit at the beginning of summer, it wore down my efforts to be worthy. I was frustrated with myself for wasting time and angry at myself when I didn't get to my devotions everyday. My sights had slipped from Jesus: the Door, the Way, and the End. So when I felt very shaken and broken by the situation, God took the vulnerability created by that and the failings of my flesh to let me know that I can only survive in His strength, and to watch out for when I start to use my own. He "let me know" in the deepest sense of the words. It was such a moving experience that the lesson is stuck in my heart, and I won't forget it.
There's definitely still pain; that's normal. It doesn't go away because there's a purpose for it. God has brought a beautiful jewel of wisdom out of this time of hurt, and resting in His sovereignty instead of working under my human power brings a peace on an even deeper level than the pain. I have confidence that God is going to rebuild and fix me in His strength (in His time, too). I'm just going to let him do that by not getting in the way with things I try to do myself. I'm being healed and remade from the ground up by the perfect sculptor and master architect...
From this perspective, what a huge blessing brokenness is! What a privilege to be rebuilt by Jesus... who's passionately in love with me and knows me so well. The pain is being redeemed, and compared to the end result the price is little.
In this new found place, I feel less of a need for everything else that's not God- I don't need other people, but I'm fairly certain God will continue to use my brothers and sisters in Christ to love on me (have I mentioned that I have some of the best friends ever? I'm so blessed that God has brought them into my life). The point is that I don't feed off of their attention or love at all, but what God provides through them. Don't get me wrong, I love my friends and love to hang out with them and talk with them... but when I start relying on them as people, instead of God's love in them, I get led astray and I am not focused solely on God. I don't need to look elsewhere for love and strength as God's providing everything I need. I've got my priorities more straightened out now; not to say I'm doing growing, though. I can't even say I'm done growing in the area I just learned a huge lesson in... there's always room for growth and improvement. That's the point!