TRADED: 2010

You're probably wondering how I can confidently say that 2010's file was marked "the year everything changed for the rest of my life." I tend to be intuitive, but even I surely can't know that things are changed for the rest of my life. But I won't renege on that one. Because here's what I'm not saying:

I'm not saying that things will never go poorly for me. I'm not saying that the void inside of me is filled, brimming over with love for others or myself or God. I'm not saying that there won't be more death or divorce or pain or depression or suffering in life, or that the doubt that plagues the deepest parts of me, clinging to me like packing popcorn to a pea-coat, will never come again.

What I am saying is that everything changed.

At the end of 40 days of fasting where nothing changed in my heart, my soul, or my mind, I was really ready to walk away entirely. But God is a God of small details and He began to line up small things that were imperceptible to me, but which now I see were acts of His grand sovereignty.

A book called The Reason for God. A sermon called Preaching the Gospel to the Dechurched. A best friend, who tirelessly fasted with me and walked through the bible with me. A spontaneous trip to the Dallas area. A card from my Mom. My car being totaled. Taxes that put me in the red. For four months, God was sure and certainly moving me into a place of absolute emptiness.

I had nothing in mid-June. Nothing.

But I had the inklings of hope that there was something.

People want to know what made the difference in me. What changed? Did I 'get saved'? What clicked?

And the truth is that I don't know. I don't have the answers to those questions. Here's what I know: we go from glory to glory, faith to faith, and my faith has taken a long, long time to get here. There was no On switch or Ah-ha moment. There was only the sweet, gentle, sometimes painful drawing of my eyes off of me and onto Him.

What changed is that I realized that I was not living my story, but that I was living His and that His glory was the only glory that mattered. All my hopes and dreams and righteousness and labors of love were filthy rags before Him. He alone was worthy—and as long as I competed with that, I would find myself in a false gospel.

What changed is that where God had been my genie God, who I would put in my debt, and then my caricature God, whose only features were the hell-bent, fury-filled, standoffish, or selfish, that God doesn't exist in my head or heart anymore. It's not that there are even recesses of Him remaining. I really mean it when I say that that God doesn't exist.

He never did, not really.

It is just the residue of what happens when I'm more set on my glory than His. 

So what changed is that He doesn't change.

Before I was concerned about my hopes and dreams, my righteousness, now I care about seeing His glory magnified, His righteousness glorified.

Before I was concerned about feeling loved and filling my void, now I am consumed with loving Him and filling my life with gratefulness for Him.

Before I would tally-mark my actions and keep score with all the "good" gifts I received and I always came up lacking, now I barely notice the good things I do (if they're there at all!), and I'm astounded at the goodness He puts in my life.

Before I dwelt on my doubts, now I seek refuge in His wisdom.

Before I gathered my goodness, now I am grateful for His.

Before I was desperate for love, now I am overwhelmed that He chose me.

Before I fretted about finances, now I ask Him to make me poorer and His kingdom richer.

Before I was prone to depression, now I understand that He made me to feel things deeply, but to find my deepest joy in Him—and to confess my deepest fears to Him.

Before I ignored the cross, despised my sufferings, rejected grace, now I cling to the cross, treasure my suffering, and receive grace daily.

Before I worried about life turning out okay, now I long for heaven more quickly.

The difference is that in 2010 a fullness of the gospel, the parts I'd been so blind to for so many years, was revealed to me.

And my life was changed.

 

EMPTIED: 2010

In 2007 I moved back to New York, where life had taken so much from me, but where I knew I was also loved deeply and known deeply. My church family there had adopted me richly and loved me so well. I put my hand to the plow and determined to love well in return. I served hard. I served long. I bit the bullet. I did it in the name of love. I felt as though I had been given the gift of love and the only thing to do in response was to love back.

The thing is, it is so easy for me to love that place.

It is beautiful country. The skies are magnificent. The mountains are near. The seaway is near. The college town is quiet in the summer, wrought with fun things to do and campfires to be had. It is bustling in the autumn with new and returning students, fresh opportunities. It is still and quiet in the winter, when the snow piles high and the only thing to do is drink tea and shovel the driveway. It is fresh and perfect in the spring, green, lush, and alive. It is so easy for my soul to write there. I find things to write about every day because there is always something to notice or some parallel to be made.

It is easy to love those people. They are loved, with their homes busting at the seams with children and whole foods, homemade things and hospitality. It is impossible to not love them. And I so deeply love them. I wrung myself out with love hoping that I would fill the void that was so present in me. I served myself dry in hopes that the prayers I was still afraid to voice would come true.

I was certain that if I could just love widely enough or deeply enough, then God would find that void in me and He would fill it with His love.

He wasn't my genie God anymore, but He was my caricature God and all I was beginning to see were the seeming flaws.

Someone said to me recently that they were afraid to leave some theological questions unanswered because what if that unanswered question was the question that kept the seeker awake at night and would render them faithless without an answer? I tell him to trust more, because it was those unanswered questions that led me to one February night in 2010. I was curled in fetal position on my bedroom floor and I was saying things to a God I wasn't sure existed about a salvation I was sure was never mine.

The thing about unanswered questions about God is not that they will all be answered here on earth, but that at some point it is the mysterious magnitude of a great God that leads us to trust that sometimes they are simply too wondrous for us to know.

At the threshold of questions about Church membership and tithing, liturgy and the Holy Spirit, I did not know that asking these things would lead me to question the very existence of God, but I would not trade those question marks for a host of periods.

There was a question posed to me a year ago: Recall a time when you were humbled by God?

And the answer was easy, it was that moment I was curled in fetal position on my bedroom floor, telling God what I really, deep down, honestly believed about Him. Not what I wanted to believe. Not what I was told to believe. Not what I knew I should believe.

But what I did believe.

To empty my soul of all my misconceptions about God, His character, His attributes, His glory, His church, His love; to say to God all the things I really believed about Who He Was and Who He Wasn't—this was necessary to pull out the file marked "2010, the year everything changed for the rest of my life."

 My front porch, seemingly perfect, 
but where I filled hours of time voicing 
my doubts, fears, and frustrations with God.

 

To be continued with TRADING: LIFE Part V