Afraid of Intimacy

I’m going to get vulnerable and open with you guys.

Throughout the past year, I have struggled immensely. I’ve struggled with mild depression, loss, school, friends, family, my relationship with God, where my life is going, and a multitude of other issues. I have been happy and I have been sad. I have been on the highest mountain of joy and satisfaction, and I’ve also been in the deepest valley of darkness and hopelessness than I’ve ever experienced in my life. A friend committed suicide. I got a promotion in one job and a raise in the other. I thought I was going to lose my dad to health issues. I got accepted to lead a mission team to South America. I ended a year-long relationship. I began a new relationship, with a man whom I am more happy with, and love more fiercely than ever before.

Through everything that has happened to me, good and bad, I have had people to talk to. I’ve told one of my best friends all about my boy troubles and joys. I have talked to my parents about school struggles and work successes. My roommate has celebrated with me in my happiest moments, and has cried with me in my weakest. Many friends know surface level problems and victories about me. In all of these things, there has been one thing that I have left out of my life, both intentionally and subconsciously.

That thing is God.

This year has been one where God was pushed away more often than he was pulled into my life. I wanted to handle things by myself. I didn’t want to let him in on what I was going through. I talked to God sometimes. I told him a little bit about what was going on. But when I did things that I was ashamed of, or when I was severely hurting, or when the world around me was falling apart, I left God out of the picture. The part I’m ashamed to admit is that I got so used to intentionally ignoring the presence of God, I got to the point where the action was no longer intentional, but a habit. I went from putting effort into leaving God out of my life, to making it effortless. That habit in itself was something I pushed into the deepest, darkest parts of myself so that the rest of the world could not see what I had done. How did I go so ridiculously far to where talking to God was reduced to an afterthought?

Intimacy terrifies me.

I’ll say it again: I am so afraid to let the Creator of the universe in on my deepest, most intimate thoughts and actions that I made a habit of being without him. (Note: God is everywhere, always. By “being without him” I am saying that I did not invite and welcome his presence to enter my life and be in the midst of my situations). I know that God knows everything about me. I know that he knows me better than I will ever know myself, because he is my Creator, my Abba. Vocalizing everything in my life to him is what scares me. I would rather just sit by, knowing that he knows how I am feeling than to verbally tell him how hurt, lost, upset, and angry I am. I would rather pretend like he doesn’t know when I screwed up and did something stupid, than to admit it an ask for forgiveness and help. Being open and honest with God is an incredibly difficult thing to do.

I trust God. I know he wants the best for me. I know that he is what’s best for me. Recently. . .I’ve learned that there is something inexplicably special about sharing everything with God. You know that verse in Philippians 4, where it says we can have God’s peace that surpasses all understanding? That is real. Talking to God daily about your struggles, about what is hurting you, what is unfair, why you are angry beyond all belief, etc., will open up new realms in your relationship with him. God is our Dad! He wants to communicate with us. That constant communication is what will allow the peace of God to enter our lives and transform us. He wants us to talk to him when life is great and happy so that he can celebrate with us. He wants to cry with us when we are crying and in pain. Jesus wept when he saw that Lazarus was dead. He isn’t some distant God in a far off world whose only emotions are wrath and vengeance. He cares about how we are feeling. He cares when we screw up and he loves us through our most difficult times. There is freedom in communication with God. There is hope when we share the intimate parts of our being with him.

I really like reading Psalms. I like it because of the chapters where David’s writing is so vulnerable and honest with God. Several of them are filled with complaints, frustrations, and emotions of severe anger towards what was going on in his life. Psalm 109 is full of David, expressing anger towards how people are treating him. He cries out to God, wishing horrible things upon his enemies. He tells God how he is suffering and lost and tired and sick. And all of that is okay. It’s okay to have emotions, and when you do, it’s okay to tell God all about it. He already knows. He created us with personalities. He knew that all of this would happen. And he wants to love us despite what we feel or do or say or think. He will love us despite all of those things.

I am not an expert on this topic. This post is what I am going through right now, as I sit on the couch in my school’s coffee shop. I am learning to talk to God continually, every day. I am learning of what happens when I open myself up to him. I am in the middle of a beautiful storm and I am so excited to see where God is going to take me. I know this post was on the longer side, so thank you to those who read all of the way through. I hope you can be encouraged by what I’m learning and going through. And please, I would love comments on what you might have learned by going through the same thing as I am, or even what you’re currently going through.

Be blessed today. I love you guys.

A Warrior’s Joy

About a month ago I posted a Facebook status from where my heart was at. I shared my emotions, fears, and sadness. As I was writing, I felt a message from God that I had to add to the status. I know that it greatly encouraged myself, and many of my friends. I wanted to share it so that maybe, it can do the same for you. Here it is:

I’m currently going through a season where joy has been scarce, and thankfulness for the little things is hard. I’m negative, tired, and constantly anxious. I’m easily irritated. I’m sad. I forget what’s important and why I’m here. I feel like my mistakes are too big and too frequent for forgiveness.
But you know what?
I have a God who relentless pursues my heart through all of the messy mistakes. I serve a God who does not give up on me no matter what the circumstances and offers me joy beyond measure every single day. I worship a God who has more patience than the universe can fathom. My King loves me with an eternal, burning, passionate love and moves mountains to find me in my darkness. My God pulls me closer into Him when I am distant and lost. He knows my innermost being and speaks life into my soul. He dances over me with joy and tells me that I am worthy. I am loved. I am a daughter of the King and righteous in his eyes. I am His, and He is mine. All of the powers of hell and darkness can’t stop the overwhelming being that is Almighty God, Abba, Savior, King of kings, Lord of lords, and my best Friend.
I get knocked down, and God pulls me up again. I let lies and bad thoughts fill my mind but God whispers love and hope into my ear, vanquishing the attacks of the devil.
I am a warrior of Christ, and I refuse to continue allowing the darkness that Satan has been throwing into my life, affect me. Thank you, Heavenly Daddy, for your truth.

I pray that this encourages you in your low points and directs your attention to the one who conquered death itself for you. He loves you deeply.

A Heavy Heart, a Beautiful Hope

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Tonight, I miss my family more than I ever have before. Christmas vacation is here! Well, it began 4 days ago. The dorms are just about vacant. In another 2 days, myself and one other girl will be the only inhabitants of the dorm I call my second home.

And we will still be here until students arrive back on campus from a month spent with friends, family, ice skating, caroling, hot chocolate around the fire, old traditions, relaxation, cookie decorating with mom and dad, and all other festivities that go along with the Christmas season because we both have to work.

As for me, I have a paper tree stapled to my wall, a couple of ornaments on my ceiling, pretty lights bordering my tiny little room, and a stocking hung above my bed.

I will admit, my heart is very sad. I cannot remember a time when I wanted my mom’s arms around me and to hear my dad’s cheesy jokes and puns more than I do at this very moment. Christmas is my absolute favorite season of all! I love sitting by the fireplace, fighting for the warmest spot with my mom. I will miss having my little brother (who is actually taller and stronger than me) crawl into bed with me on Christmas eve, wait until the parents have gone to sleep, and then sneak out with him to admire the stuffed stockings and presents spread through the glow of the tree lights. I can’t imagine what it will feel like to not be there with my family as they carry on the tradition of watching the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, quoting every line and laughing at the same jokes that never seem to get old. My eyes watery just thinking about it. I feel lonely, upset, and my heart feels heavy.

But, I realize how blessed I am. There are kids who don’t see their families for longer than I’ve been away, because they are in another state or country. Military families can go for years before they are together. Sickness, loss, and financial instability also keep families apart. I’ve only been away for a few months. Then, there are those with no families. Orphans, the homeless, the rejected, the torn families, the list goes on and on; they might not even have families to miss. My heart hurts, but I am beyond thankful that:

1) my family lives 6 hours from me

2) all 4 of my family members are healthy, happy, and close-knit

3) I will get to see them for a couple of days at the end of the month

My grandma lives 3 hours from my school. My boss at work has so kindly given me a couple of days off after Christmas. Therefore, I will be driving to my grandma’s house and my family will meet me there. Yes, I do have to wait another 2 weeks. And I will only be getting a couple of days with them. But, what matters is that I will be able to savor those days and make every moment count. I will not be participating in old family traditions or sitting around a fire (my grandma does not have a working fireplace) or giggling with my brother at 4 a.m., but I will get to laugh at my dad’s jokes. I will get to hug my mom tight. I’ll get to catch up with my brothers and spend time with them. I have something to look forward to.

And yet, so many others do not.

I have been fighting with myself to not complain about my situation. To not complain about staying at school for Christmas break, for only having 3 days off instead of a week or so, for missing out on the holiday events taking place back home, etc. Being here pretty much by myself has given me time to come up with a good sized list of complaints. But what will that solve? I’ve realized that, instead of thinking of everything I do not have or will not get to do, I should be focusing on my blessings and thanking God for the positive things.

Thank you, God, that I have a place to be, even if it is not my first home. Thank you, that even though I do not have a fire place, I have a thermostat and I do not have to freeze. Thank you that a couple of my friends will be here, even if only one will be here for the whole break with me. Thank you that I can still carry your love and your joy and share it with everyone I meet when I am out shopping for Poptarts and Ramen to live off of this month. Thank you that I have a job in the first place! Thank you for your Spirit within me, that even when I feel alone and apart from my family, you are with me and you comfort me. Thank you, for being you.

This season is all about Christ anyway, right? Family and friends are just a bonus! I do not know exactly where I am going to land this post. But, I want to let you know that I am learning all over again the true meaning of Christmas. God sent his only Son into this world for us crazy, sinful, messed up humans. The love of Christ is within each of us and we should be focusing on who he is and what he did for us, and is still doing in us. This season is not about tinsel or presents or cookies. I have the joy of Jesus inside my being, which becomes strength. He cannot and will not leave. All I need is him! And oh how thankful that makes me!

Friends, family, and blog browsers,

Take a moment to think about why you celebrate Christmas. What would you do if everything was taken away from you? Would this still be a time of thanks and love in your life? It is not easy, but you are not alone.

I pray and declare blessings and peace over you, your families and loved ones, friends, enemies, and strangers you come into contact with. Spread love, peace, and the joy of Christ with everyone you meet now, and forevermore in the future. Amen!

{Sarah}

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Left: My best friend and I rocking onsies at our dorm Christmas party.

Right: My family on Thanksgiving (I was at school, working) holding up a picture of me.

I Love You

Dear Reader,

God loves you. He loves you infinitely more than you could ever imagine.

The really cool thing about God’s love is that he doesn’t have to love you. But he chooses to do so unconditionally.

Recently I have been struggling with accepting God’s love for me. I frequently ask myself: why? Why is it so hard to receive unending love from the One who put each star into place and breathed life into the world? My answer is simple: sin. Every time I begin to believe that I am loved more than I understand, I am reminded of my sin. Everything that I have done wrong. Everything that I regret doing or not doing flashes in front of my face. Then I lose sight of love. I forget that God said, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25). God does not even remember your sin! Why should you?

Time and time again I have to declare that Satan’s lies of me being unworthy of God’s love are not true. I have to verbally tell Satan to stand down and back away because I am loved and I am holy and nothing that I ever do will take away what Jesus Christ was physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually torn apart for (Romans 8:35-39). Jesus did this for us before we even knew who he was! (Romans 5:8)

Matt Redman adds a bridge to the song, Here is Love (The Love Hymn of the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905), the bridge goes like this,

“No love is higher, no love is wider
No love is deeper, no love is truer
No love is higher, no love is wider
No love is like Your love, oh Lord”

These words are saying that God’s love reaches out to the depths and ends of the earth. No one is too far from it. No one. And this love is open to everyone.

Some get bold and specifically ask Jesus to reveal his love in its entirety to them. Jesus Culture wrote a song titled All Consuming Fire. Part of it says,

“We wanna know how high, how deep, how wide is love love love.” (so bold!)

Psalm 103:11 says “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” There is no where you can go. No amount of sin you can get yourself into. Nothing you could ever do to separate yourself from the love of God. I am currently learning this and realizing the message of God’s love for myself. Let me tell you, it has been an incredible journey. And I am just getting started.

Part of accepting God’s love is trust. I have to trust that what He says is true no matter what lies are thrown at me. Stepping out of my comfort zone of sin and self trust is not easy. But it is still possible and the rewards are far more satisfying than anything that I could ever know without taking those steps of faith. I have experienced that when I completely give myself to Christ and receive his free gift of love, I have a hankering to share that perfect love with other people. Sometimes those whom I have never met before. Moving from a life of self-love to selfless love is huge. The first step is letting God love you in a way that only He can. Then a transformation takes place where He is able to use you to do amazing things out of selfless love. I don’t know how much sense I am actually making with this. It has taken me a while to think through this blog post. In the end, my goal will be accomplished if you understand that the ultimate sacrifice of love was made for you by the One who knows you more than you could ever know yourself. He loves you. He wants you to love Him. Embrace Him. You’ll move mountains.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
Jeremiah 31:3 ESV

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No Where Near Perfect

You know those moments when your eyes are opened to something that you have always overlooked or shrugged off as no big deal – and you realize how important those things really are? I do, and let me tell you, I have learned something recently:

I. am. so. selfish.

There’s a girl in my church who has been attending on and off for a few years. She has gone through some pretty intense situations – some that I can’t imagine going through myself. I know that this girl is not saved. For years I would stand up on the stage in front of her on Sunday mornings, and subconsciously think that I was somehow better than her because I had a guitar around my shoulder and a crowd of people looking at me while she stood in the back. . . . . . .falling deeper and deeper into a kind of suffering that I have never experienced.

I said hi to this girl maybe once a year. We made eye contact occasionally. That was the fullness of our relationship. We knew each others name. And for a few weeks we attended the same school. I knew that this girl had a history of bad choices that we, as society, like to point out as “really bad” sins. I knew that she got into trouble frequently and wasn’t too happy with her life. I knew that she did not care in the least who I was or what my life was like. And I felt the same about her.

To respect privacy, I am going to call this girl Emily.

For years, I would hear Emily’s parents talking about what relative she was currently living with after running away from home, which homeless groups she was traveling around with, what her latest crime was, and her most recent problems. My thoughts were always, “She knows what she is doing. If she wanted to be good, she could. It’s not that hard.” The thought of praying for her or genuinely caring about how she was doing hardly ever crossed my mind. This girl was my age. Things were happening to her that should never happen to someone even twice as old as me. And all I ever thought about was what I wanted to eat after church got out.

A couple years later, I was browsing my Facebook news feed, and her name popped up on the sidebar. I hadn’t heard about what was going on with Emily for quite a while, so I clicked onto her profile page. I read through a couple of posts that others had put on her wall, I looked at a few pictures, and as I was just about done looking at her page, I came across a very long post that Emily had put up herself. In it she was saying how lonely and unhappy she was. She asked questions like if God was real and if he cared for his people then why did he have to let such horrible things happen to her. Emily said that no one had her back and she hated her life and talked about how lost she was. She was crying out for someone to help her.

I read it, and stopped for a few minutes. Here I was, thinking that I was so much better than her. Thinking that she was somehow different from me because of her lifestyle. And here she was – a broken, lost, and hurt girl who didn’t know where to turn next. That single cry on the internet caused me to stop everything I was doing, put my head down, and pray. I felt like a terrible person. I wanted to run over to wherever she was, give her a hug, and tell her how sorry I was for being so rude and thoughtless.

God taught me something that day. No matter who you are, you are not better than anyone else on this earth. And they are no better than you. Everyone sins. No sin is “worse” than another. Change your mindset to reach out to those people who are hurting and need a touch of Jesus’ love. He wants to heal and restore the brokenhearted. No matter what they have been through and are going through. My prayer that day and every day is that I would stop being selfish and start living to serve others. I want to be selfless. I want to be a reflection of everything Jesus is on a daily basis. I want to bring his peace, joy, and love to the world. All of these things are possible through the grace and power of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Reading one little post from Emily opened my eyes to see that the people who need God are not just the ones who are dirt poor and live thousands of miles away in other countries. There are so many people who need God that live in my backyard. I want to be a light to them.