You Are More Than The Sum Of Your Past Mistakes

Today I finished the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  For anyone that hasn’t read it, it’s a heart breaking and often times gut wrenching look at a broken girl who ultimately made the decision to commit suicide.  But before she did- she made a series of audio tapes explaining the reasons that led up to her decision and how these 13 people affected her enough to make her feel like she had no other way out.  It’s told from 2 different first person narratives-  the girl’s voice on the tapes and one of the boys that was a ‘reason’.

I wasn’t really expecting to remember so many of my own depressed-ridden moments as I did reading the book.  They kind of hit me out of the blue like a ton of rocks.  Certain passages in the book making it hard to breathe just thinking about different times in my life when I felt alone and alienated, worn out and just plain exhausted with life.  For me, it never got to the point of even considering the s word- but it’s hard knowing that so many people go through life thinking there is no other alternative.  Sometimes, it makes me wonder exactly how they can feel so desperate for escape.

But when I remember those times in my own life.  The times when I was beaten down and bruised, I can always remember something in the back of my mind.  Even when days went on without end when my phone didn’t ring.  Even when I felt so disconnected, so removed from anyone and everyone that I thought cared about me, there was still a small flicker in my mind.  That reminder that all I had to do was turn around, and I could fall into the safety net of Christ.

For anyone that hasn’t experienced it, it’s a difficult thing to describe.  It’s more than just a reason to go on.  It’s that steadying calm inside your heart and mind… down into your very soul that says that you’re not alone.  It’s knowing that even though words can not convey the depth of the hollow inside your chest, He will forever be there, waiting for you to ask Him to fill it.

Now, please don’t get me wrong… I understand that for a lot of people, depression is a severe chemical issue and not just a matter of mood.  But for me- based on the choices I was making and the path that I was following- the issue was far more mind over matter.

Last week in our young adult group we talked about purpose.  We talked about life and what we’re really here for.  For me, it’s mostly always been a non-issue.  Aside from the few years that I strayed and made my life’s purpose to do whatever I wanted- my purpose has been clear.  Aside from that time, my purpose has been to follow God and His Will for my life.  I’m not saying I’ve always been good at it, or that I’ve always done exactly what I should- because that’s not what being a Christian is about.  All I’m saying is that deep down, no matter what, I’ve always lived with the knowledge that God’s will for my life is greater than my own will.  That no matter how many times I think my way is better- I’ll eventually discover that I’m wrong.

And that really got me thinking.  For anyone who doesn’t know God… I can completely understand how you get to a point where there’s no alternative.  I can see how at the bottom of the seemingly endless pit of hollow despair, there is no light.  If following God isn’t your purpose in life, than what is?

Love?
Wealth?
Happiness?
Convenience?

And if so- how are any of those things measured?  How do you measure love?  Is it lust?  The number of contacts in your phone or friends on facebook?  How do you measure wealth?  Is it the things you have?  The labels on the clothes you wear?  The name on the car you drive or the size house you live in?  When is it ever enough?  The idea that what’s good for me may not be good for you… how do you ever determine rules?  What is too much?

What if someone thinks stealing kittens is okay?  What about killing?  With that line of thinking… even though I don’t think it’s okay… even though it’s not ‘good’ for me… if they think it’s good for them, who am I to tell them it’s wrong?

Aren’t you all glad more people don’t live by this rule?  I know I am.

Getting back to the point- I feel like the only thing you can really claim to be a purpose would be to find something that you’re passionate about and pursue it with all your heart.  And in the end if that thing is not God, pursuing a passion can become a self-fueled obsession that leads to the hunger, the desire for more.  It’s how a love of a job can lead to a need for money.  How a passion for love can lead to marriage crippling lust.  It’s how out of a longing for a life of convenience is borne a life of complacency and stagnancy.  And I don’t want my life to become any of those things.  I don’t really think any of us really WANT those things.

And so- with all of these things swirling around in my head today, this post was born.  Because I feel like it’s so important to talk about, and so often it’s things that we miss.  We see a friend hurting and we brush it off, we get busy or we’re afraid of over stepping our bounds.  I pray that I am ALWAYS the type of person that people feel they can call no matter what.  Day nor night, busy or free, early or late.  No matter what- I want to be the type of person that would never turn away a person in need.  Because in life, everyone needs (and deserves) someone like that.

If anyone out there is wondering today… Yes.  Your life is worth it.  Yes, you are loved.  Whether you’re single, married, athiest, religious, black, white, straight, gay.  Whether you’ve been hurt or you’ve done the hurting, your life is worth it.  And whether you know it or not, you have someone there for you.  And for you… yes you… the one reading this right now that says you have no one.  Right now, you have me.  For an encouraging word or a listening ear.  For an email or a phone call or a hug.  Whether we’ve met in person or you’re crossing this blog for the first time knowing nothing else about me- I am here for you.  Because I know what it’s like to feel like there’s no one on your side.  I am on your side.

And for anyone who needs another encouraging word… this song is for you.

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

Be brave,

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Dare You To Move

I’m almost two months through this year challenge.  I’ve greatly enjoyed focusing my time and attention on spending more time with God, my family and my friends.  But I think it’s time to stop focusing on the inward, and start turning my attention to others.

As I mentioned before, during this year, I’ve also decided to read the Bible through in a  year, which is something I have never done before.  Our entire church received a “Life Journal” at the end of the year last year as a way to keep track of our reading, journaling and prayers throughout the year.  So far, I’ve read through Genesis and Luke.  I’ve also gone through part of Exodus and Acts.  A lot of the stories are familiar to me, in both the Old and New Testaments, but I’m also finding a lot of passages and stories that are new.  It’s been so interesting to me, reading back over the verses that have stuck out to me.  So many of them that I’ve journaled about concern God’s faithfulness and his love for His people.

After my Valentine’s rant, post last week, I read two different passages about God fighting for us.

Exodus 14:14
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Acts 5:38-39

38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
 
Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to remember that God fights for us.  As humans we constantly try to do everything ourselves.  We don’t care enough to give our troubles to God, or we think “I’ll save him the trouble of this one.”
 
God’s will is greater than us.  He has a will for each and every one of our lives, and we like to ignore it or run from it or think we have a better plan in mind.  I spent so much time living like I had a plan that was better than God’s.  I spent years running from what I knew was right because I wanted something different.  And I’ve found that it is so much easier to live in the center of God’s will, rather than fighting against it.
 
God has proven time and time again that he has my best interests in mind.  I know that they say that hindsight is 20/20 and that is something that I have seen in my life over and over again.  I don’t always understand why something is happening at the time it happens, but sometime down the road, I’ll look back and see how God used that experience or trial to prepare me for something.  I feel like all of my experiences are culminating for something, and even though I’m not sure why, I know that it’s for God’s glory.
 
The last guy that I dated was kind of amazing.  And the relationship for me was kind of a big deal.  He was the first guy that I dated that I really felt was an amazing Christian and a man that feared God.  I don’t really want to do the whole name thing, so let’s call him Handy Man.  So, on our very first date, HM and I went to this sweet little restaurant and can I tell you I was nervous?  My goodness, I’ve never been so nervous in all my life.  And I don’t think it was because I was nervous about meeting him… I think I was nervous about the kind of guy he was.  Good, strong Christian.  And I was so new to it all.  Because even though I had grown up in the church and had always had the ‘right’ answers, I’m not sure I really let the faith be my own.  I was one of those kids that knew right from wrong and went to Church every Sunday.  I believed, but I didn’t have the life experience to back up my beliefs.
 
My three year hiatus from the church and the life that God set forth for me did a lot of damage.  On my life, my friends, my family.  It did a lot of damage on my head and my heart and I finally understood what it meant to be saved by grace.
 
Anyway- back to the story.  So HM and I are on our first date.  The conversation is kind of awkward and nervous at first, but then- somewhere between the coffee and root beer floats, it just felt right.  It felt natural.  It felt like I had known this guy my entire life and I couldn’t imagine how I could have ever not known him.  Our experiences with church and straying were so similar.  Our hearts longed for the same things.  (And I don’t just mean a meaningful relationship.)  We both had a heart for young adults and wanted to start new ministries to reach out to people in our age group who were like us- who strayed or who never knew the saving Grace that we can have.  We each had this picture in our mind of this ministry and it was so similar, so focused and exact- that I knew it was from God.
 
All the nervous energy I felt when HM and I first met wasn’t simply because I was meeting someone new.  It was because I was finally yeilding to God and what he wanted for my life.  HM was a good Christian.  Strong in faith.  He had a good heart and a strong family and I saw a future with him.  I saw a God centered future with him.  And that thought both thrilled and terrified me.
 
Anyway- I do have a point for explaining all of this.  You see- that very first conversation HM and I had, the one about the young adult ministry?  Well, that played a bigger role than I expected.  HM and I continued talking about it, and I had conversations with my dad about it, who was also beginning to feel that same yearning for this ministry.
 
The difference between HM and I and my dad was, my dad was in a position to do something about it.  And he began talking to young adults about what they were looking for.  Turns out- there are a lot of people out there searching.  There are so many young adults looking for a place to belong, a place to meet people, a place to make friends.
 
There’s a quote in this article by Chuck Swindoll that I think says a lot about church and community and what people are looking for.  From the article, I’m not sure if he wrote it or came across it.  But anyway, here’s the quote and where it’s from.

“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality-but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets, and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers. With all my heart,” this writer concludes, “I believe that Christ wants his church to be unshockable, a fellowship where people can come in and say, ‘I’m sunk, I’m beat, I’ve had it.’ Alcoholics Anonymous has this quality-our churches too often miss it.”

 
Because where can you go to church and feel confident telling someone your deepest darkest secret and feel secure in them keeping it?  What church opens their doors, their seats and their lives to the broken-hearted, the beaten, the bruised, the unemployed, the addicts, the depressed?
 
 
Unfortunately, I noted some differences where I wished our churches were more like bars.
  • People went because they wanted to be there, not out of duty or obligation
  • The singing was celebratory and sometimes therapeutic
  • Greetings were heartfelt and welcoming
  • Everybody had a seat waiting for them, if there wasn’t room, someone gave up their seat
  • Everybody got a chance to play, but you didn’t have to play if you didn’t want to
  • People notice when you stop showing up
  • Nobody puts on “airs” and when they do, they get called on it
  • Thus, nobody expected anybody to be perfect, and nobody pretended otherwise
  • If you make a mistake, you get called on it
  • If you admit your mistake, you get forgiven
  • It was a great place to go when feeling lonely
  • It was a great place to go when feeling sociable
  • It was a great place to go when feeling down
  • It was a great place to go when feeling up

This young adult group that we’re starting, I’m PRAYING is more like a bar in these areas.  Is that a weird thing to pray?  It probably is.  But regardless- we’re designing it to be a place where people can gather and feel accepted, because we’ve known rejection.  A place where people can feel loved because they’ve known anger, hate, lonliness.  A place where people can be forgiven because they themselves have been wronged and done wrong.  A place where people don’t expect or pretend to be perfect, because we’ve all messed up.

God is still fighting for his people.  And it’s time we start joining in the fight for the lost.  It’s time we reach out to the broken hearted, the hurt, the bruised, the addicted, the wronged.  Because we’ve all been there, and pretending otherwise is just putting more fuel on the fire of those that call us liars and hyporcites and out of touch, holier-than-thou Christians who put salt in wounds instead of healing.

I’ve known those Christians, and truth be told, I’ve probably been those Christians.  But the trend stops here.  It stops now.  It stops with me.  I don’t want to be an out of touch Christian who does nothing in the fight to bring souls to Christ.  I want to be an instrument in the fight against evil.  I want to stop being the problem, and start being a part of the solution.

I know that this young adult group is what all of my past experiences are culminating for.  I know that God is going to give me opportunities to share my experiences with people in this new group.  I just hope that I rely on His strength to take the chances.

Be Brave,