“I’ve Lost My Head, Can You See It?”

 Loss. There are so many things to discuss on this topic. I would assume the initial thought that comes to mind would the passing away of a loved one. I feel adequate only to write about what I’ve experienced in my life thus far and fortunately, I have yet to deal with this issue. Because of this, I’m going to focus on relationships here, but there are numerous types of loss, or grief. Along with death, there’s loss of friendships, the loss of identity, the loss of your own walk with God. Loss is something I wish on no one but I know everyone has felt this pain in one form or another. Loss without hope is impossible. The agony it inflicts on your heart is the most debilitating feeling. I grieve for the individuals who have no hope. It must be a stale, numb existence, at best. Luckily, I have tasted this hope and know that is the only remedy but I still find myself contemplating the memory of a time better spent. Remembering the happier moments. I have been sensing this feeling quite often lately. 

Before I go further, I almost feel convicted writing about myself so much. Please know, this is not my heart. I don’t desire to make this a sob story of my life because my life is actually quite wonderful. But I have dealt and will continue to deal with very real emotions, just like everyone else. I do hope that whoever happens to read this will identify with it and feel a sense of comfort. So, to continue…

What I find is the more I relish on past events, the more depressed I become and once depression sets in, it is an enormous feat to conquer. When I contemplate the past, I find myself continually wishing for what could have been instead of being grateful that God has allowed me to be living in this present moment. I desire to look to the future and think about a life still to come, full of joy and love. But that is hard for me to do, even knowing that this mindset severely impedes my progress as a Christian. 

The most recent loss I’ve encountered has been over the last year. I’m purposely going to be cryptic about this so bear with me. Relationships (every type) are the most beautiful thing about life, aside from knowing Jesus. He designed us for relationship. How wonderful to be able to meet a completely different human being and develop a mutual bond of trust and love. That almost scares me to think about how beautiful that is. However, the loss of a relationship can paralyze you with grief. You experience a significant list of feelings, such as sorrow, hurt, depression, and anger. I find comfort in the fact that these are common in the grief process. These things are very real and very right. I would encourage people to embrace it, because through affliction, we are strengthened and faith can only become sweeter as you draw nearer to Jesus. For me, I know I have felt all these things along with significant emotional withdrawals that haven’t seemed to have gotten any easier. The closer you are to the person and the more love you possess, the more hurt you open yourself up to. For me, vulnerability is key in a true relationship with someone. It involves uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. How can I really know you if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your interests, aspirations, emotions, and struggles? Of course, this takes time. Sometimes, it takes a lot of work but other times, (this is so rare, but it’s the absolute best) there is such chemistry, you become close to and individual at a rapid rate. I’m talking about all relationships here. And even though vulnerability can lead to hurt, this hurt will always prove what’s most important. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3) His kindness and mercy will restore the soul. Let him help you because you simply cannot handle pain alone. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”. (James 4:8)

Now, in my dealings with this, I happened to open up my heart too much. I mentioned in my last post, I feel great emotion which is something I am so thankful for but as much of a blessing as it is, it has its drawbacks. I’m finding out through experience, I love things fiercly. Once the guard over my heart has been broken down, I dive deeply into knowing an individual on a soul level. I hate when things are stuck at the surface. It bothers me heavily. I also have found I tend to trust people relatively easily but put much too high of a standard on them which almost always results in dissapointment. This is very soul bearing for me to reveal but I have spent many nights laying in my bed, physically hurting from this pain and feeling like I could never get past it. It is amazing how heavily your emotions can dictate your physical sensations if you allow them. 

Now, the greatest thing which frightens me is that I find myself not wanting to heal. I actually WANT to live in past. It sickens me to think I let myself arrive here but it’s the truth, nonetheless. But I’m reminded, over and over again, that God is our healer. He doesn’t leave his children indefinitely in the depths of sorrow. Although his timing may seem mysterious, it has been divinely and perfectly planned.

Psalm 40: 1-3 states, 

“I waited patiently for the Lord;

he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord

and put their trust in him.”

When I read this, I sense, even now, comfort flooding my spirit. I know God will put a “new song in my mouth” which I look to with great excitement. As a musician, this is something I cannot wait for. The beauty of song is a miracle in itself, and when it’s sung in worship, it accomplishes it true purpose. I believe some of the most impactful songs of worship are birthed out of trial. I know I am called to this. I know these experiences will result in a divine outpouring of new songs. I rest assured that He is positioning me exactly where I need to be.  

So lastly, I do wait for the beauty to arise out of my mess and I know God will be faithful to reveal it. I did, do currently, and will still love the individuals from which these events transpired. I love them deeply. But I pray that in due time, this season will soon bring the light of hope and joy, not in any impertinent way that minimizes the loss, but through the deep work in my heart that God is doing for my good, and no doubt for the good of others. 

“To love and win is the best thing; to have loved and lost, the next best.” – William Thackeray

“Go back to God, His restoring grace waits for you.” – J.I. Packer

 

“I Love You, All Too Much”

As I sit here in my bed, I realize just how much I love the night. It’s in those hours I find inspiration. I suppose for many, it’s a pause from the chaos around you as well a moment to think and relay the occurrences of daily life. For me, it’s less of a pause and more of an unrelenting burst of creative objectives. I do think a ton, don’t get me wrong. As I established before, my mind does wander dangerously at these times. However, I also experience an overflow of beautiful things such as musical inspiration and words teeming of spiritual contemplations (like right now). It’s a time I tend to stop and behold the gift of this life I’ve been given.

One thing in particular I often think of with immense gratitude is just how much love I’ve been fortunate enough to experience in my life thus far. God has placed some phenomenal people in my path that I’ve been blessed to be able to, as singer Nat King Cole so eloquently put it, “love and be loved in return”.  I know this to be true and I do believe wholeheartedly that this is the heart of Father. In fact, I know it is. Jesus says in John 15: 9-17, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Upon first reading this, to “abide in His love” appears easily done. However, I’m sure we all know that this is no simple task. I find myself repeatedly learning this truth daily. Even now I think, what IS love? There are various types. Romantic love, the love of a parent for their child, the love (or perhaps, passion) of a certain interest or hobby, just to name a few. But none of these hold the weight of the love of Jesus. His love is immeasurably more immense than I can even bring myself to think about at times. It boggles my mind to the point of insanity if I think of it too much, simply because it is too vast for my human brain to conceive.

1 John 4:8 states, “God is love.” To know God’s love for us is the closet thing to heaven on earth. I don’t believe God has only given this love for a handful of favored or seemingly “spiritual” individuals but outlines it as an ordinary part of the Christian experience. And fortunately, we can experience this affection in the same way as every believer to come before us. Romans 5:5 says “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  I immediately notice the words “poured out”. His love has been poured out like a flood to our hearts. This suggests that it is a free- flowing love, free of all reservation and restraint. This is what I long to exude in my life; a love so deep that no boundary could halt the outpouring of His love from my spirit.

However, I continue to notice with greater frequency that this love has been seemingly watered down over time. In society today, the word “love” is tossed around with irreverence and a sense of entitlement attached. His love is perceived by many as just something that will enhance one’s present situation. By all means, it something that will greatly increase the path of life. Well actually, it is the ONLY thing that has given us life to begin with and there are vital aspects not to missed. God exhibits an undeserving kind of love, and in order for that to stand true, that would assume, we as humans are not worthy of it at all. It has been given to us sacrificially. So if we are to follow Jesus’ example, shouldn’t we be living sacrificially, as was done for us? Shouldn’t we be not only receiving but repeatedly outpouring that same love onto others?

One of my favorite authors, Dietrich Bonhoffer, wrote in his book “The Cost of Discipleship“, “Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. ‘All for sin could not atone.’ Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin…Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

God paid a great price to know and love us. It cost him his life, so why would we ever assume that loving in return would be free of any self denial? Would true love let one  blatantly disregard the sin in their heart? On the contrary, our love should be reflection of the atonement made on our behalf which calls us to a much higher standard of living. True love means true justification of sin.

I also see two obvious attributes of God’s love. Firstly, God’s love showcases His goodness. His love is perfect and He treats his beloved his great affection, dealing with us kindly and generously. Secondly, God’s love shows his goodness towards sinners. He has given us his grace, as well as his mercy. He has shown love to who someone might deem unloveable. His kindness and goodness is extended through grace and His compassion and forgiveness shown by mercy. God’s does not love us because we are good, God will make us good because He loves us.

I have not always understood these principals adequately. Of course, we learn these lessons through experience and I can think of several that have revealed my inner struggle to truly love as Christ loved. One experience in particular stands out in my mind. I will try to make this brief…

I have been with the same man for 11 years. In its beginning stages, love is wonderful and you find hardly any fault in the other person. They are sanctified in your mind and nothing can come between you, or so I thought. My husband and I didn’t say ” I love you” until about two and a half years into our relationship (which I know is a very long time for most) and, I fully believed that I was in true, lasting love with him. I was so young and undoubtedly filled with great affection but as I got older, I realized that even after all that time, I hadn’t really meant (or rather, understood) what I was saying. I don’t think I would have laid my life down for him in the face of an impending tragedy. I don’t think I would have freely forgiven him if a problem had arisen. Back then, I might have thought I would because I thought I knew what love meant but I was in love with the idea of love and the idea that there was someone out there who was giving me his undivided attention. Selfishness really exposes itself here. I was only thinking about myself and what I had to gain. I once read the so- called “love chapter” of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. It reads “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres”. I would think about my how proud I was of myself, that I was treating my boyfriend with these qualities. *so cheesy, I know. I was 15, ok?* But over the years, I would find myself crossing off a phrase one by one, until I was left reading a passage that defined everything I was NOT doing. It was a sobering moment. That was a turning point for me.

Now when I examine my relationship, not only with my spouse but with family, friends, etc., I have come to understand love’s meaning (or at least, in part). It requires endless sacrifice, forgiveness, humility, grace, and mercy. It’s about reversing the popular mindset from what God can do for me, to what I can I do to serve Him. Not to say that I understand it fully because I don’t believe I will ever have the capacity to do so. I make mistakes. I’m discovering in this particular phase of life, that love, in all its deep complexities, has the capacity to fill many spaces in one’s heart. But the one thing I know, with all certainty, is that God has called me to this charge: “to love one another as I have loved you”. (John 13:34)

I surrender to the fact that I am a daily work in progress. The cost of one’s own life for the life truly intended is a persistent struggle for me. But God, in His grace, is faithful to complete the work He has started. When I think of the cost of God’s love, I’m overcome with gratitude because it is “by grace we have been saved”. (Ephesians 2:5)

 

“Why do I let my loyalties be divided, so that God does not have my whole heart?” – J.I.Packer

 

“Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” – C.S. Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

“Knowing Him, Knowing Us”

The mind is an unpredictable place. It seems as though mine has a mind of its very own and will run wild with an inner dialouge I might not have necessarily welcomed. I often ponder small moments, dream about the big ones, as well as find myself crawling my head into a dark space where it could be dangerous to escape. 

But this is when I pause and am reminded (convicted, rather), “Why am I always only thinking about me? How could I be so consumed with myself?” Because frankly, I am (a painful admission to make but probably the truest one I can). I know that the obsession with self kills the soul. So why do I continue? 

Of course, I know the answer. Simply put, I am fallen human who’s desperately in need of saving. I also think it’s because I want validation. I desire comfort and stability. Somewhere inside of me, there’s a belief that I know what’s best for my soul and will do whatever is necessary to obtain it. Basically, I want what I want when I want it. I know we all have this struggle but how rewarding can this be? How could I ever possess freedom in it’s truest form with that perspective? 

I’m not a particularly goal oriented person. I do have goals, of course, but I find that I am not worried with achievement and much as I am with the journey. I desire the depth and beauty of life and find great meaning in the bigger picture. However, I believe what makes life worthwhile is having a healthy balance of an objective big enough to catch our imagination as well as our personal goals and dedication. And what bigger goal is there than to know God?

But what does that entail? Is knowing God a feeling, like goosebumps on your arm? An audible interaction? Is it a vision? Perhaps some sort of intellectual experience? I’ve come to understand that knowing God is a simultaneous mixture of complexity and simplicity. The more complex the object, the more complex our understanding must be. Knowing God goes beyond how you would “know” a friend, a language, or a skill. Firstly,  knowing God would be an acceptance of salvation, believing in His Word and living out its teachings, and living as His Spirit would call you to. There’s great beauty in the second, which is really knowing God deeply in your soul, similar to how a husband “knows” their wife and visa versa. You love one another, continually take responsibility for the other, and unrelentingly sacrifice on one another’s behalf. It’s a mutual connection and intertwining of the mind and heart. 

The obsession with self proves this “knowing” to be a difficult task to carry out. Knowing requires giving time to the one being known. Giving up time on someone else’s behalf requires giving up your personal freedoms. It’s a vicious circle of pride and selfishness. But I believe it can be done. It can be done because God says it can. That’s as good of an answer as I can give. 

In the last year, I faced some highs and contrastingly, several very deep lows (most of which were entirely a result of my own stupidity). I had never felt loss, confusion, and brokenhearted-ness so deeply and I had begun to wonder if God’s promises were too far beyond my reach (or if I was just too stubborn to grasp them). 

In these moments, I believe there are two choices. The first would be indulging in self pity, wallowing in pride, and continuing to live a life with only fleeting glimpses of satisfaction and happiness. The second, although more costly, proves much simpler; acknowledging and abiding in God’s holiness.

But what is God’s holiness? How could I ever be able to comprehend it? How could I ever live with the assurance that He actually is who He says he is? “The holiness of God is not to be conceived of as one attribute among others. It is rather a general term representing the conception of God’s consummate perfection and total glory. It is His infinite moral perfection crowning His infinite intelligence and power” (R.C. Hodge).  I must believe God is holy not only because He claims to be but if I refused, I would be labeling Him a blatant contradiction, which is the complete antithesis of His nature. John 17:17  states, “Sanctify them by the truth, Your Word is truth”.  God himself is truth. His very being defines it.  “When we consider the holiness of God, it may seem impossible for imperfect creatures like us to obey His command to, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). How could we ever set ourselves apart from sin? I can only believe it is by choosing to accept Christ and living in surrender. “I am the Way, The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the father accept through me” (John 14:6).   God knew who He was creating, and I believe He intended for each one of us to receive His holiness. 

Honestly, all I want is to do is live in surrender, especially of my mind and heart. I simply cannot go on living in selfish complacency. It only continues to painfully wear down my body and soul. However, I am becoming grateful for pain because through its refinement comes unexpected beauty. When I think about this, I’m overcome with awe. It brings hope to my spirit. He has so much in store. If we would just focus on acknowledging His holiness, His joy, and His peace and choose to make a daily exchange of our own narrative for His, life will be “immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine according to the power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). 

“We cannot possibly work these thoughts out here. But merely to mention them is enough to show how much it means to know not merely that we know God, but that He knows us.” – J.I. Packer