Lesson 1: “Don’t just do the right things; be the right person.” Do you forget who you are sometimes? That being God’s child is what defines you? That all His promises are for you? That’s where I was. Thankfully– He has rescued me from it! He took me from not being sure of who I was to being able to use the Bible as a mirror. One of the biggest things He showed me about myself is that I am very judgemental. I was amazed, because judgement calls are one of the things I hate most! It was crazy to find out that I myself am critical and harsh toward people, especially people I consider to be hypocrites or hateful. Imagine how terrible it was to find that I was what I hated! I noticed my harsh, spiteful thoughts were even beginning to leak out into my conversations! I was trying to act in love, but my heart and even a few words weren’t in it. The title I gave this lesson is something my friend Tony said when he spoke at my youth group that keeps echoing to me. His message and the one by my youth pastor AJ the next week were big wake up calls. After AJ’s message, he told us to get into small prayer groups, and the one I was in prayed for me about this. I’m still struggling, but I’m improving, and that is such a relief! If you want to know something about yourself, ask God! He knows you. He will reveal things to you and help you act on them! You will find things God taught me about myself throughout this post!
Lesson 2: You can’t always see the purpose when you hear the call. For the past hour I have been trying to word this story without stepping on toes or not making sense! As a substitute for the story, I’ll share the lyrics to a song I recently finished about it instead. Enjoy “Where I Am”:
I can’t move/ but that’s okay/ I can’t move because You’ve asked me to stay/ broken hearts/ broken wings/ I need You, or I can’t do anything/ nothing here/ just my pain/ but I trust You, You’re inside of this rain/ peeking out/ sheltered by You/ You’re my Father and You’re making me new again// I’ll follow You anywhere/ I’ve told you from the start/ I didn’t think You’d ask me to serve You where I am/ I didn’t understand but I’m beginning to/ You’re opening my eyes to see You/ I’m not held down by chains, I’m just where You want me/ and I’ll love You no matter where I am// You have me/ inside Your arms/ no matter where, I know You’re holding my heart/ sometimes I cry/ I can’t see/ but when I sing to You suddenly I’m free/ You change my heart/ You open me/ I know I’m with You, so I’m where I want to be/ I’m not stuck/ I’m just savoring/ this moment is ours and I’m not missing a thing this time// CHORUS// keep me safe/ I’ll be okay/ I’m with You/ I’ll gladly stay/ (x 2)//CHORUS//
Lesson 3: Acting on my beliefs isn’t just necessary; it’s fulfilling. My dear friend (and award-winning speaker!) Sierra invited me to a pro-life rally she was speaking at. We went solely to support her, but I came away from the experience changed. I had never been to a protest before, and at first it scared me! We were in front of a courthouse in the city, passing out signs and buttons on the street! I soon learned, though, that this was not something to fear. Everyone there was calm, simply speaking out against the HHS Mandate because it affects us and threatens us as Christians. I myself held a sign on the sidewalk, and the responses from the drivers were everything from unrepeatable yells to approving nods. I now wear the pin I received there on my purse, in hopes that people ask about it. Sierra’s speech was the final blow. She shared that the church has been turning a deaf ear to the treasured babies being killed, that we choose to forget about what she calls the American Holocaust. It is so true, no matter what we think. We need to act! When we hear about abortion, I think most of us will say how sad it is and truly believe that, and then forget. Sierra is not like that, and she inspires me to do something about these lives I care about instead of hoping things get better. I now pray for this issue, and all the others that stab at me.
Lesson 4: Joy comes from focusing on God and others instead of myself. I love this story. It is making me grin right now! So, how was your spring break? No, this is not an out-of-place question; it’s a lure to get you to ask me what I did over MY spring break. Why, thank you for asking, I’d be glad to tell you all about it! (I’m annoying MYSELF… haha!) My youth group, both middle and high school members, joined together to do something during our break. BUT, instead of doing things for ourselves, we woke up earlier than we normally do for school to work all day, 3 days of the 5 we had free, for people in our community. We helped anyone who asked with anything they needed: weeded for the elderly and the sick, helped organize the basement of a local Christian college, carried branches blown off during a storm to a pile for burning, split and hauled firewood, and a few boys (like my dear brother, whom I was so glad to do this with!) even ventured to a few housetops to clean the roofs! It was the most fun I’ve had in a very long time, and isn’t that crazy? Wouldn’t you think that the work would be drudgery and that we would have terrible attitudes because we were “wasting” our free time? No one was like that. No one complained, and that impressed many of the people we helped. I loved the people I was working with, and that many whistled and sang as we went, and how many times we got to laugh. This is where cheerfulness comes from– getting close to God and serving people in His name! This is a big confession for me that I am a little scared to share, but I think it adds to the testimony, so I will tell you: for the past 5 or 6 months, I have wondered if I have depression. The joy just felt sucked out of me, bad attitudes came so easily, and I didn’t feel much at all of anything. Our spring break project totally opened my eyes to the truth God has been trying to show me all this time, that joy does NOT come from me! I was counting on myself for joy, thinking that if I changed what I did or who I was I would find joy somewhere, but that was hopeless. My joy comes from closeness with Jesus, the one who gave me joy in the first place. I don’t have depression; I have self-absorption. It all makes sense! Worship was the only place I found joy during this time, and I see now that it’s because I focus on God and His goodness instead of myself when I worship Him. The minute I start thinking of someone else and how I can serve them, with God’s love as the motivation, I am happy. My face lights up, I sing louder, I laugh more, and I don’t want to stop! Another startling realization is that all this was an answer to prayer. What?! Yes! I asked God to get me to rely on Him and not my feelings. I asked Him in January of last year, and that was when I started feeling different, feeling less. Goosebumps! You might not feel them, I don’t know, but this is so awe-inspiring to me! This is what I asked for, and although I cried so much and it has been so hard on me that I called it “the war inside”, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Seek God with all your might, and you won’t care about the little things that threaten your happiness. You will have JOY, unspeakable JOY!
[Edit: I’m looking back on this three years later and chuckling, because I know I really was depressed and would be for another year. But this experience is still a huge part of my story, because it showed me that joy existed for me and that loving God and others is what carries me through the darkest of days. I was indeed depressed, not self-absorbed, but love has healing in it, and I always remember that day when I think about joy.]