God, Isaiah and Roller Coasters

I opened the Bible this morning to Isaiah and found myself immersed in the consistency of God.

roller coaster colorThroughout my life I have felt as if I have been on a constant rollercoaster. Every day, sometimes every moment, bringing about a new challenge, a new victory, a new emotion to conquer, a new level of faith to cling to, another mistake to repent for, another sin to be healed from, another fear to face, another excitement to celebrate. It’s exhausting even typing it.

But God is so consistent.
It’s not a rare occasion that I get that concept completely mixed up. I feel as if God is the inconsistent one. I’ll sit and lament to Him at times saying things like, “God where are you?”, “I thought you told me this was going to work out”, “Why are things changing so much?”, “Why does this evil continue to win?” when really that is just the reality of life because this world is filled with humans and brokenness and sin. We are broken, and we need a Savior and yet the entire time I blame God for being flippant and flighty, distant and disconnected.

Perspective is a beautiful thing, and as I read about the plight of Israel and the constant betrayal to God they committed only to have Him continually pursue them and redeem them I couldn’t help but think of that beautiful thread of God’s consistent and pursuant heart throughout the story of Scripture. His love and commitment toward his inconsistent children is the story of the Gospel.

The Gospel is truly a story of God never giving up on His people, and that reminder is more than enough for me to be flattened in awe of His faithfulness.

There’s a part in Isaiah chapter 44 where God lists all of the things that the people of Israel did to appease their idols, and then in verse 24 He says you have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses.

captiveWe sacrifice for the idols in our lives – settle in relationships so we won’t be single, cheat on our taxes to get that extra buck, tell one more white lie to save our pride – and yet our idols and the things of this world want absolutely no good thing for us. We bow down to our idols, and we run away from God. We bow down to the things of this world that we think will help us and deliver us from the agony that reality can bring at times and run from our Father who is the only healing ointment for all of our wounds. Our idols; this world, will only ever take from us. God on the other hand, has sacrificed everything in order to be in intimate relationship with us and chooses still every single day to carry the burden of our sins for us, offering us freedom and redemption at every single dip and twist of our roller coasters that we insist on controlling as much as possible.

After God’s lament of Israel’s insistence on worshipping the world instead of God we read, once again, God’s continual commitment to blessing His people if they would only turn to him. 44:1 declares But now listen, Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen. This is what the Lord says – he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun (Jeshuruan “the upright one” is a poetic name for Israel) For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

swing
He never fails to pursue, offer freedom to and bless us.
I was reminded this morning that every single time I think I can control my own life, I am robbing my heart from experiencing the ability of God to show up in massive ways in my life and through my life.
Instead of blaming God for wherever we have found ourselves on this roller coaster today, would you join me today in pausing for a moment, gaining a bit of perspective, and courageously trusting God again that He has only ever pursued us in order to free us from the grasp that this world has on us?

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23

Artist.

art handsI am an artist.

That has taken me years to say, let alone believe, but say and believe it I do.

I’ve been reading a book by Seth Godin recently called Linchpin. He speaks to the creative soul in each of us and brings up so accurately the fact that as children we are constantly dreaming, imagining, believing that we can defy the forces that seem to constrict us in this world. The forces that keep us from doing things such as flying by jumping off of a couch. How dare the world stunt an imagination that believes in such things! But stunt it does. Over and over and over again as we age.

The fact that my heart leaps and I feel a little bit like crying when I think of that sense of freedom we have as a child shows me that the desire to leap and fly and defy worldly constrictions still is at the very center; the very core of who I was created to be.

We were creatively created by a creative Creator.colorful trees

He created beauty simply because He loves beauty. This world would have still functioned without the vibrant colors of a sunset or the way that dew settles on grass in the early morning hours. He could have made it that way, and yet He chose to create an art piece more incredible than we could ever know.

And He has created us to continue to create. To bring our own artistry to our lives. For many years I have seen that as a childish desire, one that is not responsible or maybe one that is prideful. After all, who am I to declare myself an artist? What if no one ever reads what I write? What if the art I pour out into words is bad or wrong or too simple or too theologically incorrect or…or…or…
I’ve been trying to re-phrase the questions in my heart lately. What if instead of seeing every constriction that the world and my conformed-to-the-world thoughts remind me of, what if I chose to allow that artist inside of me to jump off the couch and dare to fly again?

kids jumpingJesus calls us to be like children, and I have heard many analogies about this topic, most of them wonderful ones. Children are trusting, children come to Jesus just as they are, children have the faith that can move mountains.

But children are also artists. They create in every way possible. They create with their minds and their hearts and they are exactly who God created them to be without trying to prove anything to the world yet. Ideally this energy and this thirst for life and the impossible would reside in our hearts always, but we have to search for it more intentionally the older we get.

I have been searching, I have been longing deeply for that freedom again. For the freedom from the labels that others have put on me which I wrote about earlier this month. I have been searching for the beautiful dialogue between my heart and God’s.  I have been searching for healing and for true love to replace the tainted, abusive and harsh ways of pacifying pain through false love that the world offers.

And I think I’m finding it you guys. And it feels good.

 

And it feels selfish.

 

I have been looking at the world through new lenses lately and have found myself overwhelmed regularly by the pain that others go through; by the enormous amounts of injustice in this world. I feel helpless most of the time to use my life in any way that would help alleviate this suffering and injustice. And I feel selfish when I focus on my own heart and my own life when it seems as if my struggles are so miniscule in comparison with the pain of this world.

But then I remember that there is an enemy out there who is the greatest identity thief color throwthat ever was and ever will be. And his greatest desire is for you and for me to be less than who we were created to be. His greatest desire is to steal, kill and destroy us (John 10:10). He hates who we are, and he fears who we are becoming. To focus on our identity; on fully allowing the creative artist in each one of us to flourish by being renewed day by day by the miraculous love of Jesus, is the greatest thing we could do to bring the healing power of Christ to this broken and hurting world every single day.

To create through words, relationships, numbers, jobs, churches… is to continue bringing the flourishing and miraculous work of Jesus to this world every single day. We are His artists, we are His art. We are His beautiful workmanship and this world needs beauty. The enemy would have us neglect ourselves at all costs in order to pour out to others, but the enemy is a deceiver, a master manipulator, and by selling us this lie that it is selfish to focus on our own hearts when there is a hurting world is one of his greatest attempts to stunt our lives so that we will painfully dull ourselves day by day in the process leaving us tired, burnt out and completely unable to pour out beauty that we so long to pour out.

color handsI lived this way for so long. And I’m done living this way now. I am worth just as much effort and love and healing as every person in this world is. And I know that the only way my life will be able to pour out the colors of joy and love and peace that Christ created me to pour out is when I am living in those same colors daily.

I am an artist. You are an artist. You and I are worth the freedom that comes when we embrace the fact that we were created to create in our own beautiful way.

 

The world needs our color.

Maybe.

alice41I truly do believe that God is all I need. He fulfills every desire in me, and even though I don’t understand that fully and I struggle with doubting it at times, I do believe it.

I heard one of the greatest quotes once from a professor of mine. He said, “Truly living as a follower of Jesus means following your deepest desire rather than your strongest one.”

I live in a constant state of volleying this strong-willed heart right back over the net from the side of my strongest desires to the side of my deepest desire, but this is not always a game I win. That being said, I do believe that God is the truth, the way and the life. I believe His heart for me and I desire him deeper than I desire anything else.

As I round the corner to my two-week mark before I embark on a new season of life on the East Coast, I’ve been asking a question that I can’t seem to find the answer to.

I know that God is all I need. And I believe that.

But what is ok to want?

Sometimes my strongest desire does win out over my deepest. I allow myself to act a certain way, make a decision that does not invite the full blessing of God over my life, etc… And those actions and decisions are usually based out of me acting on a desire of mine. A want.

But I’m afraid that in the process of trying my best to invite God more fully into my life on an ever continuing basis that I have started to fear the wants as if they are all going to lead me astray.

If God is all I need, what is ok to want? I don’t believe in a Christianity that restricts us from asking questions but I do know that sometimes we must rest in the unknown and be at peace with the fact that we will never fully understand this life on this side of heaven.

So where does that leave me? As far as I can tell in this very moment sitting in sweats in my favorite coffee shop in Portland (side note: I’m actually nervous about the fact that my sweats will not be acceptable in DC, but that’s beside the point), here’s where I land:

I believe that my desires, if they line up with the heart of Jesus, are ok to have. I can honestly trace back almost every act of rebellion that I’ve ever done toward God and trace each one back to me suppressing a want of mine because I thought it meant that I was claiming that God was not enough for me. Instead of being honest with my pain or struggle at a sense of lack, I got mad and just reached out and grabbed what I thought He was holding back from me.

My dad passed away from Cancer when I was eight years old. I didn’t grieve for him until I was 21 because I always felt as if grieving over him meant that I didn’t have faith that God was good and that He was ultimately in control of things. I’m not sure where this idea came from, that to trust God meant suppressing my needs and desires that I had from this world, but I don’t know that this concept has been a struggle for most of my life, and as well meaning as Christians can be at times, I think we get this part of our walk with God wrong…a lot.

What does God “being enough” actually look like? God has the ability to act and speak through everything and anything that He desires. How does God relate with us? He created us in this world to be in community and relationship. He speaks through our brothers and sisters, He speaks through His creation, He acts and fulfills in the most creative of ways, most of which we will probably never even fully know about! So what do we really mean when we say that God is enough for us? I have a suspicion that it doesn’t mean what I’ve believed it to mean for most of my life.

I’m reminded of when Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane and came back to his friends sleeping. He approaches them and says, “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matt 36:40). Jesus wanted to have a certain kind of relationship with his friends, he desired things from them to meet his heart where he was at in a trying time in his life and was hurt when he didn’t receive that. He doesn’t hide it, he feels it, he expresses it, and then He still goes back and prays to the Father. They don’t seem to threaten each other or cancel each other out. And I’m pretty sure we’d all agree that God was absolutely enough for him. But I think he still wanted.

And maybe when I give myself permission to want without equating that with a lack of faith, maybe that’s where freedom resides. Maybe being fulfilled with God alone in the truest sense of that concept means that I am actually free to want and hope and dream without fearing that my faith is lacking or that God isn’t truly enough for me.

And maybe this is the place where I start to see God everywhere and in everything and everyone who strives to love me the way He does.

And maybe this is the place where I start to take my own role in other people’s lives more seriously as well, knowing that their desire for a connection with Him is something I should always be mindful of when interacting with them knowing that I am just one of many avenues to how God will fulfill the wants of their hearts as well.

And maybe I’ll start letting my wanting heart be a little more unashamed of wanting.

 

Maybe.