In many ways it’s hard to believe that 5 years have passed since the Holy Spirit blazed across the sky of my heart and I passed from death into life. That was the final weekend of my freshman year at college and the Lord had, unbeknownst to me, been working on me all year even on the incredibly liberal, small campus in a somewhat isolated sector of Missouri.
And yet, it doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. Much has happened since May 2012. I’ve gained many precious friends and grown apart from some precious ones too. I’ve moved churches 3 times, towns twice, and states once (perhaps twice by the end of 2017). I’ve had 10+ doors shut and only a few opened. I’ve graduated college, started a blog, and shared my writing in hopes of encouragement. I’ve also lost my grandmother and my mother, all according to the Lord’s timing. Within all those vocation and location changes, I’ve endured times of joyful learning and growth; I’ve languished in parched, empty seasons; I’ve mourned heartbreak in my inmost places; I’ve felt His beautiful restoring; I’ve been overwhelmed with the horror of my own sin.
Out of the last 5 years, only a year and a summer have been “high notes” spiritually. The other 3.5 have been full of depression, anxiety, bitterness, rage, sadness, guilt, idolatry, distrust, and apathy to name a few.
But in all of them I find the Lord still faithfully unchanged and ardently pursuing changing me into a clearer picture of Himself. Even death cannot mar the excellency of His timing.
Here are a few reflections on my first half-decade following Christ and what I hope for in the next five.
1.) Our hearts are desperately sick. My heart is desperately sick.
Too often we lose sight that we are truly all sinners. From the best preacher to the youngest child, sin manifests itself in our actions, in our thoughts, in our relationships with others and chiefly in our hearts’ posture toward God.
There was only One without sin. It’s not the man or woman you see in service each Sunday who seemingly has it all together.
It was and is Jesus Christ, Messiah, Spotless Lamb of God.
He may not choose to fully shield us from the effects of our sin-marred world in the moment we feel sin’s effects most or in the moment we wish but He has delivered us ultimately; our relationship with God is restored through His blood. And one day soon He will deliver us from this sorrow-filled world once and for all (Rev 21:1-5). On this hope of forever-healing, not of our own doing, we must rest our disease-ridden hearts and ask that they be cleansed and guided in His pure way or all else is for naught.
2.) God is Lord of small things and big things
I’m a big forget-er of even small graces: an empty parking spot while the rain pours, a word of encouragement from a friend I didn’t know I needed, a line from a book or song that pierces my heart in a new way.
I am grateful to the Holy Spirit, particularly over this last year, for shaping me to be more sensitive to the small gifts God plants throughout our “everydays” but I still need work, as we all do. I’ve had a couple incidents in the last year where the tiniest reminder of my finite being (let’s call them “navigation problems”) drove me to exasperation and questioning if God was even listening. In reflecting upon those moments of frustration, I was convicted about just how much I did not understand God’s shielding and how much I expected the smallest things to go easily.
“It’s okay if you give me big obstacles to tackle. You warned us about those. But can’t the small things at least be easy?”
However, in showing us that we cannot even handle the smallest things on our own but must daily seek to rely on God in all things, He is truly doing what’s best for us. I have come to more understand not only how caring our Lord is about the most minuscule and intimate details of our lives but how big He is to take not only our biggest requests but also our smallest requests upon Himself. A quote from playwright Anton Chekhov that has struck me since I came across it is “Anyone can handle a crisis. It’s day-to-day living that wears you out.”
I’ve found this to be true. Apart from God, I find myself worn and weary daily which is why I must truly recognize that I deeply “need Him every hour.”
3.) The things we think we’re missing are doorways for lessons on Who God is.
2016 was bitter medicine for my heart and my plans. Due to financial constraints and lack of open doors, I found myself stuck in my hometown and drowning in frustration as many of my friends scattered to the far reaches of the globe. But my assigned portion for last year was the small town in Missouri I’d already spent 18 years in. I did not receive this portion with joy; I was also very frustrated with my inability to change it and allowed a distance to widen between the Lord and myself; I wouldn’t let Him touch my hurt from my disappointed plans.
Little did I know that last year was the last year with both my mother and my grandmother; they died nine days apart in January. Oh, how much more bitter and beautiful those months seem now! But God has mercifully reached out His hand to me, reminding me that not only does He set us in the places we need to be but also that the cries of His children cannot go unheard. Now, beautifully, my heart is at rest and content to wait in Him.
The Lord, I am sure, has worked a million more things in my life that my dim eyes here on earth are not aware of and I will undoubtedly be astounded when He reveals His beautiful work as I grow or in eternity. The following are a few things I hope to pursue over the next five years:
1.) Prayer life
Although spending time in the Word isn’t a struggle for me, I have been struggling most of my Christian walk to be in consistent prayer. If Christ prayed, then I am in incredibly desperate need of the discipline of prayer for it takes my eyes away from my own ability to achieve my goals and cast it all on the Lord.
2.) Deeper knowledge
The Lord is unsearchable. Even so, I want to search Him out on this earth as much as I am able. I hope to attend seminary sometime in the next five years, that my knowledge and awe of Him and His word might increase and I might become better equipped to answer the questions of skeptics and reach the lost.
3.) Ever knowing that it’s Grace
My biggest hope is for an ever-increasing awareness that it’s truly all grace: all the words I write could not be if not for the work of the Holy Spirit opening my heart and mind, moving my fingers to the tune of His grace. I hope to improve my writing as I grow in conformity to Christ, that whatever I write might reflect Him to the upbuilding of believers and to the reaching of the lost.
I cannot fathom what or how the Lord will work between now and May 2022 (yikes, did I really just type that as if it’s an actual, possible date?) when I, Lord willing, will be 28 and will have known Christ for a decade. Even then, however, that is but a baby step compared to the beautiful eternity that is secure for me. All praise to the One Who tempers my strong will and holds my tossed heart steady!
In Christ and with encouragement to persevere,