Two years ago I skipped (yeah…I am pretty sure I skipped) down to the front of the intimate auditorium, stood in line, and when it was finally my turn to introduce myself….I started crying (just a little), grinning like the cat that ate the canary, and gushing about the first time I read Beautiful Outlaw (two years prior) to its author John Eldredge. He stood there grinning, and when I said to him that while reading that book I said, “Awww…there you are Jesus.” as if I was meeting Jesus for the very first time (age 40) having been saved at like 13…John replied, “I love your enthusiasm of that!”
|October 2013 - Me & John Eldredge (I am the GRINNING one!)|
This morning before church I watched that session from the conference two years ago and it was like a time machine back to that day. That glorious day (day two of the conference) when John Eldredge spoke about Loving Jesus (though at the time I had no idea that was what he had named the session), and I was captivated because it was a lesson on/from Beautiful Outlaw….and so this morning, I suddenly realized that while I became a Christian in my early teens, I had not fallen in love with Jesus until I was 40….and the lesson that day two years later was the gift from God reminded me of what it felt like that December when I DID. When. I. Did.
|…a little worn…|
The truth is that up until that book, I read scriptures different…I saw church differently…I saw God differently…I honestly didn’t really know Jesus (like I thought I did)….and I was more LOST than the day I gave my life to him and got baptized by my beloved youth pastor, at night, in a dimly lit sanctuary, with only four other people there - two to small to understand and two who (to be completely frank) didn’t really care, but they were all my people…and when you are saved and baptized you are “supposed” to be surrounded by “your people” and those were mine….and wow I am suddenly starting to have run-on sentences in my head that sound like the close of a Louie Giglio teaching. 🙂
If my love for Jesus is a love story….and I think all of us have a love story with Jesus….then mine has certainly been a love story for the ages. Filled with young love and adoration….then obedience…then disobedience and distance…then denial….then begging for forgiveness….and restoration.
The truth of the matter is that on that December day when I had that thought reading Beautiful Outlaw of “There you are Jesus,” lets be clear….Jesus was probably chuckling a bit thinking, I have been here all along….lets talk about where YOU have been….and the further truth is that I probably knew all of that on that day which is why I didn’t go running into his waiting arms.
It would be another month.
Do you remember the day you fell in love with Jesus?
Let me tell you….God has been reminding me of our courtship together for a couple of weeks now, and I am GRATEFUL for it. I am grateful that he knows that my spirit has gotten weary and dry. I am grateful that he is sending me sign after sign, circumstance after circumstance, reminder after reminder, word after word, awe and wonder, and it keeps coming….I feel God PURSUING my heart, and let me be clear….
I. Know. How. Crazy. This. Sounds.
…but it is true. He keeps coming and coming and coming….
and the HEALING.
Do. Not. Get. Me. Started.
I go to bed joyful and I wake up joyful….and here is the further crazy part….The STRESS is ALL still HERE! I still am overwhelmed, too much to do, too little of me to go around, demands, etc. BUT in the midst of all of it, I just continue to hear his voice. I mean I. HEAR. His. Voice.
Don’t worry…I’m good….Fine to talk amongst yourselves for a bit….
My friend Sherri and I were at Catalyst week before last, and the two of us needed to lose sleep like we needed holes in our head, but what did we do….stay up most of the nights the entire time talking and sharing and DOING LIFE TOGETHER because we needed to share and connect and explore with someone else all that God was doing (or not doing) in our lives….and between that time with her and the lessons at Catalyst and dinner with our dear friend Ines (who we met via Haiti) who let me just be clear breathes JOY…I mean literally BREATHES JOY…..my joy tank must have somehow multiplied or something (I am really not quite sure what) because I cannot stop feeling the JOY even in the CRAPPINESS of a day or moment….So I ask you….what do you call THIS????
Jesus…..Awww…There YOU are.
In the story of Noah, he sends out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. This happened three times…the first time nothing, the second time an olive leaf, and the third time the dove did not return.
What in the world does this story have to do with me today?
God is faithful.
I have persevered.
God is still faithful.
If I could, would I go back to me that day in December 2011 reading Beautiful Outlaw and say, “I know you think this is BIG, but guess what…it is BIGGER. It is time to MOVE. Literally and figuratively. This is a sign. God wants your heart. You are about to enter a new season. This season is going to be BRUTAL. You are going to walk away from the career you have known since 1998. You are going to have your heart broken. You are going to lose MORE family. You are going to start a company with a stranger doing something you know NOTHING about. You are going to move four times. You are going to sell or give away most of your possessions. You are going to go to Haiti FIVE times in two years. You are going to purge and touch and re-distribute and remember every single “treasure” you have ever possessed/bought/been given. You are going to lose old friends you love. You are going to make new friends you love. You are going to learn about “tribe” and what that can really mean for your heart. You are going to teach and counsel and love. You are going to FAIL. You are going to RISE. You are going to feel pain and loss and grief and heartbreak and shame. You are going to find restoration in relationships. You are going to forgive. You are going to be forgiven. You are going to READ and WRITE and SPEAK….and it is going to leave you RAW and VULNERABLE….yet you are going to feel more ALIVE than you have ever felt. You are going to lose all comfort and faith in your abilities around income and money, and then there will be restoration….even there except restoration looks VERY different than before because now the neediness and dependency and striving is gone. There is going to be copious amounts of joy; such that you are going to FEEL everything and yet still you will be joyful. Oh…and God. Well God is going to come for you again and again….you are going to battle with him like a lioness throughout the bulk of the process….and he is going to keep coming for you anyway…because He. Loves. You.
Yeah….I am not sure that if I had known what would transpire over the next four years on that snowy day in December 2011 when I held that book that literally helped me fall in love with Jesus all over again, directed me back to the Bible I had used and read but not PASSIONATELY loved in years and known that one month later God would quite literally come for me by WRECKING my life in all the ways that mattered most at that time and keep unraveling it for this “season”….well, I might have done something altogether….different. I am quite sure though that I would not have believed it…for I was pretty confident I had it all together and knew what I was doing and was exactly where I was supposed to be….
Awww…self-delusion. Isn’t it grand.
The truth is that in December 2011 I fell in love with Jesus and then he proceeded to let my life unravel, and yet I continued falling more and more in love with him (because I am crazy that way)….and today I was reminded of that beautiful memory when I first realized I was truly in love with him (October 2013) and yet even then he kept unraveling my life….and here I sit almost a full two and four years later (respectively) grateful to him for every single part of the journey.
In my twenties I wrote a song with a line in it “sometimes he has to break us to build us up again” and yes is was a Christian song….and yes it was about God….and yes I have always been a bit “dramatic” about…well….everything. What I didn’t realize in my twenties (it would take 20 more years) was that I was the one who needed to be broken….and not in the ways I thought at the time.
People think I am nuts about this #threeyearpurgefest but the truth is that only here at the end of it is it even make sense to me…and I am the one doing it. Sometimes God has to take us through everything (sometimes literally) like touchstones (I have written about that before…CLICK HERE) to remind us of where we have been…show us where we are going….sometimes just to show us that something that has had “a hold of us” for forever (it seems) no longer does….let that sink in…I had to….;)
I see the end of this season…and not just because the dates are on a calendar, but because I truly see God preparing to turn the page for me. He is also sending in reinforcements to encourage me on because he recognizes how tired I am….how often in a day I simply want to give up…how my back hurts…how there are moments if I had a can of kerosene, a lighter, and no fear of prison…I would torch everything I possess….how he sends people to me who need and want what I have got and he whispers…GIVE it to them. Give. It. Away.
Ugh. That last one hurt.
That last line was personal and he knew it and now I know it….God you are a jokester. 😉
The truth is that somewhere inside of me that December (2011) I did know….my heart knew before the rest of me that it was tired and ready for something different….my heart needed more…some people have mid-life crises when they turn 40; I had a heart crisis. I had treated (and/or allowed) my heart (to be treated) like crap for 40 years while God waited for me to get tired of it. He waited patiently for 40 long years; it wasn’t his first time waiting that long. 😉 I almost made him wait 41. I can be a stubborn douche (it is okay to laugh…just being honest here).
Why do we make him wait? Why did I?
Next year, in March (2016), I am going to a conference in Colorado to hear John Eldredge teach. If I have the opportunity to speak with him, I am going to take it…and once again…I will probably cry as I simply say, “Thank you. Thank you for being a voice in the noise and the wilderness reminding me of who Jesus was and is….and reminding me of who I was meant to be.” I will also probably tell him that in heaven when I finally hear God’s voice, I am going to be a little surprised if it doesn’t sound just a wee bit like him (John E.) because…ya know. 😉 BUT…but what I hope I have the simple opportunity to tell him (briefly) is my own story of restoration…and how it took four years to crash, burn, restore, crash and burn a few more times, and restore again and again….but that while restoration is a lifelong journey, I have successfully cleared THAT wilderness I was knee-deep in when he and I spoke in 2013….and thank you him for allowing God to use him as one of my many guides through it.
…and while I am thinking about that, let me say this to anyone reading this….Thank YOU. I never, ever, ever intended to peel myself like a grape to anybody and everybody who clicked on this website/blog. I would have NEVER EVER said yes to that willingly and knowingly, but somewhere along this journey being raw and transparent here just became….well, it became okay. I became okay with it. God said share here…this…here, and I said, “Yes Sir.” Obedience comes in many forms.
Awww….There you are Jesus…in the growth, in the sadness, in the real life at every turn, in the healing, and in the JOY. I see you. I know you. Even better…I know you see me, and I know (without a shadow of a doubt) that you KNOW me. This whole walking through the (fields of) life thing we are doing is the sweetest gift I have ever known, and I am on my knees…face to the ground….arms outstretched grateful to you for wrestling hell for my heart. I love you Jesus.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” - Hebrews 12: 1-3
Amen. Again and AGAIN…Amen.
Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! 🙂