Let me preface this by saying: I should really be working on Lemon Tree stuff right now, but I can't help but feel reflective and I never write any of my thoughts down any more because it seems I'm always working on Lemon Tree. So this is my mini break for a little written reflection.
2012 has been an incredible year already. God is revealing Himself more to me everyday, and gently revealing the many planks I need to remove from my eyes. It feels refreshing and humbling to hear the Spirit making you aware of your shortcomings. Like a child getting tips from their dad on how they can throw the baseball better. I'm learning a lot through this, too, because I like to pretend that once I master the problem one moment, I won't have to worry about it the next. False. It is always a recurring battle, and although I still lose sometimes, I'm definitely starting to win more often. Thanks, God!
I feel like this season of my life needs to be documented, in some small way (like this blog post), simply because it's the first time in a long time that I've really felt a huge shift in perspective, and in more than one way. I think the last time this happened was when I got to college. I have gone through all sorts of seasons and learned all sorts of clear lessons along the way, but there are only those few pivotal moments in life when suddenly you feel like you're waking up and you can't believe you were even sleeping before.
The first lesson God is leading me through is that faith is real. It isn't something we just talk about, or sing about. It changes things. And the opposite of this is true, too. Evil is real. It is ever-present and Satan is always looking for footholds in my heart. The minute I let him get one, it might take me years to get him out. My eyes were fully opened to the reality of faith and evil when I was in India. To make a very long and emotional story short, we witnessed (more or less - I couldn't stand to watch) an animal sacrifice in the Hindu temple, dedicated to Kali, the goddess of destruction, in Kolkata. All I really remember is the oppressive Indian heat, the screaming bleats of the sweet little goat, the pounding echoes of the ceremonial drums, and the hot, heavy tears streaming down my cheeks. It was like all at once - in the house of Satan - God stripped everything away and showed me the reality of the warfare around us. I felt a little like He slapped me across the face, but I knew I deserved it and I went running to Him anyway. I hate stepping on peoples' toes, so I like to be tolerant of other religions because it's easy, and it's nice, and it's polite. It's the American thing to do, right? I always felt sorry for people who not only didn't know Christ, but people who worshipped other gods. I just thought, "Oh, poor them. They are so lost and they have no idea. What a shame." But after experiencing the influence of Satan up close and personal - in many more encounters than just the Hindu temple - I think my blinders have finally been lifted. And let me tell you, I was angry. I wanted to burn the entire temple to the ground. I wanted to smash the tiny idols in the bus that took us everywhere. I was utterly appalled at the blatant disrespect of our savior in that city. I'm sure in some ways this was misplaced, and in others this was justified - but in any case it's how I felt. I feel so foolish for having been so naive. I felt like their prayers just went no where, that they were talking to air when they burned their incense and offered their fruits. But if you are not for God, then you are against Him. It's real. Even though their actions may simply be misguided, it doesn't matter. It's real. This is impacting me daily, because I actually feel like I am constantly at battle with the sinful nature within me. I don't want to say to God that I have faith in Him and Him alone, and then turn around and let Satan in the next. I don't want any part of the presence that I felt in that temple - it's the exact same presence that makes a home in my heart when I let it. I think God finally confronted me with the bitter reality that you can't just smile and nod and not think about the underlying implications of our faith. I don't even know if any of that made sense, but it's clear to me so I guess that's all that matters. And this is not to say that I don't love those people. I do. Almost every person we worked with in India wasn't a believer and oh my goodness I love them. But I hate the gods they worship. I hate that they don't know the living God and His incredible power and grace. I hate that they are so lost. This realization just empowers me to finally do something about that.
The second lesson that God has been teaching me is that my story will not look like any one else's. No one's story will look like anyone else's. It's just a fact, and I should celebrate that. How wonderfully creative to make every person and their situation so unique! (I can appreciate that now - and it makes me SO excited!) Instead I get poisoned with comparing my life to those around me. And believe me - it's the most toxic thing you can do to yourself. I would literally go days of just being burdened and heavy hearted. I didn't even know why! I would just read Twitter and it didn't matter what people were even saying - I would just either well up with tears or get angry. I knew it was irrational, but I'd let Satan take such a huge portion of my heart and just fill it with all sorts of jealousy and hurtful thoughts and it took over my mind. I coveted everything that everyone had around me - and I feel like I missed almost two months of my life to this disease. Fortunately, I have an unbelievably patient husband who has argued me out of this. I feel like he fought for the small piece of Christ in me when I couldn't even see how poisoned I'd become. I am so grateful that he pulled me out of that filthy rut. I don't deserve him. And this is the battle that continues to rage within me, but after one repentant, heartfelt prayer, and more that followed every day, God began and continues to heal my heart. He has been revealing to me the beauty of a unique story. No one I know has the same story as anyone else - so why would I want it either? I am so thankful for the amazing blessings He has given to us, why would I dishonor Him by wanting something else? I am so glad that I've come around to the other side of this, and I'm just going to keep praying that I can continue winning this battle.
Finally, God is helping me learn that every moment is all that matters. I don't know why, but for some reason this really came clear to me in India. I think I was just baffled that it felt like one second I was waiting to leave, the next we were halfway through the trip, and the next we were on our way home. It all happened in the blink of an eye. It just seems that no matter how much I savor a moment, the fact is it will not remain. So I have to make the most of it so I know without a doubt that I did the best I could. It's really a profound thought that I've been mulling over... That each second that ticks by is the only one I'll ever have. It's sobering. I mean, how many minutes of each day do I spend pouring over meaningless things? How many minutes do I spend wishing for something I don't have? How many minutes do I spend in prayer? This perspective has really helped me take on almost a "Carpe Diem" approach to life (in a much less dramatic way than that probably sounds.. ha). If I don't put my faith into actions NOW then when am I going to? The only thing I've found that helps me to remember this is prayer. I just pray that God will open my eyes to the opportunities around me, and keep me aware of how I am using my time. I find myself constantly evaluating my priorities because He keeps it on the forefront of my mind. I hope this doesn't fade. Especially when we have a family some day and things get even more hectic...
So there it is. This was really just for me, and I doubt anyone reads this old thing anymore anyway. :) But I feel so much better that I've put into words the amazing ways that God is moving in my life... and that's just to name a few! I am so humbled and amazed by His love. We do everything wrong, and somehow He still waits patiently for us to come running to Him.
And I did. And I still am. I hope you are, too.