Jeremiah 29:11-14 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nation and all the places where I have driven you, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”
This promise absolutely boggles my mind and wrinkles my brain. It’s the promise and assurance that those who seek God will find him. If it’s such a sure promise, why do we have such a hard time believing it? All fear would be gone. All trepidation would melt away. What would I wait for? It’s not a lottery. It’s not a gamble. I won’t be disappointed. I will succeed. I will find. I will enjoy. Therefore I will go.
When we seek God he will be found. And when found he will be treasured. And when treasured we will be filled – our cups overflowing. And when filled I will continue to seek God. The pattern is obvious, the logic clear but my sinful heart still longs for other things.
When I seek idols they will be found.And when found they will demand everything from me. And when empty handed I will be left longing for more. And when longing for more I will continue to seek idols.The pattern is obvious, the logic clear but my sinful heart prefers this self torture. It’s a kind of spiritual sadism.
Teach us Lord by way of the gospel the futility of idols and the infinite joy of having sought and found you, our great treasure and reward.
It’s been a while since I’ve been on this thing and I figured it’s time to dust off the cobwebs. This summer I feel like God has really been teaching me the value of patience and learning to show others grace especially through my relationships with my family. This spring semester was probably one of the roughest and busiest of my life between academics, extracurriculars and serving and there’s no way I could’ve gotten through it without God. I remember being so happy when I took my last final and was on the way home. I told myself that when I got home, that it was going to be time for myself, my “off season”. This would be the time where I could focus only on myself and have time to relax and de-stress and not worry about anything or anyone. I wanted “me” time and just time to be mindless. Whenever anyone (specifically my parents) interrupted that time, I got really frustrated and bitter. I was so selfish and tired that I not only neglected my relationship with my parents, but my relationship with God.
In my case, I was unwilling to give up my time. I thought that serving at school was enough and that I had deserved this time off and I was entitled to this solitude, but the Bible tells us to deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily and that means being willing to give anything and everything to Him. It means being willing to make certain sacrifices if He calls you to, even if it means inconveniencing yourself. So really, there is no “off season”. There isn’t a time where you can tell God, “not today” or “don’t ask me to give this up God”. You can have anything else, just let me keep this for myself”. One thing that God calls us to do is to love our neighbors as ourselves and it sounds so simple and so easy, but it’s really not. It’s really hard to love others especially because whether people intend to or not, they do so many things to annoy you or hurt you no matter how much they love you. It’s in our nature to do so as sinners. Taking all this into account, I sit here and think, “What’s the point? Why do this? Why should I love these people if all they’re going to do is annoy me or cause me grief?” But then I remember, I’m guilty of doing the exact same thing. I hurt people too. I annoy people and make poor decisions and judgments. I upset the people I love and care about and who love and care about me as well. Knowing all of this and how much of a jerk I am, God still loves me anyway. Jesus didn’t say, “Oh snap, I’m not gonna save this kid. He’s the biggest scrub in the world”. Jesus still died for me and saved me even though He knew how much of a scrub I was.
I’m not going to sit here and say now everything has changed and now I love everyone and I’m everyone’s best friend, but knowing what Jesus did makes it a heck of a lot easier. Taking a look back at myself and realizing just how sinful and selfish I am and knowing that God loves me still makes loving others that much easier. If there’s one thing that I’ve been reminded this summer it’s that everyone deserves to be shown love and grace.
We love because he first loved us
1 John 4:19
Notice how it isn’t generally people pulling back 2 back shifts in the ICU who tell you how busy they are; what these people are is not busy, but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. Instead, it almost always ends up being people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed, work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve been “encouraged” to participate in. They’re busy chiefly because of their own ambition, drive, or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.
Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. A good friend of mine recently texted me asking if I wanted to grab dinner. I answered by saying that I didn’t have much time but maybe (just maybe) I’d ditch a few hours of my work. Being the nice guy he is, it wasn’t a big deal to him. But if I were him I would have wanted to clarify that my “asking for dinner” had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation. But buddy, this was the invitation! But my busyness was like some vast churning noise through which I was shouting back at him but he gave up shouting back out it.
This phenomenon or hysteria or inevitable condition or whatever-you’d-like-to-call-it, it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Let’s get this clear. I proclaim I’m busy all the time. It’s not as if any of us want to live like this any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam – it’s something we collectively force one another to do.
“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you’re busy, completely booked, or in demand every hours of the day”
Right? Right? Wrong!
Honestly, (sometimes) I can’t help but wonder whether or not all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t really matter.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you -Hebrews 13:5
Gracious Father, I thirst for a desire to live much less of a driven life and much more of a called life. Lord, if greater grace comes to the humble then accepting my limitations is essential for my liberation. Let this be my prayer.
I’ve seen my ugliness everyday and everyday I wake up and decide that “today I’m going to change!” I’ve fought admitting this to myself. I know that preaching a try harder/do better sermon to myself is not the way to go about it. You’ve heard me say it, yet I still do it. -_-
I can be pretty obsessive in my pursuit of getting better. I think most of us are. We spend our days either trying to figure out how not to sin or trying to figure out how to make things better after we have sinned. A pursuit of ourselves.
“We spend too much time thinking about how we’re doing, if we’re growing, whether we’re doing it right or not. We spend too much time pondering our failure and brooding over our spiritual successes. In short, we spend way too much time thinking about ourselves and what we need to do and far too little time thinking about Jesus and what he’s already done.”
We have an obsession with sin. We have an obsession with wanting to grow and be better. It’s what consumes us. Think I learned that the most my junior year. Constantly striving, not enough delighting. We are told to “be the best that we can be” and when we aren’t we despair and question God. “I’m trying G! Why aren’t you allowing me to succeed?” In a double bind here…Surely if we are busy serving others and conjuring up all we have to love them then we will be too busy being the best upperclassman we can be to think of ourselves. No, actually by doing this we are still self-focused. You can argue that and I will listen but the truth is that anything done out of our efforts is done for our own glorification. Anything mustered up from a will to do better still comes from us.
Of course, I’m still all about self-improvement. After all, the life of a Christian is about growth, I think. It becomes an issue when it becomes your obsession. Nonetheless, the truth that we must believe in is this: our change is truly His desire and it is truly a job that only He is big enough to do. Our G is greater, our G is stronger, our G is higher than any other.
To remedy all of this, to truly live outside of our self, our sin obsession must be turned into a Christ obsession. Focusing on what’s been done for us. Swimming in the grace that He has poured out on us, saving us despite our sinful, self-seeking heart. Reveling in His unending love for us when we push Him aside in our self-reliance and desire to be number one.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4
PS. Turns out we may need to change the tagline for this blog. MAINLINE SENIORS!!!
So I would definitely consider my senior night speech a serious fail. As soon as my name was said the tears started coming and I knew there was no way I was gonna get through that one. So I stood up there and shook and I still don’t know if I said anything intelligible. Soooo for all of you dying for my senior wisdom and advice, I figured there was no better place to share than my favorite blog. This is more a testimony of my final year here at Villanova, and it’s gonna be long, but here it goes….
I came into this year super excited to be a junior, to meet all the new freshmen and start stepping up in preparation for next year as well, but then I made the decision to graduate early during the first week of school and rearranged my entire schedule. All my plans: minors, internships, bonding with you all at RCF, application season, everything got turned on its head and I honestly didn’t emotionally and spiritually deal with any of this till late this semester. So it’s been a really weird year for me since I’m not really a junior but I also never considered myself a senior either nor was I viewed as one by anyone else.
So as you all know, I’m premed, and now that mcat/application season was upon me I started to freak out. I have spent almost my whole life in pursuit of this GINORMOUS idol and I just knew that God was going to take it away from me, I didn’t deserve success or any of the other blessings that he has so generously showered me with. It took a lot of prayers and tears for me to submit my fate to Him and accept the fact that no, I do not deserve a single ounce of His love, but that His son’s sacrifice made sure that I would receive it anyways. I realized that half of my problem was my pride saying that since I didn’t earn God’s love I shouldn’t accept it either. Ridiculous I know, but it’s hard for someone as prideful as me to take handouts. This year set a record for the first time I’ve cried in repentance and prayer as well as a record for the sheer volume of tears. Never thought I was a crier.
Even with God hitting me on the head with His love and my sinfulness, I’m still a planner. I looked at this year from day 1 as simple preparation for leaving. I was afraid to form bonds and invest in people just to leave at the end of the year, why get myself more attached when it would make leaving more painful or reach out to people knowing they wouldn’t be able to rely on me next year. Essentially I was being self-centered and also pitying myself by saying that I was no longer needed in this fellowship and that no one wanted to invest in me now that I wouldn’t be around next year to help at all. So I spent the majority of my time in isolation. While this was great for me in many ways, quiet time alone to build my personal relationship with God and of course studying for some exam, I didn’t realize how selfish, bitter, and jealous I had been until a good friend called me out on it
Here it comes the guilt again. I had finally began to get over one idol and thought I was in a good place when BAM, HUMBLED! I was let of the hook as far as ownership and responsibility in RCF goes and I let everyone down. I didn’t help plan events or reach out to underclassmen, or you guys, or just spend time with people. I thought I was doing myself and everyone else a favor, but I was just hurting myself and all the relationships I have here. And now I’m crying because I wasted so much time this year running away from everyone prematurely and I got ‘appreciated’ for essentially doing nothing to give back to this community that had loved me so much.
In conclusion there are three main things I learned from my time at RCF: the community aspect and honesty that was missing from my spiritual life, love, and humility.
My walk with God was always one that I did alone and I felt like I grew in spite of not because of my church. RCF showed me how much I needed people to help me and support me and actually understand me. I no longer felt split in who I am but became fully devoted to God. “Being christian” is not something that I can turn on and off anymore and you guys have shown me the true power of prayer. Also seeing how much love is in this community and how much you give of yourselves to one another made me feel truly loved by a community for the first time. Never before has God moved my heart so much to love other people, but that community love has also shown me how weak and imperfect my love is, especially when I know how great God’s love is. Most of all this year has been HUMBLING. I thank God daily for humbling me because that has made the greatest difference in my life. Accepting how unworthy and inadequate I am, but knowing that there is a God who loves me unconditionally is so powerful. Seeing that I am not truly independent but in complete need of God’s grace, and that all my blessings and gifts truly are from Him, wow our God is Amazing.
So guys even though I am leaving know how much I love you all, even if I don’t always show it. I have been permanently changed by the love of RCF and the love of God and though this year was rough I know that He did it in preparation for all that lies ahead. I feel like I have grown so much and that this is still just the beginning. So take advantage of your time here, invest your time in people you care about, and always stay humble before the Lord because He will continue to shape you.
“6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5: 6-7
(Cone of Shame)
When you’re not who you want to be, you don’t feel like you should be around God. That’s how I feel most days. I sin, realize it, then progress to shy away from the Lord in embarrassment and shame. If you’re less or worse than the person you think you ought to be by now, you feel like you can’t really go to the Lord. I can’t pray, I can’t crack open my Bible and I don’t really want to be around any other Christians, let alone RCF. Why is that?
We all feel this impulse, by the way. If you know what I’m talking about, (and you do) then you’re not alone. I was talking to my best friend in college who recently said that he had gotten out of the habit of spending time with Jesus every day simply because he had sinned and was too ashamed of himself to face the Lord. At the time, I didn’t know what to say except, “I feel you, man.”
Now on the one hand, that’s the most natural thing in the world to feel, but on the other hand it makes no sense. That’s a feeling that’s got to go. If I think I have to have it all together to hang out with Jesus, I should prepare myself for a massive disappointment. These past two years I’ve been blessed to hear testimonies from my CG members. Could I sincerely, genuinely, with all my heart, reallllly believe that I need it have together all the time after hearing of G’s testament in my friends’ lives? A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y not! As long as I am breathing on this earth, I am NOT going to have it all together. Believe that.
That doesn’t mean I’m not changing and it doesn’t mean I won’t grow, but it does mean I need to learn to accept something true about myself. I can’t/won’t go up to Jesus. He came down for me. He didn’t say, “Come to me all you who are awesome and have their shiz together.” He said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened.”
P.S. SHOUTout to GRACE KIM. Hollllla~
Okay, you failed. You totally screwed up. Guess what? You’re the only one who’s surprised. I’m not surprised. Jesus certainly isn’t surprised. In fact, He called it. He saw it coming. He’s not disappointed. He’s not frustrated. He’s not going to smite you to tiny bits, so whatever you do, don’t go cowering in guilt and shame and run away from Him. Pick yourself up off the mat and go straight to Jesus. Go find Him and talk with Him. Find out how much He loves you. Find out how it happened and get ready to face the next wave of temptation armed with some wisdom and the unshakable certainty that you can never, ever out-sin His outrageous, relentless love and grace.