Sunday was a beautiful day in the life. One of my best friends in the world came all the way from California to her college reunion and she came to visit me. God gifted her to me my Junior year at Milligan when I decided to leave my roommate option up to the “luck of the draw.” We quickly discovered that we are kindred spirits and many days when we weren’t just chatting about life, love, and God, we would sing together in our dorm room. All of that is exactly what we did on Sunday. It was a lovely afternoon that uplifted my heart immensely. You can see one of our duos as well as some pictures from the day, including four deer that wandered through the yard here. Living in the desert doesn’t give her many glimpses of rain or deer so her TN weekend was a nice change.
Unfortunately, I am not usually a person who “smiles because it happened.” I lean more toward “cry because it’s over.” My friend’s visit was the future event I looked forward to and when it was over I struggled not to plunge into sadness. But I am incredibly grateful it happened! And God has helped me to stay out of the depths for the most part. I woke up yesterday completely exhausted, sad, and filled with anxiety. There was laundry to put away, sheets to wash, a bed to make, and books to read. But I just felt God calling me to spend the day with Him. I was slightly surprised, as some of you may be as well, because to my mind I spend most days with God. I am home all day every day and He is my only company besides my little fur-ball. But God wanted me to just sit with Him. He didn’t want to spend time with me and my laundry, or me and the author of the book I’m reading, or me and the artist of the music in the background. He just wanted me. I’m pretty sure Jesus’ time with God was not distracted by chores, music, or books. He valued His time alone with His Father and sought Him frequently.
"Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10
I’m not going to say my time with God went super-well. I think in general most of us believe reading or listening to music counts as solitude. We very rarely just sit in the presence of God, letting Him talk to us and pouring out our hearts to Him. We like distraction because being alone with ourselves and with God can be very uncomfortable. I was incredibly restless most of the day. I felt guilty for not putting the laundry away and the fact that there’s a chance my husband will go to work with a wrinkled shirt. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I realize the irony of quoting an author when I just got through saying that reading does not count as solitude but Brennan Manning says, “The false self dreads being alone, knowing that if it would become silent within and without, it would discover itself to be nothing. It would be left with nothing but its own nothingness, and to the false self which claims to be everything, such a discovery would be its undoing.” In other words, we fear being completely alone because we would have to face the fact that the person we portray to the world, and even to ourselves, is not who we truly are. We fear being exposed. We don’t want to spend time alone because we would have to face and feel our deepest pain and confront our doubts, fears, and sins. All of this fills us with dread, hence my constant restless anxiety.
God led me to some discoveries that are not pretty, but I think that was the point. He wants to heal those areas and they cannot be healed unless I bring them to Him. First of all, it was glaringly obvious that I am afraid to be alone with God, to rest in Him. I already knew this but I don’t fully trust Him. I believe that if I do trust Him, I will relax into His love and into His hands and then He will pull them out from under me. I think I believe that He will, or at least could, lead me into more pain. I’m afraid that I will start to enjoy Him and then He will break my heart. How can I possibly trust with beliefs like that?
I struggle very much with love. I am terrified to fully love and to allow myself to be fully loved because I’ve poured myself out enough times to become completely heartbroken. I’ve been asking Jesus a lot lately, especially yesterday, how He could love so fully and so wholeheartedly, and not be utterly shattered when those He loves so fully reject Him, or don’t pour themselves back to Him, or even love Him at all. How did it not destroy Him emotionally? It is going to take a long time for me to understand this concept but He did provide a few answers. He said that God’s love heals the wounds of other people’s lack. I realized also that I have added expectation to love when God’s aim is pure love, nothing added. I have asked Him to separate those two things for me. And the most difficult answer for me to swallow was that a broken heart is not the enemy. Satan is the enemy and if the enemy is defeated by love and truth, sometimes a broken heart is worth it. God is close to the brokenhearted. I am far from loving this answer as of yet. It certainly added to my sadness and hopelessness.
But I kept sitting. It’s what God wanted so I did it. He wanted me to notice and enjoy His presence. I started to notice His beauty outside my window. I saw the brightly-colored leaves sparkling in the sun and wind and I thought about the fact that they shine most beautifully when they hang on for dear life even when the threat of death looms and changes them. Maybe we sparkle most beautifully when we hang onto God for dear life when the threat of death looms and the windy trials swirl. Maybe it helps us reflect the Son. I would notice and ponder things like this, and then head back into restlessness the next minute. Brennan Manning describes this again, “it takes time for the water to settle. Coming to interior stillness requires waiting. Any attempt to hasten the process only stirs up the water anew. Guilt feelings may arise immediately. The shadow self insinuates that you are selfish, wasting time, and evading the responsibilities of family, career, ministry, and community.” Even though I would always rather be working, God reminded me all day when my anxiety rose that I GET to be here with Him. I am ALLOWED, even INVITED to just be. To just sit in His presence. There is nothing to feel guilty about when you are spending time with God. It is absolutely the best use of time. I think we need to get that through our heads.
Brennan Manning puts it like this, “Tenderness awakens within the security of knowing we are thoroughly and sincerely liked by someone. The mere presence of that special someone in a crowded room brings an inward sigh of relief and a strong sense of feeling safe. The experience of a warm, caring, affective presence banishes our fears.” That sounds beautifully precious. I very much want this with God. During one of the few moments I was able to allow myself to just be with God without restlessness yesterday, I noticed that I was daydreaming. At first I was chiding myself for allowing my mind to wander but then I realized where it was wandering. God was helping me dream. If you read my last post, you know how difficult dreaming is for me because it involves hope and potential heartbreak, the thing I try to avoid most. But I daydreamed with God yesterday and it was beautiful, not terrifying. I saw myself speaking in front of people. I saw myself singing again in corporate worship. I saw myself walking into gatherings with confidence and showering love and affection without fear. I saw broken friendships restored. I saw children. And I saw myself enjoying life. And when I snapped myself out of it, I was not more devastated. I realized that I could dream without needing those dreams to come true. I know now that God wants, and has a better life in store for me, even if nothing else changes within me other than freedom from the burdens I have unnecessarily placed on myself.
Like I said, it was a far-from-perfect encounter with God yesterday. I fidgeted and fretted, cried and sighed, talked and listened, got tangled in my thoughts, and let God sneak some words in on occasion. It was not relaxing, but it was enough to make me want more. I am not finished with this solitude thing and I pray I never am. God has awakened a craving for it in me. I already spent an hour in solitude this morning. Try it. I dare you. And don’t stop trying it until the waters still and the craving comes. God wants you and only you. The all-powerful God wants to personally heal our hearts. Lets take time to give them to Him, however imperfect that time may be, and see what happens.
Just so you know, today the laundry is done. The sheets are not on the bed but I guess they’ll eventually head that way. I’m still exhausted for some reason but I’m feeling about as okay as ever. Speaking of okay, I found a wonderful surprise in the mail. Sheila Walsh, one of my favorite authors, has a new book out called “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay”, and one arrived in my mailbox today without me ordering it. No one told me but I guess I must have won it the other day while I was watching a Facebook Live of my two favorite authors, Susie Larson and Sheila Walsh. So, not only have I been blessed to be on the launch teams and receive other books from both authors, I have now won another. Since I’ve been gifted a spot on several launch teams and been given books, I thought surely I wouldn’t be gifted another book, but God knows what I needed and I felt like He gave me a big hug today. Plus, I think Susie Larson is getting to know who I am because I’ve been fan-girling pretty hard! God may have led her to send me a copy of this book. These two authors speak truth, something I value tremendously. The church needs more people to be honest about our ‘not-okayness’ and I am so thankful for their examples. I pray for the courage to continue sharing my truth.