June 11, 2011

radical love, radical lives.

i've started about 2 other posts in the last 24 hours, and just can't seem to focus on where my head is at. but on this cloudy summer morning, as i fill out apartment applications, get ready for some girl time, and my mind slowly wakes up, i finally think i have my head figured out a little.

if there's one thing i really want to challenge myself with better, it's loving on others. in the last few months, i've been challenged by God love - what it is to love Him purely and wholeheartedly. i've had to rethink friend love - what it is to be intentional with people, for their sakes, not only for mine. and i've said hello to boy love - a love different from any others, and yet, one that constantly holds me accountable in so many ways. this past week, T challenged us in church to eliminate distractions from our lives in order to more earnestly focus on God as we head into the summer. i think my biggest distraction is me. what can i out of this relationship? what has so and so done for me lately? what do i need to do today? with all this time, how will i spend my day? my heart couldn't be in a more wrong place.

often, i find myself keeping 'points' with people. it looks a little like this:

'today i did so & so for someone, and then i did this for them. yesterday, they did this for me, but today, i've done more for them. so tomorrow, i'll wait for them to do something in return, and then we'll be even again.'

it's terrible, i know. but don't we all do that a little? we make love and relationships, even our God relationship, about us. instead, every morning we should wake up asking ourselves, 'what can i do for my best friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/family/husband/wife today?' if we all had that mindset, what a beautiful life this would be.

real talk: love is hard, because true love is never about self. Christ proved to us that love always considers others and denies self. we're called to selfless love time & time again, and yet, it is so. easy. to let self dictate our actions, our words, and our thoughts. i do it all the time.

you know how whenever you pray for something (i.e. humility, patience, etc), God then oh so conveniently gives you opportunities to practice those characteristics? God, lately, has given me plenty of opportunity to practice selfless love, and it hasn't always been easy. sometimes i'm tired, sometimes i feel burnt out. sometimes i feel used, abused, and under-appreciated. maybe you do to. but, look at Jesus, the most powerful testament of selfless love:

He left His Father's throne and came to Earth and 'made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.' your King of Kings & Lord of Lords, whose life was endangered from the moment He was born, then lived a life of radical ministry, only for it to end in the most awful death. His life was perfect, He was, and always will be, flawless. and then, He suffered a punishment so cruel and torturous, we can't even fathom it. He laid Himself upon that cross for us, because of our sins, our selfishness, our flawed humanity. His love manifested itself in truly humble obedience, receiving nothing in return, except for His eternal reward. His sacrifice paid for the sins of all time, and yet, God never forces us to surrender to Him. He gave up His only Son, He turned his face from the One He loved most - all. for. us. and still, over and over again, we turn our back on Him.

we may be good people, we may be Sunday Christians, but our faith calls us to so much more than a 'good life.' we are called to be radical in our lives, in our love. He never, ever, promised it would be easy or comfortable. if we removed the Christian label from our lives, would it really look much different? where is our need for God? do we see challenges as areas of potential growth? or do we only see darkness and say, 'it's just too hard'? do we see uncomfortable situations or difficult circumstances as another reason to further cling to God? or we do avoid discomfort and instead stay where it's easy & safe? how are we reflecting Christ in our lives?

these words are as much a challenge to me as they may be for you. if you've perfected love, please, teach me how, because i fail at it time and time again. i hurt people, sometimes unintentionally. i let self get in the way and ignore the little voice in my head calling me to obedience. i'm a mess up, but, in all honesty, i'm thankful for the mistakes. they remind me that i cannot do this on my own. that perfection is something we are called to pursue, but i am beyond imperfect. it's one more reason that i need grace, patience, and unconditional love. one more reason i'm reminded of my need for Christ. one more reason i'm floored by His selfless love.

June 7, 2011

boredom is not an option

i just napped for almost 2 hours...& i feel extremely guilty about it. is it ok to just throw on some sweatpants after a busy morning, grab a good book, and then read until your eyes just can't stay open anymore? i'm so UN-used to this, that the whole concept of it is extremely strange, and to spend an afternoon lounging and reading makes me seem lazy in comparison to others who may be at work, or getting ready for work. the idea of an entire free day absolutely panics me. why? i'm not sure. but it does.

all last semester, the idea of just one free day, or one morning to sleep in, sounded like heaven. amidst the papers, the late nights, the tests, 2 jobs, and a million responsibilities, i literally thought i might drown in the busy-ness before i made it to summer break. if i did make it though, i promised myself i'd indulge in the free time, relax, rest, and recuperate. yet, there is such a fine line between resting and just being idle, and i pray i'm not the latter. this past week is restarted a crazy obsession with my planner, to fill it up with appts and to-dos and coffee dates, and even with all the planning, i've still found time for me, for quiet, and for those who matter most to me. this is the life.

best of all, i've realized that the less i've had to think of the things i've had to do, the more time i've had to think of others, and i catch myself going through the day thinking about someone i spoke to 3 days ago and actually praying for people like i said i would. less me in my head has created room for more others in my prayers, and i have loved it.

constant busy-ness is not good. i know that. i've done that. i've been told that. i have seen the fruit, or lack thereof, of a slammed schedule. it creates selfishness, hinders you from taking time for others, and exhausts you in the most unhealthy way. time is such a blessing, but it also a test. how do i spend my extra time - on me, or on others? with God, or with the world? i told T the other day that the idea of free time scares me, and he laughed and looked at me like i was crazy. maybe i am. but then he said, 'have you talked to God about what you can do with it?' 'good idea,' was my only response.

for all my hopes of catching up on TV and indulging in shallow pleasures this summer, the idea actually sounds awful to me. after being forced to leave the media behind for a semester, i have absolutely no desire for it. i cannot tell you who's dating who, what the next blockbuster hit will be, or what the gLee finale looked like, and to be honest with you, i just don't care. i have so many things still to do, but summer break now gives me the time to do them and the freedom to choose how i'd like to spend my time. suddenly, i can say yes to plans, seek people out, be intentional, and step right back into the social life i had to cut out last semester. i just pray i balance everything and everyone and, above all, honor God in my time.

strangely, i don't feel so guilty about my nap anymore.

June 6, 2011

pursuing proverbs 31

everyday i come across women i've never met before. women with beautiful smiles, an easy laugh, and touching stories. women who, within the space of a brief conversation, inspire me. and as i admire them, i wonder if i ever inspire others. as i was pondering this, however, and along with a lot of recent soul searching, i've realized that the motive behind this question needs to be re-evaluated. tonight, it doesn't come out of a proud and people-pleasing heart, but out of a heart that humbly wonders if i carry myself in a manner worthy of being inspiring.

am i truly, in every aspect of my life, worthy of admiration and respect. as the second oldest of 5, i automatically assume the role of the older sister, but can, and will, my two younger sisters and my little brother, see me as a role model worthy of example? undeniably, in the same way that i look up to others, others look up to me. the question is, however, whether i take that responsibility seriously, and whether i choose to live and shape my life into a strong example.

this morning, before church, i was flipping through proverbs and landed upon chapter 31, the description of a noble wife. admist all the refining, and in the confusion of who God is shaping me to be, i know that i am first and foremost His child and a woman of God, or at least i hope to be. proverbs 31 offers the most clear example of that woman, and as i was reading through the verses, i couldn't help but compare myself to this superwoman. i realized that i, without fail, often fall short.

God's ideal woman is, of course, perfect, because He is. i know i'm not perfect, i know i never can be, but the constant pursuit of righteousness, holiness, and perfection, is one we are called to, regardless of how impossible it may seem. personally, i think that God leaves perfection just out of our reach, so that we recognize our insatiable need for Him. we can never, we will never, be perfect. only He is. that is why we need Him. aside from that, however, God's ideal lady is remarkable in so many ways.

she is a perfect balance between independence and service to her family. she gives her best to all she does, is diligent in all her tasks, and the word 'lazy' is not in her dictionary. she lives to serve her family, respects herself, takes care of herself, and shows benevolence toward the unloved. above all, she fears the Lord. i know that this passage is specifically talking about the perfect wife, but for the majority of girls i've talked to, becoming a wife is the dream, and just because we aren't married yet, doesn't mean we can't already cultivate those characteristics - because a godly woman is a godly wife.

this past week or so has been one of those wrestling with God and walking through the refining fire kind of weeks, and it's not easy, but it's rewarding. if things were always perfect, if i felt i had conquered all my issues, and was always able to encourage others, i wouldn't need God. i think as soon as he recognizes pride and self-satisfaction, He withdraws, because as the cliche goes, 'you don't know what you have til it's gone.' as soon as God retreats, we recognize our inadequacy and seek to once again fill His void in our hearts. this is a period of seeking, searching, and pursuing after Him. as i do, he slowly reveals to me the sin in my heart and the things i must rid myself of in order to better reflect his son. ultimately, the goal is to see Him in all that we do. there are seasons where we feel like we're walking hand in hand with God, we see his fingerprints everywhere, we talk with Him and sense him in everything we do. those seasons are wonderful, but the seasons where God is distant? those happen too, and in those, we must persevere because this life, this journey, is not about us and our comfort. it's about glorifying and loving Him in all we do.

all this to say that many of you reading this, inspire me, challenge me, and constantly push me to better seek God. i am so thankful for your influence, and i apologize if my self has ever gotten in the way of loving you genuinely and selflessly. i told T a while ago that i was craving inspiration, that i missed being inspired, by whoever and whatever. his simple answer was, 'God can inspire you.' i didn't believe it at the time. i looked to other outlets, other people, to myself, and in all that worthless looking, God gently nudged Himself in there. i am still wrestling, still learning, still growing, and i hope i always will be. and i hope that at the end of this season, i learn what it is to truly be inspired by God, and what it is to be a godly inspiration and a godly friend, sister, girlfriend, and woman.