Monday, February 20, 2012

Gut-level honesty

Sick and tired. The thought of homework and papers to write (three due this week) makes me want to puke. God, where are You in this mess? Why is this rat race my life right now? How am I supposed to bring You glory when all I want to do is throw in the towel?

Simply put, I hit a real low spot Friday afternoon. Being a student stinks sometimes, you know? Why is it so much easier to get down and get stuck in the lows than it is to keep in mind the high places? Why do the lows seems so much lower than the highs do high? Why?

What am I doing here? What am I supposed to be doing here? What can I do?

Where am I headed? Where should I go?

Why? Why so many questions?

Why so few easy answers?

What comes next?

I don’t know.

I don’t.


And sometimes I really don’t care.

But then I come to my senses and realize that the reason I feel like I don’t want to care anymore is because I do care so much.

Life is annoying like that. It’s not all laid out in a smooth path. It’s not a simple road map with obvious, unambiguous road signs. It often seems as though there’s a lot more left up to me than I would like.

My head knows the facts. That’s part of what I’m tired of. I know God loves me. I know He has a plan for me. I know He wants me to be like Him. I know the Holy Spirit’s power is available. I know, I know, I know!!! But how do I get it beyond the head? How is all that knowledge supposed to be lived out??

How do I keep my life from being meaningless? How do I keep from settling for something less than God’s perfect plan for my life?*

I believe that I do want God’s will. I believe that I do want to surrender to Him. But in some ways I’m still left in charge of my life. It’s so easy to turn the stewardship He gives back to me back into the ownership I would have had in my flesh.

“Look up Esther,” comes the call. But how am I supposed to look up without tripping and falling flat on my face and failing at my responsibilities?

Certainly makes me understand why some would want to escape from it all and go be hermits. To be free from stress, free from worry, free from the messiness of day-to-day responsibilities.

But I know that’s idealizing it. Even hermits have struggles. And that’s just it. Life is a struggle. No matter how I try, there will always always be times in this life that are filled with struggle.

Perspective. The struggle is NOT the end. It is merely the means. Will I trust that there is a reason, even if I can’t (or don’t want to) see it?

I don’t have more than head-knowledge answers. I don’t have “nine tips to live the perfect life.” I don’t believe they exist.

Right now, I’m just a tired, deluded college girl. And yet even with all these questions, all these self-doubts, all these stresses…….deep down inside that knowledge is what keeps me going. I DO know that He is more, that He is better. I DO know that He has a reason for everything, even if I don’t see it. I DO know that someday, Lord willing, I will look back – I will read this – and I will be able to thank Him for what He has done in my life.

I am His. He is mine. His strength is available. His grace is sufficient. His power is omnipotent. His love is unending.

And all this fluff is merely temporary, simply a hint at something greater that will come when there are no more deadlines, when there is no more time.

Believe it Esther. Feel it, my heart. Fight for it, my soul. Look to the light. Don’t be swayed – press on toward HIM, not toward any measure of earthly success.

He alone satisfies.

*Noah Mitchell, a recent JBU alum, came and spoke in chapel on Thursday about this. Definitely convicting.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Process of Healing

Yesterday was a heavy day. It was a good day, but it was heavy.

The Lord’s showing me that there are some areas of my life where there is deep deep hurt. I’ve been praying that He will continue working in my life to bring healing to those areas, but I’m now being reminded that part of healing is admitting the pain and the problem.

Healing is not an easy process. When wounds are made, it takes much time and care to restore them to health. It’s so much easier to stuff things, to put a bandage on and pretend nothing’s wrong. That might work with minor physical injuries, but with emotional injuries it just allows infection to fester and the wound worsens.

I’ve been stuffing for a long time. And yesterday I finally saw that certain things in my life aren’t going to change by my just wishing that they would get better. The Lord showed me that I really need to work through the feelings and the hurt and the bitterness before it can be cleansed. And the scar will probably be worse because I’ve let it go so long.

My heart’s aching as I write this.

This isn’t something I can do. I’m a broken person. I’ve tried to fix it my way, and it ain’t working. It will have to be the Lord’s work in me to slowly and gradually bring healing. I’ve also realized yesterday that I need to be open to the Lord using other people as His tools in the process.

As humans, we like to think that we are perfect. We like to stay on an even keel, to make our way through life without too many upsets. Seeking out help is not our idea of a good plan. We want to do things all on our own. This is mainly due to our fallen nature (as TJ was talking about in Sunday School this morning!).

Asking for help is immensely humbling, because it requires that we admit that we are faced with a problem that we cannot fix. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to let others into my rather deep dark secrets because I’m afraid that I’ll then start relying on the people instead of relying on God. That’s a danger for me. But this isn’t something that’s going to fix itself, or that I can fix on my own. I know I need to look to God to guide the healing, and I think that’s going to include opening up to someone who’s trained in counseling.

Please pray for me. There’s a lot here. It’s way too big for me to handle. My eyes have finally been opened up to just what a big problem it is…to just how much damage I’ve done by ignoring it and trying to function without working through my feelings. I need to seek God’s truth rather than giving in to my faulty, selfish interpretations.

Last night I watched Facing the Giants. And I definitely identified with it. There are lots of things that are involved with this that I could fear if I allowed myself to do that. Working through the pain is not going to be easy. But I know that in order to flourish and to become the woman that God desires for me to be, it must happen.

Last night I also happened to see a friend’s Facebook post about Whitney Houston dying. They mentioned one of the songs she’s evidently famous for (not that I could have told you that before…): When You Believe from the Prince of Egypt. I listened to that song a lot my second semester here because I was part of a dance that used it. So I looked up the video and watched it again…..and although one could certainly argue it’s not explicitly theologically correct,* it was still an encouragement to me.

God can work miracles. He uses broken people. He looks past our brokenness and sees instead what He has for us to become. He’s an amazing God, in case you didn’t know. Perfectly just, perfectly merciful (one of the things Mark Galli talked about in chapel last week). When I fail (which happens often), He does not judge me for my failure. He sees me not as a dirty wreck of a person but as a person who has been washed clean. That being said, we must still deal with the consequences of our choices. And often that causes pain.

The part of the song that is sung in Hebrew is the most correct theologically. According to the lyrics that I looked at, the translation of this is as follows: “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously. Who is like You, oh Lord, among the celestial? Who is like You, majestic in holiness? In Your love, You lead the people You redeemed. I will sing, I will sing, I will sing.” This comes from the song by the Red Sea in Exodus 15:1, 11, and 13.

I know God’s got me. I know I am His. I also know that He wants me to become more like Himself. He wants to make me into the image of His Son. And that process is not always easy. But through the pain comes healing.

I will sing.

*I say this because it talks about miracles as through people will them to happen by believing, and it rather leaves God out of the picture there. I don’t believe miracles happen just because I believe they will. God’s will is supreme, no matter what I try to make myself believe.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What Happened at the Cross?

In my Integrated Theology class, we've been studying Soteriology the past couple of classes. Last Thursday we were talking about Atonement theories - what happened when Christ died for us - looking at how it works. Our main textbook is called The Mosaic of Christian Belief by Rogers Olson. He discuses four main theories which he says fall within the realm of orthodox Christianity. They are listed below.

  1. Ransom/Satisfaction - Christ's death 'paid Satan off' to some extent so that we were freed from bondage to him. Mark 10:45, 1 Tim. 2:6, Heb. 9:15
  2. Christ the Victor - At the cross, Christ forever defeated Satan, sin, and death. Rom. 8:2, 1 John 2:1
  3. Substitution - Christ took the punishment that we deserved because of our sin. Gal. 3:10, 13, John 15:13, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Pet. 3:18
  4. Moral Influence - Through His life, Christ became our model of how to return to a right relationship with God. Phil. 2:5, Rom. 7:4-6, Gal. 2:20
Now, I personally think that #4 is getting closer to the edge of what I would typically consider solid theology, but that may be because I don't entirely understand it.

One of the things that was mentioned in class was the question of "why does this really matter?" Although Christ's death on the cross is clearly one of the most important doctrines of Christianity, does it really matter how God accomplished our salvation through Christ's work?

While this was still somewhat in the back of my mind, that Sunday in church we sang a song by the Gettys called "Power of the Cross." {Can I just add that I appreciate their lyrics a lot?} As we were singing it, I couldn't help but compare it with the various theories we had talked about. I think this particular song lines up mostly with the Substitution theory, although it does refer some to a couple of the others.

In the end, the important thing to remember about Christ's death is what it accomplished, not necessarily how it was accomplished. At the same time, as we were encouraged in class, it is important to ask the how and why questions. Through searching for the answers to those deeper questions, we can come to know God's heart and His workings more fully.

So...I don't have any deep insight here to share with you, but I did just want to encourage you not to be afraid to search out why you believe what you believe. When approached from the understanding that God and His Word have the correct answers and are the final authority, I think it would be hard to go wrong on that quest.